On Tuesday evening I received my usual email reminder of my scheduled class for the next day from Thunderbird Aviation. It stated that I was scheduled to fly with Sarah. I was expecting to fly with Alex but I think he may have forgotten to re-schedule a flight with me due to it being a Memorial Day weekend. He had said that he would re-schedule either on Monday or Tuesday. The other reason for not re-scheduling I can think of is that he might be busy this week.
The weather today (05/30/2012) was not bad for a change with the sun shining through some dark clouds. The winds were at about 10-12 knots and the temperature was 57 F, a little cooler than usual. I arrived at 8.50 am and greeted Mike at the front desk and immediately checked in and did not see Sarah around. Having gotten the plane’s folder and the fuel sampler, I went to pre-flight the plane and returned noticing that the plane was low on oil. The minimum amount of oil that should be in there is about 6 quarts but the oil mark showed there were only about 2 quarts or less left. I handed the fuel sampler to Mike and then Sarah came out from her office with another student. Once she finished wrapping up with that student we greeted one another and went toward the plane. I pointed out the low oil and Sarah checked and agreed. She went back and told the lines man the plane required more oil. The linesman added the required amount and left. I then closed the cowling cover and we boarded the plane.
Before leaving her office Sarah checked to see the wind conditions on the nearby airports and found that Anoka airport was conducive for practicing touch and goes. “We’ll go to Anoka and practice landings there” she said. I said okay and called Crystal Ground Control with the following message, “Crystal Ground, Warrior Five Three Six Papa Uniform at Thunderbird request Taxi to the North East with Information India”. I immediately received the following reply from Ground Control, “Five Three Six Papa Uniform Taxi to Runway Three Two Left via Alpha Echo”. I replied back to indicate that I understood, “Five Three Six Papa Uniform Taxiing to Runway Three Two Left via Alpha Echo”. Soon after takeoff I said to Sarah that I had made a mistake regarding the control wheel and the wind. “Sarah I made a mistake back there. I didn’t turn the yoke into the wind and didn’t rollout as we took off”. “That’s okay. There’s hardly any wind today” she replied. “Yes but I remember you telling me that I should get into the habit of doing that and wanted to tell you that I noticed my mistake”. “That’s good that you noticed and I agree you should get into that habit. It’s a good habit to get into” Sarah replied and continued, “Climb up to 1,900 ft as that’s the pattern altitude at Anoka”. I pulled the throttle back to about 2300 RMP once we reached 1,900 ft and leveled the plane so that we were cruising.
No sooner had we left Crystal we could see Anoka airport. Sara requested Crystal airport if we could change to the Anoka frequency and we were given permission to do so. She then called Anoka Tower and stated our intentions to practice touch and goes and we were given Runway 36 to practice on. The first couple of landings did not go well as Sarah took the controls as she thought I was probably going to land on the nose wheel or perhaps bounce the plane. I then told her that Alex had taught me to allow the plane to just continue over the runway a little and then land. “Okay but to do that you need to be coming in at a steady speed and height and then flare” she replied. The next time we came around Sarah just watched what I did and I successfully landed the plane. According to Sarah we did about 10 landings and of these 7 were nice, safe landings. “There’s considerable improvement since we last flew” said Sarah and continued, “that’s a 70% improvement from, what, 10%-15%?”
Although I was pleased to hear this comment from Sarah, there were other things I still needed to improve on that I myself noticed. Firstly, I still need to get the speeds at each stage of the Air Traffic Pattern (ATP) down correctly. At the moment they’re a bit erratic. For instance on the downwind I should be pitching for 90 knots and sometimes this would be at 95 or at 85 and sometimes at 90 knots. Then on the base leg the speed should be 80 knots and I would vary again between 80 knots and 70 knots. So at these stages I would have to adjust power to get my speeds correct and not lose or gain altitude. My other error is once I turn into the downwind from the crosswind leg, I have to do a flow check. During this flow check I have to look at the dashboard and turn on the Carburetor heat, fuel pump, set the mixture to rich etc. As I’m doing this I’m inadvertently pushing on the yoke and thereby pushing the nose down and losing my altitude. The whole ATP must be smooth, with no adjustments in altitude or speeds, and if you have to make any adjustments they should only be slight. “Just be gentle with the yoke and make sure that you don’t let the nose go down or up when doing the flow check” said Sarah.
Once we returned to Crystal, Sarah tried to set up my next class with Alex but he was booked. So she said that I could fly with her next Wednesday and if Alex does become available I could fly with him. I said okay and thanked Sarah and left for home. On my way home I felt pleased with myself that finally I was now fairly consistently landing the plane and that my class with Alex two weeks ago although was of astronomical help, the landing performance with him wasn’t just luck on my part.