Tuesday, July 20, 1999

Bouncing into Norfolk (Lesson #11)

First the good news: I'm landing the airplane pretty much on my own (and my taxi and takeoff skills seem pretty decent now). Five landings this lesson. But the bad news is that I'm wildly inconsistent on some very important tasks, especially my pitch and speed control on final, but also on turns in the pattern, which is kind of weird. Kern said he thought I would have a lesson like this -- hitting the wall or whatever they call it (nope, I didn't really do THAT). But I really need to work on KEEPING THE NOSE DOWN when I'm on final -- it really does look like I'm afraid of hitting the ground in the nose-low attitude that you have in the C152 on final with full flaps (I don't feel afraid -- I believe my eyes and in fact really noticed for the first time whether the touch-down point was moving up or down or stable on the windscreen -- usually moving UP since we were low on every approach, even on Kern's one demo landing).

The weather was really good -- there was a thunderstorm Monday and that left some really nice, stable weather behind it. Once again, practically no wind -- I have my hands full enough without it, but we'll have to deal with crosswinds one of these days. My first takeoff (runway 36) was good (I used a distinctive cloud as a reference point to stay on my runway departure heading), and we turned left 90 at 800' then made a 45 to leave the pattern. We finally headed east (090) for Norfolk airport (32M), which we found easily this time by following the correct (and distinct) power lines, then noting the small pond NW of the runway. I leveled off and held my altitude (2000') and course very well this time.

Norfolk was pretty much deserted and looks more rural and run-down than 1B6. They have a single runway (36) which is shorter and narrower than 1B6, but they also have a taxi way, which saves time and is safer than back-taxiing on the runway. Kern talked me through the pattern entry for 36 after we overflew the airport and he checked the wind sock and tetrahedron (they have both). I don't remember much about the first landing, though I started leveling off at 1000' on downwind rather than 1200' as required, and I don't know why!

In the pattern, for some reason I started lowering my nose a LOT when I would make my turns. I think this is related to loss of attention to nose attitude when I look out the side to try to judge my angle and position to the runway (I also checked the directional gyro for a W heading), but it IS pretty screwy and really bugged Kern. When you make your (CLIMBING!) turn to crosswind after takeoff, you are trying to get to pattern altitude ASAP (1200') and establish a level cruise, but only VERY briefly. Very quickly you are abeam the numbers and need to pull carb heat on, lower power GRADUALLY to idle, establish a 70 kt glide, and TRIM for this (3 and a half turns of NOSE UP TRIM, cranking the wheel BACK or down for this, as I practiced many times in the car).

• Pull carb heat ON
• Lower power to idle
• Hold back pressure to get to 70 kts
• Lower nose VERY little to hold the 70 kts
• TRIM nose up 3.5 turns!
• Start your turn to base!!!

This was happening too fast for me, and as I was trying to judge the position and angle to the runway (hidden by the damn high wing!), I would let my nose go wherever it wanted to go! It even got up above the horizon once or twice, and my speed with no power was below 60, getting near power-off stall speed. THIS CANNOT HAPPEN!!!

So there I was with the nose moving all over -- the trim should have made the 70 kt glide essentially hands-off. Meanwhile, I would have taken too long to get these things set up, so my downwind is extended, and I'm gliding too low to make the runway when I finally turn base and then final, so every time I would have to add a LOT of power to arrest the descent, leading to a roller-coaster-style up-and-down approach, which was bad. Somewhere on final we also crank in FULL flaps (from zero), which requires even steeper nose down attitude to hold the 70 kt glide.

Finally I would be more-or-less stabilized on short final and start thinking about leveling off to fly level to the runway (maybe I'm subconsciously trying to level off way to soon when I let my nose get high in the approach???) and transition to the flare. But my height judgement was poor and twice I bounced without really knowing it - so I continued to pull back full on the yoke, thinking the main wheels are down. Kern knows (and assumed I knew) I had bounced, and he's applying FORWARD yoke, fighting against my back pressure -- he's getting the nose down, trying to keep us from stalling close to the runway! This was all pretty frustrating for both of us, but we kept at it for four landings at 32M and a final landing at 1B6 just about at sunset (really pretty sky on the short cruise back to Hopedale).

Next lesson we will work on some steep turns to try to give me a better sense of my pitch control from external references even when turning. Landings too I assume. I really want to do things right, and I don't know how to make myself do what I know I should (I hold pitch very well on our full-power takeoffs, rotation and climbout at the proper attitude, which is nose HIGH, going away from the ground!). I know pitch controls airspeed -- I know a LOT of stuff but my subconscious seems to have its own ideas when I'm landing. Kern seems baffled and asks me why -- sometimes I want to say "you tell ME why, you're the CFI!" -- but I just need to keep practicing and try to solve all the simultaneous equations until it all clicks for me.

We also had a Piper that we didn't see who came close to landing on top of us on our last landing at Norfolk -- he must have done a straight-in approach and he was not on the CTAF frequency, we heard no Norfolk traffic calls. He saw us and did a go-around, but a pilot walking his dogs while we were fueling told us that he came within 300' of us! Yikes!

Questions for Kern:
1. Full flaps on final vs. putting them in gradually (in stages, as many books show)
2. "Start your turn" calls looked wrong to me -- never looked to me like we could line up from that point - wind correction? Anticipating my slowness to react?

Time: 1.5 hrs dual TT 14.2 hrs, C152 at 1B6

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