Lesson 7 - Monday February 23rd
Radio and Stalling
Excellent lesson today. Radio traffic, power-off stall, and nearly landed.
Last Friday's lesson had been cancelled, rescheduled for Sunday, and then cancelled again, all due to the bad weather we've been having. There's a storm system sitting up north, off the coast, and it's forecast to rain all this week. So I did not even bother to try to book a lesson for Monday (today).
Imagine my surprise when I wake up to a beautiful clear day! It seems like the forecast was relating mostly to inland, as I could see clouds lurking over the tops of the mountains, and into the valley. But down here at the beach it's blue skies, hurrah! Bit windy though. I leap online, and book a lesson at rather short notice.
The lesson was at 1PM, we do 0.3 hours of ground instruction first (time is counted in decimal fractions at flight school, as your air time is based on the "Hobb's Time" which is a little meter, like an odometer, except it measures the amount of time the engine is turned on.).
The ground instruction is just describing what we are going to do today. Firstly, I am indeed going to talk on the radio, and secondly we are going to do power off stalls.
Power off stalls sound worse than they are. It's basically going into slow flight (60 kts) and then going into a controlled 500 feet per minute descent, and then pulling the nose up, with the throttle at idle, until we loose enough speed so that we start a stall. In theory a warning horn should sound, and the plane should start to.
So, preflight, it's 8148H today, the first time I've flown in this plane since my introductory lesson. Preflight is a bit more interesting, as firstly we are out of gas, so I call Justice on my cell phone, and they send round the gas truck. Then when I drain the engine sump, there is water in the fuel. I keep draining until it's clear.
Startup fairly smooth, get the ATIS (the code is "echo", then I have my first every radio broadcast. I rehearse a few times then press the button and:
Mick: "Santa Monica Ground, Cherokee 8-1-4-8 Hotel, at justice, taxi to
southeast run-up with echo"
That all that is needed for us to actually start moving. We taxi around to the run-up area. I'm still not very good at taxiing, tending to weave all over, and I'm especially bad when trying to stop at a particular spot (like at the run-up area).
Pre-takeoff run-up complete, I contact ground:
Mick: "Santa Monica Ground, Cherokee 8-1-4-8 Hotel, at southeast run-up,
taxi to 2-1, with echo."
Phew, that's done with ground. We taxi over to the runway hold-short line (only about 50 feet from the run-up area), and stop. We now have to contact the tower, which I actually feel a lot more comfortable with, as I've been listening to tower traffic for a few days, but I can't hear much of the ground traffic from my house (with my radio scanner).
Mick: "Santa Monica Tower, Cherokee 8-1-4-8 Hotel, holding short of 2-1,
right turn at shoreline"
Now really they should have told me continue to hold short, as they did not clear me onto the runway. There was a huge jet coming in to land, pretty obvious situation, but still...
Anyway, the jet lands, and we get:
Tower: "4-8 Hotel, position and hold"
We taxi onto the runway, line up, perform pre-takeoff checklist (fuel pump on, lights on, transponder to Alt), then:
Tower: "4-8 Hotel, Cleared for takeoff, right turn at shoreline approved"
And I take off. Some steering assistance from Tanya, but it's mostly me in control, and Tanya barking instructions at me ("nose up, nose down, level your wings, watch the horizon"). The air is very bumpy, and I begin to wonder if I might get sick again, but after we climb over 1000 feet, the air smoothes out, and nary a bump can be felt for the remainder of the flight.
Then we fly out to Point Dume. On the way there we do a few slow flight maneuvers, which seemed slightly easier. I was not always good at keeping altitude though, especially in turns.
Then we head back, and start the power-off stalls. Unfortunately the plane seems very unwilling to stall. Tanya demos the maneuver once, and then I try twice. Each time we slow down to about 45 kts, and it seems like the plane has practically stopped in mid air, but no real stall, although I was shaking a bit. It's still a correct maneuver, but in the test you actually have to demonstrate a stall, so I'm sure we'll get to that eventually.
Then we head back, ATIS is unchanged, more radio talk:
Mick: "Santa Monica Tower, Cherokee 8-1-4-8 Hotel, at the Palisades,
inbound with Echo"
Here I made a slight mistake, I should have said "right traffic, report abeam, 4-8 Hotel", and Tanya pointed it out to me. But Tower did not mind today, not very busy.
We descent pretty much straight for the airport from Pacific Palisades, down to 1400 feet, and we turn onto the downwind leg as we cross the 10 freeway. We don't get a chance to report abeam though, as tower calls us first:
Tower: "4-8 Hotel, continue downwind, I will call your base"
I'm not sure about that exchange, Tanya told me what to say. On the radio, I normally hear tower say "extend your downwind", but at that point we were not actually on downwind, just turing into it, so perhaps the sense was more "continue *to* downwind".
As we are approaching Century City:
Tower: "4-8 Hotel, turn base, cleared to land"
So Tanya now tries to talk me through a landing. She's always slipping me things like this, which prevents me from panicking too far in advance, and using up all my nervous energy. It's a pretty bumpy descent, with a bit of a headwind. I try to keep up, extending the flaps, and making the turns, trying to line us up Tanya says the VASI is broken, but it turns out we are just too high, or too far to the left or something (and it's a PAPI, not a VASI!). .
Tanya takes the controls as we actually approach the runway, it's getting rather bumpy at the this point, with some up/down drafts bouncing us around, and we end up bouncing slightly as we touch down, and so we go around.
Tanya: "4-8 Hotel, going around"
I make the turns onto Left Base, then left downwind, then we have to get landing clearance again. When we are abeam the tower:
Mick: "Santa Monica Tower, 4-8 Hotel is abeam, south downwind, landing
Now I think Tower asked me that because of the go-around, perhaps it looked unwarranted from their perspective, and they though we had just not announced our intentions in advance, so they were checking ("touch and go" is where you land, slow to stopping speed, and then take off again. "full stop", is where you land, and taxi off the runway and stop.).
Tanya lands the plane, and I have my final words with Tower:
Tower: "4-8 Hotel, go to ground point niner"
Bah, I messed up the final call. I should have said "ground point niner, 4-8 Hotel". You should always include your call sign when responding, especially when it's the start of a conversation. Again I think I was cut some slack as it was not very busy at all. ("ground point niner" means "tune your radio to 121.9 and contact ground control").
Mick: "Santa Monica Ground, Cherokee 8-1-4-8 Hotel, clear of active, taxi
That's it! All my radio communications for the day. I was pretty nervous, but I managed not to freeze, with just a few mishaps. Now I'm going to have to do this every time I fly.
Taxi back, park the plane, back to the office, and I've now filled one whole page in my log book, with 6.5 hours total. Approx 10% of what it usually takes. I tell Tanya I want to step up the pace of lessons, and have at least three each week. She's going to see if she can fit me in on tomorrow afternoon, and maybe at the weekends as well.
I better hurry up and get my Medical Certificate, so I can solo!