Controls 202

This is a continuation of Controls 201 in which the noted instructor Walt Blumenthaller is showing us how to use the flight controls in our first real lesson.

After practicing straight and level and then trying a few turns, things seem to be going great. But then, a turn goes sour.

6. The Graveyard Spirial

Finally, after what seems like forever, Walt comes on the intercom and says clearly and emphatically: “ Give it right stick and right rudder. Do it now. Level the wings. Pull the power back to idle. Do it now!”

Stick to right and pretty hard with rudder hard right. Throttle all the way back. Wings return to level and we neutralize the controls. Now the plane is in a steep dive, straight ahead.

“Pull backpressure on the stick, but take it easy! You can pull the wings off if you pull too hard.”

As we exert backpressure on the stick, the nose rises quickly. However, we still feel that sinking, heavy feeling. Soon the nose is back level, but now it just keeps on going up. Now what t'e heck?

From the back, “Relax the stick pressure ... now just a touch of forward pressure to get the nose back down ... “

The nose of the plane is still well above the horizon, but it's coming back down. Forward pressure on the stick helps it along. Wind noise is back to about normal, and the wings are level. Another adjustment or two on the stick and the nose is back where it should be.

“Get your RPM back up to 5700,” says Walt.

OK. Soon we're back to straight and level, airspeed 65, at cruise power.

From the back seat, “Hey, how about I fly it for awhile? I need some practice. Seem to be gettin' rusty here lately. You can open those vents on the windshield if you like.”

Vents ... yeah. For the next several minutes, Walt flies the plane, turning gently now and then, just gazing around with not a concern in the world. Looking down at the countryside, it's hard to imagine how those same fields where all tilted up and spinning around just a moment or so ago.

7. A Level Turn, with Backpressure

After a couple of minutes of “sightseeing,” Walt comes back on the intercom: “You ready to do some more flying?”

“I don'no, Walt, beginning to think this ain't my thing!”

“Aw now,” says Walt with a chuckle, “all you got yourself into was a graveyard spirial.”

“A what?”

“Graveyard spirial. Do you know what you did that got you into trouble?”

“Not a clue. I was looking for the airport, and it just went all to hell.”

“The deal is, when you enter a bank, the lift of the plane gets tilted over so that it ain't straight up any more. It takes more lift tilted over to equal the same as what you had, straight up.”

“And what does that mean?”

“You've gotta exert backpressure on the stick when you enter a turn. If you don't, the nose will drop, the turn will tighten, and you get into the spirial thing. Part of every turn is the backpressure on the stick.”

“But Walt, I give it backpressure, a lot, and the nose didn't come up!”

“Yeah, but you only gave it backpressure after the bank was already steep. That increased the lift alright, which is why you felt the G's, but the lift was tilted way over. It tended to pull the plane around the spirial rather than to lift the nose. Only way you can get out of a situation like that is to level the wings.

“OK, you've got the plane again. Now try a turn to the left one more time, and this time, apply a little backpressure as the bank develops.”

Left stick, left rudder, ... backpressure as the roll develops. This time, everything goes much better. Not yet perfect; overdid the backpressure a little at first and caused the nose to get too high, but relaxing a bit of the backpressure let's it come down to where it should be. And the nose behaves itself; none of the wrong-way movement as we roll in and roll out.

8. A Normal Climb

From the back, “I think we've done enough turns for today. Let's try something else. I'll show you a normal climb and how to make the transition from straight and level to the climb. OK?”

“I guess so. Is this going to be hard like the turns?”

“Ha ha hah ... Did you think the turns were hard! Naw, this is easy. It's just procedure. I'll tell you what to do. You're flying the plane.”

And he continues, “We're straight and level now at 65 mph and cruise power of 5700 RPM. First thing you do is raise the nose, and then add full power smoothly as the airspeed drops down to 55 mph. I always climb in this thing at 55. So go ahead. I'll tell you when the nose is about high enough. Gentle as you go.”

So here goes. Back stick pressure, and the nose rises a bit. Airspeed begins to drop slowly. Hold the back pressure, nose rises a bit more.

“OK, that's about it. Hold it right there. Now go to full power smoothly.”

