Friday, April 1, 2016

Foolin' Around

April 1 is a special day in aviation history, at least at my house, because it is the anniversary of Flight Lesson 1.  My first instructor -- I remember his name but won't mention it -- quit sometime before Flight Lesson 2 (I heard he went to United Air Lines), so I did the rest of my training with a man named Tom Carroll at Palomar Airport.  Tom claimed that a pilot would hear his first flight instructor's voice for the rest of his or her career, and he was right (Tom died a few years, but in the hospital, not an airplane).

Maybe he got to teach me at a vulnerable or receptive age (late 20s), but his lessons really stuck, and I often quote him word-for-word with my students.  Sometimes it even works!

But not always.

I was reminded about this the other day when I gave a BFR to a pilot who started flying just a few years before I did.  Why did he appear so old?  But no matter: it was clear that he was the master of this airplane and based on our talk he had mastered many others.  He'd even survived a double engine failure (induction icing with a faulty alternate air design).

As we started maneuvering I almost instinctively gave him my "flaps down trim down" speech (this was in a 182; other airplanes are "flaps up trim down") but if I have learned something as an instructor it is that, at a safe altitude, you can wait and see.  Sure enough, as the flaps went down the trim went down, even as he continued to slightly bawdy story about a pilot we both knew.

I trained in Archers and Warriors.  Tom taught me to jam my elbow into my pelvis when lowering flaps; this enabled me to keep the nose from rising until I had a free hand to retrim.  The seats in a 172 don't quite allow most people to get into a good position to do this, so I have to chant, over and over, "flaps down trim down."

I take students out and do the demonstration stalls.  Near the top of the white arc, I lower full flaps all at once, and the nose rises to about as high an angle as a student ever sees, or wants to see.  "If you don't do something you'll stall, and since you usually go to full flaps at low altitude, you won't recover."  Or a hundred other things.

Maybe I should try to attract Tom back from the dead and have him run a flap clinic?

Or what about this: one of my friends told me that his primary instructor did not teach the use of flaps until after solo: "That's for the short- and soft-field stuff," he'd say.  Then there's no worry of watching a solo student's nose rise just before turning final.  Maybe he could teach us a thing or two.

So the point is that on this anniversary of a flying lesson, I think I need a flying lesson.  It never ends.