Saturday, February 16, 2008

2nd Flight - Avionics & Night Time Fun!

As obvious by my first flight experience, and so many others before me, I am hooked! "So *salesman tone* shall we sign you up for Part 141 flight school?" Jeff inquired. I didn't need to answer, the smile on my face was response enough. ( Info: Part 141 is relatively new, highly structured, & accelerated training program, only needing 35 total hours).

I grabbed the student headset, and we walked out to the plane. It's sitting next to a 1974 Cessna 152, the DA-20 C1 looks quite modern. If it weren't for the fact that the FBO is converting their entire fleet to Diamonds, I'd probably fly the Cessna. The diamond is also ~110$/hr, the 152 is ~60$/hr. Still, I tend to fear the nature of carburated engines, and prefer the fuel injected systems. While not totally immune to icing, it's much less likely. Plus, anything less to do in the pattern, IMHO, is a good thing.

Today's flight was to be another new set of experiences. The sun was already setting when we completed the preflight (still being assisted by Jeff at this point). We hop inside and after the engine is running Jeff starts going over the avionics in more detail with me. As one can see in the picture, it's allot of ominous equipment. Getting one's mind around them was today's humbling experience! There's the; Bendix comm stack, including the VOR equipment, GPS unit, Tranceiver, and internal communication panel.

The Comm Panel:
I learned to enter the CTAF frequency in (122.8 for KPGV area), and AWOS (128.425), and switch back and forth. When it came to entering the AWOS number I was really confused..."where is the 3rd decimal?" Oddly enough at the time, you just have to enter 128.42, and it asumes it's .425. This is likely due to assigned freqs being seperated in .025 increments. AWOS gives you updated wheather info, the altimeter setting, wind direction & intensity etc. Jeff showed me how to set the Altimeter correctly...sure enough, it read ~ 20' elevation. Pretty darn close to the 26' actual elevation.

Setting the GPS:
The GPS unit in the plane is very simple with a monochromatic display. It's good enough for relavent position and speed information. It was fairely easy to get going...simply enter in the altimeter setting, hit enter a couple of times, and your done. He showed me (to my dimise in a later lesson), how to use the "nearest" function. This was very handy, as within one button click, all the nearby airports are listed. The CFI said we'd play with the VOR and GPS at a later time.

After rolling out to the runway (R26), I got the chance to feel out maneuvering on the ground more, and got more practice using differential braking. I'm maintaining the yellow taxi line better. I look out and notice the beautifull blue omni-directional taxiway lights. The lights had come up in flash after Jeff key'd the mic several times. Suddenly I remember reading about that. As PGV is a public, non-towered, class E airport...the pilots have control of the lighting and it's intensity.

We do our usual run-up and call in our departure. We roll out, and this time continue the throttle forward and shortly thereafter, my 7th T/O. My instructor starts teaching me the visuals of Angle of Attack vs. the horizon for the climb-out. He indicated that I should keep the horizon just 1" above the nose. For me, even with just FSX experience, seems to be low... We're doing about 80knots on the climb. I find the visual works well, and I don't have to keep my eye on the attitude indicator nearly as much. Jeff noted he prefers this rate as it allows you to see things in front of you better, to avoid traffic issues, etc. (NOTE: As I would find out, this is one of the first things I was taught WRONG!)

Straight & Level Flight:
We climb out and begin our turn left crosswind, and with the wing down I look upon the town with it's lights, and it's breathtaking. "Maintain altitude of 1100' " he notes. While coming up on 1100, I pulled the power back and overshoot, stabilizing around 1200'. "Get me back down to 1100, and remember Pitch + Power = Performance". Ahh the three P's. While I thought I understood this at the time, I realize now I didn't really REALLY understand it. As a beginner student, you want to control airspeed with throttle, and altitude with attitude/pitch. While they are always inter-related, you end up learning the correct method is just the opposite. Use angle of attack to control airspeed, and power to control altitude.

Flaps, an awkward feeling:
The first flight my instructor had us landing with partial flaps, which he controlled. This time, on left downwind, he instructed me to put in T/O (15deg) of flaps after slowing to 100k. You could really feel it when the flaps moved into place. An experienced pilot would expect this and compensate immediatly so you wouldn't even know, but that I am not! I get the decent started, but I'm not good at keeping the rate stable on the VSI (Verticle speed indicator). "You want to be 80k at 800' " Jeff noted. At 800 I turn left base for runway 26. I see I'm just a little high on the glideslope, but should be perfect when I hit final. Next I'm about 550' and I turn onto final. Jeff insists on making all final radio calls to allow me to concentrate on flying the airplane. "Time for full flaps" Jeff smiles. As I do so, the additional 30 Deg of flaps really nose up the plane! I had to really get forward on the stick to keep the decent continuing. It feels SO wrong at first, as your angle to the runway is steeper, yet your not really picking up speed (which is the whole point). The rabbit lights are sequencing through, and for the first time I felt like a real pilot! He gives me the cues to round out, and again, the 'ol "we're not gonna land" trick and moments later with Jeff's help on the rudder, we've successfully met terra firma again.

We continued working in the pattern, maintaining 1100', and being more predictive with corrections while adding flaps. All the while full night had set in, and I realized, I LOVE flying at night!!

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