Slow Flight

Today’s lesson was meant to be on slow flight and stalling – unfortunately the cloud base was such that we wouldn’t be able to get high enough to practice stalling safely, so we’d concentrate on the slow flight side of things.

At first glance flying slowly doesn’t seem like it should be an issue, however due to the way different elements of drag act on the aircraft, you can actually end up in a situation where to fly more slowly while keeping level you have to apply more power rather than less. This lesson was all about flying around this sort of speed (i.e. close to the stalling speed of the aircraft) – this isn’t something you want to do in general, however it is the situation you are in on final approach to land.

I did the take off again today – I managed to keep it straight along the runway, and while I probably rotated a little bit late, this wasn’t a major issue. I was however caught slightly by a gust of wind that lifted a wing once we were in the air, luckily I corrected it quickly enough to avoid any problems.

We then practised slow flight in a variety of different configurations – this seemed to go OK, though reinforced what I’d noticed last time that my rudder control needs some work (keeping the flight balanced is very important when at these sort of slow speeds). It was slightly unnerving to have the stall warner occasionally chirp, but I wasn’t particularly worried at any stage (we were safely above stall speed – I think the warner just got confused by the odd bit of wind across it etc).

While due to the slower speed we were often deliberately in a higher nose attitude, when we were at normal cruise I did try to concentrate on getting the attitude right and not having the nose too high (the failure I identified after the last lesson), though I think this still needs some work.

On the way back I nearly got to do my first orbit (a 360 degree turn just to hold position) as we couldn’t get a response from the approach controller (it was the same person doing both approach and tower and it seemed he had 3 aircraft all deciding to talk to him at once), but as I was starting the turn we got a response so I levelled off.

The instructor took over relatively early during the final approach. which I was glad about as the wind was making things quite bumpy and I was having difficulty keeping us on course. The landing was OK, a bit further down the runway than the aim due to a slight balloon in ground effect, but we were still able to make the taxiway we normally use to leave the runway. Other than having to avoid some chocks that had been left right on the taxiway centreline (we reported it to the tower who sent someone out to move them), there were then no issues taxying back and parking etc.

If the cloud base is suitable then next lesson (tomorrow morning) I’ll be doing stalling – if it’s not but still OK to fly then I might ask if there’s anything we could do that might help with my nose high tendency and to practice rudder control instead (the next thing after stalling is circuits, but they don’t like to jump ahead to that before learning how to do stall recovery).