Tag Archives: stalls

Piloting the C172

Ah, I break my personal ‘rule’ again: flying while not having enough money completely finish my training and take the checkride. In all fairness though, my favorite CFI4 is leaving the Fairbanks area for good and it was probably my last flight with him, aw 😦

The only plane available was the 172 – a really nice 183hp plane, digital tach and electric flaps (hold the lever down 3 seconds for each 10 degrees of flaps). I’ve only ever piloted Cessna 150s and 152s (w/ roughly 125hp max) so the extra power I knew the 172 had was intimidating – especially since I wasn’t expecting to fly today and definitely had not done any of the normal studying of procedures I would have done.

CFI4 suggested we go to the practice area, do steep turns, slow flight, stalls, and come back for some pattern work. All these would be really good for me to get use to the 172; because there is more power than in a 150/152, more right rudder is needed to counteract the left-turning tendency. Not using the rudders was something I’ve been able to get away with in most of my past flights – something I’m actively aware of and know that I need to fix. “Don’t get behind on flying the plane” said CFI4….mmm, I’d love not to but we shall see.

Took off on 20L and immediately saw what CFI4 meant about needing more right rudder. It was a really good workout and surprising to me how much pressure was needed.

My steep turn to the right (45 degrees) was okay except I forgot which heading to roll out on. Steep turn to the left was okay except I accidentally lost about 200ft in altitude. Got a little light-headed in the turns today which surprised me. Must remember to ask if there is something extra I could have done to avoid it.

Power on stall – since we were using full power, an incredible amount of right rudder was necessary to keep us straight (were pointing at the thick black smoke cloud from the fire in North Pole). I was anticipating a dramatic stall but it was shockingly mild.

This distant smoke plume (I was about 30 miles away from this) made a good aiming point for doing my stalls [http://www.newsminer.com/news/local_news/north-pole-man-charged-with-arson-for-durango-trail-fire/article_6f611a46-fb9c-11e4-a534-cfe0a810b364.html]
Next, power off stalls. I finally understood how much pressure is needed to keep from turning in slow flight today (a question I remember I had in 2013 – but no one had really demonstrated the answer to me). Again, incredibly mild stalls where I only felt a slight flutter while sitting in my seat. Pulling the yoke back was really hard for me – I definitely felt the post-workout burn in my forearms afterwards. It kinda didn’t feel fair to have to those scary sharp stalls if one flies a 150/152; one could avoid them by having more money to fly the 172 πŸ˜‰

Flying the pattern: not my best work ever but truly not bad either – especially with the gusty crosswind. It looked like I had finally understood the crosswind last-minute-‘kick-it-straight-with-rudder’ move on final, yay. After pulling the engine to idle and flaring, pulling back on the yoke took considerable effort and both hands for me – not something I think I’ve ever needed before. Maybe today’s lesson is really highlighting my need to visit a gym πŸ˜‰

A fancy-pants picture of the Fairbanks east ramp. The 172 I flew is silhouetted (dark and moody) at the bottom of the picture.
A fancy-pants picture of the Fairbanks east ramp. The 172 I flew is silhouetted (dark and moody) at the bottom of the picture.


Practiced stalls again today. Like most people, I absolutely dislike when the plane breaks to the left or right. But today it finally clicked why it did (not the more lift on one wing part, the thing leading up to that).

So I’d get Β the plane set up, ball centered. Take a breath, just to make sure it was stabilized, and then it’d wanderΒ off center. Try and recenter and the plane will start turning. Rudder to stop the turn leads to the ball not being centered – ugg. The turning always confused me, until today, when I realized it was from the 3 left turning tendencies (p factor, slipstream/plane design, engine torque). P-factor gets worse with increased angle of attack – duh. And you obviously increase angle of attack when performing a stall. Now it makes sense why you want to pull back in the yoke/do the stall the moment you are coordinated – such an easy recovery. It is pretty much impossible for me to not break left or right if I let the turning start.

Fairbanks airport from the hill at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, 1030pm LT. So much light! So much haze - please don't let it be the start of forest fire season.
Fairbanks airport from the lookoutΒ at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, 1030pm LT. So much light! So much haze – please don’t let it be the start of forest fire season.

