My second flight was a much more relaxed experience than my first. That was due in equal parts to much more personal confidence, less turbulence and a knowledge of what to expect. We met at around 8am and quickly reviewed some of the important information from my previous lesson. Even though I read two chapters of the book, the material was very rudimentary and introductory. We breezed through it by 8:30 and moved on to the pre-flight inspection.
While my instructor did the pre-flight last time, this time it was up to me with her verbally guiding the inspection. I methodically inspected each of the items on the list and, after about a half hour, declared the airplane worthy of flight. I was proud to have caught the only negative item on the inspection – the control arrester had not been placed by the previous student.
We went through the start-up procedures and then taxied to our runway. We had another beautiful, cold, sunny day at Gallatin Field. I was able to concentrate more on what my instruments were telling me this time around rather than just maintain a white-knuckled grip on the controls. After takeoff, we ascended to about 7,000 feet and turned right to fly to a maneuvers practice area.
I knew the pace of learning would be intense but you’ve really got to be on your game at all times. Between being aware of what the control tower is saying and practicing the maneuvers that your instructor is asking for, you’ll be at max bandwidth! There is really no time to enjoy the scenery though that will come with time, I’m sure. Just like when you are first learning to drive a car and the number of things that you have to be aware of at all times seems daunting, I can already see that flying will be much the same. It’s just a new set of stimuli that you have to learn and adapt to.
We did a counterclockwise and then a clockwise 360 degree turn, several 90 degree turns and then practiced slow flight. That’s when you reduce your airspeed dramatically but maintain altitude through the use of flaps (which change the chord-line of the wing) and trim (which sets the elevators at a certain level). We were able to reduce airspeed to about 60 knots through the use of these techniques. I practiced going into and coming out of slow flight several times, all while doing some medium bank turns and maintaining altitude. This was minimum flight speed – or the speed at which you can still maintain full control of the aircraft.
These maneuvers are critical to master for takeoffs and landings.
My instructor also teased at future lessons by showing me the stall warning sounds and then a stall. A stall is when your airspeed falls below what is required to maintain full control of the aircraft. The Piper is apparently prone to buffeting at just before stall speed. This provides a handy warning that a stall is imminent outside of the stall warning sensors. We only did one stall and recovery but I gather that this will be a major component of a future lesson. Contrary to how it sounds, a stall is not related to the engine at all. It’s a stall in the sense that the air flowing over the surfaces of the aircraft is not sufficient to maintain control of the aircraft. You can recover from a stall by pointing the nose downward to increase the airspeed and thereby regain control of the airplane.
After that, we headed back to the airport and landed. Overall, I’m feeling really excited to get back up and practice some more. It’s an incredible feeling to be in control of an aircraft.