Wednesday, June 11, 1997

Introductory Flight at Hopedale Airport

It was very clear and warming fast when I drove over to Hopedale for an intro flight with Hopedale Air Service (HAS). I watched a C150 do some practice landings from 8-9 am while I waited for Kristian to return from his lesson (Jason was the CFI for the C150 - the first landing was VERY rough, fast and with 2 big bounces, too fast, or he flared too early, perhaps). I spoke with Jeff (the owner), but he said he was too busy to take on new students now. He seemed like a nice enough guy.

After Kris arrived and debriefed his last lesson, we went out to the Cherokee 140 for the pre-flight inspection (he first found me a headset to borrow). We checked power off and keys on dash, then flaps, control surfaces, fuel (visual check on quantity, drain some for contamination check), landing gear, oil (he actually could not get the cap off, and we taxied out with the access door open!). Inside the plane we checked RROW (registration, radio license, operational limits [POH], weight/balance), making sure the paperwork was in the aircraft (we actually didn't check W&B per se with just the two front seats occupied and no baggage). We also double checked that tie-downs were removed (he told me of one C150 lesson he gave where the student forgot the rear tire-down and flew once around the pattern with a cement block dragging – this caused it to handle very strangely – I'll bet! -- way out of W&B limits so a wind gust could have been real bad news).

Next he showed me the startup procedure, which I don't remember in detail (cautionary note: there was no written checklist for any of this, other than the POH). He basically showed me the controls and let me do everything from this point until I entered the downwind for final approach, when he took the controls for landing and taxi back to ramp. There should be a checklist (for students or renters) because the order of operations for lights, amp check, fuel pump, carb heat, etc. was not obvious to me. We also checked all controls for free movement (with visual, except for rudder, which won't move anyway due to nosewheel steering linkage). Yell "Clear!" and start the engine (full rich mixture, throttle 1/8" or so, turn key full right and push).

Then I (or Kris?) removed the parking brake and I taxied to the edge of the ramp. It was hard to not try to steer with the "wheel", only with the feet, and the toe brakes were kinda weird too. We stopped and did the runup check (set brake, 2000 RPM, Magnetos both, right, both, left, both and watch for slight RPM drop, ditto with carb heat on/off). This is when Kris noticed the oil check door was open, so I stopped the engine and he opened the door and closed the hatch. All OK, so now I have to make a very newbie-sounding radio call, "Hopedale, Cherokee 3569 Foxtrot, blah-blah-blah for runway 36." This was very awkward (hope nobody was listening!) – gotta read those radio procedure web pages now! I had to do the departure call as well, and one or two others I forget (mostly for "traffic," warning any planes on approach that we are on the runway – typical uncontrolled airport stuff).

Checking again for traffic, I taxied very awkwardly to the south end of the single 3200' runway 36, experimenting a little with the toe brakes en route. Not very smooth! A little better when I finally put my hands in my lap. I did a U-turn near the end and found myself well left of center, but OK. Release brakes, full throttle, steer with feet to stay roughly lined up (a bit wobbly), and the end of the runway seemed to be getting close when Kris said "start to pull back," so I did, and we lifted off and began to climb.

At about 1000' (I think – Hopedale is 269' so this would be only 730' AGL), I began a turn to the left. Coordination was OK, a little slip when I peeked at the ball. I wasn't sure where he wanted me to turn, so I made several "partial" turns before I started asking him what headings he wanted to roll out on. The view was – not much! Rather hazy and all trees and quarries and a lake or two. My outside SA was minimal! We leveled off at about 2500' and set throttle for cruise (1800 rpm?). I never noted the I-495, which I assumed would be a major landmark. I held altitude fairly well in turns (climbing with too much back pressure on one, gained 100' to 2600), but I held airspeed (angle of attack!) less reliably, I think.

We made some more turns, and Kris pointed out that we were over Mendon, with Uxbridge off to the left. We turned back and he showed me a couple of landmarks for finding the Hopedale runway (one was an industrial building or tower, the other a water tower) – not an easy thing! It's just a 3200' strip of asphalt among a lot of trees. We turned to a heading of about 140° (S.E.) and got within about a mile of the runway before I spotted it at an angle to our flight path. He had me turn (right I guess!) to line up with the runway on the downwind leg (180°, south), then he took over the controls for the rest of the approach. He said to begin a turn to base when abeam of the numbers, but we overshot this (he had to extend further south because we were too close to the runway, a very narrow pattern).

Final went very fast and seemed steep to me. I was not very aware of the "sight picture" (though I had this TERM in mind) – looking for our aim point, the point that was not moving on the windscreen. The S end of the runway is very close to the road, and we seemed very low over a passing car. He touched down long (I think), not on the numbers, and I recall some last minute bank correction (there was a small but noticeable crosswind as the day was heating up – going to 95+ today, it was 86 at the start of the flight). He said "that was not such a good example of a landing!"

Kris is amiable enough, and his accent is not TOO hard to understand. He was very laid-back in the cockpit, didn't seem rushed or nervous, and he let me fly the plane the whole time, with barely any correction or criticism. This was an introductory flight, and I had taken pains to try to show I was somewhat savvy about all this flying stuff, so maybe he was holding back. I think I could train with him, but I wonder if I should "audition" Jason as well, just to compare them?

(That's a lot of writing for a 30 minute intro flight – no wonder people generate web pages on this stuff!).

Time: 0.5 hours (unlogged).

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