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Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by birdus, Nov 18, 2019.
It's wonderful that you're beginning your training in a tailwheel.
Lesson #11 — .9 hours (13.7 total)
After I installed a slip indicator (ball) today (at my instructor's suggestion a while back), we went flying. We started a bit late, and were probably limited by that, but I was at a quitting point anyway, so the short lesson was okay.
We flew to one of two practice areas, one that we hadn't been to in a while, and started off with some 90-degree turns and some dutch rolls. I don't know if I'm really that uncoordinated or if the ball just brings out the worst in me. Although I felt like I was doing terrible, my instructor said I wasn't doing bad. I look forward to practicing more with the ball and really getting coordination down by feel, and I believe the ball will help me do that. I'd like to get to the point where I don't need a ball. For the time being, however, I believe it will be a great learning tool.
"Let's head back and do some pattern work," Gene said, and so I did. This is the first time I navigated back to the airport and entered the pattern by myself from this practice area. Several times, I've been totally lost, so it feels good being able to discern my whereabouts and being able to get home, just by using the compass and landmarks, mostly landmarks (apparently my compass is out of whack, so it can only give me a very general direction).
Unfortunately, on the way back, we lost our engine. Well, not really. Gene, however, did yank the throttle and told me we lost our engine. He pulled it directly over a grass strip, which, of course, I hadn't seen. I pushed over and trimmed full up, gliding at around 70 mph, then began looking for a place to land. He helped me out by telling me what he had done. I did a 180 and mentioned the possibility of going downwind from our location and landing the opposite direction, but he thought we might not make that. So, I did what he had done on one of our first lessons, and began do to a 360. He suggested we fly an anti-crosswind leg (my term), then double back with a 270 which would set us up on final. I didn't quite understand what he was getting at, and by then, it was clear we would be short. Anyway, it was a great exercise and I told him I'd like to do more of those. After the lesson, we discussed that kind of thing, and he really preaches the idea of maneuvering over or very near the runway and being very cautious of flying away from it for very long.
I got us back to the field and entered the downwind on a 45. On all 4 landings today, I did a much better job on final than I had yesterday. On the first landing, Gene told me to make it a wheel landing. I'd read all about them, but he and I hadn't discussed them too much. I ended up pushing over when we were a few inches above the ground. Things went cattywampus for a bit, but I didn't kill us. Although I wanted to try it again, we ended up doing a few power off approaches and I declined to try another wheel landing this evening because it was just too much required brain power to do the power off approaches and the wheel landing. I did two approaches from 1,000 AGL with the power pulled abeam the numbers. With just a bit of guidance from Gene, I brought it in lined right up with the runway and just past the numbers. Those were quite fun. On one of those landings, however, I hit before I was at stall attitude and we launched back into the air. I gently kept pulling back on the stick and we slowly sank back down to the runway and touched down 3-point. Nice save, if I do say so myself.
So, nothing too crazy today, just some more practice of some basics. After the flying, we did discuss wheel landings, so I now have a better idea of what I need to do, and my instructor admitted that he probably didn't do the best job preparing me to make my first wheel landing. If I make it out to the airport tomorrow, that'll be the first time I've done 3 days in a row. Sometimes I feel like progress is slow, but I also feel like I'm moving generally forward, so it's all good.
Lesson #12 — 1.8 hours (15.5 total)
After I arrived at my instructor's hangar today, he began talking to me about the FARs specifying all that I need to know and to have practiced prior to soloing. Long story short, he said we could do the knowledge test and he could endorse me to solo, if I wanted. After thinking about it for just a couple seconds, I declined. After yesterday's gusty conditions, I didn't want to solo in more gusty conditions, and after seeing my lack of coordination after getting the ball installed in the panel, I decided I wasn't quite ready, and, frankly, we hadn't technically done all that was necessary for me to solo—not that those missing items would've made a difference. I also know from yesterday's flight that I wasn't doing a great job adjusting for crosswind in various phases of flight. I told him I knew I could solo, but would rather do it without the gusty conditions and after working a little more on a couple things. So, I very well may solo next weekend. We'll see.
On today's flight, we started by doing more turns around a point, both steep turns and shallow turns. The shallow turns were more difficult, and I worked on those for quite a while, and did them in both directions. I improved as we went. I also did more s-turns after analyzing my Garmin Pilot flight path from yesterday's flight. Today's s-turns were improved.
Two new things I learned today were short-field takeoffs and soft-field takeoffs. I just did one soft-field takeoff, but did several short-field takeoffs. At first (with the short-field takeoffs), I did poorly, but began to improve. I started to get comfortable getting the tail up quickly, then using the rudder to keep us close to the centerline, then fly off and climb at Vx. All new, but more comfortable as I did a few. I'll do a lot more of both in the coming weeks, I'm sure.
Out of seven landings, here's the breakdown:
Very low approach close to some trees. Added power to gain altitude. Good landing (all base legs were pretty well adjusted for wind by crabbing, unlike all of yesterday's).
Didn't pull up quite enough to get us into a stall attitude before touching down. Bounced back into the air (just a bit) a couple times, but ended up okay.
Flared high and dropped it in for a bounce.
Came in a little high, slipped a little bit, and made a good landing.
Adjusted power on final to try and stay on a more consistent glide path (something my instructor is working on with me in preparation for short-field landings). Just before touchdown, the instructor said "Uh!" I think he thought I might drop it in, but it was an excellent landing, if I do say so myself. He didn't even know he did that, but I told him and we had a good laugh about it.
Good approach and good landing.
(first attempt) Came in way high. Based on previous approaches and the peppy wind coming down the runway, I thought we'd take so long to get to the runway that I'd be down to the ground by the time we got to the numbers, but we just kept gliding and gliding and gliding. Slipped it part way through final to lose some altitude, but it was too little too late. We probably wouldn't have touched down by halfway down the runway (that's about 1,800 feet), so I did a go-around.
