Summer is coming

I'll start by admitting I lied.  Today was so nice I couldn't resist heading out to the Aero Club and getting some Tecnam time in.  Since I haven't flown one in 4 weeks I thought I better take advantage of the decent weather and fly.  So, here I was flying WIP, a first for me since my previous trips were all in WHZ.  I haven't flown either of them enough to have a preference but they are pretty much identical on the outside and the inside. 
I did a thorough preflight (just to check myself that I am checking everything appropriately).  First question that came to mind when I was dipping the tanks was, how do I do this when I am at a field where there is no step ladder?  Unlike the 172 there is no way the strut would take my weight so a step ladder is the only way to determine fuel levels.  The fuel gauges we thought were accurate have been found to underread slightly, a good thing I guess because at least you know you have more gas than the gauges say.

OK, that done, strap the plane on (it sure feels like you are because it's so light) and wait for instructor Andrew to turn up.  As he straps in I remind him I might need a bit of coaching because its been 4 weeks since my last trip in one.  I go through what I think is the startup checklist, Andrew says nothing so I take it as a good sign and continue.  Switches on, fuel pump on, beacon on, throttle open (Andrew says no close it so I do), park brake set, a good look around, hand on key hand on throttle and crank it.  The 912UL fires immediately and after a few seconds (apparently they are designed to run with an retarded spark for ~4 seconds to limit engine revs and allow oil pressure to come up before advancing to normal ignition timing) settles into a 2500rpm idle.

OK next on the list is the ignition check, followed by the right hand EFIS on and Avionics Master on.  I dial up the ATIS frequency and jot down the details, call the tower and ask for circuits.  I forgot to specify 25 but realized early enough to ask as I repeat the clearance.

It's taxi time.  Strangely enough I feel much more composed and at ease with the tap dancing on the brake pedals.  It is such a strange thing because you work twice as hard to make the plane move in the direction you want.  I put us in the middle of the grassy expanse which is the runup area, avoiding the patchy bit over by the holding cone. 

Runups.  Feet on the brakes, park brake selected on.  Uhmmm, what was the runup rpm?  Can't remember reading it in the manual so ask Andrew. 4000 rpm is the reply, so ease the throttle up to 4000.  Ignition test, generator test (realize that there are in fact two generators when I turn one off and nothing happens to the dial), no carb heat to worry about, no test switches for the annunciator lights because there aren't any, everything is glass.  Close the throttle completely, the prop noise dies and the engine drops back to a quiet idle at around 2100rpm.

Pre-take off checks, lookout turn, takeoff briefing,  all goes smoothly and we taxi to the holding point.  We get told to lineup and wait.  I turn on the lights, the transponder and latch my door and check that Andrew has latched his.  We taxi slowly out and I take care to line her up and roll forwards a bit to make sure the nosewheel is straight.  About then the tower says, WIP cleared for takeoff.

I ask Andrew if he is OK, give the EFIS a once around to check the dials are in the green and smoothly advance to full power.  Whoops I didn't have the nosewheel completely straight, but it is slightly to the right so the slipstream straightens the nose and I catch it with a tap of left brake before booting in a lot of right rudder to keep WIP straight.

Not enough rudder and as the nose comes up we drift even more to the left.  As the mains come up I put in some right stick and more right rudder and we stabilize in more or less a straight direction but the centreline is somewhere at 5 o'clock as we track out.  Andrew assures me that the runway is way out to his right even though there is no rear window I take his word for it.  Must put more right rudder in.  It took several more circuits before I started to realize just how much rudder I'd need.

