Yesterday I flew with Tyler for the second time.  When we finally landed back at Millard I was worn out, sweaty, and felt great!  We covered a lot of ground in an hour and a half — literally and figuratively.

After flying to the west practice area, we started with slow flight.  At 65 MPH he had me do turns — more than I had done before; we did 360 degree turns to the left and right.  The airplane is wallowing and barely flying at that speed, and getting it to do what you want is a real balancing act.  I’ve got a much better fell for it than I did before.

After slow flight we did power-off and power-on stalls.  I greatly improved my power-off stalls to the point where we lost very little altitude and stayed on heading, even after letting the stall break.  Power-on stalls are really a non-event.  Wait til you feel the buffet, then drop the nose…  duh.

Then it was on to steep turns; 360 degree turns left and right at 45 degree bank angles.  Again, not bad, after the first one I was able to hold altitude plus or minus 50 feet.  Then it was down to 2000′ MSL for ground reference maneuvers.  We started at 4500, so he had me do a forward slip to dump altitude.  NO problem there, John had me do a slip on every crosswind landing…  which is to say, every landing we ever did.  Full aileron, full opposite rudder, hold heading and sink like a rock.  Ground reference was not a problem with the very light wind, in fact it felt a little like cheating.  I want to practice in higher winds, but I hope it’s that calm for my checkride.

After turns around a point, rectangular course and S-turns, he told me to head back to Millard.  As we were climbing back to 3000 he reached over and pulled the throttle back to idle…  engine failure.  I didn’t need the checklist, but I could have picked a much better field (like one on our side of the river, and where I could land into what little wind there was).  Then it was back to the field for some pattern work and touch & gos.

All in all…  a lot of work, but a good flight.  I’m certain that if I had been able to fly with ONE instructor since I started, I’d have soloed by now.  Other than having a much better than average grasp on ATC communication, picking FNG as my flight school turned out to be a really bad idea.


A re-adjustment and re-start

Last week I showed up for my scheduled flying lesson with Flight! Nebraska Group.  My CFI wasn’t there, and I found out after making the drive down to Eppley that he wasn’t going to be able to make it that day – wasn’t feeling well.  Then the admin told me the really great news — the school was going bankrupt and closing its doors, as of the next day.  And of course I had only recently written them a check for a block of hours, so they still owe me several hundred dollars.

I’m now flying out of Millard with Pro-Flite.  My new CFI, Tyler , seems pretty good; we flew on Friday and I have more training time scheduled for this week.  I’m going to try to accelerate the training to finish up as soon as I can.  It was pretty windy and gusting the other day, which dind’t make for the best landings — but takeoffs were pretty good, and once I get used to the trim and throttle in the new plane I think I’ll be fine.


More landings (some happy)

Well, I managed to get through a lesson with the aircraft intact.  On Friday morning Jerome and I took my old reliable friend, N5533F, up to visit its sick sister at Blair.  We did several touch-n-gos.  I tried Jerome’s advice for flying the pattern…  100 MPH on downwind.  Abeam the touchdown point reduce power to 1800 RPM, one notch of flaps, one crank of up trim, 500 FPM descent, 90 MPH.  After the base turn, one notch of flaps, one more crank of up trim.  After the final turn, drop the last notch of flaps if needed, one more crank of trim, get on slope, cross the numbers at 85 and pull power back to idle.  It worked.  Landings were improving, but my TnG takeoffs were pretty gnarly.

This is where I really wish I had video in the cockpit.  As soon as the wheels touch my mind is trying to process the landing — but I’ve got only a couple of seconds to clean p the airplane (flaps UP, carb heat OFF, check gauges, fuel pump ON) then full throttle for the takeoff.  It would be nice to completely ignore the landing and focus on the takeoff.

Anyway, visibility was getting worse when we headed back to Eppley.  Jerome wasn’t sure if we’d even have a VFR approach, but as it turns out we did.  We got a left downwind for 32R, Tower cleared us to land, and I did a dead-on approach and a very nice landing — best of the day by far.  Either I figured something out or just got lucky, I don’t know, but it seems I usually land better at OMA than BTA.  Don’t know why.  I’ll have to explore that some.

So I’m working on brushing up my knowledge test stuff so i can get that out of the way.  I had hoped to have it done while John was out of town, but there are just too many other things to deal with.  I should be back up to speed before long, though.  And I’m approaching a tiny little milestone…  two more flights, and I get to total up and sign my first full logbook page.


