I don’t know how it happened. Somehow, a month has gone by since I’ve flown. When I realized this, I immediately scheduled the plane for a few hours. I don’t want to let time get away from me. I figured I would do some maneuvers and some landings. Nothing very exciting, but I am absolutely dead set against not flying for long stretches of time. I don’t want to be the guy that goes up every two years for a BFR or worse, lets his medical lapse and just doesn’t fly. I understand things happen, but I’m just not built for that. Anymore, if I spend too much time on the ground I get stressed out.
I scheduled the Diamond because the 172 was taken. Not that it matters much, but I don’t want to rent the 172 and find out I can’t fly it anymore. I didn’t plan to go very far, in fact the plan was to pick a practice area based on which runway was active and then head to DKX or Madisonville for a little landing practice. The way things turned out, I went to the Loudon Dam practice area and Madisonville. The plan was to do some maneuvers and landings.
I started in the practice area and then I headed out to the airfield for landings. I did some steep turns and turns around a point. Steep turns in the DA20 are a dream. For me, the stick makes them easier. I feel like the control inputs are more connected. I did several either direction. The first thing I noticed was that I performed at least as well as I do in the 172.
Next, I did some turns around a point. I’m still feeling out the low wing versus high wing thing. I’m going to get it out in the open and say that I don’t really care where the wing is placed; the only time I really have a preference is with regard to mission requirements. For example, I want a high wing for bush flying and air to ground photography, but I like the low wing crosswind and ground effect performance. I bring this up because regardless of all of this, the sight pictures and reference points are very different. So I performed several turns around a point in each direction in order to gain a better grasp of a general low wing reference point for turns around a point.
After this I made my way to Madisonville. As usual, it wasn’t busy. I figured I would make several landings and further improve my capabilities in the aircraft. Madisonville has a 3000 foot runway. The DA20 has a book ground roll of about 1200 to 1400 feet for landing. That counts out the first turn-off, but I figured that if I could get it stopped halfway and taxi back, I would be doing well. So that was what I shot for. I entered downwind for landing on runway 23. I much prefer this as the traffic pattern for 23 isn’t hemmed in by a ridge with a tower on it. I kept it nice and tight and I pulled the throttle to idle abeam the numbers. This allowed me to bleed off enough speed to begin dropping the flaps. I managed to keep the speed down to about 65 knots on final. I touched down smoothly, but too fast. I overshot my goal, but landed safely nonetheless.
The next try wound up being a lot better. I extended the downwind a little more, and I kept the speed over the fence to about 55 or 60 knots. This yielded a much better landing that was very close to my goal. It wasn’t the book short filed landing, but it was pretty close to mid field. I configured the GPS for the return trip to TYS and I took off.
I set my altitude to about 2500 feet and engaged the autopilot to follow the GPS track. I then busied myself with radio calls and setting the transponder. After about 5 minutes, they began to vector me around for sequencing, so I switched to heading mode on the autopilot. Eventually, I received a landing clearance and was told to turn base at my discretion. I had already dropped down to traffic pattern altitude, and I was well on my way to a good base leg, which I usually start over Pellissippi Parkway. I pulled the throttle to idle and turned base over the parkway, then I dropped the flaps. My turn to final is usually performed where the parkway meets Alcoa Hwy. As I completed the turn, I dropped full flaps and brought the plane in for another smooth landing. I rolled out without touching the brakes and made the second turnoff. Pretty good if I don’t say so myself.
I taxied back and prepared to perform the fiasco of securing the plane myself. As I was taxiing in I noticed a group of people standing and watching. I thought they might be some sort of peanut gallery or perhaps inspectors of some type, so I was a bit weary of them. As it turned out, it was a guy and his two boys. One of whom was looking at starting flying lessons. They were curious about the plane, and so I talked to them about it. Overall, it was a good experience and I hope that I managed to put in a good word for the school and the plane. They departed and I tied the plane down. It wasn’t terrible, but the prop stopped in the worst place ever, so I had a little more trouble than was necessary.