Another Lesson in the 206

I went up for another flight in the 206 with Rob other day. There have not been very many weeks where I’ve flown two days in a row, so I was excited about being able to take back to back lessons with such an experienced instructor. With the information still fresh in my mind from the previous day’s lesson, we took off from Merrill and flew west towards Mt. Susitna. 

First, Rob had me warm up with some turns and then some climbing turns. The 206 felt familiar and I did pretty well holding altitude, even through the steep turns. Then he had me do some dutch rolls. I had them backwards at first, at put the plane into a slip with each turn until Rob demonstrated how you essentially begin a bank with coordinated rudder and aileron and then reverse the bank before the plane actually starts turning. I worked on keeping the nose of the plane tracking straight and did much better on my second try.

Then we worked on engine failure at takeoff procedures and discussed the options for safely getting the plane down within a few hundred feet of the ground. We practiced by performing an imaginary takeoff on runway 7 at a safe altitude at 3,000 feet, and then climbing to different altitudes before pulling the throttle. The goal was to establish best glide speed and then see how much altitude I would need to turn to turn back around to a heading of 220, which is the same heading of the gravel runway at Merrill. The exercise determined that I could theoretically perform the turn and land with only 400 feet. 

Next, we worked on slips. We climbed up and around the backside of Mt. Susitna, and then Rob had me perform the technique that he explained the previous day, where you slip the aircraft down a steep mountain valley in order to make a controlled descent through the terrain. I practiced the maneuver four times down through Susitna’s “neck”, pulling out at different altitudes with each pass. Rob constantly gave me tips on wind and mountain and terrain flying as I dropped in and then flew back around for each go. It was an excellent exercise and I gained a great deal of confidence in handling the aircraft.

When we returned to Merrill, we did a few touch and go landings. During each takeoff, we paid attention to altitude at 100 foot intervals and looked around to note the safest and best available emergency landing spots. Rob instilled in me the importance of establishing a workable plan for landing in the event of an engine failure right after takeoff, especially at the home airport. Accepted guidelines say that turning all the way back to the departing runway is not the right choice, but at the average airfield, there are other options, such as cross runways, taxiways and open fields.

My own observations on runway 7 revealed the following: At 100 feet, land straight down the runway. 200 feet, turn right and land on Taxiway Golf. 300-500 feet, turn right and land on the gravel runway. I might not make it all the way around at 300 feet, but the airfield is pretty open in the area around the gravel field, so the chance of hitting something is far less than there than the crowded parking lot at the Northway Mall, even though it’s directly in front of the runway.

Rob taught me some very good lessons during our two days in 206, and he gave me some helpful tips to help improve safety, such as how to tune the radios by feel when you’re looking outside the aircraft to search for traffic. Being my third lesson in a high performance plane, I’m getting pretty comfortable managing the constant speed prop and the added operational procedures of the 206. I don’t foresee any problems getting my endorsement and being checked out in this aircraft when the time comes. And the next time I do a takeoff on runway 25, I’ll practice the above observational exercise and note possible landing spots at the west end of the airport.

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