Steep Turns and Slow Flight

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.2014-02-17 17.03.25

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.

2014-02-17 17.03.57

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. Region Of Reversed CommandI 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.

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