Flying Different Aeroplanes

I haven’t flown that many of different aeroplanes – comparatively – so far, but I’ve flown a few. After doing my first 75 hours just in a cessna 152, it’s been fun to get used to different ones.

The first one I transitioned to was the Cessna 172 – the 152’s big brother. Just a bit bigger, and almost the same in every way. Goes a tiny bit faster, and floats more over the runway when flaring, so my landings tended to be a bit long at first, but it’s gotten better. It was a bit strange to be in control of a bigger plane – kind of like hopping from a car into a van.

Then they introduced me to the other 172 with the fuel injection engine. Starting it is a bit different, but if you follow the checklist, it’s not hard. I’ve done both cold and warm starts on it now, and have no trouble. For some reason the controls on that one react a bit more smoothly than the other 172’s I’ve flown, and it’s my favourite 172 to fly.

And then there’s the Citabria – the taildragger. I love that one. My instructor does too, and when I couldn’t figure out what it was about it that made me love it, I asked her why she did. She fumbled for right words, and I said never mind, I know exactly what you mean. It’s more responsive than a 152 – makes the 152 seem dopey.  It doesn’t have a lot of the things that make the 152 a very forgiving plane for students training, but that makes it more maneuverable and quicker to punish a pilot for poor technique.

And most recently, I’ve got to fly a Cessna 150. It’s more responsive than the 152, more like the Citabria in the air, but still has a good degree of forgiveness with landing, being tricycle geared. This venerable old lady is venerable. This plane is older than my Dad. Sensitive about the carburetor, likes lots of carb heat. Prone to engine failures on takeoff if carb heat is shut off too early. Yay. But it’s been good to learn that. A lot of people would likely brush it off as a lousy plane, or broken and needs fixing, but it’s perfectly fine as long as you know what the plane needs. She just needs love and attention. And lots of carb heat.

Those, and one day Jill let me do a couple of touch and goes on her Land Africa on skis. The skis make taxiing interesting – no brakes, and the turn radius is a *tad* wider. But as far as takeoffs and landings, the thing is like riding a horse. When I first saw it, I saw the slats on the front of the wings and said “That must lower your stall speed.” And Jill said oh yeah, it does. It’s stall speed is so slow that when you land it just kind of plunks down. And on take-off, Jill just yanks the stick back at a speed that, in a 152, all you’d get would be a tail strike. But the Land Africa, she just leaps off the runway like she’s trying to jump over something.

Planes aren’t like cars – you might legally be able to hop into any single engine piston aircraft below a certain weight, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Going from a tricycle gear aircraft to a conventional gear aircraft is at least as challenging as learning to drive standard, likely more. And they may be standardizing a lot of things in aircraft now, but there are so many old aircraft out there, you have to be able to adapt to new things. A lot of private pilots will be at a school that only has one or two planes, so they get used to those ones, and seldom fly anything else, never having to adapt even to a different plane with the same model even. One 152 might have different radio or instrument types than others, and I think learning all the different planes that Harv’s got, even if it’s mostly 152’s, I think it’s been good to keep me from getting complacent. Some have different propellers and thus, different climbing characteristics, or one or two has flaps that the lever slides down so that you have to be careful it doesn’t go straight to twenty degrees when you only want ten.

I thought I’d look through my log book and see how many individual planes I’ve flown now. The number is twenty. Twelve different 152’s, four different 172’s, two Citabria’s, a Land Africa and a 150.

Anyway, I’m not sure what model I’ll end up trying out next. It depends on how quickly I get through my cross country flying and commercial license, and onto my multi rating – then I’ll be flying the Piper Seminole. I’ll be doing most of my time-building in C-FLUG, but the weather has been terrible, and I haven’t been flying in weeks. Getting twitchy.

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9 responses to “Flying Different Aeroplanes

  1. So this is a serious question.Could you fly something like a 737 or even a 787? If you were a passenger on one and all the pilots go unconscious or something, and everyone else is flapping their hands, and it’s down to you could you fly one?

    I guess a subsidiary question is, how much more training would you need to fly one (assuming it wasn’t a hollywood style “newbie pilot lands passenger jet” scenario).

    A

    • Hehe – I can’t speak from experience, of course, but the thing about those jets is they’re heavily, heavily automated, and have a lot of design features that you can’t put on a smaller plane, like spoilers that deploy automatically when the wheels touch down, killing all the lift to prevent a bounce. But also, the glass cockpit thing provides a lot of visual information that is easier to explain to a novice pilot what it means, because it’s laid out more intuitively than the old style instruments.

      But don’t take it from me – take it from the ten year old with no flight experience they stuck in a 737 flight sim and let him land it:

      and part 2:

      One of those type of planes may actually be easier to land than something smaller and more fragile. Granted, they lined him up and all, and he had *some* help – not sure how much. A pilot would be more familiar with navigation, and be able to ask questions like “what’s the approach speed for this sucker?” and “Where are the flaps?”

      There have been non-pilots talked through landing in small planes as well though. Recently, a pilot died at the controls of a Cessna 172, and the passenger was talked down by ATC: http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/10/09/20880468-flying-blind-passenger-lands-plane-after-pilot-collapses-at-controls?lite

      It a thing that definitely happens every once in a while, and it’s quite possible that a private pilot can safely land a large plane like that.

      Put that private pilot in something like a DC-3 though, and it might be a different story.

    • Andrew, it’s always the STEWARDESS who lands the airliner after the pilots have been shot by the bad guys or spirited away by aliens or whatever. And she always stops with the nose wheel just off the end of the runway.

    • Map reading is a skill that can be developed. Just because you’re not naturally good at something, doesn’t mean you can’t work on it. And people who do it for a living may have some tricks to teach you that could help.

