This would be my 2nd flight with my new instructor Rob. As obvious by my last flight, and blog, I had a huge concerns. I needed Rob's help to rebuild my confidence, and help me enjoy the whole process again. No simple task, as I could tell Rob was certainly more of a by-the-book category. Still I was prepared to forge on...after all... I'm no quiter. The task today was to work on some slow flight, and ground reference manuevers.
I could tell Rob was in a fairly decent mood, and flight began rather pleasently. We headed out to the practice area, and did our clearing turns (always done before any major manuever). I wasn't really nervous, as I new the method and principles of slow flight. I'd done some in FSX and didn't seem that hard...boy would reality prove different. I begin slowing down, stage in the flaps at the appropriate airspeed points. I gaining altitude though, instead of holding, so I ease up on the stick. Soon I'm at 50k, and add in power to arrest the dropping airspeed. The AoA(Angle of Attack) seems so dramatic, just like stalls. In reality I know it's far less than perceived, but it's still an uncomfortable angle for me. The controls are super mushy, and the right rudder is already in a good bit. I couldn't seem to get the plane stabilized, as the buzzer goes off/on/off inconsistently. I'm loosing altitude, but a little more power and we're good. Barely stable now, Rob says to gently bank and give a turn to the N. It seems the plane barely turns at first, and then really starts moving...almost delayed. Maintaining coordination is still difficult for me, and the mushy feeling doesn't help. I miss my turn-out by 15 (overshot).
This, to this day, is one of THE hardest manuevers for me. More importantly though, while Rob rememded me of the PTS during the manuever, he didn't give me a hard time about it. He gave me a few worthwhile tips that really helped: As soon as your loosing altitude, give her more throttle, and use it to climb back. Also, use your side peripheral to keep the wings level. Don't focus too much on the turn&slip, but try and maintain heading by focusing on some distant object. (At the time I hadn't been taught nor allowed to use Trim, so I think that had to do with my stability issues too).
Ground Reference Manuevers:
"Ok, let's start some ground reference work." Rob called out. "Head to that water tower and decend to 900' ". I recalled all these manuevers were done between 600-1000'. The day had a good strong consistent 10k wind from the S, thus an excellent day for such things. (A Calm day wouldn't teach you much). We enter downwind into a square pattern above a farm road. This is much like being in a pattern/circuit. The difference was I could easily see how the wind was blowing me oblong. I was a little confused in my head when to use a more aggresive turn and when not to. A couple times around and I was keeping properly aligned. This was really cool, especially being crabbed into the wind, and yet moving straight on the ground track. There is so much more to think about when flying than driving a car on solid ashphalt...very overwhelming at first.
Next up we were going to do some S-Turns on a road reference. We found I-264 to be perfect given the winds of the day. This manuever, is now my favorite! Again you have to be carefull when, in reference to the wind, to be aggressive in your turn, and when to not be. Even more so as it's more of a gradual increase in bank, back to a more shallow bank, and switching directions. The switchback part, when going from hard right 45° bank to hard left 45°, is just plain fun. I was doing fairly well here, having my wings level right when crossing the road. I had a smile on face, and Rob wasn't saying much, just letting me fly. I was amazed at the effect of just 10k of wind had...it was a good lesson.
Finally we did some turns around a point. I found this to be the most difficult. My beginner mistake was trying to use the wing tip as reference to the water tower. As your bank changes as your going around, using the wing is wrong. Rob corrected me and indicated to just pay attention to the ground track and the distance from the tower. I had trouble maintaining my altitude however, as my focus was outside far too much, and I didn't realize I was descending. At 700ft, Rob took over and demonstrated it again. The second time I tried I did much better holding altitude, but a little worse on holding the circle as I encroached upon the tower too much. This was fairly tough, but I'm sure with practice, I'll get better.
We headed back, and I was feeling renewed in my quest, and my love for flying. My landings weren't the greatest, still flaring to high, to soon. It wasn't enough to discourage me, as the flight was fun and enlightening. It looks like Rob may be one of those "in between" instructors after all.