I’ve been writing a lot about books lately, but today for the Student Blogging Challenge, I’m going to talk about one of my interests that I have been pursuing for the last year and a half or so, which is aviation and flying.

Okay some background first-I’ve been interested in flying and airplanes basically since I was 4 or 5. I’ve always had a goal of someday getting a pilot license and flying airplanes, and recently, when I discovered that, while I need to be 16 in order to solo and 17 in order to get a license, I can take flying lessons at any age, I started taking lessons. This was back in October 2013, and I now have around 25 hours of experience, give or take an hour or two. For the first year and 1/4 or so, I was flying a Garmin 1000 equipped Cessna 172, but the airport and company that I am taking lessons from recently got a new Garmin G3X touchscreen equipped (its basically like having an ipad for your flight instruments) Vans RV-12, which has been different but pretty fun. So, each lesson is about two hours, with about 1-1.5 hours of that actually up in the plane flying. On the ground, we go over what I read for homework, and what we will be doing in the air that day. Then, we go out to the plane, and start preflighting it. Unlike in a car, if an airplane has something important break in flight, you can’t just pull over, so you always do a careful preflight.

In both planes, it’s pretty similar-check that the wings are in good condition, all the attachment points for the flaps are secure, same for the ailerons (actually the rv combines the ailerons and the flaps into one-flaperons). The RV actually has detachable wings, so one of the items on the preflight checklist basically boils down to “make sure the wings are on!”. Okay, moving on. You basically do the same general check for the tail and the rudder and elevators (The RV combines horizontal stabilizer and elevator into a stabliator-this means the entire tail moves to control pitch, like on airliners. Okay this is random but while I’m making comparisons to larger planes… this $125,000 two seater has the same autopilot as the $1.2 million 6 seater Piper Mirage that is on the airport… my instructor has flown that one as well) to make sure the control surfaces are moving correctly. Then, move around to the other wing and do the same. Check that the exhaust pipe is not cracked (by tapping it, if it is cracked it will make a more dull, less bell like sound), drain the fuel (to check for water or other contaminants), and check the engine coolant and oil level (which in the rv is actually pretty complicated, but kind of lenghty so I won’t talk about it now), and make sure the air vents are clear. That is obviously a simplification, but those are the basics. Moving on, once we are sure that the airplane is working correctly we can get in and start the engine.

Once the engine is running, we can taxi out to the runway. There are two runways at Gnoss field, 13 and 31 (meaning their magnetic headings are about 130 and 310, respectively). Gnoss is notorious for having very strong crosswinds, but if possible, we want to take off into the wind for a variety of reasons. We can use a combination of the windsock and listening to the AWOS to find out the wind direction. The Cessna is a lot easier to taxi than the RV (because of the way the rudder pedals and nosewheel work), but the RV is kind of fun once you get used to it (which I still haven’t quite). Enough about ground operations.

Once we are at the runway, we stop at the end and basically do a couple of tests to make sure we are really good to go (called the “run-up”). Once we are there, I make a radio call (I’m doing basically all of the communications now). “Gnoss traffic {who we are talking to}, Cessna 372 Alpha Hotel (or RV 272 Victor Alpha) {who we are}, taking off runway 13 (or 31), left (or right, usually left though) closed traffic (or left crosswind departure) {what we are doing, left closed traffic means we are staying in a rectangular pattern around the airport, making left turns}, Gnoss {who we are calling again}”. Then, we taxi on the the runway, full power, nose up (rotate) at around 55 or so knots (nautical miles per hour), retract the flaps (in the RV) and climb to about 600 feet or so at around 75 knots. Once we are at 600 feet, “Gnoss traffic, Cessna 2 Alpha Hotel (or RV 2 Victor Alpha) turning left crosswind runway 13 Gnoss”, and we turn so we are 90 degrees to the runway. At this point, we would continue straight on climbing, and eventually turn on course once well away from the field. If we are practicing landings, once we are about .5-1 mile away from the runway we turn downwind (parallel to the runway and in the opposite direction) and make basically the same call as before except put downwind in instead of crosswind. We level off at 1000 feet above the ground and put the power at 2150 RPM (in the Cessna, due to the geared engine of the RV its more like 4000 RPM in that aircraft) for a 90-100 knot traffic pattern. Once we are in line (its directly off our left wing) with the landing zone (where we want to land) we power back to about 1500 rpm in the Cessna (I’m still learning the power settings for the RV), put in the first notch of flaps, and try to hold about 85 knots as we descend. Okay, since I still am learning the speeds and power settings for the RV the rest of this section will just be referring to the Cessna.

