Thursday, August 21, 2008

Flaring, touching, and going - Aug 21

I booked today's lesson from 10-12am - I wanted quiet air so I could do the direct learning, and not have to fight through active air to get to the new skills.

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.

Today's objectives:
  • 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.
The first landing was a touch&go. Went not badly, smooth enough landing, but with yaw. Pulling up the nose during the final sink to the runway went well, which made for the smooth landing.

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.

Time: 1.3

Landings: 5? 6?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Checkride - Aug 10

I'm not ready for solo. But not too far off..

Last Wednesday I couldn't do anything wrong. Landings were smooth, approaches were on the rails, and so forth.

Today I had two fundamental problems.
  1. I got myself flustered. I knew I had an opportunity to solo, and I was flying with the CFI for the first time in several flights. And I spun myself up a bit. The things you have lots of time to practice (radio, taxi, take-off, flying) went well. Most everything else was so-so to poor.
  2. I've still not honed the skills for consistent, smooth approaches and landings.
After the second approach I knew I wasn't going to solo today. But I was going to achieve my second objective, which was to work with a different instructor and get a different view of what I needed to work on.

Active runway was 10, on which I've practiced once before. The air was really bumpy, with some minor sink off the end. It's a lot easier to fly in still air.

Landings were much closer to, or on, the centre line. Yaw at touchdown was minor. Good improvement.

My timing for the flare to cruise was FUBAR. The start of the problem was in power and speed management for the approach.. once again I was running out of energy before the runway, and often starting the flare too high. Things happen fast on a landing, and with the fluster I really wasn't on top of things. They weren't unsafe, but it sure wasn't slick. I was rather rushed and wanted to make things happen, and one thing you need to do when landing is be patient. I got nervous on one landing and pushed in some power... I needed to nudge in the power.... this caused an overshoot.

Afterwards we had a good debriefing. "Not quite there" was how it was described. I now know what needs to be done next, and have the skills to do it, but just have not yet put it all together. The CFI wants to book another session, but I'm out of town for the next week.

You need a humbling experience from time to time.

Time: 1.1
Landings: 6

Secrets to work on, and things I learned (benefits of a different set of eyes):
  • Keep the speed at 60kt - exactly (didn't do tto bad, but wasn't surgically precise)
  • Keep aligned with the centreline - exactly (though I'm a damn sight better than 4 lessons ago)
  • When I nudge the stick to correct for drift I tend to not bring the stick back to centre, but more than centre - which then re-establishes the problem I tried to correct by moving the stick in the first place (new observation)
  • When I flare I'm not coming to the cruise attitude, but passing right through to a slight nose up. With the speed we're carrying at this time this results in a minor balloon (this one change is going to save me all sorts of grief)
  • When I do balloon I was putting the stick forward (almost always a bad idea). But on one landing I was just patient with the minor nose-up attitude and we settled down to the ground, applying more flare as we descended... didn't even bounce.
Done well:
  • Basic flying
  • Take-offs
Needs work:
  • Approach needs work on the power management. No rapid throttle changes, including when cutting power.
  • Flare to cruise attitude, not past to nose up.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Tomorrow's Weather

I'm scheduled to fly tomorrow from 2-4pm - what's the weather?

The Weather Network, which is probably one of the most popular TV stations in Canada, says that tomorrow afternoon there will be thunderstorms, with a 70% probability of precipitation. That's good enough for deciding whether to go to the beach or to a museum, but not good enough for flight planning.

Nav Canada's website is more specific. Unfortunately, aviation weather forecasts are coded as tightly as possible, a throwback to the days of teletypes that worked on 300 baud networks, which is about 30 characters per second. As a comparison, my home's broadband Ethernet connection is about 7,000,000 bits per second. Even dial-up is usually 56,000 bits per second. There is movement afoot to produce aviation weather forecasts in plain text, but change is slow. Heck, pilots still use slide rules.

The current weather:

METAR CYOW 100000Z 14003KT 15SM SCT060 BKN100 18/16 A2983 RMK SC4AC3 DIST SH ESE SLP103=

METAR - Meteorological report (of actual observed conditions)
CYOW - At Ottawa International Airport, Ottawa, Ontario
100000Z - as of 00:00 Zulu on the 10th day of the month (which is August). EDT is 4 hours behind Zulu, so this is the weather report at 8pm EDT
14003KT - Winds are from 140 degrees true, at 3 knots (anytime a direction is written down, it's in degrees true)
15SM - Visibility is 15 statute miles
SCT060 - Scattered clouds at 6000 feet Above Ground Level (AGL). With the SC4 we know that these clouds are strato-cumulus, and they cover 4/8 of the sky
BKN100 - Broken clouds at 10,000 feet AGL. With AC3 we know these are alto-cumulus clouds, and they cover another 3/8 of the sky
18/16 - Temperature is 18 degrees Celsius, dew point is 16 degrees
A2983 - Altimeter setting is 29.83
DIST SH ESE - Even though there is no rain at the observation station, there are distant rain showers observed to the east-south-east
SLP103 - Sea level air pressure is 1010.3 (29.83 inches of mercury is the same as 1010.3 millibars)

