Thursday, April 30, 2015

N162HG 1.6 Solo

Closed traffic, 12 takeoffs and landings, just to brush up on basic landing and flaring techniques. I tried to work on the following basic "good habits" today:

* Being aware of the wind and flying a "correct" rectangular pattern with crab and awareness of the different turns.

* Consciously looking forwards for pitch even when "busy" in the pattern.

* Being aware of speed on takeoff roll, and rotating at 50 kias rather than waiting on the ground.

* Holding 55 kias on final, not allowing speed to decay.

* Paying attention to eye position on flare, looking at the horizon.

* Flaring less early, and when I do flare, not ballooning.

* During taxi, keeping both feet on the pedals, heels on the hinge and toes on the brakes, and using "taps" to turn rather than dragging the brakes.

* Remembering "lights, camera, action!" checklist prior to taking the active every time.

* Using proper wind correction during taxi.

I managed to do most of these things.

The flares got better as time progressed, but were not perfect. It was a bumpy day so there was a tendency to over-control as the wind shifted during my descent. I'd say my last 2 landings were pretty okay.

Due to traffic, almost every pattern was "weird" in some way, so I came in high or low lots of times. I managed to get good landings out of all of them, but on several of them, I did not have a stable 55 kias approach established early enough. On a couple of the approaches, I had to slip to burn energy.

Overall, I'd say I did okay and [re]gained useful skills. It was a quiet, warm day, with very little to no crosswind, so things were fairly relaxing and I could concentrate on just getting better.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

N162HG 1.2 Bob

More pre-checkride practice, this time a VFR flight to Hayward, followed by a bunch of closed traffic there, then return to Palo Alto.

It was a very, very, very bumpy and windy day. There was no way I would have flown by myself, but I figured so long as Bob was there, I'd use it as an opportunity to push my limits with wind.

I did better at finding the airport this time, noticing the pattern of built-up areas in relation to the coastline.

Takeoffs and landings were very difficult. I ended up flaring early most of the time. I was also slow on one of the approaches. I think I was very, very freaked out (in the sense of not wanting to screw up, not in the sense of being truly scared -- I actually enjoyed myself quite gleefully!) by the bumps and wind.

Overall, though, I think this was good practice for maintaining control under difficult conditions.

Friday, April 24, 2015

N162HG 1.4 Bob

Flew from PAO, Right Dumbarton, towards Sunol, then back to RHV, did some closed traffic there, then flew with VFR flight following through San Jose's class C back to PAO. In the process, got my first taste of hood time. 0.5 of simulated instrument time.

Bumpy day, but the instrument flying seemed easy enough.

Some trouble finding RHV. Need to continue working on more sophisticated pilotage than just "the airport should be in this direction, where is it?" Need to work more on noticing patterns of built-up areas, roads, etc.

4 landings total.

Friday, April 3, 2015

N162HG 1.1 Solo

My intention was to practice ground reference maneuvers this morning.

A CFI at the club advised me to go to NUQ to do them, so I did. PAO gave me a squawk code, and NUQ told me to maneuver North of their airport. When done, I got a straight in back to PAO.

There was basically no wind, which was a bit confusing. Plus I had hoped NUQ would allow me to maneuver over the airport, but they didn't, and the patterns of paths and power lines on the marshes to their North was jumbled and confusing. Well in any case, I did my best.

Rectangular patterns, such as they were, were okay. I was finally able to start my rolls when abeam the corner of my intended pattern, and roll out when abeam the corner in the next direction. Otherwise, with practically no wind and a jumbled pattern of schmoo on the ground, it was sort of hard to figure out.

Turns around a point were, I think, okay. I identified 4 points around my chosen most favorite power pole ever, and flew from one point to the next around the circle. It was hard to figure out whether I was judging distances from the pole correctly. I'd really like to demonstrate this with a CFI and actual wind and see how I'm doing.

Finally, my S-turns were educational, but I was not very happy with my performance. I was having trouble crossing the line in a proper wings-level attitude. It seemed like I would turn on the downwind side, when presumably I have to open out my turn to compensate for the wind, but then I would end up having not finished the turn by the time I got back to the line. I think I must just have been turning way too tight. I think one more practice session with a CFI would probably get me to PTS-survival levels.

I think I was doing fairly well coordinating my rolls.

I had a couple of instances where I caught myself "convincing" my turns with rudder, which I never thought I would do, but it's my destiny to commit every n00b mistake in the world, so now I know I can do that and I need to be on the alert to never, never, ever do it again.

I tried this time to focus on visual habits: Look forwards to get pitch and roll correct, then glance to the side for ground reference, and just relax and let the plane "fly itself" around the corners; there's no need to fight. I think I stayed within PTS altitude limits of ±100 ft throughout the exercise, and was mostly doing much better than that. I also learned to take my hand off the throttle and, when I do get into a slight dive, let it turn into a zoom and gain back the energy gently, and just ride the airplane's natural tendencies rather than trying to fight. I'm not by any means "good" at this yet, but it was certainly better than before.

On my landing, I tried to do a soft field landing (again). Once again, I flared a bit too high, though once again, it was not a nosewheel slam since I still had barely enough energy to arrest the nosewheel. I think my months and months of short-field landings must have taught me that this is the only way to land....

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

N162HG 0.9 Solo

Went out this morning specifically to practice soft-field technique. Early in my training, I had been consistently scraping my tailskid on the soft field takeoffs, so Bob advised me to not practice these solo. As a result, I got lots of experience with short field technique, but not soft field. This was a chance to remedy that.

The wind was nonexistent at the start becoming about 5 knots straight down Rwy 31, but it was very bumpy aloft. After a three-egg breakfast, my stomach was not pleased, but I was okay.

I did 5 takeoffs and landings:
  1. Shaky takeoff where for some reason I applied too much right rudder. Ok landing.
  2. Good takeoff, good landing.
  3. Good takeoff, slight tail scrape on landing (!!) due to excessive up elevator during rollout.
  4. Another shaky takeoff, pitch control in ground effect not as good as I would have liked to see, ok landing.
  5. Good takeoff, smooth landing (finally!).
At this point I was bingo fuel so I terminated.

In general, I think my takeoffs are okay -- they can be improved but I think, based on previous CFI feedback, that they would be a pass on the test.

All my landings involved a soft nosewheel touchdown even though some were harder on the mains than I would have liked to see. I would expect the tail scrape to be a fail, but it was a fluke and I don't think it will happen again.

I discovered what my problem is with these landings, especially given that I'm so accustomed to the short-field technique:
  1. I set up for an approach happily.
  2. Over the fence, I cut power. And I do mean cut. I yank on that knob like I was hookin' some darned old fish!
  3. Knowing that it's not yet time to flare, I adjust to maintain airspeed.
  4. My descent becomes way steeper, since energy is conserved, because physics.
  5. I see the ground rushing up at me and think, "Holy buckets o' buttermilk Grandma! We're about to crash!"
  6. Thusly ground-shy, I start my flare too early.
  7. I apply the "ratchet technique" to correct for my mistake, holding the stick where it is and waiting, then pulling more.
  8. Due to the dynamics of the situation, as well as my overall lack of energy, I end up coming down too hard on the mains.
I think I have developed a sophisticated technique for mitigating this problem:
  1. #srsly, dude, don't do that?
On my last landing, I kept a small amount of power in and flew the plane on a shallow glide path, almost to the ground, and it really helped.