Most of my flying these days is around Cape Cod.  I tend to put many of my pics up on facebook, but I thought I would start logging more and more of my adventures here again.  So enjoy.

It has been awhile since I have written. But I have been flying and I have flown a few additional aircraft just to expand my knowledge. I have flown the Cessna 182 Skylane and the Piper Arrow, with my instructor of course since these aircraft require an additional level of certification. The Skylane is considered a high-performance aircraft due to the 230 hp engine and
the Arrow is considered “complex”, which by FAA definition consists of the following: controllable pitch propeller, flaps, and retractable landing gear. The Skylane has all the complex criteria except for the retractable landing gear – so for me it is still “high-performance complex”. The reason I say that is – the most complex part of both were the controllable pitch propeller and the additional weight of each aircraft. Just what I need, one more thing to think about in the cockpit with the propeller !!!

 

So with that said, both aircraft were actually a lot of fun to fly, especially the Arrow. I really enjoyed the feel of a low-wing aircraft. It just felt more natural and actually easier to fly. But my big decision now is to go back to the Cessna Skyhawk and improve my proficiency and accuracy as a pilot. So now my latest adventure is to continue my training and get my
instrument rating (IFR). I will use both the Classic six-pack cockpit as well as the G1000 (Glass) cockpit. Here they are below.

G1000 Glass Cockpit

Six Pack Cockpit

So last night I took my first training flight.  In general it was the same as my VFR training “under the hood” but my instructor put me under the hood almost immediately after take-off and once we were above traffic pattern.  So for the next 1.5 hours I flew under the hood with no external visual references except what my body was feeling.  The focus in this training was maintaining my heading and altitude within a certain tolerances.  So we did some climbs, descents, standard rate turns and plain old level flight.  I was amazed how difficult it was, but it is so easy to see how pilots can make mistakes, especially if you get fixated on any one instrument.  Developing a scan and making small corrections is what it is all about.

When it was time to call the tower and head home … I was exhausted !!  But I must say … I absolutely “greased” my landing !!  My instructor even asked jokingly … “who taught you how to land an aircraft?”

My final thoughts take me back 10 years to JFK Jr.  I recently read an article about the things that just went so wrong for JFK jr.  The bottom line is this:  first and foremost, never let the pressure of  “get there….itis” force you to do something you are not prepared to do.  Once you get past that; be prepared and use common sense all along the way.  Check out this book by an IFR pilot … Douglas A. Lonnstrom, PhD., a Siena College statistics professor and an instrument-rated private pilot with more than 20 years of flying experience, researched John F. Kennedy Jr.’s accident for more than 10 years. The result is his book JFK Jr.—10 Years After the Crash—A Pilot’s Perspective.

I have done virtually all of my training and received my private pilot’s license in a 180 hp high wing Cessna 172 Skyhawk.  I have been checked out in the G1000 avionics as well, but I have always wondered what the “visual” difference would be like flying a low wing aircraft.  

Piper Arrow

Cessna Skyhawk

So I scheduled time with my instructor in a Piper Arrow.  Being the novice that I am I did not realize the Arrow was not only low wing, but a “complex” trainer.    The Piper Arrow has retractable landing gear and a constant speed (variable pitch) propeller.  Since the landing gear is retractable with additional horsepower, the plane is significantly faster than the fixed gear Cessna Skyhawk.  The Arrow is also used for training for students seeking their commercial license, instrument rating and/or instructor’s certificate.

So in a nutshell, I added some rather significant variables with landing gear, variable pitch prop and more horsepower, not to mention, a new manufacturer with some different instrumentation and equipment placement.   So we started out with a little bit of ground work to understand the systems of the Arrow.  Other than the obvious ones that were new to me, this particular aircraft had separate fuel tanks that needed to be managed and switch from time to time, and an electric fuel pump since it is a low wing.   Fuel is pump up to the engine as opposed to the high wing gravity feed …. hmmm, gravity, to me that sounds so much more reliable. 

So once I understood in general how the equipment works and the things to be concerned about we headed to for take-off.  It had been a blustery weekend with 15-18 kt winds out of the west with gusts up to 25, but when we headed to Runway 29 in the late afternoon the skies were clear and the winds were almost calm.   Perfect for a new experience in a new aircraft.   Rotation was different, Vy was different and when we got to cruise headed westbound I learned the phrase 25 squared.  2500 RPM on the prop, 25 psi on the throttle/manifold pressure.  I adjusted to 25 squared, trimmed the aircraft, headed west for the reservoir and enjoyed the view !! 

And what a view from this type of aircraft.  Flying felt more natural and easy when cruising, making turns and looking for traffic.  Of course, just like the Cessna, there are blind spots, but they just felt a bit more comfortable.  In addition, when making a turn, you didn’t have to do that little annoying “lift the wing, look, then turn”.  You just rolled into the turn and enjoyed the view.  Definitely a winner and I will go back for more training in this little complex trainer.  

So far the late fall and early winter has been tough. From holidays, work, family health issues and of course the WEATHER  it has been a challenge getting back into the air.  But I am happy to say things are settling down and this weekend in the Greater Boston area it is warm (for January) and beautiful.  We have a huge special election in Massachusetts on the 19th so I really had to get out today, since Obama is in town tomorrow and Clinton was here yesterday.  So with the TFRs around today was the day …. what a great morning to get back in the saddle.

There was nothing too fancy today, just a little traffic pattern work  Bright skies and light winds, it could not have been better and if I must say myself … I “greased” 5 of 6 landings.  The only reason I didn’t hit all 6 was probably a little bit of arrogance and not ensuring I fly the plane all the way through the landing.  It was my last touch down and I let the plane just drop a bit too much at the end.  It wasn’t bad but I can do much better and had, so I was not very happy with my self.  I really like it when those mains touch down and its as if the you were skimming a stone perfectly on a glassy pond.  Oh well … 5 of 6 ain’t bad.

I’ve often thought it would be really cool to own an aircraft.  But of course the price and maintenance are a real issue.  So then I dream about joint ownership or a lease-back program.  But now there is a more affordable aircraft by Cessna in the Light Sport Aircraft category that just may entice me.  Of course it is still pretty expensive, but in a lease-back program at the local FBO … I may just jump in.  When my flight school EFA brings one on board I will definitely give it a ride to check it out.  But what I already like is large and low windows for great visibility, the wider cockpit and the control sticks rather than a yoke.  Check this out:

cessna_skycatcher

Skycatcher 162