Saturday, March 03, 2007

Check ride in the Beech Bonanza

Well, my 'official' membership of the Beech Bonanza group started on 1st March, so of course I booked it for the next available weekend! Chris was free and we agreed to go to Tatenhill so I could have a check ride with his favourite instructor.

The weather was excellent, with the odd shower, but mainly cumulus with good visibility and lots of blue bits (sorry, getting a bit 'technical' there). Off we went. Chris flew up there while I watched carefully. I am not used to vernier controls and those in the Bonanza are placed a bit at random and not colour coded, so it will take some getting used to.

Chris asked for and got a zone transit of Birmingham (I was amazed, but then I confess I have never tried it as I assumed there was little point).

Zone transit of Birmingham on the way to Tatenhill

Tatenhill was very busy as Pilot magazine had offered free landing vouchers which most of the UK flying community seemed keen to use on the same day!

We met up with Dave, a vastly experienced instructor very familiar with the V-tail Bonanza. We swapped over and I took over the left-hand seat. The Bonanza has a 'throw-over' yoke, so I guess not ideal for instruction, but there you go.

Off we went as I puzzled my way around the controls like a learner driver looking at the gearshift every time they change gears. I was ready for the acceleration and pull to the left and made a reasonable take-off. We were three up with full fuel and it was still climbing at 1000 fpm.

We climbed to over 3000' as I tried to get used to the nose high / coaming low picture. Whenever I relaxed, my 'Arrow' picture took over and we started to climb. But then I did the same going from the TB10 to the Arrow, so it is just practice.

We did a clean stall. I was warned about wing drop as the right wing dropped. I held it with rudder and recovered, although a bit hesitant. So we did it again and I was smoother this time.

Then the stall in landing configuration. I was warned this would be 'interesting' - don't you hate it when instructors say that? As we slowed to a crazy slow speed, with Dave constantly telling me 'UP, UP, UP etc. - nose up), it finally stalled - BIG TIME! Wow - the b*gger heeled over to the right in a heartbeat and started a spiral dive. I tried to correct with rudder, which seemed to stop it getting worse and recovered. I don't recall how much height we lost, but it would have been a lot. Dave was laconic about it and merely commented that 'there were no screms from the back so it can't have been that bad' - personally I think its because Chris was too busy praying! Lesson learned - don't ever do that on approach!

We went back to the airfield to do a couple of circuits. First one was a high workload for me. Looking for controls, strange picture outside, running to catch up to the plane. Amused all present as I called 'downhill' instead of 'downwind'. I don't know where I got that from, I have never said that before! Got settled into an OK 80 kts approach. Chop the power over the threshold just before the flare. Over-controlled it and balooned a bit, the brought it in. Power on then off again.

Next one was better, didn't over control it, but I did 'hunt' for it in the flare a bit.

Last one was to land and this was OK, except that while I was back-tracking, I pulled a little too much throttle off and the engine died. Dave got it going again sharpish as we didn't want to hang around in the middle of the only runway at Tatenhill.

As the aircraft is that much quicker, climbs faster etc. and I was having to look at pretty much everything I was touching to make sure I was pulling back on the right thing, I found the workload pretty high. Familiarity is the key here.

Tatenhill was pretty manic with planes jostling for limited parking as the grass wasn't in use. After some quick refreshment at local tavern (orange juice for me), we mounted up and took off back for Gloucester. I was flying with Chris in the RHS. Again we asked for and received transit of Birmingham at 3000'. I couldn't resist a peek at Liz Hurley's bash at Winchcombe, but as we did an orbit, it looked pretty deserted, only the marquees to show for the wedding.

Back to Gloucester and a standard overhead join for 27. The ciruit went well as did the approach. Went to chop the power in the roundout but instead of pulling out the throttle, I pushed it in. I realised the mistake (as of course did Chris and pulled it out rather quickly, but apparently not all the way back, so I held it off while Chris pulled it back to idle. Of course I landed longer than normal and had to roll to the end to vacate. The landing on the Beech seems to be very smooth, I don't know whether it is me (probably not) or the excellent gear (probably!).

Good lesson learned as I felt somewhat sheepish trundling back to stand.

Overall, a very worthwhile day and a lovely aircraft. Certainly a major step up from the Arrow (although I am certainly still very fond of Arrows). So I will go away and 'internalise' the position and feel of the controls so I am not looking all over the place on the next flight.

Maybe another dual with Chris next weekend, then a few landaways by myself to get really comfortable.