Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Instrument Time


My instructor had some more time on Friday afternoon, so we booked the simulator, did the preparatory work for instrument flight and for unusual attitudes. I went home to study, eat, and do some domestic duties, then came back to the Club in the mid-afternoon.

Back to the Club at 3pm, and we did some instrument flying. It is a bit weird to be flying a dashboard with no tactile input (ears, balance, noise, or seat of the pants).

But the "flying" went reasonably well. We started with the tach and Attitude Indicator only, did some flying around, then added additional members of the six-pack to build up the scan.

Then I crashed. Turns out I had runaway trim because the trim rocker switch on the yoke had a 100% contact to set the trim nose-down. In a real airplane you could still fly but there would be significant muscular force involved. In the Sim the nose just kept going down, no matter what I did with the yoke. We turned off the electricity (which cost me the Turn Coordinator, and impacted the objectives of the lesson), but it killed the electric trim. The instructor set the trim to more-or-less the middle using the mouse and gave me control. More throttle nose-up, less throttle nose-down, so by changing power 100rpm at a time I could get back into straight&level trimmed flight, which was a good enough starting point for all the manoeuvres I was doing.

Instrument Simulated: 0.6
Landings: 1

Done well:
  • The scanning methods taught in the Flight Training Manual work very well.... I followed them in the Sim and had little difficulty.

Needs Improvement:
  • Lesson was too short to come to any conclusions here.

I suspect my Flight Simulator days will be of future use, but it is yet to be determined if the FS time will be of practical use beyond the introductory level.

Next Lessons (all are subject to the Wx Gods):
  • Next Friday: Cross-country dual
  • Next Saturday: Dual instrument time, hopefully some crosswinds
  • Next Sunday: Cross-country solo

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Language Proficiency


As a result of an ICAO requirement, pilots must now demonstrate English language proficiency. I think proficiency solely in another language (e.g. French, or Spanish, or whatever) is also acceptable but you restrict where you can fly. English is the universal language of aviation, and if you have English you can fly anywhere.

You might not be able to get a job at Air Canada if you don't have French, but you can fly the planes. But that's another rant.

It's a 20-minute exercise, over the phone, and while the context of the discussion is aviation, it is not required that you give a sensible aviation answer to the discussion.

Painless. Completed. On the assumption that I passed (the examiner is not permitted to inform you of your results), I should get that certificate in the mail from Transport Canada within 3 weeks.

Second First Solo


Bright and clear this morning, virtually no wind, very little cloud, and 1.5 hours booked on the airplane. Today's objective is to work on landings - and if all is OK, fly solo in preparation for next week's cross-country solo.

Preflight, load up, taxi out, and try a short-field take-off. Did well getting off the ground and a lower speed, but we accelerated quite nicely and didn't stay in ground effect for the acceleration. I need to go through the motions even if the aircraft wants to go flying.

My airspeed on the climb-outs is still not quite stable - I need to pick an outside attitude and hold it, rather than chase the airspeed needle.

First landing OK but a bit long - the source of the problem is that I'm not getting slow quickly enough at the end of the downwind leg, which causes me to be high during base, and I just keep catching up throughout the circuit until I finally get it down on the ground.

We did a stop&go, backtracked, and I had the instructor demonstrate a short-field take-off. Yep, I'm doing the short-field the same as he does, I thought it was OK, now it is confirmed.

Flaps up, full power, carb heat in, rotate, and fly.

Mid-left downwind the instructor pulled the power and said "simulated engine fire". This is a from-memory checklist:
  • Mixture to idle-cut-off (simulated, of course - touch the control but don't actually turn the engine off)
  • Fuel selector off
  • Master electrical off (but leave it on since this is simulated, and we need to communicate)
  • Cabin heat and air off, leave overhead vents on
  • Airspeed 100 kts to extinguish the fire. If not extinguished increase speed until it is out.
  • Conduct a forced landing
By this point we were past the mid-left downwind, and ready to do a forced landing:
  • Declare where you're going to land (the runway)
  • Point the aircraft at the landing point
  • Maintain straight and level flight, and slow to best glide speed (65kt in the C172 with no flaps)
  • Communicate (radio intentions to traffic)
  • Forward slip to get down, including a turn to runway heading. I could put in flaps, but it takes a while to deploy them, and more importantly, it takes a while to retract them - but a forward slip can be taken out very quickly if we need to preserve altitude to make the runway.
  • On short final I put in 20 degrees of flaps, and did a pretty good landing just past the numbers.
Full power, carb heat off, flaps up, rotate, fly away.

