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Thread: Personal limitations versus "stretching for experience."

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  1. #1

    Join Date
    Aug 2011

    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 ('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 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
    Join Date
    Sep 2015

    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!!).

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

    Flying an RV-12. I am building a Fisher Celebrity, slowly.

  3. #3
    cwilliamrose's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    SW Florida
    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

    Join Date
    May 2017
    Northern Alabama
    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

    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    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
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    How about getting higher levels of experience with a Flight Instructor?
    Glenn Brasch
    KRYN Tucson, Arizona
    2013 RV-9A
    Medevac helicopter pilot (Ret)
    EAA member since 1980
    Owner, "Airport Courtesy Cars" website.
    Volunteer Mentor

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