I keep breaking airplanes…

Well, someone does anyway.  Today I flew with Jerome.  I preflighted N698FL, we had the tanks topped off and took off from Eppley headed for Blair.  I handled all of the radio calls, the only mis-step was when Departure told me “Own navigation, at or above 3500” and I responded “Own navigation, at or above three thousand five hundred, 8FL, good day”.  That last was a little premature, since he hadn’t told me radar service terminated, frequency change approved.  Not a big deal, he called a minute later to see if I was still on the frequency.  I was, having not switched to the Blair AWOS frequency yet – since he hadn’t told me I could yet.  Minor procedure thing, no biggie.

We did a T&G at Blair.  My pattern was “just OK”, not great, but I got it in.  I didn’t get the nose up enough in the flare and landed fairly smoothly but flat.  John would probably have been on the controls, but Jerome let me muff it so I knew what it would do.  Flaps up, full throttle, around again.  Second approach was too high and too fast, I did a go-around.  The third time I was long on the downwind and too low when I turned final, so I added power and basically flew it flat until I was in the right spot, then dropped some power and flaps.  I landed a little longer than I planned and was a little slow making the decision, so I didn’t think I had enough runway left to suit me.  No problem, taxi back and take off.  Well, on the way back — a 4200′ taxi — the nose wheel started to shimmy, badly.  Jerome tried a takeoff run but it was almost immediately apparent it was a no-go.  We parked, called the office and tied down the plane.  The front office girl was nice enough to come out and pick us up (thanks, Unique!) and get us back to Eppley.  From there I met Lisa at Stella’s for an incredible burger; if you haven’t eaten at Stella’s, you really need to.  It would be like living in Chicago and never eating at Portillo’s.  Then it was off  to Bellevue West for an AOPA safety seminar.

This makes three times I’ve left there with an airplane INOP for various reasons.  N698FL with nose gear issues all three times, plus N5533F with a broken pilot side yoke once – I found that on preflight.  I like the school, I like the people, but the maintenance issues are starting to wear a little.  Only .9 in the log book today.  On the bright side, we did have some time to talk while waiting on our ride back.  I think I have a better approach to try — no pun intended.  Jerome’s suggestion was to trim for a 500 FPM descent as soon as I reduce power and drop the first notch of flaps, and keep trimmed.  I’ve been needing a LOT of back pressure to flare.  I keep hearing that it shouldn’t take a lot of effort, but by the time I’m flaring I’m having to damn near lean back to get enough back pressure.  Next time I’m going to try doing a lot more trimming and see where that gets me.  Maybe I can reduce the workload in the pattern and concentrate more on watching the airspeed and turns.


Unusual attitudes

Today we covered a lot of new ground.  Working in the practice area west of Blair, we started out with emergency procedures and engine failure.  We had some good discussions about the flow of trying an engine restart and picking out a good field when there’s no flat spot within range.  I felt like I was well prepared.

After a few of simulated engine-out emergency landings (down to about 500′ AGL) we moved on to flight by reference to instruments.  John had me under the hood with my head down while he did some maneuvers, which got me closer to motion sickness than I’ve been in a long time.  I did some turns and level flight by instrument reference only…  and I have to admit, it was much more difficult than I expected it to be. Then we did a couple of unusual attitude recoveries, which pushed me closer to rendering the airplane incapable of ever being flown again (you DO NOT want to be anywhere near if I ever actually do puke, it’s a seismic event).  I’m going to have to be more prepared for the vertigo and motion sickness next time.

We ended up further north than we planned, and got a call from Omaha tower asking where we planned to go since we were getting close to the nuke plant…  not a good idea.  We headed back and did the x-wind landing, which was certainly not perfect but I’m getting closer to finding the groove.

We had fun taxiing both departing and arriving.  On the departure Ground cleared us to taxi via L2 and L, then cleared a Bonanza that had just landed to taxi to the FBO via…  L2.  I believe it was the second time I have been nose to nose with the same Bonanza, thankfully neither time were my fault.  Anyway, we both recognized what was going on, he held up, we made our turn and all was well.  On the return we were taxiing toward our tiedown spot, and realized that the Centurion parked up ahead — wasn’t parked, he had just stopped there for some reason.  He moved, I did a nice tight 270 turn to pull into a spot my CFI didn’t think I could make.