(second attempt) Decent approach, but there was a big sinker on short final, then a major lift, then another sinker. I adjusted and had us set up for a good landing. When we were about to touch down, close to full stall, a huge gust hit us, picked up the right wing, and launched us back into the air. I gave it a blast of throttle and input what had to have been close to full right aileron. We hit what felt to me like hard, but the instructor said it wasn't bad. For a split second, I thought it was going to be a catastrophe, but it turned out not to be too terrible a landing, just really exciting.
In general, I'm doing better at making adjustments at various points in the approach, whether adding throttle or slipping, rounding or extending the base leg, etc. I also had to make lots of lateral adjustments today because of the gusty conditions to get the plane lined up on the runway centerline prior to touchdown. I actually found that kind of fun. It's satisfying to get it lined up. A criticism is that I forgot to add full up trim on final on a couple approaches. Not the end of the world, but it just makes it more difficult than it has to be.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was shooting for soloing in as few hours as possible. Now, however, I don't mind a bit that I'm racking up hours and haven't soloed yet. I'm learning a lot and building skill. That's good enough.
No real bragging rights in a fast solo time. In my experience, nearly nobody will ask you about that in the future. My solo day was probably rushed a bit - not by me. Looking back, I wish I had time to develop a bit more judgement before getting turned loose. Keep enjoying the journey!
Hey, I haven't been on POA in a while, but just wanted to say you are doing great, and good for you on learning in a taildragger! I'm from way over here on the east coast in central NY - but spent a month in Seattle last May/June and decided to finish my tailwheel endorsement at Harvey Field up in Snohomish an a 1946 Champ (that's been there since 1946...). Was some of the most fun and scenic flying I have ever had the pleasure of doing. When you get to your XC's (solo or dual) take a ride out there, land on the grass, and have a burger at the Buzz Inn. Good food, a great FBO & flight school and nice people.
And, I just have to say from back here on the boring east coast, I am supremely jealous of your view of the mountains. I can't wait to come back out there to WA. Hoping to make it out there this summer again.
Oh - and from a guy who took a long time to solo (due to my medical not being approved - took the FAA 6 months) - Just keep going until YOU are comfortable and confident. And pick a really nice day wind wise. You will be wound up/nervous enough as it is. After all, "solo" is just a number, and really doesn't mean much especially early on. It really only matters when you start having to build hours for the checkride, and you will probably have plenty. Enjoy it and don't rush
Thanks for the encouraging words and the tip on Harvey field. I'll definitely fly up there and have lunch (about 56 miles). I agree about the scenery here. I believe Mt. Rainier is one of the most beautiful things on the face of the earth and can't wait to fly around it and in the mountains in general. In fact, I'm planning to fly the entire length of the Cascade Mountains and do a video series on it, among other trips I have planned.
I'll keep plugging away at it.
In 1990 I worked a few weeks in downtown Seattle and stayed at a high end hotel. I think the name was the Alexis. I saw Paul Newman on the elevator. I ate a lot on the waterfront and could see Mount Rainer. It was a great and successful trip.
When I left, I was on the left side of the plane in a window seat. We started our climb out and the Captain said “for those of you on the left side of the plane, I am about to fill your window with Mount Rainer.” He banked over and pointed the wing at the peak while pivoting around it much like the turns around a point that every pilot does in their first few hours. When we leveled off and started flying away he said, “I have been flying out of Seattle for thirty years and have never seen more snow on Mount Ranier.” I’ve been on hundreds of commercial flights but don’t remember much about many of them, but I haven’t forgotten that one. It’s a beautiful place from the air.
The snowfall record is between Mt. Rainier and Mt. Baker, I believe. Both are in the Cascades near Seattle. Mt. Baker may have pulled ahead in recent years. In any event, the record at Mt. Rainier was 1,122 inches. I think that was within a 365-day period, in 1971-1972.
Lesson #13 — 1.8 hours (17.3 total)
Garmin Pilot gives 2 different figures for hours: total and flying. I'm using total here. Flying hours are less. Just an FYI. Flying hours for today were 1.5.
Missed flying last weekend, as the weather here in the Pacific Northwest has been pretty much winter weather: rain, wind, some snow, and generally lousy. Today, however, was very nice. I felt anxious while at home before going to the airport, partly just because, well, I don't know, just the usual, I guess, and partly because I thought I might solo today. I didn't, but that's okay. We had a very nice flight.
We took off from Thun Field, then flew to Tacoma Narrows airport (making sure to skirt the class-D airspace of McChord Air Force Base, and stay under the class-B of SeaTac) where I did four landings and four takeoffs, the last of which was in the semi dark. That's the first time I've flown to another airport and the first time I've talked to a tower, and my first night landing. After that, we flew to Bremerton where I did two landings and two takeoffs, by now quite dark out. Last, back to Thun Field for another two landings. I did one go-around there, as I was way high. For some reason, I was tending to be very high on finals on this flight. I'll work on that. At least I was able to do a bit of practice slipping. However, landings were somewhere between good to excellent. My instructor actually patted me on the arm and said my landings are getting really good.
We enjoyed a nice sunset, an incredible full moon rising, lovely light, and, of course, a beautiful mountain.
A comment on first solo....I felt ready at X hours, but we flew 3 more days. Beginning to wonder if the instructor saw something in my flying that I did not. 4th day, we did 3 T&L's, on the taxi back, he said drop me at the midpoint of the runway! SOLO time!
As i came onto final, a helicopter made a simulated engine out to the grass beside the runway, and sat there. I did a go around, and the next time, landed, and was pleased with the quality of it. As I taxied up to my instructor and stopped, he opened the door and asked why I did the go around. "I did not know if he might take off, so I went around and came back when he was gone".
"That kind of judgement will keep you out of trouble, always think that way, do three more, and come on in for a briefing on solo rules".
