Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Since I can't afford an autopilot....

We had some nice looking but still somewhat brisk weather this afternoon, as evidenced by the morally uplifting Weather-out-the-Windshield&trade forecast available during my afternoon commute across town combined with the rapidity with which Brave Sir Hogarth completed his afternoon duties outside. I can't complain too much about the cold considering that the sun was more than willing to provide heat if you were to find yourself encased in a clear, transparent bubble like, say, an RV-6 canopy. It still gets dark fairly early, but there was certainly enough time for a quick jaunt around the local area.

Co-pilot Egg was available and interested in riding along, so we took the opportunity to embark on her first flying "lesson." I have to put 'lesson' in quotes since I'm not a certified flight instructor and as such cannot give her official lessons towards a pilot's license, but I can still teach her how to help with the preflight, navigation, and enroute portions of the flying. You know, two-thirds of the things an autopilot would do for me. Being able to participate in the actual flying will also have the benefit of making the actual flying part of trips much more fun for her.

It was chilly enough today that we didn't spend any more time than necessary on the preflight; she shivered in the hangar while I did the poking and prodding required to ensure that Papa was up to the task. I also performed the engine start and tower communications without any explanation at all as to what I was doing. We'll circle back on concentrate more fully on that stuff later.

The winds were reported as "calm" by the tower, and I had no occasion to doubt the veracity of that report. We were soon off the runway and climbing towards the southwest on a straight out departure. I usually opt for a departure to the west, but an Ercoupe had departed just in front of us and was heading out west. Those things are so slow that I feared we'd run into him if we were to lose sight of him flying directly into the setting sun. Since we weren't headed anywhere in particular, it was "six of a dozen, half of one another" to me and southwest was just as good as west.

During the climb we reviewed basics like how to read the altimeter, what the vertical velocity gauge was showing her, and how to tell what direction we were going. At 3,500' I let her take the stick and we practiced straight and level flight. The sun was glaring in her eyes while we were heading southwest, so we practiced a turn to the east. I wanted to give Rickenbacker a wide berth, so we only flew on the easterly course for a few minutes before I had her head turn to the south. We're going to have to spend some time talking about compass directions before we fly again, though, as she struggles to figure out things like "if we're headed east and want to go south, which way do we turn?" Other than that, she did great at straight and level, and showed tremendous patience in her turns. She's very gentle on the stick in turns, but somewhat abrupt in pitch corrections. I also had to coach her to avoid fixating on the instruments, but I think that is very, very common in student just beginning their training.

I showed her how to select destinations out of the favorites list on the Garmin, how to turn onto course, and how to keep the CDI centered. We working our way out to the west until we were over Lilly Chapel, the west-side reporting point for an arrival back into Bolton. I took over from there since the Ercoupe had reported in as "over Lilly Chapel" just as we arrived. Fortunately for my ulcers, he included a report of his altitude too. I love it when other pilots do that! He was down at 2,500' and we were still at 3,500', so it was a far less stressful few seconds than it would have been had he not told the tower where he was.

I reported in right after him, and the tower spent a handful of transmissions getting the situation clear in his head. I think he was a new guy and didn't know that I have an RV-6 (I call in as "Experimental") because he seemed to be working out a way to put me behind the Ercoupe. Ercoupes do about 80mph straight down, and we were cooking along at 150 knots, so I didn't really want to get put in line behind him. It all became clear to him when we reported our respective GPS distances from the airport and he could see that I had already put the Ercoupe a mile behind us.

The landing was an absolute greaser, for which I give great thanks to the gods that control these things. Egg's analysis was that it was "pretty good," which is high praise indeed. She can't yet see over the engine while we're taxiing, so I drove us back to the hangar. That's another aspect of the flying that will probably have to wait awhile. All in all, I was very happy with Egg's flying and hope that we get a chance for another "lesson" soon. I want to sit her down with a sectional chart next time and plan out a short flight somewhere, teach her how to plug a destination into the GPS, and fly us there.

Oh, and here's a picture of the intrepid birdgirl:


  1. Looks like you had a great time! You may not be able to log the time as instruction, but the experience you gain will make it a whole lot easier to get your license when the time comes.