23 October 1997

Lesson Two

I felt tired this morning and sluggish, but the weather was beautiful, the sky clear and sunny, the air cool and crisp.

We reviewed the preflight check and the pre-start-engine check.  I'd forgotten several things altogether--the fuel drain inside the cowling, was one--but managed to get through it reasonably well.  We had a different airplane today, with some of the mechanical details different from the first time, but it was still a Cessna 152, so the important things were the same.

I was surprised by how hard it seemed to keep checking the checklist.  That's an attention-to-detail problem, I suppose, and I noticed that sensation many times during the flight, as I was trying to get used to checking instruments efficiently, while still keeping the airplane doing whatever it was supposed to be doing.

It was quite cold last night, almost freezing, and even though it had warmed up to 45 or so by ten o'clock I had a little trouble getting the engine to start.  Only primed it three strokes and had to do it again before it would kick over.

There was almost no wind when we taxied out, but it had been from the south, so we taxied to the "33" end of the taxiway to run up the engine.  Check the fuel valve ON, XX to ON, and so on.  Throttle up to 1700 rpm, check the oil pressure and temperature.  Check the mags--right, both, left, both--check pull the carburetor heat ON and push it off again.

Adam said to taxi out onto the runway.  I lined it up, taxiing a little less awkwardly by then but still not feeling really comfortable with it, and opened the throttle fully.  As we began to roll I started feeling better and this time was able to keep an eye on the airspeed indicator.  At about 55 I gave the wheel some back pressure and we rotated and were up almost immediately.

On climbing out I had trouble keeping the right angle--was too cautious--and Adam had to point out that we weren't really climbing, and then I saw that the airspeed was above 80, when it should have been about 70.  I'd read last night that 67 produces the maximum rate of climb in a 152, but was too preoccupied to look at the airspeed indicator.

And that seemed to be my biggest problem today--getting used to the angle of the nose to the horizon and holding airspeed while ascending and descending.  That's what I've got to work on most now, I think.  Level maneuvers went fairly well.  I was able to turn to a heading and roll out of the turn more or less on the mark.  But I still don't have anything like a solid sense of the attitude.  If I look at the instruments I forget about flying, and if I just fly, I don't have enough feeling for the aircraft to know whether it's going up slightly or down slightly, and as a result I kekpt changing altitude by hundreds of a feet before noticing what had happened.  Well, I remember having trouble with that in the Aeronca, too, way back when, but finally got over it, and I guess I'll get used to this Cessna, too.

We took off on runway 15--heading 150 degrees--and flew toward Petersburg.  When we could see the Petersburg airport, Adam had me turn west, and we flew out to the west end of the practice area, and then turned north and flew around the rest of the perimeter of the area.  Adam reviewed what he'd told me before the first lesson about the controlled air spaces around Richmond.

I was better oriented to the ground today--although still not really comfortable about our position some of the time.  The air was quite clear today, and that helped, but I'd also spent some time yesterday studying a map of the area and had a much better sense of the lay of the land.

The practice area--and most of Virginia, for that matter--is so heavily wooded that there aren't many places to set down in an emergency.  The Reading area, as I recall, was mostly cleared land, so even though it's hillier you're almost always within gliding distance of a relatively smooth field.  (Except in the spring, when most of those fields have been freshly plowed.  But even a plowed field is probably better than trying to land on top of a stand of trees.)

While I'm thinking of that, I noticed in the syllabus that there's no mention of spin recovery--not even the word "spin" anywhere in the 26 lessons.  That surprised me because Ira Sheib had me doing spins in the third or fourth hour.  The 152 seems somewhat more stable than my recollection of that Aeronca, but all the same I'd think it essential to know how to recover from a spin.  They CAN happen.  What a ghastly sensation, spinning! I hated practicing them, but I knew what to do about them.  (Do I remember it right--power off, nose down, opposite rudder? I'll ask Adam sometime.)

As we approached the airport another plane called in and came around about two or three miles behind us.  Also, the wind had picked up to 7 gusting 15 across the runway, so things were a little more complicated, and Adam took control and set us up up for a touch and go.  When we were down he turned it back to me as we were ready to "go" again.  We climbed to 1200 feet (which is 1000 feet above the ground there--I finally figured out why the pattern altitude at Chesterfield is 1200, when I was expecting it to be 1000).  We turned left onto the downwind leg and throttled back to 1500(?) rpm as we came abreast of the numbers un the downwind end of the runway.  When the airspeed dropped into the "white" zone on the indicator (what IS that speed?!) I added 10 degrees of flaps.  We turned base at about 1000 feet and throttled further back.  (RPM???) Flaps to 20 degrees, turn onto final.  I let it get too low on base ad in the turn--my big problem again--so had to add some power to reach the end of the runway.  The trees looked awfully close as we turned final! Lined up with the runway and went to 30 degrees flaps.  I could feel Adam on the controls fairly firmly right about then, but was glad for it because of the crosswind.  Power off, down to 20 feet or so and flared out and touched down smoothly.  Well, I know Adam was doing most of the work, but I was getting the feel of it better by then.

We turned off the runway and switched the transponder to standby, then taxied to the parking area.  There weren't ay open parking places in the first row, so we had to park in the second row.  I didn't quite figure out what we had to do--which was to taxi around the parked planes and turn hard around facing east, so we could push the plane backwards into line after shutting it down.  We went through the post-flight checklist and did just that.

While walking to the office Adam gave me his critique--mostly emphasizing what I said earlier, about maintaining airspeed on ascents and descents.

I decided to buy the Jeppeson kit of manuals, texts, navigation calculator, plotter, and pounds of other stuff.  I could have waited until next week for that, but bought it today despite--or, really, BECAUSE OF--the strong feeling of inadequacy and mild terror I've had all along.  Needed to make that commitment, so I wouldn't later find it "convenient" to drop out.  It's true that I have no practical need for a private pilot's license, and it would certainly be easier to go on without it, just daydreaming now and then about flying.  So that's exactly why I need to keep on with it.

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