We move the throttle lever forward, to the stop. The 503 rises to the task with an RPM showing on the tach of 6250. We can feel the plane begin to climb.

“OK,” says Walt, “Now you gotta hold the right rudder like you did earlier when we were climbing out. So get with it. The nose is turning slightly to the left.”

A bit of right rudder holds the nose straight ahead, but the nose is up a lot higher now than when we were straight and level.

“Use the stick to control the airspeed. If it gets too low, give it forward stick. Too high, pull back.”

We can tell that we're much higher now, and still going up. Just the slightest movement of the stick to the front or back will hold the airspeed on 55. After a minute or so, Walt comes on the intercom again.

“To level off, you lower your nose back to the level position and let the airspeed start to come up. As it moves up, you gradually reduce the power setting back to cruise RPM. OK? Go ahead.”

And so, we release the slight backpressure on the stick that we were holding in the climb. Nose comes down, and the airspeed starts to build up. As it gets to about 60, we begin to pull the throttle back. RPM drops down from 6250, gradually down to 5700 as the airspeed climbs up to about 65.

“That's all there is too it,” says Walt. “You even let go of the right rudder pressure you were holding in the climb. You're a natural-born flyboy!”

Did we hear that right? A compliment from Walt? Oh boy, wonder what's coming up next? This can't be good!

9. The Normal Glide

“Now that we're up here at 3,000 feet, we can practice a normal glide and gliding turns as we go back down.”

Then he adds, “Oh by the way, where is the airport? Which way to the airport?”

Airport? We look around quickly for it. We're completely disoriented and have not the slightest idea where we are or where we're headed. Cannot see the airport, and do not recognize anything at all. Been too busy to look around.

As if he knew of our perdicament ... lost ... Walt says, “It's about 4 miles to your left front. You can't see the runway from here, but you can see the big hanger up on the hill. And you can see the big plant about 2 miles beyond it. And the headwaters of High Rock Lake on down to the right.”

And sure enough, there they are; the lake, the big plant, and the hangar.

“OK, normal glide. First reduce the power gradually, all the way back to idle. That should give us about 2200 RPM.”

“Now hold the nose up! Don't let it go down just yet. Let the airspeed drop down to about 50 mph, then let the nose drop. Then use the stick to control the airspeed, holding it on 50.”

Power back. Hold the nose up. Airspeed drops. When it starts getting close to 50, we let the nose go down slightly. Airspeed drops a little below 50. Forward stick, and it comes up again. Now it's above 50, almost 55. Back stick. Now it's too slow again ...

“You're chasing the airspeed,” says Walt. “Let me show you ...” And he puts the nose at a certain distance below the horizon. “If you memorize this position, it will give you about 50 in the glide. If you don't let the nose get far from this position, your airspeed won't vary much from 50. Try it.”

And sure enough, it works. We use the airspeed indicator just as a check. It's not hard if you work the nose rather than try to work the airspeed. Amazing!

“Now to go back to straight and level cruise, you lead with the power and then raise the nose. Go back to 5700 RPM and bring the nose back to level flight.”

Piece of cake!

10. Turns in the Normal Glide

“Now go back to a normal glide, and we'll try a gliding turn. All a gliding turn is, is a turn in a glide.”

Now that makes sense. Normal glide: reduce power to idle; let airspeed drop to about 50; lower the nose as it gets near 50; maintain airspeed with the stick.

“Now make a left, gliding turn. Same as a normal turn, but you'll have to watch your airspeed carefully, and probably lower the nose a bit. Keep it shallow; about 25 degrees is enough right now.”

With the 503 just idling along at 2200 RPM, we use stick and rudder to roll the plane to the left. Nose seems to want to drop a little. Backpressure! We add a bit of backpressure. Plane is turning fairly rapidly. But the airspeed is holding steady, even with the nose down a bit more, because of the backpressure.

“Now roll out, and continue the glide. Airport is just to our right.”

“Davidson County traffic, Challenger niner Whisky Bravo to cross midfield at 1,800 feet and enter left downwind, Runway 24, Davidson County.”

That was Walt making our radio call. “Now make a gliding turn to the right, and that will take us right across the airport.”

