Another perfect flying day. The sky was crystal clear, winds calm, ATIS had 19C. I pulled into Tradewinds just after Grainne, our plane wasn’t back yet so we spent a little time going over my flight yesterday with Yoed. Grainne answered my questions about the fuel primer, its floods the engine if you leave it on and the flaps during a go-around, both methods are correct, the idea is to accelerate and take them off in stages so you don’t sink into the ground. We decided to go back to South County and do some emergency engine failure procedures along the way.
Had a normal pre-flight, except once again I couldn’t transmit on the radio. The audio panel and radio claimed we were transmitting but I never got a reply from either Ground Control or the Tower. I’m now convinced that my headset is to blame. So, as Grainne’s radio transmissions were fine we decided to proceed and let her do the radio. On the run-up the left magneto was bad, the engine coughed and spluttered. I tried 10 seconds at 2200 RPM and it didn’t clear, then we tried the same at full power, that worked. Had a nice smooth take-off and a downwind departure.
We climbed to 3500’ and along side Anderson Reservoir Grainne pulled out the throttle to simulate and engine failure. I knew I could make South County from there, but I wasn’t sure if I could make the full downwind, base and final approach to runway 32. I pitched for 65 KIAS and got through the checklists fine (this time remembering to take out the checklist). The only error I made was not to just make straight for the downwind leg, instead a turned a little left of the airport thinking to come in on the 45. Once I got close it was apparent that I couldn’t make the full downwind, I decided to make the straight in approach to runway 14, this would have been pretty easy. There were at least two planes in the pattern using runway 32 so we applied power climbed to 2000’ and crossed above the airport. Given the traffic around South County we decided to head south to Frazier Lake.
Grainne pulled the power again a little north of Frazier Lake, but too far to make the runway. I picked a nice big field right in front. I was a bit unsure if it was really inside my glide distance, but in the event we would have made it without problems. The only problem was the cows in the field. In hindsight there was another field just next to the one I picked, but without cows. Again I got through the checklists without problems. We made a nice big turn back towards South County and I just enjoyed the flight at 1500’. Usually its a bit bumpy to fly this low, but today the air was completely still.
We entered left traffic behind another plane, as I had to wait for him to pass me we made a later than normal turn to base and final. Still, I timed starting the descent well, and we were nicely on glide slope for the approach. The landing went well, again using one hand. The only mistake I made was to release the back pressure once my main wheels were on the ground. This caused the nose wheel to bump down on the runway a little hard. We did the touch and go and entered the left traffic pattern. Grainne pulled the power about midfield on the downwind leg. So landing two was without power, it went fine, a little flat but very soft. Another touch and go and this time I pulled the power about the same spot and made a second power-off landing. This one was just fine. We did the touch and go and headed for home. That was three landings, all with one hand and all fine.
On the way to our call in point for RHV, we tried an experiment to determine how much altitude you need to get back to the runway if you loose your engine on takeoff. Basically, this it one of the worst scenarios. You have to make a choice between landing straight ahead in a built up area or trying to turn back to land on the runway behind you. The big question is “do I have enough altitude to make a 180 degree turn?”. If you decide to make the turn and you don’t have enough altitude, then you will crash before the turn is finished, in other words an uncontrolled impact with the ground. Making straight ahead you at least have the chance to control the landing, even if its onto a less than ideal spot. So somewhere between about 300’ AGL and 1000’ AGL there is a minimum safe altitude where you can turn back. The actual altitude depends on a number of things such as the wind, the temperature, the plane and the pilot’s skill. So, it makes sense to simulate the situation at a safe altitude and find out how much altitude is needed. First, we tried a shallow turn starting at 3500’ with the engine out. It took 450’ to make the turn. Then after climbing to 2700’ we tried it in a steep 45 degree turn, this time we lost 350’. This was a useful exercise, in the real event there would be additional reaction time as your accepted that the engine had quit and the stress level would be a lot higher, plus you need a little margin to establish an approach and land under control.
We got the ATIS for RHV and Grainne called in. I made the straight in approach to 31L without any prompting. I did the descent checklist, I’m not sure if I did the landing checklist, Grainne didn’t say anything and I can’t remember. This was the first time I’ve made this landing (straight in) without any inputs. In the event we came in high and landed a little far down the runway. I should have adjusted the approach a little earlier to get on glide slope. But, the landing itself was ok, a slight float up, but the recovery was fine. I let it roll to taxiway E and got off the runway.
So, in the last three lessons I’ve done 17 landings without a single unplanned go-around. While the landings have not all been perfect, they have all been either OK or adequate. I think my major landings problems are behind me. I wish I could point to one single thing that helped me get over it. The two handed landings on Thursday gave me some confidence that I could do it. The lesson with Yoed helped on looking in the right places and proved one hand could do it. Today’s flight reinforced yesterday’s learning. My next flight will be the stage one checkride either on Tuesday or Thursday afternoon. I’m actually looking forward to it.