Tag Archives: circuits

Back in the circuit again … (aka: You can never do too many circuits)

Date: 18/09/2011

Hours flown Dual Command Total
This flight 0.0 1.1 1.1
Total to date 51.2 16.3 67.5

Well, life has taken an interesting turn since I passed my PPL test last month. Specifically, I have taken a redundancy package from Suncorp after 5 years service there, and as of last Friday I am officially unemployed!

A strange feeling. I’ve never been out of work since leaving university.

In actual fact, I’m straight back on to the job market and have reasonable expectations of picking something up in the next few months. But, one of the side benefits of a little time off – within prudent budgetary limits, of course – is I might get a little more flying in!

So I kicked off my sabbatical proper with an hour in the Bankstown circuit today in one of my old warhorse favourite aircraft, UFY.

Cherokee UFY

Today’s objective was simple. It’s been a little over a month since I last flew an aircraft, and I have plans to take a friend up in a couple of weeks time, armed (hopefully) with my new PPL. So I felt in need of a little brushing up on basic technique, and of course now being a PPL, I need to maintain my currency for passenger flying by making a minimum of 3 takeoffs and 3 landings in the 90 days immediately before taking anyone with me.

My erstwhile Grade 1 check ride instructor, Ashley, was kind enough to sign me out, and also reckoned I was good to sign off the DI (Daily Inspection) on the aircraft by myself – a privilege enjoyed at the PPL level. That’s one less minor hassle I now have to deal with: I’m empowered to sign off the aircraft by myself.

Getting out there

Takeoffs were to the east this morning on runway 11R, with information Golf and a light variable breeze. Despite 4 weeks out and a rather turbulent frame of mind due to my job situation, I went through the routine and mantra of my pre-fligh, taxying, run-up and pre-takeoff checks, and soon found myself at holding point Y2 for 11 right. Clearance duly received, I opened the throttle and was away.

I am getting better – slowly, incrementally better! How do I know this? Because today I remembered to use a bit of right rudder pedal pressure from the very first takeoff, thus avoiding the fearsome drift to the left I experienced on my last circuits outing. Runway alignment today was maintained consistently, thank goodness.

What was not pleasing – but perhaps not surprising – were my initial landings. The first four were – well – dodgy. Not unsafe dodgy, but poor technique dodgy. It took me until the 5th of my 7 circuits to execute a decent landing. 6 and 7 were also OK, once I hit my stride. (This was interspersed with a go-around on my 4th approach for landing, the tower having neglected to give me landing clearance by the time I was on very late final).

I think I learned something though. My landings improved when I really narrowed my focus on the runway threshold and the piano keys ahead of me, and really concentrated on nailing my approach speed, using my feet actively to maintain runway alignment, and lifting my eyes to the far end of the runway after I was over the threshold. For some reason, holding off in the landing flare was a bit of a challenge for me today and it took me several goes to really get it right.

Ah well, all good. As I’ve noted many times – any any good experienced flyer will also tell you – having a new PPL is basically having a license to learn. I’m under no illusions as to my ability and skills. Yes, I can fly a light aircraft competently and safely, but if there’s 100 steps between being a novice and a master, I reckon I’m on about step 5.

On the 7th circuit, having achieved 2 decent landings, I decided to call it a day and requested a landing on the north side of the airport – if possible – to minimise taxying time. Tower cleared me to land on the big runway (runway 11C, or one one centre) and I made my 3rd decent landing of the day. Taxying back and shutting down, I was well pleased with the session and very, very happy to be back to doing what I love. Truly, any more than a month without flying and I get jumpy.

Something unusual back at the club

Having parked UFY on the flight line, I walked back to the club and was pleased to see this rather lovely Tiger Moth parked out the front of the Schofields clubhouse.

Tiger Moth

I don’t know whose aircraft this is, or where they were off to today, but it’s not every day you see one of these classic aeroplanes. Talk about a serious blast from the past. I gawked at this lovely machine for several minutes, marvelling at the basic simplicity of its “instrument panel” as shown below:

Instrument panel of visiting Tiger Moth

They sure don’t make ’em like they used to.

Progress of my license

Before writing this blog post, I called CASA to check on the progress of my license. I’m told my application is on the top of the pile, and if (as is highly likely) they get to it tomorrow, they should be posting my license before the end of the week. I’m as nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof – I can’t wait to get the piece of paper in my hand!

