Saturday, October 18, 2008

Crosswinds and Solo - October 18

Today's flying was from 2-4pm, or 1800Z - 2000Z

METAR CYOW 182100Z 35007KT 15SM FEW060 10/M03 A3032 RMK CU2 SLP272=
METAR CYOW 182000Z 35010KT 15SM FEW060 11/M04 A3031 RMK CU2 SLP270=
METAR CYOW 181900Z 35011G16KT 15SM FEW056 11/M03 A3031 RMK CU2 SLP270=

We were using runway 280, which is at 280 degrees magnetic. The magnetic deviation in Ottawa is 14 degrees west, so the runway is actually at 266 degrees true. The winds were from 350 degrees true (35011G16KT), or at 85 degrees from the right - pretty much a pure crosswind. Of course, the winds decreased as the day progressed (and after I was on the ground)
11G16kt means the winds were at 11 knots, gusting to 16 (that's 20 km per hour, gusting to 30 kmph).

Did four circuits with the instructor... first time in a while that I've had mean crosswinds, so I wanted to be sure I was OK to go (and, I presume, so did he). The final approaches were reasonably well aligned with a side slip, the landings were busy, but not scary. Though I didn't put it slick on the centre line each time.

But I was cleared to go solo. I wasn't sure what the combination of a light aircraft, and strong crosswinds, was going to hold in store - but it would be a learning experience.

Taxiing down the runway the windsock alternated between straight out, and rather floppy, indicting that the winds were alternating between 5 knots and 15 knots. Joy.

Takeoff and circuit was fine. On the first landing attempt I was again good on the final approach, the aircraft floated as expected, and the wind continued to gust. I eventually called bingo, and decided to go around - overshoot.

On the second circuit altitude varied all over the place... I would be flying along at 1400 ft (circuit altitude), and then suddenly find myself at 1550' with 20 knots more airspeed when I hit a gust. By the time I was on final I decided that this was a good learning experience, and I can fly in these conditions if I had to... but I didn't have to. On the final I radioed for a full stop. The landing was actually pretty good... a gust hit me and I ballooned, so a bit of throttle took me further down the runway and gently descending, I managed to stay near the centre, and by the time I was wheels down my nose was well up in the air.

I decided to pick up up the self-loading ballast (as instructor David sometimes calls himself), as his added weight would allow us to float less and land earlier, thus reducing my exposure to gusts.

As I backtracked to the start of the runway I noticed we had no oil pressure, and a medium-high oil temperature. We went to the run-up area, and found the oil pressure needle started to move at 1200 RPM, and was approaching the green at 1700 RPM. The engine had lots of oil (I had checked it), and the school responded to our radio inquiry saying that this was not unusual.

I developed a protocol with David... I'll do the take-off, he watches engine RPM (minimum 2000, with 2200 normal), and oil pressure (I wanted it up into the green with no fluctuation). If anything wasn't in range, he says "reject" and I'll keep us on the ground.

The takeoff went fine, the needles were within specifications. On the climb the oil pressure was at the bottom edge of the green, and the oil temperature was at the top edge of the green range. We apparently had sufficient oil, but it was quite hot.

Then I remembered that the air inlet baffles were still in place - restrictors that reduce the volume of air entering the cowling, and thus allowing the engine to stay warm in cold-air conditions. Depending on the outside air temperature (OAT), we can use zero, one or two baffles. We had two in place, the OAT was 56F, and we should have had none. Normally, during the course of the day, we take out baffles as the day as the OAT increases.

I landed, and we went home. It was a decent approach, and an OK landing.

Time: 1.5 (0.4 solo)
Landings: 7 (2 solo)

Done well:
  • Handling crosswind on final approach (best I've done)
  • Patience on the landing
  • Situational awareness, positional awareness of traffic
  • Radio work in a busy environment
Needs improvement:
  • Need to keep the stick to the upwind side during a crosswind landing, and expect to land on one wheel. I tend to square up the airplane during the flare, which results in drift across the runway.
  • Should have looked up cold weather operations in the Airplane Operating Manual (AOM), and removed one or both of the baffles before flight.
  • In still winds I find landings happen slowly. In crosswinds the rest of the flight is easy, but landings are busy. This remains the flight phase where I have fewest skills, and continue to need practice.
Scary bits:
  • On the solo overshoot I put in the power at the same time the nose pitched well down (due to a gust getting under a wing). Suddenly I was nose down with full power. I got the nose up in a hurry and got out of Dodge. My main gear just kissed the runway... glad I was nose-up (the Eclipse's prop has a 10 inch ground clearance - you don't want to be nose-down on a hard landing)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Solo Circuits - October 13

Partway through the day (today is Canadian Thanksgiving) I checked the flight school's booking system, and saw that there was both instructor and aircraft availability. So I phoned them up, made a booking, and went flying.

