Private Pilot Lesson #2 – Takeoffs, Slow Flight, Stalls, and Emergencies

Traffic, traffic, everywhere, and practicing engine-out emergencies!

The Pre-Flight:

This lesson was a shorter one in terms of time in the air. For my first lesson, the CFI breezed through the preflight checks so we could get into the air faster, but this time he took his time to teach me every step so I can do it on my own before our lessons. Everything about the preflight makes me chuckle inside, when I imagine a world where car owners would have to do the same checks before leaving their driveway. Are all the panels and bolts still attached to my Honda Civic? Check. Lights functioning? Check. Air intakes and filters clear of birds nests? Check. Enough oil? Check. Steering rod properly connected/wheel turns in the correct direction? Check. Brakes pads sufficient/brake hydraulic lines not leaking? Check. Now, draw some fuel out of the tank; is is the correct grade and color? Check. No water contamination? Check. No debris/dirt contamination? Check. Pre-Driving Checklist complete, let’s go to Wal-Mart.

The Flight:

I DID THE TAKEOFF THIS TIME I DID THE TAKEOFF THIS TIME! (Disclaimer, y’all are just going to have to get used to me reacting to things in the manner of an 8 year old boy on here, because that’s how flying makes me feel. Y’all will also have to get used to me using “y’all”, because I’m from the South and Y’ALL IS A USEFUL PHRASE, DANGIT.) So, like I said, I did the takeoff. Much easier than I anticipated; the little 152 just wants to fly, and all you have to do it let it. I did our climbout at Vy, the best-rate-of-climb speed, which in this airplane is 67 knots. The pitch angle was steeper than I expected, but off we went to the north practice area like a screaming banshee. Well, like a freeway-speed screaming banshee, at least. The north practice area is along the northern shore of Long Island and over Long Island Sound.

We use a pretty convenient visual checkpoint to get there: a power plant in Northport with four huge red-and-white smokestacks, cleverly named The Northport Stacks.

Once we got there, we practiced some slow flight and stalls. A couple of these maneuvers seem a bit esoteric, but they are all designed to teach you how the aircraft performs in all phases of flight. Slow flight mimics your landing approach, where you enter the *dramatic booming voice* REGION OF REVERSED COMMAND. I’ll spare you the graphs and physics lesson (click that link of you’re a glutton for punishment), but basically, in this zone, pitch controls airspeed and power controls altitude. This is backwards from normal flight, so it is something one has to get used to. We practice power-off stalls to prepare for the eventuality in which we get too slow during that landing approach, so that we know how to recover.

Then the real fun started: Simulated Engine-Out Emergencies. The biggest surprise here was that when you pull the throttle to idle, guess what? The airplane doesn’t drop out of the sky! I couldn’t believe how gentle the glide was. I felt like I had all the time in the world to find a landing field and set up for it. We were up at 2,500 feet, and I’m sure the situation would be much more stressful at 500, but these little airplanes work pretty darn well as gliders! The CFI taught me all of the checks (in a nutshell: pitch for best glide speed – 60 kts, find a suitable landing area, figure out why the engine stopped, try to restart it), and we practiced it three times, gliding down over some beautiful houses along the shore. They must wonder why there are always small airplanes suddenly losing power and gliding down near their houses, only to put in full power at 800 feet and climb back into the sky…

Observations:

I had a blast doing the engine-out simulations. Slow flight was a bit of a struggle, and the stalls were so docile that I wasn’t even sure when they were starting. Having an extremely stable airplane to train in is great, except when you are trying to force it to be unstable.

The only downside to this lesson was the crazy amount of traffic. It was a beautiful Sunday (one of the first of the year) and everyone seemed to be taking to the skies. We started early in the morning, but still were in line behind five other airplanes at takeoff. Once in the practice area, we were receiving traffic advisories constantly from New York Approach. It was a bit of a distraction. Even when we headed back for landing, the tower extended our downwind leg two miles past the point where we would start turning towards the airport to land, so he could fit more traffic in before us. Then when he finally turned us onto the base leg, he had to squeeze us in front of a twin-engine. We kept our speed up on final, but the twin still had to do some S-turns behind us to keep his distance. I followed along lightly on the controls for the landing, but stayed tuned for Lesson #3, in which our hero DOES HIS OWN LANDINGS!!!