Flight Reviews in the Wind

Well, after a not-flying-much 2020 (which is to say, my last logged hours were in Jan 2020, followed by far, far too long without smelling the wonderful spice of 100LL), I’m finally BFR’d and current again! Fear me, skies!

While a pilot’s license never expires (unless yanked for egregious violations), the FAA some while back realized that pilots who hadn’t seen an instructor for a few decades tended to make some poor decisions, and implemented flight reviews - you get together with an instructor every 2 years, cover some ground discussion (airspace, decision making, etc), and then fly for an hour or two and generally prove to the instructor that you’re unlikely to bend airplanes and hurt yourself or some other people. It’s a decent sanity check, and usually involves some flying you’ve not done in a while.

I’ve been trying to get mine done for the past… oh, about month. Weather has simply not been cooperating. An incomplete list of things that have interfered: Snowstorms, low clouds, high winds, freezing rain… winter in Idaho, mostly. However, today looked… passable, perhaps, so we met up to try it.

Ground went fine, though my airspace and cloud clearance requirement recall is poor. They’re lumped into the “Things I don’t pay close attention to because I generally don’t fly anywhere near clouds” category, and, as a particular case, if cloud clearance matters coming into a Class G mountain airstrip (clear of clouds, 1 mile visibility), I’ve done screwed up, at least based on my personal weather minimums. Flying in 1 mile visibility, even if legal in certain cases, is well down the “stupid things that lead to NTSB reports” category.

Speaking of, a few ultralights were tied down outside for some reason today, and one of them was a rather mangled looking pile of bent tubes. Not a fan of those things, fun though I hear they are if all goes well.

Winds were… if a bit more than I would normally be comfortable with, at least more or less aligned with the runways. Toss in an instructor, and, hey, let’s see how it goes!

And it went generally fine, at least, enough that I’m signed off to fly for another 2 years!

Winds were in the 15G20 range, but more or less straight down the runways. Maybe 20-30 degrees off at some point, but close enough for “Sure, should be flyable” - which it was. Had it been 90 degrees off the runway heading, nope, but, down the runway is fine.

In general, the 160hp 172 just jumped off the runway all day. We were fairly heavy (near full tanks, 2 adults), though not at gross, and I was using less than 500’ consistently (at least, ground roll).

Air work (stalls, steep turns, some hood time) went fine enough, though I really don’t know my way around a Garmin 430. And the Garmin G5 (all-in-one electronic glass replacement for the artificial horizon) was about 5mph off the airspeed indicator, which was annoying at times. But, tolerable enough. I know stall awareness is a thing, but a 172, loaded forward, takes a lot of work to get the wing to sort-of-maybe quit flying. I’ve yet to ever get a good stall break in a 172, but I’m told it can be done, with work. In any case, tolerable performance for that part, then some foggles for an instrument simulated trip down to the airport for pattern work. That part is fine, I’ve never really had issues with instrument work. My CFI tends to try and workload challenge me during foggle flight, which is fine with me - realistically, there will be times when you need to fly the plane and fiddle the GPS and look stuff up, and priority 1 is to keep the plane doing what it should be.

Pattern work was an interesting case of “I’ve not done ground reference maneuvers for a while,” so it took a while to work out the proper crab angles to keep things more or less square, and while the downwind leg was blisteringly fast, final took… quite the while. A mix of takeoffs and landings went safely, if not always ideally. Short field… really wasn’t. A hop, skip, and jump down the runway later, it was a landing, just not a particularly short one.

In general, I was struggling with speed during pattern work. It was… somewhat all over the place. Some of it was gusting winds, some of it was simply being behind the plane and hunting speeds, and some was trying to keep some extra speed on because of said gusting winds. The combination involved some longer-than-ideal landings, which, while not going particularly far down the runway (see headwind), weren’t quite as intended. I need to go beat up the pattern in a variety of planes and just figure out what works for them. The 172 I had today isn’t one I’ve flown recently, and every plane is a bit different.

But, I’m current again, so, hopefully more flying stories soon!

Good to be flying again! Doesn’t feel very much like riding a bicycle does it?

It’s the altitudes being off that bugs me the most. ~50ft or more doesn’t seem uncommon, and the GPS is usually different still. Not that it matters much in VMC I suppose…

I find the speed of the pitch up makes a difference. A gradual slow-down and raising the nose, especially if it’s just me in the plane, will just develop a terrific sink rate and never break. A sharp nose up however, is much more likely to make a clean break in the stall.

Now setting up a glide in the 180hp 172’s can definitely be dramatic if you shove the throttle in quickly and do nothing else. Fast pitch up and then breaks into the stall, with a strong desire to drop a wing when it does. I’m told this is part of why the STC limits the flaps to 30degrees for the 180hp upgrade.

Yeah… I just ignored the altitude stripe. I think the right answer is to decide which one is the primary, which is secondary, and just ignore the backup.

Wouldn’t surprise me, though I think the main reason is that the gross weight increase in later 172s is the difference between 30 and 40 degrees of flaps (go-around at full flaps requirements).

The -Ms are ~1415 empty, gross of 2300, so 870-ish payload.

The -N, with the STC, is 1512 empty, gross of 2550, so 1030-ish payload. You can put 4 180lb adults, full tanks, and 50 lbs of baggage in and still be under gross (and, with 180hp, still have climb performance).