So my primary CFI is going to be gone again for 15 days, and I’ll be flying with another instructor.  I have every intention of being able to grease a crosswind  landing consistently by the time John returns, as well as having the PP knowledge test out of the way and the pre-solo written done.  My only complaint about John is that I feel like he gets on the controls a little too early and too often when he thinks I’m about to fluff a landing.  OK, I understand his desire to be able to fly the plane again…  but.  Today I began my transition later than usual, and I think I nailed that part pretty well.  In hindsight, yes, I stopped my xwind correction a little too early and we drifted left — but the flippin’ runway is 150′ wide!  And, yes, we did start to balloon a LITTLE bit.  Nowhere near as badly as we have before, and I saw it coming and lowered the nose…  but by then John was on the yoke and rudder pedals and had half a bushel of throttle in.  I honestly feel if I’d been left on my own we would have touched down more smoothly.  It wasn’t pretty, but I had it.

All in all, it was a lot of work today, a TON of learning, and a good end to the week.


More takeoffs and landings, yay!

Another day, another flight. Found a cracked control yoke on the first plane during preflight, so we took the other one. I’m either getting good at breaking stuff, or just getting good at finding broken stuff during preflight.

We did cross-wind takeoffs and landings and traffic pattern work. Lots of traffic pattern work, and I did all of the radio work with ATC and in the pattern at the uncontrolled field where we were practicing. My landings generally sucked… BUT… I still feel like I accomplished some things.

  • I recognized that I was way too close in on the first one, having made my 45 into the downwind leg a little late. Made a downwind-final 180, managed to get us lined up and landed. The landing was nothing to brag about, but salvaging the approach got me an “attaboy”.
  • I recognized, in plenty of time, that one was beyond saving. I was too high and too slow. Did a go-around… now if I can just remember not to pull those flaps ALL the way up in one shot. Oops. Lesson learned.
  • Figured out, I think, where and why my final was a little shallow. The last one was pretty good, right up to the flare (which still wasn’t horrible).
  • Got a LOT more comfortable with ATC and managing the frequencies. It’s nice to have two flip-flop COM radios, reduces the knob twisting somewhat.

I’m on the schedule again for tomorrow afternoon. We’ll see if I can slip out of work and do it or if I’ll have to reschedule. Right now my poor old brain feels like mush.  And a Cherokee does get bloody hot on the ground. But, we’ll be doing more stalls and doing emergency procedures, since I’ll need to cover that before solo. Oh, and I got my medical this morning — so I’m officially a “real” student pilot.

Crosswind landings

Today we only logged half an hour.  The plan was to stay in the pattern and do a few touch & gos, with me doing all of the radio work.  The first takeoff was OK; I got clearance and taxi instructions, contacted tower, we lined up and off we went — slight crosswind from the right on runway 14L.  We made one circuit and did a t&g on 14L, my first one — no sweat.

So we went around, got lined up, we were over the numbers when John said we were going to go around (just so I’d know how).  Full throttle, carb heat off, positive climb, flaps up.  No sweat, climb back up and make the left turn for crosswind and downwind.  We were on the downwind leg when Tower said to keep it close in, there was a Citation on 4 mile final and we were #1.  Or were we #2?  We called back and asked…  “33F, you were #1 but that’s not going to work.  Turn left and cross mid-field, enter right downwind for 14L.”  OK, fine…  no problem. It felt a little odd overflying the airport at midfield, and a right-hand pattern was new for me.  Gotta work to get a view of the runway on that base turn!  Now I know how Cessna pilots feel.  It was also a little weird flying past 14R to get to 14L.

By this time the wind had shifted and picked up significantly. We’d make one last landing, full stop, and call it a day. Now the wind was 20K or more from 180, and we’re still using 14L. I had the right wing low, plenty of left rudder… John doesn’t like to just crab in for a crosswind landing; he wants to see a slip. His way of thinking is, you can crab in when there’s too much crosswind for the airplane to safely land. If you’re carrying a whole lot of rudder and aileron and are still getting blown off the centerline, well, maybe you shouldn’t land. I can see his point. Anyway, I was doing pretty well… using the PAPI lights, keeping the nose down, staying lined up as much as I could. Crossed the numbers still carrying a lot of power, or so I thought. I started to flare a little high (as I often do, I’m working on that) and made the mistake of pulling power back a couple hundred RPM. We ballooned, I didn’t get on the throttle fast enough, John took it and got us on the ground with only a minor thump. I was actually just starting to shove the throttle in and was going to go around when he said, “My airplane”.

I know what I did wrong, and I know the only way to avoid it is practice.  I need a lot more practice landing.  Still, the plane — and I — will fly again.



Ground reference maneuvers

Today I flew with a new CFI, since John is still out of town for a couple days yet.  Jerome and I had to wait a while for the plane to return, during which time Jerome explained the ground reference maneuvers we’d be doing.  Jerome handled radios today, which was a bit of a relief.  I hadn’t been up in over 2 weeks, and I was definitely feeling it.

