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PostPosted: Tue Jun 30, 2015 10:59 pm 
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Location: Prince George


I went down to the bustling metropolis of Likely BC the other day to practice techniques for flying into short gravel strips at high density altitude. Likely is 3225' asl and at 29C (which it was that day) its denisty altitude is about 5500' which significantly taxes aircraft performance. Gross weight takeoff run at sea level is supposed to be 775', I was about 400 lbs under gross and my takeoff runs were consistently about 1200' (interestingly enough it was about the same distance as in Prince George, 1000' lower, on pavement, and not trying to avoid basting the thing with gravel). At 3200' in length Likely is not overly short, leaving some extra room for developing skills. There is also somewhat challenging terrain to deal with around the airport which makes it a great spot to practice.

The Piper Cherokee is no one's idea of a bush plane. It has a low aspect ratio wing with a laminar flow airfoil and simple plain flaps. This design does have some advantages, however good handling characteristics on the back side of the drag curve, adequate drag for steep approaches, and low speed elevator authority are not among them.

Despite these limitations a Cherokee will perform a better its reputation would lead one to expect if the airplane is kept light and some techniques are employed to mitigate some of the disadvantages. A hershey bar Cherokee will sink like a rock if you let it get slow. This can actually be used to your advantage to set up a slow, (relatively) steep, stable approach to a runway using a touch of power or a gentle slip to control the approach path. When coming in very slow, however a burst of power (nothing extreme, a few hundred rpm) must be used in order to flare. These early Cherokees had a narrow stabilator and a serious lack of pitch authority at low speed. The landing at 3:40 was a royal screw up. The video really doesn't do justice to how...firm it was. I was definitely checking the ELT afterwards. I neglected to pull on the last notch of flaps and as I was wounding out it was really sinking hard. I tried to give it a fist full of power to cushion the impact, but only got a little (thankfully enough to flare somewhat). I had the throttle friction on so tight that I couldn't get it on quickly enough (I do believe that I realized a problem in time that I could have either salvaged the landing or gone around if I could have given it enough gas) and once I was on the ground I started to accelerate again because I couldn't get it off fast enough. There is a reason for this: When I was in initial training I had a throttle vibrate partway out on me, got shit from my instructor, and since then I've developed a subconscious habit of tightening the throttle friction every time I adjust the throttle. I've never, ever had that issue before. I must have tightened it more than usual in that particular instance. Lesson learned, it's something I'll be on the lookout for going forward. It's also a testament to Piper's oleo gear that I came in that hard without a bounce or accidental ELT activation.

This flight was excellent practice for me, I learned a lot about how to handle my airplane at the very bottom of the envelope and about dealing with less than ideal runway and terrain conditions. I feel much better prepared now for exploring some off the beaten path places this summer.

Oh, in addition to all that it was a hell of a lot of fun!

Food's good at the stabilator cafe too:

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 01, 2015 1:57 pm 
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Of all the time I spent in Horsefly when I was younger, had no idea there was a strip in Likely!


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 01, 2015 2:19 pm 
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With modestly powered light aircraft, getting in is not the problem, it is getting out. Anyfield that you can comfortably get out of, particularly with a DA of over 3000 feet doesn't need any special technique to get into. I would caution you about getting too slow. With 3200 feet of runway there is no reason to get slow and aim for the very end. A bit of wind shear or downdraft can cause you to hit short.

Finally unlike Cessna's, in Pipers you have to accelerate to flying speed on the ground in a level attitude before pitching up to lit off. Many, many short wing Piper pilots have come to grief horsing the aircraft off too early and then mushing, nose high in ground effect, neither climbing or accelerating until they crash at the end of the runway.

I saw the Salad and Coke Zero :shock:. You can't fool us, we know the donuts and chips were kept out of the picture 8)



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 02, 2015 3:46 am 
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Location: Prince George
all_ramped_up wrote:
Of all the time I spent in Horsefly when I was younger, had no idea there was a strip in Likely!


Not many people do, I was the first person to sign the guest book since July 2014, the guestbook was started in 2005 and it's currently on page 2. There is a full can of Budweiser in the shack though waiting to be claimed by someone. That might increase the traffic volume :mrgreen:

Big Pistons Forever wrote:
With modestly powered light aircraft, getting in is not the problem, it is getting out. Anyfield that you can comfortably get out of, particularly with a DA of over 3000 feet doesn't need any special technique to get into. I would caution you about getting too slow. With 3200 feet of runway there is no reason to get slow and aim for the very end. A bit of wind shear or downdraft can cause you to hit short.


It's true that the only reason for those approaches is for my own practice, skill building, and entertainment. I wanted to see what the airplane and I were capable of in that environment. Downdrafts are a definite possibility in Likely due to the terrain surrounding the airport, however I was lucky enough to have a completely windless day. I am aware of the increased risks involved in this type of flying. I did my best to mitigate those risks as best I could by spending a fair bit of time at altitude in the low end of the envelope, choosing a good weather day, and a strip that allows some room for error.

Big Pistons Forever wrote:
Finally unlike Cessna's, in Pipers you have to accelerate to flying speed on the ground in a level attitude before pitching up to lit off. Many, many short wing Piper pilots have come to grief horsing the aircraft off too early and then mushing, nose high in ground effect, neither climbing or accelerating until they crash at the end of the runway.


Yes, I found this to be the case when I was experimenting with different methods of taking off (when I first got the airplane, on an 11000' runway). Anything other than a takeoff run with neutral elevator followed by a positive rotation at about 60 really doesn't work in the Cherokee. No holding the nosewheel light and letting it fly off like a Cessna and no early rotation. I would really like to be able to get the nosewheel off a little sooner and hold it off a little longer on rougher surfaces though. I am planning on adding some vortex generators at some point. Hopefully they will give me a little more stabilator authority at low speed.

Big Pistons Forever wrote:
I saw the Salad and Coke Zero :shock:. You can't fool us, we know the donuts and chips were kept out of the picture 8)


No simple carbohydrates were harmed in the making of this film! Just some leaves and a chicken. I'm trying to improve my useful load :D



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