Nice little trip

Saturday (March 11th) I had a nice little trip that started out hectic and ended up with a complex endorsement and some other lessons learned. Our route took us from KPIE to KSGJ (St. Augustine) to FD77 (Wimauma) and back to KPIE in two different airplanes.

Friday night I was having dinner with my family and Stuart’s family and although we tried to keep from talking about flying, somehow it just came up (imagine that?). Stuart asked if I wanted to join him for some flying the following day taking a Cardinal (177RG) from PIE to SGJ, during which, I would be able to finish my complex rating, then I would fly a Cirrus SR22 back. Of course I wanted to, how could I refuse flying for free, in two planes I’ve never been in, one being the Cirrus and learning aviation stuff at the same time? My only hurdle was a baby sitter, which is no easy hurdle sometimes.

Saturday morning came and I had gone through my plan A, B and C with no luck. Finally plan D came through and at the same time, I got the call from Stuart that the plane was on it’s way from Wimauma. Feed the kids, skip my lunch and off to the airport I go. The car was out of fuel and so was my belly, but I didn’t have time for both, so the car won. When I got to the airport, Steve was there as well (Stuart’s boss) and I found out the plan for the day. The plan was for me to fly the Cardinal to St. Augustine and get my complex endorsement while Steve sat in the back, then Steve would fly the Cardinal back to Wimauma and I would follow in the SR22 with Stuart, pick Steve up and fly to St. Pete, where Steve would then fly the SR22 back to Wimauma. When I suggested that I would be better to sit in the back during the first leg is when Steve told me about keep passin’ it along (that I blogged about earlier).

Cardinal 177RGSo off we go to the plane, which has seen better days, so we check the oil, sump the fuel (with a lot of water, probably three little cup fulls in each wing), got in and started the engine. Fuel injected hot start, which she didn’t seem to want to start and the battery wasn’t very strong, but Stuart convinced her to start. He probably has that effect on most planes (and women?). While taxiing out, I found that I would lose the radio, but my microphone still worked. Stuart had the opposite effect, he could hear everything, but could only talk to me. So I figured that, worst case, Stuart would listen to the radio and tell me what to say. But, I reached under the panel and wiggled the wires to make a better contact and the headset was good to go the rest of the way. We then did a run up (which went fine), and took off on 17L, turned west, then headed North.

The flight went well, I learned that I was over controlling the plane too much and Stuart showed me how it was done and what I should be doing. It’s amazing what a couple of thousand hours difference in flying experience can do for how you control the airplane. I have a long way to go, and I’m going to have fun getting there. We were climbing up to around 5500 feet and I had to keep a close eye on the oil pressure gage, since it was showing just below the green arc, and the oil temperature gage that was showing at the top end of the green arc. This also had the effect of having me keep an eye out for all the airports and other suitable places to land during my trip. Nothing like low oil pressure to keep you on your toes. I enriched the mixture a little and at the higher altitude the oil seemed to cool and the pressure seemed to come up a bit. I still kept an eye on it, but felt a little better once it settled down. The rest of the flight was uneventful, I kept asking about Steve, since he wasn’t on the intercom and Stuart said he slept the entire way, even through the light turbulence. The only other thing I had to do was avoid the MOAs on the way using a Garmin hand held GPS (those GPSes, any GPS is worth it’s weight in gold while flying), while moving along with a ground speed over 140 kts. Contacted SGJ tower and had a tough time slowing her down. Actually had to go up in altitude to burn off enough speed to lower the landing gear, then I dropped flaps and lined up for my landing. Not enough cross wind correction, too fast, and even bounced it, all with Stuart and Steve in the plane. I hate it when that happens.

The least I could do after that was buy lunch, so we ate at the little restaurant on the field. Great burger, great service and great company. I got to listen to some cool stories about flying in China, Russia, and Alaska for instance, in planes that you and I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole, in weather I wouldn’t dream of flying in, along with stories about Jimmy Buffett. Sorry, you’ll have to buy them lunch to get to hear them, but they were worth every penny.

Cirrus SR22 We got back out to the ramp where the Cirrus SR22 was waiting. A little different than the 177RG, this plane is state of the art, only 4 or 5 years old, composite, low wing with high tech gadgets in the panel and a side stick for control and comfortable leather seats. I compare it to driving a Lexus after stepping out of an old Volkswagen bug. We topped her off with fuel, did a pre-flight where I could really appreciate the sleek lines of the composite body. I climbed on to the wing, and through the big gull wing doors as I got in to the pilot seat and strapped in while admiring the clean panel.

