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Private Pilot Lesson #5 – Slow Flight

Exhausted. Mentally and physically.That’s pretty much all I feel after this lesson.
I struggled with slow flight for most of the lesson, sat in a hot airplane for the first time (it’s in the 80s here finally), and experienced the most turbulent day of my short flying career.

The Decision:

I went up with CFI #2 again, and today cemented my decision to fly with him as my primary instructor. He is instructing full-time, so his schedule is much more flexible. I think his teaching and my learning style mesh a little bit more, also. I may still fly with CFI #1 periodically, if our schedules match up, because my main priority is to finish this certification.

Another decision I made today was to avoid weekend afternoon flights! Now that summer is settling in (seriously, where did spring go? It feels like it just stopped snowing), the air gets crazy bumpy during the day. We were jostled all over the sky for 1.5 hours. I think (and I told CFI #2) that I’m just still not used to the movements of the airplane. It’ll just take some experience to know what I’m feeling, and to know that it is normal and safe. For example, I kept having to remind myself to release my death-grip on the yoke. My CFI unknowingly gave me a perfect example of good technique when he demonstrated a stall, trimming the plane perfectly, and flying it with two fingers barely holding the yoke. He was trying to demonstrate stall recovery technique, but I learned about 7 things from just watching him fly for those 20 seconds.

I think that’s why I like flying with him so much. The division of labor is always very clear in the cockpit. When I’m flying (which is 98% of the lesson), I know that I am 100% flying the plane. When he is handling the radios, he lets me know it. When he is about to demonstrate something, we are very clear on the transfer of control. He has good communications skills and we work well together, I think.

The Weather:

We’ve had some weird weather lately, with fog banks suddenly rolling in a few days ago. They forced us to cancel our Saturday lesson, and apparently forced JFK into using the rare runway 13R arrival, which takes the planes right over Manhattan/Western Brooklyn. Word on the street (Twitter) was that half of JFK was socked in with fog and the other half was clear. Weird. Although someone else on Twitter told me that this is par for the course in NYC this time of year. I definitely wasn’t paying attention this closely to the weather in previous years.

The Lesson: Slow Flight

Winds out of the SW (210 degrees at 12 kts) had us taxiing all the way down to use RWY19. My CFI gave me some good taxiing-on-windy-days tips, and I performed a not-too-bad crosswind takeoff. Left downwind departure to the north, because there was a fog bank sitting right over the southern practice area. On the way to the northern practice area, we dodged some clouds, which was new and fun, and went over the VFR cloud clearance requirements (at least 500 below, 1,000 above, 2,000 laterally). Once we arrived, we did emergency procedures (partial engine power loss, engine loss/restart, off-field landing simulations), steep turns, and slow flight.

I feel like I struggled with the slow flight. Switching to the Region of Reversed Command involves some mental gymnastics and muscle training. The CFI even made me say, out loud, three times, “pitch for airspeed, power for altitude”. I feel like I was consistently too fast and too low every time we tried it. Maybe it was all the bumpiness, but something had made me skittish about getting near a stall. I was holding on too tight (“and lost the edge”…sorry, I had to). I am still far too timid with the controls; I’m still getting over the feeling that I need permission to make any control or throttle changes.

What’s Next:

I have to finish up my pre-solo written test tonight, so we can go over it tomorrow. Both CFIs keep telling me I’m much farther along at this number of hours than any student they’ve had, but it still feels like a LOT of information to cram into my head. They’re speeding up the training accordingly, so I feel fairly saturated at the end of every lesson. Which I suppose is a good thing, I don’t want any boring lessons. The 1-hour train ride home makes for good decompression time. I always feel a bit of pressure to whip out a book and study, but I think relaxing and thinking about the lesson I just had is probably better for me than stressing about the next one would be.

P.S. Any time I mention the “being farther along” thing, The Fiancee slugs me and tell me to not get cocky. I’m tryingbut I do have to say it feels good that all that time spent reading, watching videos, playing flight sims, and otherwise being nerdy/obsessed have paid off in some way. I won’t get cocky. This is a license to learn, and something to take very seriously. But…it still feels good.