Once the runway is about 45 degrees off our left wing and we are hopefully at 800 feet above the ground (AGL), we turn so we are perpendicular to the runway (called the base leg) and put in the second notch of flaps once the wings are level. After we are on base, and this seems counter-intuitive at first, we start moving the nose up and down (pitch) to hold 75 knots, and use the power to control our rate of descent. We ideally will be at 500 feet AGL once we are almost in line with the runway (if we wait until we are in line to turn we will overshoot), and we turn onto final approach, put in full flaps and pitch to hold 65 knots, and use power to keep us at a constant rate of descent that will put us down at the right place on the runway (there is a neat visual trick that you can use to help with this), once over the runway, power back to idle, hold the plane off the runway as long as possible, and ideally have the yoke (yoke in the Cessna, kind of like a steering wheel that can also move forwards and backwards, but a center control stick in the RV) fully aft and be in a stall (no its not the same as an engine stall) right as you hit the runway.

That’s just what you do if you are landing (or practicing landings, and there is even more to do if you are coming in to land from far away), some of the things that we do if we aren’t doing landings are: stalls (important to practice, its when the wing stops producing adequate lift, NOT when the engine stops working, that’s an engine failure), turns, climbs, and descents, steep turns (greater than 30° banked turns), navigation, emergency procedures (like engine failures, no we don’t actually shut off the engine), and probably some other things that I have forgotten to mention. My most recent lessons have basically been familiarization with the new RV and some of the maneuvers I just mentioned. Once we are back on the ground, we go over any questions that I have and didn’t ask in flight, sometimes a more detailed explanation of something that my instructor said in flight, and homework assignments (usually reading out of some handbooks).

Finally, differences between the RV and the Cessna. They are both awesome to fly, the RV is maybe a little more fun and a little simpler. The control stick on the RV as opposed to a yoke is different but easy to get used to. Steering is a little weird on the ground since the Cessna has the pedals directly connected to the nosewheel, while the RV has a free castoring nose wheel, so to make any kind of turn in the RV you have to basically fully deflect the rudder AND use some differential toe braking AND add a little bit of power as well. But, in flight, the rudder and all the other controls are a lot more sensitive so you deflect the controls less than in the Cessna. Basically, lots more on the ground, lots less in flight. The engine is really the only thing that is more complicated in the RV, it is a geared engine and has a couple of quirks. Oh, and the flap handle in the Cessna is electric, but manual in the RV, so it was a little harder at first to get used to, but I got used to it pretty quickly. Finally, the RV is lighter, so it is a little bumpier and more affected by the wind. I welcome comments, and I can elaborate more on anything mentioned if you want, I was trying to keep this as concise as possible (and didn’t really succeed, there’s a lot to say!).


3 thoughts on “Flying

  1. WOW! Alex,
    What a fantastic post about one of your passions. It certainly shows through that you are mad about flying.

    I would love to include this post in the blogging challenge but I think you might need to put it in some paragraphs first to make it easier to read for your visitors.

    Leave me a comment on either this post or back on the challenge blog when you have done this and then I will add it to next week’s challenge post.

    • Hi Miss W.

      I updated the post. I was not really thinking about formatting and a lot of editing things when I wrote this, and I totally see how it could be hard to read like it was.


      • Alex,
        Wow that was awsome details you put down on why that is. I love how you supported the claim with details! 😀😉😊

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