Archive for May, 2005

Duchess Lesson 3

20 May 2005 at 12:25 pm
by Berck

I was scheduled to fly at 10am this morning. The plane pulled up at about 9:45. I asked my instructor if we needed fuel, he said we didn’t. Because we didn’t, the fuel truck guy showed up instantly. He’s never there if you do need fuel. While he topped off the tanks, I checked the oil. After going through most of the rest of my preflight, waiting for the fuel to settle, I started sampling fuel. The Duchess has 8 fuel sump points. You have to drain each of them, looking for water. Four on each wing: One for the fuel tank, two for the cross-feed lines, and one on the engine itself. After sampling fuel from crossfeeds on the left side, I noticed that the tank sump was dripping. The valve is pretty simple- it’s spring loaded the closed position, you stick your fuel strainer in it and fuel comes out from the bottom of the tank. Since these tanks are 50 gallons each, the fuel on the tank drains comes out rather quickly. But they’re not supposed to leak. It was dripping fairly slowly, but steadily dripping. Both the director of operations and the chief flight isntructor were standing around outside, so I asked them what I should do about. “Operate it a couple of time and see if it doesn’t stop” I did, and the second time I pushed up on it, the flood gates opened. I pulled my fuel strainer out and it just kept pouring So I’m crawling around on the ground on my knees, and now fuel is POURING out of the tank, and all over me. I quickly remembered that this particular fuel drain has a feature which allows you to to twist it to an open position and drain fuel rapidly if you needed to. It looked like it wasn’t going to take an entire minute to lose the whole 50 gallons of fuel. That’s almost $150 worth of 100/LL:) Fortunately, I was able to use the phillips head end of my strainer to close the valve. The fuel stopped entirely. No more dripping even. And, I figured I’d probably gotten any water out of the tank as well:)

So, after my morning av-gas shower, I rounded up my instructor and set off to fly the pattern. Traffic pattern for the twin is 1500 AGL (instead of 1000 AGL in a single), but not really any bigger around. It also goes a whole lot more quickly. The first time around I had serious coaching, but did okay. There wasn’t much wind, which is always weird for me. Approach speed is 85 knots, which may not sound much faster than 65 knots, but makes a big difference in the way things look. to make it worse, something about the curve of the windshield, no engine in front of you, if I look at the nose, it looks like I’m pointed right. So if I point the nose down the runway, we’re actually going to land sideways. On several landings the sounds of “right rudder. More right rudder,” echoed in my headset. In addition, the pitch attitude is different. “Right here, hold it right here.” “But we’re nose-low!” “You’re not even close!” Every landing provided amazement that I wasn’t smacking the nose gear.

After a few of those, he had me do a few short field landings, which end up looking about the same but with slower airspeed.

After a little of that, he had me depart off to the south. While I was climbing he asked for traffic advisories, then changed his mind, and asked for the ILS 17R to Will Rogers. Whee. Uh-oh. I hadn’t flown an approach in forever, and while flying through the clouds on Wednesday was fun, I realized how rusty my instrument skills are.

As I was being verctored he said, “Let’s go a little faster.” I was set up for normal cruise– 20″ of manifold pressure, 2300rpm which ends up at about 120 knots. “Go to 2500rpm and full throttle.” At 4,000 feet, that’s about 24.5 inches of manifold pressure. I kept trimming the nose lower, and we kept accelerating. Eventually stabilized around 145 knots. Felt like we were screaming.

I ended up doing a relatively decent job of flying the approach with a little coaching. It had been so long.

As I set up for final to westheimer, he pulled my left engine. I went through the simulated feather procedure, rather slowly. I ended up high, and didn’t need any power all the way in, which made my first single-engine landing not too big a deal.

Next flight is mostly instrument work. First maneuvers, then approaches, and single-engine approaches as well as single-engine landings. Should be Monday.

In any case, I like flying this plane. I’m a little sad I’ve only got three more lessons plus a checkride.

Instructor ground school starts monday.

The Duchess

16 May 2005 at 5:46 pm
by Berck

I just got back from my first flight in the Beechcraft Duchess. Much fun.

Unfortunately, I’ve only got a total of 5 more lessons followed by a check ride. Yes, I’m supposed to be able to learn to fly it in 6 lessons.

Mostly, I’ll be working on how to fly it on only one engine. Today was just basic familiarization with the airplane. There’s a bit to get used to with two engines. The big difference was getting used to a significantly bigger, heavier and faster airplane. It’s also the first low-wing airplane I’ve flown, and without an engine directly in front, it’s quite a different view. For example, when in the pattern on downwind, you can’t see the runway at all– the engine and wing cover it up.

But it’s much more stable and responsive. It’s not a rudder hog like the 172-RG, both because it’s got an adequately sized rudder and with two counter-rotating props so there’s no really obnoxious P-factor.

It was so different than flying a Cessna, I felt like I was a brand new pilot again. We did slow flight, steep turns, and stalls. Stalls in a twin are only done until they’re “immenent”, because there’s the fear that a full stall could develop in a spin. The FAA does not require twin engine aircraft to be spin-tested, and their spin recovery abilities are unknown and generally very poor. So it’s alltogether best if you avoid spinning one. Steep turns were amazingly easy. Slow flight requires a bit more attention to detail, but since the plane is so stable it’s not that hard.

So, in less than two weeks I should be multi-engine rated. I’m also starting flight instructor ground school on Monday. Sure would be nice if I could finish it all up in a month.

I’m a commercial pilot.

12 May 2005 at 6:35 pm
by Berck


The checkride was, ehrm. Interesting. But the important thing is that I’m DONE.

It’s looking like in the interest of my flight school’s scheduling, I’ll be getting my multi engine rating next.

To Answer Sarah’s Question

12 May 2005 at 9:50 am
by Berck

To begin with, it’s “bated” as opposed to “baited”. “Waiting with baited breath” is clearly rather nonsensical. You’re waiting with your breath set as bait in a trap?

Bated is an archaic, abreviated form of “abated”. So, “waiting with abated breath,” essentially means that your breath has lessened, or likely stopped, because you’re wracked with nervousness or fear. Essentially, you’re holding your breath.

So another common idiomatic expression, for the sake of consistency, ought to have been phrased, “I’m not going to bate my breath,” when you don’t think something will actually happen.

It’s weird how idiomatic expressions linger in a sort of timelessness when usage has otherwise rendered a form archaic. I suppose it’s because people say them on cue without really thinking about what they mean. Like saying “Bless you” when someone sneezes. Maybe I don’t want to be blessed?

The people of the future will be trying to figure out what “Git ‘er done” means. Actually, forget that– I’m still trying to figure out what it means.

Anyway, keep that breath bated, today is do or doom day. FAA oral exam and checkride in a few hours. Well, unless the weather turns to crap, which looks rather possible. I hope that I won’t suffer from checkrideitis and forget something really stupid like the landing gear.

(And it’s not really potential doom, I’d just have to review whatever I screwed up and do it again.)

Stage check down, Check ride to go.

11 May 2005 at 11:17 am
by Berck

So, I just finished my final Commercial stage check. I’ve got a check ride to do next– they should be able to get to me before the end of the week. It’ll be my first checkride with an FAA designated examiner, rather than a part 141 check instructor. In other words, this will be with someone who works for the FAA and cannot be someone who works for the school.

I better be a commercial pilot soon.