I’ve had a good cadence of writing post-flight-lesson blog posts, so how about another one!
The past few lessons, we’ve been doing pattern work, building one of the most fundamental skill sets I’ll have as a pilot: takeoffs, approaches, landings, go-arounds, touch-and-go’s and other near-airfield maneuvers. Previously we worked in the heat at Livermore, and the less sweltering, but still warm Napa Co. Airport.
Today, time for the big time. Well not really, just Hayward (KHWD), my home field. We worked up to pattern work at Hayward because the pattern is low, 650ft on 28L, 850ft on 28R whereas most fields have pattern at 1000ft above the ground. Plainly put: Hayward is a fast pattern.
The lesson was due to start at 8am this morning, but the weather forecast wasn’t looking promising: low clouds, the bain of the VFR (Visual Flight Rules) pilot. Our decision point was going to be the weather report (METAR) for KHWD at 6:54am. In order to meet VFR flight minimums the lowest the ceiling could be was 1200ft above the ground. Checking the weather from bed is going to get a lot more common in my future, either way METAR said overcast at 1900ft! Plenty of usable airspace, let’s go flying!
Due to the weather, not a lot of folks were going to be flying since they probably would want to go higher than 1400ft (VFR requires staying 500ft below clouds at KHWD), so the field was empty of VFR traffic. Only a few other planes active, all flying IFR, and they were all heading further out, I had the pattern to myself! Bonus!
After we get going, my instructor was showing me some useful ground references for the pattern, then we did a few approaches and touch-and-go’s. I was exhibiting some of the same “nose-up attitude” problems I had in my previous lesson. By the 3rd or 4th touch-and-go, I was working them out, and with the exception of some side-loading (sideways momentum) squeeling the wheels on touch down, things were looking good.
Shortly after one take-off, my instructor calls the tower and requests a “short approach”. “What’s a short approach?” I ask mid-turn, “you’ll see” is the only response I get. About mid-field on the downwind leg (opposite direction of landing on the rectangle), he pulls the power back and says “your power is gone, land on 28L.”
Per emergency procedures, when you lose your engine you’re going to go through the following checklist:
- A Establish best-glide airspeed/attitude
- B Find the best field (runways, flat fields, golf courses, roads)
- C RUn through your emergency checklists
- D Declare your emergency over the radio
- E Exit the aircraft, after you’ve landed of course
The best-glide component in a 172 is amazingly easy to accomplish, you basically put in full nose-up trim and the airplane more or less enters a best-glide attitude, giving you the maximum distance over the ground for your altitude. Coincidentally, best-glide airspeed is about 65 knots, and best airspeed for the landing flare is just under 65 knots, fancy!
A “short approach” turns out to just be the first two steps of that emergency checklist: best-glide, land, and you’re done.
With my power gone, I had nothing to do with my right hand, and nothing to focus on but the attitude of the plane. Having no power helped me really focus on my attitude, and subsequently I had pretty darned good landings without any power to futz with.
We landed and got back up in the air for another short approach, except this time we got clearance for 28R. I was flying a 28L pattern, and received clearance for 28L, and then my instructor pulled my power again. “Put it down on 28R, you’ll make that easy.”
Another fairly good landing, still carried some side-load onto the tires (we’ll fix that next lesson) and we were done for the day.
Only at Hayward, with it’s crazy low and fast pattern can you put in 11 circuits and landings in a single hour of flight time.