Day 4: Lessons 4 and 5 – Turns/Slow Flight and Stalls

Date: 04/03/2011

Hours flown Dual Command Instruments
This flight 2.20 0.00 0.00
Total to date 5.40 0.00 0.00

OK, all in all, today was a better day. I was better (though by no means crash hot) at most things. And I had more fun. But it was still bloody intense. Any day with 2 hours of flying, I’ve come to learn, is a really long day.

My ride today was Foxtrot Tango Uniform (FTU). (Apologies for the grainy look on left hand side – shot was taken with my Blackberry and the lens was obviously smudged).

PA28 Foxtrot Tango Uniform

Unlike previous days, the aircraft was not waiting for me when I arrived – it was out on another lesson. When my instructor and student landed, they parked next to the clubhouse and it was immediately mine to inspect. All OK: fuel up to tabs on left hand tank, below tabs on the right, oil and brake fluid good. A quick wash of the windscreen. After a proper pre-flight and a chat about turns (turns in straight & level flight, climbing turns, descending turns), we taxied for runway 29 right. Run-ups completed, we taxied to holding point A5 at which point my instructor John surprised me by asking me to make the radio call to request clearance for takeoff. I flubbed it a bit – what I should have said was, “Bankstown Tower, Warrior Foxtrot Tango Uniform, ready two niner right for upwind departure, received Charlie”. (Charlie being the 3rd ATIS report of the morning – they do them in sequence, Alpha, Bravo, Charlie etc). But the tower either was being kind, or missed my poor call, because we received clearance to take off.

Lining up on the runway and takeoff checks complete, throttle full open over 3 seconds and we were soon at 55 KIAS (knots indicated airspeed). I lifted the nose and we were away – need to remember not to lift up too much, need to allow the plane time to accelerate.

Climbing to 1500 feet we levelled out before crossing the railway tracks that delineate the (Class D) traffic control zone. As I trimmed for 1500 feet things felt a little better than yesterday – didn’t seem to be struggling as much keeping the plane in balance. Once passed the tracks John told me to climb to 2300 feet. Trying to keep up a “best rate of climb” speed of about 80 KIAS, I did OK, until reaching 2300 feet at which point I failed to lower the nose enough and ended up around 2500. But John was nice enough to tell me that I was doing much better than yesterday. I replied that I was glad he thought so!

Out to the training area and up to 4000 feet around the clouds, we proceeded to do a number of different types of turns, including:

  • Level turns (maintaining constant altitude, up to 30 degrees of bank angle)
  • Climbing turns (no more than 15 degrees of bank angle)
  • Descending turns (under power/gliding, clean and with flaps, up to 30 degrees of bank angle)
  • Rate 1 turns (intended to turn full 360 degrees in 2 minutes)

The mantra before a turn is to check before the turn. If you want to turn left, first check right, then centre, then left to clear the area of any traffic that may present a hazard to you conducting the turn. Once done, start the turn using ailerons and rudder, and remember BBB – bank (angle of bank), balance (ball in the centre), back pressure (to keep up the desired altitude or airspeed as the turn robs the wings of some lift).

Went OK. We returned to land on 29 right and John had me descending most of the way but it all got messy – I wasn’t keeping the nose down enough during base and final – so he took over and got us down safely.

Insight #5

When descending – particularly with flaps – you really need a serious nose-down attitude in these small aircraft! I’ve got to get comfortable with finding the right nose-down attitude and sticking to it. You can’t keep the nose up at all – if you do, you won’t descend as required. Seems obvious when I look at it in writing, but it’s harder than it looks or sounds.

Back on the ground at about 1115, I called the Shell people and had the fuel truck come round to fill to tabs on both tanks. Then into the clubhouse for a much-needed drink of water (my mouth was dry as after today’s flight – it’s a hot day, and the concentration and the cabin environment really dries me out). Grabbing a sandwich, John started to talk to me about radio calls.

I’d been wondering when we’d start in on this. In a strange little way I’ve been kind of dreading it. I’ve often read or heard of people really struggling with their calls. I can understand why. Especially when you’re brand new to this game, you just wonder how the hell can you ever remember all the calls you need to make? How can you possibly give attention to what’s happening over the radio when you’re trying to do 10 other things?

