And I booked the lesson with the CFI - last lesson she had some insights that I didn't get from the first instructor, so I'll stay on the quicker learning path. They have a third instructor (that I've never flown with) who is quite good, so I'd go to him as a third option, if I had to. Besides, I'm taking an early&long lunch from work, and my "regular" instructor has a full time job, so I feel no guilt.
Last lesson my flying wasn't quite unsafe, but it sure was ugly. I was quite disappointed in myself, and wanted to do much better this time. Beware, I've been visualizing perfection.
- Fundamentals - do them right
- Circuit - fly it on rails
- Approach and Final - smooth
- Power Management on Final - Delicate, smooth, early, nudges
- Flare to cruise attitude (not beyond)
- Be patient - Landing can be a relaxed event that takes time
- Touchdown - on the centre line, no yaw
- Takeoffs after touch - remember to rotate at 44kt
- Fly smoothly (last lesson I was jerking the aircraft all over the place)
Today I was determined to be exacting in my flying... I had made such a hash of it on the previous lesson I just wanted to do the basics smoothly, completely and properly. Today I managed to do the following right (again):
- Taxi was right on the centreline, and smooth (though I got too fast on backtrack).
- Radio calls were terse and clear. Next step is to put a bit of life into my radio calls.
- Checklist was methodical. I forgot to test the flaps during the first power-up cockpit check, and was going to do it when the Instructor walked out to the aircraft -- so I just tested them after the start.
- As we approached the run-up area off Bravo there was an aircraft already there, so with lots of time to spare I made a proposal on how to approach, and how to position, and why (she agreed).
- Take-offs were nice and clean today, tracking the centre line, gently rotating at the correct speed. No brake drag, no stall horns due to rapid rotation.
- Flying smoothly, on-heading. No jerkiness.
- Don't be rushed in any phase of flight. There is lots of time. Including during the flare and landing
- I ended up putting out flaps and reducing speed at different times (downwind, base, etc). CFI had no issue with that since everything was easily under control before turning final, and it demonstrated that I'm flying by objective and with a feel for the handling, rather than flying by rigid rote.
- Speed management on final, power management on final.
Low & Over
The next two approaches were low&overs, where we flew down the runway at about 100' AGL. In rural areas we are not allowed to fly lower than 500' AGL, except when landing or taking off. Flying below 500' AGL over a runway is allowed (it's like a landing that never quite got to the ground).
Having a long flight down the runway at low altitude provides a nice long opportunity to get a perspective on cruise attitude. The closeness to the ground gives very good feedback on ground tracking, runway alignment and yaw.
I tracked the cruise attitude, and attempted to track the centreline of the runway without yaw. The instructor managed the throttle - it was a really weird feeling to not have my hand on the throttle. Airspeed is the combination of attitude and power, and to be changing the attitude and not also automatically adjust power was uncomfortable.
We discovered that I was aligning with the centre line by looking over the cowling of the aircraft, and as a result there was a constant left yaw because I was lining up my eyes, the end of the runway, and the wrong spot on the cowling (gee whiz, I was always landing on the left side of centreline, and then heading for the left of the runway, I wonder why?). A Really Easy way to check alignment is to look down the wing - the line of the wing and the line of the runway edge make it easy to see if you are not at 90 degrees (and thus have yaw). From this develop the perspective to see the yaw when looking forward.
And using a spot on the cowl is a sloppy cheat anyway - because the spot changes from aircraft to aircraft. I don't use the hood of my car to stay in my lane when driving down the road, there is no reason to use the cowling of the engine to fly straight down the runway.
Yes, my lovely wife who rarely reads this, I was flying at 60 knots (111 kmph) 100 feet off the ground while looking out the side window. But there is nothing to worry about, dear.
On the whole, my flares were much much better. I was starting them sooner, pulling back the stick gradually, and generally getting into a cruise attitude without blowing right through to nose up.
Not there yet, but no longer ugly.
Aside from not lining up the aircraft properly (using the cowling), I figured out that I was pushing the rudder to correct, then releasing. Sheesh. I need to push to correct, then let off the correction but hold the prevention - otherwise the yaw sets in again and I have to re-correct.
I flared through cruise attitude to nose up and ballooned on one landing.
I landed hard once and bounced, and ended up nose-up and above the runway.
In either situation you end up a short distance above the runway, nose pointing above the horizon, at a low airspeed. My natural instinct has been to put the nose down into a cruise attitude by pushing the stick forward, and then restart the landing process. Very Bad.
The correct thing to do is just keep the nose-up attitude, add a nudge of power if there is any significant altitude involved (to slow the descent), and then just let the aircraft settle while adding more nose-up to slow the descent.
What I did wrong
I know better - everything in this list is within my skillset, I just FUBAR'd it today.
- Backtracking on the runway I was moving too fast (25kt). This particular aircraft has a slightly more coarse propeller, and will slowly accelerate even at idle (especially with a tailwind). Don't go that fast.
- On one landing I ballooned up during the flare, and I did a bit of stickpush to bring the attitude to level. Bad. Never. Just continue the landing with the nose-up attitude. Might need a nudge of power (e.g. 50RPM) to control the descent rate.
- My altitude tracking was poor for the first four circuits. Actually, it wasn't very sharp at all today. I nailed it on the last circuit.
Did much better
- Reduce (but have not yet eliminated) yaw on landing
- Flare to cruise attitude, not more
- More relaxed process during the landing
- Final approach near the centre line of the runway (but not yet on the centre line)
- Landing on the centre line (but I had at least one wheel on the centre line a few times today)
On the whole, today's lesson made good progress.
Landings: 5? 6?