Really WackyTravels: Flying Ourselves

August 10th, 2009

I’ve started private pilot training and have decided to use this otherwise-unused blog to document my adventure. As a pilot, or pilot in training, I have a logbook that is used to document every flight I take. It shows where I’ve flown, what I did and how long I was doing it. But it doesn’t show how I felt or how well I think I did. I wanted to write those things down somewhere and I’ve decided that this is the place.

Yesterday was my second lesson and the instructor, Steve, surprised me by having me controlling the airplane for takeoff. You steer an airplane in the air with the control wheel. You steer an airplane on the ground with your feet. During the takeoff roll you use your feet :-) . I knew this, however, it took me a few hundred feet to really remember it and at that point anyone watching us takeoff knew for sure that there was a first-timer at the helm.

The takeoff climb was overwhelming. Trying to get the plane into a stable climb was difficult and before I knew it we were way off course, veering towards 101 instead of paralleling it. Steve took the controls and got us stable before handing me back the airplane.

The rest of the session was spent practicing climbs, descents and turns (independently). To climb, raise the nose until the plane slows to ~85kts then bring on the throttle and maintain that attitude. As you approach your desired altitude lower the nose, regain speed, trim and bring down the throttle.

To descend just reduce power and the nose will lower and you’ll lose altitude. As you approach your desired altitude increase power back to cruise, raise the nose and trim.

To turn, bank the airplane and maintain back pressure to maintain altitude. When you bank you have to apply some rudder pressure to keep the nose of the airplane heading where its supposed to. This is called a coordinated turn.

All of this sounds easy but its amazingly overwhelming at this point.

Towards the end of the session my shallow and medium turns were pretty smooth and I was able to hold altitude within +- 75 feet.

My climbs felt good but I had trouble leveling off. I would nose down and regain cruise speed and then trim forward for level flight. Inevitably I would end up going too fast or not trim enough and I’d be gaining altitude. Rinse and repeat to get back to level and flight and suddenly I’m ~100′ above my target altitude.

Today we’re heading up in the air again and the plan is to practice climbing turns and descending turns. Crazy.

Entry Filed under: California


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