Tuesday, July 05, 2005

And the Progression Continues

I could have sworn that I had posted something since April...maybe not. My training has been progressing nicely. I had hoped to have my second Instrument Stage Check completed before I went on vacation, but the tropical storm put a damper on that idea. I rescheduled for this weekend, but now the chief instructor is not available and I don't really want to fly at 7am.

I had a beautiful flight on the 4th of July. Since three weeks had passed since my last flight, I wanted to practice some instrument maneuvers in anticipation of my stage check. I planned to depart CRG and follow the 115 radial out to 10 DME, then make a DME arc back to the 180 radial then proceed to the 180 Radial at 13 DME and hold south. Since this is summertime in Florida, we can count on lots of billowy clouds, so while I had planned to climb to 3000 feet and execute these maneuvers at that altitude, the clouds prevented that. (I was flying VFR as I had no instructor with me).

My preflight turned up the usual missing screws, but I was very suprised to find only 5 quarts of oil in the engine. The plane had been operated for 1 hour on the 3rd and 1 hour on the 2nd. This means one of two things. A. The aircraft is burning oil at an alarming rate. Assuming that a proper pre-flight check showed the minimum 6 quarts of oil before the flight on the third, the plane burned 1 quart of oil in only one hour! B. The previous renter did not conduct a proper pre-flight inspection and operated the aircraft with a lower than required oil level. Both of these are unnaceptable situations. I added two quarts of oil to bring the level up to 7 quarts. On these very hot days, having plenty of oil is a good way to ensure that the engine runs at the proper temperature.

By the time I had completed my preflight and got everything situated inside the airplane, I was dripping with sweat. The engine started after four or five blades, which is great. I received clearance to taxi to 23 and and the runup went without any problems.

Since there were only about 25 gallons of fuel on board and no passengers, the plane climbed very quickly and I turned out to intercept the 115 radial. The clouds in the area forced me to level off at 1500' and I headed out to 10 DME. The clouds must be afraid of the ocean because as I crossed the coastline and headed out to sea, the clouds all but disappeared. Once I found a large enough gap, I began climbing again. Reaching 10 DME, I turned 90 degrees to the right and adjusted the VOR for the 125 radial. By the time I reached the 155 radial, I had climbed to 6500 feet and I leveled off while maintaining the 10 DME arc. The wind was from the southeast and this pushed me a little inside the 10DME. I adjusted my path to regain 10 miles. Just before reaching the 180 radial, I began a left turn and intercepted the radial on a southbound heading. At 13 DME, I executed a right turn to 360 and started my timer. After 60 seconds, another right turn to 180, but the VOR showed I was left of course (due to the winds from the SE). I adjusted my course to reintercept the radial and found that my time was about 10 seconds long as I reached 13 DME. After three laps of adjustment, I was nailing the radial with no problem. My GPS later confirmed that I had some pretty consistent racetracks.

On the final intercept, I made a steep turn to the left to 090 and headed out towards the beach. Over the beach, I executed a clearing turn, then seeing no traffic, I began a spiral dive to lose altitute. Pulling power to idle and banking to 45 degrees, I started a series of turns with a slight nose down attitude that gave me about a 1500 fpm rate of descent and 105 knots airspeed. I could have descended faster using flaps, but this was fine. I periodically blipped the throttle to clear the plugs and eventually rolled out on a northerly heading at 1000'. Then I slowly progressed up the coast looking for sharks in the water and traffic in the air.

Intercepting the 140 radial from CRG, I turned to 320 and tuned the ATIS. No change really. I contacted the tower and requested touch-n-go. I was told to enter a left base for 23 and report 2 miles. There were four other planes approaching the airport and I figured I would be about 3rd in line. Since I was cruising slowly--only about 90 knots, I had plenty of time to set up.

The tower contacted me just before I got to reporting range and told me to look for a Cessna on final. It took me some time to spot him--what a long final! I announced the tally-ho and was told I was number 2 to land. As the Cessna reached short final, I was cleared to land and told to go direct to the numbers. I banked the plane to the left and lined up with the runway just as I crossed the fence. With full flaps deployed and the touchdown area reachable, I pulled power to idle. The speed bled off quickly and I prepared to flare just before the numbers. I flared a bit late and I got just a slight bit of porpoising since the nose wheel touched first. Good thing I had let so much speed dissipate. By maintaining backpressure on the yoke, the porpoising was suppressed and my rollout was smooth. I retracted the flaps, hit the power and took off again. I made a conscious effort to hold the plane in ground effect until the climbout speed of 79 knots was reached and then I pulled the nose up.

The next two landings were quite smooth. As I was abeam the numbers, another plane announced he was on the left downwind. I could see that he was exactly opposite me. The tower waited to respond to him, so I decided to make my base turn a bit early. She had told me to make a short approach while I was climbing out anyway. This landing was as smooth as silk and so was my third and final landing of the day.

I love flying! 1.1 hours of beautiful VFR.

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