Monday, March 31, 2008

Lessons Learned... And More Coming!

Wow... a lot of time has passed since I last updated the site with the status of my flight training. As you might imagine, this is due largely to the fact that, well, I've been busy flying!

The past few days have yielded a number of lessons for me... many of which I hadn't anticipated, but they were good to learn.

Let's pick up with Wednesday evening's lesson. My instructor, Jim, and I returned to Palatka, where we shot touch-and-goes to work on my takeoff and landing techniques. Like I said in my last post, I had a tendency to veer left on both... something Jim was able to cure me of.

"It sounds hooky, but you really do have to develop a feel for the plane," Jim told me after Wednesday morning's frustrating lesson. "You have to visualize how it reacts to your inputs. You have to help it maneuver in the way you want it to. It wants to help you."

Actually, that didn't sound hooky at all; if anything, I appreciate the zen approach to flying. So Wednesday afternoon, before we took off again... I sat in the Gobosh's cockpit for about 20 minutes, visualizing the proper nose attitude on takeoff and landing... and generally commiserating with the plane, asking for its help as much as possible.

And it worked. How? I'm not sure I can explain it, but I'll try. Let's start with the Gobosh's requiring judicious amounts of right rudder on takeoff, more so than I can recall needing on most any other plane I've flown, in order to counteract the left-turning tendency generated by the rotation of the propeller and "adverse yaw."

That's the veering... and there really isn't a science in figuring out how to counteract it, other than learning to balance the application of throttle with the proper amount of rudder. Which I did Wednesday night, thanks to Jim.

"Bring the plane around just a bit right of centerline, and keep the plane lined up on the right during takeoff," he told me. "Don't let the plane cross the line... don't let it veer right, either, but you get the idea."

All my takeoffs since have been rod-straight down the centerline, regardless of crosswind.
As for landings, they're coming along nicely, too... finally. And what was the silver bullet solution? Again, developing a feel for the plane. In fact, once I finally stopped trying to land the Gobosh like a different aircraft, it all came together... and the plane actually handles quite sweetly and gently in ground effect.

Jim showed me a couple techniques to help with my landings, that I've since practiced. One is to alight the plane's maingear gently on the runway, then add just enough power to take off again... then throttle back, and set down. Repeat the process as runway distance allows, which on Palatka's 9/27 is about five "bounce-and-goes." I was put off initially when Jim demonstrated the technique... but it's actually a lot of fun, and it teaches precise control inputs.

The second was even more fun: holding the plane in ground effect, keeping the mains about a foot or so off the runway, using throttle inputs to hold the plane off. Essentially, you balance the plane between ground effect, and hanging on the prop. It's great fun, and a great learning technique; most of my landings since have been greasers, again in varying crosswind situations.

One final note -- I think I've finally come to terms with the Gobosh's throttle. I'm still not a fan of the particular arrangement, but I've learned to accept it for what it is.

As is the case on numerous single-engine piston aircraft, including most Cessnas, the G700S throttle is a push-pull lever jutting out from the lower center of the instrument panel. Push it in to increase revs, pull out to slow the engine down, and there's a ring around the base to adjust the friction placed on the lever. If there's too much friction, the lever becomes dangerously difficult to move quickly; too loose, and the engine merrily speeds up the moment you take your hand off the lever. It's the same in a lot of planes.

With Jim's help, we finally found a "sweet spot" for the throttle lever friction, and it's worked wonders. Tuning the proper engine RPM is no longer a big problem, and we've done several full-throttle applications (simulated go-arounds) with no problems.

Like I said, this exact same throttle arrangement works well enough on Cessnas and a variety of other GA planes; I flew it on Skyhawks long before I knew what a Gobosh was. But those planes are equipped with relatively slow-turning Lycoming and Continental engines, that only have a usable rev range of less than 2,000 revs. Those engines are also slower to respond to throttle commands -- if only barely -- than the Rotax engine in the Gobosh and most LSAs, and in my opinion is better suited to the friction-lock throttle lever because of that.

All things being equal, Evektor has a better idea, I think... especially for the peaky Rotax. The SportStar also uses a push-pull lever, but it incorporates a vernier-style "twist" action too, that allows the operator to fine-tune the precise rev setting. If you need immediate throttle power or idle, a thumb-lever at the tip releases the lever to allow broad inputs; otherwise, you twist the throttle to tweak the right setting.

Given that the Rotax operates from around 1,950 rpm at idle, to over 5,000 at takeoff settings, I think the vernier-type throttle control is better, just because it allows more precise inputs. (This same arrangement is also found in single-engine piston Beechcrafts.) But the throttle in the Gobosh is perfectly workable, too... I just had to learn how to work it!

Still To Come: Steep Turns, I Take The FAA Written And Pass, A Long Cross-Country Flight, And Dealing With Clouds En Route

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