Yesterday, I took Jamie up in 552RA again, this time flying north. Cloud coverage was reported as "Broken at 20,000 feet," so I figured it was going to be a wonderfully clear day. Plus, I needed to make ammends from that nightmare in the Piper Arrow. We flew out of Rochester westward, and I did a couple steep turns, followed by playing around with the controls, taking advantage of that third dimension for some fun. Maybe I had too much fun with my 20 degree dives and climbs, because the local radar service inquired what my current altitude was, since their reading from my transponder was apparently fluctuating. We then flew over Hamlin beach, then cruised eastward along the shoreline to Irondequoit Bay. Lake Ontario was so blue, and Charlotte Pier was speckled with countless little boats also enjoying the bright, warm, sunny Spring day; you know, the kind of day that really never happens in Rochester. It was the smoothest flight I ever had, and that is saying something, because the Cessna 150, along with its slightly bigger engined counterpart, the 152, are known for being very susceptible to turbulence, due to their light weight, large wings, and completely inherent desire to fly. The only spot of turbulence lasted 2 seconds while I was flying over the smoke stacks at the U of R on final approach. I really love that about the C-150. That tiny little airplane wants to fly so much, and you can all but tell the plane is smiling while it trucks along at a modest 105 mph. That was a fun flight, and my beautiful passenger, who never cared for roller coasters or anything of the sort, was rock solid, and not the least bit queasy.
PIPER vs CESSNA
Now for part two of this posting. Two weeks ago, I took Jamie with me to flight school to ride in my first flight as Pilot in a Piper Arrow, which has 200 hp, retractable gear, and a solid frame structure second only to a Mooney. What I first noticed was the inhibited ground reference ability of the low wing aircraft. Oh well, I'm learning to fly solely by radio and GPS, so this is a non-issue. Pipers are ALLEGEDLY known for being a smoother, faster flight in comparison to a Cessna, but that 10 mph wind threw that four passenger airplane all over the place. I had the worst time trying to get that airplane centered on the runway when I was practicing landing. Flare back for a Main Gear landing, and you can't see a blessed thing on the ground for reference. And that was the worst part. Granted, it was my first flight in a Piper, but that gear is junk. Out of four landings, I only had one good one that was nice and smooth . . . until touchdown. Then it was "THUD THUD THUD!" What an awful sound when I'm used to just hearing the tires lightly chirp as they make contact with the earth. These low-wing aircraft are reportedly easier in crosswind landings, but I didn't see it. To make matters worse, my poor Wife got so sick that day, and I wasn't enjoying myself much at all . . . mostly because I was trying to impress my Flight Instructor, but got zero affirmation on that flight. This is what they call a more tasteful and enjoyable airplane? Not only does the Pilot have to get in first, there is no cabin space increase aside a comparable Cessna. I don't think they're easier to get in and out of at all. Seriously, one door? I know it makes for a stronger airframe, but NASCAR racers have more points of egress than a Piper. The only thing I did enjoy in that 2 hour period of stuffy cabin and miserable landing sound effects was the speed. We were cutting through the air at 160 mph! That Piper, with all that horsepower, sleek fuselage design, and short, stall-prone wings, sure does make for a fast mover, though an equally powered Cessna, like a 177 Cardinal RG, boasts the same numbers. So in conclusion, I will take the wider, more stable, more visual, better postured, and slightly slower Cessna over the NOT "smoother in turbulence" Piper. I know it was just one bad experience, and a rotten apple shouldn't spoil the bushel, but my introduction was far from impressive.