Saturday, July 16, 2011

New Direction & Autopilot

So I've decided that I'm going to take my blog in a new direction.  I never have anything fun or witty to share, so I'm going to turn this blog into a record of my flying.  I will try to update it after each flight I make and tell about the highs and lows, the boring and the exciting, the calm and scary.  My official logbook will keep track of the hours; my blog will keep track of memories.

Now for the first entry.

So recently down at Diamond Flight Center, we acquired a Diamond Star DA40-180.  Boy is that a fun plane.  It has a G1000 avionics system.  It's quite complex and takes some time getting used to, but once you get it, it's quite nice.

I decided that I would take a flight to Price, Utah in order to get myself a little bit more familiar with it before I fly it down to St. George in a week.  I pre-flighted the airplane and all was good.  Did my run-up and everything was fine.  Leaned back the mixture to get the proper mixture for maximum takeoff power.  So I taxied out onto the runway and announced that I was taking off.  I pushed the throttle all the way forward and the engine almost died.  "What the heck?" ran through my mind and then immediately "too lean."  So I enrichened the mixture a little bit and the engine roared to full power and off I went.  I thought I had done it right.  Guess not.

Flew up Spanish Fork Canyon and off to Price.  Since it was quite hot up at 11,500 feet, my cruising altitude, the air wasn't really stable and so it was a bumpy ride all the way there.  Not much fun really.  I decided that I would try using the autopilot.  I dialed in the altimeter setting and desired altitude into the autopilot and then turned it on.  Smooth as could be.  Well...sort of.  The autopilot had a hard time keeping up with the bumpiness and altitude was all over the place really.  After a while I noticed I was getting off course a little bit so I went to turn to get back on course.  I pushed on the stick.  Nothing happened.  I couldn't even move it!  This scared me a little bit so I immediately hit the big red button on the stick.  A loud ear piercing beep sounded indicating that the autopilot has been disconnected and that I had full control of the aircraft again.  I tried it a few more times with the same results.  I'm pretty sure there is a way to rememdy that, but I just don't know how to do it.  I'll ask my instructor next time.

Did a touch and go at Price.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  Flight back was pretty normal too, except that when I got close to Spanish Fork I had a pretty strong tailwind.  Tailwinds are good, except when you are trying to descend quickly or land.

When up at high altitude it's bad to just pull out all the power and glide down.  You can do what they call "shock cooling" the engine.  When at high altitude the air is cool and sometimes down right cold.  The engine is working hard and produces quite a bit of heat.  But as soon as you start pulling out power, it doesn't create as much heat and the engine cools down.  If you pull all the power out quickly, the engine will then cool too quickly and can crack the cylinder heads and other stuff.

So being high and fast I couldn't just pull all the power out and "fall" out of the sky.  So that made it even harder to descend.  I ended up doing S-turns in order to try to lose altitude.

Upon being within about 5 miles of Spanish Fork I radioed my intentions and was told by the pilot of a King Air that the wind was favoring runway 12  instead of my intended landing runway of 30.  This was actually good since it would allow me more time to lose altitude as I had to fly around the pattern instead of just a straight in landing.  I turned base and then final.  I felt that I was coming in a little fast.  I looked at the airspeed.  It showed the correct airspeed for approach.  Then I noticed the wind indicator on the G1000.  8 knot tailwind.  What the heck!?  The King Air pilot lied to me...either that or the wind changed quickly.  I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.  I landing a bit long, but it was a beautiful landing.  Wheels just kissed the pavement.  Nose down, flaps up, stick back, brakes.  Got her slowed down, taxied off the runway and parked.

Fun flight.  Ready for the next.

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