The Trip Home
So the RV-9A got me home from southeastern Michigan today, and I learned a few more things... things that I probably should have already known...
I woke up briefly at 5 AM and the iPhone showed a big chunk of weather south of Lake Michigan. That's nice, thought I, and went back to sleep. At 6 AM it was looking ornerier and was halfway across the state. Flight service said we had an hour before it got to us. A mad scramble to pack and get out the door ensued, and a school bus with flashing lights added to the chronological excitement.
At the airport, a light rain had started, thunder was audible, and the clouds looked ugly. I picked up the IFR clearance and taxied out, a little surprised that my clearance void time gave me only 7 1/2 minutes instead of the ten minutes I expected. I kind of forgot about that as I was getting everything ready for takeoff, but got off just in time. Hmm. Bad cockpit discipline.
Weather at takeoff was 2 1/2 miles in haze and clear. I took off towards the better weather in the east (spending a few of my 7.5 minutes to taxi), but I got off before the storm came and it really did come on, not too much later. Surprisingly, I could have made that entire flight VFR (taking off in Class G airspace). Scary VFR but legal. And it was early enough that the tint of the sunglasses wasn't appreciated, but my plain old reading glasses were packed. Hmmm.
When I flew with a friend in Michigan yesterday, I became aware of how sloppy my flying has become. Several reasons: one is that I used to be really, really good hand flying under the hood, and my recalled and assumed still valid skills far surpass my present day skills. Second, the planes I've flown, RV and others, have had good handling characteristics, lots of power, and most of them have had high drag when you wanted it. I've gotten out of the habit of flying nice traffic patterns because I've had airplanes that didn't require it. Bad form.
After the early morning scramble to get off, sitting there in the pilot's seat for an hour looking at low contrast scenery through the haze with the autopilot flying, no radio traffic and a warm sun coming up made for a sleepy boy. However, the recliner with the built in massager at Fleming-Mason airport remembered me, and an hour later, I was refreshed and good to go.
Next stop was at Knoxville to have lunch with my sister. How cool is that, to fly across the country top to bottom and be able to stop to have lunch with your sister just because?
I've been working on a procedure for engaging the autopilot right after takeoff and integrating it into everything else that needs to be done: set everything up on the flight director, take off, retract flaps at 80 knots, pitch to 7 degrees, autopilot on, and then fuel pump off. Don't engage airspeed hold right over the runway because the autopilot may dive to get speed. This procedure worked great in Michigan and Kentucky, but didn't work at Knoxville -- the autopilot wouldn't engage! Fortunately, fiddling with the autopilot disconnect button and the TOGA button got the autopilot happy again. I wonder how well I would have handled things coming out of Michigan, racing the weather, if the autopilot had decided not to cooperate...
The last leg wound up being IFR to more conveniently handle the clouds over the Smokey Mountains (a few hours later, those were thunderstorms). Clouds and showers at Savannah that I didn't recall as part of an earlier forecast made it prudent to stay IFR.
So what are my new year's (it's gotta be new year's somewhere) resolutions?
* Fly precise traffic patterns and get really good at them again. No more screwing around with the pattern just because I can get away with it;
* Do an autopilot takeoff (almost) every time for practice;
* Hand fly the -9A a lot more. Get really good and really precise at it;
* Always put the checklist down in the same place. Twice on this trip I hid it from myself;
* Develop and maintain really good habit patterns. When I was a newbie, good habits made flying easier. Now that aging is a fact of life, good habit patterns will help reduce mistakes and blunders;
* I know all the frequencies at my home airport so I never write them down. This is a bad habit for when I go to an unfamiliar airport, so start writing down frequencies and such.
And what did IFR buy me on this trip? Some really scary VFR flying turned into very non-descript IFR flying. And a very worthwhile trip.
RV-9A at KSAV (Savannah, GA; dual experimental touch screens with autopilot, IFR GPS)
Previously RV-4, RV-8, RV-8A, AirCam, Cessna 175
ATP CFII PhD, so I have no excuses when I screw up
2019 dues slightly overpaid
Retired - "They used to pay me to be good, now I'm good for nothing."
Last edited by Ed_Wischmeyer : 05-15-2018 at 12:54 AM.