Archive for February, 2011

So today was absolutely freaking AWESOME. Double block and no time pressure, sun and moderating winds. Went down to Quonset for the cross winds of 12 knots on the beam of the 7500ft runway 34. My personal limit is set at 7 and the plane is demonstrated to 14. The controller kept offering us runway 23 but my instructor was adamant about me nailing cross winds and kept me on 34. Did a couple of slip approaches and then got told to fly the runway centerline at 1ft off the concrete in a flared slow flight configuration and not touch down. “Centerline and 1ft”. If my instructor said it once he must have said it 50 times today as I drifted back and forth and porpoised along the center line. After using up 4,500ft I was to go around with the remaining 3,000ft and treat it like a cross wind take off. On the first run I got the picture, on the second I started to dial it in and got it locked in and pretty straight. On the third it was quite gusty and I had to really work it and porpoised around a bit – it wasn’t quite as good. On the fourth it was sweet. Then he had me on touch and goes. One thing I got about the crab versus cross controlled slip approach was – test the slip at the start of final, then crab your way down because it is easier and then turn into the slip just before flare. I really had to work it for four landings. Then I called a break.

The weather was gorgeous but a little gusty and over my cross wind limit so I was gently let down about probably not soloing again today. I knew EXACTLY where he was coming from, said so. “I’m pretty close to dealing with this – but absolutely respect the decision” (which I did). I then re-iterated what I had learned so far and where I felt we could work on it in the next block. Out we went and did more cross wind touch and goes – the controller offering that 23 was really optimal headwind now. We stuck to the tougher 34…… Three more and I got told to take the instructor into the FBO. The wind had eased a little.

“Right – go have fun and pick me up at 12:30″, “Pattern or the training area – or both – your call”, “Have fun”. Off he went for coffee. I fired up, got a clearance to the Newport Training Area, taxied out, ran up, got cleared out of Quonset and headed off to Newport. I called Providence for flight following and climbed up to 3,500ft. Top of climb workflow. Got to the training area. Full rich for maneuvering, clearing turns to check my tail. Then a series of four power on stalls took me from 3,500ft to 5,000ft. On one I was a little aggressive and swooped up (instead of a “mushing” up) – the nose dropped quite a bit. Two steep right turns at 5,000ft – I was pretty locked in on the second one. Then rolled for two steep left turns – nicely locked in. Providence were calling other aircraft with vectors but leaving me alone. I even heard the school Deputy Chief Instructor calling “looking for the traffic” – while she looked for me and Providence vectored her under me. Then two sequences flying into slow flight configuration at 5,500ft, stalls from slow flight and recovery. I then flew the plane in standard rate turns in slow flight configuration, hanging on the prop on the edge of a stall. The needle on the ASI wasn’t even registering, the stall warning was screaming and I gently flew her round. I fully expected to stall as I crossed the turbulence of my own wake but though I bumped around – I still carried on flying – gently rolled into a left standard turn and made another 360. As I rolled out I deliberately stalled her and recovered her. Time was getting on and I was being blown towards New Bedford’s airspace – so I started back to Quonset and added in two more power on stalls at 6,000ft on the way home. Called into Providence for clearance for Quonset, got vectored to there and started down. I got the weather and then was handed off to Quonset for landing. Set up for another one of those cross wind landings. Let’s say it was on centerline, in the correct flare and just a HAIR fast so I ballooned very slightly and had to fly her down again. But thanks to that centerline exercise earlier in the morning I kept it together and she touched down rather nicely. In to the FBO to pick up my instructor. then with 30 mins left, fire up, Quonset weather, Providence weather, Quonset clearance, run up, go, cleared into Providence airspace, vector for landing, a rather poor RIGHT (as opposed to all the left’s I’d done all day) cross wind landing and into the school to finish off.

Procedure points to be worked on – Top of descent workflow – on my solo I got my lights wrong. I was lit up, legal but not optimal.
Hand off to Providence Arrival to Tower. Remember to tell Tower what leg of the pattern Arrival left me on.

Smack me later – it was still a GREAT lesson

Marginal wind conditions for my skill level today. Instructor said – “give me three good landings and a go around at an appropriate airport and I’ll get out.”

I picked Quonset – the local National Guard field – 7500ft (I only need 1500 for the aircraft and 3000 for solo personal minimums) and off we went. Cross wind was there but not quite at my limits when we got there I got her in OK. Second time a bit of a bounce but OK. Third one – OK. As we flew round to demonstrate the go-around we discussed the emergency landing spot. Instructor said he would try for the runway and take the water if he didn’t make it – I said I would go downwind and take the brush on Jamestown Island – the water is too cold. “Let’s see” I said and pulled the power out and tried for the airfield. In fact I made it – and slightly high so I “went around” and the instructor got his demonstration.

I came in to drop him off and got a PERFECT landing in a cross wind. “Right – I’m definitely getting out – pick me up at 10:00 and fly as much as you can in the time”.

I dropped him off at the FBO for coffee. Then out I went. Got stuck waiting behind a Beech Baron for a bit who was waiting for his time on an IFR departure and then out I went. Couple of landings later (and they were pretty good) I went in and picked him up. Then flip back to Providence for a fast straight in between the 737’s. Not too bad a landing.

GREAT LESSON!! Cross wind landings improved hugely compared to my previous.

Next time there is a weather slot I get to solo away from the airport to the training area and back again.

