On Sunday I went for a flight with the primary goal of obtaining some information about various flight configurations for my IFR training. The idea is to have the power setting and pitch attitude available for each configuration so that they can be easily recalled when workload is high during instrument flight. The various configurations are climb, cruise, cruise descent, approach (slow level flight), approach descent (500 fpm for an ILS), and non-precision approach descent (1000 fpm for step down descents on an approach without vertical guidance).
Winds on the surface were calm when I departed Nashua but there were some bumps in the practice area with cold air advection aloft and over the ridges to the west. Starting with the climb configuration I went through each and filled out my chart. For each configuration I recorded the manifold pressure (throttle setting), propeller RPM setting, pitch attitude, airspeed, vertical speed. Most configurations have the flaps and gear up but the precision and non-precision approach descents were done with flaps at 10 degrees and the gear down.
I went between 4500 and 2500 feet a few times as I tested the various configurations then I climbed back up to 4500 and went direct towards KVSF in Springfield, VT. I hadn’t been to this airport yet and I figured that it would be a good experience to land at a new airport. The bumps increased as I made my way over increasing hills in western NH and soon the Connecticut River was visible with the airport beyond.
There was some glider activity at the airport with a yellow sailplane above and a Piper Pawnee tow plane that was returning to the airport. Most aircraft including a Skyhawk that had arrived just before me were using runway 29 with gusting winds at 300 degrees. I made a left base pattern entry for runway 29 with my eyes peeled for traffic and almost immediately spotted the Piper Pawnee tow plane which announced they were flying a pattern for the longer runway 23 “to land in the grass” and would hold short of 29 for me. This sounded a bit odd to me but it was also clear that I would be on the ground and past 29 before they were on their final approach so I continued my turn to final and made a somewhat rough but safe landing. On a shorter runway it is good to plant it firmly in any case.
I turned off at the taxiway about 2/3 of the way down the runway and found myself following the Skyhawk back to the runway for departure. They had to hold short for the yellow sailplane which landed on the grass next to runway 29 then I waited for them to back taxi and depart before doing the same. As I taxied back to 29 the Piper Pawnee raced past me on the grass with a quick radio call, on their way to hook up the next tow load.
After departure I turned to the left direct back to Nashua at 3500 feet. Almost immediately I spotted the Skyhawk ahead of me at the same altitude and they appeared to be flying the same heading. I kept them in sight since I was traveling somewhat faster (I was cruising around 135 knots and the Skyhawk was probably at 105-110 knots) and overtaking them. They were many miles ahead of me but eventually I overtook them on the right over the hills of western NH. This was a pretty cool sight! Presumably they spotted me as soon as I was in front of them.
When I called Nashua tower around 10 miles out after getting the ATIS the pilot in the Skyhawk called about a minute later. Now they were following me in a right downwind pattern entry. My landing was good – closest to the center line in a while and a real greaser! Naturally, my best landings seem to be when there is no passenger to see them!