Back in the circuit: Brushing up on some fundamentals after 5 weeks no flying

Date: 13/07/2011

Hours flown Dual Command Instruments
This flight 0.00 0.80 0.00
Total to date 44.04 13.10 2.00

After nearly 6 weeks since I last flew (on my final cross-country solo) I managed to get out to the airport today for an hour of solo circuits. (Well, nearly an hour … 48 minutes to be exact, as circumstances conspired against me getting a full hour, but hey, it’s all good).

I’m scheduled (weather permitting) to fly my final dual cross-country navigation flight next week, and I’ve already postponed it once. If this flight happens as scheduled, it will have been over 6 weeks since my last cross-country flight and in any case it’s been my longest interval so far between flights. I blogged recently on the topic of “how much flying is enough“, knowing that for some years to come my flights will be at a maximum of 4-6 week intervals. So apart from a desire to get out amongst it for an hour or so, I also genuinely suspected that I’m probably facing the problem experienced by all part-time pilots – that is, getting rusty. I figured I’d rather work out the kinks in the circuit, rather than cross-country next week, so today was my first time back in the circuit since my 4th circuit solo back in March, some 3 1/2 months and 33 flying hours ago.

In short, it was great. Circuits may not be all that exotic in terms of things we prefer to do when we fly, but they’re valuable, they’re necessary, and I enjoyed the hell out of today’s flying. It felt good not only to just get out there, but also to circle back after my advanced training and my cross-country exercises and revisit some of the basics. And as it turned out, I was right. I am rusty, and today was an invaluable refresher course.

Getting up

I had my Warrior of choice, NFR, booked today, but the flying gods intervened as they are wont to do and I ended up flying UFY, another aircraft I know well (though slightly less so).

I had my instructor John sign me out with the aircraft and do the DI (Daily Inspection) for me – remember I can’t sign off on a DI myself until I’ve got my PPL – and it all looked good. But, turned out that NFR’s stabilator was sticking – it was not moving up and down freely to the full extent of its normal range of movement. There was no obvious cause of this problem, and it simply wasn’t something I was comfortable ignoring. So, I quickly switched my booking from NFR to UFY.

UFY was all good – John doing the DI for me on this also – but also was lacking air in the left landing wheel, causing me further delay while I called out the fuel truck and borrowed their air pump. So between all the frigging around waiting for someone to sign me out and DI my aircraft, inspecting NFR, switching to UFY, inspecting UFY and then waiting for the fuel truck, it wasn’t until 08:40 that I was ready for engine start and radioing Bankstown Ground for permission to start. (This against an 07:30 booking, for which I only had the aircraft until 09:30).

But, c’est la vie. Start-up clearance received, I started UFY easily enough for such a cold morning (Sydney’s coldest in some 8 years or so) and headed out to the manoeuvring area and runways, feeling just ever so slightly rusty and keyed up after several weeks off. The weather was reasonable enough: bitterly cold (by Sydney standards at least) and with some nasty looking cloud above 5,000 feet, but CAVOK and with only an 8 knot crosswind blowing, so perfectly adequate for the purposes of a circuit flight.

There’s not an awful lot of highlights to describe from an hour of 5 or 6 takeoffs and landings, so I’ll simply reflect on what was good about today’s session, and what could have gone better.

What was good

Heaps of stuff. Stand-outs:

  • Safety first. Doing the right thing in switching from NFR to UFY once the stabilator issue was identified: absolutely no point or future in taking a gamble on whether or not your aircraft is going to fly safely.
  • General radio and airport procedures. It’s quite a rigmarole when you fly in the circuits at Bankstown. Clearance for engine start; clearance to taxi; clearance when ready in run-up bay; taxi to runway holding point; clearance for takeoff; the mandatory downwind calls on each circuit; clearances to land; and the final clearance to taxy back to the parking area. But despite several months out of the circuit, it all came back quickly and easily. (I had been practising the calls out loud for the last week or so, which I find definitely helps).
  • Situational awareness in the circuit. There were 5 others in the circuit with me this morning – a full house, as it were – and therefore at its busiest. But it didn’t phase me. I saw all the traffic I needed to, well in advance, including a Cessna 152 that overtook me in the circuit (much to the displeasure of Tower).
  • I got better the more circuits I did. This might seem self-evident, but there was a marked difference between my first circuit today and my 5th or 6th (and last). The first 3 circuits – takeoffs in particular – were a bit scratchy, but the last few were hugely better.
  • Flapless landing. I managed to get in a flapless landing on my final landing today, and it was far and away the best I’d done – a universe away from the 85-knot screamer I unleashed on my instructor back in my pre-GFPT checkride.
  • Still got my pilot mojo. My blog friend and colleague Flying Ninja likes to refer to his “pilot mojo”, a concept I like a lot and completely understand. It takes a while to get it. I got it probably around the time of my first cross-country solo flight, and today I was relieved to feel that I’ve still got it despite so many flightless weeks. Long may it stay with me!

