Rainy days and Sundays. . .
I was a bit worried on a couple of fronts (pun intended) about my flying time on Sunday. The weather was rainy and the ceiling was decreasing (it came down to 800ft AGL and stayed there). Plus, I'm flying only once a week right now and I was nervous that I would start losing some of the ability I have developed over the previous 14+ hours of flying.
On both counts, I didn't need to worry.
Because of the low ceiling we didn't do traffic patterns or approaches but, instead, we worked on air taxis, quick stops, and ground taxis. On top of that, when I was positioning for the air taxi work, I ended up flying the length of the taxiway with about a 7kt tailwind! Considering that I hadn't flown for a week (and it had been 2 weeks before that), it would seem like a recipe for frustration at best. However, I felt good on the controls and only had a few incidents where I completely got blown around by the wind (some of my first clearing turns were just plain goofy). However, I was doing some of my best heading and speed control yet on the taxis despite the tail wind and really started getting the feel for anticipating the cross wind in the turns.
Normal takeoff profile up to 45kts. Then slight aft release of pressure to get to 45' (approx) and then down on collective to level off at 45' and 45kts indicated (takes a bit of aft cyclic to maintain level attitude when you lower the collective - right pedal too). It took about two times and I felt pretty good getting into my air taxis.
Quick Stops - O.k. This was a bit intimidating when my instructor demonstrated the first quick stop. However, I did o.k. on my first attempt. From an air taxi, pull aft on the cyclic and simultaneously lower collective so you don't gain altitude (for me it's a bit of feel to get the amount of each input correct and synchronized - but it came quickly). After that, its a matter of essentially completing a steep approach to hover (which feels very comfortable to me right now). I even did one quick stop to the surface (grass) and it was baby-bottom smooth. Best setdown I've ever executed. It felt great. Now, if I can only start feeling as good about my normal approaches as I do about my steep approaches. . .
I felt pretty good on almost all my attempts but I kept forgetting to input right pedal when I lowered the collective and was, subsequently, losing my heading control. On one quick stop, I actually pulled too far back aft and the free-wheeling unit kicked in like we were going to auto-rotate (not a happy feeling).
Ground taxi was pretty fun and a bit scary. The steps (as I remember from my lesson) were:
- Forward on the cyclic (about 2-3 inches) with full down collective.
- Slowly raise the collective to start moving forward. Don't increase or decrease cyclic pressure - hold it steady once you have the right input.
- Once your moving, raise and lower collective to increase or reduce speed but - be careful - because too much collective and you'll take off.
- Pedals control heading, cyclic controls ground track.
Number four is where I had my "moment". I got my heading off and I was moving straight forward with about a 5-8degree nose left heading and pretty good forward speed. One of the few times I could hear my CFI get a bit nervous. . . not fun. I was putting in the wrong pedal input (one of those brain freeze things). I started slowing and (with a bit of assist on the correct pedal from my CFI) got the heading straight"er". About 2 seconds later we hit a small bump in the asphalt. It really hit home how dangerous it is to lose your heading control in a ground taxi. I could easily see even a small bump like that rolling us over if I hadn't corrected the pedal inputs. Plus, the pavement was wet so, we slid a long way even after the collective was full down.
Needless to say, I went much slower on my next few attempts and gave myself a bit of a buffer. I need more work on this particular maneuver for sure (of course, I need more work on all of them at this point ).
One of the cool things for me was that this was my first time flying in the rain. Seeing the rotor wash as I raised the collective on that first take-off to hover kind of mesmerized me a little. It wasn't my best pick-up but it was still fun. Plus, the reduced surface friction really had me fighting to stop the movement as I was picking up (made worse by the fact that my eyes were watching the water effects instead of looking farther out at my reference points).
All in all, it was a great lesson and I'm feeling even more confident. I can't wait until I can start flying more often but, for now, I'm no longer worried that I'm losing ground by only flying once a week.
Until next time. . . Safe flying.