As we turn downwind, Andrew announces that the descent procedure has been changed.  Now you'll reduce power and set an attitude for about 70 knots.  Delay the first stage of flap until you are stabilized in the base turn.  This makes far more sense to me as the downwind to base turn was a problem for me in previous flights.  I get everything trimmed up just nicely and once I stabilize WIP on base at around 70 knots I raise the nose a touch, let the speed drop below 68 knots and lower 15 degrees of flap and she settles at 65 knots.  Perfect!  On final now, lower the rest of the flap and look for 60 knots.  This is easy peasy.  Find my landing spot, reduce power a bit because we've hit a patch of rising air, wait for the inevitable sink and be ready with the power to catch it.  Keep that landing spot sitting still in your field of vision and you are on a decent descent profile.  Over the markers so eyes at the end of the field, throttle closed, raise the nose slowly and let the plane slow it's descent.  The ground comes up a bit too fast so back a bit more on the stick and we touch down lightly.  Not a bad effort.

After the next circuit Andrew decides to close the throttle on the climbout.  Lower the nose, look for a decent sized paddock and think about landing.  I forgot to turn on the fuel pump,  Andrew says to try the fuel pump and when I turn it on he reports that the engine has just started up again so he invites me to start climbing.  In the downwind he asks for a glide approach.  It is approved so I fully close the throttle, start my turn in and let the speed come back.  I find that the speed keeps climbing above best glide, Andrew says to use full nose up trim so I do and find it's much easier to fly at best glide.  I identify fairly early that we are quite high and decide to drop all the flap.  Andrew starts to say I was premature but we hit that patch of rising air and steal a couple of feet of altitude.  As we start to descend he says he thinks we're going to make our field (cleverly disguised as a runway) so I continue to fly it down at 60 knots now we have all the flap out.  We come in over the numbers and touch down just past my aiming point.

I go around again, and on downwind Andrew asks me for a precision approach.  I pick my touchdown point,  promptly start fixating on it and forget that ATC are talking to me.  Andrew asks for an amended clearance to land.  I realize I don't know the precision approach speed, Andrew says 55 knots.  I screw up the base leg majorly and we are way too high and fast on final.  I tell Andrew I would have abandoned the approach and tried again, he agrees but says we can salvage this one because we have more runway that we might have for a precision approach.  It doesn't take much to get WIP back onto profile and the last 200 feet I fly her down the middle on speed.  Andrew reminds me to round out just over the markers and close the throttle.  I do so and we touch down lightly maybe half a plane length long.  Then its full back on the stick and hard on the brakes and we come to a stop in about 4 plane lengths.  We're instructed to taxi clear across the adjoining runway and report at the holding point when ready.  As I taxi us back Andrew says he wants 3 good circuits and he'll be watching.  I tell him I will do two normal and one glide approach, he nods and closes the door, gesturing to me to latch it behind him.

WIP and I are alone at last after 2.5 hours on type.  I won't go into great detail about my solo work other than to say that it took me a while to reign WIP in because as a Light Sport Aircraft it is extremely sensitive to weight and losing 80kg of flying instructor was significant.  I did my two normal circuits without too much drama, I stayed ahead of the plane for the most part.  The glide was interesting because I lowered flap a little later than I did previously and although I added a touch of power on really short final I think I probably would have been OK without it but didn't want to test my limits.

I think the Tecnam and I are going to be quite good friends, it certainly has a lot to teach me about the finer points of aircraft control because there is simply nowhere to hide if your technique is not right.  But today was my first solo in new type for some time (May 2009 was the last one), and it went quite well I thought.  Always a nice feeling of accomplishment.


Rodney said…
Nice to hear your thoughts about the Tecnam. It has been years since I did a new rating, although I had a bit of time in the C162 Skycatcher at Auckland Aero Club.

Will we get some photos of your flying around in it one day? :-)
Flyinkiwi said…
Hi Rodney, I'll make a point of it the next time I am out there. You should come up and give it a go sometime :-). I'd be interested in your comparison with flying 162.
ZK-JPY said…
What did you lie about?? Curious minds need to know!
Flyinkiwi said…
Hey Jared, in my previous post I proclaimed I was going to put the Tecnam rating on hold till after the Regionals. I feel kinda sheepish about it but I certainly don't regret flying this weekend.