Day 3: Lesson 3 – Climbs and Descents

Date: 03/03/2011

Hours flown Dual Command Instruments
This flight 1.10 0.00 0.00
Total to date 3.20 0.00 0.00

I’ll try to keep this post relatively short. It’s been a long day – 2 hours in the air, with a lesson on Straight & Level flight at 0930 this morning, and then a lesson on Climbs and Descents at 1330.

Climbs and descents is exactly as it sounds. How to put the aircraft into smooth, balanced climbs to achieve different flight attitudes (best rate of climb, best angle of climb, cruise climb). And, how to do smooth and controlled descents – both powered descents (around 1500 RPM) and glides.

In general, OK, I think. But it was a hell of a challenging hour. It was later in the day, so there was more turbulence to contend with than this morning. And my workload is increasing rapidly! All of the things I got from Monday’s lesson on Effects of Controls, and all the stuff from Straight & Level flight, I need to remember and do, smoothly and in a coordinated way. And so far, I ain’t doing it that well. In true “bad cop” instructor mode, John was quick to let me know when I was slipping up, and was not backward in reminding me about repeat mistakes and demanding better flying.

Well, that’s probably a bit harsh on myself. In post-flight debrief this afternoon, I asked John if student performance was always this poor. (Actually, I used a stronger word to describe “poor”, but won’t repeat it here). He grinned and confirmed, generally, yes. But he was also kind enough to point out that I have a grand total of 3 hours flying experience and my rate of progress is consistent with the average for student pilots at this early stage. He concluded by cheerfully informing me that this was it for the “easy stuff!” Tomorrow it’s to be Turns, and Low Speed Flight and Stalls.

Wow. Truthfully, I was pretty shattered by the time I closed out Sierra Foxtrot Kilo at 1520 this afternoon. I really felt I’d been through an intense day’s learning, work and mistakes. It was actually quite a watershed half-hour for me. I’ll attempt to articulate my insight this way:

Insight #4

This is full-on, complicated stuff. It’s much more challenging than learning to drive a car. Any assumption that it’s going to be easy should be abandoned early on. Everyone will struggle along the way.

Possibly, somewhere in the back of my mind there may have been some tiny, arrogant, imbecile part of me that – in spite of my knowing better – somehow thought this would all be a breeze. I can safely say that I have been fully disabused of this notion today!

All good. I’m sure that most students hit this wall fairly early on. It seems amazing that I can expect to do my first solo within about 10 more hours of flying (based on averages). Right now, in terms of my knowledge and ability, this seems like a million miles away. Roll on tomorrow.



6 responses to “Day 3: Lesson 3 – Climbs and Descents

  1. Hey MLP,

    Got your message on my blog. Well done on starting the journey of a lifetime! It will be great – there will be huge highs and equally challenging lows (for me there were). But the end result is unlike anything I’ve tasted in my lifetime. To be able to say “I’m a private pilot”… man, that’s not a small thing in anyone’s language.

    I am so happy for you and will only be too happy to assist where I can to help you on your journey.

    Fly safe!


    • G’day again Ninja

      I think I’m already starting to experience some of the highs and lows – not yet of the magnitude of (say) a first solo, but it’s a roller coaster ride nonetheless. 2 lessons a day for days in a row is proving pretty bloody intense. But I’m with you – to be a Private Pilot is a big and (dare I say it) “noble” aspiration for some.

      Thanks for your kind comments and I’d love to have the benefit of your advice and experience!


      • 2 lessons in one day at this stage of your training is very heavy, especially when you’ve got multiple new skills and experiences to process.

        When I was at my nav stage, I found 3 hours of flying to be my absolute max – I was drained at the end of a long nav. And when I flew twice in one day – a GFPT type exercise in the morning and XC nav in the arvo, my nav was so shyte it was a joke. My mind was just not 100% anymore.

        Don’t laugh when you get to the nav stage of your training, when your CFI asks if you’ve eaten. He’s not being polite – he’s actually asking if you’ve taken care of your blood sugars and are properly hydrated before your flight. All part of risk assessment – which I’m sure you’d have come across in the syllabus.

        So, pace yourself accordingly and you’ll be fine.

      • 2 lessons per day is pretty full on. I’m learning as much as I can in the 8 weeks full time training that I’ve allocated. Anything after that will need to be part time. When I said to my instructors that I want to go in pretty hard on this, I certainly didn’t realise just how intense it would be. I’m coping – just – but it’s by far the most technically challenging thing I’ve ever done. (I’d say the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, but that ain’t true … I’ve got 2 stepsons and 2 kids of my own 🙂 )

  2. Haha MLP!

    I read this again and completely know where your head’s at. Don’t sweat it – we’ve all been where you are.

    The bumps you hit along the way are actually doors opening to a whole new skill set. And your comment that “It’s much more challenging than learning to drive a car”… oh yeah. Every student pilot struggles, better believe it! Even qualified pilots have ongoing struggles.

    Another thing that you will hear along the way – average hours to solo. Forget that – there’s no such thing. Everyone learns at their own pace. And flying is a skill that’s learned (nobody’s a born pilot, that’s just nonsense) in a very solitary way – your brain absorbs it as fast as only you can. Don’t use other people’s hours to solo as a benchmark… there are none. It is not a given that those who solo early are therefore “better” pilots. Again, a myth. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there are thousands of little things that make up a good flight. Being able to solo is only one part of the whole story.

    Take as much time as you need and enjoy the journey! It never stops.

    • Hi Ninja

      Reassuring to hear that what I’m experiencing is normal. I’m a pretty intelligent sort of bloke, I like to think, but right now I feel like the dumbest person alive. So many things to remember, coordinate and get right. 5 hours in and frankly I wouldn’t let myself anyway near a circuit, let alone talk about solo. Some sort of magical transformation must be due to take place. 🙂

      Appreciate your wise words!


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