Thursday, July 27, 2006

First Night Flight

Wow.. its been a long spell since I've written something down.. well better late than never !!

Time sure does fly by fast, doesn't it? I'm now up to 15.7 hrs of flying (dual) and that now includes the 1.2 hrs of night flight I did yesterday.. Since my last update I've done some slow flight, stalls (power off, power on) and some emergency procedures.

Stalls are an interesting beast. The controls just go mush mush.. very little control. Glad had my ground lessons covered so everything in the cockpit at that point made sense. Recovery from a stall is particularly fun :) Emergency procedures on the other hand require a lot more presence of mind (something I definitely have to work on). I was reading an article recently in AOPA flight training magzine and it talked about emergencies. The advice the columnist gave was to treat every practice emergency landing as if it were the real thing. And boy, does it make a difference. If you really tell your mind that the engine is out, you feel the pressure of the situation. I hope I can train good enough for emergencies so that if (god forbid) one happens, I'll be reacting to it as cool as ice.

Well so much for the routine stuff, now for the fun part. The first night flight I had yesterday:

I reached the school at around 8:10. The sunset was around 8:15. So I still had enough light to do the preflight checklist without a light. Everything was normal, although it was hot and humid like crazy. The density altitude was 1900 ft (field elevation is 173 ft). There was also quite some fog but visibility was P6SM. After my preflight I waited for my instructor and went over the procedures in my head. I guess the instructor was waiting for it to get dark outside.

Well, with sufficient darkness outside, we adjusted the lights started the engines and then started off with the routine chores. While I am getting better at taxiing, I still need quite some work (most importantly speed control).

We got assigned rwy 22 for dep, so we taxied to it, did engine run up, departure briefing etc and then called up tower for clearance. With no activity around the airport, clearance was immediate. So off we go into the mysterious night skies.

My take off was ok (need to maintain Vy more closely from start on). I think my rudder work on departure is much better now. After leaving the tower's frequency we switched over to NY approach and my instructor requested flight following (a big help given the haze outside). Everything looks so different at night. The lakes and fields are all dark, cities shine up like crystal balls. Surprisingly the runway isn't as bright as I thought it would appear.

Once we were in practice area, we went over the routine stuff, stalls, slow flight, steep turns. Then my instructor asked me to recover from unusal attitudes. I think my past experience with MS Flight sim helped me there quite a bit. I was right on the instruments figuring out what attitude we were in and correcting for it. Not once did I look out to feel what our attitude was. So I have to say I was quite proud of it..

Overall I think I did much better yesterday than the flight before when I was basically screwing up everything. After an hour of practicing stuff, we entered KCDW airspace, prepared ourselves for landing and requested tower clearance. I was scanning around trying to get a feel for what night flight is about and frankly it felt like starting all over again.. All visual cues are so different.

We were cleared to enter right base for 22 and getting down I used the PAPI. Came down centered on PAPI pretty much all the way down. The landing yesterdy in particular was quite smooth. Maybe its the night effect, or maybe I am getting a bit better, but the net effect was oh so fun !!!

So after a really enjoyable flight we were back on the dim lit ramp. I am sure I'll never forget the first day I flew, but I am equally sure that I'll never ever forget my first night flight.

Blue skies.

Dual FT for this flight: 1.2 hrs

Monday, July 03, 2006

Flight# 2

After a spell of bad days of almost 2 weeks (part of it I was out sick and part of it just plain bad weather), I finally was back up in the open blue skies !! Despite a cold front forecasted to move in the area, the weather was pretty good.

When I reached the airport, my instructor was still up in the air, so I checked out the plane and started my preflight. Surprisingly I finished up the preflight quite fast today (getting used to it I guess). So I belted up and waited for my instructor to arrive. After a few minutes, with the instructor on board, I was doing before start checklist and getting the plane ready to go.

Today I think was a good day. I was more active on the controls and did a better job at taxi (there's a long way on the road to perfection, but I think I am progressing ahead). After a quick engine run up we were cleared for position and hold. Caldwell utilizes intersecting rwys for takeoff and departures when there is traffic, so we waited for an aircraft on final for rwy 22. Once it landed, we were cleared for takeoff rwy 27.

27 departure requires that we climb no more than 800 ft for 2 mi. So, I kept the plane at 800 after takeoff till square lake and then we climbed out northwest of the field. Once into the practice area, we practiced a lot of slow flight manuvers. Bringing the plane almost at stall speed and then doing the manuvers is an interesting thing. You've got to be really active on those controls (which already are quite slushy in response).

I did a better job today and I think part of it had to do with the fact that I had gone over the procedures several times in my head by now. The things I need to keep a watch out for are esp. maintaining the altitude more stricltly and keeping an eye on that ball. After an hour and a half of our practice we turned back towards the airport.

I must say I have no sense of where we were, but I guess I need to learn to fly the plane first and then develop on my positional awareness skills. While heading back though, my instructor asked me to identify several landmarks getting me accustomed to the aiport area and the landmarks around it. I guess I'll refer back to my terminal chart and get the picture clearer in my head.

We got sequenced on the right downwind and were number 2 for arrival. Interestingly there was an aircraft circling just northeast of the field and the tower were trying to ident it. I am not sure if the guy was lost or was just careless.

So with some slow flight training under my belt today, my instructor asked me to set us up for arrival. Pretty similar procedures. For some reason I kept adding power on final fearing that we may go too low. I need to remember that these Cessna's can glide just fine.

Once on the ground, the journey back to the parking ramp was quite uneventful. All in all I was impressed with my radio work and the progress I had made despite the long spell of inactivity. As I write this I am listening to archives, trying to get to my radio comm. so that I can keep it as a souvenier. Next flight is friday. Hope the weather clears up real nice for then. Don't want to end up with another ground school :)

Dual FT: 1.4 hours