Turns about a point and S-turns

Flew with yet another instructor today (CFI4). I scheduled the block before I realized I would starting something completely new today – ground reference maneuvers (I’m still stunned at how well the last lesson went). Had a really great time flying with him because he’s really calming- got me comfortable enough to trade a few jokes while flying. Sadly he usually doesn’t have a lot of flight teaching blocks open.

I need to get the full story from someone about using wing covers/when to avoid them because they will freeze onto the Β plane. The 150 had a smooth, light frost layer this morning, Β but it was okay to fly with. What exactly is ‘smooth enough’? I suppose I’ll have plenty of experience by the end of this month.

I’m pleasantly surprised that I can still do slow flight, power on stalls, and power off stalls relatively well (part of me still thought the last lesson was a fluke). It is so much like a switch was flipped somewhere in my brain – no longer a mystery. Happiness πŸ˜€ My only minor faults are that my altitude still tends to get a bit wonky when I’m not focused and that when adding full power during recovery, I usually forget to use enough right rudder. I made corrections just as the instructor opened his mouth (I’m delivering shorter reaction times each time) so by next flight, there should be no problems at all, fingers crossed.

Steep turns: still okay. For the first time, I was actually able to roll out of a turn on a correct heading using just reference mountains (no directional gyro). It sounds ridiculous but I finally figured out what ‘south’ looks like from the practice area. I’m sure that by checkride time, I will be tired of flying south [to Nenana].

Next, I had a small exercise in emergency procedures today. Let’s see if I can name all the steps (no promises that this is correct; it probably isn’t, but I’m going to check the steps later). Step 1, the engine dies. I need to try and restart via magnetos. Carburetor heat on, full throttle. Say it doesn’t restart. ID field to land in, pitch for 60knots, descend. Flaps down if possible. Set fuel shutoff valve to off, check that seatbelt is secure, remove any sharp/heavy objects from my vicinity. CFI4 kinda freaked me out in the air by springing all the information on me, setting the engine on idle, starting a descent, picking a landing field, and then giving me the controls. I was a little worried that we were actually going to have to land in a field….he kept the whole charade up until 500ft AGL- arahaag, my instructors are such jokesters. Love that departure control asked us what was happening when we finally leveled out – I feel so loved πŸ˜‰

Two new procedures learned today: turns about a point (yellow post in the woods) and s-turns about a line (snowmobile trail?). I wonder how visible my references will be when it starts snowing. Minor reminder to myself: watch where I place the nose relative to the horizon. When I stayed focused, I surprised myself at how steady I could keep the altimeter. None of my maneuvers had ever been done this close to the ground (800ft up) and it definitely got the heart racing. Entering these procedures from the downwind is still a bit fuzzy to me (I’m still really slow in figuring out wind directions).

I did my first ever round of touch-and-goes today (with assistance). After so many lessons being timid in my turns (I naturally only do really shallow turns when I should be aiming for steeper ones), I have finally become more comfortable in making ~30degree turns when told to turn. Figures that now my new ‘natural’ turns in the landing pattern are mostly too steep.

My takeoffs are getting straighter – woohoo!

I forgot that my flaps go from 0 to 40 degrees. I was told to use 30 degrees of flaps on final and mistakenly set it to 40. Β I had a small moment of panic (at 40 degrees) when I realized that all my corrections were not working.Β Surprising how just 10 extra degrees made it so difficult to control the plane.

Remember to make small control movements on base and final.

Pre-Pattern Maneuvers Training Finally Done(ish) – power on/off stalls, steep turns, unusual attitudes

I finally completed a perfect power off stall!!!!

In the rest of my flight hour, I also perfected power on stalls, steep turns, and unusual attitude recovery. I woke up this morning thinking it would take me about 5 more hours to just get past the stalls, so this is such a relief.

I’m so very excited that if I do the exact same steps on the practical test, I pass! My margins were spot on. It seems so easy right now. We’ll reevaluate in about 3 weeks when the snow starts sticking to everything and make me nervous.

