09 February 2011

Flying over the coast

On Monday, 7 February, I flew with a CFI at Cape Fear Regional Airport (KSUT) for a change of pace, something to do while visiting family. I wanted to get some experience flying in the North Carolina coast and continue to tighten up my flying for the checkride retest.

I flew a modified Cessna 172N with a constant speed propeller (the spinner was from a Piper) and a Lycoming O-360 engine putting out 180 horsepower. These STCs made the airplane accelerate and climb quickly. At takeoff, the VSI was indicating a climb rate of about 1300 feet per minute at sea level with an outside air temperature that was a few degrees cooler than standard temperature. It was the prettiest 172 that I have flown to date: the paint and interior were both new, and it even had wheel pants.

This was the first time I had flown behind a constant speed prop, so I enjoyed learning how to manage it and execute the extra checklist items in the before takeoff and before landing checklists. It took a little while to get accustomed to the manifold pressure gauge and tachometer combination vs. just the tachometer in a normal C172 with a fixed pitch prop. 

The airplane had no attitude indicator or directional gyro. I was happy about that: they weren't there for me to fixate on and I had no choice but to keep my head out of the airplane to judge the bank angle and heading visually. This aircraft had a turn and bank indicator rather than the usual turn coordinator as well.

We stayed in the pattern for a few normal takeoffs and landings. The view from pattern altitude (1000 feet MSL) was beautiful. This airplane was much heavier in pitch than an unmodified C172, and the CFI said it was more like a Cessna 182 than a 172 in that respect; it took some getting used to: I had to pull hard on the yoke during takeoff rotation and during the landing flare.

My landings need some work.  I was starting the flare too high, pulling the power to idle too abruptly, and finally touching down with a very high pitch attitude.
It was a fun afternoon, and the CFI gave me some helpful suggestions.
Flight time today: 1.0 hrs dual

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