Great end to a very blustery weekend. Having spent a bunch of time outdoors counting birds (feathered) for the Great Backyard Bird Count – the wind calmed enough at day end Sunday to sneak in a flying lesson. We went up over the Newport Training Area and flew steep turns, emergency approaches (using Horseneck beach as a practice runway) and 2000ft per min descents in side and forward slips to practice high rate altitude loss. Finished with some landings in the twilight at Providence. Awesome!

Went to fly another solo at North Central but when we got there it was pretty aggressively gusty. We have kind of reached the end of the Stage II syllabus except for solo cross countries so when that happens I ask for some more “good stick and rudder stuff – I want to FLY the plane – not just pass the test”. Got it in spades today.

Started flying approaches and stunningly steep 2,000ft per min side slip descents for getting into really tight spaces. Like start at the end of the runway you are going to land at but at 1000ft AGL and get down without going anywhere horizontally. Once I started to get some together we flew some taildragger steep curved approaches. “Spitfire and Mustang” approaches in a Cessna! It was a complete blast – made all the easier by the fact that after 20 mins all the other school planes decided it was too turbulent for beginner learning and all went in to ground school. We had the place to ourselves!

Did I mention I like my instructor? He pushes you to FLY the plane.

My lesson cancelled at short notice this morning. The plane had a bird strike on the previous night flight lesson and would need a new airfilter and inspection. No one noticed. Avoiding birds at night is tough. The airbypass kicked in and drew air from inside the cowling so there was no performance loss from the part blocked filter. No one noticed anything till the plane was down.

I get asked this a lot. It is a regional airport with jets and cargo planes and can seem pretty intimidating. A friend who is thinking of taking up flying asked me and from my lofty 60 hours of experience and I revisited some of my reasoning.

I deliberately picked KPVD to mix it with the big boys and controllers. I met someone who legally passed down in a quiet bit of Florida and the first time they flew into Class C they got out the plane on landing and turned in their license (I kid you not). They couldn’t believe what they had flown into. But the main reason was this is a mixture of a bucket list item and I need a brain stretch/personal development. I want a challenge.

Providence is also a Part 141 school – more structured syllabus and more FAA oversight. NOTHING wrong with Part 61 schools – you have to get past the same FAA examiner when the time comes – but the 141 internal discipline, class rooms, their maintenance and spare planes means serviceability is high and there is an air of professionalism. Part 61 schools can also be professional.

Since I’ve got into it – I’ve also discovered that the local Part 61 school’s limited taxiways means you can spend a lot of time taxiing back down the runway you landed on. Expensive and breaks the rhythm of what you are trying to achieve. Providence and surrounding Quonset, North Central, and a slew of other airports to the West means you will always get somewhere that suits the weather after just 6 mins or so flying.

Controllers are just fine to deal with. I went to an FAAST briefing about Boston Class B one night. The point being made was it is a partnership in which both parties make the safety if you work together. And you just need to ask them to repeat because you didn’t get it and they are just great – slow down a little and really do try to help. You can visit the local Class C tower if you call and ask. The Sporty’s VFR Communications DVD is quite a good primer on procedure.

A good tip I got is to keep your top radio stack for air frequencies like Approach/Departure and Tower and bottom stack for ground frequencies like ATIS/UNICOM/CTAF/Ground and Departure. Helps you keep your world a bit better managed.

Initially it was all a bit confusing but now I don’t even think about it! The first time I visited a non-towered field with self announcing on the CTAF – I felt like a babbling idiot!

So I’d just returned from an FAA WINGS safety briefing about Class B airspace around Boston – given by the Boston controllers with interesting slides of their radar presentations and some “war stories”. A key point repeatedly made – safety if the product of the controllers and pilots working together. They need to help each other.

So on my next lesson I was brimming with the desire to be part of the team. At 9 miles out I was cleared for the option with – “Right base to Runway 23 and RIGHT closed traffic after the touch and go”

9 miles later and a flight down 5000ft of the 7166ft length at 1ft off the ground in ground effect with wheels skimming occasionally – I climbed out and accidently flew LEFT closed traffic. So much for being part of the team……. I was half way across the crosswind when the controller caught it. It wasn’t dreadful – he could vector me into the pattern again with the other school plane that was flying left closed traffic – but it seemed to throw him for a loop. We mixed it with the regionals and the other school plane. The controlling got a little raggy. The other school plane flew a DREADFUL landing and was actually ordered to go around by the controller at one point (like he couldn’t figure it himself!). Then a third General Aviation aircraft arrived from the north and kept replying that he was cleared to land – when the controller was clearly telling him he was not! Oh it all got exciting.

As I made another approach with the option I announced we would make this a full stop. My instructor raised an eyebrow. I explained I’d made a “Pilot in Command” decision and that I thought it was time to get out while the going was good and to give the controller a chance to sort things out. I was just trying to team play. The instructor agreed! We came in 5 mins early!

“Air Graeme” is pleased to announce the success of their first NIGHT cross country mission – flown from Providence to New Haven and back again during the late evening of January 31st, 2011.

Completed at an average ground speed of 100 knots – the mission came in 2 knots faster than predicted with an elapsed time of 4 hours of which 190 mins was spent with the prop spinning. The unusual length of the total mission was because the first aircraft became unserviceable at start up and another had to be pre-flighted and brought out to the flight line. Notwithstanding this minor technical difficulty the mission was considered a complete success.

Thanks to friend Sheri Miller for the “Air Graeme” mascot – she is talented with a needle and thread.