On the third circuit I pulled the power from 2300rpm to 1700rpm earlier, rather from 2300rpm to 1500rpm later. Maintaining altitude by progressive nose-up and adding in 20 degrees of flaps, all on the latter stages of the downwind, meant I was starting to descend at my target airspeed as I turned to base. Reducing the power to idle on base, and starting the turn to final earlier (so it would be a nice gently-banked turn), meant I was in a much better setup during short final. Remember to keep the nose down to maintain airspeed, add a touch of power for distance, eyes to the end of the runway to get a better perspective for the flare and for yaw control, and the landing was much much better.

The instructor told me to exit at Bravo, he hopped out, and I flew two circuits solo. Both landings were quite good, though the second final approach was a bit low. My first solo was October 5 2008 in the Eclipse, this was my second "first solo", this time in the Cessna 172.

Next steps: Instrument instruction, in preparation for the cross-country solo. I've booked two 4-hour flights, next Friday (for dual cross-country) and next Sunday (for solo cross-country)

Dual flight: 0.3
Dual landings: 3 (1 forced)
Solo flight: 0.3
Solo landings: 2

Thursday, July 09, 2009

S S S S S Stuff


Third lesson in three days - I'm loving it. Today's weather was sunny with a large number of Cumulus clouds and a high ceiling - the glider pilots were loving it as well.

The aircraft was back a little late, so RK and I briefed Emergency Procedures. I'm doing the emergency procedures OK, my approach to the procedures is logical and reasonable, but not exactly what the manufacturer has prescribed. Time for some more study.

Preflight was very thorough, since we were going to be doing utility-grade work today. Taxi, checklists, and a normal take-off all went well. We flew up to the practice area, staked out an area between Meech Lake and the Gatineau River, and started the upper-air work. Most of these activities I had not performed since the fall of 2006, so while I knew what I needed to do, I was apprehensive.

  • Several power-off stalls (the C172 is very gentle in a stall). I recovered at the first sign of a stall, rather than seeing if we could get a good clean break&drop.
  • Power-on stalls. The aircraft breaks a little harsher, but recovery is routine.
  • Climbing turning full-power stalls - I've not seen one before. These are really interesting - one second you're climbing to the left in a very nose-up attitude, and the next second you've tumbled down to the right. This was demonstrated only, I didn't recover one myself (time constraint). Must do that someday.

  • My last spin was in October 2006, so I had RK demonstrate spin entry and recovery. We lost 1,000 of altitude in the spin.
  • I tried twice to put the C172 into a spin, but was too cautious in kicking it in, or we were not quite stalled enough when I tried the entry, and achieved two spiral dives - which I recovered easily.

Spiral Dives
  • RK put the aircraft into a few spiral dives, which I recovered correctly and readily (in addition to the failed spin attempts).
  • As a quick demonstration, RK put the airplane into a steep spiral dive and recovered. It felt like we were going to launch a torpedo attack on an aircraft carrier. Impressive. And what I am likely to see on my flight test.

And I put in a few forward slips on the way home, to lose the required altitude when leaving the practice area. Still not slick.

RK quizzed emergency procedures as I made radio calls, scanned for traffic, switched from the practice area to the aerodrome frequency. Nothing like keeping your mind busy.

Circuit good, final approach good, and the touchdown was the best yet.

Overall, I was very pleased with today's lesson. We reviewed a lot of items, I handled all of them (except entering a spin) well. Good enough to move along. I'd like to go back and review all items again, sometime in the near future, just for the practice. I was apprehensive and now feel comfortable, however, I would appreciate some additional practice.

Dual: 1.1
Landings: 1

Circuits, Forced Landings


Yes, this is my third lesson in three days. I'm on holiday, and I want to get the rust off in a hurry. Frequent lessons are so much better than once-every-week-or-two. Retention is much better, and improvements are readily visible.

Another low-ceiling marginal weather day. First time with Instructor RK.

Preflight, taxi (good), checklist (no missed items), and a short-field takeoff from 09.

I received some really good instruction on getting to different items earlier, some mental flows around the cockpit during high-activity periods (after-takeoff checklist, for example).

We did nothing but circuits, trying different flap combinations, throttle, starting earlier or later on items.

On one circuit, just as I was about to turn from downwind to base (the furthest point from the runway), the instructor pulled the throttle and declared that we had an engine fire. Gaaaaack. I stumbled through the mental checklist while I more-or-less made a beeline in the general direction of the runway. I need to aim for the numbers, and I need to know the Emergency Checklists crisply and by heart.

