Lesson 48
16 April
1.3 hours

The weather briefer told me that it should be a good day to fly to Charlottesville today--just a little windy, he said.

It WAS windy--21 at 3000 feet and 12 or 15 on the ground, with thunderstorms due in a few hours--but after talking it over for a while, Adam and I decided to give it a try.

We flew only about ten miles before deciding that the air was too hazy and the ceiling too low to make the trip worthwhile.  We were almost on top of the 1000-foot Channel 23 tv towers before we could see them.  And there were broken clouds at 3000 feet.

We tried climbing above the clouds, but had to turn south, away from our course in order to find enough clear sky to get up above the cloud level without flying into any of them.

The air was very smooth up there--like honey, or something--but so humid that the Cessna could climb at only about 500 feet per minute..  I got in a little practice in leaning the mixture and found that with the knob half way out we could climb slightly faster.

Anyway, we came back down  to 2500 and Adam pulled an engine-out on me.  I picked a field I could see on the left and was turning toward it when he  pointed out a grass runway about a mile away on his side.  I flew to it and set up a normal landing, and we got down to about 200 feet before Adam decided that we might not be welcome there, and we went around.   Too bad.  I was pretty well set up to land, and I've been looking for some grass field practice.

Then he had me do some tight turns and stalls.  Back at the airport after that, it was time to t ry a short-field landing, over an invisible 100-foot tree that Adam planted right at the end of the runway.  This was the least successful part of the flight, as I had been fooling with the trim and had it trimmed way too far back--without quite realizing it.   That kept pitching the nose up and slowing us down, despite my shoving forward on the wheel.  Every time I looked at the airspeed in the pattern, we were doing only 60 knots.  I'd shove the nose down, but it kept slipping back up again.  So I learned something there: either take the time to trim it right, or leave it alone altogether.  Because of the pitch, I was high on final and ut in full flaps way out and slipped a bit to get down.  Slipping complicated things a bit, and the crosswind gave me some trouble, too--needed nearly twenty degrees of crab--but eventually I got lined up, banked into the wind, figured out which foot was which on the rudders and got it straightened out, and the touchdown was not great but reasonable.  Adam said I should say something like "I'm hitting the brakes hard now" in short-field simulations, rather than actually doing it and stressing the brakes unnecessarily.

We'll try the Charlottesville trip again on Monday, weather permitting, and I'll try a solo cross-country on the following Thursday.  Local solo this Saturday.

All in all, today's flight was the most comfortable one I've done so far.--never felt stressed out, even in the crosswind landing.  That felt good--but probably just means I need to be VERY careful next time.

Two Odd Little Things
1. For about a month back in December and January, I had a lot of trouble with rudder coordination.  Very frustrating.  I finally realized that the problem began right after I'd bought a new pair of walking shoes.  The new shoes are very comfortable, but are somewhat larger and heavier than the old ones I'd been wearing.  Switching to a lighter pair made a BIG difference.

2. One of the things I've found difficult is a tendency to overcontrol the ailerons and elevators in certain situations, such as in gusts and while flaring out on landing.  A couple of days ago I had a little insight about this when I realized that I drive almost wholly right-handed, and have been for decades.  My left had is about twice as fast as my right, and I use it for writing and other small-muscle activities.  The right hand is the steady one--never spills coffee--and I throw with it and use it for other large or heavy activities.  That's probably why I drive with it--steadier and stronger.  Anyway, now I know why I've been overcontrolling.  In the pilot's seat of side-by-side airplanes like the C-152, you work the throttle, mixture, carb heat, and flaps with the right hand and use the left hand for the wheel--the ailerons and elevators.  That's my twitchy hand, of course.  That old Aeronca Tri-Champ had tandem seating, with the engine controls on the left side, so had to use the right hand for the stick.  What's the big deal?  Well it's sort like when I first saw Paul McCartney playing the guitar left handed and it suddenly came to me that I played the trumpet wrong-handed.  Now I do the valves left-handed and play much less badly.  This flying wrong-handedness is for the opposite reason--I want the slower hand here--but the principle is the same.  So I've been trying to force myself to drive left handed for the past two days.  It's VERY hard to keep it up; but my theory is that there's bound to be some carryover to the airplane.

I don't know that there's any obvious connection here to learning and teaching in an academic setting--except that it's probably best to do it the way you naturally function, rather than the way the teacher or the system wants you to.  Or, as in my flying case, if that's unavoidable, at least to recognize the root of the problem and attack that, rather than just get frustrated.

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