Archive for April, 2004


29 April 2004 at 5:51 pm
by Berck

I’m done with my private ground school class. This is good, since I doubt I would be able to stay awake if I had to go to class after getting up at 4:30am tomorrow to take Joanna to the airport. Dale finished up talking about Stability today, which is what he started talking about the day I started. So now I just have to concentrate on the flying until I get enough flight time and skills in order to pass a checkride.

D. and I stood outside and talked awhile, and I figured we probably wouldn’t fly. But, I got the weather and the sky was 2700 broken, winds were 15 knots gusting to 21. Below the 25max allowable for privates. D. left it up to me, so I elected to do some pattern work. I executed three fairly decent and one pathetic touch and go. I was getting tired, so I told the tower the next one was going to be a full stop. The winds had picked up a bit, and we were getting knocked around a good bit. D. mentioned that he hadn’t landed a plane in something like a month, not counting his salvage of my landing the other day. I went ahead and let him land the last one, and sat back. I figured it would be a good chance to watch a good landing. D. didn’t do such a good job and we came in way low, skimming across the grass, and then wound up fast at touch down. It was still good to sit back, my feet on the floor, and let someone else fly for a couple of minutes.

Basically, the goal now is just to get me proficient enough, particularly at landing, that I can solo. I don’t feel at all ready yet, but I’m starting to see that maybe it won’t take the 100 hours I was sure it was going to take when I started. D. said he thinks I’m a lot more ready than I think I am. I’ve got just over 10 hours of flight time, and D. said students are usually ready to solo around 15. I’ll probably be a little over that number before I feel comfortable enough, but we’ll see. Basically, I just don’t feel as comfortable at being able to make the plane do exactly what I want yet. But I’ll get there.

good day for flying

27 April 2004 at 10:03 pm
by Berck

It was a good day for flying today, I like flying later in the evening; it was about 7pm by the time we were ready to takeoff today. Since it was later, Joanna was at home when I left to go fly. She asked if she could listen to ATC, so I turned it on for her before I left. D. had me practice slow flight, right at MCA or, minimum controllable airspeed. MCA is defined as that speed at which any increase in angle of attack or decrease in airspeed will result in a stall. It’s really good practice, and I’m getting better and better at it. It’s really hard, though, when you get behind the airplane. If you start losing altitude but you’re maintaining your airspeed and pitch, all you can do is add power. If you’ve got 30 degrees of flaps out, you can run out of power trying to maintain level flight. When I say level flight, I mean that I’m maintaining altitude, but the airplane is hardly level. You sit back with 10-20 degrees pitch up, mushing along. If I manage to get well configured, it’s usually not too bad to then do some turns, but it’s really hard, because as you turn, you lose altitude. Normally, you’d pitch up a little to do that, but you can’t if you’re at MCA. So, in a turn, you have to add a little power to maintain altitude.

After a few minutes of that, I did a couple power off stalls, then we did a couple power off stalls with a little bank. No big deal, just need some more rudder correction after it breaks. Then we did power ON stalls with 10 degrees of bank. I knew the plane was going to break harder, but wasn’t really prepared for just how much harder. I put in 10 degrees of right bank as I approached a stall with full power. Stall warning, a little buffet, and then WHAM, the plane stalled, left wing first. In less than a second, that 10 degrees of right bank was long forgotten as the left wing dropped out of the sky. I was a little late getting right rudder in there, and next thing I knew I was looking at a horizon that was dead vertical across the windshield. I was dropping out of the sky sideways. It took all of my concentration to fight my natural inclination– to apply right aileron which will do nothing but make things worse, eventually putting us into a spin. I timidly started applying right rudder and looked at D., who appeared to be enjoying my dismay. After a few seconds, he applied full right rudder and the plane righted itself nicely. Wow. I did a few more, and managed to recover in less than 100 feet, which is all that’s needed to pass a checkride. It’s fun because you know that one wing is going to drop off a lot more than the other, but there’s really no telling which one will drop off first. If you’re in a climb, the outside wing will stall first, and if you’re in a descent the right wing will stall first But if you’re not established in a climb or descent, it’s hard to tell which is going to stall first.