What could have gone better

In general, not a lot, but the things that stand out were:

  • Finding BROC on first take-off. On climb-out after my first take-off I was accelerating into the climb at around 200 feet AGL and could see the ASI touching 85 knots and rising. Weirdly, for a second or two I registered this fact and that I was going too fast – I really wanted to be climbing at about 80 KIAS to achieve Best Rate Of Climb. And for a split second – I still don’t know why – the answer seemed to be to lower the nose of the aircraft. My right hand even crept towards the trim wheel ready to trim the aircraft into a nose-lower attitude. Fortunately, sanity and my flight training prevailed and I remembered to my chagrin that to lower my airspeed in the climb-out I needed to raise the nose – which I did, and quickly found myself the desired airspeed of 80 knots for BROC. A bit disturbing that something so basic eluded me momentarily after a few weeks out. Yet another salutory argument for staying focused, sharp and alert at all time.
  • My third landing. An absolute dog, a bone-crunching shocker. Totally took my eyes off the far end of the runway, don’t know where I was looking. Fortunately it was only 1 of 6, the other 5 being either good or very good.
  • Forgetting to fly in balance. The first 3 takeoffs had me edging over the left hand boundary of the runway, the gyroscopic effect in UFY being so pronounced. Once I remembered to use some right rudder on takeoff and climb, this fixed itself and I managed to take off in a straight line.
  • Maintaining 1000 feet in the circuit. Again, this got better in the 2nd half of the flight, but in the first 2 or 3 circuits I climbed up to 100 feet higher than the target 1000 feet, simply due to poor nose attitude and use of trim once I reached the downwind leg and levelled out.
  • Landing roll on the first 2 or 3 landings. My use of pedals to control the aircraft’s direction via the nosewheel was not as strong, positive and proactive as it needed to be on the first few landing rolls, resulting in drifting off to the left of the runway centreline and a limited amount of (controlled) wobbling from side to side. Again, this problem disappeared in later circuits.
All to be expected, I think. But as I said, I had fun. Which is the whole idea. And I feel a lot more confident going into next week’s cross-country nav flight.

How much flying is “enough” to “keep current”?

As regular readers of this blog may have noticed, the blogging frequency has dropped way down. The main reason for this is that, unlike my intense training period in March/April of this year, I’m not flying every day, but only every few weeks. In addition, I’m now in the very late stages of my path to achieving my PPL, with all exams now done and only a single dual cross-country nav flight standing between me and my final PPL test.

So the vaguely vexing issue of long-ish intervals between training flights has been somewhat on my mind. As I write, it’s been nearly 4 weeks since my last flight, which I believe is the longest interval since I started my flight training.

I had the final dual nav flight scheduled for Wednesday of this week, but as fortune would have it, I was ill over the weekend and as of Monday this week I was still recovering. As a precaution – not wishing to take to the air with any remnant whatsoever of the stomach bug I was suffering from – I cancelled the flight. For various reasons, the next workable day on which I can do this flight is 20 July, a few weeks from now. I compared that to the last date on which I flew – back on 3 June – and saw that this is an interval of 47 days between flights.

Which is probably (a) pretty common for “weekend warrior” student and private pilots like me, and (b) by no means as extended an interval as that practised/suffered by many part-time pilots. Having said that, it will be the longest interval between flights that I’ve yet had, and – though I freely confess to being paranoid – I do feel a little rusty already. (Think I’ll try and squeeze in an hour of circuits late next week, just to get back into the swing of things a bit.)

It got me thinking, though, about how much flying is a “bare minimum” for keeping reasonably abreast of your meagre skills as a VFR private pilot, part time? Once I’ve got my PPL, I’ve got the following rough plan which I think is both realistic and adequate:

  1. At least one one-hour local flight per month, alternating between circuits and training area flights (each training area flight to focus on one or two key manoeuvres eg stalls, forced landings); and
  2. A cross-country navigation/pleasure flight every 3 months, including the occasional Victor One/Harbour Scenic flight for friends/visitors.

