Stalls are hard

Review of this weekend’s flight lessons..

Saturday: I thought for sure today was going to be called off. Winds were forecast to be 25 knot gusts. Luckily, it mellowed out and just came down to a steady 15 knot wind. This environment was not entirely conducive to learning how to land.. so we skipped ahead a lesson, to stalls.

Sunday: The wind was calm, but the clouds were low. We had to wait until 1p to get to VFR legal weather. Since we could not gain enough attitude to do any exercises where some altitude loss is expected, we worked on landings.

Stalls

First, to dispell myths. Stalls can happen at ANY speed. Fast, slow, doesn’t matter. You can’t go too slow (though, going slow may be a symptom). You can just as easily stall going fast. What matters, is the angle the plane is, relative to the wind. If you’re aiming for the earth doing a billion miles a second, you can’t just pull back hard on the elevators. No, you have to do it at a controlled pace, and slowly roll out of it.

Saturday’s lesson brought us up to 3000 feet before each exercise, then doing a bit of an “S” pattern (kinda) to make sure there was no traffic on either side of us, and more importantly, no traffic below us. For a “power-on” stall, we were simulating an overly aggressive climb from takeoff. First we slowed the plane down to a bit over takeoff speed. Then, we put the pedal to the metal (figuratively speaking) and started a climb. My task was to keep the plane at 75 knots. To do that at full power, you steadily keep pulling back. Eventually, the stall warning came on, as the inside part of the wings stalled; followed shortly after by buffeting of the plane. Recovery is simply put the nose back down, make sure your engine’s at full speed, get your air speed up, and start climbing to gain lost altitude.

This may sound easy, but in fact, an intentional stall is very hard, at least in the Cessna 172. I had to *really* fight the plane to get it to stall. I’m sure unintentional stalls are easy, which is why this is practiced, before it become a true emergency. This isn’t the kind of practice you’d want to do with passengers.. and if you did stall the plane with passengers, they may think twice about going up with you. There is a bit of negative G you feel as you recover. At least you’d give them the opportunity to think twice, should it happen…

We also practiced low speed stalls, the kind you’d likely do when landing. Those were a bit easier to make happen, but were a lot less of an event to recover from.

Landings

My [/archives/Learning%20to%20Fly/that_was_so_fun_ill_do_it_twice.html first attempt to land”] a couple of weeks ago was pretty rough. Both my instructor and I agreed that I need practice at that. We’ve since practiced go-arounds and stalls, and today’s weather was kinda crappy, so we stuck to just low-altitude “pattern work” (that’s slang for “practing landing”).

I asked that we do it at the uncontrolled airport, as I’m still presented with *plenty* of “work”, that I didn’t want the added distraction of having to operate in a controlled environment. Traffic was very light at Franklin airport. We had one aircraft that we never identified, who had radio problems. We’re not sure where he went off too, but he didnt’ stick around . We had one helicopter take off, just after we did our first landing. Other than that we had the strip to ourselves.

It was a good day for a n00b like me. Wind was very very light and steady, and no real traffic, so I was able to get in a good 9 full-stop landings and takeoffs. Landings really still pucker me up - it just seems like a good approach means I’m crapping my pants wondering if we’re really going to reach the threshhold. Of course, we do, so it is still a matter of perspective to get used to. If I had to land without my instructor right this very second, I’d probably eat valuable runway landing late - but I can indeed land without crushing the plane in the process. No touch-and-touch-and-gos. One landing I flared a bit much too soon, and the instructor took over, but no double touch down.

Franklin Airport

Finding this airport is a PITA. I’m still having problems finding it until I’m nearly right over it. However, I did find out today that our next door neighbor to that airport is an inmate facility, so it should be a bit easier to find. We figured this out when they had one of their nice busses out. I’m still not quite sure what the bus was doing crossing the other runway.. maybe they didn’t factor in that their escape C5 can’t land at that airport. Dunno. (Hm. Maybe this is why landings are risky - they build airports next to prisons!).

Anyhow, back to finding it. You can take I-5 south. (No, really. Just fly above it..). Actually, if you’re flying I-5 south, the next major road over is Franklin Blvd. You just follow this until you see the field. Unfortunately, my experience with trying to find this field thus far has been frustrating. I’ve had to get pretty close to the field, to recognize it. Luckily, we have some major landmarks to find it. I-5, by the towers (Walnut Grove), go due east. If I do this, I should see Ranco Seco nuclear power plant at my 11-o-clock. After that, look for the prison…

(The prison appears to be Rio Consumnes Correctional Center, 12500 Bruceville Road, Elk Grove CA).

If/when I ever buy a plane, I am *so* putting GPS in. Not only will a GPS give you *ground* track and speed, it’ll tell you where things are relative to you, and how far out, so you have a flipping idea where to look. Sadly, GPS is not yet legal for IFR, only VFR.

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