Monday, December 29, 2008

Bi-Annual Flight Review

I took my flight review. I know. I know. I know. I have not flown in 6 months, and just stepping in to an airplane that I have not thought about in so long is a bad idea. BUT the instructor said that the maneuvers are basically that same for the check ride and the bi-annual, and that it was just a review, NOT a test, so we should just bang it out all at the same time. This was interesting, because he would get paid twice if we did the bi-annual and the check ride separately. November and December have been very bad months for flying out of MLE, so he has not gotten paid a whole lot... So, being the economic conscious guy I am, I chose to do everything all at the same time.

A Bi-Annual Flight Review consists of some ground school where you go over the regs, and the charts. Some instructors have you plan a cross country too, if you haven't logged a cross country flight (over 100 nm) in the last two years. I have had several cross country flights, so I did not have to do that. I found that my knowledge of the regs is... not very good. The review was good. I did better when it came to the charts.

Then came the flight section of the review. I preflighted the Archer and we departed the pattern. The first new thing that I learned in the air was the regs state that you are not to turn cross wind (If you need a refresher on what the landing pattern is check out this post)until you reach 300 feet AGL (Above Ground Level). This is really good to know. I have been trying to "feel" where I should turn by distance alone. It was difficult to do because I would spend a lot of time looking behind and below me to see where I was on the ground. Turning after reaching a certain altitude is infinitely better because it keeps your eyes looking out for traffic, and on your instruments, where they belong! Nice to know.

We turned down wind, reached pattern altitude, and exited the pattern to the west. West of MLE is open ground, east is the Omaha Metro, so west is always best when practicing maneuvers.
The air was calm and clear. Very little wind to speak of, and because it was cold, the air was stable and heavy. The very best conditions for flying. This may sound strange, but these conditions are great for when you are flying somebody around, but I wanted it a bit choppy with a good steady cross wind. If I have an instructor with me I want challenging conditions so that I can get some good practice with a guy trained to walk me through how to fly in them.
Anyway, the air was great and we began doing the maneuvers that you are required to do in a bi-annual. We climbed to a good altitude and trimmed for straight and level flight. As I began leaning out the mixture, the instructor asked me how I was doing my leaning. I replied that I lean the mixture out until I hear the engine run a bit rough, then ritchen just a bit to get the engine running well. He showed me that on that particular airplane, we could use a gauge to determine our mixture. Neat! I really do not like leaning out the mixture the way I do it, because I hate to hear that engine run rough... After we went a bit of distance, we richened the mixture back up and began our maneuvers. First was steep turns.
Steep turns are typically a 360 degree turn at 45 degrees bank. Your goal is to keep the airplane from loosing or gaining any altitude. A 45 degree turn is a hard fast turn, and as I completed the turn I felt the airplane bounce a bit. I immediately righted the airplane pushed the nose down and gave full power. The instructor asked me what I was doing.
I thought that I had put the airplane in to a stall. Just before the airplane stalls it shakes. That is called the "buffet." I felt the airplane shake, and I went through my stall recovery as I have been trained to do: add full power, right the wings, and push the nose down.
The instructor laughed a bit and said that the little bump that we felt was actually us catching up with our own wake turbulence as we completed the hard fast turn.
Anything that moves through a fluid, in this case air is a fluid, creates a disturbance in that fluid. Ever feel the wind after a truck goes past you the opposite direction on the road? Yup. That is the truck's wake turbulence. Ever look at the wake that a boat leaves in the water as it moves forward? That is the very same thing that happens to the air. In that same boat if you turn very hard you run over your own wake, and you get a bump. Same thing in the air.
The air was so calm and thick that the disturbance in the air that the airplane makes as it moves sank at a slower rate, and we caught up with it as we came around. Neat!
After that fun experience we went on to do the usual slow flight (slowing the aircraft down right to the point of stalling and holding it there with out loosing altitude), power off stalls (stalls in a simulated landing configuration i.e. full flaps and power pulled all the way off), power on stalls (stalls done in a simulated take off configuration i.e. nose high full power), and, of course, a simulated engine failure.
We then flew over to AHQ to do some landing practice. I had never been to AHQ before so it was fun to land at a new airport. AHQ has a slightly longer runway than MLE, 4100 feet rather than 3800 feet. Always nice to have more room.

