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Thread: Personal limitations versus "stretching for experience."

  1. #1

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    Personal limitations versus "stretching for experience."

    First off, I'm a fair weather pilot. I don't fly to any particular place and am never in a hurry to get there. Counting cows and looking at the pretty water on the river is my flight "goal."

    Second, I'm pretty low time. Most of my 100 or so hours is in a 7AC Champ, which is a happy airplane that is pretty darned forgiving, if light.

    Needless to say that my personal limits are pretty narrow.*

    The problem, of course, is that one can box one's self into too narrow a set of personal limits, which means that if things get a little windy/bumpy/just plain yucky one lacks the experience to handle them.

    The question is how to reasonably ramp up to expand the personal limitations. In the Champ I used the five and ten knot rule I made for myself. Five knots more cross wind than I'd normally say is good for flying, ten if it's down the runway (ish...it's never down the runway, is it?). On those days it's exactly for the purpose of stretching limitations, and I limit flights to no more than an hour and mostly in touch-and-goes. Once I'm happy with a wind condition, I'll mentally check it off and stretch it a little more. If it's in the "whoa, let's not do that again" category (been there, parked it after one circuit), I hold off and stay at the lower limit.

    All of this within the confines of what the book says the aircraft can do. I won't fly if the xwind is more than what is recommended for the aircraft, for example.

    * Right now it's even more restricted as I'm in test flight for my little Nieuport 11. Think ultralight rules for conditions....zero gusting to two, with a little leeway.
    The opinions and statements of this poster are largely based on facts and portray a possible version of the actual events.

  2. #2
    DaleB's Avatar
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    Frank,

    My total flying hours are not that much higher than yours -- I don't think I've passed the 200 hour mark yet. I take a similar approach, with a few modifications. I do try to fly in less than ideal conditions, just to get used to it and build my confidence for those days when you take off in nice weather and things deteriorate. I've had a couple of "Well, I won't willingly do that again" experiences.

    I also try to get out on flyouts as often as I can. From those I learn a lot about getting to unfamiliar airports, spotting the runway (often a challenge!!), flying the approach, etc. It's good to have others ahead of you so you can hear & see what they do.

    This summer I have a few cross-country trips planned just to expand my experience. No schedule, other than "land somewhere before dark". And don't forget tagging along with others also. I hitched a ride to Oshkosh a coupe of years ago, which made it a lot easier to have the confidence to go myself - solo - last year. I don't think I would have done it without having ridden along while someone else (who had not been there before either!!).

    Dale
    Measure twice, cut once...
    scratch head, shrug, shim to fit.

  3. #3
    cwilliamrose's Avatar
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    Think about doing perfect X-wind landings within your current personal limits. Once you have that level of control you should be able to expand the envelope until it works you hard enough to stop the expansion. At that point you'll have a new set of challenges to master. And learn to cheat, don't land on the runway centerline when the runway is wide enough to land at an angle. Slow airplanes like the Champ can often be landed at an intersection and will experience much less X-wind angle (or even zero X-wind). That doesn't work so well in higher performance airplanes but those often have higher X-wind capabilities to start with.

  4. #4

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    Frank, DaleB,
    It sound as if you both have good approach to building experience in a controlled manner. Always have a Plan B, and trust your sixth sense- instinct. If it does not not feel right- it's not. When you find yourself in a situation that's generating that uneasy feeling in your gut- do something about it without undue delay to position yourself for a rapid return to your comfort zone.

  5. #5

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    Yesterday defined "marginal" on the weather front.

    Negligible winds, but a low ceiling of around 1,500 feet. Easy call. No fly.

    As I worked on little things with the airplane, a little sun as the clouds broke up and it's at 2,000. No, don't look at it. A sucker hole does not make for good flying weather.

    An hour later it's changing for the better.

    Now comes the internal debate:

    Weather's shaping up! Whadda think? Ceiling's improved quite a bit, and it's breaking up to the east in bunches.

    But look west, where it's coming from. That's a wall.

    Yeah, but it doesn't look lower. Heck, I live at 2,000 feet AGL. And there's no wind.

    What about that one cloud right there that is clearly lower than the others? And no wind? What's moving those clouds? Happy thoughts?

    I can just fly around that cloud.

    And if it brings friends?

    I can just stay really local and shadow the pattern. If it gets worse, just zip down and land.

    Now you're just straight out lying. You've been itching to put the airplane up the Coosa River for about a year.

    Yeah, you're right. And I hate you.

