Oshkosh Fever Begins to Build

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93 days to Oshkosh! Am I obsessing early?

I picked up the new hardware for this year’s Firebase Airspeed a few weeks ago at Costco and the weather was nice enough this weekend that we set it up and slept in it last night. Partially to figure out how the tent goes together, but also to get Cole in the tent and make sure that he’s accustomed to sleeping there before we hit Camp Scholler in earnest.

We also cooked out. Velveeta Mac and Cheese – the official Airspeed meal of choice for Oshkosh.

We’ll podcast and post our GPS coordinates once we get settled in and will be delighted to see any visitors who decide to amble by.

We’re planning on Wednesday through Saturday again this year, but might expand it a little one way or the other. I’ve been in contact with EAA Radio and might be doing some volunteer work for them, both in pre-production and onsite during the event. It comes down to what Fareed and his crew need and what I can provide. Watch this space!

Multi-Engine Rating – Day 2 – Rating Complete!

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The feeling is starting to come back in my right leg and I can almost open and close my left hand again.

But it’s all worthwhile because I just added Airplane Multiengine Land to my ticket! And it doesn’t have the VFR restriction. Too cool!

I just finished the two-day accelerated multi-engine course with Tom Brady of Traverse Air. We flew at Wexford County Airport in Cadillac (KCAD) Saturday and Sunday. Two flights of 2.0 each and four instrument approaches and nine landings Saturday. Sunday was two shorter flights of 1.5 hours each and four instrument approaches and seven landings. Then the checkride Sunday afternoon with 1.2 (pilot in command!) hours, one instrument approach, and two landings.

I also got my complex endorsement as part of the process.

Lots of studying for this. A lot to get into your head in just two days. Here’s the obligatory parking-lot engine failure drill. I think I had just stomped on the ball and was going to full forward on the levers here.

That would be the left engine and prop and, yes, that would be the prop feathered and not turning. We did two or three full-feathered shutdowns throughout the training and the checkride. This is the second one – on the last flight with Tom. Pretty benign, actually. It’s really amazing how much drag you get with a windmilling prop that’s full forward. Other than a fair amount of rudder and some bank into the good engine, it’s pretty much like flying with both engines at lower power once you get the dead engine shut down and feathered.

Capt. Force at the controls. This was on the way out to the practice area after an engine failure on the runway and another right after takeoff. Note the maneuver cheat sheet stuck in the headliner, ready for reference. Whereas I simply memorized the setup for other checkrides, there’s just too much information and too short a time to internalize all of the maneuver setups. Memorize the stuff that is truly memory stuff (e.g. push up, clean up, gas, pumps, verify, feather) and use checklists for the other stuff. I made a lot of outlines in law school, but the primary benefit of the outlines were actually making the outlines. It usually took only a couple of glances at the cheat sheet in the course of setting up for a given maneuver, but it was very helpful knowing that it was there.

Multi instructor extraordinaire Tom Brady in the right seat. Tom made the whole thing systematic and as easy to digest as possible. I’m not saying that it was easy. It wasn’t. But Tom did a great job of presenting the material in a cogent way that could be rapidly absorbed by a competent pilot who arrived prepared.

It’s an accelerated course. In Tom’s or any other accelerated course, you’re going to have to show up having read all of the materials and having a good understanding of the theory before you get in the car to go to the airport. You should be current and proficient in single-engine aircraft and it would be a great idea to have some complex time, too. (I got my only complex time just a few days before the multi training, but even that little bit really helped.)

You’ll have to have all of your stick and rudder skills second nature because you will spend the entire weekend working on the multi-specific stuff. You must have your A-game together so that you can pay attention to the multi-specific information. There’s only enough time (and you probably only have enough energy) to learn the multi stuff. If you’re not used to holding an airspeed within five KIAS, holding an altitude within 50 feet, and otherwise doing what you need to do in a single, all of those basic things will take up bandwidth that you need for the multi. You don’t have time or energy enough to take the rust off of your single-engine flying skills while picking up the multi skills. I’m usually pretty good with airspeed, altitude, and other precision matters. But I was consistently 100-200 feet high and a little fast in the Apache until late the second day. I don’t want to think about what this weekend would have been like if I hadn’t gotten up in the Cutlass a few days before.

Lastly (at least until I get an episode out covering the whole training experience), is it just me or does everyone draw great designated examiners? Kevin Spaulding gave me a great checkride. He started with a measured and thoughtful discussion of what we were going to do and used that discussion as an outline to talk through the required information. Weight and balance, performance, the elements of Vmc, how those elements affected maneuverability, etc. Then he was relaxed and objective during the checkride.

