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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