As I posted before, the original goal was to train yesterday (Monday) and my CFI from Nashua would fly down and meet me Monday and we could spend all day Tuesday flying the airplane home. Of course, weather will interfere with all well made plans and sure enough on Monday the wind was very intense in the Charlotte/Statesville area with gusts to 30 knots. The wind was potentially flyable with experience but it was just not a good day to begin transition training to learn to land a new type of aircraft.
Instead, I spent a considerable part of the day in the hangar getting to know the plane and going through the ground parts of the training. Then I went back to my hotel room with all of the logbooks, documentation, and Pilot’s Operating Handbook to further familiarize myself with the plane.
With this morning predicted to be calm and clear, perfect for flight training, we got an early start. The goal was to squeeze in as much flight training as we could do before heading home. Meanwhile, my Nashua CFI napped in the pilot lounge at the airport. For training we departed Statesville and climbed to 4,500′ to explore the airplane a bit then did some maneuvers. Standard turns, steep turns, power on and power off stalls, and a cross-controlled stall (from a slip). N52667 stalls very nicely. We got it into a nice deep stall and held it there “falling leaf” style, and also played around with holding the airplane right at the buffet.
After this we returned to the airport for the real meat of the training – landings. The Cardinal has substantially different sight picture than the Cessna 172 I am familiar with. This is primarily due to the angle of incidence of the wing chord (relative to the fuselage). The sight picture is much more nose down than the 172. The second challenge is the very powerful stabilator (full moving horizontal tail surface). If you push forward during the landing flare the very effective stabilator can push the nose gear into the ground, potentially collapsing it and causing a very sad and expensive prop strike. So both the approach and the flare have differences.
It would have been nice to do some more advanced training, but after 3 hours dual time logged I was doing pretty well with the landings. We headed in, grabbed some lunch, and packed and refueled the plane. Finally at 13:30 it was time to depart the Statesville area!
With a High Pressure system in control from the Carolinas to Maine I decided to take the route via Hagerstown, MD. Our departure was good with a smooth climb to 7500 feet. The airplane flies beautifully hands off. In cruise we settled in at 137-140 knot true air speeds.
The direct route to Hagerstown soon follows Interstate 81 and the beautiful Shenandoah Valley up the western edge of Virginia. The wide, relatively flat valley is filled with farmland and on the west side are Ridges and Valleys Appalachians, on the east side is the Blue Ridge Mountains.
About 70 nautical miles out from Hagerstown we began a slight descent at 250 feet per minute. This gradual descent is more comfortable on the ears plus it is efficient. Leaving the engine at the cruise power setting and pitching down for 250 fpm descent brings our speed up to around 160 knots for the last 30 minutes of the leg.
Upon arrival in Hagerstown the runway in use had an 8 knot or so crosswind. The landing was solid and without much drift. We stopped at Rider Jet Center and got some fuel and hit the bathrooms and the snack room at the FBO. The airplane took 20.6 gallons to top off so our first leg at 2.1 hours averaged 9.8 gph including the climb to 7,500 feet (assuming the top off leaving Statesville was completely filled). Not bad for a 140 knot airplane.
After departure from Hagerstown we navigated carefully to avoid P-40 (Camp David). Our route (once again at 7,500 feet) soon took us over Harrisburg, PA complete with a view of the 3 Mile Island Nuclear Plant and the numerous bridges of the Susquehanna river in Harrisburg.
The real downside to our later than originally planned departure is that by the time we reached the northeastern Pennsylvania, northern New Jersey, New York intersection the sun was definitely setting. The sunlight was beautiful, but I would have preferred not to make my second landing on this trip at night. However, nature prevailed and from crossing the Hudson to Nashua we were definitely in night.
The moon was full which helped. Again a nice gradual 250 fpm descent begun over over the Springfield, MA area brought us to pattern altitude upon reaching Nashua. The landing here was OK, by all means a safe landing, but my first night landing was (unsurprisingly) a bit sloppy. The approach was good but instead of a nice smooth landing it was definitely a solid “thump” arrival. Fortunately I didn’t have any passengers to apologize to, only a fellow understanding pilot! As long as the nose gear is safe the landing is good enough.
We arrived at around 19:00 for 4.6 hours flight time enroute and around 5:30 total travel time counting the stop in Hagerstown. This means counting the training this morning I flew an incredible 7.6 hours today! The bad news is that I do still need to get 2.4 hours of dual time because of the insurance requirement. But ultimately everything worked out, the plane is in Nashua, and we couldn’t have had better weather for the journey.