I floated the cabin once on the instrument approach. I think I pushed at the same time there was a downdraft, but if there really wasn’t a downdraft, I’ll take the responsibility. But that was a huge float.

Unlike many of the training approaches, I nailed the heading the whole way down the stairs. I got a little busy playing with the power and that might have contributed to some of the pitch oscillations. As soon as I relaxed a little on the corrections, things got a lot smoother. Funny how that works . . .

If you’re near Traverse City or Cadillac, Michigan (or if your family can find ways in those places to amuse themselves while you’re flying your ass off for a couple of days), consider the accelerated multi-engine program at Traverse Air with Tom Brady.

Traverse Air, Inc.
294 West Silver Lake
Traverse City, Michigan 49686

Tom also does seaplane ratings in a PA-12! Hmmmm. I think we’re going to Traverse City for vacation this summer . . .

Multi-Engine Training – Day 1

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Day one of multi training. I am a noodle. Nothing like four or five hours of mortal combat in the skies to take a little out of you.

Two flights today with Tom Brady of Traverse Air in his 1957 Piper Apache (PA-23-150) N3207P. Met Tom at the terminal building at Cadillac (KCAD) this morning at about 9:30. We talked about the training and the maneuvers and then went out to see the aircraft. After a brief tour, it was time to start her up and get airborne.

The maneuvers are fairly straightforward and basically amount to all of the elements of flying that you don’t get in a single-engine aircraft. The most similar stuff to single-engine flying was the stalls and steep turns. Steep turns are essentially the same, except that there’s no power change involved. You just go around at 20” MP and 2,200 RPM.

Stalls are a little different in that we didn’t go to full break. Additionally, power-on stalls are done at 18” manifold pressure (as opposed to 25” of more manifold pressure on a normal takeoff takeoff). Fine with me. I’d rather not be at full takeoff power with 150 HP on each wing with the possibility of asymmetric evils if the break happened in an uncoordinated way.

The other maneuvers are concentrated on engine-out operations. All of this is brand new territory. The instructor fails an engine in one way or another, depending on the circumstances, and you compensate in all of the appropriate ways.

If you’re close to the ground, the instructor will simulate an engine failure using the throttle, which isn’t as authentic, but is safer. We did a couple of failures on takeoff, at least 500 feet AGL. Failures at altitude are usually done by the instructor pulling the mixture.

In any case, you look at the ball of the inclinometer and step on it hard and then bank about five degrees into the good engine. Then it’s “power up” (all of the handles – throttles, props, and mixes full forward), “clean up” (flaps and gear up), check the gas, and check the electric boost pumps.

After that, you configure the aircraft to fly as best it can with just one engine. That means identifying the dead engine (“dead foot, dead engine” – whichever foot isn’t pushing on the pedal is the “dead foot” and that tells you which engine is out). You pull the throttle on that engine. No change? Leave it off. Same with the prop. No change? Leave it off. Then you secure the dead engine by pulling the mix.

Then you fly the airplane at blue line (Vyse or 95 MPH on the Apache) until told to recover or land.

The other maneuver is Vmc demonstration. This amounts to flying the airplane to (but not over!) the edge of its control envelope. This amounts to flying the airplane to or near Vmc (generally 78 MPH) in the configuration that has the most asymmetric thrust condition with as many factors as possible set to make control difficult and, generally, producing the circumstances most likely to put the airplane on its back. Left engine out and windmilling (not feathered) right engine full power and prop full forward. Gear up. No flaps. You get into this condition and then you slow up the airplane to Vmc and recover at the first sign of incipient loss of control. That means a buffet, a heading change, or similar indications.

And here’s the thing. Unlike a lot of single-engine maneuvers that are very reminiscent of this condition, you don’t push the good engine to full power. After all , it’s already there and that’s part of what’s getting you into the situation. No, you push the nose over and decrease the power on the good engine. That’s so the good engine doesn’t whip its side of the airplane over when the other wing stalls.

And here’s the other thing. Big thing, kind of. Unexpected anyway. I assumed that I was just getting the rating VFR. I assumed that the multi-engine VFR and multi-engine IFR ratings were separate things. After all, I’m getting the multi primarily so that I can qualify for the SIC type rating in the DC-3 in May down in Georgia. But it turns out that there’s simply a multi-engine rating and, if you don’t do the IFR part, you simply get a restriction saying that the multi-engine rating is VFR only.

I know. Six in one and a half dozen in the other. And I may still have it wrong. But I found out when Tom and I sat down that I can get the rating without the VFR limitation this weekend. All I have to do is fly an approach as a part of the checkride with an engine failure thrown in for fun.

