Monday, August 30, 2004

Instrument Lesson Number 5

On Sunday, after returning from visiting dad in Homosassa, I had my fifth instrument lesson. In this lesson, we focused on partial-panel. Before we got to that, my instructor had a few other tricks up his sleeve.

My pre-flight inspection determined that we would be flying with the left position light out (the red light on the left wing). Since we were taking off shortly after noon for a one hour lesson, FAR91.205 would not prevent us from flying legally.

I fired up my handheld Garmin GPS to assist with my situational awareness and stuck it up on the dash. Climbing in, I plugged in my headset, strapped on my clipboard and clicked my seatbelt. Following the checklist, I started the engine being careful not to give the already warmed up engine too much gas. After four or five blades, she caught and the oil pressure registered in the green.

Justin had previously advised me that we would be departing Craig field to the west. Our practice area is to the south, but I suppose he wanted me to fly through the Class D airspace that belongs to JAX NAS and Cecil Field. Perhaps, he saw the clouds and rain to the west and wanted to put me in realistic IFR conditions.

I radioed the ground controller and he cleared me to runway 23 at Foxtrot. This intersection departure would shorten the runway but only by a couple of hundred feet. The Piper Warrior is quite capable of taking off in far less distance than the 4,004 feet that this runway give us.

After conducting our runup and waiting for arriving traffic, I was cleared to position and hold. After just a few seconds in position, we saw the Cessna ahead of us do a touch and go and we were cleared for takeoff.

During our run-up, I briefed the instructor on the procedure I would follow for the departure, so he was aware that I would be rotating at 60 knots rather than the customary 55. I had explained to him that I had gotten more stable performance by rotating a bit later when the plane was carrying extra weight. So at 60, I pulled the nose up and we quickly left the ground and the plane accelerated to Vy, 79 knots. As we climbed out, I found myself having to pull too hard on the yoke to maintain the proper nose up attitude so I adjusted the trim. Apparently, I did not put my hand back on the throttle quickly enough, because Justin reached over an yanked it to idle and announced "your engine just quit, what are you going to do?" I immediately pushed the throttle back to full and told him, "I'm going to put the gas back in and take off". "But, if the engine really had quit, I would have landed straight ahead, hopefully." We were only about 200 feet AGL when he did this. He was trying to make the point that my hand should remain on the throttle at all times during takeoff lest the throttle friction give out. He sure made his point!

While I understand and agree with him, I have two problems with his action. First, he did not smoothly pull power to idle, he yanked it. This can result in an engine stalling. Second, we were in one of the most dangerous portions of flight and did not have sufficient altitude to return to the runway if the engine had stalled.
...more to follow...

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