Lesson 15: Instrument Flying, VOR Navigation, Short & Soft Field Takeoffs & Landings

Aircraft: C172 N52654

Flight  Time:  1.1 hours

Total Hours: 16.7

My best landing yet! More on that in a bit.

More hood time today. For .5 hours, I wore the ‘foggles’ and flew the plane using only instrument reference. In addition to flying straight headings, Mark had me do climbing and descending turns and stall recovery, which is pretty interesting when you can’t see outside the plane. You use the attitude indicator, and a bit of your own body’s sense of direction to bring the plane back to level.

Next, Mark had me close my eyes while he took the controls and put the plane in an unusual flight attitude, such as banked and pointed upwards. I was to open them and bring the plane back to level as quickly and efficiently as possible. I seem to do well with the instrument maneuvers, probably because it’s like using the simulator.

Then we went over VOR radio navigation, using the Big Lake VOR to track our headings. Even though this was our second time talking about this in my flight lessons, I feel like I already have the skills to track to and from VOR stations and also to use two stations to triangulate my position on a sectional map. The simulator allows me to practice these techniques, and I’ve worked on them at home quite a bit.

Sights today include an AWACS jet flying an approach into Elmendorf, and a herd of about 25 moose hanging out in a clearing near a farm. I had never seen so many moose in one place and we flew over them at about 1,000′ to get a closer look.

Back at Merrill, Mark demonstrated short and soft field takeoffs and landings. Basically, short field landing mean flying a slower than normal final approach, so that when you hit the runway, you have minimal airspeed to bleed off during the level off. A good short field landing means putting touching the wheels down right at the end of the runway using as little of it as possible to stop. Short field takeoffs mean quickly accelerating to liftoff speed with one notch of flaps, then pulling back on the yoke and lifting the plane abruptly in the air at the proper speed. You climb quickly to clear any obstacles, which might be trees at the end of a gravel strip, for example, and then reduce pitch and climb as normal.

Soft field takeoffs and landings basically mean keeping the nose wheel off of the ground as much as possible. When taking off, you pull back on the yoke as soon as you start start rolling forward, climb into the air at minimal airspeed. You then level off and fly in the ground effect just above the runway while you build up your speed for the climbout. Short field landings mean landing on the mains and holding the nose up as you roll out until it drops to the runway on it’s own. 

I didn’t get a chance to practice these techniques today, maybe next time, but I did perform the final landing, which went exceptionally well. Even though I overshot the turn to final, I corrected and then remembered to round out smoothly and keep my eyes on the end of the runway as I bled off the airspeed. I quickly looked over my shoulder at the left wheel for a second to see it’s position in relation to the runway and touched down smoothly. Mark congratulated me on what was easily my best landing yet.

Finally getting it and feeling very postive. Now I start thinking forward towards my cross countries. Mark wants me to begin planning for two possible locations- Kenai and Talkeetna. Before then, though, I have one more one-hour dual lesson, and then a one-hour night dual; my first flying in the dark!

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