After a smooth takeoff on 32R we turned east toward the practice area past Traynor, IA.  Jerome demonstrated each of the maneuvers, then I tried my hand at them.  Pretty sloppy on the first couple attempts!  I was losing altitude (at times 300′ or more) and getting blown off center badly.  Once I got the airplane properly trimmed and set up, though, and figured out what I was doing wrong, I got a lot better.  The last pylon figure 8 was not too terrible — I was only off by about a hundred yards or so at the end, and we did have some winds to deal with.  By the time we were ready to head back I was feelign much more confident — and was also maintaining altitude within 50′ all the way around.

The plane has a non moving map GPS, so Jerome showed me how to use it to get the heading and distance back home.  We were cleared direct and did a straight in approach, something new for me.  I have to say that, aside from drifting off to the right of the center line, it was my best landing yet — I greased it in nice and smooth with the stall horn sounding the alarm the last foot or so, and got slowed down quickly enough to make the first taxiway.  All in all a very productive flight.


Another one in the logbook

Today’s flight was again in the slightly newer Cherokee Flight Liner. This time John sent me out to do the preflight, which was uneventful other than a couple of minor issues. The nose gear strut was low again, and we have a stall warning light but no horn. I tried out my new kneeboard and a nice little communication sheet (from Sporty’s) that helps me remember all of the clearance, ground, towe, and departure/approach stuff. I did all of the radio work during taxi & takeoff, and did it reasonably well. We took off from a different direction this time — 32R instead of 14L. Climb and departure were smooth and uneventful.

We did slow flight; I made a smooth 360 turn at MCAS with the stall warning light nagging at me the whole way around. Altitude hold wasn’t perfect, but I did’t lose more than about 150 feet. From there we did power on and power off stalls, then headed to BTA (using the sectional to determine pattern altitude and CTAF) for some T&G. Or we would have, except that it was getting late and someone had the plane scheduled, so after one landing we high-tailed it back to OMA. ATC had us do some maneuvering to stay out of the way of departing and arriving traffic, and I got a little turned around and had to think hard about which way we were heading and which way the runway ran. We covered that with the sectional after we lended. John handled the radios on the way in while I flew, and while I wouldn’t call the landing a “greaser” it was a lot better than the rather abrupt flop I had subjected the poor plane to at BTA a few minutes earlier.

All in all I felt a lot more at ease during most phases of the flight than ever. My takeoffs are a lot better, with almost no wandering off the centerline. I’ll need some more practice with stalls just to make the recovery smooth and automatic. Landings are getting better, I just need to work on timing the flare better. The first landing today was a little abrupt, I flared too early and dropped in from a foot or so up. Hey, maybe I can get the main gear struts to match the nose. But I was happy that coming into OMA I was able to make corections to get and keep us on the glide path, while staying aligned with the runway centerline.

Another training flight, and my first landings!

We flew again today. When we got to the plane we had scheduled, N5533F I got the checklist and started the preflight. #1… Master switch ON. Oops. The last person to fly it had left the master on, and the plane was stone dead. Not wanting to hand prop it (no way I’m doing it) we grabbed another Cherokee 140, N698FL that the chief pilot was about to fly to North Omaha (3NO) for some maintenance on the front gear. All good on preflight and runup, I made tha radio calls to Clearance, Ground & Tower (poorly). I made a good takeoff and we turned North.

John told me he would make the landing at 3NO, because the runway is short, narrow and has trees pretty close in. After getting air added to the front strut I taxied back down and did a short field takeoff. The hop to Blair (BTA) only took a few minutes. We crossed midfield and I made my FIRST EVER landing — woohoo! It was actually pretty good, and I remembered to raise the flaps before using the brakes (no toe brakes in this bird). We did three more normal takeoffs and landings. There was a light crosswind, so I was slipping in with right aileron and left rudder.

By the time we did our last takeoff the sun was going down, we couldn’t get the panel lights on and John’s headset was not working, so we headed back to OMA. I made a halfway decent landing on 14L and we taxied back. So, I went from zero to four unassisted landings, did some radio work, a short field takeoff, pattern flying and gained a ton of confidence.

At one point on my last flight I was wondering if I had made a mistake, and if I’d be able to do this thing I’ve dreamed of since I can remember. After today there is no doubt in my mind. I can, I will, and it’s just going to get better. Now I need to practice comms and memorize checklists. John wants me to do the flows from memory and just use the checklist to verify.