Today was another day with a crosswind--only slightly lighter than the last time--blowing almost directly from 240 degrees at about ten knots or more. In other words, it blew at right angles to the runway. Traffic was using 15, so we did, too.
AWOS was busted, so there was no local weather report. We set he altimeter to the field elevation. I taxied out to the 15 end of the taxiway. Once there, Adam pointed out that the altimeter showed us higher than I had just set it in front of the terminal--asked why. Of course I already knew that the runway slopes upward to the north.
We took off despite the turbulence and stayed in the pattern for one touch- and-go. It was only the second time I'd tried landing on runway 15, and I didn't have landmarks picked out and hadn't yet visualized the pattern on the DG. Those things, plus the wind, caused me to make a mess of the pattern. We did manage to get down smoothly on the runway, but otherwise it was pretty messy.
We climbed then o 1,200, turned west toward the practice area, and continued climbing to 2,500 feet. As we passed 2,400 feet the air suddenly smoothed out PERFECTLY smooth. I trimmed it up so that we just flew along hands off for a while without a single bump or change in altitude.
It was time for more slow flight practice. Belts and harnesses secure, fuel valve on, mixture full rich, carb heat on, throttle back to 1500 rpm, increasing back pressure to keep the nose up as the speed drops off. Airspeed in the white arc, start adding flaps to full. At about 45 knots start adding power, bringing the nose farther up until we're just dogging along at 40 knots with the throttle wide open, the stall warning horn screaming in your ear, and the nose pointing up at what feels like a steep angle--although it's probably only 15 or 20 degrees at the most. Some of the time the indicated airspeed was only 35 knots, although I think that was probably inaccurate, since the plane isn't supposed to be able to fly at that speed.
It's almost impossible to gain altitude in the slow flight configuration. This is a really instructive exercise. You're doing 40 knots with full flaps. You adjust the airspeed with the elevators and the altitude with the throttle, but there's so much drag at that speed and nose-up attitude that . I tried to climb, but even with full throttle and the carb heat off the best I could do was about 150 feet per minute. It's easy to see why you don't want to try to climb too soon on take off--because you'd get up to the limit of the ground effect and suddenly find that you couldn't get higher, because of the high induced drag the wings would be developing.
To recover, you lower the nose--which seems counter-intuitive at first, because you WANT to climb--and let the airplane accelerate a bit before bringing the flaps up. If you raised the flaps at 40 knots, the drag would decrease, but you wouldn't have enough lift to fly. If you were near the ground, that could be VERY embarrassing. Once the airspeed builds to about 60 you can take out 10 degrees of flap, and by 70 you're at Vy, the best rate-of-climb speed, so you have the flaps all the way up by then.
Slow flight is fun, once you get set up and if the air is reasonably smooth- -as it was today. I was able to relax and enjoy the view much of the time. Once I looked down as we were flying south near the reservoir and saw that we were going sideways almost as fast as forward. So the wind must have been blowing at 30 knots or so at that altitude, but so smoothly that we still weren't getting bumped around. So different from down near the ground.
Then Adam had me try a few power off and power on stalls. Today, they went pretty well, and eventually I got to where a power on stall went to full stall, and we didn't lose the heading or the altitude.
Back at the field, I managed to get into the pattern and land, getting the check list and all the radio calls right. My pattern wasn't exactly rectangular, but as least we got down smoothly. And I was able to concentrate on where I was looking on short final, conscious of shifting my gaze from the aiming point to farther down the runway, and was more conscious of where the ground was.
So I can feel the improvement but it's going to have to be a mighty
calm day before I'll be able to knock off a really smooth landing.
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