Flight Lesson 10: Steep turns and spirals, oh my!

Aug 16, 2008

Today I had my tenth flight lesson at Peninsulair in which I got to practice steep turns and recovering from spiral dives. Our plane today was FTDS which is really nice because the trim is in the ceiling. Here’s FTDS, click the image for the bigger version:

Steep Turns

A steep turn is a turn made at a 45° bank angle. It sounds simple enough, but in practice it’s a bit tougher. As the plane goes through 30°, the lift provided by the wings decreases significantly. Also, there is a high G load on the plane so an extra 200-300 RPM is required to maintain altitude. Here’s a short video to give you an idea of what a steep turn looks like.

I had no problem turning to the right, but when it came to left turns I couldn’t help but look down towards the ground. This allowed the nose to drop and in thus we lost altitude. After a few more turns I got the hang of it…and then it happened:

As I was recovering, my instructor, Kenny, and I noticed a plane at our 11 o’clock high; I would say he was less than 500 ft above us. He didn’t broadcast on the en-route frequency (126.70 MHz) so we had NO idea he was there. After we had him in sight, Kenny broadcasted (for the third time in 30 minutes):

Hamilton air traffic, Cherokee FTDS is West of Nanticoke at 4,000 doing upper air work between 4,000 and 2,000. All conflicting traffic please advise TDS.

And we heard nothing. I doubt the other plane was even tuned to the en-route frequency. It was a pretty close call.

Spiral Dives

A spiral is a spin (haven’t done one of those yet) where the airspeed increases (in a spin, the airplane is usually stalled to some degree). I didn’t practice getting into a spiral (since you don’t want to do it normally) but I did get a chance to practice a couple of recoveries.

To recover from a spiral dive:

  1. Throttle to idle.
  2. Gently level the wings with the ailerons.
  3. Slowly pull the nose up to cruise attitude.
  4. Allow airspeed to drop to cruise and restore power.

You really get to feel the G load in a spiral dive. When my instructor demonstrated it, I wanted to see how heavy my hand would feel and wow! It took about 3-4 times the regular strength so we were pulling about 4 Gs or so. It was quite amazing!

Apart from the lesson another great highlight was seeing the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum planes in action. The Avro Lancaster bomber was out and about (click the image for the gallery from the CWHM:
Avro Lancaster bomber
As was the Boeing Stearman PT-27 Kadet:
Stearman Kadet with the Lancaster in the background

All in all it was a good day to fly. I also got a few shots of the Cargojet Boeing 757:
Boeing 757
I’ve also set up a Flickr set with pictures from Hamilton International, check it out!

Flight Lesson 2

Jul 10, 2008

Straight and Level flight

Tuesday was my second flight lesson which consisted of getting the plane into and maintaining straight and level flight. The straight part means keeping a constant heading, while the level refers to maintaining a constant altitude. While the weather wasn’t exactly great at the time of my flight, I was still able to rack up 0.7 hours of flight time.

The Ground Briefing

In the classroom, Bob covered the basics of this exercise. In the Piper Cherokees that we use:

  • 2300 – 2400 RPM should give about 100 kts which is the airspeed the plane should be at in the cruise attitude
  • a change of 100 RPM should give roughly a 5 kt change in the airspeed

When increasing the power, you should expect:

  • the plane to yaw left, therefore apply right rudder
  • the nose to pitch up, therefore push the control column forward

When decreasing the power, the opposites held true.

We covered compass problems such as the northerly magnetic dip and the precession issues of gyroscopic instruments such as the heading indicator which would be used in the plane to keep me on a straight course.

Heading Indicator

The Flight

I headed out and did the walk around by myself and as I was finishing up, Bob showed up and we got the show on the road…err well in the air. Rain started coming down as we taxied from the apron to the runway and it was quite difficult to see. Not having any windshield wipers we resorted to running the propeller at a high rate to push the water off the windscreen.

We took off and runway 30 and kept runway heading for a bit while at the same time we tried to stay away from clouds. At about 2,000′ Bob gave me control of the aircraft and I had to keep us straight and level. The air was pretty turbulent and visibility was very poor from up there. It was very difficult to distinguish a natural horizon among the fog so I relied on my instruments more than I would normally. We flew around staying away from clouds then returned back to the airport. It was a short flight but I definitely think I’ve gotten the hang of it (if my Flight Simulator skills are anything to go by, I’ve learned a lot so far).

Total flight hours so far: 2.1

Flight Lesson 1

Jul 5, 2008

Attitudes and Movements + Taxiing and miscellaneous tidbits

After a first, introductory flight at the end of May (which you can read about here) I finally had the right weather for my first actual flight lesson. The wind was calm, temperature around 24 degrees Celsius and clouds were nowhere in sight for the most part and I could not wait to get behind the control column. Before that could happen though, a ground briefing was necessary.

The Ground Briefing

My instructor Bob and I spent some time in the classroom before heading out to the plane. In this hour and a half we reviewed the basic principles of flight (how the wings create lift, etc.). Also what the different attitudes the airplane can be in are (nose up, cruise, nose down) and how the stabilator (or in the case of other planes, the elevator) influences them.

Other things covered included: the use of the rudder for yaw, proper taxiing procedures in wind, using the natural horizon for level flight, how each of the control surfaces affect the pitch, roll and yaw of the plane, etc. This was all a review of material from ground school, however since I was going to get to practice it right after the lesson it seemed so strange and new that I was happy we covered it all.

Once we were finished in the classroom, Bob handed me a list of checklists I will be using from now on. It came in this neat little Peninsulair-branded spiral notebook with a CYHM airport diagram printed on the back.

The Flight

Before I even got into the plane, I completed a full walk around of the Piper. Today’s plane du jour was C-GQEQ, shown below.

The walk around consists of a few steps such as:

  • checking the fuel level and quality in each tank
  • checking the range of motion of the control surfaces
  • checking the the brakes and landing gears
  • visually inspecting the fuselage

After this I climbed in the cockpit and pulled out the checklist pad for the pre-engine start up checklist. As the engine fired up, so did my excitement. I was looking forward to leaving the ground, but first there were a few more checks to run.

We received clearance to the active runway which was 06, so we proceeded to the apron where Bob walked me through the run up. Taking off was quick and painless: full throttle, rotate at 55 kts.

We headed northeast for a bit then turned to heading 210 and went over the Toronto Motorsports Park (which is actually in Cayuga, not very near Toronto). There were a few cars going through the circuit so we went lower to get a better look. We then turned towards Lake Erie and went into the training area for me to practice staying level and maintaining altitude by just looking outside the airplane.

Bob also demonstrated some things which will be covered in future lessons such as turning, climbs and descents along with entering a spin. I returned the plane to cruise attitude and we headed back to the airport. All in all my flight path looked something like:

Lesson 1 flight path

(The training area may not be exact so don't take this as written in stone)

The flight was over very quickly, too quickly. I don’t think I will ever get enough of being in the air and I cannot wait until Tuesday when my next lesson is scheduled for, weather permitting.

I am hoping to be able to fly 2 or 3 times per week, more if possible, and this should allow me to get my license before the end of the year. Before that though, I am 0.9 hours closer to soloing!