We roll to the right to a bank of about 25 degrees or so, hold a tad of backpressure, and keep the airspeed nailed on 50. Soon we're headed right across the airport, still in the turn, so we roll out and cross the middle of the runway, still gliding.

11. Pattern Entry, Landing, and Taxiing In

“Now let's take a good look around for traffic,” says Walt. “See anything on downwind for 24? We didn't hear anybody, but they may be out there trying to sneak up on us.”

As we cross directly over midfield, the altimeter indicates 1,800 feet, just as Walt said it in his radio call. Amazing how he knew where we would be. We continue gliding down.

“OK, add a little power. Bring it up to about 5,000 RPM right now. That will help us along as we make our downwind turn. We're just a little above pattern altitude right now.”

As we add the power, the biggest thing we notice is that we have to raise the nose a little to hold the 50 mph. Altimeter now shows 1,600 feet. Pattern altitude is 1,500 feet.

Walt comes on the intercom, “Now make a turn to the left, and we'll be on downwind for 24.”

Stick left, rudder pressure to the left, and the plane rolls into the turn. Bit of backpressure. Airspeed gets a bit under 50. Relax some backpressure. And then, as we come around parallel to the runway, we roll out of the turn. Altimeter shows 1500 feet. Pattern altitude, exactly!

“Add a bit more power. Bring it up to about 5300 RPM, and we should be able to hold what we have for downwind.

As we increase power, the end of the runway is just to our left. Can see the big 24 painted on it.

“Davidson County traffic, Challenger niner Whisky Bravo, downwind for 24, opposite the numbers, Davidson County.”

We continue on downwind until, looking back, we see the end of the runway about 45 degrees back of our wing.

“Make the left turn onto base now,” says Walt. “You may need to increase your RPM to about 5400. We're losing a bit of altitude. Hold 50 mph in your turn.”

“Davidson Country traffic, Challenger niner Whisky Bravo, turning base, Runway 24, Davidson County.”

When we get just about to the midpoint of base leg, with the runway just ahead to our left, Walt says to pull the power all the way back to idle. Let the nose go down, and hold 50 mph. Keep it glued on 50!

Then he says, “OK, start your turn onto final now. Just another gliding turn, but try to roll out so you're lined up with the runway.”

So here we go with another gliding turn. Same thing all over again, but this time we hope to roll out right in line with the runway. But we don't quite make it. We've flown past the runway so that it now appears to the left of us, just slightly.”

“Now make very shallow, gentle turns to get it back over and lined up with the runway,” says Walt. “Gently turns only now.”

And sure enough, the gentle turns get the job done. Airspeed is near 50. Seems to vary up and down by a couple of mph, but Walt doesn't say anything. Looks like we're too high.

“Davidson County traffic, Challenger niner Whisky Bravo, short final, 24, Davidson County.”

“Just hold what you've got. We're a little high, but we'll be OK. That runway is a mile long.”

And the Challenger comes over the end of the runway at perhaps 50 feet above it, but at this point, we don't change a thing. The runway is coming up. But it's not all that fast, and the plane is going right down the center line!

“OK, I'm going to help land this thing. Now watch. When we get to within a few feet of the runway, ... we give it a little backpressure on the stick ... see what happens? The nose comes up ... this is the flair ... flying level now ... release backpressure just a tad, and we're still flying level, right down next to the runway ... we're getting slow ... plane is settling ... more backpressure ... try to hold it just off the runway ... nose is up ... can't hold it any more.... “

Chirp, chirp! The main wheels touch down. “We hold the nose up ... until it drops ...” Bump ... “and all three wheels are down.”

“But we don't quit driving just yet. Gotta keep it straight down the runway with the rudder pedals ... and apply the brakes.”

As the plane slows to a fast walking speed, Walt says, “ Taxi this thing on in to the hangar. Just follow the yellow lines. They tend to fuss if you take a shortcut across the ramp. Use your brakes if you need them to keep it slow.”

And so we turn off the runway at the second turnoff because we landed kinda long, and then look right and left for ground traffic as we get ready to cross the taxiway that parallels the main runway. We cross the taxiway and enter the main ramp area, following the yellow lines. We apply the brakes a bit because it's a down-hill slope right in this area. Easy to get too fast.

