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For those interested, here is video from part of yesterday’s cross country flight, – my first ever – from the takeoff at Carlsbad’s Palomar Airport (KCRQ) out to Bonsall and then the landing at Fox Field (KWJF) – and spotting two landmarks, “the prison” and “the racetrack”. I learn something every time I fly. Yesterday, I filed my flight plan under the wrong tail number. It wasn’t that big of a deal, but I know I will never do that again! Thanks to my awesome instructor Andy for letting me bring the GoPro up and being patient with all my questions.
I meant to share this last week, but didn’t get a chance to because I went to Arizona. I went up and did my third solo flight and first solo “out of the pattern” last week. I brought the GoPro along and got this video in my favorite airplane, N9897F, heading out to Bonsall and the Pauma Valley practice area.
My first cross-country flight is scheduled for Monday! I will be flying from my home airport in Carlsbad to William J Fox Airfield (KWJF) in the Antelope Valley – the northern tip of Los Angeles County. I’ve never been to Fox Field and neither has my instructor, so it will be fun to find it using maps, the iPad, GPS, and good ole’ VORS. I’ve been looking forward to cross-country flying since I started and am so excited it is finally happening!
In my upcoming presolo stage check, one of the first topics I know I will be tested on is Single-Pilot Resource Management. After all, I’m going to have to do this when I solo, so I better know what it is. This is the art and science of managing your resources – all by yourself. Resources can be onboard the aircraft and from outside sources. There are six components of SRM. They are:
Aeronautical Decision Making
Controlled Flight into Terrain Awareness
Situational Awareness is taking into consideration all factors such as traffic, weather, fuel state, aircraft mechanical condition, and my own fatigue level that may have an impact on the successful completion of the flight. When I’m flying around, whether it’s local or cross country, I’ve got to manage all the technology in the aircraft as well as radio and navigation tasks. I need to be able to manage risk and make accurate and timely decisions. Sometimes in order to make decisions, I will need to gather information and analyze it. I also need to know what to do in an emergency, such as a radio failure or an engine failure. There might not be one best correct answer as to what to do in a particular situation – or there might be. I’ve got to analyze each situation in light of my experience level, personal minimums, and current physical and mental condition.
In life, I have gotten overwhelmed at a number of stressful situations. If I’m overwhelmed when I’m flying, I could panic and completely and totally forget what to do. I might make the wrong decision or a careless mistake that could put my life or the lives of other innocent people on the ground at risk. Flying is serious business. I’ve got to take it seriously and remain cool as a cucumber and calm under pressure, just as any professional badass pilot would do.
Yesterday, I had my flying progress check with David Lowther, the chief flight instructor at Pinnacle Aviation Academy. It was my first real evaluation of everything I have learned so far, and although it wasn’t perfect, it went pretty well. We started out with a chat in his office, and talked about my goals for becoming a pilot, how I found Pinnacle, and how happy I was with my experience and instructor. Then David asked me some questions about flight and aerodynamics, and although I knew some of the answers, I also realized it there is so much still to learn.
For the progress check, we did a thorough preflight inspection of Zero Eight Zulu, my Cessna 172R, which was a good opportunity for me to ask questions about how things work and specific things I should be looking for when I do my preflight. The engine start went well, and I correctly called the ground ATC and got authorization to taxi. Dave told me I taxi’d the airplane a little bit fast, so I will make extra effort on future flights to take my time down the taxiway, and not be a speed racer. The runup checklist and preflight briefing went great, as did my takeoff. By now I feel pretty comfortable with the whole process from starting the plane to getting in the air. We did a right downwind departure and flew out to Bonsall, where I demonstrated slow flight. That went fine, but I completely forgot about my flaps when recovering from slow flight, so I spent about 30 seconds trying to figure out why the airplane wasn’t speeding up. After that, we flew down along Interstate 15 where I did a forward slip to lose 2,000 feet. Then I did ground reference and flew about Lake Hodges at 2,500 feet. Finally, we headed back to CRQ and did a left base landing.
David said I passed my check and said if I keep coming 2-3 times a week, I should have my solo done within two months, maybe sooner. There were will be another pre-solo stage check, and I very much want to be prepared for that – it would be awful to fail. So, before I forget, here are some of the things I was rusty on in the oral exam portion of the progress check yesterday.
Torque: (1) A resistance to turning or twisting. (2) Forces that produce a twisting or turning motion. (3) In an airplane, the tendancy of the aircraft to turn (roll) in the opposite direction of rotation of the engine and propeller.
Torque Effect: This involves Newton’s Third Law of Physics – for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Applied to the airplane, this means that as the internal engine parts and the propeller are revolving in one direction, an equal force is trying to rotate the airplane in the opposite direction. It is greatest when at low airspeeds with high power settings and a high angle of attack.
Adverse Yaw: When turning an airplane to the left for example the downward deflected aileron on the right produces more lift on the right wing. Since the downward deflected right aileron produces more lift, it also produces more drag, while the opposite left aileron has less lift and less drag. This added drag attempts to pull or veer the airplane’s nose in the direction of the raised wing (right); that is it tries to turn the airplane in the direction opposite to that desired. This undesired veering is referred to as adverse yaw.
Obviously, there is much more to learn for my private pilot exam and checkride, but those were the big takeaways from yesterday. I also need to go over the many types of drag, but I’ll save that for another blog post.
