Lesson 23 - Wednesday April 21th

Six more, slow progress

On Tuesday I drove over to Van Nuys to check out their air traffic, as Tanya has threatened to take me over there to practice landing. 

Looking at the internet it looked like they had an observation area on the East side of the airport, the same side as runway 16L, the shorter or the two, where I'd probably practice, so I set off to find it.

It was actually rather difficult to find, as the street it is on (Waterman), does not have a street sign, so I drove past it twice even with my navigation system in the car.  Eventually though, I spotted the gritty looking alley that is Waterman, and it even had a sign "public airport view area", if you keep your eyes open.

The actual observation area turned out to be very nice, right next to the taxiway behind a chain link fence.   THe first thing that struck me was that there were lots of signs.   SMO does not have any signs.  Here's a photo I took

The signs are actually very easy to read when you know what the colors are.

Yellow on black background are positional signs, saying where you are.  So the "E" means "you are on Taxiway Echo".  The other one is "taxiiway Five Echo"

Black on yellow with an arrow are directional signs and  mean "this is over there".  Like "Five echo is over there" (or, next turn).

Red is a "mandatory" sign, meaning you've got to stop to get permission before going past it.  34R-16L means this is runway 34R and 16L (which are the same runway, just in different directions".  You'd stop here if you you wanted to take off, reporting like "Van Nuys tower, 8148H is holding short runway one six left, at five echo, left close traffic".   Although it looks like taxiway 2E is a more likely starting point.

So I sat and listened to the radio traffic for an hour or so.  Not really that different to SMO, just lots more jet traffic, and some different reporting points (the 118 freeway to the north has a similar function to the 405, but a bit further out).

Anyway, that was yesterday,  today (Wednesday) was another lesson where I continue to try to land.

I can see why student pilots get disheartened,  I've not made an incredible amount of progress in the last couple of weeks.  But I think I'm making enough.  I certainly feel that if I keep plugging at it, I'll eventually get it right.  It kind of reminds me of when I was learning to juggle.  That took me a really long time, but now I'm really good at it.  

We did six landings.  At the start I told Tanya I was still not really using the rudder at all.  She tried to describe how to use the rudder, but it was kind of difficult to visualize.  She said we should go out and practice rudder steering at a higher altitude next time.

I've got numerous problems, but one fundamental one is rounding out to level flight at the right time.  I do it too late and end up ballooning, or too early, and end up floating, diving and ballooning.

It really should be a simple thing, just fly the plane down to the runway, level off about ten feet off the ground, and then cut the power, and hold the plane up while you gently sink to the runway.  I just can't get the hang of it.  I need more practice. 

One landing was so bad we ended up floating along, heading off the runway towards the tower.  Tanya told me to go around, so I did.  The shame.

On the other hand, I'm getting much better at taking off, doing radio work, and flying the first part of the pattern (although on one leg,  I ended up at 1500 feet instead of 1400 feet and the controller asked "48H, what is your altitude", and I replied "erm, 1500 feet, descending to 1400", as I stuck the nose down.    They like everyone in the pattern to be at pattern altitude.  It helps the pilot as well, as you start your descent from a consistent height.

Next lesson is Monday, as we are going to Palm Springs for the weekend.