What do you guys think: what is the “minimum” frequency with which you try to fly, so that you feel “current”?


A few weeks after writing this blog entry I ventured back into the circuit after nearly 6 weeks of no flying. This gave me some insight into just how rusty you can get after even a relatively short break from flying. Something to be well aware of for “weekend warriors” such as myself.

Close encounters in the circuit: Was the other guy in the wrong, and what can I learn?

It’s been nearly two weeks since I last flew, and in that time I’ve returned to full time work. The balance of my PPL – perhaps another 15 hours – will now have to be done on a part-time basis, maybe once a week. Factoring weather variability in, I anticipate it will take another 2 to 3 months.

Back in late April I made my maiden cross-country solo flight, a 2-hour return trip down the Hume Highway nearly to Marulan, then east direct to Wollongong, land, then direct north back to Bankstown. It was a fantastic trip on which I learned a lot.

But there’s one thing that stands out particularly, and the more I think about it, the more it’s got me reflecting on the question of safety in the circuit.

Standard circuit legs

To set the scene, for any non-flying readers, there are standard “legs” that you fly when flying in the circuit around a landing strip. As described in the diagram below, these legs are always relative to the “active” runway in use. This in turn depends on the prevailing weather conditions, in particular the direction from which the wind is blowing.

For illustrative purposes: in the below diagram, the runway runs in the 11 (110 degrees magnetic) direction (from top to bottom of page) and in the 29 (290 degrees magnetic) direction (from bottom to top of page). Let’s assume the wind is currently blowing from 110 degrees magnetic. In this situation, the runway in use would be runway 11 – that is, takeoffs and landings take place in the 11 direction, “into the wind”. The standard circuit legs are sketched accordingly, assuming a standard left-hand circuit.

The situation at YWOL

When I landed at Wollongong (YWOL) back in April, this was the standard circuit in operation that day. (YWOL’s north/south runway has different headings to the example I’ve sketched in the diagram, but the principles and circuit legs are the same).

I approached YWOL from the west and made the standard 10-mile inbound call on the YWOL CTAF (Common Traffic Advisory Frequency). I then descended to circuit height by doing a couple of orbits on the “dead” side of the YWOL circuit (on the left hand side of the runway with reference to the above diagram).

At circuit height, I made the mandatory CTAF call indicating my intentions and joined the circuit “mid-crosswind”. That is to say, I flew at circuit height across the runway, from left to right as you view this diagram, more or less right across the middle of the runway between the north and south ends.

Once across the runway and on the “live” side (on the right hand side of the runway with reference to the above diagram), I then turned onto the downwind leg of the circuit, making the mandatory CTAF call as I was doing so.

Now, here’s where things got interesting. The following amended diagram hopefully illustrates the situation.

As I flew downwind, and (as I recall it) not long before I was due to make my base turn, I heard a call over the CTAF, “Traffic Wollongong, Diamond XXX [I don’t remember his call-sign] joining base for 11”. (Actually it was for runway 16, but I’m trying to stay consistent with my diagram). I glanced ahead of me and to my right, and a second or two later, there he was, joining the base leg from my right – and it was the first time I’d seen him! I was not a little surprised. Here I’d been happily tooling along, alone in the YWOL circuit, and all of a sudden I had traffic joining the circuit ahead of me and flying directly across my flight path from right to left.

(The diagram may be a bit misleading insofar as the scale is off. The Diamond was not as close to me as the diagram suggests. But having said that, I felt the separation between our two aircraft was more than a tad too close for comfort).

A split second’s assessment and I decided on two things:

  1. That I was not at risk of colliding with the Diamond – he flew right across my flight path from right to left, and was quickly clear of my flight path. I did not need to take any sort of evasive action. Having said that, if he was any slower, or if he’d been much closer to me when he joined base, I do feel that I would have had to take evasive action.
  2. To maintain adequate separation between the Diamond and me, I would have to fly an extended downwind leg and then turn base later than I usually would, in order to give the Diamond time to land and clear the runway before I came down behind him. (I would have course had the option to go around had I approached the runway and felt that landing was still not safe, but this did not eventuate).

So that was that. The Diamond landed. I flew a slightly longer downwind leg, then turned base and final and landed uneventfully.

