Jeremy surprised me today (06/03/2012) by including some maneuvers in my flight lesson. I was expecting to do more landings as he had mentioned yesterday. I was surprised because I usually study the steps involved in performing the maneuvers before going to fly. Since I’ve been trying to improve my landings, I’ve not concentrated on the maneuvers. So we flew out to the North West and when we were about 10 miles or so out of Crystal in the practice area, we started off with the slow flight maneuver. Jeremy had said that slow flight is basically what we’re doing when we’re coming into land so this would help me during the approach to landings.
Once we had reached an altitude of 3000 ft I began first by scanning the area for air traffic and then I performed the clearing turns, 90 degrees to the left and then 90 degrees to the right. Then came the flow check. A flow check is a check list performed to make sure that everything is working and is done in a certain order. It’s also performed in case of an emergency i.e. you would go through this flow check to see if something went wrong to discover what was wrong. The flow check goes in this order, check to see if Carb heat is on, check fuel pump is on, mixture is rich enough, power is set to what is desired, primer is in and locked, magnetos are on both, fuel is on the fullest tank and that seat belts are secure. After the flow check comes desired heading and this is the heading you choose to perform the slow flight in so that you’re able to maintain that heading. Its part of the skill set that must be accomplished by the student pilot to show the instructor that the student is capable of managing or handling the plane. In fact this is the purpose of all maneuvers.
I decided on the heading of North and reduced the power to 1500 RPM and as the airspeed slowly began to drop to less than 103 knots, I introduced the flaps one by one. Now the plane had become very slow and I the airspeed had dropped considerably. I had to maintain the airspeed at 55 knots and at the same time maintain the 3000 ft altitude. These three things are to be maintained during slow flight with Airspeed being controlled by pitch and the altitude using power. Just then Jeremy said, “Okay now let’s turn to a heading of West”. I had to slowly turn the plane with no more than a 30 degree angle of bank and still maintaining slow flight conditions. I had to increase back pressure a little as the plane turned to maintain altitude. Then Jeremy said, “Let’s turn to a heading of East”, again I had to do this under slow flight conditions. Once I was on a heading of East I maintained, or made efforts to do so, the slow flight maneuver.
Next Jeremy requested that I perform the Steep Turn maneuver. After the relevent checks were performed i.e. Clearing turns and flow check, I chose a heading of North and with the power set at 2300 RPM I turned left slowly and at the same time pulled the yoke back to maintain altitude and added power as needed to maintain airspeed. The angle of bank was a maximum of 45 degrees, and I trimmed to ease back pressure. Just a few degrees before returning to the heading of North, I leveled the plane so that it was fully level at North. I repeated the maneuver to the right but it wasn’t as successful.
I thought we were going to do some stalls but Jeremy said “Let’s return to the airport. Can you see the airport?” We were about 10 miles out as denoted by the 10 mile lakes and I could see the tall buildings of downtown Minneapolis. The airport is just to the left of these buildings. “Yes I can see the airport” I replied. After changing the frequency to get ATIS information, Jeremy said “Okay why don’t you call tower and tell them you’re inbound 10 miles from the North West”. “Crystal Tower, Warrior Five Three Two Papa Uniform, 10 miles inbound from the North West” I said through the radio. I immediately received the following reply, “Warrior Five Three Papa Uniform, cleared to land on Runway Two Four Right”. I then replied back to tower with the same information informing them that I understood their instructions.
Next I realised that I now needed to get out my descent check list and go through that and begin my descent slowly. So I reduced power and pushed the nose of the plane down a little. The air traffic pattern entry is at 1900 ft so we should slowly descend to this altitude to enter the Air Traffic Pattern. Next Jeremy asked me, “So we’ve been given Runway Two Four Right. How do you land on this runway?” This I wasn’t sure about so then he pointed at the heading indicator and said here’s 240 on the dial and so we would come in from this side to land on Two Four Right. The opposite (reciprocal) of 240 on the dial is 060 degrees. So we gradually descended to 1900 ft and entered the Air Traffic Pattern on the Downwind leg and then turned Base, and then on to Final. This runway at Crystal is short and it’s made shorter still by the displaced threshold and you cannot land on this, you have to land beyond it. After this we did three more landings. The landings themselves all went well, but the ATP varied. This was because I’d been given a right turn i.e. after takeoff I make all right turns to land. Normally all landings are done with left turns unless specified by tower as I was in this case. But the major problem was that I was incorrectly using the 1900 ft altitude as a reference point to turn into the Downwind leg whereas I should be looking at the runway and making a judgment as to when I ought to be turning into the Downwind. By waiting to reach an altitude of 1900 ft before turning in to the Downwind I was extending the Crosswind leg to almost a mile out from the runway. This then of course affected the Downwind leg figures. Jeremy pointed this out to me and said turn before you reach 1900 ft, and once you’ve turned in to the Downwind, continue rising to 1900 ft and then level off at this altitude. I managed to do this on the last landing.
Once our lesson was finished Jeremy said that overall my performance was good. He was pleased with the maneuver work, the use of the check list and the descent. Then he said that the only problem today he saw was the 1900 ft altitude and when to turn into Downwind. The actual landings were also good. With that I thanked Jeremy and left feeling a little pleased with myself even though personally I thought my performance wasn’t that good today. But of course I tried to console myself by saying “Well the instructor knows best” 😀