There are two distinct sides to me…one that is aggressive and uptight (my teenage years) and one that is laid back and relaxed…just along for the ride. This is how I have trained myself to be over the years. I couldn’t continue to be uptight my whole life.
Well, with learning to fly, you can’t be laid back. Yigal acts more laid back than me, perhaps because he has over 4000 hours under his belt. This guy is good. He has the ability to look around and enjoy the scenery. One thing I really like about him is the way he periodically pulls my nose away from the instruments to look at the horizon or the colors of the trees (there are a few of them changing right now). He likes to remind me why I am doing this…for the fun and beauty.
Today we took up a Piper Cherokee. This is the same plane as last time. Smaller but pretty powerful because the engine has had some work done to it. It has had some exhaust work done and hemi-spherical (Hemi) pistons put in. The “Hemi” creates more compression, thus a more powerful piston stroke. I couldn’t grab any photos today, because there were people there already and we were ready to get going.
I am getting pretty used to doing the preflight inspection, taxiing to the runway and taking off. This time we had to fill the plane with fuel first. We did this and headed for the runway. I got off the ground at 65MPH and climbed at 85MPH. In order to gain speed during the climb, I pitched the nose down (like rolling down a hill in a car) and in order to slow down, I pitched the nose up with the elevator. Of course, we take off at full power. We climbed to 3000ft and banked 30 degrees to the left to fly crosswind of the airport and then banked again to fly downwind. We were practicing patterns and turns during ascending flight. This is really tricky, as I found out. First of all, I had to focus on my climb speed, then I had to focus on my bank degree, then I had to focus on my heading, all the while making sure that there was no traffic in the air. Focusing on 3-4 things simultaneously is tricky to say the least. Some of the things are opposite of what I am used to in a car, but it does get easier every time. Here is a photo of the airport from where we practice. Basically, if you are driving on Interstate 84 in New York, we practice in between the Mongomery exit and the Newburgh exit.
We practiced more maneuvering during slow flight, practice area operations, cockpit management, constant airspeed climbs, constant airspeed descents, airspeed transitions, turns to headings (of which I need work. I really need to get the heading indicator down) and flight at low cruise airspeeds. The real push of this lesson was Emergency Operations and landings. Yigal showed me what to do if you lose power in the plane. The first time you go over this, you feel very rushed, because you think there really is no time, but trust me, there really is time, especially if you are above 3000FT, like you most likely will be.
The first thing you do if you lose engine power is to control the airplane. You change your pitch for optimum glide speed of 75MPH. Then, you look for a field to land in and start heading in that direction…seriously. Once you have these two things squared away, and you are gliding and heading towards your destination, you begin checking the flight controls from right to left. You start with turning on the carburetor heat. You may have ice buildup if it is warm and humid. Then, you check your fuel mixture to make sure it is rich or lean. If you are coming down from a high altitude, your mixture is lean and you need to compensate on your descent and make it richer. Without doing this, you are starving the airplane for fuel. Then you need to pump your throttle to see if the plane isn’t getting fuel for some reason. After that, you check your key to make sure it is in and on and last you change your fuel tank. Maybe one tank ran out of fuel and you need to switch to another. This took me some time to cover, but Yigal assures me that it will be instinct by the time I am ready to fly solo.
We assumed that nothing worked and the engine could not be brought back. So with this in mind, we needed to land the plane. We headed towards the airport, using my new skills of descending the plane while turning to a specific heading. I did have a number of questions while doing this and Yigal had no problem being patient and answering the questions for me. Usually I feel stupid asking people questions because most people have an uncanny knack for belittling others. A sign of a good flight instructor is one who continues to encourage with patience and skill.
We followed the airport pattern for our approach to landing. This was my show, with Yigal’s hands at the ready. He walked me through step by step for a relatively smooth landing. Immediately after landing, we gave the plane full power for another take off, called a touch-and-go. I climbed to altitude and followed the pattern to simulate another engine failure from 3000FT. I flew the crosswind leg, then the downwind leg, then the base leg and then the final approach. This time I came in semi-smoothly and landed the plane myself.
We made a turn and taxied back to the runway for another takeoff. I did the same pattern and this time made my best landing so far. It’s a great experience being able to make a good takeoff and a good landing!