Monday, July 04, 2011

Takeoff, Slow Flight, Stalls, Landing

This was the second flight with Ed in the Citabria, and I handled pretty much the entire flight, though with a lot of verbal coaching from Ed. After the pre-flight inspection, I taxied out to runway 34 at Sterling and made the radio call to Sterling traffic. On the takeoff roll, my feet were a bit slow and I didn't use enough right rudder, so we had a bit of swerving (Ed may have kicked in some corrections there). You have to use large, jabbing inputs at the start of the takeoff roll, then smaller inputs when the tail comes up and the rudder starts to be responsive. I was also a bit dense on holding a steady climb speed of 75 mph and staying on the runway heading for departure. We headed west and climbed to 3000 feet (about 2500 feet AGL).

The main goals for this flight were slow flight (just a few mph above a stall) and stalls (power on, power off, and while turning). This is all aimed at getting a feel for controlling the aircraft when it's near the stall, as well as to practice prompt and correct recovery when it does stall. In terms of reacting to events and following procedures, I was a bit slow and relied too much on Ed's prompting. Next time we will do some more stalls and I will be sure to know the recovery steps cold (and to remember carb heat on/off at the appropriate times). Overall my rudder control of the airplane in slow flight and stalls was pretty good. I've always felt pretty safe and comfortable with practicing stalls, and since this airplane is certified for intentional spins, I'm looking forward to practicing those too (probably not for a few more flights - I want to first get a lot more proficient with controlling the aircraft). I was still tending to gain or lose altitude on some of my clearing turns, and I seemed to have trouble getting to and holding the target altitude from a climb or descent. Not very good with trim yet - lots of trial and error on that.

Then we headed back to Sterling. With all the clearing turns, stalls, and altitude recovery, we ended up SW of the town of Rutland, about 12 miles WSW of the airport. It was hazier than Saturday, and while I knew the general area of the airport (between Mount Wachusett and Wachusett Reservoir, with three ponds pointing to it from the Reservoir end, see graphic), I was not sure which small gap in the trees it was until we were a couple of miles out (I have to remember to also look for the I-190 expressway which runs NE and practically touches the 34 approach end of the runway). I made the 45 degree entry to the left-downwind for runway 34, and made the radio call for this. I made one more call to traffic (on downwind) then got too busy thinking about the approach and landing. Ed talked me through these, but I flew the approach and landing myself (first time landing on a grass runway). It was not terrible, but I was again slow with my feet on the landing roll. You need to really jab the rudder pedals, quick impulses, to keep the plane from swerving once you are rolling on the grass.

I taxied back to 34 and we did one more takeoff, staying in the pattern. This time I got slow on departure for some reason and Ed had to point this out (not a good place to practice departure stalls, on an actual departure). My pattern was a bit wide, and I missed making most of the radio calls, but my airspeed control was better, and lineup was pretty good (grass runway is a pretty wide target!). This time I flared a bit high, but it was OK, and I started jabbing the rudder pedals and kept the landing roll much straighter. Then I taxied back to the tie-down spot, avoiding the gliders which were being pulled out for their afternoon flights.

I made some mistakes and didn't divide my attention among important tasks as well as I should have, but overall it felt like real progress toward controlling the airplane and knowing what was going on (usually). It will take a lot more work, but I think I can do this.

Citabria 1.2 hours dual at 3B3.

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