2019-06-21

This flight was super fun. The plan was to take off from SMO, fly out out to Malibu, do some stalls along the way, and then do ground reference maneuvers over and around Point Dume. Afterwards, the plan was to head back do a little bit of pattern work around SMO.

Here’s the flight track for the entire flight

Stalls

Shortly after takeoff, we went along the coast and did first some power off stalls, and then some power on stalls. My instructor and I briefly went over recovering from a stall (lower the angle of attack by pitching down and applying full power), before doing some clearing turns and entering those stalls. With the exception of the first (in which my instructor had a slip of the tongue and told me to reduce power - should’ve been reduce AoA - and I listened to him instead of saying “nah, you got it wrong”), these were all fairly decent. I still need to work my recovery - I pitch down too much - but he was really happy with them.

Additionally, in one of the power-off stalls, instead of step-by-step going from 30° flaps to 20° flags, then 10° and finally no flaps, I went cleanly to from 30° to no flaps, because I was distracted during that stall. Obviously, this is something I need to improve upon. Yay flight sims.

Ground Reference Maneuvers

I did really well on these. Even if you don’t take into account the fact that this is my first time doing GRM in a low-wing airplane.

Also, the wind wasn’t blowing all that much, which really helped with this.

Turns Around A Point

For this, we reduced our altitude to ~1200 AGL and tried to circle Point Dume. The first few attempts, my altitude control was way off - instead of maintaining altitude ± 50 ft, I varied by as much as 100 ft - I came quite close to breaking the at least 1000 ft above congested areas regulation. Additionally, I felt that I wasn’t able to correctly maintaining the desired radius for the circle - from my perspective, it felt more like an oval than a circle. However, after 2 or 3 tries at this, I finally set up an approach I liked, and while I still didn’t quite like the approach, the GPS track as recorded by foreflight shows almost a perfect circle around Point Dume. We made another circle around Point Dume before we went on to some S-Turns.

Obviously the low wing makes GRM harder - especially turns around a point, but another thing was the differing height of the surrounding terrain that probably also messed with my reference points. Either case, I should practice these in a flight sim.

S-Turns

We did S-Turns along Zuma Beach.

I nailed these. The first turn wasn’t my best - I wasn’t setting up to be perpendicular to the beach when we were crossing it - but after that, I was on the money with these. Again, rustiness that quickly went away.

These also are much easier to do on a low wing airplane than turns around a point are.

Return to SMO

We had planned to do some more stalls on the way back, but there was quite a bit of other traffic around us, so we elected not to. Instead, we went directly to SMO.

For this, I’m going to link to this recording from live ATC. For reference, the recording starts at 4:37:50 PM PDT (23:37:50 UTC). Hereafter, I’m only going to refer to timestamps on the recording (which are directly in the mp3 file as mp3 chapters.

For context, there were at least 3 aircraft returning to land from maneuvers at approximately the same time. Plus another in the pattern, in addition to other kinds of traffic. ATC was busy. My radio work isn’t perfect - as you can hear, I repeat more of the instructions than I absolutely need to, I talk more-or-less in complete sentences - more than I need to, and I didn’t repeat the runway number when we were given clearance to land.

Obviously, with the amount of traffic involved, we didn’t do pattern work. Though we did go around, that was more due to a mistake on both our and ATC’s end (ATC gave the instruction to turn base when we were way too high and way too close to the field to safely make the landing - we should have immediately responded with “unable” and continued with our downwind) - See timestamp 04:20. Because we were too high, the instructor took controls for the first and only time in the flight. He put the plane in full flaps, and attempted to slip it to the field. However, he quickly realized that the plane was way too high to make it, and we went around. He hands it back to me at approximately 05:40.

Another thing of note, after the downwind, we’re asked to make a right 360 for spacing. On the foreflight track, it turned out that I made an almost perfect circle, around an intersection.

The rest of the flight is uneventful, with a few funny moments on the comms.

Conclusion

Overall, I’m quite happy with the flight, and I’m very proud with how it turned out. Things to work on, though are:

  • Stalls: Get better at recovering, practice lowering flaps when you only have an electronic indicator of where the flaps are, not a mechanical.
  • Turns around a point: Practice them in a flight sim, especially in a low-wing airplane. I was sitting on the wing - unless I’m at a 45° bank, I won’t see the actual point I’m supposed to be orbiting. Recognize that and where you should expect the point just leading the edge to precess as you orbit.
  • S-Turns: Practice them, be perpendicular to the line as you are crossing it. That is also the only instance you should be at 0° bank.
  • Pattern Work: Actually, I’m pretty decent at it. Still need to practice landings, though.
  • Radio Work: I’m pretty good at radio work too. Could be more terse, but I’m very happy with my radio work.