Old picture of the 150 I fly. Picture stolen from my flight school’s webpage.

Only mishaps:

  • After landing, I almost taxied into a taxiway light. I obstinately refused to admit my brain was mush…but okay, yeah, I was tired after 4 hours of mindless paint scraping and a challenging flight hour. I forgot that one taxies on the line, not in-between.
  • While tying the plane down, we discovered the flaps are mysteriously broken. Stuck in a down position. Hm.

Parking the plane: All the CFIs at my school are such gentlemen. Always telling me how to push the plane, all the little tricks, etc. but they never actually let me try it myself (although all the male students have to do their own work). I’ve had enough of that. It didn’t take as much strength as I thought it would, although I may change my mind when the snow starts sticking to the ramp. My only minor ‘mistake’ was that I was pulling instead of pushing. Yes, it is much easier to push the plane, thank you CFI2. πŸ˜€

I’m excited and nervous to start ground reference maneuvers. It’ll be good for me though; I’ll finally be able to tell where things are on the ground. And I learn the location of the only straight road leaving Fairbanks. I’m still partially convinced one doesn’t exist. πŸ˜‰


The unusual attitude maneuvers were the coolest things I’d experienced in a plane. CFI2 did the ‘close your eyes and point up [zenith]’ thing; the fact that we were turning was completely wild.


Today was the first time I flew wearing glasses instead of contacts. I’m not comfortable wearing contacts in the hangar after breathing some of those MEK fumes and I was too lazy to put in contacts before the flight (like I did the other times). It was actually pretty okay – the headset didn’t smush the frames against my face or cause any discomfort – but I’m definitely sticking with contacts for future flights.

  1. My glasses get oil smears from my eyelashes too easily – and I don’t want to worry about having to clean them in flight until I get more proficient flying.
  2. In winter, the moisture in your breath can often fog up your glasses. In Fairbanks, when it is cold enough, that fog will instantly turn to ice. On your glasses. Ugg. Annoying to deal with when walking around. Downright terrifying to think of dealing with it when trying to fly a plane. Sure, the plane heaters keep things above freezing (I’m pretty sure) but there’s no need to take the chance of something happening.


Minor nitpicking:

  • I keep getting lost while taxiing. Don’t look at me like that – I can’t figure out why. I know the layout, but it vanishes when it comes time to make turns.
  • My run-up was done on the taxi line and not on the side.
  • My takeoffs are still really ugly.
  • I never pull back quick enough to please the instructors. Should be waiting to hit 60 knots right?
    • I suppose I really am going too fast at takeoff because the instructor keeps needing to step on the brakes to stop the wheel spinning/bumpiness
  • I never stay really centered on the runway line
  • Immediately after becoming airborne, I can’t keep the plane very level
  • I never understand what FAI departure control tells me to do (so I never repeat back what they tell me….the instructor always quickly takes over)
  • I landed right wheel first – not terrible overall but still needs work.

More stalls

After breathing paint thinner for 3 hours, it was time to go flying – woohoo.

I keep expecting someone to tell me when to pull back for takeoff, and I need to stop it. I’m supposed to know.

Saw Metro Field (private gravel strip just next to the large Fairbanks airport) from the air today – finally! The gravel airstrip is a bit hard to see. I didn’t expect it to be so close to town. Now I know where all that helicopter traffic goes to. Also saw the military field used for bombing practice. Is it normal to always be so ‘close’ to military airspace?

CFI2 and I went up in the 150 and did power off stalls over, and over, and over again. Today was the first time I kept breaking hard right and left. Shoot.

On the bright side, I spent most of my time looking outside, not at the instruments. I’m getting better at using the rudder to keep level in slow flight, but am still not sure when it is supposed to be a rudder fix and when it is supposed to be an aileron fix. Reminder to me: look up ‘crossed control stalls’.

Had my first encounter with carburetor ice today. We had just contacted tower to land and were slowly descending. Engine/plane started shaking ever so slightly when CFI2 put on carb. heat. I’m still really impressed that he caught it so fast (because my untrained pilot senses didn’t really notice anything).

