Flying Again (May 18, 2009)

May 18th, 2009. My second proper flying lesson. Yes I’m excited, I’m looking forward to it. Freedom, soaring through the air. It’s a wonderful feeling.

Do the walkaround, check the plane is airworthy. All seems fine. Instructor talks me through the takeoff, but she’s still controlling the rudder for the takeoffs at this point, while I do the power and the actual rotation off the runway.

Rudder? why do you need rudder when taking off in a straight line? Well it’s down to the physics of the engines. When at full power, the engines produce a lot of torque towards the left hand side. This results in the plane wanting to point and roll towards the left. As a result you need right hand rudder on take off to keep the plane straight. Simple (yeah right!)

So take off, (instructor is also doing the radio work, but I’ll get to it eventually,) fly eastbound out of the control zone towards the practice area.

Today we’re practicing straight and level flight. Sounds simple, and it should be, but when you’re new to the plane and just want to do it it’s suddenly not so easy. There are many different forces acting on the plane. Gravity wants to pull you down, lift wants to push you up. Drag wants to slow you down and wind just wants to do whatever it likes with you. As a result it’s a little harder to maintain that straight and level flight, especially on nice warm hot mornings like today where you are getting ground effect heating turbulence generated as the ground warms up from the sun (and not at even rates depending on the surface. You can definitely tell when you’re flying over a major highway as the hot air rising from that is a lot more than a grassy field.)

So with all these forces acting on you it becomes more of a balancing act to keep travelling in a straight line at the same altitude. Wind blows you off slightly, so you have to rudder into the wind to maintain your track. Power is torguing to the left, you use the rudder slightly to the right (while balancing out the wind.) Descending slightly, you need to trim nose up a bit more. Climbing, trim nose down.

Ultimately it’s not as complicated as it sounds, you get the hang of it relatively quickly, though I’m still today learning how much to spin the trim wheel for each configuration.

Also taught is how to set the power for our desired speed. In the Cessna 172R the standard cruise power setting is around 2,100 rpm (revs per minute) to maintain ~110 knots airspeed. If you want to slow down, you reduce power. Speed up, increase power. You of course have to keep the aircraft trimmed to maintain altitude at this point. Rule of thumb for the aircraft in straight and level flight is roughly take off 100 rpm to drop the airspeed 5 knots. Obviously this doesn’t work through the whole range of flight and power settings, but it’s a good rough rule when you’re in the air.

1.2 hours of flight time.

Costs: Plane 1.2 hours, $183.14. Instructor, 1.4 hours, $84.00. Including taxes, total cost $280.50

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