Thursday, May 5, 2011

Good day (and how to loose 5000ft in 90 seconds safely)

Today was a good day. I did a little solo flying, learned a bit there. Took some pictures of the empty right seat even. Made some mistakes but it didn't bother me too much.

But the best part was going "for a ride" with my husband as he worked on his sign off to fly a Beechcraft Bonanza. You get in that plane and say "this is a REAL plane". And it is. A world away from the Cessna 172s I fly. First of all its a low wing instead of a high wing plane, its high horsepower (over 200 hp), its complex (constant speed prop and landing gear), and its just cool. Jeff's learning how to fly it because we want to fly the Bonanza to Colorado at the end of July for a family reunion. The Bonanza is faster and has a higher service ceiling than any other single engine plane in the club's rental fleet.

Today Jeff got to experience/perform an emergency descent. The concept behind the emergency descent is a scenario where you have a fire in the engine or in the cockpit and you need to get the plane on the ground, now. Right now.

Simple... you're cruising along at 5000 ft say. Engine bursts into flame, what do you do? slow the plane down enough to put it into a "dirty" configuration (flaps down and gear down), then put it into a 60 degree banked spiraling turn and descend as fast as you can without going so fast you rip the gear or the flaps or the wings off in the process. It took all of 90 seconds to get down from 5000 ft to land. Oh yeah, you want to turn left so the flames blow away from the pilots side of the cockpit so the pilot can see.

Jeff did it great I thought... he kept calm, followed Scott's instructions and just did it. He kept his head on straight and his eyes on the runway we were going to land on as we spiraled down and down. I did great too I thought... a year ago I probably would have screamed and cried all the way down. I didn't. I actually *enjoyed* the ride. It was so amazing to watch the ground spiral away beneath us and feel the g-forces as we turned. It felt like it took 5 minutes, it took just over 90 seconds before we leveled off and Jeff landed the plane on the runway as smooth as you please.

Jeff made some mistakes during his lesson too and it was honestly nice to watch him try to figure out where the airport was and to screw up his descent plan a bit too. I have tons of respect for his flying abilities and what he's learned how to do. Seeing him struggle a bit helped me feel a bit better about my own struggles. I know exactly what its like to have those problems... and its nice to see someone who has a problem once in a while still do well. Gives me hope for myself.

The funniest thing is, after the lesson Scott asked his standard question. "Do you have any questions for me?" and Jeff's question was "How am I [Jeff] doing?" I almost cracked up. That's exactly what I want to ask Scott when I do my next lesson. How am I doing? I'd just like some assurance that the learning process I'm going through is normal and I will, some day, actually get my pilots license. Nice to know I'm not the only one who wants to know... how am I doing?

So, all in all it was a good day. Next time I'll take video :)

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