Saturday, April 15, 2017

N188EV 2.7 Practice flight to KLVK

Bad weather and Mx issues have kept me out of the planes so today was a day to get out there and fly like hell. :)

I'd been out as a pax with my CFI friend Lisa a couple weeks ago to KLVK and she showed me her landing technique of staying within glide distance of the field and coming in steep at, or almost at, idle power. She also gave me a hint as to when to start my roundout, and it was way later than I had been doing it before: Basically she flew the approach almost to the ground, then rounded out and flared. It all "clicked" for me in a way that has not clicked before, and it seemed like a really well-thought-out technique. I was excited to try it out.

Last time I flew the SportStar, I topped up the plane to the brim, flew for a while, then came home. The CFI and student after me -- both good friends of mine -- were then unable to fly because they were right at the limit of the aircraft gross weight! Yikes! So this time I stuck the tanks, decided how much gas to add, and added it carefully, planning to return with no more than 1/2 tanks.

My CFI friend was flying the other Evektor SportStar at AeroDynamic Aviation with a student, taking the same departure as me, and right in front of me. Tower asked me to "follow company traffic"! Haha! :)

I took the Calaveras departure and flew out towards the Del Valle reservoir, in a constant VY climb. I'm getting pretty comfortable with the SportStars -- approaching (but not yet at) my level of comfort with the Flycatcher -- so I just trimmed for climb, and practiced holding the stick between my knees while I navigated using Foreflight. All went well.

I topped out at 9,750' MSL (recall as a Sport Pilot I'm only allowed to go up to 10,000 MSL or 2,000 AGL, whichever is higher). I then tried a series of descents, trying to learn the "gait" of the airplane in a power-off descent with the 2nd notch of flaps, and figuring out where the aiming point should be and what the nose attitude ought to look like.

I also did a few steep turns, which generally went pretty well, and a stall, which seemed uneventful. I felt pretty comfortable with the plane at that point. Now for some landings.

I called in to KLVK and entered the pattern, slipping to burn the remainder of my energy on the way there.

I did 7 landings at KLVK Rwy 25 Right. All were with the goal of (a) flying a more tight pattern than I usually do; (b) trying to gauge the point where I can cut power and trying to make my glide with minimal or no power; and (c) put as few dents as possible on the plane (always a good thing).

One of my problems with landing has been that the power "cut" over the fence is always a de-stabilizing factor, right when you sort of want to take advantage of a stable approach. It always threw me off. With the new low-or-no power approach technique, any power cut was very much less drastic, and so I held my approach to the ground much more nicely. I flared a tiny bit high a couple times, but not too high, and I plopped down gently enough without too much fuss. All the landings were actually pretty smooth.

I then departed and flew back to KRHV, and landed there. First test of the new technique! I gauged where the runway was by the position on my wing, turned final, came in with very little power, and greased it. Nothing to it. Wow!

Now of course the technique of maintaining VREF almost all the way to the ground means that I have a rather long flare to burn energy all the way down to VS0 before I finally plop down. With an Evektor SportStar and lots of runway, that is so totally not a problem. But once I'm happy with this technique and am judging my aiming point consistently, my next goal is going to be to figure out how to manage my energy even better so I can make accurate spot landings and nail my short-field landings.