Monday, July 03, 2000

A MiG At Your Six (Lesson #19)

Of course I didn't literally have a MiG at my six, but to paraphrase an alleged fighter pilot quote ("A MiG at your six is better than no MiG at all"), having landing problems is actually good because it means I am learning to land an airplane, something I have always wanted to do and something for which I am clearly not overly gifted. I know I can learn to do it, but it may take a bit longer! So relax and enjoy the ride. The real title of this note should have been "crosswind blues."

My real problems are consistency and multitasking. I was frustrated again tonight by my inability to implement stuff I know how to do, and have done in previous lessons. When it comes to smooth execution of the final 30 seconds or so from starting base to (almost!) landing -- that's where it breaks down for me. Paying attention to multiple things at once and remembering and executing the procedures. Tonight there was a substantial cross wind, and I thought I had the side slip technique, at least in concept. Wing low into the wind, point the nose down the runway with the rudder. The part I missed until attempt #4 was to HOLD the left aileron and to HOLD the right rudder the whole time (on final -- probably should crab first then transition to this since being cross-controlled down low with my tendency to get slow is a classic stall-spin set up -- need to discuss this with Mario). The thing is, it's not like a normal bank where you neutralize controls after establishing the desired bank. You find out what position of yoke and rudder straightens your path and alignment and HOLD THEM IN!!! Only adjust it if you overshoot or the wind changes or gusts.

I did not get this on three attempted touch and goes, and ended up drifting all over the width of runway 29 (150 feet wide!). On the last attempt, I had the control ALMOST (slight drift), but I basically forgot to flare, so Mario did this. He executed the go-around on the first three attempted T&G's. Good thing the airport was empty (as usual on a MVFR semi-rainy evening). So it was not my day, but nobody said I was Chuck Yeager, and Mike Love (not the Beach Boys' Mike Love, but the CFI author of a book I have called "Flight Maneuvers") says that cross wind landings require finesse and practice. Well, I'm working on part deux anyway! Mario is very patient and encouraging, though I sometimes wish he were a little more critical and a little better at diagnosing what I am doing wrong. We ended at 0.9 hours just when I started to get the slip procedure, but the weather had dropped below VFR with visibility under 3 miles, and the tower was having trouble keeping us in sight. Time to go home! As I taxied off the runway, a female deer was on the grass 50 feet to the right. She ran away when I gunned the engine to start taxi after doing the checklist.

N47261 is a pretty crummy little plane. Weird noises, barely climbs, barely keeps running in the idle check (with carb heat) at runup. At least they replaced the nearly bald right main tire before our flight today (we were the test pilots for this work, but I figure if the mechanics can't replace a tire correctly, we're in trouble on a lot of other stuff - I did a thorough preflight and checked the bolts, pins, and brakes carefully on that wheel). Try to get 661 next time!!!

Silver lining department: OK, so the crosswind landing thing needs a lot more work. Not to mention the basic landing thing. But look on the bright side:

• I'm flying -- it's not an F-16, but when I call the tower (nearly perfect on my radio work, Mario says), get "clear for takeoff," push full power, and take off, it's still VERY cool. Look, Ma, I'm flying the airplane!
• I'm doing many things pretty smoothly and consistently -- preflight, run up, radio work, taxi, takeoff, trim, climb out, straight and level, and pattern turns are all pretty good.
• Wind is a bitch. This is one area where sims may have hurt me a bit. Most combat sims have no wind model, and in a fast jet, typical winds are a minor correction anyway (though important in long range navigation, most of the time you just follow the waypoint caret anyway, and any wind correction is probably factored in by the nav system). At 65-75 knots in the pattern, a 5 or 7 knot cross wind is a big vector for a C152. And even thinking about the wind is hard for me, very abstract -- you can't see it directly, you have to learn to infer it from the airplane's behavior, although the reported wind gives you some clue of what to expect. I am starting to get the wind idea, crabbing and slipping and all.
• Rome wasn't built in a day. OK, so I had some early flight experience in the Piper Cub (no landings though), and I have years of sim experience (mostly in combat jets with questionable flight modeling and little attention paid to precise patterns, navigation, etc.). But I still have to learn to fly the real airplane in the real wind with the real instruments and controls, and I have to learn it at my own speed. Some lessons will feel like progress, others won't. But it's fun all the same to be doing this. There's nothing I want to do more! Before too long I will be a pilot, and I won't have this dream any more (I'll replace it with an accomplishment and probably set some new goals, like an instrument rating, aerobatics training, or buying an airplane -- did I say that?).

One last thing. PREPARE. I did do some reading on landings and stuff yesterday, but I didn't review my notes on past lessons and mistakes, and I still don't have the instrument/outside scan and pattern procedures down cold. They should be smooth and continuous, not sequential. Things happen quick up there, even at a paltry 70 knots. I could even rehearse the steps in my car or in a chair, with or without a sim. The mental game of flying!

The consistency will come with practice -- I have 22 hours now, but only 4 of them are very recent. Flying at least once a week will help with this too.

Time: 0.9 hrs, TT 22.2 hrs, C152 at ORH

1 comment:

suka said...

A MiG at your six is better than no MiG at all." Anon. US fighter pilot is not anon after all.....BR