Today was the first day of learning to fly from the right side of the airplane. It wasn’t too bad and horrible at the same time. Odd, huh? I know. Luckily my flight instructor is awesome and wasn’t too hard on me today. Where to start? hmm, the beginning!
Arrived at the club and chatted for a sec with my instructor in which his only advice before the flight today was to say “Make sure you put your stuff on the right side.” Honestly, not sure what else there was to say. This was going to be similar to any other airplane checkout flight, except from the right seat.
I did, indeed, put my things on the right side. And it was weird. As I strapped in, I noticed that my kneeboard was on my right leg and felt odd being up against the door of the mighty 172. Not sure why, I’ve flown on that side during CAP missions and while acting as a safety pilot. For some reason, today, it felt really off.
As I started the checklist my instructor said, teach me, i’m a newbie. **Gulp**. Ok….
I started going through the checklist explaining every action and probably by most accounts, poorly. I’m sure I will get better with repetition but it felt, in a word, weird. Notice the theme here?
After run-up, I got a bit of advice on explaining then doing instead of explaining while doing. Makes total sense but I felt like my first time ever in an airplane. I taxied to the runway, with little issue. I asked about the centerline sight picture as I was guessing a little bit and seemed like that was fine.
Normal takeoff, wasn’t too big of a deal, other than my hands feeling off and having to look across the cockpit for the instrumentation. During the climb out, I ran the checklist and tried to get use to trimming with my left hand.
Once in the practice area, I began with simple turns to the left and right to try to get use to the sight picture. Next, steep turns. Again, our favorite word. Weird. Turn to the left felt like the nose was dropping and I had too much back pressure. Turn to the right, opposite problem. I did a couple each way and started to get the feel for it. So, not bad, just weird.
Next up, slow flight. First clean, then dirty. This wasn’t too bad either and really it was just getting use to looking to the left while using my left hand to fine tune the throttle. I actually felt pretty decent about this. Even though I was trying to rewire my brain to coordinate my hands but backwards in a way. You see slow flight you have to understand that you’re in the region of reverse command. Meaning, throttle controls your climb/descent and pitch controls your airspeed. I’m am normally quite good at flying like this and didn’t do too badly but was interesting since my hands were doing the opposite of what I was use to.
After some turns while slow/clean, I dirtied up (added flaps) and flew slow with full flaps. Still not bad and felt I was actually getting the hang of it.
Next, stalls. First we would perform a power-off (landing configuration) stall. I slowed the aircraft down to landing speed and then pulled back a bit bleeding off speed until the stall. Recovered and retracted flaps. Next, power on (departure) stall. Setup airspeed like we were just departing the runway, 74 kts. Full power and pull to bleed off speed. Stayed coordinated, piece of cake.
Now my explaining these maneuvers, not great. But that will come, right. right?
Next onto the easy part, landings. I say easy but I already knew this was traditionally the hardest part. First landing was a normal landing. Everything went pretty well until right at touchdown. As the wheels sat down, it felt like we shifted to the right. And the plane veered right and I was extremely late on getting enough left rudder to compensate.
Next, soft field takeoff. This wasn’t all that big of a deal. I felt like I did ok except once the wheels left the ground, I didn’t quite get the nose down quick enough. Pesky right hand.
And finally, the soft field landing. The approach felt fine and started to get use to the sight picture coming down. Again, as the wheels touched down, I felt like the airplane just veered right.
Now, my instructor commented that both times on landing, I leaned to my left. And I realized that once he said something. As we taxied back, I think what was happening is that the sight picture was weird and for some unknown reason I was leaning left to fix it in my mind but inadvertently pushing on the right rudder at the same time. I think I was using it as leverage to lean. That folks is weird.
Anyway, alls well and the landings were, just ok. I’m sure more landings will start to make it feel better but i’m not going to lie, it scared me a bit. And I felt like it was the first time landing a plane all over again.
I’m told that this is normal and after about 10 hours, i’ll be fine. We shall see.