After the stalls and slow flight, I practiced some steep turns, then we flew back to Norman to do some touch and go’s. The first two were really pretty good. I was actually surprised as the plane touched down that I wasn’t skidding or bouncing or anything too badly. They weren’t beautiful landings, but they were good enough to pass a checkride. The last landing was to be a full stop. A little bit of crosswind, and I was slightly destabilized on the approach, first high, then a little low, but I thought it was all going to be good. I entered the level off a wee bit high, then pulled back too hard trying to flare and the plane started ballooning upward. I immediately corrected with a little power and slowly pitched down like I was supposed to, then did the same thing this time going quite a bit higher than I should have. As the plane started back down, it didn’t look all that bad to me, but D. stated rather emphatically, “My airplane.” I let go of everything and sat back and watched. My first thought was, “Huh, it’s not all that bad.” Then I realized that we were high, slow and sinking FAST. D. applied full power immediately, and I thought he was going to go around. When I realized a couple of seconds later that he wasn’t going to go around, I wondered why not because it started looking really bad really quickly. In no time, we were crabbing, had a hefty bank angle, were getting blown off the runway, sinking fast, and power was all the way in. D. pulled off quite a save, slowed the descent, got us going down the runway, pulled the power and landed. As we turned off the runway, the controller said, “Niner Four Alpha Victor, you got my heart pumping real good with that one!” I told him my instructor wasn’t doing much better. D. did, in fact, look like someone had just tried to kill him.

Overall, it was a great lesson, I learned a lot, and a little excitement at the end when I know I’ve got someone to get me out of trouble is always nice:)

Breaking the sound barrier

27 April 2004 at 8:02 pm
by Jonah

I’m listening to Berck fly.

You can too here. I don’t get to hear him very often because he’s usually flying while I’m working. But today he flew at 6:30 p.m. after he picked me up for work.

The air traffic controller in the tower tonight sounds like quite a character. You’re not supposed to chit-chat on the radio, but he’s been flirting with the girls and admonishing the guys up in the air tonight. All within the bounds of what he’s supposed to be saying, of course. I can’t understand a lot of what anyone says…it’s too fuzzy and distorted or quiet. And even when I CAN make out what they’re saying, I still have no idea what it means. It’s an endless combination of numbers and letters and plane types, with some recognizable phrases like “Cleared to land” and “Request touch and go.”

Even as hard it is to make out anything, I can still recognize Berck’s voice, even before he identifies himself as (some number) Alpha Victor. I didn’t hear much of him tonight, just requesting to land. The tower seemed to have some snide remark after he landed, but I couldn’t make out it or Berck’s response. I think he was commenting on how bad Berck’s landing was. I’ll have to ask Berck when he gets home.

Landing is Hard

24 April 2004 at 11:13 pm
by Berck

Landing is hard. At least, landing both safely and comfortably. It’s relatively easy to muscle a Cessna 172 on the ground in most any attitude and get it stopped, particularly on a 5000 foot runway, which is about 3500 more than I would need if I were any good.

D. rang up this afternoon and said, “We’ve got ceilings around 3,000 feet, let’s go do some pattern work.” It was pretty marginal VFR, but just fine for flying the pattern. If it deteriorates while you’re flying circles around the airport, it’s hard for much to go bad. I had to file a VFR flight plan by school rules since there was no dispatcher. It was pretty easy, I just hadn’t done it before. After taking off, we did somewhere between 8-10 touch and go’s, although we realized we’d both lost count when it came time to fill out my log book.