My take-outs

The more I’ve thought about this since, the more I think it’s one of those classic learning situations in aviation in which, regardless of who’s “in the right” and who’s “in the wrong”, the critical importance of maintaining situational awareness and practising alerted see-and-avoid techniques is highlighted.

Was I in the wrong, or was the Diamond?

It’s difficult to say. I definitely felt that the Diamond’s entrance to the circuit was too sudden, that he did not give enough notice of his intentions, that he was too close to me, and that he was unaware of my presence in the circuit.

Checking the current AIP (Aeronautical Information Publication), I note that para 47.7.1 in AIP ENR 1.1 notes the following (the italics are mine):

Joining on Base

Joining in base leg, whilst not prohibited, is not a recommended standard procedure. CASA recommends pilots join the circuit on either the crosswind or downwind leg. However, pilots who choose to join on base leg should only do so if they:

  1. have determined the wind direction and speed;
  2. have determined the runway in use;
  3. give way to other circuit traffic and ensure the aircraft can safely (no traffic conflict likely) join the base leg applicable to the circuit direction in use at the standard height; and
  4. broadcast their intentions.

I am aware, from some introductory Googling, that there is a wide variety of opinion around the practice of joining circuits on the base leg (and even more so around joining on final). Some are for it, some against it. And CASA does not make things easier by not recommending, but then failing to forbid, joining on base. Based on the above, it must be acknowledged that the Diamond was not breaking any rules simply by virtue of joining the circuit on base. However, I certainly believe that the Diamond contravened provision (c) in that he did not give way to me, and in that he did not ensure adequate separation between his aircraft and mine. I also feel that he contravened provision (d) insofar at it was literally only a second or two between his radio call for joining base and his proceeding to do so.

On balance, I’ve arrived at the view that – strictly speaking – the Diamond was in the wrong.

So what? What about my situational awareness?

With all that said, I have to acknowledge the fact that I was completely unaware of the Diamond’s presence until his base call and joining base. I did not see him until alerted to his presence by his radio call. And I can’t say for sure whether he did, or didn’t, make his inbound call at 10 miles or closer. If he had made an inbound call, you could certainly make the case that good airmanship on my part – had I been listening out carefully on the YWOL CTAF – would at least have put the Diamond somewhere in my “mental picture” of the YWOL traffic situation and made me at least aware that he was out there somewhere and inbound. Had this been the case, I could perhaps have been more vigilant when joining and in the circuit, perhaps been slightly more ready to respond to his arrival, and perhaps have seen him earlier through more active scanning.

What did I learn?

  1. Be super-vigilant in the circuit, especially at non-towered aerodromes. Just because you haven’t heard radio calls from other aircraft doesn’t mean they aren’t out there – somewhere – perhaps quite close to you.
  2. Don’t assume you’re alone. Even if you can’t see any other traffic – if you’re not hearing any – expect the unexpected. Keep scanning during all legs of the circuit, including directions from which you may not normally expect traffic to appear.
  3. It doesn’t matter who’s “right” and who’s “wrong” – you’ve still got to stay safe. This was not a particularly close call, but it could have been, and in the heat of the moment, no-one cares who was the good guy and who was the baddie. It’s still my responsibility to remain alert and to see-and-avoid, to keep myself and my aircraft safe, even if the other guy’s not doing the right thing.
  4. I did the right thing and handled the situation well. I heard the Diamond’s call; I immediately spotted him; and I took positive steps to avoid him and to ensure adequate traffic separation.

As a result of this experience, hopefully I am now a safer pilot. But I’d be really curious to hear the views of any other pilots reading this.

Day 17: Lesson 23 – Crosswind takeoffs and landings

Date: 26/03/2011

Hours flown Dual Command Instruments
This flight 1.10 0.00 0.00
Total to date 21.14 1.40 0.70

Just a quick post to get up to date. Went up Saturday in IJD for my mandatory crosswind circuits lesson as weather was finally suitable. Wind from south min 10 max 25 knots, gusting, which was pretty much ideal crosswind conditions with crosswind maximum of 17 knots.

That said, during the lesson the crosswind I actually experienced was not above 10 or 12 knots, but it did quality as crosswind, fortunately. I made a reasonable fist of the hour, crabbing into the wind on my approaches and trying to dip my right wing into the wind on landing.

I would very much like to have more crosswind exposure to the same conditions before experiencing any heavier crosswind, however!

