Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Fourth Flight

It's all starting to come together. Ten takeoffs and landings today, and all without instructor assistance. Not all of them were picture perfect, mind you. In a case of not being able to have cake and eat it too, I'm doing much better with directional control, but I've developed a bounce. That'll go away eventually. It comes from carrying too much speed into the landing, but the wind was 8-10 knots, by far the most I've had to deal with in the RV. It changes the way things look in the flare - I feel like I'm too slow because I have 10 more mph of airspeed on the nose than I'm used to, which reduces the ground speed by an equal amount.

We did 5 or 6 stop-and-goes at Bolton, which were great except for the bounces. We then headed over to Columbus Southwest and made a few landings on the grass. I hate takeoffs there because there is a bump in the middle of the runway that launches us into the air at about 50 mph. The plane will fly at 50, but just barely. The trick is to let it fly up a foot or two, level off to allow it to gain speed, then climb out. You don't want to let it settle back down onto the grass, so that's a bit more challenging than it may sound.

From there we headed over to Darby Dan. This is a fairly narrow paved runway, and because of its orientation the wind had a much higher crosswind component. Landing was so-so, which is too bad since there were six mechanics watching the show. On the second takeoff from Darby, the instructor pulled the throttle to idle to simulate the loss of the engine. There is a grass strip just off the departure end, which he knew about of course, so I had to try to get the plane slowed down to land pretty quickly. This grass strip has an enormous pair of trees just on the left edge (if you're landing to the west) which really focus your attention. They're almost like fairway hazards. Bad news if you have a hook. I had to really hammer right rudder and counter the resulting turning tendancy with left aileron (this is called a forward slip) to add drag to the plane to get it slowed down. It turned out that had this been an actual emergency I probably would have been able to land and stop before running off into the adjoining corn field, but since this was training there was no reason to risk it. I applied full throttle about 5 feet off the ground and went around. He pulled the throttle again on downwind. I have no idea how well an RV-6 glides, so I didn't put the flaps down until I thought we had the runway made. Even then, I think I got them down a bit early as it took a blip of throttle to clear the trees. The landing itself went fine and I was able to keep the big trees out of play. The subsequent takeoff went well too.

Back to Bolton. The instructor asked for a wheel landing, which requires a bit more finesse than the 3-pointers I had been doing. Naturally I bounced horribly, and had to abort the wheel landing in favor of a safer 3-pointer. Good decision making according to the instructor. Finesse can come later. Right now I'm happy to simply be landing unassisted, even if it's ugly.

We taxiied back to the hangar, me drenched in sweat. A few of my landings were made even more difficult from the sweat burning in my eyes. I might have to consider a sweat band to keep that from happening.

The plane is flying great, and continues to impress me more and more every time I fly it. Today I was impressed to learn that it will fly at 50 mph. I learned that by botching a takeoff and pulling the plane into the air rather than struggle with it on the ground. Simply amazing: we were near gross weight, on a hot, humid day, and that plane lifted off and flew at 50 mph! What an incredible machine!

So, 6.9 hours in the book. Another 3.1 to satisfy the insurance co. I'm developing a lot of faith in their actuaries, since I think 10 hours is going to be right around the point where I feel comfortable flying alone.

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