    So I didn't fly. I'm beginning to think aviation is a series of decisions and arguments on why not to fly rather than the opposite.
    The opinions and statements of this poster are largely based on facts and portray a possible version of the actual events.

  6. #6
    gbrasch's Avatar
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    How about getting higher levels of experience with a Flight Instructor?
    Glenn Brasch
    Tucson, Arizona
    2013 RV-9A / 1952 Piper Tri-Pacer
    Medevac helicopter pilot (Ret)
    EAA member since 1980
    Owner, "Airport Courtesy Cars" website.
    www.airportcourtesycars.com
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  7. #7

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    Personally, I'm at that point where the only way to get more experience is to go fly.



    Fundamentally, I'm a good pilot, or so the instructors I've flown with have said.

    The good news is that I'm entering a great season for flying here in Alabama, and the aircraft is back in flying form. In some ways, the test flight program is ideal for me - it's running through all the things in the student syllabus all over again. Finding best climbs, best cruise, basic maneuvers, etc.
    The opinions and statements of this poster are largely based on facts and portray a possible version of the actual events.

  8. #8
    Cary's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gbrasch View Post
    How about getting higher levels of experience with a Flight Instructor?
    Quote Originally Posted by Frank Giger View Post
    Personally, I'm at that point where the only way to get more experience is to go fly.



    Fundamentally, I'm a good pilot, or so the instructors I've flown with have said.

    The good news is that I'm entering a great season for flying here in Alabama, and the aircraft is back in flying form. In some ways, the test flight program is ideal for me - it's running through all the things in the student syllabus all over again. Finding best climbs, best cruise, basic maneuvers, etc.
    Just being a "good pilot" isn't what Glenn means, when he says to get a higher level of experience. What he means, and what I agree with, is that by stretching your limits with a flight instructor aboard, whether to bail you out or teach you something new, you can do that safely. Let me give you an extreme example.

    When I took my private checkride in February 1973 in Anchorage, all of the pattern work was at Merrill Field, which has current runways of 16-34 and 7-25 (I don't recall if that's what they were then--magnetic variation has changed some in 44+ years). Winds were straight down 34, blustering clear up to maybe 4 knots. Every single one of my landings on 7 were botched, so that the airplane landed in a crab, slight as it might be. There is very little wind in Anchorage most of the time, so I had little more than "book l'arnin'" on crosswind procedures.

    The DE gave me 2 pieces of advice at the end: "You now have a license to learn" (first time I heard that), and "when you move to Laramie, you better learn crosswinds or you won't fly." When I left the USAF 3 months later and returned to Laramie, that was one of the first things, get set up with an instructor who would teach me crosswind technique.

    One Sunday he called me to ask if I was free to go fly, because "today's a perfect day to learn crosswinds." I asked him what the winds were doing. "Straight down 21, at 25 gusting to 30." "How's that going to teach me crosswinds?" "We're not going to use 21; we're going to use 30 and 12." Oh my! All the way out to the airport, all I could think was, "how is this possible? A 172's maximum demonstrated crosswind capability is only 17 knots!"

    So we took off on 21, and immediately after crossing 30-12, joined the downwind to 30. As I turned base, I was already too late to line up on 30, so I went around. As I did, I said, "this can't be done!" So my instructor took the controls, and the first thing he did was widen out the pattern. Then as we came around on base and final, the crab was enormous, but lined up with the centerline of the runway. Just before flaring, he applied full right rudder and a lot of left aileron. Just before touching down, the airplane lined up with the centerline perfectly, and we touched down. After stopping, he said, "OK, now you do it."

    Well, to make a long story short, we did about a dozen landings, half on 30 and half on 12. There was no one else in the pattern, because the weather was so lousy. But by the end of the lesson, I could now handle extreme crosswinds. I have flown in 60 knot winds, and the maximum direct crosswind I've landed in is 35 knots, in a 182, and there was a bit of a crab at touchdown. The strongest direct crosswind I've landed my current airplane, a P172D, in is about 30 knots, with no crab. I have landed many times in many different airplanes in direct crosswinds over 25 knots.

    Guaranteed, without that instructor, I could not have increased my crosswind capability as much. And yet, when I first started flying with him, he told me that for a less than 100 hour pilot, I was pretty good. So don't ever think you can't improve with the help of a good instructor. IMHO, that's the only way to really stretch your personal limits safely.

    Cary
    "I have slipped the surly bonds of earth...,
    put out my hand and touched the face of God." J.G. Magee

  9. #9

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    Great post #8 Cary. Frank's procedure in the initial post is also a good solution. Put the two together and you will likely have a long and happy flying experience.

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