I had another flight lesson today in my little favorite plane N9897F. My instructor John and I flew out to Valley Center, did a few stalls, worked on ground reference (turns around a point and S-turns) and also steep turns, the last maneuver before my stage check. Steep turns are important because they teach you how to control bank and pitch simultaneously, and how to equally divide your attention inside and outside the plane. To do steep turns you need to be aware of the position of the nose, the horizon, the wings, and the amount of bank you are applying – all while the plane is turning very rapidly. If the nose goes up, you have to increase or decrease the back-elevator pressure. I found I also had to adjust the power to keep airspeed.
With all maneuvers, you select your minimum entry altitude (at least 1,500 feet AGL) and make sure the area is clear of traffic by executing clearing turns and firing off a position report on the air-to-air frequency. Then you bug your heading, and smoothly roll into the bank angle. As you establish the turn, you apply back elevator pressure to increase the angle of attack. This increase in the angle of attack results in an increase in drag. You have to add a bit of power to maintain entry altitude and airspeed.
One thing I’ve learned the last few months is I am not a fan of pulling g’s. After feeling them in pilot training I have no desire to get on a roller coaster, although I think a roller coaster is nothing compared to what I’ve felt in a Cessna. I’m going up again tomorrow, hopefully to do steep turns for the last time and be done with Stage 2. My big stage check with the senior instructor is scheduled for Wednesday!
Tomorrow I have another flight lesson, and we will be going over more basics, and hopefully doing power-off stalls for the last time. I have to get it perfect. In our pre-flight briefing, I will need to do some chair flying, which is not as fun as it sounds. It does involve sitting in a chair, but there’s no flying involved in chair flying. It is rather a visualization technique. When I’m chair flying with my instructor it’s my job to tell the instructor what I’ve learned and step-by-step, how I will do certain maneuvers. Tomorrow, my instructor will ask me to walk him through the power-off approach to landing stall, and I will be able to recite, with my eyes closed, these 11 steps:
- Select a minimum entry altitude of 2,000 feet
- Verify the area is clear of traffic by executing shallow turns
- Reduce throttle to 1,700 RPM
- Apply backpressure to maintain level flight
- Verify airspeed is 110 KIAS for 10 degrees of flaps and 85 KIAS for 20 and 30 degrees of flaps
- Select full down-wing flaps in 10 degree increments
- Reduce throttle to idle
- Reduce airspeed to 65 KIAS
- Initiate a 500 feet-per-minute descen
- Level the aircraft by pitching to a landing attitude
- Recognize and announce the onset of the stall.
And for further reinforcement, I created a video to aid in memorization. I am not going to go to bed until I can recite and explain this thoroughly.
I learned this weekend that I need to have my procedures an maneuvers memorized completely – 100%. Of course, understanding is more important than just memorization. I need to be able to explain the procedure with my eyes closed, from memory. It’s been awhile since I’ve had any schooling where memorization was so important. Not only do I need to know what to do, I need to be able to explain what I need to do, and then do it. I hate fumbling my explanation or forgetting important steps. It is frustrating and I feel really dumb when I don’t know what I need to do.
In each lesson after my preflight instruction, my instructor and i meet in the pilot briefing room in the hangar and have a little pow wow. We discuss what we are working on that day and then we usually do chair flying, where I either sit with my eyes closed, or in front of the cockpit poster. John asks me to walk him through a particular procedure, such as stalls. And then I talk through step by step what I will be doing, where I will be looking, etc.
In my next lesson, we will be doing power off stalls again, hopefully for the last time so we can move on to the next stage. I plan to have my steps completely understood and memorized. I made a little video tonight that I will play over and over the next couple of days so that I can recite this back at my next lesson.
My last flying lesson last week was pretty scary, and really for no real legitimate reason other than I let myself get scared. Nothing remotely close to bad happened. It sounds dumb to even talk about, but practicing the stall maneuver really freaks me out, probably because it feels like the plane is going to fall 5,000 feet out of the sky and I am going to plunge to my death in someone’s backyard out in Valley Center. But I am realizing that if I’m going to be a pilot, stall maneuvers are just something I’ve got to get used to and comfortable with. In other words, confronting my fears is a very necessary step in achieving success.
Saturday morning, I will be back to Pinnacle Aviation and CRQ for another flight lesson and this time, I’m going to be ready. I’m going to know what to do, and I am NOT going to panic or throw up or yell at my instructor. I will have my 8 steps to stall recovery memorized and I will be ready to execute like a champ. Here’s what I’m working on memorizing this week:
Power Off Stall Recovery – 8 steps
- Upon stall – pitch the aircraft to the horizon
- Push throttle in for FULL POWER
- Level the wings with the rudder only
- RETRACT Wing flaps to 20 degrees
- Maintain a positive rate of CLIMB
- Pitch aircraft for a climb speed of 79 KIAS
- Retract FLAPS to 0 degrees in 10-degree increments
- LEVEL OFF at entry altitude and set cruise power
There is a Zig Ziglar quote I like and it goes like this: “Far too many people have no idea what they can do because all they’ve been told is what they can’t do.” Sometimes, I think we have no idea what we can do because we let ourselves believe we can’t do something. Or, we don’t let ourselves think we can do something because we are afraid. Afraid of what? Afraid of lots of things, including failure, the number one fear! Failure can mean many things to many people, but in the case of flying maneuvers, failure is also accompanied with death. I will not fail. I will know what to do, and I won’t let myself get scared.
Stay tuned for a flight recap on Saturday – hopefully with a happy report of well-executed stall maneuvers and recovery!