Flying Lessons

Tail Dragging

After having my private pilot license for about six weeks and exercising the privileges there of I was ready to return for more lessons.

Tail Lesson 1

June 29, 2004

I meet George at Boeing field. We go through the check out procedure for a Maule then get in and start up. In addition to being a tail wheel airplane the Maule is also a high performance airplane. It has a 235 HP, fuel injected, 6 cylinder engine and a constant speed propeller. This means a couple more gauges: manifold pressure is now the measure of engine power, RPM is adjusted by the prop control lever, and a fuel flow gauge tells me just how much fuel is flowing into the engine.

I'm relieved that George handles the radio communications, leaving me to focus on flying this new beast. Deane always made me do everything. It meant that I got maximum experience doing everything but also that the first several lessons were pretty much overload.

On take off the Maule rolls down the runway for a short ways then pretty much lifts off from the 3 wheeled stance. It climbs and flies much faster than I'm used to. I like the way it flys. A little less vibration, more sense of power.

We fly west and George has me practice dutch rolls and progressively slower speeds. On this day I do fairly badly with the nose wondering from my target point.

When we are really slow we do some stalls. Stalls in this Maule are much more benign than in the Cessnas. Their stall is a little more abrupt and they are more likely to drop one wing first. The stalls we do today are very gentle. No bounce, the nose just drops.

On to Sanderson where I do some landings. Things are exactly the same but everything is different. I find that I'm having difficulty with simple things like holding a steady speed with attitude. I could do this in the Cessnas, it is not so different in this Maule, why am I unable to keep a steady speed. I think that the sensory input is sufficiently different that my brain has not learnt to filter it yet. It is like the first lessons all over again.

Tail Lesson 2: Moose Stalls and More Landings.

July 1, 2004

George reviews stall-spin awareness.

  • Moose Stall. You want to look at something on the ground. The best view comes from circling at 500ft above the object. If you let the airplane slow down and are not paying attention you can end up using aileron to keep the inner wing up. This has the effect of increasing drag on the wing. You may then apply inside rudder to keep the airplane straight. If you get slow enough the inside wing will stall and you'll enter a spin.
  • Base to final. You overshot the runway on your turn to final. You use inside rudder to bring the nose around faster. The inside wing drops so you apply outside aileron. If the wing stalls you enter a spin.
  • Power On Stall. On take off you loose reference and let the airplane climb too steeply and too slowly. Right aileron to counter the left turning tendencies. Left wing stalls.

For all of these the remedy is to use rudder to steer the aircraft when flying at low speeds.

From Boeing we find a hole in the 2,500ft cloud deck and climb to clear air at 6,000ft. Dutch rolls toward a point. Better. George demonstrates the moose stall by setting up a tight circle with insufficient power until bam the wing drops. Center the ailerons and recover with rudder. I practice 3 or 4 of these. I have a slight delay on the rudder, but do fairly well. This seems like something that would be good to practice many times.

George also has me steer the airplane through a series of 90 degree turns, just above stall speed, using just the rudder. This is fairly easy and gives me a great sense of how powerful the rudder is at slow speeds.

We drop through another hole in the clouds and head to Bremmerton for some landings. I'm beginning to get a sense of how these controls work

Takeoff: off runway reduce flaps to 0, power back to 25in (at first estimating position by measured distance on finger. Prop back to 2500 rpm. Climb at 100.

Cruise: power back to 22in, prop back to 2200rpm, mixture to 14 gph.

If we are staying in the pattern than I have to start slowly brining back the throttle a couple turns every minute. Any faster than this and a high precision, digital cylinder head temperature gauge tells us the cylinders are cooling too rapidly. George often pulls back the prop and the mixture, then increases them in small increments as the power is reduced. The extra RPMs helps heat the engine (but the extra fuel would cool it??).

Landing: Full prop rpm and rich mixture. One notch of flaps in the down wind when in the flap range. Speed 80. Turn base sooner than I'm used to. Power back to 1500 RPM. Second notch somewhere along here. Speed not below 70. Power off. Flare lower than I'm used to. Hold it just off the runway until stall and touch down. And most important off all: keep it going straight at all times.

Well, that's the theory any way. I'm not that smooth yet. Nor am I that good at keeping it going straight. At least once George saves his airplane from a ground loop with far quicker application of rudder that I'm able to muster yet.

Somewhere around now I take a friend out flying in the Cessna 172 and have some of the worst landings since I soloed. Now I don't know how to land any airplanes. This is a brutal process.

Lesson 3: Left Turning Tendencies

July 14, 2004

I've had a little break because I was out on a trip or two.

Today George covers the left turning tendencies of airplanes:

  • P Factor: When the nose is pitched up the downward slicing blade (on the right side) has more bite to the air so pulls the airplane to the left.
  • Slip Stream: The prop sends a spiral of air around the airplane which strikes the left side of the vertical stabilizer turning he airplane to the left.
  • Torque: The right spinning engine tries to make the airplane spin left.
  • Gyroscopic Progression: When you lower the nose you are turning the spinning engine and propeller. Angular momentum rules say that this will be turned into a force to the left.

And there is another one that George says is not much talked about. Pilots sitting left of the centerline will tend to sight somewhat toward the centerline and end up with an airplane pointing somewhat left of where they intend to point it.

We fly east. I'm much better at Dutch rolls this time. We slow the airplane down and George has me bring the nose up and down. With the airplane flying slow I can feel the left turning and the need for right rudder to keep it straight. I don't feel that much additional need as the nose goes up and down.

Then George asks me some puzzling questions: "Have I flown IFR much?" After my technically correct answer that I just did the private pilot training he says that it can also stand for "I Fly Roads" (or Rivers). He then asks me if I think the ground us is congested. There are houses among fields along a river. Not exactly congested but both Deane and Dan (check ride) took some pains to explain that the FAA does not have a firm definition of congested and people have gotten into trouble for flying over a few houses. George thinks that there are enough open fields where we could safely land away from people to consider this non-congested. That sounds like as good a definition as any I've heard.

So he says that we are going to go down to 600 ft and fly the bends of the river. There are huge goose necks in the stretch just below us and I tell him I don't believe I can do that. He demonstrates first by slowing the airplane down then steering with rudder. I take over and fly the bends.

Getting the power setting right is difficult. I'm used to a simple push rod throttle. The Maule's has a vernier I can screw it in or out for fine adjustments or push a button in the center and it acts like the push rod. George adds the requirement that all fuel adjustments be done slowly. So I try to use the vernier, but it can take quite a bit of twisting to get a power change - more delay that I'm used to.

Pretty fun. Very different. I'm thinking that I'll play with that some more in a 150.

We go to Renton where I do a couple landings, each better than the last. The final landing at Boeing is actually smooth and George complements me on it.

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Page last modified:  Aug 20 03:23 2008  by  Tom Unger