I asked later why I took so long to solo, and he said he kept scheduling whenever we could get together, and for the last three days, the wind and gusts were more than he wanted me to have for my first solo. I was happy with that. How many hours were X+3 lessons? Who cares, it all worked out fine. That is an event that should not occur by hours, but by weather and individual readiness. Your instructor offering to sign you off was a nice one, and your decline, a good judgement call. You should solo when you both are happy with your skills.
Those 3 days while the wind was bad, my instructor taught me radio navigation, which can be vital if you get lost solo, and I had a 3x5 card with the frequency and radial for the local VOR's, plus the distance to the airport. He was an Engineer, and always had two solutions to every problem. I also had the runway numbers for all the nearby airports, listed clockwise from North. If the wind came up while solo, I was to fly to the one with a runway closest to direct into the wind, and land there. I kept that two sided card for many years, "Just in case"
I thoroughly enjoy your frank recounting of your lessons.
Don't worry about the solo date. I delayed mine FOUR lessons due to high winds and wanting a SPECIFIC date that was approaching. My solo was on 03-04-07 (like the way it added up). Still did solo at about 21 hours. I was scheduling 3 lessons a week to get ONE that was tolerable wind wise (<15-19 knots or direct crosswind under 15 knots).
Lesson #14 — 1 hour (18.3 total)
Note this airplane suspended in mid-air:
Furthermore, note that there is only one occupant in the cockpit. Let me make the pertinent point that that solitary occupant is yours truly.
Yesterday's afternoon/evening flight went well. Despite going to new airports and landing at night for the first time, I was flying well. Feeling pretty good. Today brought more nice weather with just a few knots of wind, mostly down the runway. After arriving in my instructor's hangar:
Me: "What would you think about me soloing today?"
Gene: "You were ready two weeks ago."
We added the endorsements to my "logbook" (Garmin Pilot) and took off. After the first landing, while still rolling, he told me to take off again. Next landing, he told me to pull over at the run-up area, which I did. He had already told me he'd get out there and probably watch while I flew one circuit, then he'd walk back to his hangar, so I knew this was the moment. I was perfectly content not being surprised by the whole thing.
I then flew three circuits. First time, I forgot to pull carb heat mid-field, but did so shortly thereafter. Third landing, the plane in front of me did a go-around, as the tail of another plane wasn't quite clear of the runway, half-way down its length. When I was about to touch down, I'm pretty sure I was the recipient of a bit of wake turbulence, but I added some aileron input, made the correction, and landed just fine. The plane didn't behave terribly differently without my instructor, but did climb quite a bit better. Overall, my flying was about as good as ever this first time alone.
After the third landing, I taxied back to my instructor's hangar, but before I could remove my seat belt, he popped his head in through the passenger door:
"Go back out, leave the pattern, go do some maneuvers, then come back, enter the pattern, and land."
He later told me that he'd generally require more hours of a student, but said I was free to fly anywhere in the vicinity of the airport, using my own judgement for weather. I thought that was cool.
Nothing too exciting to tell here. I announced I'd be departing the pattern to the east, then did so. I did some dutch rolls, 90-degree turns, 360s (didn't hold my altitude too well throughout this little jaunt), then decided to try to find my way home. Upon turning around, I couldn't help but notice the haze with the sun back-lighting it. Pretty awful. Couldn't see squat.
No reason to panic. I've got lots of gas. Worst case, I can grab my iPad off the shelf behind me and see where things are. Okay. Head generally west. Look around. What do I recognize? There's Lake Tapps off to my right. I think I'm in the ballpark. Hmm. Whaddya know? There's the airport, right in front of me. I'm at 3,000 feet. That's under SeaTac's class B. Good there. That also puts me well above the pattern altitude.
Long story short, I crossed mid-field and did a descending tear drop into the downwind. I had good visibility out the right window for any traffic that might be on crosswind turning downwind. It worked out perfectly. Apparently, however, I had forgotten exactly how we'd done that before (once). As the instructor discussed with me in the hangar, I was supposed to do a tear drop into a 45, not directly into the downwind! I'll remember for next time. Between where I was looking, what I was hearing on the radio, and my own announcements, it worked out just fine.
My final approaches today were quite good, not excessively high like yesterday. They were about as good as any I've done. Not sure any of the landings was perfect, but most of them were quite good.
My sister, who is an accomplished pilot and instructor, was the first one I called after getting my plane tied down and buttoned up. She was happy to hear the news and I was happy to share it.
I feel like a burden has been lifted off my shoulders. Onward and upward.
Congrats Jay! LOVE your solo date also (02-10-2020)!
Thanks, Dan! I appreciate it! Didn't even notice the date, but I do enjoy the way numbers mix together, too.
Great date, mine was 03-04-07 as posted earlier, but I did mine on purpose ... your kicks as it was not planned!
Great job birdus! Welcome to the tailwheel fraternity!
Keep it up.... Learning in a Luscombe is a great experience. I recently bought an 8E and completed my PPL in it start to finish (including my check ride). No electronic nav equipment just the required VFR list plus few others.
Good luck and just remember good landings start with good approaches!!
I missed the solo update @birdus !
Lessons #15 and #16 — 3.4 hours (21.7 total)
Today was challenging and tiring. Lots of new stuff was attempted; all was accomplished to one degree of quality or another.
I mounted my iPad in the cockpit which fed off of the Stratus so I'd have an artificial horizon. I also used its speed, altitude, and heading (actually course, I guess). I flew under the hood for 30 minutes. I flew straight and level, did turns, and did climbing and descending turns. Maintaining altitude, speed, and heading all at the same time was like herding cats—just about impossible. My instructor said I did pretty well, and that's how I felt about it, too.
