This was a day of contrasts. It began with my scheduled flight training in the Piper P28 and ended with a surprise lesson in a PiperSport LSA. Weather looked okay at the time of briefing but had changed somewhat after we got through the preflight. A wind change meant a different runway and the direction we planned to depart toward had become “dark”. A new plan. So instead of heading up to Sebastian Muni for landing practice like we did yesterday, we decided to practice at Vero, staying in the pattern after each full stop taxi back landing. We used 29R, right hand pattern. I won’t spend too much time on this, but right-hand patterns feel unnatural to me — maybe it’s because the LH pattern was what I was used to so long ago. Or it’s because you have a clear view of the runway. I think muscle memory must play a part, like in golf. But each landing got better. And on three of them we were following another student in a PA-28 doing the same thing, except they flew extended crosswind before turning downwind. We just kept to our plan and remained far enough behind to not interfere, and stayed closer to our preferred distance from the runway on downwind. I mentioned this later when chit chatting with another instructor and he said some of the students will do the longer crosswind to mimic a heavier/bigger airplane pattern. That’s all good and well, but I want to have the best chance of getting back in safely if there’s a problem. Oh well. The weather was iffy with rain heading in from the north so we called it quits after 4 landings. As usual, my last was my best of the series.
About an hour after the lesson, weather improved and Donato Martino with ussportaircraft.com and Sport Pilot CFI Bryan Woodard, flew up in a PiperSport to take me for a spin. Little did I know I was going to get a lesson! Here I thought I was going to be a passenger for once and was looking forward to it. But I was instructed to climb into the left seat for a lesson with Brian. I do what I’m told. Turns out it was the same airplane Mac had flown during the Sebring Sport Aviation event. Just sitting in it was already a different experience than the P28 I had recently climbed out of. For one, the PiperSport is a stick, two, it had a glass panel. I actually prefer a stick over a yoke because that is what I learned with as a kid, but the panel was “new” to me and my brain had to do a little churning to switch gears. Off we went.
“Takeoff was a breeze, almost like playing with a toy…when I asked Bryan for the rotation speed he said ‘Whenever!’ A carefree answer, unlike what I would expect in my current training (‘Rotate at 55 kts ma’am!’)!”
After takeoff Bryan let me have the controls (only after briefing me that I had to use very little input on the stick) and we climbed straight out to 1,500 per ATC before heading north to do a couple touch and goes at Sebastian. He was right. It requires a ginger touch for pitch. Roll not so much. The viz was excellent as expected with the canopy. I love to feel “in the open.” The sun was hiding for a bit so it was comfortable. Getting use to minimal input on the pitch took a little bit and the resulting “rollercoaster” ride lets you know it’s a light aircraft! We did some turns and slow flight beforehand. The load on the turns is basically nothing compared to these maneuvers in a PA-28. When we set up for our first touch and go, Bryan manned the electric flap switch and throttle and we flew in at 60 kts. I couldn’t get a feel for the point of flare like in the PA-28 so it was a bit of a plop. Takeoff was a breeze, almost like playing with a toy…when I asked Bryan for the rotation speed he said “Whenever!” A carefree answer, unlike what I would expect in my current training (“Rotate at 55 kts ma’am”)! We went around one more time before heading back to Vero. And I finally got to ride along as a passenger on the way back. The sun had come out from hiding and it started to warm up a bit in the cockpit, but Bryan took care of that and pulled the overhead shade forward.
The airplane is fun to maneuver and the open viz really puts you in the moment. And I got the gist of the glass panel, at least enough to pinpoint the info I needed. But when Bryan said I could operate the flaps, I declined…something about using a switch/button. … Call me old fashioned, but I like a lever and the fact you feel each notch. I’m sure it wouldn’t take long to get used to it though and you can see why learning in an LSA can be an “easier” less complicated affair, making flying more accessible to those who might be a tad intimidated by the “bigger” airplanes and want to get up into the sky on their own sooner. Funny, I keep forgetting an LSA is what I learned in as a kid, but they weren’t called that, just plain ole Champ or Cub.