Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Something Old, Something New,...

This week brought an unusual opportunity for me and a couple of my students. The flight school's 172 was due for its annual, and a different 172 appeared on our ramp. They had brought it over from a different location (they have three locations) to cover.

And different it was, a 1975 model with the full 40 degrees of flaps that are manually controlled without any detents.

"How do I get 10 degrees of flaps?" each asked. That was easy to answer. "Just count, One one hundred two one hundred three." They looked at me funny, but it worked every time.

They also got to see that one cannot judge an airplane by its paint alone. We should have learned this from the Yarmouth Castle disaster. All that new paint made the ship look great, but helped fuel the devastating fire. This airplane flies quite nicely behind a solid mid-time engine, but the paint is about a 4 on a scale of 10.

Better yet, they got to play with an IFR capable GPS. As one might expect, the database was grossly out-of-date, so we could not use it to fly IFR, but they were able to see that one can load a route into the GPS and watch it guide them along the route. They also got to see the track display (notice in the picture that the desired track is not straight up, so we were flying to the right). And, I got to give myself an indirect refresher on loading an approach from the database. My last logged RNAV approach was a year ago, and although I could not log this one I still got to experience it; better yet, I did this by talking Dan and Dennis through pulling the approach out of the database, putting it into the flight plan, and following the route. This was a lot for them to chew on, and all I could do was introduce some of the concepts. The airplane will go back to its real base tonight, and "our" 172 has no GPS. Nor is it likely to get one soon.

It was interesting to work with them, because they do not have years of habits to unlearn. The big deal with GPS isn't the ability to know your position. The big deal is the database, and the unit's ability to sequence along a route. I told them both by common sense and the Aeronautical Information Manual, that they needed to load a complete route before launching, In the past, a lot of pilots had scoffed, saying "I've been flying IFR for years and never needed to load a whole route, so why should I do it now?"

The winter scenery was an added bonus. The reservoir near our practice area is still covered with ice. The ice gets rough as the winter goes on, with lots of leads and pressure ridges. But today there was a dusting of snow in the morning, just an inch or two, making the surface smooth and uniform. The scattered clouds above us made shadows that danced along the snow. The air was smooth, making it easy to feel the more pronounced stall buffet. I had them try to climb with full flaps, and of course it wouldn't, an important lesson.

They found their way back to the airport using the GPS, and did good landings in this new (to them) machine.Both had struggled and worked hard to master the new environment, but in an enjoyable way. What more can an instructor ask for?

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