I’m a day late in writing this post but here it is. Yesterday (04/21/2012) was a cloudy day with rain in the forecast, but the cloud ceiling was 10,000 ft and with very little wind. I thought it would be a great day for practicing landings. I reached Thunderbird aviation at about 8.55 am and saw Jeremy just going through the door of the school as I drove in the car park. I greeted Kevin who is usually present at the front desk on the weekends and checked in. Jeremy was already chatting with another instructor and I greeted him also. Kevin handed me the usual items for pre-flighting the plane as I handed him the completed check-in form. After pre-flighting the plane I returned and Jeremy was still chatting with the same instructor whose name I do not know, but from his accent I noticed that he too was British.
Jeremy then said, “C’mon Tiger let’s brief on what we’ll do today”. I followed Jeremy to his office and as he seated himself in the chair he said with a smile, “You still haven’t got that book have you?” He was referring to the “Stick and Rudder” book he had mentioned that I should read a few weeks ago. “Oh yes I have it now, and I’m on chapter 3: Lift and Buoyancy”, I replied. “So what do you think of it?” “Well it stresses on how important the “Angle of Attack” is in flight”. Jeremy arose from his chair and moved to the writing board and said “It IS very important in flying”, and continued, “When I was learning to fly, I didn’t know how important it was. I’m getting a whole new perspective on flying now as I’m reading this book and I’m sure you will too”. He then started drawing the cross-section of a wing and began explaining how the “Angle of Attack” affects the plane etc., basically what I had already read in the book.
After about 6-8 minutes on the board, Jeremy said, “Well, just like Wednesday you can do whatever you want. You can just fly the plane, practice some maneuvers or go through things you don’t understand. So what would you like to do today?” “Well I think it’s a great day for practicing landings, there’s hardly any wind and we’ve not practiced landings for a while due to it being pretty windy”, I replied. “It is a good day for landings”, said Jeremy stressing the “IS”. He then proceeded to go through the air traffic pattern on the board and asked me questions. I answered all of them correctly. “I’ve found that many students find it easier to land if we slow the plane down to 65 knots instead of 70 knots in the final leg. Once you’ve mastered the landings at this speed, then you can increase it to the recommended speed of 70 knots.” “Okay”, I replied. He then explained the importance of ailerons in the cross wind before and during takeoff, and said that I should look at the wind sock, notice the direction it’s blowing in thereby deciding from which side the wind is coming from and then turning the yoke completely into the direction of the wind. Then as we speed up to takeoff, I should gradually turn the yoke in the opposite direction until it’s almost horizontal (i.e. almost neutral ailerons) and gently pull on the yoke as we take off. “So we do everything as we’ve just reviewed here except it will be 65 knots on the final leg of the pattern, and remember the yoke and the crosswind” said Jeremy. “Okay”, I replied.
So we boarded the plane and I went through the check list and today I remembered to check the Tachometer when I tested the Magnetos and the Carburetor heat; the Altimeter and the Vertical Speed indicator when checking the alternate static. The ATIS indicated that the wind was coming in from an angle of 150 degrees at a speed of 9 knots. So clearly we were going to be directed to runway 14 R or 14 L. Jeremy asked me to confirm if I knew this and was pleased to know that I did by saying, “Good” and continued, “Do you have the paper with the plan of the airport?” “Yes I have” I replied. “Okay so you know you’re going to be on either 14 R or 14 L, so by looking at the layout, what directions do you think Crystal Ground is going to give you to get there?” I referred to the map, located the runways and said, “Runway 14 R via Alpha and Echo, cross runway 6R and 6L”. “Good, now call Ground and tell them you want to taxi to the runway and that we’re staying in the pattern”. I did as instructed and I was correct regarding the directions from Ground Control.
As we were approaching the runway for takeoff, I noticed the wind sock and then once we were on the runway for takeoff I turned the yoke into the wind. I pushed the throttle to full and the plane began to pick up speed. At about 20-30 knots I began turning the yoke gradually and continued until I had reached the takeoff speed of 56-60 knots and gently pulled the yoke toward me. I pressed on the right rudder to reduce the left turning tendency and to keep the plane straight. My next step was to maintain the best rate of climb speed of 79 knots as the plane continued rising toward the sky. I must say here that my takeoffs have improved considerably since Jeremy has been my instructor. The stall warning horn does not go off like it used to due to my pulling on the yoke too aggressively and thereby increasing the angle of attack. Once we were up to 1400 ft I had to make a right turn in the pattern as this is what Crystal Tower had said.
It is from here that my performance starts to deteriorate. I turned right but continued rising to 1900 ft as I’m supposed to and then right again when I’m supposed to reduce power to 2200 rpm which I did a little late as I continued rising beyond 1900 ft. I was now at 2000 ft and making efforts to descend to 1900 ft and at the same time I began drifting toward the runway whereas I should be flying parallel to it. “Move to the left Tiger, you’re drifting”, Jeremy reminded me. I should have been pushing the nose down and flying parallel if I was to reduce the altitude. I was now abeam the runway when I reduced the power to 1700 rpm, pulled the first notch of flaps and then pitched my airspeed for 90 knots, but began drifting in again. I passed the runway now and was supposed to turn right again at an angle of 45 degrees from the runway. I did so and pulled the second notch of flaps but my speed was still 90 knots when it was supposed to be 80 knots. I was coming up on final and should have had my speed down to 65 knots. I reduced power a little and then began losing speed and pulled the third and final flap notch. Now I was slowing down too much and the speed was getting below 65 knots. “Watch the speed Tiger that’s dangerously close to stalling and we’re 300 ft from the ground. Increase power and pull the nose up!” said Jeremy. I did as instructed and was now pretty close to landing the plane as I approached the runway threshold. “There’s a right crosswind so add left rudder and right aileron” said Tim to keep the plane straight. But I didn’t put enough right rudder nor enough right aileron so Jeremy helped me. We touched down fine and then Jeremy asked, “What happened? We just reviewed this! I know you know what to do, so why aren’t you doing it?” I agreed and didn’t really have an answer and said, “I wasn’t thinking”. “Okay let’s try again and pay attention this time”, said Jeremy.
We did three more landings by which time I had the traffic pattern corrected but the final landings were still not good. And that concluded my lesson for the day as I did not have any ground school. I thanked Jeremy for today’s lesson and said goodbye. As usual driving home, I reflected upon my performance and wondered when I would learn how to land the plane in practice. Theory can only go so far and is useless if I’m unable to put it into practice!