Saturday, May 28, 2016

N2791E 0.8 Gina

I decided to try the Aeronca Champ at Aerodynamic Aviation (KRHV) this time, with a new instructor who will be codenamed "Gina" in this blog. This was also my first flight without paper charts, as I tried using software instead.

The flight

Gina talked to me about the idiosyncracies of the Champ, including the fact that the Continental engine likes to overheat; that it likes to get carb ice and requires carb heat below a certain RPM even on hot days; and the weirdness of the locking/castering Maule tailwheel assembly.

We went through the preflight with specific emphasis on how to handle a fabric airplane. The engine required a quart of oil, which meant we got pretty messy and greasy. We got a rechargeable battery from the office to power the radio.

Gina showed me how to hand prop, but I did not yet get to do the actual propping to start -- just practice with the priming. One of the things I was worried about was: When untying the plane after starting, how do I put myself into the right frame of mind so that I don't think of it as a "routine preflight" and walk into the prop? Luckily someone had already worried about this, and the answer is to have my hand touching the plane at all times and never go in front of the wing strut. This naturally limits my movement to safe areas, and should be achievable even after I've done this hundreds of times and it's become routine and I'm thinking of other stuff at the time.

During preflight, Gina was worried about the rudder cables being too loose, and decided to bring in the club owner to check things out. The owner said it was fine. I actually really appreciated Gina's willingness to be both the instructor and student when appropriate -- rather than trying to pretend to be a know-it-all. I think this style fits my own personality far better.

We taxied off, with me doing more or less ok with the taxi (because the Flycatcher was not easy to taxi at low speeds, so I am used to struggling!). I ended up at the hold short line with the tailwheel locked because I got too close to it, and the heel brakes are sort of hard to get used to, but Gina rescued me and we survived.

Takeoff was less scary than I thought, even though I had a bit of trouble maintaining centerline with all the stuff that was going on and we ended up with the side-to-side rocking motion that Gina warned me would happen. We clawed into the air as fast as our 85 galloping horses could take us, and departed downwind towards the practice area.

Once there, we did some turns, which went mostly okay, but I could see by the ball that I was not coordinated. We also did stalls, which were surprisingly gentle in that plane.

On the way back, I did the approach and Gina did the landing with me following on the controls. We ballooned a little due to wind and did a 3-point landing. I taxied back without event.

Overall, this was a pretty cool vintage stick and rudder experience. The tachometer jangled about in turbulence, which meant I sort of had to estimate where my actual RPM was. I figured out that I should center the ball with rudder, and use aileron to set my bank angle (including zero if I want to be level). It was hard to do; I ended up uncoordinated all the time. I hope I can learn to feel coordinatoin in the "seat of my pants".

I'm pretty excited about this plane!

My EFB experiments

We got a 16GB iPad Mini 2 from my wife's mom, and I have an Android Nexus 6 phone. I put Garmin Pilot on both of the devices, and a trial of Foreflight on the iPad.

I very quickly found that Foreflight is way better. Our area is very urban and beset by stadium TFRs. Garmin Pilot just puts a 3nm circle around all stadiums, all the time. Foreflight actually goes and finds out what games are playing and gives you the data you really need. The briefing tool in Foreflight is very, very nice. And finally, Foreflight has a satellite map option for when you want to know what the area around the airport you're trying to find really looks like.

I think what I might do is use Foreflight on the iPad, and maybe use some free or cheap app on the Nexus as a backup. I could even just download the raster charts and PDF A/FD onto the phone and go that way, since it's just a backup after all.

That all said, during our flight today, I didn't touch any of my tech. Gina was navigating and pointing out landmarks, and I was working hard enough to fly!


  1. Suggestion for the "cheap app on the Nexus":