May 9th, 2012: Lighten Up Lead Foot
I'll start by saying, flying today was incredible. While the air was very hazy it was also incredibly calm, I'm guessing those 2 things go hand in hand around here, if not everywhere, I'll have to look into that.
Compared to the last time up, I was much more comfortable today. While the seat height felt much more comfortable today, I still felt that I was way too "heavy" on the rudder. I still feel like I should be a little farther back from the pedals. Perhaps it's because of the way I drive, or ride a bike with my legs more extended, but I feel as though I would have more control of the rudder if I wasn't so much "on top" of them. Maybe it's just something I have to get used to.
After what seemed like a total loss of coordination on Monday, I felt that today was much better, although I was still trying too hard to alternate between pedals rather than just using one or the other when needed. I have to learn to lighten up on the opposing foot, on both feet actually. Once I started doing that today, it helped immediately to get my turns more coordinated. Of course it helped that there was minimal turbulence kicking me all over the place today, and it didn't hurt that my instructor made some physical adjustments to the trim tab as well. According to my instructor, that was partly responsible for my funky coordination on Monday…glad to know it wasn't all me. Today was the first time I rolled the plane out of the hanger alone. You wouldn't think that would be a big thrill, but everything about this is, actually. You have to be comfortable with every aspect of it, after all, at some point, it's just going to be me, beginning to end, and you can't leave anything out, so any and all practice is a good thing. The preflight check went smoothly and quickly today and felt very comfortable. I also got to pull the plane out, taxi out to the run up area and perform the run up test today without assistance, all of which seemed to go very smoothly. Even my taxiing was comfortable today and I had no problem maneuvering the plane about.
After taxiing the Citabria down to the runway, straight, smooth and with a little more speed today, I performed the final take off check and handed the controls back to my instructor. He walked me through the take off, put the plane in the air and then handed the controls back to me for the ascent and exit from the traffic pattern, which also went remarkably smoothly. At this point on Monday I was very nervous by comparison, perhaps it was the turbulence that day, or the trim issue, or maybe it was just the general uncertainty of what I was supposed to be doing. I need more confidence knowing just "when" and "where" certain things should happen, like, knowing at what point you are clearly out of the pattern. I'm sure all of that will come along with time.
We climbed to 3000 feet and my instructor demonstrated flying in the pattern. This is something you have to do at least twice on every flight, taking off and landing, so it's a good thing to practice for sure. The objective is to level off at a particular altitude, and then descend to another altitude mimicking the 1000 foot altitude (approach altitude) while flying the pattern. This requires a controlled descent at a very low speed while making a series of 90 degree turns. I didn't do too bad, I controlled my speed, held a consistent descent, and made decent turns along the way. I can tell I need a lot more practice at this for sure. We spent some time on some 360s in both directions, level and descending, and then I took the plane all the way down into the approach…which actually took me by surprise as I thought we were just on our way for a "go-around", that's when you bail from the approach for one reason or another…climbing back out for another approach. I had no idea I was actually flying it in until we were about 400 feet off the runway and uh…thankfully he took the controls at that point. I have to say, exciting and less frightening than I thought it would be coming in that close to the ground, I'm actually looking forward to my first landing, as crazy as that sounds, but first I have to learn to taxi a plane on the ground at 60mph.
He was supposed to demonstrate a stall today, which I thought would be pretty cool…but we got caught up and forgot, guess we'll do that Friday.