A Real Horizon

The weather could not have been better today. It was a little under 70 deg. at 7:30am and the forecast was for a clear day with a high in the low 80s.

Since it was so nice, I decided to ride my motorcycle for the first time to one of my lessons. I actually got a little cold, even with my overpants and jacket, but it was an enjoyable, uneventful trip. I was the first one to arrive, so I parked and went in to gear down and get started on the preflight. Before I finished gearing down, though, Gene showed up, so we started talking about some things.

At the end of the last session we started forward and side slips (I think I forgot to mention that), but I didn’t understand the difference and I didn’t understand what purpose they each served. We sat down inside with a little wooden plane to go over it. I guess I could’ve looked it up before class as the above link to Wikipedia has a pretty good explanation of them both.

With that knowledge, we went through the usual preflight to takeoff sequence. I had a much better liftoff, but over the first 1000 feet of climb I drifted a bit to the right. We headed to the far west side of the practice area. I noticed immediately that visibility was incredible. Gene said approximately 60 miles. I know I could see downtown Greensboro and the mountains in the distance to the west. The mountains weren’t real clear, but were well-defined. Visibility was that good all the way around, so there was a lot to see in all directions. It’s amazing how fairly flat and green this area of the state is; trees, trees everywhere as far as we could see.

After getting over the distraction of the scenery, we did a few clearing turns — 30 deg. bank, 90 deg. turn one way, then an immediate 30 deg. bank, 90 deg. turn the other way, in order to make sure there was no traffic all around us. After clearing the area, I worked on 45 deg. bank turns. It felt pretty steep and required a lot more back pressure to keep from losing altitude, but it wasn’t especially difficult. The well-defined horizon helped a lot as I could easily see where I needed to keep the nose. The goal was to do a 360, so we picked a landmark (downtown Greensboro came in handy), started the turn, and about 10 deg. before seeing Greensboro again, started to level out. I did ok; missed it a little because I was busy paying attention to all the controls trying to keep the bank angle and altitude, and because I forgot which cluster of buildings was Greensboro.

We spent a little more time on that, then a few cruise to slow to cruise speed exercises, then proceeded to work on the slips. We slowed down to final approach speed (about 65-70 knots) at 3,000 feet and picked a road to line up the nose. Starting with the side slip, which is the one used for crosswind landings, I had to tip the wing and use opposite rudder just enough to keep the nose lined up. Because there was no crosswind, however, the plane drifted to the side (as expected), with the nose remaining parallel to the road. I quickly discovered just how much of an effect the rudder has on the attitude of the plane. A little rudder input goes a long way. At one point I used a fully deflected rudder and additional aileron to create an interesting attitude; think facing straight ahead, walking toward 10 o’clock while leaning toward 10 o’clock (with a crosswind, however, the wind would make you walk straight ahead). All of this, by the way, was done while descending (as would be done during the landing approach). We quickly hit 2,000 feet, so we had to climb up before trying again.

After a few more sideslips, we proceeded to the front slip. We picked the 3M plant as the point of reference. The goal was to head in that direction with the nose pointed to the side. The combination of control input is the same as the sideslip, it just requires a slightly different ratio of aileron to rudder. It wasn’t too difficult, but again a very funky attitude; this time, think facing 10 o’clock, but leaning and walking 12 o’clock. We were able to descend pretty quickly without picking up airspeed. A couple more of those and it was time to head back. Time flies when you’re… haha.

I handled the usual downwind, base, and turn to final pretty well, but actual landings are yet to come. I need to do some stalling exercises, simulated emergency maneuvers and simulated pattern/landings before I can actually put the thing on the ground myself.

The landing and taxi back was uneventful and the day was done. Only 1.0 hours in the air for a two hour session, which brings me to 6.7 hours total, about 1/10 the average for completing private pilot training, so I have a lot more to go.