Sunday, November 07, 2004

Instrument Lessons 8 and 9

Today I spent time in both the simulator and in N84577. The jist of both lessons was to increase proficiency on VOR intercepts and tracking and to use the VOR to determine the distance from the station.

The sim time went well - better than the first sim session. However, I still do not think the handling in the PCATD is realistic. I've been flying the Piper Warrior II, but the closest thing the sim has to that is a Piper Archer. The Archer is a little heavier and has more horsepower, so it climbs faster and has a faster cruise speed. The engine controls are not at all realistic. First, you have to pull the throttle back to 1/3 before there is any noticable impact on RPM, next, using the mixture control, you cannot hear any difference in performance as the mixture is leaned. The only think it seems to do is kill the engine if you pull it to full lean. (Which is about the only realistic thing it does).

Trying to trim the simulator aircraft for level flight is very difficult. First, there is no feedback in the yoke, so I have no idea if I am removing control pressure. Second, the sim is very sensitive to control inputs. Level flight is almost like balancing a golfball on the end of a pin. The instant I began a bank for a turn, the nose drops and altitude is quickly lost. Also, I don't know if the instructor was calling for severe downdrafts or if the controls were just being finicky, but the sim could go from level flight to a 1500 fpm descent in an instant.

In spite of this, I managed to land the plane using the ILS (on the runway this time!).

After flying the sim, we went airborne in N84577 - my least favorite of the Warriors at Sterling. In this plane, there is an old, inoperative auto pilot. This means that there are servos attached to the trim control and these cause the trim wheel to be very difficult to adjust. There was once an electric trim button on the yoke, but now it just has bare metal contacts. One of the instructors told me they work, but the control is very slow. Also, the turn coordinator tends to flop about more than the other Warrior's and the VOR is iffy.

The weather presented some challenges due to up/down drafts and it was bumpier than usual, however, I still managed to perform up to standard, if just barely within limits. After maneuvering around the practice area, we headed for home. Justin vectored me as though he was enroute ATC. I had tuned the ILS for runway 32 at Craig (KCRG - 111.7) and the CDI was alive. The NAV2 cdi was also indicating properly. We heard the tower talking to a faster aircraft behind us, and we were told to keep our speed up. That's not a problem in the Warrior. It is easy to keep the airspeed high especially with a steeper decent.

The DME was showing us getting closer and closer to the airport, but the glideslope was stuck in the middle. You would expect it to indicate that we were well below glide path when we were at 1500 feet and 8 miles, but it was showing in the middle. We got closer and closer to the airport and I did a fair job of staying on the centerline using the ILS. but the slope stayed in the middle - very strange. I knew I was not making a perfect descent, but the instrument said I was.

Justin had called for a descent at 500fpm and I was maintaining that, too. We were at 1000' and 1 mile out when Justin told me to go visual and said it looks like the glideslope is not registering. We were much too high!

I immediately pulled power to idle and waited for the airspeed to drop a bit before ading the flaps one notch at a time all the way to full. I then executed a forward slip - did a nice job of that, too. At about 75' AGL, I was on the proper slope according to the PAPI so I stopped the slip, added a little power and we flared at about 55 knots followed by a smooth landing.

That made a total of 331 landings for me and somewhere north of 150 hours total time. Next week no lesson- I'm going to Vegas, baby!

The week after, I'm doing a Saturday lesson on the sim for NDBs and Thanksgiving, I'm taking N512MA to Tampa for the holiday. I'm looking forward to that!

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