Keys to the Kingdom

Today I completed my 3rd observed solo (1st one reported here). These solos are observed by the instructor on the tarmac and consist of three takeoffs, climb out in the pattern, and landings. It’s not an FAA requirement to do three solos, just a requirement of the school. In aviation, it’s not uncommon for training organizations or FBOs to have more stringent requirements for their students and customers than government regulations call for. This is sometimes due to their own sense of safety and sometimes due to business (insurance) constraints. At any rate, I’m used to it. Hang-gliding is virtually unregulated, but our safety procedures and record have great depth in near complete absence of government intervention.

That topic is worthy of its own post if ever I get around to it.

So, now I can go take the keys any time I want (provided acceptable weather conditions hold, which is way most of the time) and go fly the pattern, to practice pattern work. Tomorrow morning, I get to go out with Len von Clemm. He’s the first instructor in this list (Chief Pilot). More than 20,000 hours. They tell me he’s picky. I guess he has every right to be. I’d be a fool not to try and learn as much as I can. Jim Grant, also on the list, has been my instructor so far. He’s leaving for Hawaii in a couple of weeks for a month, so I’ll be finishing up my training with Len from then on.

We’re going to go out and go some air work: emergency procedures, stalls and such. If I pass his judgment, then I’ll get to venture out away from the airport on my own.

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  1. Walter E. Wallis on July 7, 2005 at 19:55

    Your first real hot day will come as a surprise.

  2. Richard Nikoley on July 8, 2005 at 08:18

    Had some already, though we're right at sea level, here, so it's no big deal. But, I've been flying hang gliders for 6 years or so, and much of that is launches and landings at very high altitudes and high temperatures (6-8,000 ft, 100+ degrees) where density altitude is a factor–particularly in a wing that stalls at 18-20 and you're lanching and landing on foot.

  3. Billy Beck on July 8, 2005 at 10:53

    Wait'll you make your first mistake, all on your own. That'll be a test, alright. Like, say; get momentarily confused between east and west on your initial tower contact on approach to controlled airpsace. Watch the fun while the tower tries to arrange traffic around you, not knowing where you are. Believe me. Here's an important saftey-tip: extreme rudder precision can be vital when practicing accelerated stalls. Go ahead: ask me how I know this. If not for my spin training, it's odds-up whether I would have made it, one day.

    You're going to make mistakes now and then. Everybody does. How you deal with them is what determines whether you're really a pilot.

    Have fun out there, but always remember: you can get killed doing this. I don't think you need me to let you know this for the first time, but it always bears keeping in mind.


  4. Billy Beck on July 8, 2005 at 11:32

    It certainly wasn't prohibited in my training. I passed my PP-ASEL checkride in June of 2001. (I did the whole program from hour-one in a Citabria, like Rich is doing it.) My instructor considered it to be essential. I saw my first spin at about eight hours logged.

  5. Richard Nikoley on July 8, 2005 at 11:55

    Funny you mention that, Billy. Just yesterday I went up with my instructor to prepare for my "check ride" with the chief pilot. We did power-on and power-off stalls, and he made me practice over and over how long I could keep the wings level _with rudder only_. Then, we did incipient spin recovery, i.e., either mildly initiate or let a wing drop all the way, then recover.

    Anyway, my check ride got cancelled, so I just got back from doing 6 take offs and landings in the pattern. First time doing it all myself from parking spot to parking spot.

    Like with Billy's training, spins are essential at Amelia Reid. My instructor did one on my first (intro) lesson, and we were doing them under instruction from about 4 hrs. on.

    I'm not authorized to do them on my own yet, but hopefully soon.

    Spins are insanely fun in a Citabria, as you go completley vertical.

  6. Walter E. Wallis on July 8, 2005 at 11:13

    Do they still prohibit spin training? When they did that, I was surprised.

  7. Jen on July 9, 2005 at 09:15

    Very impressive! Congratulations :-)

  8. Richard Nikoley on July 10, 2005 at 16:35

    Yes, you often do get a bump, either from thermals coming off the roof, or perhaps a north wind being deflected up off the building. Of course, you're no more than 100 ft over the rooftop on short final. Sometimes the bump is an odd one, in the form of a small pitch-down, especially when I don't have the instructor in the back seat.

  9. Walter E. Wallis on July 10, 2005 at 09:42

    It must be a comfort to know that, if you land short, you are right at the Eastridge Mall to buy clean underwear. I have been on the roof, there, and the oil streaks are clearly visible. Do you get a bump there?

  10. Billy Beck on July 11, 2005 at 05:53

    What power setting do you guys use for departure (power-on) stalls in that 7ECA?

    The first time I ever did 'em solo, it had been a while since Terri and I did them together, so I was out there blowing full power at 'em in the 7KCAB with 150 horsepower. You had to see the pitch angles.

    I had cause to write up some of this at rec.aviation.student (which you should check out, Rich). See my posts here and here.

  11. Tim Zim on July 11, 2005 at 05:55

    Stick with it. It will be worthwhile.

