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chirp chirp

Despite there being a million other things to do this past weekend, we took a couple hours and went on a pleasure flight. I always struggle for places to GO in the plane; the days when many airports had on-field greasy spoons is gone, and it's a pain to grab a cab into the local burg. So I often opt for sightseeing flights. Looking around at the weather, winds, and Illinois geography, I thought it might be fun to fly out to the Illinois River at Peoria. The river is pretty wide there, and there are a lot of bridges of interesting architecture across it. So off we went.

There were some summer clouds, but we were able to get to 4500 feet while still staying below them; even so, it was a little choppy from the uneven surface heating. Susanna took several pictures of the clouds, sky, and aforementioned bridges. I'd thought we'd follow the Illinois for a while looking down; there's usually a lot of cool looking things around rivers. But it turned out that we'd beaten a weather system to Peoria by just a little bit; off to the west it became darker and darker and when I started seeing some pretty heavy-looking rain shafts, I turned back east for home. I never saw any lightning, but the clouds were towering a little and I really didn't feel like tangling with up or down drafts.

The best part of the flight for me was coming back in to CMI, where I got some rare practice in making a straight-in landing. This is the easiest of all landing approaches because there is no pattern to fly or turns to make, so the focus can be entirely on energy management. I resolved to do the entire thing with only three movements of the throttle: one to begin the descent, one to slow from cruise speed (120kts) to pattern speed (90kts), and another at the flare. And it all worked out perfectly. It was very instructive to have Aaron's pattern-flying technique borne out on a straight-in (his assertion is that after setting the power for pattern speed and a proper-rate descent to the runway, there is no need to touch the throttle again: flap extensions do all the remaining work to slow the plane down to final approach speed).

It was kind of a kick to see the tiny foreshortened trapezoidal runway emerge from the haze 20 miles out, and watch it grow and grow and grow until it morphed into a flat plain of concrete around us. And that was instructive, too; I had plenty of time to observe where reference points seem to move TOWARD you (they wind up being BEHIND you at landing) and which seem to move AWAY from you (they wind up being AHEAD of you at landing). I'd known about that phenomenon for a while, and was recently reminded of it, but had never taken the opportunity to really stare at it for a while and get a more visceral feel for it.

With such a stable approach, the landing was a sweetheart. I could tell it was going to be from the last flap extension, and I wasn't wrong. With a bit of a slip in to counter the crosswind, she just flew herself into ground effect after I closed the throttle, and as the nose came up we got the gentlest bump and cutest little "chirp... chirp" tire noises imaginable. I was very pleased, and I'm resolved now to practice the exact same thing except folded around into a closed pattern. I'm convincing myself that it can't be any harder, and hoping that creative visualization carries the day.

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( 2 comments — Comment )
sikibobjones
Sep. 5th, 2006 07:11 pm (UTC)
oh man! i miss flying in that little plane.
will you take me up again sometime?
corivax
Sep. 5th, 2006 10:47 pm (UTC)
Thank you for posting this; this sort of thing always makes me happy.
( 2 comments — Comment )

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