Today I flew with Yoed again. It was my earliest flight so far starting at 8am. The weather was beautiful, the sun was rising just as I arrived at the airport, crystal blue sky and the barest whisper of wind. ATIS had the temperature at 14C, but it didn’t feel cold. Yoed, arrived pretty much on time. We went over what I have done before with Grainne, he wanted to make sure I was used to the pattern work. I talked to him about the two hands issue during the flare. Predictably, he thought it was a bad idea, and that I shouldn’t get used it, because it was just developing a bad habit right at the start. I was skeptical, but he assured me that it could be done. I figured that I’d give it another try with one hand and see what happened, I don’t think he would have accepted anything else and I didn’t feel confident enough that this was my problem to really disagree. In any case, he’s the teacher, so its a real waste of my time and money if I don’t listen to him.
The only new item during the start-up was priming the engine before starting. Because its cold and hasn’t been flown since yesterday you get a little fuel into the carburetor before starting. The primer is a little knob that you twist and then pull in and out three times, you have to make sure it in and locked once your done – left on it can cause problems with the engine later, I’m not sure why, but I’ll ask Grainne tomorrow. We had a standard taxi, run-up and takeoff, except I missed the “check flight controls” item on the run-up, first time I’ve ever done that. We took off on 31L and entered left traffic. Right away you see that Yoed is much more detailed in his instruction compared to Grainne. Whenever he sees you do something even a little wrong, he tells you to correct it. So while Grainne pretty much lets me fly around the pattern unhindered, Yoed coached me on better use of the rudder and better pitch control during the turns. Basically, my turns are still a bit sloppy, not fully coordinated and I often let the nose drop a little at the end of the turn and then pop up again when I roll out. None of this is fatal, but its just sloppy flying – it shows even the basics require attention and practice.
Yoed had decided that the first two circuits we would simply over-fly the runway trying to keep the plane first 10’ above the ground, then 5’ above. I would keep my right hand on my knee and he would take care of the throttle. This was to help me get the feel of fine control with my left arm flying in ground effect, without the distractions of making and actual landing or controlling the power. On short final he took the throttle. The first attempt was marginal, once again it was difficult to keep the plane from sinking and I was a little late starting to pull back to get enough pitch to keep the plane flying level. We did the go-around and the second time was not much better, we actually touched the wheels on the runway and bounced a little, powered up and went around. I had a few problems keeping the nose low enough to pick up speed and Yoed gave me a little help on the climb out. Its a bit disconcerting, but you really need to fly level along the ground to pick-up speed, even if this points you right at the trees at the end of the runway. Another difference with Yoed is how he takes the flaps up on the go around. Basically, he had me bring them to 20 degrees and then keep them there until we reached about 65 KIAS. It takes a long time to accelerate to that speed with 20 degrees of flaps. I need to pin down with both CFI’s what is exactly the correct procedure, because I’m not clear and its pretty important when your that close to the ground.
I think Yoed decided that my problem was really just judging the sink rate correctly, rather than anything to do with how many hands I used. We proceeded to do 9 “one handed” touch and goes without any go-arounds or really screwed up landings. Yoed pretty constantly drilled me on looking at the right place at the right time. I have two definite problems that I can recognize, but which I still need to fix consistently. First, when I should pause in pulling back the yoke, I tend to actually push it forward slightly. I kept doing this, even though my brain said “hold” my treacherous left arm pushed. I’m not sure how to stop this other than practice. Second, I have tendency to get the plane level above the center line and then “close my eyes and hope” it lands itself. I really don’t close my eyes, but my control inputs become much less positive (especially on the rudders). So I had some problems drifting to the left because of lack of right rudder. This is another thing to focus on and try and bring the concentration level a bit higher at the critical moment. The biggest thing I got out of today was focusing on the end of the runway – the very end, to judge the start of the flare. Basically, Yoed said “look at the trees” that are off the end of the runway. This really made it clear how far down I needed to look. I think before I was just looking about two thirds along. It was another of those “Ah Ha” moments, when you know you have done something differently from before and it has worked much better.
So its true, you can land a plane with one hand. I still think its more difficult, but I suspect that is because, my right hand was preventing the treacherous left hand push when I used both hands, so it fixed one of my biggest sins. The reason I needed to pause the back pressure is because I’m misjudging the start of the flare which I hope will improve with focusing on the very end of the runway. I’m flying again tomorrow morning with Grainne, we’ll do some emergency procedures and hopefully get in some more landings to see if I can repeat what I learned today.