Tuesday, June 13, 2000

Starting to Get It! (Lesson #17)

Final approach Worcester, MA

It was cloudy and light rain at ORH, but when I called Mario, he said OK as long as we stay in the pattern (low ceiling, clouds coming in, but still VFR). So we did, and I had a GREAT lesson! I did 6 touch-and-goes and one full stop landing, and two of them were actually pretty good. The others were bouncy, high-flare jobs, but Mario only had to take over on one of them (I added power to salvage one bouncer myself). I felt good, felt like I was actually doing most of the things I know I should do. I was fairly relaxed and felt in control of the airplane and myself. And Mario says I'm just about ready to solo! He said I was really flying the airplane out there last night. One or two more lessons and we will get that psychological barrier and life milestone out of the way. Unfortunately this will be in early July since I leave Saturday for my Korea to Germany business trip (around the world on UA and LH).

The good news items include:
• Followed checklists in detail this time, preflight, engine start, run-up, etc., no skipped steps or backtracking.
• Handled all the radio calls myself, from taxi to landing, including the base call for each touch-and-go.
• Good taxiing -- stayed on the lines (remembering that the reference point is in front of MY eye, not the center of the cowling).
• Good takeoffs -- nice rotation, trim, hold 67-70 knots, stayed aligned with the runway heading until crosswind turn at 1700 feet.
• I remembered and followed all the pattern steps with almost no prompting.
• I used trim much better, especially on climb-out and level off for the downwind leg. With this, I was able to fly with a very light touch and no PIO. This also helped me to stay quite close to pattern altitude (2000') once I got there.
• My patterns were reasonably rectangular and I sometimes corrected for the slight crosswind, though I varied on this. Used shallow turns, none over 30 degrees, and rolled out aligned with the runway on most approaches.
• I noticed the spot on the windshield that did not move on touchdown.
• Looked down the runway for flare height cues (but didn't read them right most of the time!).
• Good takeoffs on the touch-and-goes -- get flaps up, carb heat off, full power, steer with small corrections. I did swerve a bit sometimes, and I kept too much weight on the nose wheel sometimes, leading to a dreadful rumbling.
• Did not get flustered when we passed briefly through a cloud on downwind -- I just watched the attitude indicator.

The BAD news items include:
• Poor airspeed control on base and final -- need 70 knots on base, 65 knots on final, and I was not trimmed for this AND I chased the airspeed indicator when I was off speed. Need to pay more attention to the outside cues, where the nose is, and NOT get slow on final (e.g. 60 kts). Being stabilized on final will help the flare too, less variation to worry about.
• Got close to runway on downwind a couple of times, leading to a rushed turn to base and then final -- a carrier pattern! But this didn't give me time to handle flaps, radio, lineup, and air speed stabilization without feeling rushed. Part of this was the tower's request that we keep a tight pattern so he could keep us in sight (clouds were coming down) - Mario says on a better day, we could extend the downwind.
• High flare! I still start to get nervous with the "ground rush" in the last few seconds, worrying that I will land on the nose wheel, though I am still pretty high. This will come with a bit more practice and a stabilized final.
• Poor wind awareness -- I corrected for the wind sometimes but still didn't fully grasp what it was doing to me on each leg. It was not a bad wind, from 100º at 7 knots, while we were using runway 11 (110º), so it was just off by 10º from the left. Mario gave me a tip, not sure how general -- 100º wind direction was LESS than the 110º runway heading so crosswind was LEFT. Have to think about this one for other directions! It actually seems wrong based on the picture I just drew - LOOK THIS UP!
• Last landing was AWFUL -- bounced so much Mario said it should count as three landings. He said this often happens after a good session with touch-and-goes, on the full-stop landing the student loses focus and does a real stinker. Oh well, he said the total lesson was really quite good.
• Consistency! This is a major thing -- still a lot of variation and times when I fail to do things I know I should do AND know how to do. But this is part of the learning process too, and very typical. It's also related to confidence -- knowing I can do something, feeling free to make adjustments, not hesitating or always checking with the CFI. Mario says that the solo helps this too -- once you have experienced being the only "pilot in command," you know you can do it, and it makes it easier to learn the rest.

I am far from perfect, but with this lesson, the good news outweighs the bad, and I feel like I finally am really starting to "get it." Landing an airplane is starting to feel like a normal thing to do. I think I should be able to solo after maybe two more lessons (one to catch up after 2+ weeks away, then final prep and solo).

Time: 1.1 hrs dual TT 20.2 hrs, C152 at ORH

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