Expect Left Traffic

Flight 27 – More soft-field work

I flew last Monday, but it’s been a hectic week, so am only just now getting to post.  We did more soft-field work, with a touch of crosswind from time to time.  I’m definitely getting better at them!

In other news it appears I have what’s called a Scaphoid nonunion in my left wrist.  About four years ago I was in a pretty serious motorcycle wreck, and apprently a broken wrist doesn’t get noticed when a compound femoral fracture is involved.  Over the years it hadn’t felt like more than a sprain, and only when aggravated (usually via the clutch of a bike).  This season however it’s been quite painful after only two or three days of riding.  I went to see a hand specialist on Thursday to finally figure out what’s going on, and he found this very quickly.  It seems the best option if I want to keep riding motorcycles or fly with any finesse in my old age is going to be surgery.  They’re talking about a bone graft from my radius, putting it in the scaphoid and securing everything with a screw.  I’m going to get some more details during the week, but I may be taking a break from flying soon depending on what kind of cast and meds I’m stuck with.  Stay tuned, as I’ll probably keep blogging on my efforts to not get too rusty if have to take an extended leave from my lessons.

May 25th, 2008 Posted by | Flying |

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Flight 26 – The velveteen touch of a dandy fop

NOTE: I accidentally made this a page, so the post is WAY late.

That’s how lightly we’re supposed to settle on to the runway during a soft field landing.  I didn’t.  I’ll practice, but my stifled laugh isn’t what it used to be.  Soft field technique is used for un/under improved runways.  Places where the ground is soft or muddy, gravel, riverbeds, etc.  During takeoff, everything is the same as normal except you use 10° flaps and you’re applying full back pressure on the yoke, easing it forward once the front gear pops off the runway.  Not too far forward as you don’t want it to settle back on to the ground try to keep in that pitch attitude as long as you can.  During this I was surprised at how quickly the nose came off the ground, and was certainly not expecting the plane to pop up not long after (I tried to keep the nose off and the mains on as long as I could).  Coaxing the plane to hang out in ground effect while it built up speed was quite fun though, once I got over the initial surprise of being fully off the ground.  You really only get one real shot to practice the takeoff during touch and goes (and that’s when you first get started), as you hardly slow down enough during an “and go” to get it done.  My soft field landings didn’t go as smoothly as the take off, but that may have a lot to do with being in a plane I’m not terribly familiar with.  Most of the Cessnas I fly in have 160 horsepower, and this one pushes 180.  It also has a shorter throttle travel which takes some warming up to.  During a soft field landing you approach at full flaps, and try to touch down as light as possible.  Normally when you come in you’ve got very little or no power, and you’re simply trying to bleed off airspeed while holding the plane just barely off the ground.  With a soft field landing you add a touch of power to slow your descent rate (but not enough to arrest it) and try to just barely settle on to the ground.  Then kill the power and hold the nose off as long as you can.  Once it’s back on the ground, keep that yoke all the way in the pit of your stomach, so that the front gear is as light on the ground as possible while you taxi.  Get that stuck in the mud while you’re rolling forward and you’re asking for a prop strike.  Delicious.

Anyway, I’ve noticed I have a tendency to not get to these for a day or two after I fly.  I’m going to try and make a point to be better about that.  I like having some time to reflect, but having the flight fresher in memory would be helpful as well.

May 25th, 2008 Posted by | Flying |

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Flight 25 – Crosswind Landings

Ah the side slip.  Yesterday we had perfect conditions to practice some crosswind takeoffs and landings.  My takeoffs were pretty good, but it was nice to get some practice on the side slip.  The landings went okay, but I think I would like to practice a few of them as low passes, not touching down, just slipping all the way down the runway.  This helped me normal landings quite a bit and I think would help me with practicing the transition and getting a feel for the technique, without having to worry about rounding out and landing right away.  This picture I found from a forum does a good job of demonstrating how this is done (and since it seems a few friends of mine reading this are not as knowledgeable about aviation, I should start explaining things more often).    A crosswind left uncorrected will cause you to drift off your course.  Easily correctable while enroute somewhere, but not so good when you’re trying to land.  Initially you approach the runway with a crab angle established.  This is where you point the nose in to the wind enough to correct for drifting off course.  Landing with this crab angle is possible, but hard on the landing gear, and usually a bumpy experience that passengers don’t appreciate.  A side slip is where you dip the upwind wing down so that the wings compensate for drift, and you use opposite rudder to to stay lined up with the runway.  In a steady wind this isn’t too tricky, when it’s gusty it’s a bit more interesting.  In a good landing the upwind wheel will touch down first, followed by the other main, and finally the nose wheel.  As the plane slows down you have to use more and more aileron and rudder to keep things lined up.  It seems very much an art to perfect and keep on top of.  We got in ten landings in the time we had, it was a lot of fun and good practice.

In digging around for some stuff on side slips, I also found this picture of Bob Hoover (an acrobatic pilot) making a perfect landing in a severe cross wind (notice the direction of the dust kicked up).  Someday I’ll get there, maybe I’ll even have the moustache to match.

