Vmc Practice

It was another beautiful day for flying. I had an early morning flight (9am), and it was cold. I knew there would likely be frost on the planes since there was frost on the ground, so I decided to delay my trip to the airport by an hour and just do some work in the practice area. Since it was so cold, I whimped out and took Aimee’s car.

I showed up at 10am. By then, the temperature had been well above freezing long enough to melt the frost, but there were 4 other pilots that had maneuvered their planes to face the sun and had clearly been out there for some time waiting for the frost to melt. There are other ways to force it off, but I guess they weren’t in a hurry. Since there was nothing but water on my plane, I did the normal preflight, wiped off the windshield and hopped in. I took a minute to find a good spot not near the 3M plant and Pittsboro to do some maneuvering. There appeared to be a good spot directly west near Goldston and the “brick kiln” that I don’t remember hanging around before.

I took off on runway 3 and headed directly west. I noticed on climbout that with my hands off the yoke, I was climbing very smoothly at exactly 65 knots (the suggested normal climb speed). The air was very stable and I happened to have the plane trimmed exactly as desired before takeoff. I don’t think that’s ever happened before.

Gene had suggested (and I had wanted to do this before anyway) that I practice Vmc (minimum control speed) flying. Vmc (sometimes referred to as “slow flight”, but is more specific since “slow” could be anything less than typical cruise speed) requires reducing power, extending flaps and adjusting trim to be able to fly straight and level at a speed just above a stall. Ideally, the stall buzzer would be sounding.

I climbed to 3,000 ft. as I headed west looking for the brick kiln. It wasn’t long before I spotted a parking lot sized area that appeared to be covered with stacks of bricks. “Well… that must be it.” I flew over to it, and just flew around the area for a minute to see what I could see. It was another incredibly clear day, so I could easily see the cooling tower, the 3M plant, Pittsboro and the Sanford airport. No worry of getting lost today.

After a clearing turn, I pulled carb heat on, reduced power, trimmed nose up, flaps down, and fiddled with trim and power to stabilize the plane. I started with 50 knots to stay well above stalling and just see what it would take to stabilize; I hadn’t done this in a while. It didn’t take much and the slow speed was quite relaxing. I enjoyed looking down and around an area I hadn’t seen much.

After a few minutes of that, adding in some slow turns, I decided to slow it down as much as I could without stalling. I reduced power even more and trimmed more nose up. The buzzer started sounding and the airspeed indicator was just below the white arc (the one that indicates when the plane should stall with full flaps). I could tell I was pushing the limits as the controls became less effective and the plane shuttered a little, but I was able to stabilize it at 2,900 ft. with the buzzer going and my hands off the yoke. I flew around a while like that and did some more shallow turns. I felt a stall coming a couple times, but it never did break. The stable air certainly made it easier.

“This is fun.”, I thought to myself. It was a nice change to practically hover over the countryside at less than 40mph and enjoy the view.

Since I got started late, I had to head back after about half an hour in the practice area. I headed straight for the 3M plant and then to the east to enter the pattern on the 45 for runway 3. I didn’t have time for landing practice; someone had the plane right after me at 11am, so I needed to get it back to the ramp by then. My one landing was pretty smooth, and taxi back was uneventful.

It was only 0.7 hours, but a very relaxing and enjoyable flight; well worth the trip. My next two lessons will be with Gene to work on soft and short field landings and takeoffs.