As my flight training continued, I was beginning to enjoy this newfound hobby more and more each week. The next few lessons included some advanced maneuvers, which involved climbing to a safe altitude, to practice maneuvers that would test my ability to fly steep turns, and to control the aircraft at very slow speeds. Eventually, I would fly the airplane configured in such a way to induce a stall, the point at which the wings no longer create sufficient lift to maintain flight. These maneuvers can raise the anxiety level for a student pilot, but Evelyn had a way of making it seem easy. In addition, Evelyn taught me what to do, in case of an engine failure in flight, and she instilled in me, the training necessary to make an approach to a field in the event of such an emergency.
When teaching me this maneuver, Evelyn would pull the throttle to idle, and say, “Fly the plane (Best Glide speed), find a field, follow the checklist, attempt restart, call on the radio 121.5, squawk 7700 on the transponder, and make the approach to the field.” She summarized this process as, “Aviate, Evaluate, Troubleshoot, and Communicate.” With this practice maneuver, which could happen at any time and without warning, resulted in me making an approach to a field, descending to an altitude of 500’ above the ground, at which point Evelyn would say, “good job, you would have made it.”
I know that all sounds a bit frightening, but this type of training is essential for the student pilot to understand, control, and react to the aircraft in different configurations and situations. This training is crucial before the student attempts landing practice. Also, before we ever entered the traffic pattern to practice “Takeoffs and Landings,” Evelyn took me to a practice area a few miles from the airport, to practice “Ground Reference Maneuvers.”
This series of maneuvers normally take place 1000’ above the ground (simulating the average traffic pattern altitude) one of which, involves flying around a rectangle on the ground, maintaining the same distance from the edge of the rectangle. This sounds easy, but this maneuver requires skills, which allow the student to correct for the effects of wind, as the aircraft flies along the box. Other ground reference maneuvers (S – Turns , Eights Around Pylons, Turns Around a Point) teach the student how to fly the aircraft in reference to a ground point, while maintaining consistent distance by correcting for wind drift. All of this practice is essential for preparing the student to fly the traffic pattern, which is an essential part of learning to land the aircraft.
Once I had completed this phase of flight, Evelyn spent quite a bit of time with me in ground school, talking through the process of flying a proper traffic pattern. Evelyn and I discussed takeoff, climb out, the crosswind leg, downwind leg (and radio communications calls), base leg, and final. We discussed airspeeds, power settings, visual references for the turns, setting up a stabilized approach, crossing the threshold of the runway, and the “round out” and touchdown. The next few lessons included actually practicing all that she had taught me in ground school.
All went well, until I transitioned from stabilized approach to landing. I just could not land the aircraft without flaring to high or too low. This is not unusual for someone learning to fly. Evelyn’s patience during this time, and her ability to say the right thing at the right time, made it possible for me eventually, to actually land the airplane.
In my next post, I will share the story of my first solo flight on my 16th birthday, and I will share the stories of some of my dual and solo cross-country flights in East Tennessee.