FAI’s 2 main runways are parallel to each other. 2L is mostly for commercial flights and 2R is for general aviation. CFI1 let me do all the work for landing today, which was cool, but I was expecting a prompt for when to turn right for final. Totally my mistake that we were almost at 2L before I fixed my heading. I was mostly a little too low for most of final, but fixed it just in time.

I’m supposed to know power on stalls by now, but I’ve only ever practiced thatΒ  twice. I’m not yet dejected, feeling ‘behind’, but the feeling is creeping up on me. I keep telling myself that I will get it [soon], and I hope that I can prove myself correct.

Slow Flight and Stalls, Again

Slow flight and stalls, again. Arrragh. I’m still at the point where I know when I’m doing something wrong, but don’t have the muscle coordination to fix it quickly….or the proactive mindset to prevent the problem from starting in the first place.

The 150 didn’t have heat on it early enough (Fairbanks was in the 40s today), so I flew the nice, warm, just landed 152. The 152 is a bit harder to stall than the 150, but that’s no excuse. I need to work harder. Maybe start a routine at the gym so I can pull back further on the yoke. I always think I’ve got it as far back as I can, but the instructor can always make it go slightly further.

Today was the first time I was afraid of losing control in the plane. Nothing probably would have happened, but I still felt unsettled. So, we’re only supposed to do shallow turns in slow flight, yes? Overbanking, uncoordinated turning, and sloppy rudder work kept leading to ~25 degree turns. Mmm.

One more bit of fun: CFI3 did a preemptive steep left turn today to avoid crossing into the path of another plane. I made the mistake of looking down. I’m not afraid of heights, but the quickly spinning ground definitely woke me up πŸ˜‰ I can’t wait til I get to do these myself.


Takeoff: It started off okay because I actually taxied to the middle of the runway today. Oh joy! But when going to full power, I can’t keep going straight. Oy, my crosswind work during takeoff. We had the option to turn right over the airport but the instructor wanted to see if I could maintain the usual TRSA departure. Turns out I can’t with the wind. I had an ugly drift way off to the right. Apologies to the [probably worried] people in the tower.

Landing: CFI1 has let me do the most control work when landing. CFI3 tried today, but the crosswind was a bit strong for me to handle. I got to control the throttle [with prompting] on our usual long landing.

No wing covers needed today because there is snow and ice forcasted tonight. ‘We don’t want the covers to freeze to the wings.’ How can they tell that we won’t get the dreaded ice sheets on the wings sans covers? Aviation in cold weather is still a mystery to me.


Things to work on:

  • I still lose a lot of altitude in slow flight maneuvers before realizing I need to throttle in.
  • I constantly stare at the instruments instead of outside, leading to drifting headings.
  • Uncoordinated turns in slow flight equals zigzag headings when I try to fix things
  • I’m still having trouble staying level when pitching up for a power off stall
  • I’m not pitching up enough to induce a stall – we kinda just hang out in the sky forever.
  • Being too passive in turns. I do stuff really slowly but I can definitely act more forcefully.
  • Slowing down during taxi: use both feet! I could actually go pretty straight today, but always veered way off to the side when braking.
  • CFI3 told me that practicing taxiing on the simulator was probably a bad idea because it is so much harder than real life. I really, really want to be better at it though! And fast!
  • Parking the plane: need more practice using the 152’s new towbar


More Slow Flight and Stalls

1.3 logged hours of slow flight practice and power off stalls today. I’m more confident in doing both activities (with many little mistakes), but am still having the hardest time holding a heading. It still feels like there are still a few too many activities to coordinate right now. Need more practice.

Flew with CFI3 for the first time today. His style was refreshingly through and I look forward to flying with him again.

Lots of time wasted today holding short of takeoff because of a sudden increase in traffic. If learning to fly in Fairbanks afternoons/evenings, avoid takeoff at 4pm, 6pm, 9pm.

