good day for flying

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:)

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