Overall, a big improvement in the final approach, and the circuits. Flare and landing is sort-of OK, but not yet smooth.

Dual: 0.8
Landings: 5

Q & A & Precautionaries & Diversions


Another marginal weather day. We had hoped to do some upper-air work, but low ceilings meant low-altitude work. Precautionary landings are 1,000 and 500 feet AGL, so they were today's agenda.

I started with 10 minutes of questions, regarding techniques and suggestions that were not clear from the previous two flights. We briefed precautionary landings, and I headed to the apron.

Preflight is getting faster, taxi is smoother, and I was absolutely determined to not miss that same item on the checklist.

Take-off on 09, and rotation was at the correct speed. Just to do something different, I did a short-field takeoff.

Cleared to the west, we went and found a field in the practice area and performed a precautionary approach, aborting the landing at 500 feet AGL. I got most of the steps correct, but it didn't flow. Nothing that some study won't fix.

There was a good-sized rain-shower between ourselves and Rockcliffe, and no GPS in the aircraft, so SH called for a diversion to Rockcliffe. Out with the map, circle-circle-line etc, and I chose a course of 110 degrees and estimated 18nm, or 12 minutes. I still need to go back to the map with the protractor and ruler, and see if my estimates were accurate - they were close.

As we got to within 3-4 miles of the airport the rain shower was no longer between ourselves and the airport, we turned left 20 degrees so we would not fly over the Governor-General's house (even though we had enough altitude to clear the restricted airspace), and came in and landed on 27 (runway change while we were gone.

Done well:

  • Checklists, taxi, short-field takeoff, climbs, descents, turns, level flight.

Done, but dodgy:

  • Precautionary landing. The briefing was good, the airborne execution was so-so. I absolutely need to do better.

Getting better

  • Landing. Angle of bank is now consistently less than 20 degrees, but I'm starting the turns too late. Ground proximity judgement is improving.

Dual: 1.3
Landings: 1

Not Pretty, but Safe


Thursday's weather sucked. Low clouds, very broken so it could be raining one minute and sunny the next, intermittent rain showers, poor visibility. As a low-time student, this is weather I would not fly solo in. However, with the IFR-certified CFI in the right seat, in a capable airplane, with a GPS - no problem.

The lesson started with a quick discussion sitting on a bench in the sunshine. We'll go up, find out what we have to work with, and adapt from there. What a relaxing way to start a lesson!!!

Taxi was less wandering but not yet pretty. I missed the same item on the checklist during the run-up. Not much better at getting the nose wheel up at the rotation speed, but getting used to the C172 yoke being much heavier than the Eclipse's stick. Suggestion was to put in a bit more nose-up trim to assist in taking the weight off.

Takeoff on 09, climb out on the circuit, fly the downwind leg at 1,000 feet AGL, and then cleared to the west. We climbed up to around 2,000 feet, dodged a few clouds, flew through some rain, and decided that we were not going to be doing any upper-air work today.

We diverted to Gatineau ()the GPS made it easier to find), and performed three touch&go circuits using different flap combinations, exploring different speeds, and getting generally oriented to the handling of the aircraft.

Back to Rockcliffe, land, fuel, park.

His summary: "Not pretty, but safe". We'll keep working through to the cross-country.

My summary: Like last flight, my head was behind the aircraft most of the time. I could work on the important skills (attitude, speed, checklists, communications), but periodically forgot&caught certain steps. The landings were all on the mains, but not well timed. The circuit wasn't at 90 degree turns. Just banging around the sky, close, but not right. Overall, I know what I'm supposed to be doing, just not doing it very well.

Dual: 1.3
Landings: 4

Canada Day Celebrations - July 1

One of the attractions of flying from a club is the social aspect. Rockcliffe Flying Club is co-located with the Canadian Aviation Museum, and on every July 1 all the national museums are free entry. So a crowd of several thousand show up at the museum, and quite a few planes fly in for breakfast and a tour.

So Nancy (wife) and I spent most of the day at the Club. Nancy served breakfast from 9-11, we both did the clean-up from 11-1230. The airport was closed for a radio-controlled flight demonstration, and then the Snowbirds (Canadian Air Force demonstration team) did their airshow over Parliament Hill, then they did a turn or three over the field. Afterwards, the Snowbird pilots (and astronaut Chris Hadfield) came into the museum for autographs.