I guess it all goes with the territory, because as any experienced pilot or student will tell you, it all starts to fall into place. I have to remember the following basic format for all calls:

Insight #6

Not so much an insight as something I need to remember. Basic format for each call is:

  1. Who are you talking to (eg. “Bankstown Ground”)
  2. Who and what you are (eg. “Warrior Foxtrot Tango Uniform”)
  3. Where you are (eg. “on Mike 2”)
  4. What you want and what your intentions are (eg. “for upwind departure request taxi”).

I can see I’m going to have to do a lot of practise on my calls.

Again lining up on 29 right, we took off and retracted our route to the training area. The cloud had lifted somewhat which was favourable as you need to have plenty of height to practise stalls. Once we reached 4000 feet over a rural area outside Camden, we went through the HASELL checks that must be done before practising a stall:

H for height – do we have enough? – need to have enough height to recover from the stall by minimum 3000 feet AGL

A for airframe – is the aircraft correctly configured – clean wings, doors closed etc.

S for security – in the cabin – particularly loose items that may be a hazard in the stall

E for engine – is the engine operating properly and correctly set up (carby heat on in particular, mixture full rich)

L for location – make sure we are not over populated or built-up area

L for lookout – are we clear of any traffic around/above and particularly below that present a hazard – we did a full 360 degree clearing turn to make certain of this.

So we proceeded to do stalls.

A stall is basically when a wing reaches a certain critical “angle of attack” relative to the oncoming airflow, above which angle the wing cannot generate enough lift to support the weight of the aircraft. Once the wing stalls – and particularly when both wings stall – the aircraft will lose altitude.

Fortunately, training aircraft are pretty stable and it is hard to put them into a really serious stall and almost impossible to do so without plenty of advance warning. Signs of approaching stall include an onset of shaking/shuddering which you can clearly feel through the control column and through the airframe, and the sounding of the stall warning horn. This is a really nifty little safety device which sounds some 5-10 knots of IAS before you’re actually in a stall. They’re wonderful. I fell in love with them today.

So we proceeded into a series of different stall scenarios, including:

  • Power-on stall (engine under power)
  • Power-off stall (aircraft in glide)
  • Variations including stalls in a turn, high-speed stalls.

I had a wee bit of trepidation in actually intentionally stalling the plane – you really have to fight your instinct for self-preservation – but I went ahead and did it (in the words of George Orwell’s Winston Smith) just the same. Power as appropriate, lift the nose to watch the speed bleed away, keep firm back pressure on the control yoke, feel the stall come on. The shaking and shuddering starts. The horn sounds. Then you look at your VSI (Vertical Speed Indicator) and you see you’re losing height.

Apply opposite rudder if a wing drops (right rudder for left wing dropping, and the reverse). In fact the aircraft basically refused to drop a wing, it was so stable! At the same time, lower the nose and apply full power. Watch the airspeed increase. Recover from the stall and level wings if necessary.

OK. There will be more stall training. I don’t know if I’ll ever love it, but I don’t fear it as perhaps I did. It’s pretty easy to recover from.

Setting cruise for Prospect Reservoir, we descended to 1500 feet and I did a reasonable (not great) job of straight & level flight. Over Prospect I radioed, “Bankstown Tower, Warrior Foxtrot Tango Uniform, over Prospect at one thousand five hundred, received Golf inbound”). The tower informed us to stay out of the control zone – by John’s assessment, they were in the process of switching over runways. So we continued north and a bit east to Parramatta, then made a 180 degree left turn and returned to Prospect. We made the same call again and were instructed to make our approach to runway 11 left. So we made for Warwick Farm Racecourse – by which I struggled to descend to 1000 feet but managed to – then turned on final. I did a better job of getting it down, but my alignment with the numbers of the runway was not great. Meanwhile I completed missed our landing clearance, which John handled. But he got us down, and some hard braking had us turning left off the runway.

My final mistake of the day then happened! I did the unforgivable – tried to make my radio call to request taxi clearance while someone else was using the frequency! John jumped on me. Taxiing further, I finally made the correct call, then we taxied back to the clubhouse, shut down and tied down.

