Day 3 – Lesson 2 – Straight and Level flight

Date: 03/03/2011

Hours flown Dual Command Instruments
This flight 1.10 0.00 0.00
Total to date 2.10 0.00 0.00

Woke up this morning to much better weather. Blue skies over our house, and when I got out to the aerodrome, ATIS was reading CAVOK. Which shows you how misleading automated weather readings can be, because it only took a quick look out the window to see a large bank of stratus cloud off to the north-east – the same bank of cloud I’d been cursing on my 1/2 hour commute from home! However, the rest of the sky was clear, and I was reasonably confident we’d get up for this morning’s first lesson.

I pre-flighted Sierra Foxtrot Kilo again (the same aircraft I’d hoped to fly in yesterday). I’m pretty sure no-one flew it yesterday as fuel in both tanks was up to tabs same as I left it yesterday. But I went through the external checks just the same, it’s great practice and (at this stage anyway) I kind of enjoy being out on the flight line alone with the plane I’m going to fly. It was a lovely cool morning with a light breeze and I took my time going through the checks and washing the windscreen.

My instructor John got here a little early and wondered how long I’d been here, having done all the pre-flight and got the ATIS report! But right now I have the luxury of getting out to the club with plenty of time before the flight, and I like to do the basic stuff and try to do it well – a philosophy which John thoroughly approved of, as would any instructor or good aviator.

Takeoffs today are from 29 right, and it felt better the second time round taxiing the aircraft out to the runway. The run-up checks were very instructive today, for two reasons. Firstly, we couldn’t actually do the run-up checks as soon as parked in the run-up bay because the oil temperature was not yet up and into the green. I missed this completely and would have blithely shoved the engine RPM up to 2000 before it was ready – but of course, John picked it up. So while waiting for the oil temperature to come up a bit, we did the pre-takeoff checks and in my wish to get through the checklist correctly I rushed all my instrument checks. John gently pulled me back and walked me through the importance of doing it all, slowly, correctly, in sequence. So it was a great little bit of learning:

Insight #2

NEVER, EVER rush the pre-flight checks. Walk methodically through each checklist item and close it out before moving on to the next. You don’t want to take so long that you risk things like engine overheat or spark plug fouling, but you need to make 100% sure all is in order before you take off.

After taxiing out to the runway and lining up on the centre line, much to my surprise, John instructed me to increase the throttle to full power and hold the aircraft on the centre line as we accelerated to takeoff speed. I wasn’t watching the airspeed indicator so I couldn’t say at what speed we rotated, but at the right time John instructed me to raise the nose of the aircraft and we were away. Man! This is a week full of cool firsts. I have (albeit under instruction) made a take-off for the very first time!

At 1500 feet John instructed me to turn right and we turned towards the coast with Sydney’s northern beaches in the distance. The lesson then started. We covered the fundamentals of maintaining straight and level flight – straight being “in a straight line towards your nominated destination point” and level being maintaining a consistent altitude without going up or down and all over the place.

So we did a series of exercise involving maintaining straight & level flight in different flight attitudes, including:

  • Normal cruise – engine ~ 2400 RPM
  • Slow cruise – engine ~ 2100 RPM
  • Fast cruise  – engine ~ 2600 RPM
  • And with flaps (obviously not in excess of VFE, which is the maximum speed you’re allowed to fly with flaps extended)

I did reasonably well with this, both by my self-assessment and also according to John. What was pretty ordinary, though, was my attention to keeping the aircraft in balance. What this means, in a nutshell, is keeping an eye on the ball in the turn coordinator and applying right or left pedal (rudder) as appropriate so that the aircraft neither skids or slips – both of which conditions make for inefficient flight and passenger discomfort. I found that with all the other stuff I was learning, I was neglecting to keep in balance. I remarked to John that this was the last thing that I was thinking of – he said that it should be the first – “the aircraft should always be in balance”.

No doubt I’ll get better at this as well as a thousand other things, but I think it qualifies as my third insight:

Insight #3

Watch the balance – keep the aircraft in balanced flight at all times!

Our flight this morning took us just over the coast over North Narrabeen Beach, so while I wasn’t really focusing on the sight seeing today, it was cool to do a hard right turn and look straight down at the surfers from 2000 feet – then to look over to the left and see the Sydney CBD in the distance. Definitely a good morning for a joy flight if that was your aim.

On the trip back to the airport – experiencing for the first time in the flight some turbulence which tested my straight and level flying – John noticed to his consternation that the transponder on the aircraft was not working, so this was duly noted on the Flight Docket handed in after the flight. My descent towards circuit height and on base and final legs were horrible (not that either I or John expected anything too flash) and he had to do some quick work to stabilise the aircraft and set it up for landing. But that, like so many other things, is something I will get better at.

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2 responses to “Day 3 – Lesson 2 – Straight and Level flight

  1. Pingback: Day 3: Lesson 3 – Climbs and Descents « MidLifePilot's Flying Blog

  2. Pingback: Day 7: Lesson 6 – Second circuits lesson « MidLifePilot's Flying Blog

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