Expect Left Traffic

Flight 42 – Dual to Akron

Akron_06 Akron Colorado that is, Ohio is a bit of a ways off for a student flight.  My second cross country went almost exactly as planned.  Winds were right about what was forecast, and I did a much better job of pre-flight planning, so passed my checkpoints as expected.  My instructor and I talked about the route I chose on the way out, checkpoints and the like, and he said he made a point to follow the highway as much as practical.  Even if it takes you a little bit out of the way, it makes navigation that much easier, as that’s exactly what we did on the way back to Metro. 

In Akron we had a decent cross-wind, and I was coming in high for 29, I chose to do a forward slip, and wasn’t really correlating the crosswind (this was before my stint in the trainer) and ended up dipping the wing the wrong way.  Fortunately the wind wasn’t gusting or strong enough to push us off the centerline at a worrying rate, and I smoothly transitioned back in to normal descent without mishap or having to go around.  We touched down about two hundred feet past the numbers, which was about 190 feet past where I would have liked but the long runway worked out just fine.  I didn’t quite slow down fast enough for the sole taxiway (as you can see in the picture, it stops half way up the runway), and had my first experience putting a plane through a U-turn and taxiing back on a runway.  It’s a very weird feeling, and I kept worrying about incoming traffic.  Traffic was again non-existent that day, which was a shame as the weather was beautiful.  Visibility was incredible, and the air was smooth as glass. 

On the the return leg we followed I-76 until we had to worry about Denver’s Class Bravo airspace, and then made a due east cut over to Longmont.  By this time the winds had come up a little, and we had a mild crosswind from the left with about 10 knots worth of gusts.  This last landing was pretty long, and with no flaps it had a very different sight picture than I was used to at the time.  I never did feel like I got ahead of the plane with the gusting and ended up ballooning once before putting the plane down fairly smoothly. 

Unfortunately this was my last flight in 64055, as a few weeks later she was damaged during a training flight at metro.  Fortunately the pilot is alright.  She broke her leg, but is recovering well and will hopefully be flying again early next year.  Next up, my first night flight, and boy was it memorable.

December 22nd, 2008 Posted by | Flying |

Tags: | | |

Best speed for the money (1.31 * Vy)

lift-drag So last week this post came across the AOPA news feed, and since my first cross country was this week, it was quite timely.  The ballooning gas prices are on everyone’s mind now, especially people with hobbies or businesses that depend on some form of engine.  Now, as a renter I don’t pay for fuel so I could conceivably rip around at full throttle or maneuvering speed if it’s bumpy and not worry about how much it’s costing me in fuel.  However, as one who likes his club, it’s planes and conserving what’s left of our environment for my child(ren), I do what I can regardless of how small the effort may seem.  About two weeks ago I downsized my truck for a commuter card with over twice the mileage.  It helps that I’ve been eyeing the new Mini Coopers since BMW brought them over to the US, and that we can always hook a trailer up to the other car should I need to haul a crippled bike.  In the end I guess all vehicles regardless of the number of wheels, terrestrial or aerial use should be chosen for their primary mission.  Ah the things we learn when we start taking on new skills, motorcycles made me a better driver and now the perspective of a pilot is creeping in elsewhere as well.  Enough rambling, on with the lesson.

If you haven’t just skipped ahead to the AOPA post yet, here’s how fuel economy works in a plane.  While flying you generate lift to keep you aloft, and a byproduct of that lift is induced drag.  The faster you go the less of that drag exists, as you can fly at a lower angle of attack (basically, how high the wings and nose point in the air).  There is a tradeoff though.  Parasitic drag increases the faster you go, unless I suppose your plane is two dimensional.  The chart above shows this curve, the scale for speed and drag can change, but the curves for induced and parasitic drag are always the same regardless of the plane.  This is a fixed ratio, which makes sense but isn’t always glaringly obvious, even to seasoned pilots.  L/D max is the point that both of those curves meet, which gives you the most efficient lift and best rate of climb (Vy), but leads to a slow ground speed and sluggish control inputs.  If you need to get somewhere for the least amount of fuel, and time is no object, that’s the speed to do it.  Pilots though, like drivers, hate poking around at speeds we don’t have, especially if it make the plane fly like it’s in molasses.  Well it turns out the L/D curve isn’t a full ellipse, it has a flat spot in it.  In that flat spot it seems you can glean almost a third more speed, for only a fifteen percent increase in drag.  That’s probably the best trade off in the whole curve.  The formula works out to 1.31 * Vy and will work for every single plane out there, since the drag ratios never change, just they’re relation to speed and drag.

It also turns out, in the planes I fly, maneuvering speed with full tanks and the lightweights that my instructor and I are meet up nicely with this formula.  I won’t have to think much about it, clear air or not.  Now if only there were such an easy formula for my Mini.

September 1st, 2008 Posted by | Flying |

Tags: | | |

Flight 35 – First Cross Country

cys Today we did my first cross country.  We hopped up to Cheyenne (CYS) using a flight plan I created a few weeks ago as homework and flew back on the reverse.  Most of the flight was flown with a combination of pilotage (visual landmarks) and dead reckoning (using time, course and speed to calculate fixes), but we had the VOR tuned in both ways as a backup.  The way up was pretty uneventful.  Moderate turbulence was forecast, but we had a smooth ride both ways.  For a holiday weekend both airports and the airspace between seemed pretty deserted.  I had a hard time keeping my altitude steady for the first half of the way up, but realized the throttle lock wasn’t holding quite as well as it good.  I’d noticed it on trips around the pattern, but it’s not usually a huge issue when you’ve constantly got a hand on it.  Once up in Cheyenne we had lunch at a Mexican place attached to the terminal.  They were only serving breakfast, but it worked out as they have a pretty good machaca.  The trip home we did a few what-ifs, consisting of being diverted to Greeley when were just past Carr, and a pair of “if the engine went out here would you make it there” scenarios.  I was complimented on having things pretty well planned, and now I just need to get used to some of the differences of a cross country flight.  I usually don’t include things like oil and exhaust temp when we go out the practice area and perform maneuvers, but I need to get used to doing it in cruise flight.  Next up my instructor would like to get me checked out to solo outside of the pattern at our local airspace.  Not sure how far along we’ll get on Tuesday, but it’s very exciting indeed.

August 31st, 2008 Posted by | Flying |

Tags: | | |