Another great day - minimal wind, very high ceilings, fall colours, and only a few thermals.

Two circuits with David, as warm-up and check ride. Very busy... when I did my full stop to let David off there were three aircraft behind me also doing a full stop.

Today's (self-set) objectives:
  • Circuits are to be crisp - fly the rectangle, don't blast through circuit altitude on the climb out, maintain altitude in the circuit regardless of what else is happening (radio, pre-landing checklist, etc).
  • Practice the flare and touchdown - know there is going to be float, be patient, do not balloon, do not bounce.
In all, I was better today than yesterday.
  • Circuit headings were crisp,
  • Altitudes were tracked (within 50' - need to get a bit better),
  • I blew through circuit altitude only a few times, and in only a minor fashion,
  • Did a runway change... I was on base for runway 28 at 1100, and the aircraft departing radioed and noted that the windsock was slightly favouring runway 10 - so I did a radio call declaring crosswind for runway 10, climbed up to circuit altitude and continued,
  • On two final approaches I let my speed bleed to 50 knots before putting in some horses - stall is 34kt so there was no danger, but the CFI-mandated airspeed is 60kt,
  • Saw the numbers tracking up/down the windshield much easier. Seeing the peripheral things is an indicator of higher available bandwidth, which in turn is an indicator that it is taking fewer cycles to do the basics.
  • Flared at a lower height (yesterday I overly-cautious and much too high),
  • Was gentle with pulling back the stick, didn't rotate through cruise to nose up (OK, I think there was one balloon),
  • Flew for a long time in ground effect - several times - waiting for speed to bleed. Was patient,
  • Was better at getting down earlier, working for as close to the threshold as possible, thus maximizing the remaining runway,
  • I was feeling the descent better - that first post-flare sinking movement when the airplane signals it wants to go down, and which is the time when you start to pull the stick back to control the rate of descent. If you're too slow in recognizing this movement then it will likely be a hard(er) landing.
With the exception of one greaser of a landing (which was right of centre, alas), the remaining landings involved a few bounces, no scary drops, some gentle nose-ups to manage the descent rate, and a few where I got the nose up too fast and then ballooned. Landings were not pretty, but none were scary, all were comfortably on the mains, with minimal or no yaw, and all were on or near the centre line.

I had one approach where I was slow to idle the engine and get the flaps out, and so I called an overshoot rather than doing a salvage. On another I was also slow to get down, but when I was plenty high I put in a forward slip and landed only a little bit long.

As I was climbing out on one of the later circuits, I noticed that I had to think through my radio calls or else I was going to verbally stumble, an indicator of getting tired. I was thinking full stop, but traffic got on my tail so I did a touch&go, then did my full stop on the next circuit.

Next objectives:
  • Maintain the crispness in the circuit
  • Keep working on gentle flares - rotate to cruise only
  • ** When the aircraft starts to sink, gently pull the nose up - no balloons!
Time: 0.4 dual, 1.3 solo
Landings: 2 dual, 11 solo, 1 overshoot

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Solo Circuits - October 12

For my next flights, I'll first be doing a few circuits with an Instructor. This will verify that I'm not having a bad day, and that the conditions are within my limits. It also allows the instructors a chance to ensure I'm not getting into some bad habits. After a series of these ongoing check rides I'll blast off directly on my own. And, of course, when bring in a new skill (shorts, softs, precautionary, instrument, cross-country, etc) it will always be preceded with dual instruction.

Pre-flight the aircraft. 4.25 quarts, 3/8 tank. Before we take a lap, we make GPUP happy by filling her with fluids.

Two laps around the block with Instructor David. Both landings good, David gets out, I go flying.

Today it was all about adjusting to the lighter load. Even with a full tank of gas (24 gallons, or 144 pounds), when it was just me in the aircraft then I floated for what seemed like forever.

