Today (04/04/2012) was a wonderful day. It was bright and sunny with a temperature of around 43 F at 8.30 am when I decided to leave home for my 9.00 am flight lesson with Jeremy at Thunderbird. On my way at around 8.45 am I received a call from Jeremy saying that he would be delayed by 30 minutes. “Tiger” he said. “Yes Jeremy”, I replied. “I’m sorry but I worked late last night and had trouble waking up this morning but I’m on my way. I will be about a half hour late. I’m really very sorry”, said Jeremy. “Ah no problem, I understand. Don’t worry about it. I’m just glad that the weather is nice today and we can get some flying done”, I replied. He agreed and said that he would see me at Thunderbird at 9.30 am or so, and our conversation ended. Since I would be a little too early at school now that my flight lesson would begin at 9.30 am, I turned the car around and returned home to get my note book in which I had been preparing the steps for the various maneuvers. I thought if I got the note book, I could be studying it until Jeremy arrived. My last flight lesson with Jeremy was last Wednesday and that didn’t go too well so I decided to really prepare for the following Saturday and Sunday lessons but the weather was not conducive to flying on these days. My preparation went well and I even did the “arm chair flying” as Jeremy suggested. Arm chair flying is where you sit in a chair and imagine you’re seated in the cockpit and go through the motions of each maneuver. I was very excited to fly today as I could put these maneuvers in to practice. I had memorized the steps for each maneuver, the various speeds, the altitude levels and the frequencies for communication. I reached home by 9.00 am, got my notebook and was back on my way to flight school. I reached there at around 9.15 am and checked in with Mary and by the time I was finished with the pre-flight check it was 9.25 am. I realized I wouldn’t have any time to study and so went back in and handed the fuel sampler to Mary and sat on the couch waiting for Jeremy who then arrived a few moments later.
Jeremy and I greeted one another and he once again was very apologetic. He then said, “Let’s go to my office and I will show you what we will be covering today. Jeremy took a black pen and began writing on the white board saying, “We’re going to go through, “Slow flight”, “Power-on and Power-off Stalls” and if we have time some ground reference maneuvers”. He then proceeded to describe each maneuver and the steps to achieve it. We began with the Slow Flight maneuver and as Jeremy described it he intermittently asked me questions. “At what altitude is this maneuver done?” and I replied “Above 1500 ft AGL”. That’s correct. One by one, Jeremy explained each maneuver and asked if I had any questions. I did not, as I had already reviewed these maneuvers. We then proceeded toward the plane and boarded it. I went through all the pre-flight checks; I also had brought a pen and paper, but forgot to bring the airport map. This was my first mistake and was a little disappointed with myself. Then I had to call Crystal Ground to seek permission to taxi. I don’t know what happened but I didn’t communicate well over the radio. I requested the permission okay, but then when you get a response back from Ground, you’re supposed to repeat it back to show that you understood the instructions. The runway I was given to take off from was 14R, and Ground tells you exactly how to get there, but the various taxi ways and runways we had to cross to get there were too many for me to remember, and the fact that they tell you this very quickly doesn’t help. So I was not able to fully repeat back the instructions to tower. My second mistake. If I had the airport plan I would have been able to look at it and know exactly where I was being directed and then would have been able to repeat back the instructions. Things seemed to go downhill from here for the entire flight lesson.
As we took off from runway 14R, I was supposed to maintain the best rate of climb speed of 79 knots, but this varied quite a bit. We then headed to the North West and once we were in the practice area, we began to practice “Slow Flight”. The problem I had here was that during this maneuver you have to maintain altitude, airspeed and heading. You are allowed to vary by +/- 100 ft, +/- 10 knots and +/- 10 degrees respectively. I still had the problem of when to pitch and when to add power and which of these controlled airspeed and altitude. When I was reviewing them it wasn’t too bad. I knew that you control airspeed using pitch, if airspeed is getting too high you pitch up to reduce it, if it’s getting too low, you pitch down to increase it. Similarly if you’re losing altitude you add power and if you’re gaining altitude you reduce it to maintain it. But it seemed there were too many steps to execute all at once. Anyway after a while I got the hang of it and was able to slow fly and also to turn in the direction Jeremy requested without losing altitude or airspeed by too much. One other problem I was having is that I was over controlling the plane. Jeremy said, I was chasing to make changes and making too much of a change. Rather, I should allow the plane to become stable and then make a slight change, and then see what affect this change has. If you need to do something more to make another change, then just make another slight change and see what happens. Jeremy said there is a slight delay after you make a change, so you have to wait and see if the change you’re making causes an effect and if so by how much. I was making big changes and then making a big change to counteract the original change, so I had kind of a see-saw kind of effect.
We then did the power-on and power-off stalls next and these went a little better than the slow flight maneuver. Then it was time to head back to Crystal airport. Once we were about 10 miles outside of Crystal airport Jeremy asked me if I could see the airport. I pointed slightly to the west of where it was and Jeremy said, “It’s a little to the east of that”. He then told me to call Crystal Tower and to tell them you wanted to land. But before I could do this I had to see where we were and so I had to look at the heading indicator and then call crystal. Once Tower knows where you are, they can direct you to the most appropriate runway. Ironically we were given the same runway we took off from i.e. 14R. “So how are you going to enter the pattern?” asked Jeremy. To answer this question I had to see where we were in relation to runway 14R. 14R means the runway is magnetically aligned at 140 degrees, so we have to see where we are in relation to this runway to know how to enter the pattern. We were approximately approaching it from a 90 degree angle from the east. Here again in an effort to get into position to land and communicating with tower simultaneously, I lost a considerable amount of altitude. There was a slight cross wind so Jeremy mentioned I had to use right rudder to compensate for it but then in the end Jeremy had to help me to land the plane. We did one more landing after this one which was only a little better than the last.
“Okay let’s taxi back to Thunderbird and we’ll debrief there”, said Jeremy. Once we were back in Jeremy’s office we reviewed the flight lesson and Jeremy described where I went wrong. “You do not understand where to pitch and where to add power. You’re also making drastic changes and then making more drastic changes to get back to where you want to be and thus never really making the change so you’re in like a vicious circle, back and forth. You have to make only slight changes and let the plane stabilize (as there’s a slight lag) and see what affects your actions have made. Then you make another slight change if you’re not where you want to be”, said Jeremy. As I already explained earlier, Jeremy described to me in detail using the white board when I should pitch and when I should add power. If we have full power then the only way to make changes to the airspeed is by pitching up or down as during a takeoff. He also stressed the importance of getting the right speeds and maintaining those speeds. “Regarding your radio communication skills, I think you were having a bad day since you performed pretty well the last time”, said Jeremy. I was pleased with Jeremy and how he explained everything and how he’s pushing me to do everything on my own, so very different from Tim.
So in conclusion I was pretty disappointed with my overall performance today. I had prepared myself to please my instructor and of course to satisfy myself as I would really like to be progressing now, but it all didn’t go as I had hoped. Let’s see if how I perform this coming Saturday.