“There is an art, it says, or rather, a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss. Pick a nice day, [The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy] suggests, and try it.”
–The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Well, after spending the first week learning something new every day, week two was all the same thing every day. And that was take-offs and landings. We call it circuit work, or touch-and-go’s. The circuit is the rectangular pattern we fly around the runway when lining up to land – in the US they just call it the pattern. So we fly around and land, then take-off again without stopping on the runway. And then we do it again.
I’m getting better.
Actually, landing is the hardest part. That spin video in my previous post? That’s easy. A little scary at first, sure, but ultimately and easy to learn maneuver. The instructor had me do it about three times, at which point she said, ok, you’ve got the idea, lets move on to the next thing. Take-offs, even, are not that hard – keep it straight on the runway with the rudder, full power, pull up just a bit when you hit about 55 knots to get your wheels off the ground, and let it climb on it’s own once the wheel-drag is gone and your airspeed picks up.
Landings, I can see where a lot of the stuff I was taught in the first week starts to come together – the speeding up, slowing down, learning how attitude and power affect airspeed and altitude in tandem, not independently, and then the other tools available, like the flaps to lower your stall speed and create drag to slow it down, but that can’t be used above a certain airspeed, and the carb heat that needs to be on anytime you’re throttling back below a certain RPM. Keeping at a level altitude while in the circuit, turns of close to thirty degrees of bank but no more, ascending turns into the crosswind, descending turns into base and final, the cockpit checks, the radio. All of these were easy to learn one at a time, but now I have to do them all at once.
My first few landings were pretty sucky, and I had to overshoot more than one (pull up and go around to try again). Every day I got better, and made different mistakes, and more often than not, the next mistake I made was trying to hard to do the opposite of what I did wrong last time and going too far in the other direction. But I’m starting to get a feel for it, and leveling the plane out more consistently at the right height and all that. It’s coming along. Yesterday I got it on the ground a couple times all my myself, without the instructor touching the controls. Today got even more consistent, with more than half of the touch-and-go’s being with nothing but verbal help, and some with none at all. It does take practice – you have to get a feel for how far out you are, and how high, and how fast you’re descending, and as I get a sense for that, then I can correct it earlier and have to do less correcting at the end when I’m trying to hit the ground as gently as possible.
I’m getting there. Sandra figures I may be ready to solo next week.