Evening flight with Abby

I had originally planned to go for a solo flight tonight because my wife was going to be busy and no friends were available on short notice. But as it turned out she was able to come flying after work. The plane is still in Fitchburg due to the runway construction in Nashua and when we arrived two planes were doing pattern work. Abby had some criticism for the Cessna which as she noted flared too high but also noted their landings were improving as I completed my preflight.

My original plan had been to check out a new airport – Springfield, VT. But Abby wanted to see if we could find Putney, VT (just north of Brattleboro). After departure I climbed to 4,500 feet leveled off, trimmed out, and asked her if she wanted to fly. The heading I was flying would intercept the Connecticut River just south of the VT/MA/NH border and provide an easy to follow route up the river. She flew north following the river and practiced making level shallow turns.

Meanwhile the sunset was absolutely gorgeous with the sun disappearing behind a cloud then reappearing beneath it as a brilliant orange orb. I focused on scanning for traffic and monitoring the instruments as Abby flew. Soon we found the Putney school and since it was getting dark I decided to abandon plans to head to Springfield airport. Abby handed the plane back to me and I turned us back towards Fitchburg.

I asked her if she wanted to try some slow flight and the answer was a tentative yes. I turned the landing light on for visibility as we were maneuvering then talked her through slowing the plane down. The first step is a power reduction to around 18-20″ of manifold pressure, then hold altitude. This will require some trim adjustment as the plane slows down. Soon it will be within the safe range for the first 10 degrees of flaps (below 130 knots).

High wing airplanes without T-tails usually like to balloon up when the flaps are selected. I think this is due to increased downwash on the tail. It has become automatic to me to push forward as the flaps run out. Altitude was back and forth a bit but she was doing very well. Next I told her to put the gear down (below 125 knots limit but the flaps and power reduction had slowed us down to 100 knots or so by then). The gear requires similar active control inputs to hold attitude as the gear swing changes the CG balance. Trim adjustment got things back to hands off and level.

At this point we’d settled into 90 knots slow flight and I told Abby to turn 90 degrees right then back to our original course. In slow flight the control inputs are much more exaggerated and sloppy but she was doing fine. I had her select flaps 20 degrees and do the turns again. This time her coordination was much better and the ball was centered through the turns. Nice work!

Finally, a demonstration of the final approach descent with flaps 20, power at 15 inches, and the Cardinal settles into a nice 500 foot per minute descent at around 75 knots. This is perfect for the approach up until short final. At this point I took the airplane and demonstrated pulling the power all the way out and rolling the trim full nose up. This is what you want to fly on short final and will give you a nice steep descent with the airspeed pegged around 65 knots (flaps 30 for short field will be closed to the specified 62 knots). Then I pulled to level off until the stall warning horn came on (demonstrating a landing from that configuration) and recovered (I did not go all the way to the break especially with daylight waning).

At this point I cleaned the airplane back up and headed direct to Fitchburg. As we arrived in to the airport environment in the increasing darkness there were at least four different planes in the pattern or approaching. It was a madhouse and I slowed down to fall in behind all of it. I was happy to have a passenger to help me spot the traffic to follow at night. My landing was a bit sloppy but wasn’t bad for a night landing. It was not as good as my final of three night landings from last week. This tends to happen when I am concentrating on following traffic or an otherwise complicated approach situation. Each time it gets a bit easier to squeeze out a good landing but it isn’t always consistent yet. Given that the plane that landing before me (looked like a 172) used a lot more runway I don’t feel too bad!

2 thoughts on “Evening flight with Abby

    1. Dan Post author

      It wasn’t *that* bad! I thought it was pretty good for a night landing given the circumstances (the plane in front of me was flying a much longer final than I prefer as well) but then on the car ride home I stated this and Abby said “You must’ve had some really bad ones lately!” She was clearly spoiled by the really smooth landings I made the last few times I’ve flown with her. And also just giving me a hard time I suspect!

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