Tomorrow's forecast:

TAF CYOW 092338Z 100024 VRB03KT P6SM SCT060 BKN100
BECMG 0608 09008KT
FM1100Z 10010KT P6SM BKN070
FM1300Z 10010KT P6SM SCT020 BKN050

TAF - Terminal Area Forecast - the weather forecast for within 5 nautical miles
CYOW - of Ottawa International Airport, Ottawa, Ontario
092338Z - Issued at 23:38 Zulu (19:38 EDT) on the 9th (of August)
100024 - Valid from 00 to 24 (a 24 hour period) on the 10th (of August)
VRB03KT - Winds will be Variable at 3 knots
P6SM - Visibility will be +6 (plus 6) statute miles
SCT060 - Scattered clouds at 6000 feet AGL
BKN100 - Broken clouds at 10,000 feet AGL

TEMPO 0002 - Temporary change from the forecast, from 00 to 02 (8pm to 10pm EDT).
P6SM - Visibility will remain at +6 statute miles
-SHRA - With light rain showers
BKN050 - Broken clouds at 5,000 feet AGL
BKN090 - Broken clouds at 9,000 AGL

Then at 0200Z (10pm EDT) the temporary conditions end, and we revert back to the original TAF (first line) as the basis for the rest of the forecast.

FM (From) is a permanent change. Everything in line 1 (the TAF) remains the same unless specifically modified. From 02:00Z (10pm EDT) onwards, winds remain variable at 3kts, visibility remains at +6SM, but there is now only one layer of cloud, broken at 8,000 feet.

BECMG 0608 09008KT
There will be a gradual change (becoming) over the two hour time period from 06Z to 08Z (2am to 4am EDT) of the winds, from 090 degrees true at 8 knots. 0608 is the time period over which the change occurs, but once it does happen then the change is permanent for the rest of the forecast period (unless subsequently specifically modified). All other weather stays the same.

FM1100Z 10010KT P6SM BKN070
From 1100Z onwards there is another permanent change, the winds will now be from 100 degrees true at 10 knots, the visibility is still +6 statute miles, but the cloud base has descended another 1,000 feet to be broken at 7,000 feet.

For the period from 11:00Z to 13:00Z (7am to 9am EDT) there will be light rain showers, and one broken cloud base which is at 3,000 feet ASL

FM1300Z 10010KT P6SM SCT020 BKN050
From 13:00Z onwards there is another permanent change: The wind continues to be from 100 degrees true at 10knots, the visibility is still +6 statute miles, but the cloud bases have changed once again, with one scattered cloud base at 2,000 feet ASL, and another broken cloud base at 5,000 feet ASL

From 13:00Z for the rest of the day there is a temporary change (this far into the future in unsettled weather this likely means temporary periods) of 5 statute miles visibility, light rain showers, mist (BR derives from the french word for mist), and overcast clouds (a solid cloud base) at 2,000 feet ASL

And just to make things interesting, there is a 30% probability, between 18:00Z and 22:00Z (2pm to 6pm EDT) of 2 statute miles visibility, thunderstorms and rain (TSRA), mist (BR), and a solid cloud base at 2,000 feet (OVC020) with embedded cumulonimbus (CB) - which are commonly known as thunderheads.

My scheduled flight time is from 2-4pm - right when there is a 30% chance of thunderstorms. I may not go flying in the afternoon. And it would be a good idea to get the grass cut in the morning.

Thursday, August 07, 2008


V-speeds (Velocity) are the indicated airspeeds used, or airspeed limits, for the operation of a specific type of aircraft. They have to be memorized, for when you're flying you won't have time to look them up. During flight examinations, the examiner will quiz you, and they must be known.

Airspeeds have been determined by the aircraft manufacturer mathematically, in wind-tunnel testing and during flight testing. They are all documented in the aircraft's Flight Manual.

