Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Adventures in Aviation, Part Six

Hmm, where do I begin. Let’s just say that I had nightmares the night after my second official flight lesson. Nightmares in the sense that I was dreaming I was still in the cockpit stressed out beyond comprehension. I even forgot to take pictures (pictures below are from our Thanksgiving trip, where I was a happy and coherent passenger). That’s what this Adventure in Aviation should be called: Stressed Out Beyond Comprehension.

Me: So, why is it that we are practicing slow flight when it’s my understanding that we never want to be flying through the air so slow that we are just above stall speed? I’m not sure when I would ever use this.
Mr. Instructor: Jocelyn, it’s because every time you come in for landing you are utilizing slow flight. It’s very important to practice it. Even more so when we are well above the ground so there is plenty of time to recover.
Me: Oh, ok.

25 minutes later …

Me: I’m still a little confused on when I would use slow flight. Aren’t I trying to use the airplane to get me from point A to point B as quickly and efficiently as possible? Slow flight doesn’t seem very efficient and it puts us very close to the dangerous predicament of a stall.
Mr. Instructor: Like I said, it’s important to practice slow flight because you are utilizing it every time you come in for landing. Just try to remember that.
Me: Oh, ok.

25 minutes later …

You get the point don’t you? I was stressssssed out beyond comprehension.

The day started off swell. The weather was nice and Camarillo was reporting only 5 knot gusts. I was excited to finally get back in the air after taking a week off since my last (and first official) flight lesson. Although I did think of some crazy things during the drive: “Lovies, did you ever think that you were going to die just before going for a flight lesson? Cause I’m thinking of all the potential hazards that might kill me today: birds, other planes, engine shutting off, motor exploding.”
“No. Did you ever think you were going to die when you were 16 and just learning to drive?”
“I guess not. Well, actually, I probably did in the beginning. It was a long time ago. I don’t remember. Nevermind. I’m fine.”

I was responsible for pulling the plane out of the hangar by myself. I mention this because it was a big deal for me since I had never done it before, and it made me realize that I’m not going to have the luxury of Wes babysitting me every time I take a flight lesson (although I think it should be mandatory). I completed the walk-around and refueled the plane with the help of Mr. Instructor. I almost forgot to put the oil tank cap back on after checking the oil, which Mr. I vociferously cautioned against since I could have “caused the engine to explode mid flight” or something to that extent. Fun!

After a successful taxi and run-up, we are lined up ready for take off. Take off’s always exciting. I haven’t done very many, especially since I think Mr. I dominates the controls on the take off (for his and my safety I’m sure), but it’s exhilarating to feel the plane with so much power and the wings lift, lift, lifting you off the ground. Once we’re airborne the real fun starts.

Mr I: Today is your second flight lesson, which will basically be a review of everything we did in lesson 1, but think we will go ahead and practice slow flight as well. To prepare for slow flight, you will need to operate the throttle and the flaps, decrease your power, then pitch up to maintain lift and airspeed, as well as use you right rudder. We want to get the plane flying slow, right before the point where it stalls.

Ya, so whatever he said, which sounded easy and straightforward, was not. Holy cow is that plane hard to fly when your noise is pointed straight up and you are going 45-55 knots! I’m trying to maintain my designated heading AND altitude, while the plane is squishing and squirming like a dying fish on dry land. Try to maintain control of one of those. It’s not fun, and I guarantee one of you won't make it out alive.

Thankfully after practicing, practicing, questioning (see above) and then practicing some more, I completed 1.7 hours of (slow) flight training. Mr. I would have liked to practice some touch-and-goes, but those 5 knot gusts turned into 20-25 knot gusts, and our little light sport does not do well with those. I couldn’t have been happier to see the runway as we were coming in for landing. I think I was more alert and aware during those last 10 minutes of flight than I have ever been. And when we landed I even wanted to talk on the radios! “Camarillo ground, light sport niner-one-niner-echo, clear of active at bravo, requesting taxi to east end.”

Hallelujah. Now just give me my two 30 pound flight training manuals and a glass of wine. I’ve got some serious reading to do.

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