Next? Back to the airport for some wheel landings. Up to this point in time, I had tried a wheel landing only once, and it didn't work out so well, and thus I was a bit concerned. After one 3-point landing as a warm up, we went around again to attempt the wheel landing. We talked about the sequence of events while in the pattern, and I gave it a go. The landing was just about perfect. I was pleasantly surprised. We went around again. The second attempt was strange. I thought my setup was right on the money, but when we were a few feet above the runway, the bottom dropped out. I arrested our descent with a truck load of up elevator and 3-pointed. I thought it was a gust, but my instructor said that I slowed down too much too soon. Third try, I came in just a bit faster and executed another good one.
I dropped Gene off at his hangar and then putted over to the fuel island to gas up. The sun was low on the horizon, the air becoming frigid, the sky mostly clear. I taxied back over to the hangar. I had been lazy over the weekend (i.e., we didn't fly), and so I had asked about doing the night cross country today, Presidents' Day. Inside the toasty hangar, we spent a while looking at charts, talking about all the dense information presented therein, and planning the flight. Gene has never gone particularly easy on me, and, although it's hard sometimes, that's what I was hoping for in getting this old geezer to teach me.
For the night cross country, you've got to land at an airport at least 50 NM away, then go home. What did we do? We flew to Arlington, more than 50 miles away, then landed at Paine Field, a large towered airport, then landed at Boeing Field, another large towered airport, then flew home, skirting SeaTac's class B for the second time on this flight. Here're the details.
Although I wanted to do my entire private training using just paper, my instructor suggested a compromise. He actually thinks you should use every tool at one's disposal, but understands my desire to keep it old school during my training. Gene suggested we use the iPad for the night time cross country, and that I can go ahead and just use paper for my day cross country. I was okay with that. There was plenty for me to worry about, so having the iPad was nice. We used it to find airports, look up frequencies, avoid airspace upon which I didn't want to intrude, and just for general peace of mind. Other than frequencies, I'm pretty sure Gene could've done the trip blind.
We started by flying maybe 30 degrees, avoiding SeaTac's airspace, then flew due north, all the way to Arlington, the longest leg of the flight. We identified cities, highways, lakes, and other airports along the way. I suggested it would suck to lose one's engine at night and Gene agreed. We talked about some possible courses of action if that were to happen. I tuned Arlington's frequencies, listened to the weather, and then started listening to the CTAF. There was a Skywagon doing pattern work. I announced I was inbound from the south and would do a straight in, traffic allowing. He was about to turn base when I was about two miles out, and asked if he could squeeze in before me. I told him to stay the f*%k out of my way. Just kidding. I said "go for it." I then warned him that I was blazing along at 90 miles per hour. He laughed. He easily landed and took off long before I got to the numbers. Apparently, I landed somewhat sideways and got slightly up on one wheel, but not to excess. We pulled into a parking area, and got out for a stretch and some other relief. Gene tried Paine Field's ATIS on the phone, but couldn't here everything they said. After about 10 minutes, we got back in the plane.
I tuned in the frequencies for Paine field and we taxied to the hold short line, where I announced my intentions—on Paine Field's ATIS. With each mistake, I learn. In this case, no harm done. There were no planes for miles. The 185 had taxied back to his hangar.
It didn't take long to get to Paine Field where I was cleared for a straight in and warned of wake turbulence from an Embrayer Jet. I was lucky tonight. Every landing was on a straight in. That's a nice way to ease into things. On short final, we saw an Alaska Airlines 737 waiting behind the hold short line. My landing was good. After I cleared the runway, the controller asked if I wanted to do a 180. I didn't understand, and by that point, he just told me to taxi past the hold short line, and that I could take off from that taxi way if I wanted to, but now not before letting the 737 go. He went zipping past and lifted off. Gene suggested the controller would wait a few minutes before clearing me for takeoff due to wake turbulence. After a bit, he asked me to tell him when I was ready. I said "we're ready!" He asked which direction we wanted to go, and I answered "straight out." He cleared us for takeoff and straight out and we went. My radio work with tower and ground is rough, but I have barely more than zero experience, so I probably shouldn't feel too bad.
We veered off to the right (after airborne) and intercepted the shoreline; Puget Sound is right there. We followed that shoreline south. I contacted Boeing Field Tower about 5 miles north of Elliot Bay and let him know we were coming. He said there was a Mooney in the vicinity, but didn't know his altitude, and I said I was looking. Shortly, I told him we had the Mooney in sight and he asked if I needed to get routed out of his way. At that point, the Mooney was passing on my left wing tip—not terribly far away—and I communicated that to the controller and let him know the Mooney was at our altitude, 1,700 feet. He thanked me.
We passed the Space Needle, downtown Seattle, and the two Seattle sports stadiums off our left wing as we passed over Elliot Bay, and then all the massive cranes for offloading ships. I called the tower again and asked him which runway he had cleared me to land on. "Left" was his answer. My instructor said I was coming in high, but, although the altimeter said I was pretty high, it really didn't feel like it to me. Turned out, we came in pretty much on the money. The part that was out of whack was my flair and touchdown. I flared and kept pulling back until the elevator was against the stop, but we still hadn't touched the ground. In fact, we were well above it and I dropped it in. As I type this, it just occurred to me that maybe I wasn't looking down the runway. I'm not sure. In any event, at the time, I was completely flummoxed as to how I could've misjudged our altitude by so much. We took the first exit, and I contacted ground, the first time I'd ever spoken with ground. They told me to taxi back to A2. I proceeded to taxi back to A2, then drove right past it. He gave me a reminder, and I turned around. Gene and I debated momentarily if we were in the right spot. At first, I thought so, but then saw grass in front of us. I said we needed to go another 100 feet, but Gene didn't see it. After we got cleared for takeoff from the tower, I veered to the left, at which point Gene saw the grass. We taxied onto the runway and took off, being cognizant of our altitude and making sure not to impinge on SeaTac's airspace off to our right.