Nancy and I walked through the museum, then Nancy had a sightseeing tour - her first flight in a small aircraft.

Nancy went home for the afternoon, while I stayed at the field and marshaled the four aircraft that were giving sightseeing tours (three C172's belonging to the club, plus a Waco biplane). Overall, a great day for socializing and meeting people, looking at airplanes. And flying.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

RFC Flight 1


I was scheduled to take my first two flights with the CFI, as an assessment of where to put me into the "curriculum". Tomorrow is Canada Day, with a fly-in, breakfast, the SnowBirds fly-by, airplane rides and much more, so there were many too many last-minute details. A different instructor, SH, substituted.

We started with a briefing, especially managing the landing circuit (when to reduce throttle, drop flaps, etc). I was well-prepared with the V-speeds for RFC's aircraft, had reviewed the checklists and emergency procedures from the RFC website, and I have manuals from two other (different year, different model) C172s so I had a general awareness of the aircraft characteristics.

The pre-flight took the better part of a half hour, as I poked, prodded, looked into all the nooks and crevices, understood the inter-relationships of the different systems, and so forth.

The checklist has a section where different combinations of carb heat and throttle are used, to ensure the engine is not going to stall on a certain combination. I skipped a step, which was caught.

Taxi with a steerable nosewheel is again different. Being used to a castoring nosewheel I was not at all hesitant about punching the rudder to gain directional control, which is much more effective with a semi-steerable nosewheel. Once again, we meandered down the apron and taxiway like a drunken sailor as I over-controlled my way down the taxiway. Shades of the summer of 2006.

Takeoff was on 09, so we did the run-up at the start of taxiway C. Positioning was OK, checklists were slower to process due to unfamiliarity.

On the takeoff roll I found the elevators to be very heavy - we stayed on the nosewheel too long and rotated 15nmph late. Takeoff was fine, as was the climb out. We proceeded to the practice area east of the Gatineau River.

The air lesson was on the fundamental manoeuvres, including straight & level flight, turns to a heading, climbs, descents, climbing turns, descending turns. We spent quite a bit of time in 45-degree steep turns, I initially had difficulty maintaining altitude but eventually got working. The turns sometimes approached 60 degrees of bank, so I need to work on the smoothness. I spent quite a bit of time trying to keep my eyes outside, getting re-acquainted with the over-the-dashboard view from a different aircraft.

In preparation for the landing we spent some time getting used to slow flight - getting the flaps out, and handling the aircraft in a mushy and nose-up attitude.

Flew the approach into Rockcliffe, landing was with 20 degrees of flaps. Not pretty, but not too bad. No yaw, the flare was not a last-second panic but it wasn't a smooth flowing transition.

Filled the tanks, and pushed the aircraft to the parking spot.

Need to work on:

  • Flow with the checklists
  • Keeping my head ahead of the aircraft - I felt like I was struggling to keep up for most of the flight
  • Carb heat - the Eclipse was fuel injected and so carb heat is a new control I need to manage

Did well:

  • I can fly an airplane. After the layoff and with my low time I am quite rusty, and sometimes I need to think through things to figure out what I am doing... but I fundamentally have a clue.

Time: 1.2 Dual
Landings: 1
First flight in C172.

If all the instructors at RFC are cut from the same cloth as SH, I am going to have a very enjoyable time here. I have a very positive reaction to his laid-back, mellow, observant-as-a-hawk, teaching style.

Thursday, July 02, 2009


I pinged Tony, another blogging pilot from the Ottawa area, and he was very generous with his time as he discussed the flying community in Ottawa, and Rockcliffe Flying Club in particular. He's an instructor at RFC and so not totally impartial, but he's happy there. And after the discussion, for balanced and good reasons. Again, the social atmosphere kept coming through in the conversation.

I made an appointment with the CFI at Rockcliffe. After a discussion about the Club values, operating model, instructor pool, fleet, and more, I made the decision and joined.

My only concern is the limited size of the fleet, as they lost two aircraft to a tornado that went through earlier this year.

My PTR is in the rack.

As a bonus, I saw a yellow Husky parked on the apron, so I searched out Tony Hunt, a sometimes-follower of this blog, and a part-time instructor at RFC. We've emailed, blogged, and chatted on the phone, and this was the first face-to-face meeting. He loves to fly, so he offered (and I eagerly accepted) a spin in his Husky. We put 0.8 on the Hobbs up to the practice area and back, as he showed off his pride&joy.