Wednesday, June 15, 2005

 

Flying Lesson #29

The crosswind today was too strong for me to fly solo, so the instructor and I flew to the practice area to work on ground reference maneuvers. I haven't been out of the traffic pattern for three weeks, so it was good to get some practice on something other than landings.

For you non-pilots: ground reference maneuvers are maneuvers where a pilot flies over a certain path on the ground. For example, one can fly a perfect circle around a point on the ground, or make S-turns back and forth over a road. What makes ground reference maneuvers challenging is the wind. One must adjust the angles of bank appropriately to correct for wind drift. In general, you have to turn with a steeper bank when turning downwind, and with a shallower bank when turning upwind, to maintain the desired ground track.

(I thought about making some diagrams, but I'm not feeling industrious today. See this page if you want to see some illustrations of the maneuvers. That page is written for helicopter pilots, but the principles are the same for airplanes.)

I've done ground reference maneuvers before, but this was the first time I've done it with a strong wind. This was good, in that I found out how bad my technique is. I know the theory behind how to do all the maneuvers, but I don't have the "feel" for it yet. We worked on it, and I'll do better next time.

We headed back to the airport a little early, hoping that the winds would have died down enough for some soloing, but they just got worse. So it ended up being a short lesson. Frankly, I was so tired after the ground ref workout that I don't think I would have wanted to solo today even if it was allowed. With luck, winds will be favorable on Friday.

The instructor said he thought it was a good thing that I was struggling a bit today, and I agree. The past few weeks have gone so smoothly that I'd started getting overconfident and complacent. Now it's clear that I've got a lot of work to do when get to fly solo in the practice areas.

Logged today: 1.4 hours dual in N4332L, with one takeoff and one landing. Cost: $260.

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