SR22 console (copy)The control stick was along the left hand side, in front of me was the old style gages with a few “newer” style ones mixed in. In the center of the panel was the large multi-function display (MFD) and below it were two Garmin GPS/Comm/Nav’s below that was an autopilot and a transponder, then between the seats were the power and mixture lever. The power lever automatically controlled the manifold pressure and the RPM based on the position of the lever. I don’t really understand how it works, but it seemed to do the job.

We started her up (again, with Stuart’s coaxing) and taxied out. It was then I realized that we had a fully castering nose wheel. I got used to that, and got to the run-up, which was uneventful (especially compared to the Cardinal). Cleared for take-off, I moved to the beginning of the runway and pushed the power lever forward. We got up to speed so fast, it was amazing, we then lifted off and climbed quickly. As we were climbing, a nice female voice came over the intercom and said “traffic”, which I knew right away wasn’t Stuart (he has a British accent, not female). Looking down, both the Garmins were indicating a plane at 10 o’clock and they were right. I thought that was nice, especially since the tower didn’t say anything about it, and I would have liked to have at least known about it. We finished climbing and put the girl on Autopilot so we could look around and play with the electronic toys. We called up Steve in the Cardinal, and I had the hardest time understanding him, then I realized that it was because he was using the hand held mic instead of a headset. It was a good thing Stuart had an ANR headset to cut through the static and be able to understand him. We then used the MFD to auto lean the engine. You still need to work the mixture, but the MFD shows you which cylinder peaks first, and where the temperature is that you need to enrich the mixture back up to. Very nice feature. Played with some other toys in the plane while we were moving along at 150 kts, when we got to Wimauma.

Stuart took the controls and overflew the airport to inspect the runway before landing. He did it a little quicker and a little lower than I would, but he’s probably done this before. He then turned downwind and gave me back the plane. I then had the task of slowing it down and preparing to land. I was doing good until I turned base to final at 80 kts and heard a warning, and found out it was the stall warning. I thought it was odd stalling in a turn at 80 kts, but since I was used to the different volume levels of the Cessna, and this was just a low tone, I thought it was just the warning before the actual stall and completed my turn. I crossed the fence at 75 to 80 and setup for my landing. I started to hear the horn again, still it was low, so I kinda ignored it and continued my landing. When I was about 6 ft above the runway, I had the control stick all the way back and was continuing to descend. I then hit terra firma, and when I say firma, I mean firma. I asked Stuart what happened, and his explanation was that I full stalled the plane above the runway. Ouch. That was embarrassing. I guess I was expecting a shutter, or a louder stall warning, or something. Plus I thought I was still doing 65 to 70 kts. The other embarrassing part was that I never even looked at the V speeds for this plane before flying it. I don’t know if I was so excited to fly it, or that since I had Stuart with me, I didn’t think I needed to, but either way . . Ouch! It really highlighted the fact that all planes fly different and have a different sight picture when you take-off, fly and land.

We taxied back and picked up Steve, who again sat in the back. We took off, and flew toward Albert Whitted airspace before turning north, over my house, then in to PIE. I switched over to tower frequency when Whitted told me to, then couldn’t get a word in edgewise for a while. The caused me to come really close to busting in to their airspace without establishing communication (I might have actually busted it). I setup for a good base, and final, and when I turned final, realized I had a little bit of a crosswind. Stuart asked if I wanted to take the landing, and after a quick discussion, I did. It was a picture perfect cross wind landing ( I redeemed myself), but then started to over steer with the castering nose wheel. Stuart took over, and taxied us back to AirOne, where we shut it down. We gathered up our stuff and gave the plane to Steve to fly back to Wimauma.

Stuart and I then talked about what I learned, what I could have done different, and other things I did or didn’t do right. I really enjoy and appreciate the postmortem on my flying. It allows me to learn more and more each time. It was a beautiful day with some beautiful flying were I learned a lot, and nobody got hurt, maybe a little embarrassment on my part, but nobody got hurt. Thanks Stuart and Steve for a great, great day of flying!

One Response to “Nice little trip”

  1. mtatham says:

    Mike, A great piece of flying. Thanks for sharing. I would have liked a short paragraph on your learnings or things you would do differently. Definitely the V speeds should be one of them.

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