Grounded Again (June 2009)

Unfortunately early in June I had reason to stop with my flying lessons. It was a situation that couldn’t be helped. My wife lost her job of that time, and as a result I couldn’t justify the expenditure. We had the money for the lessons, but with not knowing how long we’d be without two incomes it was decided that paying out all this money once or twice a week just wasn’t a good idea.

So I stopped flying.

I didn’t stop the rest of the training though. I still read the books, still prepared for my PSTAR exam (the written exam I must take before going solo) and the medicals. It’s a temporary setback that took just over three months to be overcome before I returned.

Up up and away – Flying (6 June, 2009)

So I’m in the air again, flying and practising what we did in ground briefing last time when the weather was against us. Range and endurance.

Now, like most things in flying, what seems a simple enough matter in the classroom, becomes much trickier once your in the air. In the classroom you can concentrate on the one thing you’re doing. However in the air you’re trying to set the plane up for a certain configuration, looking around you, checking other instruments and trying to maintain straight and level flight.

Best range configuration isn’t so bad, set for power levels and lean the mixture back. Easy enough.

Best endurance on the other hand is slightly trickier. Remember we’re pulling back power, retrimming, and start looking for that drop in our VSI indicator. Seems simple enough, and in perfectly smooth air it probably is. However when it’s slightly turbulent the VSI indicator is twitching constantly anyway. Trying to see when it drops down consistent with the fact we’re now losing lift is much harder that it initially seemed in the classroom. So we practice it, and play with it a bit. It’s really not that easy, but I get the general idea of it.

So theory, sound. Practical applications, needs a bit more work but I know what it is I’m doing. Due to turbulence and increasing winds we decide to cut the flight shorter than normal.

Costs: Airplane rental, 0.9 hours, cost $137.36. Instructor time, 1.1 hours, $66. Total cost including GST, $213.53.

Stuck on the Ground (May 30, 2009)

I have a flight booked for today. I’m mentally looking forward to it, however my body does not co-operate. I’m feeling ill, dodgy stomach, slight dizziness. Nothing that normally would stop me from doing things. However when faced with the prospect of flying a $200,000 plus aircraft with no on-board facilities, you have to rethink these things.

So today I ground myself. No flying for me.

Instead me and my instructor spend the time in the classroom. When people think of flying lessons they think of getting in the aircraft and zooming around the skies, and yes that is the point. However there is a lot of work to be done on the ground as well. In fact you’ll spend more time doing ground work and prep than you will in the air, so keep this in mind.

Since the next lesson is to be on range and endurance, we go over the theory and practicalities of it on the ground this time. It’s a good way to make use of a sick, no flight day, as there is always something to learn and go through.

So, range and endurance. To this point we’ve been flying the plane in just regular cruise mode, with full fuel for optimal manoeuvrability and responsiveness. However this mode is also our thirstiest setup. It’s fine for local flights, and training hops around the local area, but it doesn’t help us if we need to travel a long distance, or need to stay up in the air for as long as possible. So, we have range and endurance.

Range, obviously, is to allow you to get the maximum distance out of your aircraft. This means not flying along at maximum speed and full fuel burn. So, range configuration, how can I get the plane set up for the maximum distance travelled? One thing to note here, this won’t get you to your destination the fastest, just make sure you get there.

So, we set the aircraft for best range power as determined by the POH (Pilot Operating Handbook) for the aircraft, then we start to lean the fuel mixture until the RPM begins to drop. At that point, we increase the fuel flow three turns (the fuel mixture can be pulled in and out, or twisted for finer fuel flow alterations.)

So now we’re set up for maximum range. We’re not going out full cruise speed, but we’ll go further.

Endurance. For endurance we don’t care about getting anywhere, we just want to stay in the air the longest possible time. This may be for many reasons. You’ve had a problem and want time to diagnose it and work out the best course of action (maybe you’re lost, or there’s been a technical issue.) Perhaps there’s been a bad landing at the airport you’re supposed to be landing at and they need time to get the runway clear. Or even bad weather over your destination that should pass in an hour or so. In any of these cases, if you have no alternative destinations you just want to stay up there as long as possible. It’s not like in a plane you can just pull over to the side of the road and wait it out.

So similar to the range settings, but we want to reduce our fuel consumption as much as possible. We’re not going anywhere, so we don’t need speed. Do reduce power to the best endurance setting in your POH, and then start leaning the fuel mixture. We want to stay in the air, so once we start seeing a drop in our VSI (vertical speed indicator), we want to re enrich the engine to just before when it started to drop. There, we’ll stay up in the air long enough to sort things out.

Costs: No aircraft rental today, so just the instructor. 1.3 hours, $78 plus GST. Total cost: $81.90