Thursday, July 30, 2009

Echo Bay - Kingman in steps / Cessna 152 (N703YL) / VFR

Testing out one of my new Cessna 152s, I did a lot of little flights. I started out at Echo Bay on Lake Mead. Then, in small hops, I went to Temple Bar, Las Vegas, Jean, Searchlight, Sun Valley, Needles, Lake Havasu, and Kingman, over the course of two days. The main thing I learned was that the Cessna 152 is by far the most Spartan and most anemic aircraft type in my fleet.

I'm quite large and that doesn't help. Larger aircraft don't care much, but a Cessna 152 does. At first I had a hard time getting the published rate of climb out of the aircraft, but then I realized that I was instinctively flying faster than I should for this aircraft, and when I reduced the speed to a slowpoke 65 KIAS or so, I was able to achieve about 700 fpm. At 80 KIAS, I could barely get 500 fpm. On other aircraft, though, these speeds are uncomfortably close to the minimums, so I had a naturally tendency to try to keep my speed up. Over the course of these flights I learned to fly slower (heck, I didn't have much choice in a 152).

I also tended to think of 120 KIAS as the cruising speed of this aircraft for some reason, when in fact it's the maximum. Cruising speed turns out to be more like 80-90 KIAS. Once I understood this, things went better. But this is a really, really slow airplane. I kept my hops short because it took forever to get anywhere.

At least the aircraft is easy to fly. Landing speeds are so slow that you can almost hop out of the aircraft and walk beside it as it touches down. Short runways are not an issue. However, with the extreme heat in the areas where I was flying (105-110° F), density altitude was a factor.

It took a looong time to get from Echo Bay to Kingman, but I finally made it. There's only one VOR, no DME, one comm and one nav radio, etc., so things are really primitive. This aircraft seems destined for short daylight VFR hops; I'd be very nervous trying to fly cross-country at night, or in anything other than clear weather. I can see why it is used so much for training.

After landing in Kingman I had temporarily exhausted the novelty of “roughing it,” so I stepped up to a better-performing aircraft for the next few flights.