March 12, 2006
Why hasn't anyone told me about this autopilot thing before? Sure, I have heard of planes with autopilot before but had never flown one. On tonight's flight we flew a Cessna 172 that was nicely equipped with GPS and autopilot. I have only flown an aircraft that has GPS a few times so just having that was nice. I was excited to see how the autopilot worked.
I was flying with Matt, an instructor at Northwest Aviation, since it had been a while since my last flight. We had a perfect night for flying as the temperature was in the mid-fifties. We had 10 miles of visibility and wind was less than five knots. I was surprised that with the beautiful weather the airport was not too busy.
I took off on runway 29 and headed west. Schaumburg's airport is located under the shelves of O'Hare airspace so we flew under 2,000 ft. for a while. Once we got to the practice area we did some of the basic maneuvers: slow flight, stalls (power on and off) and 45° bank turns. After that we decided to fly to a control towered field, Dupage, for some landings.
On the way Matt showed me how the autopilot worked. We first set the GPS to give us a direct course to Dupage Airport. Once we had the best course we entered it into the autopilot and set the altitude we desired, we turned on the auto-pilot. I let go of the yoke and pulled my feet from the rudders and the plane started to fly itself. It handled the turn to the proper heading and descended to the new altitude and maintained it once we reached it. As I contacted the tower and received our landing instructions and clearances, I would simply give the autopilot new instructions for heading and altitude and it would handle the rest. It was really neat to see. It allows the pilot to concentrate on doing checks for traffic, monitoring the gauges and to handle some navigation tasks. As we turned onto final approach for Dupage runway 20R I disengaged the autopilot and made a nice landing.
We circled around and did a simulated engine out landing before heading back to Schaumburg. It was a great night of learning and flying. It was great to get more experience with a GPS enabled aircraft and to explore the benefits of autopilot. I have a feeling there will be more flights in this plane in the near future.
March 8, 2006
I have scheduled a plane for Friday evening. For the first time in weeks I have some free time and the weather looks like it will be nice enough to go flying. According to LogbookPro I have not made well on my New Years resolution to fly 24+ hours in 2006 or 2 hours per month. I have only flown .7 hours since January first. I am sure I will have no trouble meeting or exceeding my hours goal as I prefer to fly as it starts to get a little warmer and the days start to get longer.
Heading to the airport on a Friday evening is a perfect way to start a weekend. I look forward to getting back in the air. Since I have not flown much over the winter I plan to take a few refresher flights with a flight instructor. Additionally, I plan to spend a few hours reviewing some of my aviation books and my Sporty's Private Pilot Training DVDs.