When The Student Is Ready…


Today (06/17/2012) I had my first Ground School lesson with my new instructor Logan. I arrived early as usual and the school and the Thunderbird Aviation ramp were relatively empty because of the aviation event that was taking place. I greeted Tom and Aaron who were the only one’s holding the fort whilst other instructors and managers of the school were some distance from the school near the Crystal Tower airport where the event was being held. “Do I still need to check in since I’m only here for Ground School?” I asked Tom. “Yes please just complete the form as usual so that we have a record of your Ground School”. I then proceeded to complete the check-in form and waited for Logan to arrive. I chatted with Aaron and Tom. They were talking about how the event is held every year on Father’s Day, and last year Aaron had to be at the event and it was hot and muggy which he wasn’t too pleased about. But this year he was seated comfortably in an air conditioned building. We continued with general chit-chat when Logan arrived at 9.15 am.

We greeted one another and Logan asked Tom if any planes were available for us to fly. Tom replied in the negative stating that most planes were being used for the event to give people rides or to show them what flying was about. As Logan and I proceeded to the study area he said, “I thought we might fly a little as it’s such a lovely day”. No such luck. So we decided to go ahead with our plan of studying in Ground School. Logan began with the different kinds of wings that exist in planes. I won’t repeat my entire Ground School here but just give you a quick rundown of what we covered today:

1. Wings Types

  • Swept Back – found in airline types of planes e.g. DC-10
  • Delta – E.g. Concord
  • Elliptical – Found in World War II propeller fighters e.g. Spitfires
  • Rectangular – This is a rectangular shaped wing with rounded corners. Found in our training planes e.g. Warrior, Archer, Cadet etc.

Next we discussed the Empennage and what it consists of:

  • Horizontal Stabilator
  • Vertical (Fin) Stabilizer
  • Trim Tab (Anti Servo Tab e.g. in Warrior)
  • Rudder
  • Static Wicks

The Anti Servo Tab is the Trim Tab in the Warrior and moves in the direction of the Stabilator. Why? To reduce over controlling by pilot inputs. The Trim Tab is set by the pilot and is stationary in the movement of the elevator. The horizontal stabilizer is the stationary part in the Cessna.

Logan and I went out on to the ramp and looked at some planes that belonged to transient pilots so that Logan could show me the differences in the Stabilator and the Stabilizer.

Next we discussed the Landing Gear types:

  • Tricycle – this is fixed gear found in training airplanes
  • Conventional i.e. Tail Dragger planes
  • Tandem – found in big airlines, transport type planes e.g. DC-10
  • Retractable – found in complex planes

Then came the types of Propellers:

  • Fixed Pitch – blade angle of the propeller is fixed for overall best efficiency for all phases of flight or whatever that plane is designed to do.
  • Ground Adjustable – found in very old planes perhaps from the 1920’s and 1930’s where the blade angle was manually adjusted.
  • Controllable Pitch (Variable Pitch Propeller) – There’s a propeller lever in-between the mixture and throttle that can adjust the propeller angle for what you want it to do e.g. to ascend or descend etc.
  • Constant Speed – The propeller blade angle changes to take better advantage of the power supplied by the engine.

Then Logan told me to get my POH (Pilot’s Operating Handbook for the Piper Warrior) out. We went through a couple of the pages in the beginning and then discussed the type of engine the Warrior has:

Engine Features:

  • 160 HP
  • 4 Cylinder / 4 Stroke
  • Direct Drive – Engine and propeller are directly linked via crank shaft of the engine
  • Horizontally Opposed – Engine is aligned horizontally to the longitudinal axis of the plane for easier cooling as the air flows over it.

That was pretty much my lesson for the day. I really enjoyed my class today because most of this information was new to me. Logan said that it should have been taught concurrently with flight instruction, but for some reason it wasn’t. Or he thought that maybe the instructors were going to teach it later as I got closer to my solo flight. I told Logan that he was a great teacher and that I was enjoying his style of teaching along with his approach toward his students with clarity and consistency. Logan was most pleased to hear this and said, “Hey please let me know if there’s anything I can do to make things easier, or if you would like me to do something differently. I’m open to criticism as each student is different and the same style of teaching doesn’t always work with all students as each learns at a different rate”. “I just did” I replied and Logan burst into laughter saying “That’s what I like to hear. Thanks man!” On Tuesday I have a flight class but for the next Ground School lesson I’m to review what I’ve learnt today and to read Sections 1, 2 and 7 of the POH. We then shook hands and I left for home.

On my way home I contemplated on what I learnt today and thought that I had had enough of flying but little theory to back it up. Logan said that this is perhaps why I had reached a plateau or wasn’t progressing anymore due to a lack of understanding. One thing he said struck me and that was, “I bet you have days when your performance is good and then there are those days that your performance is bad”. I agreed as this was absolutely true! Those readers who have been reading my posts will realize this. He said that this was due to a lack of understand as to the workings of the plane and why things happened in flight. I felt as if Logan had arrived at the right time to teach me and it reminded me of the Buddhist proverb, “When the student is ready, the teacher shall appear”. 😀

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