    I've had masses of fun flying all over the USA, and even an international flight into Canada.

  12. Richard Nikoley on July 11, 2005 at 10:54

    Power on departure, anywhere, on up to about 75%. Don't think we've done any full power, but not sure. Even at that, I can get some pretty unbelievable pitch angles going.

    One of these days I'm going to go out in one of the two 7KCABs ($10 more per hour, so no need for basic training). They say it's actually easier on the takeoff 'cause it accelerates quicker. Makes sense. Way easier for me to keep the 7ECA centerline when I'm by myself. I can also get the tail up far quicker.

  13. Richard Nikoley on July 11, 2005 at 11:11


    Was looking at those post you referred to. Did I missunderstand you saying stall is 61 mph indicated? In the 7ECA, we're holding off full stall until 40-45 mph indicated. It's insane how slow you can get this thing to fly keep the wings level with the rudders.

  14. Richard Nikoley on July 11, 2005 at 11:51

    Hey, guys, check this out:

    That's going to shape their entire lives.

  15. Billy Beck on July 12, 2005 at 08:40

    Rich: the POH says 51 mph CAS. There is an IAS to CAS correction table on p. 4-2 of my POH. One has to play a couple of bank-shots in order to arrive at the numbers I was discussing, but there they are.

    The thing is, it should always be held in mind that the stall is about Angle-of-Attack (read Wolfgang Langewiesche — "Stick And Rudder"), and that airspeed (especially with the complications of getting to IAS in any given regime) has comparatively very little to do with it. The wing only stops flying when the boundary-layer separates, and this is the whole reason why it's possible to stall the airplane at any IAS right up to Vne. If you think about that fact, then it means that a number like "Vs" is rather arbitrary, but that doesn't mean that it cannot also be very useful. Like: coming down final, for instance, "61 mph" is a pretty important number, because the boundary layer is going to start peeling away at just about that speed, with the airplane in that specific condition.

    We have to have a basic number like Vs to start working at the concept of the stall, but (having already seen that it can be somewhat arbitrary), it doesn't necessarily mean that any given airplane can't be managed in the grey areas. The Citabria is a particularly good airplane. (I'm not widely experience, but I've flown in it with people who are, and they always rave about it.) It really doesn't ever want to stop flying and it can be encouraged down in the bottom end of the numbers. I once flew N53883 with an instructor who had it mushing along under 50 mph with a wild-looking AoA and a lateral wobble, which was the airplane saying, "I'll keep flying if you just help me a bit with that rudder." It was a pretty good demonstration of what can be done, although it's not the sort of thing that the average pilot is going to have in mind, say, coming down final approach, when the lines are generally a lot more incisive to the context and more important as a rule.

  16. Richard Nikoley on July 12, 2005 at 17:34

    Thanks, Billly, and yes, well aware that any wing can stall at any airspeed. I was referring, in the question, to steady flight with a steady pullback. BTW, let me correct what I said earlier. It's not 40-45 mph that we're flying around all mushy. It's 45-50.

    Regarding your instructor experience, I'm sure you did a lot of that yourself, at altitude, just so you know what it feels like. My instructor has me doin' that stuff, and also making very shallow bank turns. each wobble and buffet is met with just the slightest stick and/or rudder movement to keep the airflow attached. Kissing a stall, he calls it.

    I'm told there are a couple of reason for it. First is that you learn to recognize what a stall feels like, and correct BEFORE complete departure. Second is that in an engine out, it's one technique that can be used to get the airplane down into a very short field. the descent is far steeper (and of course more dangerous) than a forward slip at 75 mph. You're not going to want to do it close to the ground, especially in a wind gradient, unless your life depends on it.

  17. Billy Beck on July 13, 2005 at 07:24

    "Kissing a stall". Yes.

    An old-timer who taught me a lot about flying once pointed out that if you look at the average, say, 300-hour logbook, what you'll find — more or less — is the same hour, logged over and over again, three hundred times.

    The implication is about stagnation and letting skills deteriorate. This man's view is that every flight should be a test-flight. You should be up there setting challenges for yourself and working on something.

    Both stated reasons for working on the stall are okay by me.

    I'd thought your numbers were a tad high, but who knows? I once watched a guy holding the nose up against the stall-break while the airspeed wound-down through 50, power-off. The nose never really broke through, and we just sat there looking at it about fifteen degrees over the horizon, with VSI reading about 800 feet per minute (last I looked). We were far more falling than flying.

    I'll buy a lot when it comes to the Citabria. There's no telling what some people can do with it.

  18. Billy Beck on July 13, 2005 at 07:50

    BTW: I still heartily recommend Langewiesche. It's remarkable that it took until 1944 for anyone to publish the first comprehensive examination of powered flight, but that's what "Stick And Rudder" was. It's a classic for good reasons.

  19. Richard Nikoley on July 13, 2005 at 13:54

    Hey, I've had an unbelievably busy and challenging last few days of flying. I'll throw up a new entry. Too much for a comment.

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