This semester I and my class mates are being exposed to new types of aircraft that we yet haven’t flown. We get to fly the Cessna model aircraft 206, 185 and 182. They all produce more than 200 horsepower and are therefore classified as “high performance” aircraft. Here follows a little insight in some of my experiences in learning to fly high performance aircraft.
I started out in the 206. It felt like a beast compared to the 160 horsepower 172 we flew last semester. It was quite amazing to fly an aircraft with so much power, that can climb way faster and carry more load than anything I’ve flown before. Not only is it a more powerful, faster and heavier aircraft, but it also is more advanced. Among other things, it has an additional engine control knob that changes the pitch (angle of a surface to the relative wind moving against it) of the propeller to make a wider range of flight configurations more effective. To simplify the idea, the propeller knob works like the different gears in a car. You lower the gears for more power to get more acceleration and then you put in a higher gear when you are zooming down the highway.
I later discovered that these machines are still quite tricky to maneuver. They are especially tricky when you need to be very precise, such as in landings. Only after flying the 206 for a few hours I noticed that it was not so easy to land as I may have anticipated. The very last movement of the controls to make the aircraft loose energy to provide a soft touchdown without floating in the air down the runway did not come very easy.
It is quite difficult to learn something that you know you have a hard time with when you only get one shot at it every 10-15 minutes. And during those minutes you are busy doing the things you normally do well. It was not until my instructor took me out to an airport just north of here where they had a longer runway. I flew the pattern as normal around the runway and landed with some help. Once we had touched down my instructor called “I have the throttle” and pushed it in all the way so that the aircraft became airborne again. “Now land it!” he called and I quickly tried to get the aircraft lined up with the centerline of the runway to land. I touched and heard another time “I have the throttle”, the plane got up in the air, “Land it again!”… and so it went until we started reaching the far end of the runway where we took off and circled for another approach to do it all again!
That exercise took me some with surprise, but I got more frequent tries at the one maneuver I needed to practice and it seemed to help me progress in my learning. I am very grateful for this type of training where the instructor can modify and improvise the lesson for the student. It was not long after this lesson that I got to take the 206 out for a solo flight.
Training comes with a lot of ups and downs. Emotionally it can be very hard when you do not perform as well as you wish in the very field you believe you were called to do. I will revisit this topic at a later date, but for now I would like to thank all of you who pray, think of me, and support me in various ways for this cause. You play a huge role in helping me go on through the difficulties and pressures to perform on a high level.