Today the wind favoured runway 10 - the last time I had flown 10 instead of 28 was over a month ago... so it was a chance to get out of the habit of following the usual ground cues, and position according to the runway.

Landing #1 - Never happened. I found myself on medium final, very high.

If forced to land I could use a forward slip, but the CFI wants students to set up the landings right, not using forward slips to escape mistakes (especially newbie solo students) - I'll practice routinely adding in, and taking out, forward slips when I have more hours under my belt.

Or I could just wait it out and land by the middle of the runway - but that would leave me with less than half the runway for the takeoff.

Fawgetabawtit, I called a low&over and flew down the runway at a few hundred feet, and practiced shuffling left/right using side slips.

Why the blazes could I not get down? I knew I turned from downwind to base a bit early, found myself high and idled the engine, but I should have managed to get down.

Then I noticed my heading - by now I was flying downwind for runway 10, so my heading should have been 280. It was 260. I had caught myself sneaking in closer to home. By the time I shave 10 or 20 degrees off each of crosswind, downwind and base, I'm really encroaching on the threshold. Resolution - fly a rectangle - no cheating.

Landings 2-8:
  • Circuits on the correct headings
  • Need to watch blasting through 1000' AGL at the end of the climb
  • Did pre-landing checklist every time - while tracking altitude
  • Caught myself being lazy - flying by adjusting trim, rather than flying using the stick and then trimming to relieve pressure
  • Except for one approach, tended to be a touch high on final, resulting in a landing in the first third of the runway - barely (the other approach I was down nice and early).
  • Radio is easy, takeoffs routine, lookouts good
  • Final approach was on the centre line, and stable
  • Landings were on the centre line (except for one)
  • Yaw was well-managed at the landing (except for one)
  • In the later landings a bit of a crosswind developed from the left... which I handled with no problem.
But on every landing, I floated, and had trouble getting the aircraft down. Once I was in ground effect, the aircraft handled very differently with the weight of only one person in the seats. It was outside my experience, and so this will be my new learning for the next while.

I bounced. I floated. My timing for the flare was all mucked up. Pulling the stick back to mediate the descent was ham-handed, often resulting in a balloon up (and requiring a touch of power to regain airspeed to regain lift to gently descend again - rather than dropping).

Time: 0.4 Dual, 0.7 solo
Landings: 2 dual, 7 solo, plus one low&over

Non-landing - need to work on:
  • Precision flying... rotate at exactly 44kt, climb at exactly Vx and Vy, headings in the circuit right on the rectangle, tracking altitude +/- 20 feet.
  • Fly the airplane, trim the pressure
Landing - Need to work on:
  • When adding a touch of power in a landing, expect the nose to go left.... and stop it from doing so (this pulled me left of the centre line, and created some yaw, on one landing)
  • Gently in the flare... pull back on the stick nice and slowly, do not go past cruise attitude
  • In the landing, when the aircraft starts to descend to the runway then gently pull back to mediate the descent. I was pulling back on the stick the way I always had (with two people in the aircraft), from mechanical memory. With only one person it cause a balloon - I need to fly according to the way the aircraft is responding, not according to how I've always done it.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Post-Solo Pics

Myself (I am on the right), and my instructor David.

And myself and CFI Juliette:

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Solo - October 5

Parting words of advice as the CFI climbed out.... expect to float more before landing, be patient, wave to the audience, the aircraft will land when it is ready.

So I ran the pre-start checklist, started up, listen to the radio - where did those three aircraft come from? - taxi over to an open area, and do the run-up.

And then don't move to the runway, idle for 10 minutes while three aircraft landed, full stop each, and taxied down Alpha. They were an older yellow taildragger (a Piper Cub?), a Cessna 152, and a Cirrus SR20. I had lots of time on my hands to watch. In one sense, it was nice to sit there and let the nervousness drain.

After the last arrival passed I took Alpha, crossed 04, backtracked, took the position, smiled to myself and took a breath, pushed the throttle open, rotate. Airborne very quickly.

A good quick climb, blow through 1000' AGL (amazing what 150 pounds less gross weight means!), get at altitude and stable on the downwind, radio call, pre-landing checklist, throttle back, 80 knots, flaps to take-off, turn base, 65 knots, flaps to landing, trim for 60 knots, turn final, radio call, flare, wait, wait, wait some more, land.