Insight #7

Maintain a listening watch on your radio frequency. Never make a transmission when someone else is in mid-call!

John was kind enough about it afterwards. He seems like a decent instructor and bloke – but quite rightly, he has to jump on mistakes like that. I guess it’s how we all learn.

Wow. What a full-on day. But, 2.2 more hours in my logbook, some improvement, and a heap of learning. It’s really coming towards me in a tsunami now.

Tomorrow just 1 hour, depending on weather, will be either more stall work, or a ground briefing about circuits. So we’re coming up on circuit training … stay tuned.

10 responses to “Day 4: Lessons 4 and 5 – Turns/Slow Flight and Stalls

  1. Nice progress Dave! I’ll get the Aviation Claims people to relax a little now

    • Hi Chris

      Great to hear from you and thanks muchly for the interest in my humble blog. Hope it’s worth it. Keep the Aviation Claims staff on alert, we’re not out of the woods yet.

      Take care

  2. Pingback: Day 4: Lessons 4 and 5 – Turns/Slow Flight and Stalls (via MidLifePilot’s Flying Blog) « Calgary Recreational and Ultralight Flying Club

  3. You’re doing great mate! My radio calls are not perfect but trust me, they get easier with time. I don’t know about how others go, but I actually developed a radio voice around about my 50th hour or so. You become more confident and know when to make calls that are slightly non-standard but still kosher in the overall scheme of things.

    For example, on my solo nav, I remember being halfway through my preflights on the central apron and had ATIS dialed up. The transmission was not entirely clear that morning and I wanted to be sure the active runway was the right one for departures via a certain waypoint.

    I radioed Ground and asked: “Jandakot Ground, Papa Mike Whiskey at the central apron. Request confirmation that runway 24 left is the active runway for departures via Armadale?” Ground confirmed and then asked if I wanmted clearance to taxi from the central apron to my runway holding point. I responded: “Negative Ground. I’m still completing preflights and will call in five minutes, Papa Mike Whiskey.” They said: “Understood.”

    I have a huge amount of respect for the Tower folks. They listen to all sorts of things up there and cope with tonnes. They know not all calls will be textbook perfect because not all situations up there will be standard all the time.

    When all else fails, just speak plainly and calmly. That’s ok. Another example for you – this happened on my flight test itself when I landed at Jandakot for a rest after coming in from flying through CTA. I was sequenced at # 2 for R12 behind a Grob trainer who was turning base. At late downwind, I lost sight of the Grob and didn’t want to turn early in case I might cut him off and cause an incident. I waited 2 secs and radioed Tower: “Tower, Lima Juliet Sierra at late downwind for runway one-two, I’ve lost sight of the Grob. Can I turn base now?” Tower comes back: “Lima Juliet Sierra, the Grob is on short final, so it’s ok to turn base now.” Me: “Copy that, Lima Juliet Sierra.”

    So, both examples are not exactly textbook calls but the key thing is ATC knew who I was, where I was and what I wanted to achieve.

    It’s all about repetition and you’re doing great!

    • Thanks for your encouragement! I’m quite OK with the radio voice – I’ve done a lot of public presentations over the years and I used to play in a band, so I’m comfortable with the voice thing funnily enough – but it’s getting the content of the calls right that’s challenging me from the outset. I just need practice, and time. I totally get your point about repetition.

      My instructor said something similar. If I can clearly communicate (1) who I want to talk to, (2) who and what I am, (3) where I am and what my intentions are and (4) what I want, I shouldn’t go too far wrong. I think I’m probably a bit hung up about making my calls too long and wordy and taking up precious airspace time. That too will pass with experience (I hope).

  4. Have a look here for tips on Forced Landing procedures.

  5. Pingback: Day 14: Lesson 18 – Advanced Stalls « MidLifePilot's Flying Blog

  6. Pingback: Day 21: Lesson 28 – Incipient Spins and Steep Turns « MidLifePilot's Flying Blog

  7. Pingback: Day 21: Lessons 29 and 30 – Pre-Area Solo Checkride and First Area Solo « MidLifePilot's Flying Blog

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