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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Rocket Man

Got my High Performance sign off after only 2 hours in the Rocket!  It surely helped that I already had a complex sign off, and some time in a complex/retractable aircraft as a result of having gained the commercial ticket last year.

The Bonanza is far removed from the gliders I started out in.  From the outside, it looks about the same size as the Sundowner - the wingspan is only a few inches longer, the fuselage likewise.  The engine cowlings are slightly larger, and it has a 3-bade constant speed prop instead of the fixed 2-blade.

But the experience of flying it (or trying to) is completely different.  It feels like a huge (almost) 300 hp engine with a tiny airplane, basically control fins, behind it. Like a rocket.

Everything about flying the beast is about the engine.  Feeding it, cooling it, trying to slow down for approach, trying to keep up speed with everything hanging out on final.  The airplane itself is sweet, no vices I could detect, but it's all about the IO-520AB in front.

On the runway, following a slow, deliberate pre-flight and checklist, monitored by Instructor Bill, I slowly fed in power - but in vain.  The Rocket bounded to take off speed long before my brain had caught up.  A slight pull on the yoke, and we were climbing at some ridiculous rate, reaching 1600 ft AGL (2200 MSL) before reaching the end of the runway.  Somewhere along the way I managed to pull up the gear.  IB wanted me to level off at 3500ft, but I overshot, ending up at 3800.

I deliberately set very low power (21 in HG and 2300 RPM, or 21/23) to try and slow things down.  A 360 degree standard rate right turn was a little sloppy, but the left 360, followed by two steep turns went to commercial standards.  We did a simulated emergency manual gear down procedure, followed some slow flight (hard to slow down in a Bonanza).  I'm glad I did that, but I wasn't expecting it 30 minutes into my first flight.

Descending and trying to slow down, we made for Sherman (KSWI), and I did my first circuit and landing, followed by 2 more.  By the 3rd one I was feeling in control, so we took off, and headed for the Bonham VOR (BYP) to try out the autopilot and GPSS steering.  We were doing something wrong, and the a/p wouldn't automatically make the turn, but since I have the same GPS and a/p in my Sundowner, I could easily revert to the old way, and set up on the 212 radial for the VOR/DME approach back at McKinney.

My Sundowner, once on the ground rolls and rolls, needing a good amount of braking action.  The Bonanza just stops dead as soon as you pull up the nose for the landing flare.  We easily turned off at Charlie taxiway with almost no braking.  Back in the hangar, IB showed me his comments, and showed me that in his mind, I had met the requirements for a High Power sign off, so he gave me one, right there in my logbook.  So I can now legally fly my Bonanza, but as the insurance (and my peace of mind) require that I have 8 more hours of dual, we'll be flying together for a while more yet.

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