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Flight: 2014-0525-1 in N5887N (Michele's baby) for $
KGMU - SC81 - KGMU (flying time 1:25)
I get to fly Michele's Commander on a pop down to Abbeville! Woo hoo!
From KGMU (Greenville Downtown Airport) 2014-05-25 15:04:52 to SC81 (Abbeville Airport) 2014-05-25 15:57:47 [00:53:00] with 1 day and 0 night landings.
David Thorburn-Gundlach (pilot-R) / Michele Rash (instructor) /
We're in town for Laura's CFI-A prep, right? Michele invited for a drive on an afternoon errand run down South. Hey, I could fly over in Penny instead. Hey, it turned into I could fly *her* plane! From the right seat!!!! Awesome ;-)
Off we went to the hangar for my first look at it. It turns out that this is her baby, bought when she was a brand new private pilot and in which she got all of her other ratings, and she's only ever let Cyndy take it out without her and darned few in with her anyway. Wow; I feel special. And I started right off by having to figure out the funny nose-wheel fork to pull her out and learning that she doesn't turn very tightly; heh :-)
Intro & preflight. Much gawking. I noticed that streamlined == can't see some things; that's a strange sensation. I liked that this landing gear system, while hydraulic for both down and up, has a free-flow bypass valve and over-center sprnigs to pull the gear down in the event of a failure. So down is a controlled spring release while up is the actual work; cool. Reminds me of the Lincoln (and doubtless other) changeover from vacuum-open to vacuum-closed for safer failures.
Next we jumped in to get to know the cockpit. My first move was a lesson in reading the POH; I discussed latching & checking the top before latching the main, and while she liked the theory Michele explained that that is explicitly reversed in the handbook because this plane has "weak baby latches" at the top. Oh, well :-/
Anyway, then it was on to finding where the gauges are and learning the switches (ah, those pull-out breakers; much nicer!) and discussing power & prop and which way (RPMs always higher, or "prop on top") is OK. This engine has its own start peculiarities, too, so I got to walk through that and set the levers.
We also discussed the persnickety hot-start behavior, and Michele was originally going to just keep 'er running while I jumped out after a taxi to the tower to pick up my 696 power cable, but in the end she decided to shut down and run the math while we were sitting there. [Short form: if we were full of people & fuel, instead of 1/2 & 1/2, and had a DA of 4000ft vs today's 2000ft, we'd need exactly as much runway as we have down at Abbeville. Since that was a brand new plane with an expert test pilot, we take out one or even two of those margins, but that still leaves us a third for plenty of room, so we should be fine. "Plus", says Michele, "I'm not in the mood to die today anwyay." :-] She had already had trouble reading her checklist, complaining about the ordering and presentation and how it just didn't flow -- and she wrote it! :-) Then she got the idea to try a hot start as though it were a flooded start, and it worked perfectly. That was awesome, because apparently she & Cyndy had tried for half an hour one day with no success -- and then I noticed the hot-start procedure on the checklist, which pretty much matched what she had just done. I'll just take the opportunity to cement this as a good reminder to always use the checklist and to make it work for me however it has to :-)
I only needed a little coaching to remember how to talk to Ground, and we had agreed that I would both fly & talk such as I'm able until I ask her to do something or she decides to take it from me. We also agreed, thank you, that she would do the landing at Abbeville; I'm thinkin' that's a bit much for me to bite off as my first one! Headed down to the end of the runway and ran through the runup, getting to see the prop work and affect each reading, and then it was time to go. Well, almost ... Tower, who knows Michele, gave us clearance to depart, but the moment I took copying down for readback was too long and he took it away again to let the guy on final come in :-)
So, then, off we went. Takeoff was basically smooth & as expected, although we used a lot of pavement. She seemed both heavy-winged (slow to turn) and tipsy (quick to continue); probably like BlueBird in retrospect, but it's been a while! It made my heading control ... interesting. Trim was very helpful once I got to know it.
You can't lean a constant-speed prop by RPM, since it'll stay the same until suddenly it conks off, so EGT is definitely needed here. Fuel flow metering is also helpful -- presuming you know what your fuel burn should be, rather than just wanting to be horrified! So I leaned basically just by what Michele told me to do :-)
By the time we were leaned, it seemed, we were almost there. We chewed through air like crazy, and takeoff, climb, cruise, and approach went by BAM BAM BAM!
When we got to Abbeville, I set up too close because of the illusion caused by the tiny strip. Whoops! :-) Yes, it is *tiny*. Headed a bit wider but in the end just turned it into an upwind and full circle around again. Got her set up on final this time and then handed over to Michele for the landing -- which was definitely a max-performance short-field landing. We arrived!
From SC81 (Abbeville Airport) 2014-05-25 17:05:04 to KGMU (Greenville Downtown Airport) 2014-05-25 17:37:05 [00:32:00] with 1 day and 0 night landings.
David Thorburn-Gundlach (pilot-R) / Michele Rash (instructor) /
What a lovely visit! We toured the airport and grounds -- yes, she owns the place; wow! -- and the hangar plus had a lovely chat. She also picked up her errand, so all too soon it was time to go.
Yes, we did the math, and we planned the roll and process and abort point and practiced the plan. We did the full static run-up and short-field procedure, and we needed every bit of it; yikes! I got her moving in the right direction, brought the power the rest of the way up, watched the 1/3 mark go by, watched the half way taxiway go by ... and then we were about at our 2/3 mark abort point. After a quick look to confirm speed and power, Michele then took it just before rotation 'cuz there is so little margin there (pitching up too much, which isn't much at all, will cause sink). OK, yes, I was eating all kinds of seat as we ate more and more runway!
Back in the air and in my hands; THIS part I can understand. Climb & heading were much more controlled this time :-)
We tore through the checklists again as we chewed up air; wow. I gotta say both that WHOOSH it was fun to go that much faster and to have to be on top of everything and to feel myself tunneling down to barely staying ahead of the plane and that, yes, I definitely want to be checked out at 170kts and go places ... and that I gained a newfound further appreciation for flying low & slow and getting to look around. I could seriously see myself getting two-plane stupid ... or even stupider! :-)
She glides about like bluebird did -- ie like a brick -- and being down at 1900ft to stay under GSP is crazy. And, hey, more fun on the radio, right? So we called in to transition their airspace (once we I got the right freq; oops) and then got handed off to KGMU tower again.
As you might imagine, I was set up much better this time, so I had plenty of time to get established on downwind, figure out flaps, settle trim for descent, drop the gear, and line up. I was pretty happy with that landing, actually; good rudder, good glide, nice flare, smooth touchdown, gentle braking, and even talking to tower and getting the right taxiway.
What an awesome trip, and 'just because'! :-) :-) :-)