On my last solo flight I spent an hour in the air practicing steep turns and slow flight. I had not flown for a while so it has been a great opportunity to get a feel for the aircraft again.
The day was forecast to be sunny but I had to wait several hours until it opened up. I envied the IFR guys who took off into the fog. I knew they would see blue skies after just half a minute. A while later I could have taken off special VFR but I told myself to wait another hour. Why should I have rushed? I felt my “mucho” attitude but tried not pay any attention to it. I told myself, of course I could – but I don’t have to. I went so far with my decision-making that I waited for specific numbers on the ATIS.
Then finally I went to the airplane and cranked the Franklin engine and after I filled the tanks I took off behind a Cessna 172. I overtook it at a much higher altitude a few minutes later and headed towards the lake of Neuchâtel. There was a lot of traffic above the lakes because everywhere else the fog was still fighting the sun.
As learned in flight school I did my clearing turns and then started practicing steep turns. I loved the “aviator feeling” when turning at bank angles of 60/45 degrees. Getting better from time to time I finally hit my wake turbulence when turning out of the circle.
My next exercise was slow flight. I closed slowly the throttle and held altitude until further speed reduction was only possible by adding power – the point where you get behind the power curve or what they call the region of reversed command. Reversed, because throttle now controls altitude. I flew at various flap settings and finally with flaps set at 40° the airspeed indicator didn’t show anything useful anymore. It read somewhere below Vso, below the white arc, which was possible because I was way below maximum weight. The stall warner still didn’t go off but I remember flying in Seattle for several minutes with the stall warner constantly blaring while turning, descending and climbing. It had been a good exercise for sure because even now, three years later, I am still perfectly comfortable flying at absolute minimum speed. As you can see I had lots of fun flying about in slow flight configuration.
After practicing this I often remember the book “Stick and Rudder”. It is vital as a pilot to know: A stall occurs always at the same angle of attack, angle of attack is controlled by the flipper (elevator), therefore you control to stall or not to stall. A stall cannot occur if you do not pull back on the yoke. One more thing to consider is cylinder head temperature. During slow flight I always keep an eye on it since I don’t want to overstrain the big air-cooled engine.
Talking about angle of attack I would like to share a youtube video about agricultural flying. It helped me a lot to understand why a wing could drop during a stall. Despite it being so simple I never heard it explained that way from a flight instructor.