I had CFI3 write out all the steps to set up slow flight and stalls. I think it will help to memorize the written forms of these procedures, but I know I need the ‘muscle memory’ of both (CFI1 and 3 both told me I’m being too analytical – too ‘scientific’ – and they’re right).Β The Jeppesen online course listed all these steps with short video clips of what to do. Having CFI3 write these steps was probably a waste of 0.7 hours of instruction time that I had to pay for – hopefully it will inspire me to study/use/review the online course more.

Today’s taxiing and takeoff were absolutely abysmal. Going straight is still an issue for me. I think I may go practice these a lot in the simulator.

More Snow False Alarms – Slow Flight and Stalls

Weather, you fickle lady….

This is a picture from a fellow UAF physics grad student this morning (http://lwpetersen.com/2013/09/20/another-pretty-morning/):


Next is a picture I took of the Geophysical Institute Β from my car before leaving for the airport (5pm):


I was trying to capture the fact that there were actually large fat snowflakes floating through the air. Say what?!? πŸ˜‰ As always though, Fairbanks weather continues to behave strangely and the airspace over the airport <7 miles away was nice with rays of sunlight.

We worked on slow flight and power off stalls in the 150 today.

Slow flight: technically, I think I should be going slower – haha. It was an intro-day so it’s okay. Restudy the techniques to avoid overbanking before my next lesson.

Power off stalls:Β not nearly as terrifying as they’re hyped up to be. I actually can’t wait to try it a few more times.

I did most of the work for the landing. It felt a little rough when we actually touched down, but that’s why I’m convinced it was my own handiwork. ATC put us down right behind another Cessna taking off (it just passed the hold short line when we were ~a third? of the way down final – maybe the margins were bigger but it was definitely not a comfortable moment Β for me – I spent yesterday looking at pictures of accidents where one plane overtook another; definitely not a confidence building exercise).

Radio work: I feel much better about my work – happiness! Instructor was surprised that I did a lot of the script “like a pro”. Me too.


Things to work on:

  • Use the rudder when turning, climbing, descending, etc when necessary! I really don’t and this instructor compensates for me when he really shouldn’t. I need to feel the uncoordination for myself to really learn. Or just have the verbal reminder.
  • Today I did try some rudder on takeoff and it was way too much.
  • Ask instructor to allow me to do my own taxi work.
  • I think these issues come back to the ‘choosing a primary instructor’ issue. We’ll call CFI1 the person I fly with the most (the one doing the most ‘mothering’). CFI2 is the one I’ve only flown with once -but is the one who made me do both things mentioned above. I’m scheduled again for CFI1 for the next lesson, but I really want CFI2. I really need/want to come out and say something – but I’m pretty timid/nonconfrontational (unless you’ve done something I deem morally wrong. Then I’ll bite your head off). Anyways, I’m still feeling too ‘chicken’ and am hoping it’ll get better by itself. Ugg. Okay fine. Next lesson, I’m saying something.Β Sorry that you the reader need to deal with these innermost thoughts.
  • My angle of attack is consistently too high after takeoff. I want ~7degrees? Anyways, I know it is off by my sight picture, but I never get around to fixing it until the instructor says something.
  • Using radio or talking to instructor during level flight: if distracted, I tend to start turning -lately the banks have become more dramatic. Aggravating, embarrassing.
  • Ask to push the plane myself into the parking spot.
  • I still need to be spoonfed words to FAI approach when inbound for landing. I am doing pretty well with FAI ground, FAI tower, FAI departure because I can take the time to mentally say everything I need to before I actually open my mouth. And the radio script to them is pretty much static. Unfortunately, we are always changing altitude&location when contacting FAI approach. I can’t keep wasting time rehearsing every single word because then all my numbers are wrong by the time I actually say them. Need to work on having the confidence to parrot the instructor faster. And learning to judge my distance from reference landmarks. ie: ’10 miles from Murphy Dome’…..I drove there once, but I honestly have no idea where it is in relation to the city.


Additional Thoughts:

Sometimes I really wish I knew someone who started flight school at the same time as me. Most of my friends still seem excited to hear me talk about my flying worries and experiences (yes! haven’t bored them to tears yet), but a fellow pilot who isn’t way further ahead than me would be nice.

I totally appreciate the experienced pilots who share their stories though!