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Flying, Health, Puppy

Right, then…

Thought it was time to write a little bit about the flying lessons.

Today, like most weekends, I had a flying lesson.  Early in the process, my instructor focused on the basics:  Turning, altitude changes, taking off, etc…  Having gotten somewhat OK with those, we’ve spent the past 6 or so lessons focusing on landings.  Specifically, we’ve been doing touch and go’s while staying in the pattern.  My instructor stated that we’ll be spending lots of hours practicing these as a) they’re hard to master, and b) they’re a critical part of flying (take offs equal landings, and all…).

There’s a thing that is a little counterintuitive about this process.  Normally, we think that we control altitude changes by either pushing or pulling on the yoke, and we control the speed by working the throttle.  In fact, during most of normal flight, this remains true.  However, while landing, we’re in slow flight, which means that these actions are reversed:  The yoke controls the speed and the throttle controls the altitude.

Counterintuitive, but it does make sense.  If I want the plane to move faster, I point it towards the ground (push the yoke forward) and let gravity do the work.  If I want it to slow down, I point it towards the sky (pull the yoke back) and…well…let gravity do the work.

As for altitude, increasing prop speed (via engine speed) increases air flow over the wings, which creates lift, which then lifts the plane.  Slowing it down does the opposite.

It took me a while to process this, but I’m getting better and remembering which control to actuate when I want speed and/or altitude.  But it’s not that simple.

When landing, you are effectively flying the plane to the ground, leveling off just above the runway, and then pulling the nose up (flaring) to slow down the plane, which causes it to lower on to the main gear, and then touch down the nose wheel.  I’m struggling with the “flying the plane to the ground” portion.

Now, logically, I know that in order to land, I need to get…closer…to…the…ground.  But when I find myself on final approach, with speed maybe a bit too low, I point the nose down to increase speed.  I then incorrectly think that I’m too low, so I give it throttle to gain altitude…which gets me too high.  That, apparently is where I’m hosing thing’s up.  Part of this is my perception of how low I am, vs. how low I need to be, and part is my belief that I’m going too slow (65 Kts is fine, but always seems too slow for some reason).  Regardless, I find myself effectively pointing the plane at the ground while applying power which feels a lot like “Mother of God, I’m going to fly straight into the goddamn ground and they’ll be digging bits of me and airplane out of the goddamn marsh!”.   This feeling with followed by the thought “You’ve done some stupid shit in your life, but this one beats all.”

The good news is that the instructor feels that I am, in fact, improving and that I’m not, in fact, different than other students.  He thinks I have another 7 or so hours of flight before I can solo.  Absolutely terrifying.

One new thing today: I did some talking on the radio with ground control and the tower.  Listening to KPAO tower – or any one, for that matter – on Live ATC is intimidating, but I was told is that there’s only a limited number of things to say with a limited number of responses, generally.  So today I worked with ground to taxi to the run up area, then spoke to the tower to get clearance for takeoff.  While flying, my instructor worked the radio, as he feels (correctly) that it’s more important for me to learn how to fly the damn plane.

So I got that going for me, which is nice…

On the health front, I’ve been sick.  Started out as throat and nose, then descended to URI. So bicycling is out for a few days, which is a fucker as I’m trying to more consistently commute on the bike.  I even have a route mapped out from home to work.  Now, I wait.

Final thing:  Puppy.  It’s amazing how an 8 pound puppy can completely immobilize you.  All she has to do is lay on some part of me and I’ll be stuck for hours as I don’t want to disturb her.  It doesn’t help that she’s soft, either.

OK, enough of this…

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