All of the values are treated as hard limits, however, failure or damage isn't automatic. For example, Vne (Never Exceed) is 164 knots. The manual describes it as "Do not exceed this airspeed in any operation", but if you fly 165kt you're not going to immediately disintegrate in mid-air. However, you are now in test-pilot territory, and the aircraft has not been tested to provide safe operations at that airspeed.

I have to have them memorized, which is why I'm writing them down. Among other things, the airspeeds are in four* different sections throughout the Flight Manual, so getting them together in one spot is useful.

For the Diamond Eclipse with the Sensenich propeller (all speeds are KIAS**):

Vne164 Never Exceed
Vno 118 Normal Operations
Va 106 Maneuvering Speed
Vfe-to 100 Do not exceed with flaps extended in takeoff position
Vfe-ldg 78 Do not exceed with flaps extended in landing position
Vx-to57 Best angle of climb with flaps in takeoff position
Vx 60 Best angle of climb with flaps in cruise position
Vy-to 68 Best rate of climb with flaps in takeoff position
Vy 75 Best rate of climb with flaps in cruise
Vr 44 Rotate speed (the speed that you start to lift the nose when taking off)
52Approach speed for normal landing, flaps in landing
52 Balked landing takeoff speed, flaps in landing (the manual doesn't specify this, but this would probably be Vx-ldg)
34 Stall speed, flaps landing, 0 degrees bank
40 Stall speed, flaps takeoff, 0 degrees bank
42 Stall speed, flaps cruise, 0 degrees bank
20 Maximum demonstrated crosswind speed for takeoff or landing
73 Best glide speed, flaps in cruise

* The four sections
Chapter 2 - Airspeed limitations
Chapter 3 - Airspeeds during emergency procedures
Chapter 4 - Airspeeds for normal flight operation
Chapter 5 - Performance - Stall speeds


Knots Indicated Air Speed - there are several speeds when aircraft are involved, including

  • TAS - True Air Speed
  • CAS - Calibrated Air Speed
  • IAS - Indicated Air Speed

IAS is the number you read off the airspeed indicator, is the most readily available, and the one used by pilots when flying the airplane. However, it is also almost always not your true air speed, due to variations in air temperature, pressure, mechanical errors in the system, placement of the pitot, and so forth. This is worth another post in itself. Sometime.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Every day should be like this - Aug 6

Arrived at CYRP at 5:50 for tonight's lesson. Regardless of the weather, tonight was going to include lots of preparatory work.

We sat in the FBO cafeteria for 40 minutes and reviewed stalls, spins, spirals, emergency procedures, forced landings and lots of other bookwork. While a nasty thunderstorm cell rolled right over the airport and pelted us with rain for 30 minutes. After the book learning was complete, we looked out the window to find blue sky with the odd cu.

Preflight, and off we went.

Takeoff was right down the centre line. Nailed 2,000' right on the money, and maintained, while flying to the practice area, then climbed to 3500'.

Stalls... put the Eclipse into a stall, kept the stick hard back and worked the rudder pedals to prevent falling off to one side into an incipient spin. My previous record (in 2006) was 4 seconds, today I maintained 15+ seconds while losing 1100 feet of altitude, before falling off to the right, where I recovered the spin. Climbed back up to 3500', did a second stall which I recovered right away by lowering the nose and adding throttle.

Spiral Dive... Are routine to recover, the trick is to recognize a spiral dive quickly and recover before Vne (Never Exceed). Flying past Vne is test pilot territory.

Climb back up, and get into Slow Flight. A couple of gentle turns, maintain altitude.

Back towards CYRP, dropping from 3000' to 1400' using a forward slip, radio calls leaving the practice area and joining airport traffic, cross over the airport and join the mid-left downwind.

Final approach was on rails. Just after a major storm goes through the air is quite stable, and the wind for runway 28 was from 300 and slow - maybe 5 kt - so little crosswind effort and no mechanical turbulence. I chopped power at about 600' and glided it right to the landing. Rotate, and a good landing (especially for the first one of the lesson). Flare was slightly higher than it should have been, so it was accompanied by a slow rotation. No bounce, little yaw, and just to the left of the centre line. Touch&go.

Second landing. Final was on rails. Flare a bit lower. Power was at 1200 RPM until I chopped it before flare. Decent landing. Just to the right of centre line. Touch&go.

Third landing we did a simulated engine failure forced landing at the airport. I conserved lots of energy to the runway, but forgot to do the Cause Check. We were at about 40', at 65kt, and a third down the runway when I called Overshoot, throttled up and did a proper overshoot. If I had no engine I could have used a slip to get rid of the altitude and speed, and could have got it down. Or landed without the slip and stood on the brakes. Or both. But I proved I could make it to the runway and knew how to get it down, no need to do anything extreme on a simulated engine failure. Especially as a student, and at low altitude.

