The windsock was hanging straight down again when I got to the airport today, and the sky was solid blue. Not a good day for practicing ground reference maneuvers, as we had planned last time--but a beatuiful day to fly!
We were in Cessna N60806 today. Just after running up the engine at the end of the taxiway, N4725B, the plane I'd been flying for the past several lessons, came in for a landing. I dropped out of the checklist to watch it, feeling an odd sense of identity with whichever student pilot was in it. He or she rounded and flared all at the same time--and about 5 feet too high, and just plopped down onto the runway. That seemed a bit ominous, as I'd landed every bit as hard in that plane myself, just a few days ago.
806 flies very differently from 25B--even the engine sounded different, and on takeoff with the throttle as far forward as I could force it, we never got above 2400 rpm. It didn't seem to want to fly, and even though the airspeed indicated 65 shortly after rotation, the thing lifted off and then settled back down again for a half-second before starting to climb. That had never happened to me before, and I'm not sure even now what caused it. Adam grinned and said, "Practicing landings, are you?" Climbing out, it felt like it wasn't really climbing at all, and I found myself looking down at the ground several times to see if we really were getting higher. Adam pointed out that we were climbing at nearly 1,000 fpm--faster than 25Bravo has ever climbed after takeoff--so it just must have been my perception that was screwy. Or the instruments's indications are different in that plane. Or something.
We climbed to 2500 feet and flew west over Swift Creek Reservoir and beyond it to the practice area. There Adam had me do some "steep" turns, and despite going up and down like a yo-yo, I managed to do them within the 100 foot tolerance. The trick is to roll in somewhat gradually, so that when you get past 30 degrees you have time to apply back pressure smoothly to keep the nose up as you continue rolling to 45 degrees. Up to 30 degrees, there's not much back pressure needed, as most of the lift is vertical, but at 45 degrees half of it is horizontal, so you'll lose altitude fast if you don't haul back a bit.
Before going on to slow flight, I wanted to try some REALLY steep turns--60 degrees. That's the steepest turn you're supposed to do in a Cessna 152 because anything steeper is likely to "bend metal," as these guys like to say. The airplane is built to handle positive 3.8 g's, and in a 60 degree bank the load factor is 2--meaning that you're pulling 2 g's. (Is that really the spec for a 152? There's probably a good margin of error, anyway. I finally got Adam to get me a manual today, so I can check on that.)
Anyway, Adam said okay, so I did a couple of clearling turns and then rolled left, over to the 60 degree mark on the attitude indicator. Interesting experience. You can really feel the 2 g's: It's not enough force to squinch you down in your seat, but your arms start feeling good and heavy. I had to haul back pretty hard to keep from losing a lot of altitude--that's when you feel the g's--and I found that I had to work fairly hard to hold the bank angle. The turn goes much faster than at 30 or 45 degrees, too--well, I guess it should be twice as fast as a 30 degree turn, which takes two minutes to go around 360 degrees. I rolled out of that turn and right into a right turn, held it for about 90 degrees, or so (wasn't paying much attention to the heading at that time), and then rolled left again. After a while the 60 degree bank began to feel more comfortable, and now I feel good about those steep turns.
We had a discussion about how many things a human can pay attention to at one time. Adam said he'd read it was three, and that more or less squares with what I've heard--and with my own experience in the airplane. For example, I can attend to the bank angle and the altitude and the airspeed--but I usually forget to look at the heading and everything else. Or other combinations of things. Fortunately, more and more of the things needing attention seem to get included in "intuition" or "instinct" or whatever you want to call it--the things you do automatically without having to pay conscious attention to them.
Slow flight was fun, as usual. Power off stalls went well, and I was able to keep to the tolerances--plus or minus 10 degrees of heading and 100 feet of altitude.
Power on stalls were a little less successful today, but generally okay. We were flying N68608, which handles very differently from N4725B--it needs a lot more right rudder in those power on stalls as you bring up the power with the nose high and the speed around 45 knots. I was happy enough, though, to keep from yawing off to one side or the other.
About then Adam pulled the throttle to idle and declared that the engine had quit. I pitched for 60 knots--it's hard to keep the nose up and fly that slowly--and started looking for a place to land. There were several open fields to choose from. The best one was almost directly beneath us, and I should have gone for it. INstead, I decided to see if we could get to a nicer looking one some distance away. It soom because obvious even to me that it was way to far off, so I turned left to another field right beside us. In the meantime, Adam made me go through the whole drill--
Back at the field traffic was heavy. I got in number two on downwind for 33, but ended up wide, turned base, but got too high. On final I had full flaps and power off, but was still high, so I tried slipping to lose altitude. That didn't work too well, as I kept the nose too high, so all we did was fly slideways a little more slowly, but finally got the thing down with plenty of runway left. As I rounded out the glide, Adam said, "There's a deer on the runway. Go around." There was no deer, of course--it was another emergency drill--but I went around as if there had been.
The second approach went somewhat better, even though I was low on downwind
and then a bit high on base. The setting-down part of the landing
went nicely, though. Kept the nose down, rounded out, waited for
the speed to drop off, flared out, and set it down without a float, bump,
or bounce. There was still no appreciable wind, however, so the smooth
touchdown wasn't exactly a big deal.
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