May 16th, 2008 Posted by | Flying |

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Flight 24 – WX Abort

Yesterday we made a quick run (about a half pattern) and then right back down.  We took off on 11L and came around and landed on 2.  It was an interesting turn of circumstances, as the weather started off about perfect for practicing some crosswind landings.  After our run-up and a ten minute wait as second at the hold line (there were a lot of planes coming down, and people crossing runways), the winds had picked up considerably.  I was expecting to need full aileron deflection to compensate for the crosswind, but I was also told I’d need right rudder to keep on the center line.  After drifting off quite a bit, I just went as far in to the wind as rudder and aileron would let me.  We got pushed around quite a bit, and we weren’t far off the ground when my instructor decided to take over and call for a full stop instead of touch and go.  About three hundred feet up we were offered runway 2, and took it in a hurry.  Winds were so strong that we had to crab almost 45 degrees to the runway to stay on track!  Though, with my instructor at the yoke we had an exceptionally smooth landing given the winds.  He also made an impressive crosswind landing in a 152 last Thursday, so I was in pretty good hands.  I’ve got time booked on Thursday, so hopefully I’ll have another update soon.

May 13th, 2008 Posted by | Flying |

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Flight 23 – Big Day!

Today was a big day! It’s way past my bed time, but I didn’t feel right letting this post sit until tomorrow. My wife is busy putting together a cake she’s made from scratch. No mixes or packets involved. It’s a yellow cake with banana pudding layers and absolutely loaded with whipped cream instead of frosting. Our son will love it, as tomorrow is his birthday party. Today however, was his first birthday. I took the day off to spend time with him, and we went out for dinner with the immediate family.

Yesterday afternoon I had a flight booked, that ended up getting scrubbed thanks to a number of thunderstorms and some crazy wind. It was fun watching other people in the pattern, switching runways about and some just calling it quits on final and heading across town. This led me to book an early morning flight today, which worked out quite well. We went over to Vance Brand up in Longmont again where I did a full-stop landing, a touch and go and finally another full stop. I kept coming in a little fast so I had a tendency to float, but altogether the landings were pretty good. After those three landing, my instructor pulled around to the ramp, asked if I was comfortable with the conditions and the landings, signed my log book, told me the game plan (three full stop landings, time permitting) and then hopped out of the plane telling me to “have fun, it’ll be the flight of my life”. And was it. You only get to have your first solo once, and even though they weren’t my best landings, I did them all on my own. Without a second person in the plane, a 172 climbs like a different animal. It also sinks (or doesn’t) different as well. Without the added weight she was happy to just glide along. This created a tendency for me to point the nose at the numbers, which of course meant coming in too hot and floating a good way down the runway (and bouncing in one case). I managed to get in three full-stop landings before we had to rush the plane back to BJC, where I had a great landing. It wasn’t solo but it was totally without help, so I’ve got it in me and just need practice. We pulled up to the line exactly when the plane was due (after showing up a bit early) which milked every minute we had booked. It took a little while for the whole experience to sink in, and I didn’t start grinning like an idiot until one of the chief pilots emphatically shook my hand (shortly followed by about everyone in the building). I half drove half floated home, and called my grandpa to tell him how things went. He sounded almost as excited as I am.

Monday we’re planning to do a practice stage check and try to get in some solo time at Metro. Of course, I’ll let you all know how that goes. Today was a day with a lot of firsts!

PS: Pardon the formatting, I’m arguing with my current blogging tools.

May 9th, 2008 Posted by | Flying |

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Flight 22 – BJC – LMO – BJC, aka Ready to Solo

KLMOI haven’t flown to LMO (Vance Brand) since late November (yes, I confirmed that in my zululog to make sure I had it right).  My first two lessons were touch and goes there, then on to air work and the big runways at Metro when I switched instructors (my previous landed a gig at a regional airline).  I made one more transitory visit with a stand-in instructor in late November (that was also my introduction to hood-work, turns to a heading using the wet compass), and then today we did one full stop and a bunch of touch and goes.  The runway looks shorter than EIK, but that must be the extra 15 feet of width, as I double checked the Airport/Facility Directory.  I nailed a lot of really good landings, and even one of my smoothest take-offs yet.  The goal is to be endorsed for at least two nearby airports for my solo work, so if things are a bit windy at BJC I can still get some good practice in elsewhere.  Speaking of, my instructor today said I’m ready.  If I don’t solo with the other guy on Thursday, I likely will on Monday with him.  Weather pending, of course (though that seems to be the theme during the spring).  That will be a pretty big milestone and with some motivation, time and cooperative winds, I could have my ticket in time to put it to use while it’s still summer.  One thing I’d like to do is haul my nephew up (and eventually my son, when he’s a little older) on Christmas Eve to check out all the lights and keep an eye out for Santa.  December is awhile off however, and at the moment my Private certificate has never felt closer.

And now, I’m off to find some older shirts that I won’t mind getting cut up.  I’m sure my wife has more than a few good ones in mind.

May 5th, 2008 Posted by | Flying |

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