Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lesson Seven: Ground Reference Maneuvers

I must have spent half of Wednesday afternoon looking outside, it was beautiful. Those occasional fluffy clouds in an otherwise clear blue sky, just begging to have some holes bored through it. The view was tempered a little by the fact that I was looking at it through the windshield of a borrowed Chevy Suburban, as I was running luggage from Tulsa International Airport to the hotel where my work is hosting its annual national convention. The route took me within a mile of Riverside airport every hour or so though, and there were plenty of people in the pattern above as I drove below them, so I got a slight aviation fix, which was nice.

Wednesday evening I drove back out to Riverside, did the pre-flight checks on the Cessna 152, and went back inside the flight school building to talk to Bob about the plans for the day. The Cessna's fuel tanks had been refilled since I flew it last, so we were ac
tually a couple of pounds heavy on the weight and balance sheet for takeoff, but as we generally burn just over a gallon during the run-up and taxi to the runway, we decided we would be OK.

Today's lesson plan would be Ground Reference Maneuvers! Turns-about-a-point and S-Turns to learn how to do maneuvers by using points on the ground as reference, and varying the bank angle of the plane during the turn to compensate for the wind.

We went back out to the plane, and got the ATIS information, the wind was from the south at 10 knots gusting to 17, perfect for our plans, windy enough to have to compensate, but not too windy. I had printed out a copy of the practice radio scripts Bob had given me, and scaled it
down to fit my kneeboard with my checklists. I am proud to say that I made no mistakes on the radio, which was a confidence booster. I knew I was using a cheat-sheet, Bob knew I was using a cheat-sheet, but nobody listening on the radio would have known.

We took off and flew southeast at 2500 feet, it was a little hazy, but not enough to have to worry about, until we got a call from Tulsa ATC "Cessna 69212, you have traffic ahead, a Cessna 172 at 2500 feet, 3 miles out flying your direction." Bob and I both went into rubber-neck mode trying to find the other airplane, we never did see it, but Bob had me turn on the landing light to make us more visible, and the other guy called out "Traffic in Sight" so it must have worked. We got another update from Tulsa Air Traffic Control letting us know the other Cessna was off our left wing at 2500 feet, but we still couldn't find the guy, and he was behind us going the other way, where it was safer.

As we flew over the Arkansas River south of Tulsa, Bob pulled the throttle out and announced "Engine Failure." I ran through the emergency procedures checklist, and Bob decided the simulated engine failure required a simulated forced landing, so I ran through the next checklist. The wind was from the south still, I picked a field clear of trees, wires and tiny black dots, and turned around to get the field between us and the wind. I let the airspeed drop a little too far below 60 knots, so I had to drop the nose to compensate, but we still lined up on the field with plenty of time to spare. I pushed the power back to full, using the go-around procedure to get us back up to normal flying configuration, and we continued southeast toward our ground reference area.

Bob has a favorite spot for Turns about a Point, an intersection in the middle of some fields with a couple of houses as reference points. You have to enter the turn with the wind behind you, and turn steeply at first, as the wind will push you away from your center point, then as you come around into the wind, decrease the bank angle as the wind will be pushing you toward your center point. We went around three times, and I managed to maintain my altitude of 1500 feet within about 50 feet either way, and my airspeed of 95 knots, so I was really pleased with that. We flew on north for a minute or so to set up for the S-Turns.

The easiest way to do S-Turns is use a straight road as your reference, fly across the road with the wind behind you, then turn left 180 degrees into the wind, leveling your wings as you cross back over the road. If you did it properly, your wings should be parallel to the road as you fly across it, then turn right 180 degrees and repeat.

I really enjoyed ground reference maneuvers, I played a lot of combat flight simulator games in the past (and still do) and it really reminded me of circling overhead looking for some poor unsuspecting tank column or train or building that was too tall for my liking.

With the ground references complete, we turned back to home into the setting sun. It was at that perfect height, just below the sun-visors. There were a couple of planes ahead of us when we got back to riverside, and as we managed to find them in the air, watched them land before
landing ourselves. I still have trouble judging the correct time to flair for landing, so I was a little high again, Bob said there will be plenty of touch-and-go's in my future to get that ironed out, as we have pattern work coming up in the next few lessons.

He also mentioned the S-word for the first time, I don't know if I am looking forward to Solo-ing or not, it still seems a little scary to think of taking off without anyone sitting next to me. Hopefully more confidence will come with practice.

Next lesson is Saturday afternoon, as I will be at work Saturday morning. Well most of me anyway, my head will be in the clouds for certain.



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