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AHQ airport. I landed on runway 20.

Instead of doing the typical touch and goes, we did some things that I have not done since my primary flight training. As we entered the downwind leg, the instructor said set up for a landing with a 50 foot obstacle 50 feet from the end of the runway. Interesting!
Normally you do not have 50 foot obstacles on the edge of runways, unless you are out in the middle of Washington or something.
Anyway, what you have to do for that kind of landing is hold at 100 feet above the obstacle until you are clear then drop on to the the runway. You have to use your slow flight training and hold the airplane in the air at a constant altitude at the lowest possible speed so that you can land on the runway and stop in time. Lots of fun and I landed reasonably well.
I pull up the flaps and give full power for and take off. The next landing is to be a "short field" landing. This landing is fun, because you try to land in the shortest amount of distance possible. You put your landing spot right at the edge of the runway and come in a bit steep to make your landing spot. It is tricky because even though you are coming in steep, you need to watch your speed to keep you as slow as possible. As soon as you touch you keep good pressure on the yoke to keep the nose up and apply firm break pressure. This one I did very well, because I have been working on similar landings at MLE. For a guy who learned to fly on 5000+ foot runways, 3800 feet looks awfully short...
We did not do a touch and go here, because the instructor wanted to do a short field take off.
No problem. Ever since I had a little scare with my dad at 0B4 taking off on their short grass runway, I have been working on short field take offs.
You put yourself on the very edge of the runway, drop one or two notches of flaps depending on your airplane, pull the yoke all the way in to your chest,and then give full power with your breaks on. When your engine has reached max RPM, you release the brakes and hold that yoke back. In the Archer you will start to take off at about 45 knots. You have to be very careful as the stall speed of the airplane is somewhere between 45 and 50 knots, not quite the Vs0 speed, but lower than the Vs1 speed of the aircraft. Just after your wheels leave the ground you level you nose off. You then hold the airplane just off of the ground in ground effect for a few moments until you reach your Vx speed, in the Archer that is 65 knots. After you reach that speed you begin to pitch the nose of the airplane up to maintain that speed. You will then begin to climb. After a positive rate of climb has been established on your altimeter AND your vertical speed indicator you can take one notch of flaps back. When you reach 300 feet AGL, you can take back the other notch of flaps. If you only put on one notch, you take that back after you reach 300 feet AGL. Good times.
We then headed back to MLE. Things were starting to get busy around the airport as lots of pilots wanted to take advantage of the nice weather. I crossed mid-field and entered my downwind leg just as two airplanes took off. One right after the other. Fun to watch. As I entered my downwind leg, thinking that this would be an easy landing, the instructor told me to set up for soft field landing... Crap. I have not done one of those in... I don't remember doing one of those... I think that I had to do one in primary training, but I really don't remember... Crap.
So, I let the instructor know my lack of knowledge, and realizing that he did not have enough time to talk me through the procedures before we landed, we decided to to a "go around" to repeat our pattern and give us time to work out what needed to be done.
The soft field landing is an important procedure to know as it what you would use when landing on a wet or snow covered runway. Basically you approach just as you would any other landing, BUT in the flair just before touch down you give just a little bit of power to cushion your landing. Tricky, because if you give too much power you float, not enough and you land harder than you want. Besides that you try to keep your nose as high as possible with out stalling the airplane. You land on your mains and keep the nose off of the runway as long as possible. The nose eventually settles in on the runway and you DO NOT apply breaks until the last possible moment. You have let the airplane almost roll to a stop.
Fun Fun Fun.

So I have my three takeoffs and landings, as well as my VFR bi-annual taken care of. I am good to go for another two years!

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