Rich's Quest For Flight

My father was a pilot. He died doing what he loved to do. It has been a goal of my life to become a pilot. Now I have chance to do so. Follow me as I pursue my dream.

Monday, May 29, 2006

KRYV 291836Z AUTO 17010G17KT 10SM SCT050 30/21 A3001 RMK AO2

If I hadn't lost my E6B Flight Computer, I'd be able to tell you that 30C is pretty damn warm. Okay, that's 86F, but in the plane it was 105F, for the time being at least. Scattered towering cumulus clouds about 4000' AGL meant the air was unstable and that there could be some turbulence.

Today the active was Runway 23, and the takeoff roll was a wee bit longer because of the density altitude of 2400'. Density altitude is the pressure altitude (the reading on your altimeter if set to the standard value of 29.92" Hg) adjusted for temperature to arrive at a theoretical value of what altitude the plane "thinks" it's at. The basic skinny here is that the higher the density altitude, the more runway the plane will need to take off.

We take off, and turn to the north toward Juneau. We level off at 4000' where, thankfully, it's a bit more comfortable. Then Adam does something a little uncharacteristic. He directs steep turns. Thing is, we hadn't done clearing turns yet. If you recall, clearing turns are advised before practicing maneuvers to ensure the area is clear of other aircraft. So I gently assert that we need to do our clearing turns first, and he concurs. A test, perhaps? As to the steep turns, they're getting better all the time. I lost no more than 50' at any time and I went straight from the left turn directly into the right turn. Then it was slow flight dirty, including power off stalls, then slow flight clean and stalls. The slow flight stuff still bedevils me, it's so tough to get the plane into the narrow performance range and hold it there. Even a small puff of wind pushes me off the "needle". To think the C172 is easy to fly, I can't begin to imagine how other planes react to slow flight parameters.

We're already near Dodge County Airport (KUNU), so we take advantage of minimal crosswinds to do some touch and goes on Runway 20. The first one was almost passable, which for me was a small victory since rarely has a first landing gone well at all. Three more landings of various quality, but I "greased" the third, earning a "good landing" compliment from Adam. Out of 71 recorded landings (I think there's been more) I can say with confidence that I've greased only about three of them.

Along the way back to Watertown, we finally got into some ground reference maneuvers, namely the turn around a point, and the s-turn. Far as I can tell, these maneuvers have no practical purpose in general flying, but they do serve as an exercise in workload management. The pilot is forced to divide his attention between monitoring gauges, flying the plane, and adjusting for varying wind conditions. There was more confusion in the cockpit as Adam was pointing out road intersections to turn around and I just couldn't see them. Once we got it all sorted out, the first attempt was clumsy as you can imagine. I had little idea of just what I would need to do with the plane to do the turn. After a couple of repetitions, I think I started getting the hang of it. The first try at s-turns went okay as well. S-turns are similar to turns around a point except that doing s-turns forces you to make at least one right turn.

And so we returned to Watertown. Landed Runway 23 and taxied in. More and more as I go along, it feels like driving a car. Things getting more instinctive. Not much talk in the cockpit during landings. A quick critique after each landing, then it's on to the next. So I take a couple of days off of work and wouldn't you know, the plane is going in for its annual. So no more flying until Saturday, save for a ground review lesson on Wednesday. More next time at Rich's Quest For Flight.

UPDATE: Jeez, I almost forgot to mention that I have filled in one full page of my logbook. Thirteen entries can fit on one page, so I've been up thirteen times. Isn't that supposed to be an unlucky number? Anyway, here are some totals so far: 17.6 total hours (all dual received) with 71 takeoffs and landings. Another check for $2000 to keep my account current as well. I believe that brings that total to $4500.


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