Tuesday, September 30, 2014

It IS a Fast Plane

This weekend I took my first passengers, Craig, Kim and Alexis, for a flight in the Bonanza. A "quick" flight to Harris Ranch and back for a late lunch/early dinner. Quick because it was 2.0 hours from key on at RHV to key off at RHV. On the way there we were doing 175 knots ground speed. On the return it was closer to 145 knots, not bad with a head wind.

Alexis was funny. Shortly after take off she informed all of us this plane is different. "It's gear goes up into its belly", she said. I wondered how a 3 or 4 year old knows this, it wasn't like I told her where they gear was going. What an observant girl! She loves flying airplanes. We had a great dinner and a lot of fun together as usual.

One event drove home how fast this plane is. We were approaching RHV with me carefully managing the airspeed and manifold pressure to set up for a nice landing. I was practicing lining up on the centerline from 10 miles out too.  I called in over UTC and then when we were over the ridge line just south of RHV (about 8 miles out) we were cleared to land behind a plane in the pattern. I read back the clearance and didn't think too much of it. Any plane in the pattern cleared to land before me would be on the ground long before I got there, I thought. I was wrong.

About 5 miles out the tower calls me to let me know my traffic to follow was turning base to final. That woke me up to how fast I was approaching and catching up to this traffic. I was coming in at about 160 MPH with the gear down. I was descending at the rate I wanted but probably 70 knots faster than the plane I was to follow! I quickly leveled off to slow down, a bit higher than I wanted but I needed to get the plane slow enough to get the flaps in. Once I got below flap extend speed I dumped full flaps and held level to quickly get down to 100 MPH. I was high briefly but an inch less manifold pressure and I was back on glide slope. The plane we were following landed and cleared the runway. Then we landed shortly thereafter with no problem, on the centerline.

I was pleased it didn't take a lot of thinking to do the right thing. I knew instantly what to do and what would happen as a result. I love that feeling of being in command of a plane like that. I just have to remember this is a much faster plane than I'm used to!

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