We flew mostly due south, straight back to Thun Field. I did a straight in to runway 1-7, making another bad landing. After slowing down, neither of us saw the first exit. We just missed it. We were tired. We ended up taxiing way down to the next one, for a long taxi back to the threshold for one more lap around the pattern. That made two bad landings in a row. I wanted to make the last one a good one—my 10th night landing. I turned base high, not having flown downwind long enough, and so overshot final to give myself a little more time to get down. By the time I got lined up on final, our altitude was reasonable. I would be a little long, but not terrible. I ended my night cross country and my last required night landing with my 3rd sh%*ty landing in a row. I was tired, had a headache, and was generally feeling uncomfortable.
Both Gene (83) and I (fat and out of shape) got out of the plane moaning and groaning. We spent just a few minutes talking about the flight and reviewing the logs auto-generated by Garmin Pilot.
It was a tough but good day of flying.
Bravo on the solo. That is absolutely fantastic!
Hmm. Have you and your instructor discussed escaping IMC with only the aircraft instruments? There may be a time when all the tools available are just the ones in the panel.
Those are the best kind.
I don't think I have the necessary instruments to do so. However, I intend on putting in a new panel which will have an artificial horizon. Then, I know I can do a standard rate turn for, um, 60 or 120 seconds (I don't remember) which will turn me 180 degrees.
Flight #17 — 2 hours (23.7 total)
Since I need to have several hours of solo flight (more than I'll get on just the cross country), I took a flight today. When my instructor said "just go fly around," (he did mention practicing maneuvers, and I did do some s-turns along a road), I'm not sure he wanted me to do this, but mostly this flight was just for fun. Frankly, it was really the only flight I've done that was almost entirely fun. I did think about important things (like freezing to death in the forest at night) and did do some flight planning, but it was largely just nice (and cold). The flight lasted just over 2 hours, I got up to about 8,800 feet, flew about 185 miles, and reached a maximum speed of around 110 mph. Here are a few pictures for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy the break from my long posts.
Mt. St. Helens
Spirit Lake, facing north-east
Spirit Lake (zillions of logs, probably from the eruption of 1980)
You probably don't want to see me, but there you have it. I probably won't post too many of these.
Flight #18 — 1 hour (24.7 total)
Started looking at the weather this morning and the wind at Thun Field was trending around 8 kts, gusting to 15, a bit of a right cross wind, maybe 45 degrees. Some clouds, but didn't look terrible. I sat here on the sofa for quite a while trying to decide what I was going to do. I know I need to practice cross winds, but anxiety was talking me out of it. As I procrastinated, the wind looked like it was decreasing just slightly. Finally, I took the plunge. I got my stuff together and headed to the airport.
As I taxied to the pumps, I made sure to put the controls in the right position. Although the wind probably wasn't strong enough to require it, I figured it would be good practice.
On the first takeoff roll, I applied right aileron, and the takeoff was no problem. The cross wind seemed to die down over the next hour, and I didn't even bother with ailerons on subsequent takeoffs—I think the trees reduce the cross wind down low, and so that may have contributed to the moderate conditions on the runway. My intent was to do a low pass over the runway on the first two approaches, practicing keeping my direction of flight, the runway, and my longitudinal axis parallel. I think that was a good idea, and I enjoyed doing it.
I decided I would make today's landings all wheel landings. The first one was a bomb. I bounced a few times, and, although I think I could've saved it, I just decided to go around. The winds at altitude were strong enough that I had to crab in the pattern. More good practice. I'd been embarrassed by the green line in Garmin Pilot before, and was determined not to let it get the best of me again. On one of my landings, I got a little slow and ended up 3-pointing it. On the other 4, I made good wheel landings. I was pretty happy about it.
Aside from the first takeoff, which was "normal," I decided to practice short-field takeoffs. The first was reasonable, the other 3 good.
Up until today, the few wheel landings and short-field takeoffs I'd done had all been with the instructor and had been few. Today, I probably doubled the total number of wheel landings and short-field takeoffs I've done.The winds weren't quite as bad as I had imagined, and the practice was good.
Flight #19 — 1.4 hours (26.1 total)
Left work early today to take advantage of a beautiful day. I started the flight by leaving the pattern and heading over towards the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. I started by practicing slips in both directions. I have to admit that flying sideways is somewhat disconcerting. I also practiced turning 90 degrees while slipping, as if starting a slip on base and turning onto final while still slipping. After that, I did a few turns around a point, also in both directions. My final practice away from the field was a couple "stalls." I did both departure "stalls" and arrival "stalls." You might be wondering why I keep putting the word "stalls" in quotes. The reason is that I frankly can hardly get this plane to stall. With full power, it feels like the nose is pointed straight up, and with just a bit of rudder, it'll just keep going. Power off isn't much different. With full aft stick, the plane just mushes along and never really breaks. I imagine I'm dropping like a rock, but the plane doesn't do anything too interesting.
After working on those things, I went back to the field, entered the pattern (teardrop to a 45), and practiced wheel landings. I I did 7 total. The first one was a catastrophe and I did a go-around midway through it. One other I turned into a 3-point. The rest were reasonable. Each one was a touch-and-go (after letting the tail come all the way down), just to get more of them into my brief time. I quit flying about the time the sun set. One thing I probably should figure out is my approaches. I seem to be coming in high, and so generally come in at idle. At least if the engine quits, I can glide to the tarmac, although I believe coming in at a more gradual angle and with some power is preferred. I do think coming in steeper and at idle is fun, though.
After my last flight around Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Rainier last Thursday, my instructor said this in a text message to me: "we need to talk about limitations" and "we'll start planning your cross country."
Onward and upward.
Sounds fine to me. Add those slips you practiced to add drag, if you’re way too high.
People think stabilized approaches can’t be steep, which is flat wrong.
