Day 15: Lessons 19 and 20 – 2nd and 3rd solos

Date: 23/03/2011

Hours flown Dual Command Instruments
This flight 0.90 1.20 0.00
Total to date 20.04 1.40 0.70

Well, no wasting time. Today dawned clear and nearly cloudless, and my usual instructor John wasted no time in getting me out for my 2nd and 3rd circuit solos.

The MO seems to be about gradually letting you do more consecutive circuits each time, loading you up with more responsibility with each solo sortie. 2nd solo was some dual circuits followed by 2 solo circuits – 1 takeoff, 1 touch-and-go, 1 full stop landing. 3rd solo was 4 solo circuits – 1 takeoff, 3 touch-and-gos, 1 full stop landing. (Gotta say by the way, these solos are hard on the cheque book – each full stop landing costs me $15, and over my 3 solos so far I’ve shelled out $45 in addition to the usual!)

Second Solo

I was a tad rushed and bothered when I got out to Bankstown this morning. Had a difficult early morning with the baby – she’s taken to waking up in the middle of the night now and again, and at 4am this morning she managed to climb out of her cot with a big thump onto the wooden bedroom floor. She wasn’t harmed, and we got her back to sleep, but I and particularly Laura were pretty tired and I didn’t feel totally rested. I was conscious of this when I arrived at the club, took a few breaths and just got on with it, but the upshot was that I ended up pre-flighting and taking out an aircraft I hadn’t actually booked! (I’d booked UFY, but I took out NFR). Fortunately my error and lateness in getting out to the circuit resulted in us being no more than 15 minutes late back to the club, but someone else was waiting for the aircraft after me, and it wasn’t great form to bring it in late when I hadn’t even booked it.

Anyway. (As it turned out, the person/people who had NFR after me cancelled their flight, but still.)

John and I did 3 or 4 circuits – one in particular being a “very good circuit overall” according to John, so I dropped him at the run-up bay on 29 left and headed back for my 2 circuits. Being in NFR this morning and things still being fairly cool, the plane climbed like a bat out of hell! (Unlike UFY in my first solo yesterday – it was hotter yesterday and UFY is an older aircraft).

Not much to say about the circuits that I didn’t describe in detail yesterday. It was wonderfully clear and smooth, nil turbulence. Only issue was a sharp surprise when I was about to turn downwind on my 1st circuit when I noticed a Cessna 152 on my left at about my height and turning downwind himself! Turned out he’d been behind me while I was taking off and he’d done a go-around – that is, he didn’t land but headed back up into the circuit for another go. Tower didn’t see fit to tell me about this until after I’d seen the Cessna myself. Fortunately however I did see him. I didn’t need to take any really drastic evasive action, but it still affected my circuit. I slowed down much earlier than I otherwise would have done just to make sure I didn’t run up the back of him. (My Piper Warrior cruises at about 10 KIAS more than the Cessna 152). I also extended my downwind leg considerably to give him space to land before I did.

Insight #20

This was another good early lesson in the importance of maintaining a vigilant watch outside your aircraft. Even in controlled airspace, the tower won’t always tell you about conflicting traffic. Rely on your own “see and avoid” vigilance first and foremost.

Making a decent landing roll – avoiding a repeat of my unfortunate landing after yesterday’s Advanced Stalls lesson – I taxied back to pick up John, who took a few happy snaps of me for the “first solo” page on the club website and newsletter.

Third Solo

As things turned out, I went out again in NFR for my 3rd solo. In yesterday’s stalls lesson I’d discovered that the stall warning horn was not working (even though I’d tested it before takeoff), and had made sure Ashley had made an entry on UFY’s maintenance release. Consequently, UFY was in maintenance today and unavailable, but NFR became available for my 2nd session today, so it worked out well.

This time it was just 2 dual circuits before John hopped out. (1st dual was marred only by my forgetting to reduce power to cruise on early downwind, but a reminder from John was enough to set that right). Can’t recall all the detail, but a couple of noteworthy specifics:

  • On late final approach for landing after my first circuit I was 99% sure I hadn’t received my landing clearance from tower – there was plenty of radio traffic, perhaps they forgot. I did have the option of checking with them before landing, but I opted to do a go-around – my first solo one, and reasonably well executed I think.
  • Either the 2nd or 3rd touch-and-go was bloody ordinary. Hit the runway OK, but not well lined up with the centre line, so my takeoff roll had me heading for the left hand side of the runway and I had extreme difficulty re-centreing the aircraft. Fortunately I reached 55 KIAS before over the edge so I just lifted the nose and got up. Not the best takeoff I’d ever done.
  • Conditions for this solo were significantly more difficult – a rising crosswind and a fair bit of turbulence so I was bounced around a wee bit. Handled it OK. Made it extra important to focus on my airspeed on base and final legs though, the wind was gusting enough that sometimes my airspeed – which I’m trying to keep at 70 KIAS – would increase up to nearly 80 or down to nearly 60. Proved to myself that my throttle use on landing is getting much better though.

Touching down for my full stop landing, I was glad to get down. The wind was getting up and my work rate in the circuits had been pretty high. But it was a good landing roll, and John grabbed another photo or two and then showed me video of my landing that he’d taken on his iPhone. (I believe he’s emailing it to me, will get it on YouTube when available). It looks good from a distance, anyway.

Next

Weather permitting, tomorrow’s first session is my first completely solo circuit session. I’ll have the aircraft entirely to myself, from startup at the club to taxiing, takeoffs, circuits and landings, to shutdown back at the club, including all radio calls. Can’t wait!

Addendum

John got some video of my final approach and landing during my 3rd solo yesterday afternoon at Bankstown. It’s taken from his iPhone, so there’s no zoom and it’s a bit shaky, but should you care, at about 29 seconds in to the 1-minute footage, you can see me in NFR make my final approach and landing.

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3 responses to “Day 15: Lessons 19 and 20 – 2nd and 3rd solos

  1. Sounds great! It’s always good to know you can handle stuff when it happens – shows that you’ve made good progress. I need to try and do some circuits myself on weeks when I can’t be arsed doing a nav flight somewhere.

  2. Pingback: Day 16: Lesson 21 – Fourth Solo « MidLifePilot's Flying Blog

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