Finally, we pull up in front of the hangar, apply the brakes and stop. Now to shut this thing down: Engine throttled back to idle, radio OFF, avionics switch OFF, and then the mag switches ... left OFF, and right OFF. When the second mag switch is clicked, the engine winds down and stops. Key switch OFF.

Our first lesson is history. Almost.

12. Debriefing

After making our way out of the plane, followed by Walt's ritual of stretching his legs and putting his hands up behind his head to “tension” his neck muscles as he rolls his head from side to side, we pull the plane back into the hangar and slide the chocks under the wheels.

Two lawn chairs and an old card table are over to one side of the hangar. “Let's have a seat and chat for a spell!” says Walt as he pulls a couple of cold drinks from a cooler stashed back in the corner. “Half the fun of flying is talking about it and making up lies!”

As we drag the chairs around, sit down and lean back with legs way out, Walt begins, “This may surprise you, but you did pretty good. You got onto that rudder and stick coordination thing right away. Now you're still a little shaky and erratic, but I think you've pretty well at least got the idea.”

Was that a compliment? Might have been, but then he sort of took it back.

“Now a lot of the trouble you had is just what everybody has. It takes a while to learn the position of the nose in straight and level, climbs, and glides. When you get that down, holding the airspeed will be easy. You just look at the nose and don't worry all that much about looking at the airspeed indicator. Oh sure, every now and then, but you don't have to stare at it.

“And like just about everybody else on their first lesson, you didn't want to hold backpressure in the turns and that caused a little excitement. And after all that stuff going on, you got lost. You didn't know where the airport was.

“But it takes a while to be able to deal with it all ... just too much new stuff too soon.

“And that's about it, I guess. You got any questions? Whad'daya think?”

“Yeah, Walt, just one. What was that graveyard spirial thing? What the heck was going on? Everything was all to hell ... er, excuse me, Sir.”

“Oh that! Heh heh heh ... “ and he leans back and grins from ear to ear. “That's what can happen when you don't hold the backpressure in the turns.

“Now I really shouldn't have let you do that, but you were doing good, all except for that one thing, and you didn't seem to be afraid of the plane at all, so ...

“What happens is, when you don't hold the backpressure, the nose will drop. It drops because the lift banks sideways when the plane banks. It ain't lifting straight up any more, and it's not as effective when it's tilted over.

“So the nose drops. And you may not notice it right off. You were busy looking for the airport so you didn't notice it. That's why I told you to look for the airport, heh heh heh ...

“So the nose gets down, and the turn tightens. The bank angle will increase, and by the time you notice that something is out of whack, the airspeed will be way up.

“Now, how do you lift the nose? You pull back on the stick, right? But when the plane is over in a steep bank like that with the lift all tilted over, pulling the stick back don't do any good. It just pulls the plane tighter into the turn and makes things even worse.

“So what you gotta do, first, and before anything else, get those wings level. Roll out of the turn. But then you'll be in a dive. At that point you can pull back on the stick and raise the nose, but ya gotta take it easy .”

“Hummmm ... Why do they call it a graveyard spirial? You didn't have any trouble getting out of it.”

“Well, first of all, I didn't touch the controls during that whole shindig. You got into it, and you got yourself out of it. All I did was tell you what to do. That's pretty good for a feller on his first flight.

“We were in daylight so we could see what was happening. Like the world spinning around. But if a pilot gets into a situation like that at night or in instrument conditions, he may not even know he's in a spirial. All he will see is that the airspeed is going off the scale, the nose is down, and the stick won't pull it back up. In a case like that, the plane is apt to hit the ground before he can figure out what's going on.

“It's sad to think about, but a lot of good people have got killed in that sort of thing. But as long as you stay out of bad weather, like fog, clouds, or heavy rain, and don't fly at night unless you have the proper equipment and training, you won't have any problems. It's not knowing about it and what can happen that's the real danger.

“Well, let's call it a day. You look sort of beat. And what happened to your shirt? It looks all wet!”

“Yeah, Walt, I'm fried. See ya Saturday.”

“Sure thing. Don't forget to read your book!”

Author:   Doc Green