Saturday, August 23, 1997

Door is ajar! (Intro Flight at Cable Airport )

This was another impulse thing, as I still have my 4 pm intro scheduled at EMT. The weather looked good (light smog but blue skies and reasonable visibility), so I drove out the I210 to Claremont, just like I used to drive home when we lived there. Just past Claremont is Upland, and they have an uncontrolled airport there with a single 3800' runway running SW (24/6). My CFI was Alan Runyen, a nice young guy with some 850 hours (working on CFII). I felt bad making him fly a C152 since he's about 6'5" and really has to squeeze in – hard to see how he can work the pedals with his knees so far up! But that's his job. Our combined weights and full fuel load put us at maximum gross weight, but it seemed to handle OK to me (we climbed at about 500 fpm, and he said the C172 would do 1100 with our weight, but no 172's were on the ramp, all on rentals). I signed for the ½ hour intro flight for $25 – not bad.

Alan handled the radio (Unicomm) and we had no headsets (the cabin noise was bearable once I got the door closed). GOT THE DOOR CLOSED?!? Yes, this was my first in-flight "emergency" of sorts. After takeoff I noticed that the door was vibrating, then I saw that it was open 2 inches! I guess I had not really checked that it was latched tight when we did the pre-takeoff checklist. I was handling the takeoff (mostly – I think he helped me a bit on the rudders), and we had just gotten to maybe 50' AGL when I noticed the door. I said "your airplane" and managed to get it closed. There was no actual danger, but it was a bit distracting. I immediately thought of my reading "if the door opens in flight – FLY THE AIRPLANE!"). Other points:

· He watched me do the preflight checks and pre-takeoff checks from the POH checklists.

· We took off to the SW then turned left a couple of times to head out east to a practice area close to the foothills.

· I did a few fairly steep turns - kinda fun, though of course I overcontrolled a lot and lost or gained altitude whenever I paid attention to something else besides the turn itself. I remembered to lift my wing and clear traffic before each turn.

· Control forces were rather light. I used trim a little (not enough).

· He let me fly the pattern right up to short final! I was rather sloppy, I'd say, and he had to goose the power a couple of times when I lost altitude. Airport is 1439' MSL, pattern altitude was 2300' MSL. I did pretty bad on the lineup for final, but Alan corrected it with a slip (I now realize!), using opposite rudder and aileron to line us up without banking. I did really notice how the left wing completely hides the runway on the turn to base and (partially) on turn to final.

· He used a number of ground references for the pattern, a flood control channel for the crosswind (crossing fairly close to the SW end of the runway), a school where he starts his base leg. We had to stay N of the 210 to avoid airspace limits (I see now that they cut a circular notch out of Ontario's Class C airspace to give CCB a little uncontrolled area for its pattern).

· I can't really feel the airplane slipping or skidding yet – even when grossly uncoordinated (ball 2/3 from center), it seems OK – gotta learn to sense this better without the instrument!

· There was a substantial fuel leak from the left fuel drain (?), but Alan said this would stop as the fuel level went down (I don't think it did – it's due to expansion from the heat – it must have been 90 F at 11 am).

All in all a short but enjoyable flight. Very much like Hopedale – you would hardly know you are in LA air space. El Monte is better in this respect (different experience), but who knows? It makes me think I should check out the C150 at HAS before I start the real lessons – it could be a big savings. Cableair's rates are especially cheap even without block or club plans (C152 $42, C172 $52-57 depending on equipment, CFI $21). And if the door comes open on takeoff, FLY THE AIRPLANE! It really can happen (and people have crashed by playing with the door when still low and slow). Good reason to have your seatbelt securely fastened!

Time: Dual 0.5 hrs, TT 1.1 hrs (C152 at CCB)

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