I flew four localizer approaches today, the first two without the hood and the second two with the hood. Talk about being busy! Holy crap! I won’t be disappointed if I end up having the restriction on my ticket, but it would be really nice to get the rating without the VFR-only restriction. I’m going to have to chair fly a few approaches tonight in preparation.

More later!

Multi-Engine Training – Off We Go!

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Headed to Traverse City last night as base of operations for the multi-engine rating. Packed everything from the instrument ride in case I needed it for the checkride (e.g. IACRA documents, etc.). that pretty much filled up the back of the family dinghy.

Cole’s going along. He’ll hang out with my folks in Traverse City while I head down to Cadillac (KCAD) to fly.

Serious bugs on the windshield! This is just north of West Branch on I-75 with two hours to go. We had to pull off in Grayling to wash ‘em off. They were actually beginning to constitute a hazard to navigation.

Study, study, study! Got up this morning, got a weather briefing, and tried to study the materials again. The fact is that no amount of reading is actually going to keep be from being surprised in a lot of ways, but I’ll have the book learning part as complete as possible before launching.

First Flight for Checkout in the 172RG at Flight 101

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“Yeah, maintenance? Somebody left a blue knob, a lever, and a couple of new gages in the dash on one of your 172s. And the tach is gone. Could you check that out?”

Started the checkout in the RG yesterday at Flight 101. Wind 240 at 14, gusting to 22. (Active runway 27L-R.) Peak gust 26 and bizjets reporting shear of plus and minus 15 on final. That’s not bed-head in the picture. The wind was even blowing back the gel.

But we got up. This is the first flight of the checkout in the Cessna 172RG (the Cutlass). Flight 101, the FBO to which I’m transitioning for my airplane rental needs, has 152s, 172s, a 172RG, and Diamond DA40s. Checking out in the RG qualifies me for all of the other Cessnas on the line, so it’s efficient to go up in the RG, even if I need five hours in which to check out. Plus, I’m scheduled to go for multi training with Traverse Air this weekend and having a little experience with a complex aircraft would be a good thing.

Plus, I needed to go land something – anything – a few times to get the muscle memory back. I’d flown only twice since the instrument checkride last October and even that flying involved only two takeoffs and two landings (although I got an IPC out of the February flight).

There’s a lot to learn. I’m really glad that I flew something complex before getting into Tom Brady’s Apache. I understand constant speed props better now and also have a better sense for how busy I’m going to be on takeoff and landing.

I goofed up the first takeoff for the simple reason that I hadn’t positioned my seat correctly. The dash is a little closer to the pilot in relation to the pedals in the Cutlass than it is in the late-model 172Rs to which I’ve become accustomed. I set up the seat to put the throttle about the right distance for my arm. Taxiing was okay, so I figured that the pedals would be fine.

So I gave her full power and immediately went left because I couldn’t get enough pedal travel with my right foot. Lesson learned. Make sure that you get full travel of all of the applicable controls before you get to the hold short line.

Here’s the cockpit. The blue knob is the prop control, the gear lever is to the left of the carb heat, and – yeah – there’s carb heat (after having flown fuel-injected aircraft since 2003). Procedures also call for using the electric fuel pump on takeoff and landing and that switch is at the far left. Plus, there are cowl flaps that you need to close to help avoid shock cooling of the engine. It’s nothing that thousands of pilots don’t deal with every day, but it’s new to me and I was as busy as a one-armed paper hanger in the pattern.

After a couple of steep turns, we headed over to Romeo to use Runway 18, where the wind was a little closer to the runway heading. It was a little too bumpy anywhere below about 5,000 feet to do slow flight productively, so we’ll do the rest of the high airwork later.

Four full-stop landings. Pretty happy with them except for the third one, in which I imposed a fair amount of side load with a nose-right touchdown.

The Cutlass cruises fast and beautifully. And it’s heavier, so it’s a little better behaved in the shear and turbulence. There’s a pronounced difference when the gear comes down. You can really feel the drag.

That’s Dr. (!) Andy Mawdsley in the right seat. Nice guy. Very good at letting you know his pet peeves and operational preferences, but doing it in a constructive way. Ever fly with a crusty instructor who seems to be pissed off that you don’t automatically know all of his (or her) foibles and doesn’t seem to care that you might have learned something differently and are performing to the letter of your training? Andy’s not that guy. He took the time to talk for a half hour or so before the flight, helped with the idiosynchrasies of the RG preflight, and gave me a clear expectation of what to expect on the flight.

Weather not looking good for the multi training this weekend, but I’ll call Tom today and see what he thinks.