Flat wrong -
See e.g. the Space Shuttle.
Flight #20 — 1.9 hours (28 total)
Packwood, WA. Mt. Rainier is in the background. Trust me.
I'm not sure exactly what my instructor had in mind for our latest flight, but I'd had a route dancing around in my head that I thought would be a lot of fun. Might even be a good learning experience. I wanted to fly south from Thun Field, land at Eatonville (2W3), continue south and land at Morton (39P), then head east and land at Packwood (55S). After that, fly up a valley next to Mt. Rainier north then east, and then head north back towards Thun Field. We would then do some instrument work, and head over to Tacoma Narrows (KTIW) so I'd have another chance to talk to the tower and make a landing. We'd take a quick break at Packwood and I would take that opportunity to attach my iPad to an arm for the instrument work. Gene was okay with my suggested plan.
I'd done some pre-flight planning and so I went over that with Gene in his hangar and we headed out. He wasn't too concerned that my plan wasn't perfect (it was just my own first attempt), as he's very familiar with the area, and he knew my fuel planning was just fine. I knew the frequencies of the fields (all 122.9), the patterns (RP for one direction at Eatonville), and the field and pattern altitudes. I felt moderately prepared.
Along the short hop to Eatonville, Gene started quizzing and teaching.
"Where are we right now?"
"What lake is that?"
"Where is Eatonville?"
"Are we on course?"
"Hold the map oriented to your direction of travel so things appear as you see them out the window."
"Use all the details on the chart to keep track of your location."
"After you pass a point on the chart, mark it so you always know where you are."
I got on the radio and announced our position as I spotted the airport in the distance. The runway there is 2,990 ft. x 36 ft. I overflew the airport well above pattern altitude to check the wind sock and check for other traffic. There was nothing on the radio that sounded local. Gene had told me before we left that you generally land to the north and take off to the south at Eatonville unless there's a good wind in the wrong direction. I already knew that the wind favored that direction for landing (i.e., to the north), and so I announced that I'd do a 45 to the downwind for runway 34. Landing at Boeing Field at night was huge and cutting edge. There were blinding lights everywhere, a tower, and more tarmac than I knew what to do with. This was closer to the opposite end of the spectrum. The approach was along a hillside, just above treetop level, and the runway was a skinny as a toothpick. I overshot final by a mile and came in way high. I fire-walled the throttle well AGL. I announced the go-around and...went around.
Next time, I came in slower and lower. Instead of squaring off the base leg, I just did a gradual and constant turn from downwind to final. Being just above the trees was pretty exciting. Gene didn't say a word. I was a hair fast, but not by much, lined up perfectly on final, and I touched down just past the numbers, bounced a bit, added a bit of throttle, then set it down permanently. Although it was a rough ride due to the super bumpy asphalt, I manhandled my bird and kept us more or less down the middle. Gene said I was a little lower on final than he would’ve liked, although as it is, I came in a hair fast, so I’m not sure what I could’ve or would’ve done differently, personally. Maybe come in higher, slower, and at a steeper angle of attack. Just guessing. In any event, for my first landing at this airport, and on a slightly tricky approach to an über skinny runway, I’m quite pleased with how I did.
I taxied down to the far end of the run way and turned around.
"What are you going to do when you takeoff?" Gene asked. We discussed it for almost 5 minutes, engine idling, looking at maps, and batting thoughts around. I knew we wanted to veer left after takeoff and head down a valley to get down to Morton, but all I could see was that hill in front of us. We looked at the chart some and talked about making a plan before you take off, every time. I said I would make a turning climb to the right—a 360—then plan on continuing south, over the hill. I made the call announcing what we'd be doing, and then after a bumpy takeoff roll, executed the climbing turn, looking for the road over the hill, then the valley. Alder Lake and Elbe were landmarks that we used to help us find our way.
cont'd... (apparently, there's a 10,500 word limit)
Flight #20: Part 2
Morton was interesting. The town is tiny—just over a thousand people—and the runway is 1,810 ft. x 40 ft. The chart says there are 200-foot displaced thresholds at both ends, but there was nothing painted on the runway, so I don’t know what that was all about. I made the usual call and circled over the airport looking for traffic and checking out the wind sock. I expressed surprise at the left hand pattern for runway 25, as there's a big mountain right in the way. Gene said you fly a modified pattern.
As seems to be common for me, I was high on final. I practiced my forward slip to shed some altitude and got to within probably 50 feet of the ground, but before I’d made the call (which I was about to do), Gene said “I don’t like the looks of it, let’s go around.” He then gave a little tug on the stick and said “let’s get some altitude,” although we certainly weren’t about to run in to anything. I responded with “Yup. I was high the whole time. It wasn’t a stable approach.”
As I was turning back to downwind, Gene followed up with “I think we’ve done enough here. Let go on up….”
Me: “We’re gonna ditch this one, huh?”
Gene: “I don’t like that airport.”
I'm not exactly sure why he did that, as he usually seems to let things go half to pot before saying a word or doing anything. I’m planning on going back to Morton sometime down the road and landing. Seems like a fun challenge to me.
We continued on to the east towards Packwood. This was a very easy leg. Just follow a big valley. Gene continued quizzing me on our whereabouts.
"There's an airport nearby. Where is it?"
I took the chart and found it—on the chart—and then began looking for it on the ground. I had to figure out some other landmarks before I could figure out where the airport was, but I eventually found it. Gene may have helped a little bit. More good practice being aware of my whereabouts.
When my sister and I were kids, back around 1980, our family used to stay at a cabin in Packwood owned by some friends, so I felt a little sentimental going in to this airport, although I hadn't been to Packwood in probably more than three decades. One thing I recall was ash on the ground at the cabin after Mt. St. Helens erupted. I would also usually go skiing at White Pass.
