Tuesday, February 20, 2001

Cross Winds Under Control

I'm having some trouble with weather and schedules again, and all I could find on the schedule was an hour with Mario in 661, but I took it anyway, and it was a good lesson.  When I called ATIS, the wind was 220° at 8 knots, almost a direct crosswind (well, 70° anyway).  This sounded like a good chance for some pattern work with crosswind, something I hadn't done in a while.  One MAJOR thing I need to do all the time…
  • Draw and/or talk through the projected wind situation before the flight, or if it's a return from x-country, after I get wind info from ATIS!
By this I mean, "OK, 220° is from the southwest, 70° from the runway heading, a LEFT crosswind, so I will need to establish a crab to the left on takeoff, and I will have a headwind on the crosswind leg, so I'll be slow there.  Then on left downwind leg, the wind will be from the RIGHT, so I'll have to crab out to the right, away from the runway to keep spacing constant, and I will have to make MORE than a 90° turn onto base leg, where I will have a TAIL wind.  This will make the base leg very fast, so I will have to anticipate this and start my turn to final earlier to avoid the overshoot.  Final approach will require a crab to the LEFT to hold the centerline, and on short final, transition to the slip, HOLDING IN the left bank to counter drift and straightening the airplane's axis with right rudder to stay aligned with the runway.  This will put me in a left-wing-low attitude so left (upwind) wheel will touch down first."  Whew!  That's a lot to think through, but as long as it still isn't automatic for me, I should do that sort of self-talk every time.  Mario says this is good preparation for instrument work when you can't use visual references.

Anyway, once I got in the pattern, I did pretty well with all this, and my pattern was fairly square.  I did overshoot final once or twice (out of 6), but flew back over the centerline OK.  I drifted on short final a couple of times but corrected OK – better to correct sooner and keep it lined up all the way, of course.  On one landing, there was a truck on the runway and I was told to do a 500 foot "low approach" – I didn't know what this meant, and I had some trouble with the read-back (I need to learn to be more brief in general on the radio).  What it means is, DON'T LAND, just pass over the runway at 500 feet or higher (1500 MSL at ORH).  Apparently this is for spacing, to keep the pattern going, more or less a holding action, but it was weird.

On another approach, there was an Allegheny Dash-8 turboprop on long final ahead of me, so Brian (tower) said "continue downwind, I'll call your base."  I properly slowed down to avoid going too far out over the city, and I stayed high to be above the airliner's path to avoid wake turbulence.  It was cool to see him pass me counter-parallel at about 1 mile distance (maybe less) as I was downwind and he was on short final.  All in all, it was a good flight.  Mario said I really have the procedure down and just need some more practice to smooth it out.  Other notes:
  • Radio brevity!  Don't read back everything, just the essential stuff (what they want you to actually do). There's an article on this in the new March issue of Flight Training magazine.
  • Remember to flare!  And keep the nose up as I do, ready to add power if I flare a bit too high, which I still often do!
  • Fly the airplane all the way to the runway!  Keep the wind correction in until all three wheels are rolling, and use back pressure to keep weight off the nose wheel and improve braking.
Time: 0.8 hours dual, C152 at ORH.

Tuesday, February 13, 2001

Solo Practice

After the morning session, I gave Mario a ride home to Leominster (his car was in the shop), figuring I'd work on the written or something at home.  But I called ATIS and was surprised that wind was 310 degrees at 8 knots, pretty nice.  So I headed over and took 661 up for an hour of maneuver practice out near the Quabbin.  This time I wrote down some headings, altitudes, and speeds to give me a plan once I got out there, and I mostly followed it, and did pretty well, even on the steep turns and semi-slow flight (I only took it to 50 knots).  I also played a little bit with controlling the plane with only trim and rudder (and throttle – I watched a Barry Schiff/AOPA video on this the other night).  This was followed by a good touch and go and a fairly hard full-stop landing.  This takes me up to 10 hours of solo time, which is the FAA required minimum, so that's one requirement completed, at least.

Time: 1.0 hours solo, C152 at ORH.

Shear Madness (Short Field Technique)

Tuesday weather held up pretty well, and even though 69L was down with the transponder and vacuum pump problems I discovered Monday, I was able to swap planes and get two flights in 661, one with Mario, one solo.  With Mario, I worked on short field takeoffs and landings, and I didn't do so well, partly because of the headwind (20+ knots mostly down the runway – I think ATIS said 15G22 or something) and strong gusts and wind shear that we experienced.  It was a real bucking bronco in the pattern, with bad downdrafts in a few places (including climb-out a couple of times – dropped suddenly from 700 fpm to zero, though it didn't get negative). 

We did 6 landings (Mario did one as a demo), and my big problem was flaring high.  On one I think I came close to a prop strike when I let the nose drop after flaring too high.  I was also slow in learning to kill the power, RETRACT FLAPS and apply FULL BACK YOKE as soon as I touched down before applying maximum braking (this is SHORT FIELD landing!).  I need another lesson on this, and some practice, ideally NOT on such a gusty day.  At least I got ONE unfinished requirement out of the way (instruction on short field procedures).  It also showed that I could handle the airplane in some ugly winds.  But…
  • I'm still VERY weak on wind awareness and establishing corrections for the wind on my pattern turns.  I need to think about this on paper AND have a review lesson with Mario on ground reference maneuvers.
  • Need to do this short field stuff on an actual short field next time!
  • When there's a strong headwind on landing, TURN BASE EARLIER so you don't get so far from the runway (normal position would not allow a glide to the runway if you lost power at 2000 feet turning final).
  • Read up and CHAIR FLY the short and soft field procedures before next lesson (next lesson will focus on instrument work, unusual attitude recovery which I should have done before x-c solos, oops).  Maybe make up some "flash cards" with the procedures on index cards to carry in my knee board folder.
  • Some days after this flight I was looking at some of the on-screen training material for Flight Unlimited III (FU3 – good training stuff actually) and found a comment about short-field landing techniques and winds.  It basically said that a windy, gusty day is not the time to be practicing short-field approaches where you are on final at maybe 55 knots with full flaps.  You need to carry extra speed and use less flaps, and this means it isn't really short field practice!  This was not a good day for short field work!
Time: 1.1 hours dual, C152 at ORH, local.