      I read about a study a while back about how boys and girls get different encouragement as children. They found that boys, when they were successful at something, they were congratulated for their hard work in learning it. Girls on the other hand were congratulated for having “natural talent”. Boys learned if they weren’t good at something they had to try harder, but girls learn if they’re not good at something, it’s just not their thing, and they should apply their energy elsewhere.

      If you want to learn to fly, I encourage you to just go do it. You don’t have to become a commercial pilot, or even ever go outside of the small area around your home airport that you’re familiar with to fly. The first time my instructor asked me if I knew where we were, in the practice area, I said “We’re in the sky.” I had no clue. I had a general idea that we were north east of the airport, but that was about it.

      If I guy said the same thing you did, he’d get told, well, I guess you’ll have to buckle down and work hard at it. A woman gets told, oh, yeah, that’s too bad, probably best you stick to what you’re good at.

      You learn. The vast majority of people capable of driving a car are co-ordinated enough to learn to fly, and smart enough to learn the rest. You don’t have to be instantly good at everything. There are no natural born pilots.

      So I’ll tell you what someone told me a year and a half ago. If you want to, go do it. Look up local flight schools, stop by, make an appointment for a discovery flight, and see if it’s something you can live without.

      • Thanks for the encouragement, girl. And I would totally take your advice. Except that unfortunately, in my country, they do not give you flying lessons unless you are on the path to becoming a commercial pilot. Seriously–there’s no such thing as an amateur pilot unless your family owns their own planes. Otherwise, the planes are all owned by companies that aren’t interested in letting anyone use them unless they pay a lot of money. And they think that the only reason anyone will pay is if they plan to be a pilot. So if you don’t have the requisite passes in school (such as geography, math, etc.), the money and the proof you intend to take the pilot test, they won’t even let you near the airfield.

        However, you’ve made such a valid point about how we teach boys and girls. I was told the exact same things growing up and had to fight hard against them my whole life. There were also times I unfortunately bought into what I was told and derailed my own dreams.

        I didn’t give up on the idea of flying because of what people said, though. I gave up because my geography teacher refused to take me into the advanced class due to my poor map reading skills, and that meant I couldn’t take the subject at a high enough level to qualify for a learners permit. It’s a long story, but I missed a year of school growing up and she didn’t think I could pass the exams so she kicked me out of the class. I ended up passing all my exams very well, the ones I was allowed to sit, but no flying lessons for me.

        Maybe someday I’ll get to a place in life where its possible. If that happens, I’ll be sure to take your advice. Until then, do me a favour and fly for both of us 🙂

        • 😦 That really sucks. I remember you saying on the OWW forum that you lived in some country I thought of as exotic – I can’t remember where, was it Trinadad? If I’m ever decide I need a flying vacation, I’ll have to bring a plane down there and teach you!

  2. Hey RSA (if I may use your blog space for a second, Lindsay),

    That concept you have grown up to believe about what your national aviation is like, falls in a similar category as the biased encouragement for boys/girls… just clearer to see, at least once you are “at the other side”.

    Those exact points you write, about studies, precise matters and grades, prices, commercial pilots, lack of any schools… are made all over the place; believed as gospel. But as soon as you stop believing and look for yourself in the correct spot, you will see they’re just popular ideas. Wrong ideas… except for the price, that is =P

    Don’t stay at the door talking to the salesman or clerk, for I’ve also seen it MANY times: if they tell you differently, it’s because they don’t know any better about planes than your average plumber. With an undeserved air of superiority for “belonging” to an industry that in some places is seen as exclusive of royal families, added to a serious lack of knowledge of “their product”, plus their only experience of dealing with students that want to become airline pilots through the fast (and expensive; and dangerous) lane… it’s very probable that they don’t even know that lower/cheaper licenses do exist and are offered right there, in the place where they work *as salesmen*.

    In Trinidad you do have private pilot’s schools too. And for a non-aviator that may not have concepts very clear: a private pilot license would be a lousy equivalent of your basic driving license. It allows you to fly planes like those in Lindsay’s text for fun, to travel around, for training, to take grandma up in the sky for a ride and basically anything that is not a paid job.

    That license could also serve as a first (and cheaper; and safer) step to your commercial license, should you decide to go for it at some point later on. And again, to clarify a bit: a commercial license would allow you to do all of the above, plus being paid for flying.

    And no, you don’t need any specific grades in schools or excellence in any particular matters. You do need, though, a healthy pocket. But jokes about costs asides, not even that is absolutely true and completely inevitable. You can always find and agree on a plan to pay for the classes as you go, for instance.

    That only to talk about regular schools and taking one particular approach, because you could also join a club and fly lighter/cheaper planes. You have those too in Trinidad 😉

    How do I know? Well, I’ve been traveling a bit (yeah Lindsay, I was at Harv’s too hehehe), flying in quite a few places, and was “this close” to being in Trinidad flying not even a month ago.

    So, insisting a bit too much maybe in the encouragement idea: don’t let a conceited teacher, hating her job and having stone-age concepts of what education is, make you take the choice of letting yourself down in anything. Flying or else. Heck, one has to feel sorry for a conceited someone, hating his job and having no skill at it whatsoever, not take his advice or let him guide!

    Now yes, flying in any way can be a tad too expensive and that anyone can understand, but that and only that should be the barrier in front of you; the one you have to fight, climb, go around… or not, but that is it. Geography, map reading or anything else can be developed, and the role of any valid teacher, with your help, is making you develop the required skill. I know one million pilots that are useless at driving or finding places in town, yet they can fly you straight to any particular bush 1000 miles away 😉

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