This airport didn't seem all that small to me: 2,356 ft. x 38 ft. I don't know why. I did the usual song and dance. Announce several miles out, overfly, take a look, then enter the pattern.
As we were on base, Gene: “How high above the ground are you?”
Me: “500 feet. 700 feet.”
I think Gene thought I wasn’t setting things up quite right, but 700 feet should’ve been just about right, based on what Gene’s been teaching me—turning final at about 500 AGL.
Gene: “Now. Get yourself on a glide path that’s gonna clear the trees and set down in the first third of the runway.”
I was at idle. That seems to be how I do it. My approach was stable and I made an excellent landing.
Me: “That was pretty good if I do say so myself.”
I observed that it was a beautiful runway and Gene pointed out that it had been closed for 6 months while they redid the whole thing. Thank you, taxpayers of America!
I taxied back down the runway and parked the plane on a gravel patch over by the nice bathroom, which Gene and I both visited—in turn—in preparation for the remainder of the trip. Before getting back into the plane, as we both grew quite cold, almost numb, I made the point that I wasn't going to hook up the iPad and we weren't going to do instrument work or fly to Tacoma Narrows. Gene agreed that merely flying back to home base would be enough flying for the day. I was doing lots of new things and being challenged, and knew that I'd be ready to get down by the time we arrived back at Thun Field.
I made the observation that there appeared to be a fair number of clouds up near the peaks surrounding the valley up which I was planning on flying. Gene asked what I was inclined to do. I pointed towards the valley, and said "go that way" as I pivoted my arm 90 degrees to the left, back the way we came. He agreed that would be a good idea, but suggested we get up in the air, do a climbing 360, and take a better look through the valley to see if we could see through it.
I made a terrible, bouncing takeoff back to the west and proceeded to turn back towards the airport and the valley, climbing at around Vy. I very quickly observed that I could see mountains past the valley, which I thought was quite interesting. I made a 180 as I kept climbing so Gene could get a better look. I was surprised how far we could see and Gene agreed that it looked good. The view from the ground certainly hadn't given a good picture. I knew from my pre-flight planning that the valley floor got up only to about 3,000 feet. We climbed up to around 4,400 feet and the clouds were several hundred feet above that. On the way up the valley, I experienced my first updrafts in the mountains. It was extremely apparent to me that we were in a super Luscombe elevator. It was pretty cool. I loved looking out the windows at the snow-covered trees and cliffs going by. That's exactly the kind of flying I’ve been dreaming of doing. We caught a fleeting glimpse of Mt. Rainier through the clouds. We followed the valley back towards the west before cutting the corner off and heading northwesterly, shaving a few miles off our trip home.
I tuned back in to the appropriate frequencies, listened to the weather, and began announcing our position. Another plane, much lower than we were, got on the radio and asked about us, I think, and I clarified. I had forgotten to mention my altitude, something I do somewhat consistently. I'll work on that. I located home field, saw the water tower over which a 45 for 1-7 is normally initiated and entered the pattern, announcing along the way. After a bit of a forward slip, I greased it.
Me: “You know, that was so gentle, I didn’t even know I’d touched down.”
After taxiing back to Gene's hangar, we went over the flight and both agreed that it was very nice. He also signed me off for night flight (something we had just forgotten before) and he signed me off to fly solo into Tacoma Narrows, a towered airport.
It was about as nice a flight as I had imagined it would be. I look forward to trying it alone sometime and even landing at the diminutive Morton airport.
Onward and upward.
You are moving along well now! You will be at the checkride before you know it.
You have probably already indicated, but have you done your written yet?
I don't think I had talked about it in this thread. I studied on my own and took it probably 10 years ago, but obviously that expired. I'm studying again now. My concern is that if I take it too far before the oral, I'll forget stuff (a legitimate concern for me), so hopefully I can take it in a few weeks which will be close to the check ride. That's the idea, anyway.
Flight #21 — 2.8 hours (30.8 total)
Did another cross country flight. The plan was Thun Field->Chelahis->Kelso->Scappoose->Woodland->South Lewis County->Thun Field. I was stressed while we were still in the hangar. The instructor said I would file a light plan, call Seattle Radio for flight following, call the FSS to open the flight plan, then get handed off a couple times to others for the flight following. Before taxiing out onto the runway to takeoff, there was some miscommunication from the instructor about making all the calls and switching frequencies—given the fact that the radio has only two slots—and I was feeling frustrated about that.
Anyway, we took off and I started making calls. I had plotted the course for the whole trip with distances and times for checkpoints, but I had added degrees instead of subtracting, so that threw a wrench in the works. Long story short, although I ended up giving up on timing my legs since I was off on my headings and a bit frustrated, I did find Chehalis, Kelso, and Scappoose, had no difficulties entering the patterns—including my first ever right-hand pattern, which was at Scappoose—and all the landings were good. Although didn't do real well, the practice with the map was good.
The trip was taking longer than I was expecting, so I suggested we just head straight back from Scappoose, doing simulated instrument along the way, which is what we did. I got in 1 hour of instrument. Climbs, descents, and a number of heading changes. At 5,500 feet, it was nice and smooth, and I was eventually holding altitude and heading with pretty good precision. Then, we descended to 2,500 where it was quite a bit bumpier. It was a constant struggle to maintain altitude and heading. Overall, I did pretty well.
When the instructor told me to take off the hood, we were set up to enter a 45 to the downwind at Thun Field. It felt like we were home.
Flight #22 — 3 hours (33.8 total)
Did my first official solo cross-country yesterday. I flew from Thun Field (PLU) to Chehalis (CLS) to Kelso (KLS) to Scappoose (SPB) to Woodland (W27) to South Lewis County (TDO) back to Thun Field. It was just over 200 miles and took about three-and-a-half hours. It's the same course my instructor and I flew last weekend, but we didn't land at Woodland or South Lewis county. We just flew straight back from Scappoose under the hood. Yesterday was my first time landing at those two airports.