Fourth landing was also a simulated engine failure, forced landing at the airport. While flying to the threshold I put in a forward slip and shed 200', then glided to a decent flare and touchdown. Again, I ensured I comfortably made the runway (28 is notorious for sink approaching the threshold), so touchdown was a distance down the runway. Touch&go would have been possible but edgy (and a major issue if there was power failure during the takeoff roll), so I backtracked, worked the pre-takeoff checklist (see yesterday's blog), and did a takeoff right down the centre line.

Fifth landing was a normal full stop. Final on the rails (man, I love smooth air!), a smidgen to the right of centre, with a flare that was a touch high.... but lots of back elevator made it reasonable.

Time: 1.1
Landings: 5

What I did well:
  • Final approach was on the rails
  • Landing on the centre line
  • Minimal yaw
  • Forced landings (airport)
  • Slips
What I could do better

  • Flaring closer to the ground... but today was markedly better than previous.
Next flight:

  • Checkride with the Chief Flight Instructor (CFI) Sunday @ 1400. And depending on her assessment.....

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Working on the flare - August 4

Two more hours in the circuit. Things are coming along nicely.

Final approach is getting better - much more stable, smaller movements on the stick, good coordination with rudder and - importantly - the throttle. Asta la bye-bye to the pendulum.

Today's crosswinds were from the north (right) so I anticipated that there would mechanical turbulence in the lee of a cluster of trees to the northeast of 28's threshold, and it was right there on very short final. No issue, just be aware that throttle might be required. It was.

At the end of last lesson I figured out that I was double-flaring: As the ground got bigger in the windscreen I would feel the usual apprehension about all that black asphalt filling the windscreen, raised the nose to slow the rate of descent, descended, and then did the "real" flare into cruise and touchdown. All this activity usually meant that I ran short on airspeed in the second flare, which meant a harder touchdown. Today's objective: One flare only.

I was also flaring too high. Last lesson I had the instructor demonstrate the landing and I kept eyes-out to see the perspective. Today's objective: Trust the perspective, don't be afraid of the ground, flare at the right altitude.

The circuit was much busier today - we usually had 3 aircraft in various positions, including arrivals from all directions. Learned to make sure I knew where announced aircraft were, and to be very clear in stating my position. And learned what to do in the case of circuit conflicts - twice aircraft did a quick 360 to add to spacing (as it worked out, neither rotation was done by me). And once I flew the downwind at 115kt rather than 80-90kt, both to increase the spacing from another aircraft following me in the circuit, and also to get some practice in shedding all that airspeed before turning base and final.

I remember back to my first lessons, where I couldn't make a radio call without losing 30 degrees of heading and 250 feet in altitude. Now I can track the course, make the radio call, keep a picture of traffic, and work the checklist. It's like driving a car, where - after the initial learning curve - you don't have to think about keeping it in the middle of the lane.

The wind was varying today. We did a runway change while in the circuit, which involves flying downwind for 28, crossing over at midfield, then downwind for 10, then base then touchdown. By the time we got on the ground we looked at the windsock and it has switched back to favour 28. After that we ignored the windsock variations, as it always came back to favour 28 anyway.

I greased 3 of the landings. One had a very minor bounce. Nothing scary.

Today's mistakes:
  • When traffic was arriving I got rather concerned that we couldn't spot the incoming traffic. I should have levelled off at 1400' ASL, but got up to 1600' ASL instead due to inattention. The wrong altitude had the effect of not placing us in the expected position when they were scanning for us - a critical part of circuit management, and safety in general, is doing what is expected of you.
  • When doing touch&go, the only configuration difference between landing and take-off are the flap settings - this makes it real easy to switch from landing mode to takeoff should you have to reject the landing. After landing on 10 and seeing that the wind had shifted back to 28, I pulled onto taxiway Bravo (near the threshold of 28, but at the far downwind end of 10) so the aircraft following had the option to land on 10. They decided to go around and go downwind for 28, so I pulled back onto 28, backtracked to threshold, positioned and took off. Take-off was very sluggish, but RPM was fine. I nearly rejected the takeoff before I realized that I had not lowered my heels to the floor, so I was probably slightly on the brakes. During the climb-out the aircraft was still sluggish, and that's when I realized that the flaps were still in the landing position. When I was on the taxi-way I should have run the pre-takeoff checklist from the list itself. I did run it from memory - but forgot the flaps setting.
For the last few landings I set a goal of getting my touchdowns onto the centre line - I am chronically off on the left side of the runway. Part of this is maintaining a sideslip right through the landing and landing on one wheel (the upwind wheel) so the wind doesn't push me across the runway. Another factor is to anticipate the left yaw when removing power from the engine. And part of it is probably the fact that I am in the left seat, and the cowling curves down to the left.

