Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The time the attitude indicator failed, twice

The time the attitude indicator failed, twice.

It was a cool morning with fog in the valleys but clear on top. Time for lesson four in the instrument training syllabus. After a thorough pre-flight inspection it was time to depart, by the time we reached the run-up pad all the instruments were checked and reading correctly. Although winds are light from the south east at the Beaver Valley airport they are still using the preferred runway 28. Decreased performance on the runway if any was not noticeable.

On climb-out I noticed a peculiar thing. The attitude indicator was read very nose high with a left bank of approximately 20 degrees. A blind man could see out the window that the wings were level and the nose was not more than 10 degrees above the horizon. We had a problem on our hands. Is it a vacuum failure? Well not exactly, the directional gyro was working flawlessly. Could it possibly be that the gyro was slowly getting up to operating speed? That sounds a bit silly considering the amount of time between engine start and takeoff. Trying the alternate vacuum source did not correct the problem either. This would be a complete flight under partial panel conditions.

Practicing slow-flight, stalls and unusual attitude recoveries without the artificial horizon is a bit more complicating than you might think. Take the VSI for example although it can give some pitch information, you need to be ahead of it if you want to stop the nose from coming down too far starting a descent when all you wanted to do in the first place was stop a serious climb.

After chasing the wild bull er.. airplane throughout the wild blue yonder, some time was dedicated to VOR and NDB tracking. Jeremy gave me a crash course on the Garmin GNS 430, surprisingly it is not much different from its big brother the G1000. Thus concluded flight number 4.

It would be safe to assume that on the next flight two days later the attitude indicator would work, but lo, the ground checks showed all instruments reading correctly however on climb-out, you guessed it, the attitude indicator was reading erroneously. For now N266ND is out on maintenance and I'll be flying N273ND for my next flight.

Until next time,
Blue skies and tail-winds,
Malki Zee

Takeoff in N266ND beginning Flight #5
Testing different video angles and waiting for the correct cables to capture the audio.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Week Two of Instrument Flight Training

Recent maritime cold fronts passing through western Pennsylvania bundled with overnight cooling and terrestrial radiation canceled my Tuesday early morning flight.

Thursday was a different story altogether with a high pressure system and great visibilities. The lesson started off with basic hood work, climbs, turns etc. leading up to slow flight and stalls, be careful not to over-correct when referencing that tiny artificial horizon. Steep turns were next on the agenda followed by unusual attitude recovery techniques.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Day One of Instrument Flight Training

After two lessons were cancelled due to weather (under Part 141 rules basic instrument skills must be practiced before flying more complex lessons in actual weather), finally there's a fair weather day for kicking off my instrument training. There are areas of low lying fog however they will not affect our flight.

The lesson starts with a bit of airplane familiarization as it will be my first time piloting a PA-28-161. The Piper Warrior III's engine started simply enough. With light winds and  Beaver County's preferred runway being 28 takeoff was westbound away from the rising sun in N266ND. At a safe altitude we began a right hand turn to the north. Let the hood work begin (a hood is a view limiting device to force ones gaze at the airplanes instruments).

This first lesson in the Part 141 syllabus consisted of straight and level, turns, climb and descents as well as combinations of the above. The exciting part was practicing slow-flight without outside visual reference. We returned to land at KBVI's runway 28. Jeremy is a great instructor, soft spoken but gets his thoughts across in a direct manner.

Finding an opening on the schedule when we landed and not excited about driving two hours for each one hour of flight time I opted to book that spot and take lesson two on the same day. After a short wait we'll be flying another airplane.

Lesson two introduced stalls, both power on and power off referencing only the flight instruments of N273ND. Quite the contrast this is from primary training where the drill was to "keep your eyes outside". The instruments will tell you everything you need to know, just be cautioned not to fixate on any one in particular lest you veer off course on another.

I'm getting used to landing this new-to-me model airplane and am looking forward to lesson three and the challenges it will bring, hopefully without any further weather delays.

N266ND on an IFR day not suitable for lesson one.