I'd like to say I greased it, but there was a minor bounce. I was dead smack on the centre line with no yaw, and decelerating, within the first 800 feet of the runway.

Remember - you're not finished flying until the last part finishes moving. Don't get elated just yet.

Taxi to Alpha, post-landing checklist, radio calls, cross 04 to the apron, do the run-up.

Radio the flying school, I suspected this was the last flight of the day for this aircraft, confirmed, taxi to the front of the hanger. And "congratulations". I said thanks, please inform David and Juliette they can start breathing again.

Taxi to the front of the hanger, David is there doing the wands thing, guiding me to a full stop.

Throttle idle, electrics off, mixture idle-cutoff, the last part stopped moving, key out, do the paperwork, open the canopy.

The canopy in the Eclipse opens up and back, and when retracted you can stand up.

I stood up. And pumped my fists in the air and yelled "YES".

Pictures, push G-PUP back into the hanger, off to the desk, more paperwork (including the first PIC time in my logbook), pay the bill.

On the whole - it was anti-climatic. I can do this. My instructors prepared me well.

Time: 0.4 (and a good piece of that was spent waiting on the apron).
Landings: 1

Done well:
  • Darn near everything
Needs improvement:
  • Do not blow through an assigned altitude, no matter how light the aircraft is. Anticipate, manually fly to the altitude, trim, hold it. This is basic!!!

Checkride - October 5

Lesson booked today from 4-6pm. Weather turned out great... minimal wind (NavCanada was arguing with itself on whether the winds were westerly at 6 knots, or variable at 3 knots), cool air, and a cloud base of 4000 feet above ground level).

I arrived early, pre-flighted the airplane, and found that the left white position light was burned out. Woooo hoooo, snag#2 in my piloting career. The light is optional for daytime flight.

I was then informed that I wouldn't be flying with my instructor, but with the Chief Flight Instructor - and two make two lines on the flight planning form. I had expected to take some flight with David, then with the CFI (Juliette), and then go solo.... but apparently I am to be cast into the maw of the Big Bad CFI without first drilling a few holes in the sky with my friendly instructor first.

I wasn't too nervous during the checkride... had some trouble getting trimmed up on the downwind and oscillated around a bit.

  • Taxi - had to enter 28 to let some traffic off the runway, then get back on Alpha to let a touch&go come through
  • Takeoff #1 - Slick
  • Circuit #1 - Created some skid because I used some left rudder in a climbing left turn... and under full power the aircraft still wanted some right rudder - even in the right turn. And didn't track altitude all that well.
  • Landing #1 - good. Stabilized approach, on the centre line, no yaw, no bounce, no drop
  • Takeoff #2 - Slick
  • Circuit #2 - Much better, less nervous
  • Landing #2 - Stabilized approach, just to the left of centre, no yaw, flared through cruise and got my nose up a bit... but just waited it out. No bounce, no drop
  • Takeoff #3 - Slick
  • Circuit #3 - Fine...nailed and stuck my altitudes
  • Landing #3 - Right on the centre line, very decent
The CFI asked to be dropped off at the 04 threshold, but we had two full-stops arriving behind us, so we went right back to the apron.

And then she got out....

Time: 0.5
Landings: 3

Gusty gusty gusty - October 2

Another flight booked, with my instructor, from 1630-1830. The weather looked fine a few days before, and on the morning of the lesson it was pretty good weather - except for the winds. Mid-afternoon it was expected to get windy -- but healthy winds from 290 wouldn't be a too-big issue on runway 28.

Except for the gustiness... 29012G24KT means 12 knots gusting to 24, and that can bounce you all over the sky.

Phone call at about 2pm... cancelled.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Flying Solo

This morning I drove my daughter down to Smiths Falls, where she took - and passed - her G1-exit driving test.

This evening she took the car - solo - on a short jaunt to a nearby store.

There have been times in the past year where I was grinding my foot into the floorboards, or holding my breath, or grasping the door handle.... while she bounced off the curb, or remained oblivious to the near miss she just had.

But she's a decent, albeit inexperienced, driver. At least she knows she has limited experience, and she could get into the deep end if she isn't careful.

I have no doubt that I scared the bejeebies out of my instructors. At least they had dual controls.