Yesterday, we spent 1.3 hours aloft while he attempted to instill the concepts of level flight. Flying straight and level sounds easy but there are so many things that effect an aircraft in motion that my head was spinning by the end of the lesson. The idea is that the pilot has to learn to fly the airplane without relying too much on the instruments. If you’re staring at all the dials, you can’t keep a lookout for other aircraft and other things that you could hit and certainly ruin your day.
Our training area is just north of the Brampton Flying Club and starts at the Caledon gravel pits. Getting there, you have to observe minimum levels so you don’t piss off the residents and maximum levels so you don’t stray up into the area of the sky where the big boys fly as they approach Pearson International Airport. Cessna 172R + Boeing 767 = big piles of smoking debris all over the countryside.
I’m learning how to fix the horizon to a point on the windscreen to ensure that we fly without gaining or losing altitude. This allows me to spend more time scanning (which is done by dividing the windscreen into 6 imaginary quadrants that you scan by looking at each of them in quick succession). Pretty straightforward when you’re at cruising speed. Of course, everything changes when you change the power settings. Speed up and the nose pitches up and your horizon reference changes. Slow down and it changes once again. Turning has its own reference points and, of course, everything changes when you combine a turn with a change in altitude. I have to know how to maintain my altitude (or change thereof) and heading in all these situations and it all comes with an understanding of how the Cessna handles and hours of experience.
All aircraft have a magnetic compass and most have a heading indicator controlled by a gyroscope. In level flight, the magnetic compass is quite accurate and the heading indicator has to be manually set before take-off and every 15 minutes or so during flight. So why not just use the magnetic compass? When climbing, descending or turning (banking), this instrument becomes very unreliable. That’s when the heading indicator takes over. In a climb, the magnetic compass points to a more northerly heading than the actual direction of flight. When descending, it errs to the south. Corresponding errors are encountered when banking left or right. Sometimes the errors are huge.
My brain had turned to mush as we headed back to the aerodrome so I asked Steve to handle the landing to give me time to sort things out and concentrate on what he was doing and how the aircraft was responding as we did. Good thing. We were on final to Runway 33 when some Bozo (BTW, rest in peace Larry Harmon) decided he would take off at the same time. Steve calmly responded as we watched for the departing runway in time for us to continue the landing. I would have gone absolutely crazy so it was a really valuable lesson. Things happen quickly up there.
So only 42.3 hours (minimum) to go before I can qualify for a qualification flight. Next scheduled flight – next Saturday.