Time: 1.4 hours (and another page in the logbook is full)
Landings: 7

Things I did well:
  • Taking off from the centre line
  • Airspeed management
  • Multi-tasking (with all the traffic in the circuit)
  • Final - getting better
  • Flare - closer to the ground, but not yet consistent
  • Runway change
Areas to improve:
  • Land on the centre line
  • One flare
  • Consistently flare at low altitude
  • Minimize the yaw at touchdown
Next lesson is Wed/6. We'll do a preflight briefing to cover a number of pre-solo requisites (e.g. emergency procedures), then continue to fly the circuit. If we're grounded by the weather then we'll do the briefings anyway, and I'll book a lesson for Friday.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Circuits! Quelle surprise! Aug 3

Flying 12-14. The day started off with stratus at 1400' (OVC014), then the cloud cover lifted a few hundred feet and broke up by the time of my lesson. I was looking at light winds from the north (right side of the runway), broken CU, and isolated rain showers.

My goals for the day:
  1. Better manage my airspeed throughout the circuit, especially on short final and the flare,
  2. Smooth final,
  3. Nice flare and landing.
Summary: 1 was good, 2 is coming along, and I made progress on 3.

Taxi, radio, checklists, and take-off (including tracking the centre line during the take-off ) were all good.

But I didn't feel sharp. Altitude tracking wasn't precise at the start, then I decided to start putting in the extra effort and nailing the numbers and by the latter part of the lesson I was doing much better.

One thing I did much better was throttle management... I noticed I was just parking it at a certain RPM and driving the aircraft with the controls. Aircraft move in four dimensions (airspeed being the fourth), and today I was much much better with gently nudging the throttle. I've never adjusted the throttle as much as I did today.

But I had to be active on the throttle.... the usual updrafts and downdrafts at the end of 28 were out in full force today. During one approach I was on short final maybe 100' AGL and the aircraft just started sinking. I added about 800rpm and flattened out the slope, then throttled down and settled onto the runway.

Another linkage: If doing a forced landing, aim for the threshold and make sure you make it. Don't be afraid of erring on the the high side. With all the surprise sink I saw today, if I didn't have an engine I could not have glided to the runway.

Landings were generally OK. No high-altitude drops, one small bounce, a few normal-ish landings and two that were quite acceptable. And two rejected landings.

On one of the first landings I first encountered the really aggressive sink off the end of the runway, added throttle and continued the landing. I kept accelerating down so I kept adding throttle and nudging the nose up. Time to get out of Dodge - I ended up flaring, punching up full power, touching down the mains surprisingly gently, and then climbing out on full flaps. I leveled and accelerated in level flight, then nose up and positive rate of climb, went to take-off flaps and then climbed out.

After three landings I had the instructor do the landing, and I just watched the perspective so I could judge altitude. I was starting the flare way too high. My subsequent landings were much better.

Time: 1.6
Landings: 9

What I did well:
  • Sharpened up. Perhaps due to the layoff I wasn't crisp. I recognized it, and put in the extra effort to fly with precision. It got better,
  • Maintain 1000' AAE right to the corner of turning base. Sometimes I've dropped 50-100' just before the turn. I think this comes from the confidence that I can shed the altitude (throttle, flaps, and - if need be - a slip), and so I'm not jumping the gun on getting it down,
  • Overshoots and rejected landings. If you're going to reject the landing, don't be afraid to make the decision - and once you decide then don't change your mind,
  • Side-slips and forward-slips. Using these routinely now,
  • Throttle management. I have never been as active on the throttle as I was today. And I wasn't just punching in a lot of RPM and then create a speed-shedding problem - there were lots of small increments,
  • Final approach is getting smoother. Smaller adjustments, no pendulums, but not yet slick.
Needs improvement:
  • No yaw on landing,
  • Smother final,
  • Don't flare so high (although I got better after I asked the instructor to demonstrate).
I'm flying again tomorrow (Monday) and Wednesday, then I have a lesson booked with the CFI on Sunday. I may solo that day... and if I'm not ready it is no big deal, as it will be good to fly with a different instructor and get some different feedback.

Debrief with instructor: I'm not doing anything which is unsafe, my situational awareness is excellent, speed management is excellent, and I've pretty much assembled all the tools I need to fly solo. What I need to do now is continue to work on putting it all together.