|Summer flying off the Cirrus wing|
Pre-flight, takeoff, climb, cruise. Instructor asks me to enter slow flight, I ask dirty or clean- which means with or without flaps. 5 minutes of keeping the plane on a proper heading flying at a sluggish 65 knots with mushy controls. FAA private pilot standards dictate I am allowed to drift no more than 5 degrees off heading and lose or gain no more than 100 feet of altitude while maintaining a slow flight airspeed within 10 knots. Sounds easy, and with enough practice it becomes easy. Break out of slow flight, onto the next check ride maneuver.
Steep turns, the infamous 45 degree constant bank perfect circle maneuver. With this maneuver, one must maintain the standards as well as keep coordinated flight, not to mention stay in ones seats while gravity doubles ones weight and centripetal force pulls one against ones seatbelt. But with experience, I am able to do this comfortably and even spend some time looking down my window seeing the world from a really different angle, which always makes me smile.
Stalls are the hardest to succeed at, and they are never comfortable. Like with any maneuver, first thing is checklist. I was taught to do a flow, which includes items like turning on my boost pump, enriching to full mixture and turning on all exterior lights. Specify what the maneuver requires, such as flaps, and what the goal is throughout. Then I bug my altitude and heading so that it is known for keeping within standards. Everything I think I say out loud since precision is necessary and the mistake of forgetting anything will cause a unsuccessful and possibly dangerous outcome. There are two basic types of stalls, the arrival and departure stall. The arrival stall is easier because it requires less control pressure and happens gradually. Although we begin at a high altitude such as 4000 AGL, we are simulating the final approach path to an airport where our airspeed has diminished and we must recover from our stall without losing much altitude. As if on were on final, we use full flaps and fly at 75 knots with a 500 foot per minute decent rate. Then, as if begining the flair, we take out all power and use back pressure from the elevator to maintain altitude. Because we have no thrust, our airspeed drops. The stall horn begins to ring, and at 56 knots the plane buffets. It is only once the plane is truly stalled, at the moment of the buffet, that I am to recover. Immediately I add full power, take out the last notch of flap since they only cause drag, and nose down the airplane. Seconds after the stall I have enough airspeed to level out, then pitch up and begin to climb. The hardest part of all of this is maintaing the proper heading with the mushy controls and keeping the rudder coordinated or centered. During the recovery, my legs are pushing hard with force against the right rudder pedal to counteract the torque from the power added. But maybe a minute after begining the whole maneuver, the plane is flying straight and level at a safe airspeed, and my instructor is jotting notes about my performance. The other type of stall is the departure stall which simulates a rotation at 65 knots followed by an excessive angle of attack which makes the plane stall even while the pilot has full engine power running. The recovery consist of taking out all the power and pitching down, then once recovered from the stall adding back in power and returning to straight and level flight.
Following stalls, my Instructor and I practiced unusual attitudes. These are fun because of the surprise they add in the cockpit. My instructor takes control of the aircraft while I put my chin against my chest, close my eyes, and release all flight controls. Vertigo kicks in and my instructor turns and twists the plane. Then finally I hear the words, "your controls." Instantaneously my head lifts up and I glimpse at what my instruments tell me the plane is doing, since my vertigo is unreliable. No room for error, and no time to freeze, I must recover and coordinate now. The two basic types of attitudes my instructor will put me through are overspeed excessive descents and near stall high pitch climbs. With these he has purposely unleveled the wings and gave improper power settings which make my workload for the recovery as great as possible. Since both situations require immediate and hard recoveries, it is likely that the planes quick shift from un-level to level flight flight will give occupants a moment of negative G flight. This is fun because for a second or two, we become weightless and actually float off our seats and are held down only by the seatbelt.
|Monument used for FAA PPL maneuver: turns around a point|
We then practiced S turns using a nearby river. I described these vividly in a recent post but they are exactly what they sound like: repeated opposite semicircles which when paired form an S as seen from above. Ground reference maneuvers force pilots to not only keep airspeed, altitude and bank angles tight, but they require pilots to keep their eyes outside since the maneuver is flown relative to a ground point. Since the maneuvers are meant to be flown very low, it allows us cross country pilots to get cool views of the ground below us- I can see what kind of car people have in their driveway while at 800 feet AGL.
|4N1 Greenwood Lake Airport|
I am at a point where I can see my faults and judge my own flying throughout maneuvers. It is nice to hear my instructors feedback, and of ofcourse I am not flying 100% perfectly so their is constructive criticism, which I must take in and respect; but as my instructor put it, I am flying within standards. Right now, my license depends on the effort I put into my oral exam studying. Private Pilots must take a oral and flight exam with an FAA examiner, and I am not proficient enough on the oral answers. The oral test, unlike the FAA written exam, is based around reasoning and problem solving rather than single fact answers that can be learned from the textbook. With the end in sight, I have the motivation to learn what I must for the oral exam and I expect that rather soon I will be writing a blog appropriately titled, "Completion, from dreamer to Private Pilot in a Cirrus SR20."
If you made it all the way through to here, leave a comment or Tweet me what you think. Cheers!