Technically this is lesson 5 as it was cancelled last week. Today September 24th, 2011 we practiced some maneuvers or attempted to so. Why do I say this? Well this is what happened. I arrived at precisely 9.00 am on a wonderful Saturday morning, the temperature was around 60 F and there was no breeze whatsoever. Tim was waiting for me as I was his first student of the day and I signed in and went through the usual procedure of checking out the plane and assessing that it was safe to fly. I’m getting pretty good at this now, even though I still use the check list, but I don’t refer to it as often. After I finished with the Walkaround I returned to the school building and Tim said, “Today we’ll do the following: Rectangular Course, Turns Around a Point, S-Turns and the Slip. Basically it’s turning or managing the plane in the wind, so you can fly the path you desire.” Using a white board he drew diagrams and proceeded to explain what each of these maneuvers were. The first three basically consisted of turning the plane in a rectangular, a circular and an S-shaped path using a reference point. The important thing was that when we entered the circle or any of the other maneuvers already mentioned, the wind was behind us. Firstly you find a reference point around which you will circle the plane e.g. a house, a cross-road etc. Then you turn the plane around this reference point keeping the path equidistant i.e. maintaining the radius of the circle. “As you turn the plane you will discover there will be sharp turns, medium turns and shallow turns depending on where you are in the circle and the direction of the wind”, said Tim. To ensure that I understood correctly, I repeated all the maneuvers Tim explained and he said, “You got it!” Just then another pilot walked into the room and Tim said hello to him and the pilot returned the greeting and said, “There are clouds out there now. They seemed to have come from nowhere.” Tim was surprised and said when he checked a while ago the weather was fine. Anyway we headed out to the plane and Tim said, “There doesn’t seem to be any wind at all. You need to have wind to understand the sharp, medium and shallow turns and how much power (strength) is required to turn the plane when the wind is hitting the plane at different angles. You’ll really understand what managing a plane in the wind is all about then. Anyway let’s see what it’s like up there.”
Once we were in the plane, we checked the weather service which confirmed the pilots’ comments about the clouds and Tims’ comments about the wind. The clouds were 1800 feet or so. I taxied the plane to the runway as Tim requested clearance for takeoff. Once this was done I took off and we were up in the air. Once again I took off a little too steeply and Tim said, push the nose down. As we progressed rapidly in to the sky, I could see the clouds above us and couldn’t feel any wind affecting the plane. So we traveled north of Crystal airport where I could practice the circular turn. Since there were so many clouds, we were looking for an area where we could see below us to locate a reference point. Once having found a cross-road I attempted to make a circle. Tim said, since there’s practically no wind, just enter the circle anywhere, if there was wind you would enter the circle so that the wind was behind you. When the wind is behind you it’s called the Downwind. When you’re going into (or against) the wind, that’s called the Upwind. “Once you’re in the circle immediately find a reference point from the central reference point that you will go over. As you go over this reference point you should be parallel (i.e. the wings of the plane) to the central reference point. Then as you’re going over this point, look for an equidistant point from the central reference point i.e. the next reference point you’ll be going over with wings parallel to the central reference point, and once you’re going over this, look for the next equidistant reference point, until you’ve made the full circle”, said Tim. I made an attempt to do this and in a way it was good because I understood what was to be done and how, without the interference of the wind. The next time I do it, and there’s wind I will know what I’m doing. I did a couple of these circular turns before the clouds began encroaching our airspace. “Since there’s no wind there are too many clouds, let’s do the other maneuvers tomorrow and now I will show you what the Slip is”, said Tim. This is why I stated earlier that I attempted the maneuvers today.
“When you’re coming in for a landing, you may be coming in too fast and perhaps at a higher angle than the best angle required to make a landing. So in order to reduce the speed we have to go into what’s called a Slip. This is turning the plane at a slight angle so the wind hits the plane along the side and slows it down, and then you can change the angle to make a landing. Here I’ll take control of the plane and show you and you’ll understand it better,” said Tim. Again since there was hardly any wind it was easier to see what was going on although we didn’t make a landing. So Tim took control of the plane and reduced the power of the plane, slightly pushed in the yoke to tilt the nose downward and we started descending. As the speed reduced to about 75 mph Tim pulled the first stage of the flaps and turned the plane slightly so the wind could hit the side of the plane. Then he pulled in the second stage of the flaps, and then the third. This considerably increased the drag and slowed the plane down immensely. If there was wind we would have felt the drag and force of the wind more. And that was it. Tim increased power and we went back up. Then it was my turn and as before, the fact that there was no wind, it was easier to understand and the next time I’m sure I’ll really “feel” what it’s like with the wind hitting the fuselage sideways before approaching to land. Then it was time to return to Crystal airport and I was looking forward to trying out these maneuvers again tomorrow!