Almost one year to the day after having my very first flight lesson, I found myself with an opportunity to begin training in a Cessna 182 and work towards my high performance endorsement. The 182 has more power and and it’s a heavier aircraft, but in many ways, it’s similar to the 172 and thus a fairly easy transition for most pilots.
The main difference that the 182 has over the 172 is the constant speed propellor. A CS prop functions by changing the pitch, or blade angle so that it spins a a consistent speed constant under different power settings. It’s essentially like having gears for your airplane, where the manifold pressure is controlled by the throttle, engine RPM is controlled by the prop and as before, fuel flow by the mixture control. An easy way to equate this is to imagine riding a bike. The throttle is like your pedaling cadence, where changing your prop setting is like changing gears.
A high performance engine requires more detailed and careful attention to power settings depending on your desired airspeed and fuel flow at different altitudes. Before getting in the airplane, I went over the 182 operating manual with my instructor and we discussed some likely and often used power settings, order of how you change them in flight, and the critical speeds of the aircraft, like Vx, Vy, approach and best glide.
On the ground, I found the that the 182 handled pretty much like the 172, and once I got used to the slightly different instrument panel that I had been used to, we taxied to runway 7, got our clearance and took off. Since the 182 has more power, I had to use more right rudder, but otherwise it felt very similar to the 172 as we left the ground.
At 500′, I pulled back the throttle a bit to so that the manifold pressure gauge read 25 inches hg, and then at cruise altitude, I adjusted the power settings to 23″ and 2300rpm. We flew over to the practice area and my instructor had me perform a series of steep turns slow flight and stalls. Even though I hadn’t practiced my stalls in awhile, it all felt pretty familiar. At one point, he gave me a really good lesson and exercise on how to use the rudders more during slow flight, since they have much more affect on keeping the aircraft flying straight and level in these situations. Even though I’d heard it before, he explained it in a very easy to understand way and after I’d practiced, I felt much more comfortable with the concept.
After the airwork, we went over to practice takeoffs and landings at Birchwood. I seemed to do pretty well with the transition and I landed the thing pretty smoothly. He had me do some soft field takeoffs, and since the angle of attack is so much greater with the nose up in the air, it requires a great deal of right rudder when you add full power. One problem that I usually have with my soft field takeoffs is keeping the aircraft close to the ground as I pick up speed. As the wheels leave the ground, I try to push the nose over, but always end up well above the runway by the time I get it level. My instructor explained how as the aircraft picks up speed and wants to climb, I need to keep increasing the forward pressure to hold it there. I tried it once and it seemed to make a difference. I’ll continue to practice that.
He also showed me how to better manage my climb angle on short field takeoffs. As we climbed out at 60 KIAS, he had me pay attention to where the horizon lines up with the panel and remember what it looks like. From now on, if I takeoff and, instead of trying to hold my speed, just hold that pitch, the KIAS will level off where it needs to be. I found that to be a very good tip.
We also did a couple of simulated engine failures, and on the first one, I made what would have been a very crucial mistake. I tried to maintain a regular traffic pattern, and ended up coming in short. About halfway to the runway on final, we were sinking into the trees and I could easily see that we were not going to make it. I realized what I had done, did a go around and made a very strong mental note to not worry about making regular traffic turns. If the power goes out, get the aircraft lined up and ready to land. It’s far better to land at the other end of the runway and chance running off the other end a few feet than to land short in the trees. Very good thing to remember. We did the exercise again, and this time I got it down on the runway. I didn’t use any flaps, and my instructor reiterated that it’s fine to drop them, but only when you’re sure you’re absolutely sure that you’re going to make the runway.
All in all, it was a very good lesson and I felt quite comfortable with the higher performance engine and feel of the 182. I’ll look forward to getting up in the sky with one again soon.