Lesson 4: Slow flight and stalls. part 1

My last flying lesson happened on President’s Day. I arrive at the airport and start inspecting the plane. She flew earlier that day by another Club member who is just about ready to take his Checkride. By the time Skip gets to N3521Q I have most of the exterior inspected. I think I’m losing my preflighting jitters, I feel more confident that I can make sure the plane is safe to fly. While Skip pulls the plane out and in the middle of doing our pre-start checks one of the other Club planes pulls into the taxiway to hangar up after their flight. I see a family a four get out and and instantly dream of my future flying trips with my friends and family. The space between the hangars is wide enough for one plane, so the other plane was  effectively blocking us in, but the pilot is courteous and moves the plane quickly into the hangar, and even guides us through giving us a thumbs up until we are passed him.
I learn that even when not in a plane, communication is vital for keeping everyone and everything safe.

I make the call to Air Traffic Control asking to taxi to runway 05 today. He instructs and I read back. For the rest of the flight I do most of the calls, with Skip picking up when it’s really busy or if it’s a rather complex call. Dare I say it, but I think that listening to liveatc.net really helps with learning what to say and finally getting rid of any Mic Fright that I had before this flight. Now, I’m not saying I speak perfectly on the radio, that will come with years of flying, but I do think I reached over the hump that all student pilots will go through, that initial hesitation before pushing the mic button.
Listen for yourself: Pre Takeoff Radio talk by Waner in N3521Q

Shortly after take off we find out why having air traffic control is important.There was a plane about 1.5 miles to the front and east of us. We saw him and we know he saw us because Page Tower advised him of traffic (that’s us) and he acknowledged.  After we clear the class C Air Space of Fort Myers International (RSW) I get my first experience with a stuck microphone. When I pilot calls on the frequency he has to be sure that he let’s go of the button, or that it doesn’t get stuck, otherwise the airwaves will be be jammed. The controller eventually figured out who the culprit was and the waves were cleared by the time we switched back.

Slow flight
Skip introduced slow flight to me today. The experience of slowing the plane down while staying in the air is pretty cool. You can see the ground below you almost stop moving, and you feel yourself move forward in your seat as you pull back power from the plane. We do a couple of slow flight turns, and I can clearly see that the plane responds differently while in slow flight, the controls feel mushy and slow to respond. During the slow flight turns I have to hold the plane in the opposite direction of the turn because the plane is so unresponsive. In the days after my lesson I spoke to another pilot and he said that in a strong enough headwind and small enough plane you can stop in the air, and even fly backwards using slow flight procedures. WILD!

Stalls
It’s not a scary word, not when talking about flying. When a car stalls, the engine quits, but in aviation the term stall refer to the inability of the wing to produce lift. Ok, maybe that does sounds scary, but the inherent  stability of planes make recovery from a stall natural for a plane. Not only that, as I learned for a Cessna 172, it’s difficult to stall. The basic instructions to bring a plane to stall is simple, lower the power and raise the wings until you stall. This increases the angle of attack and disrupts the airflow over the wings.
To recover from a stall, add power and lower the angle of attack, the wings should start producing lift almost immediately. Planes are equipped with stall warning horns that the plane is about the enter a stall. In big Airliners they also have a shake stick that shakes the control wheel when there is stall immanent. These are meant to get the attention of the pilot to fix the plane’s attitude (that’s the angle of attack in relation to the horizon) before a stall happens. We practice a few and I’m sure during my flight training I will practice many more.

Read the rest of this write up for lesson 4 in part two of this post.

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