It was good. My imperfect patten flying resulted in all kinds of different approaches: slow, fast, low, high, and D. didn’t touch the controls after the first one, which means I wasn’t doing too badly. I think it was the second or third landing that was the worst. I came in fast and flared high, and D. just sat back and watched me drop the plane like a brick from at least 5 feet over the runway, about midfield. I made all the radio calls, and I’m sure the controller got some good amusement watching me land poorly. At one point there was another airman student with a really, really thick Middle eastern accent. The controller answered one of the guy’s calls, slightly mocking his accent. I gained 200 feet on the downwind because I was laughing so hard. I think his instructor decided to take him out of the pattern after the controller said, “Nine One Echo, you really need to make your turns closer to the airport, you’re way off the pattern.” I looked, and he seemed to be at LEAST 3 miles downwind past where he ought to have turned base. He didn’t re-enter the pattern.

One landing, although far from perfect, was at least acceptable. D. started being rather loud, which is out of character for him, “Yeah, that was it, just like that!!!” I did another three landings today, and none of them were quite that good. But I’ve got a pretty solid feel for what they ought to be like now. Another 100-200 of them, and I might have it down.

I keep forgetting to hold the nose off the ground. I’m so excited to have gotten the mains on the ground, I just keep letting the nose drop. And I’m having a hard time maintaining runway heading after takeoff with a crosswind. But I’ll get better, I just need lots more practice.

Which seems impossible to get. The weather’s been crap. It’s either too windy, too cloudy, too foggy or too thunderstormy.

Ground school is about to wrap past the point where I started, so hopefully I’ll get to stop going soon. This is good, because the interesting half seemed to be the half I already sat through.


24 April 2004 at 2:00 pm
by Jonah

My speed for pulling this week was 92%, and that’s not adjusted for taking our breaks at weird times one day (which cut my percentages in half for a few of my runs). My very last run on Friday I pulled 254 pieces in an hour in a department where the minimum standard is 220!

I think we’re getting used to having to wake up at 6:45 each morning, for me to drive to work and for Berck to bicycle to class. The bike shop is tuning his bike this week, so on Monday and Tuesday, I guess he’ll have to drop me off and pick me up from work. It’s half an hour’s drive to the warehouse, so he’ll have to drive for two hours each day doing that. Yesterday it was raining, so I dropped him off at ground school early and then picked him up (I get off at 1 pm on Fridays). He can’t fly in the rain yet.

We got a copy of Microsoft Flight Simulator for Berck to practice on, and he’s been flying it pretty continually. It’s so detailed that it has nearly the exact plane he flies AND it has Norman’s airport. And you can even set it up for realtime daylight/night conditions and let it check the weather online and give you realtime weather conditions. And when he gets bored with that, he can switch to a biplane or a Boeing 777. Earlier today he was landing a pontoon plane on an Alaskan lake. His instructors say that Flight Simulator is one of the best ways to practice when he can’t actually be in a plane. Some flight schools even hook up some buttons and use it as their official simulator.

Today I went to the Norman farmer’s market (it’s Saturday mornings from 8 to 12) and got some fresh spinach and asparagus. I also got some potted herbs: English thyme, rosemary, parsley, hot oregano, and spicy and sweet basil. We’ll plant them in a planter on the patio…hopefully before a kid walks off with one.

I was craving some chocolate yesterday afternoon, so I made a recipe called something like “Chocolate Fragments.” You bake a layer of cookie in a pan and then cover it with melted chocolate. I started on the chocolate part while the cookie was baking, but by then I realized I was supposed to melt sweetened chocolate squares, and I didn’t have any. So I melted butter and cocoa and sugar instead. I didn’t know how much sugar to add, so I put in as much as the cocoa. This made the chocolate bittersweet (more bitter than sweet), but that’s exactly how I like it. I poured the concoction over the cookie and put in the freezer as directed. It didn’t harden, of course, because I didn’t have any paraffin. So instead of chocolate fragments, it’s more of a chocolate goop. Berck refuses to eat it, saying it’s far too bitter. So I get the whole thing to myself. Yum! The only thing is that it’s nearly impossible to eat without a spoon.