Woodland is pretty small—1953 x 25 ft.—and I had to do one go-around, but made a very decent landing on the second attempt. I was below tree top level on final, then flew over the Lewis River, then over some more trees, but touched down with plenty of room left and kept it right in the middle. That was fun.
I landed at South Lewis County after dark and botched the pattern entry, but fixed it (roughly) and landed okay. There were no other planes around, so I probably didn't need to feel as stupid as I felt. Pattern entry and setting up well for final are two things I really need to work on.
My big focus on this flight was pilotage and dead-reckoning. It was very challenging, but I fixed some things from last weekend and did much better. I took along my iPad to verify my position at each checkpoint—and sometimes in between—but really worked at focusing on the map, compass, check points, and timer.
Flying over a smoke-stack, one of my checkpoints.
Teardrop for Chehalis
Teardrop for Chehalis, airport in the background
Circling to try and identify a checkpoint. Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, and Mt. St. Helens are in the background.
Industrial area near Kelso, Columbia River in the backgound
More photos in next post...
Congrats @birdus !
Flight #22 cont'd
Landing at Scappoose
Final approach at Woodland, trees off right wingtip (yes, I am below their tops)
Final approach at Woodland over the Lewis River and more trees
Woodland State Airport, sandwiched between I-5 on the left and the Lewis River on the right
Landing at Woodland State Airport
Sunset over the Columbia River
Sunset over the Columbia River
Enjoying the pictures and write ups! Keep them coming!
You’ll be a Private Pilot before you know it.
Very nice! I really miss flying out there.
Are you getting the photos from video or using a remote to shoot those?
They're screen grabs from video from Sony FDR X-3000 action cams. That's why the quality is so horrible. If the light's not perfect, you either get blown out highlights or tons of noise. That also means that between the sky and ground, you tend to have way more dynamic range than the cameras can capture. It pains me to post poor quality photos, but I'm just mostly busy learning to fly.
Sharpness is also an issue, exacerbated by vibration from my engine/prop. It definitely affects the video, some cameras more than others, though. I think it has to do with the sensor readout speed. If there's vibration over the duration of the sensor readout, the video looks like jell-o and/or really hurts sharpness. I've experimented with a Sony a6500 out on the wing strut, but the readout speed was far too slow to prevent the video from looking like complete jell-o, although the video grab of Mt. St. Helens higher up on this page (just search for "helens") was from the a6500 and it looks quite good.
Probably at the end of next weekend, I'm going to remove the prop and have it checked and balanced by a prop shop that's about 100 yards from my tie-down. I hope it solves some of these problems. If not, I'm going to be depressed.
That's probably more than you wanted to know, but there you go.
Flight #23 — 1.4 hours (35.2 total)
I think I mentioned this before, but it's interesting how the total hours aren't nearly all actually flying the airplane. I don't know if other students use just flying hours towards their total.
My instructor wanted me to fly through McChord AFB airspace (class D) and do at least 3 landings at Tacoma Narrows (KTIW) and so those were my tasks for this flight. Talking to McChord tower and flying through their airspace turned out to be incredibly easy. They had me squawk 0355 and told me there was another plane crossing in front of me. I told him I had them in sight. A while later, he said I could squawk VFR. Done. I enjoyed looking down on the big runway and seeing all the C-17s parked there. Flying into the sun with hazy sky gave me terrible shots of the field, but I'll do it again sometime and get some better ones.
Next task, listen to ATIS and contact Tacoma Tower. I know this is old hat to all of you, but this is the first time I'd ever flow the plane alone and talked to controllers. He had me do a left entry to runway 17 (it's a standard pattern for that runway, but RP for 35), but then a right-hand pattern for all my circuits. That surprised me, but I guess they can do whatever they want! I had done a couple landings at Scappoose via a 45 to a right downwind, but had never flown complete right-hand patterns before. For some reason, it felt awkward, but wasn't a big deal. I did six landings there. One of my landings was a total greaser, one of a few of those that I've done. The rest were okay. A few of my approaches were quite high, so I got some practice slipping, although with that long runway (just a hair over 5,000 feet), I didn't really need to. I did the extra circuits because I didn't want to have to slip because I suck. I wanted to actually have a few good approaches. My last few were much better. Glided right down just past the numbers, no slippage necessary.
After that, the pressure was off. I requested a departure over the Narrows Bridges (I'll never get used to the plural) then east over Tacoma. He told me my requested departure was approved and off I went. I buzzed over Tacoma a bit, then went over to Auburn to take a look at a golf course near a friend's house. In transit, I had to stay under SeaTac's class B shelf—that was 1,800—so I flew at 1,700, more or less. The iPad made this really easy. For this trip, I didn't use paper. I didn't want to mess with where the border of McChord airspace was. However, I must confess, Tacoma's airspace butts right up against McChord's, and I flew right into it before getting the weather and calling the tower. After calling them and telling them my position—which was inaccurate by a couple miles (good grief!)—they came on the radio and were totally cool, as if nothing had happened. Living and learning.
After getting back down to Thun Field, I chatted with a Rocket (RV-8, I think) to figure out who would land first and which direction. He was cool and we figured it out. Coincidentally, he had taken off immediately before me, an hour-and-a-half eaerlier—like a rocket! It was cool.
I think I'm running out of things I have to do, but really need to hit the books and take the written. I want to do a cross country over east of the Cascades, and certainly need to practice lots of things. The list will inevitably get shorter and shorter. Here are some video grabs from the flight.
Thun Field, Clover Park Aviation school across the way, and Mt. Rainier
Approaching Tacoma Narrows Airport
Left downwind for KTIW
Right base at KTIW
Slipping on final at KTIW
Short final at KTIW
Slipping on a way-too-high final at KTIW
Great approach at KTIW
Right on the numbers at KTIW