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

Day 16: Lesson 22 – Circuits/circuit emergencies in strong gusty wind

Following my highly successful and gratifying 4th solo this morning, the wind really got up and we decided to head out for an hour of dual circuits in the hope of knocking off my mandatory hour of crosswind circuits instruction. Unfortunately, the wind – while really starting to blow a gale with gusts of up to 20 knots, first from my left on takeoff and then from my right as the lesson progressed – didn’t have enough of a serious crosswind component to qualify. So that lesson remains to be done. However, John did tell me I could log this hour as “circuits in strong, gusty 20 knot winds, with circuit emergencies”.

Not too much to write. Needless to say it was by far the windiest and most challenging conditions in which I’ve flown so far. The wind played hell with all legs of my circuit, blowing me every which way, and introducing me to the subtle joys of learning to “lay off your drift” by angling the aircraft into the wind so as to fly straight circuit legs. By and large I failed miserably at doing that today. I spent an hour getting thoroughly bounced around and wrung out, making a series of successful but not pretty landings. John – I swear there’s a malicious streak in him somewhere – decided to make 2 of these simulated engine failures. So, 2 circuits in a row, we cut engine power on our monstrously fast downwind legs and made glide approaches to the runway.

Both times I came in too high and, fighting an almost 20 knot headwind to get down to the runway, had much difficulty in doing so. John showed me how to sideslip down to the runway – basically a controlled technique involving opposite rudder and aileron to rapidly lose height without gaining airspeed. My heart jumped into my mouth both times, we lost so much height so quickly that the runway seemed like it was just rushing vertically up at me through the cockpit window. At what seemed like the last moment, John brought the plane out of sideslip perhaps 25 feet off the runway and handed her over to me to land, which I did (though not prettily). I think I’ll need a lot more practise to do the sideslip manoeuvre that close to the ground without needing a change of pants.

(John’s a glider pilot also – it really shows in the confidence with which he sideslipped SFK today).

Less said the better about the landings, but both we and aircraft got back in one piece, so in one sense, mission accomplished.

Day 16: Lesson 21 – Fourth Solo

Date: 24/03/2011

Hours flown Dual Command Instruments
This flight 0.90 1.00 0.00
Total to date 20.94 2.40 0.70

Fourth solo now done and out of the way! Wham, bam … from 1st solo circuit just 2 days ago to a full hour of circuits today, go-to-whoa. Amazing how fast things can move if you’ve got good weather and the time to fly twice a day.

This morning was clear, though a 12-knot wind from 300 degrees (coming from about 10 degrees to my right as I was taking off from 29 left) gave me some moderate headwind and minor crosswind to deal with, as I’ll relate.

It was NFR (November Foxtrot Romeo) again this morning, my ride from yesterday’s 2nd and 3rd solos. After John arrived at the clubhouse I walked out to NFR on the flight line to check her out. Tabs of fuel in the left tank and a full tank on the right meant I didn’t have to worry about fuel this morning. Oil was good at 6 litres and brake fluid just an inch down from full. The aircraft checked out OK and John signed off the Maintenance Release to record that the daily inspection had taken place.

John asked me to talk him through what I was going to do, so I related my plans for pre-start and start-up procedures (including getting radio clearance for start-up), taxi and the taxi call to Ground, run-ups, pre-takeoff, safety brief (which I gave to myself), circuits, landing and taxi back to clubhouse. Satisfied, John told me to have fun and left me alone with NFR.

There’s not an awful lot to relate in terms of detail. I went through the routine as I’ve learned it (thoroughly, hopefully) over the last 12 or so training hours. Start-up radio call. Start-up. Taxi to Mike 2. Radio call for taxi clearance (Ground asking me whether I’d got start-up clearance, my reply, “Affirm”). Taxi via Kilo, November and Lima to run-up bay for runway 29L. Run-up and pre-takeoff checks. Safety brief. Taxi call from run-up bay. Call to tower from runway holding point. Clearance to line up. Clearance for takeoff, and away we go.

The wind really gave me an extra dimension to deal with. Climbing almost straight into it, and with only myself on board, I climbed like the Millennium Falcon and was ready for my crosswind turn almost before I knew it. I reached 1000 feet on crosswind and was already at circuit height turning downwind. And the 12-knot wind, nearly 100% behind me, gave me an absolutely mothering-fast downwind leg. Precious little time to throttle back at start of downwind and run through my BUMFISH checks before I’m at the runway threshold needing to pull back to 2000 RPM and put out flaps.

The landings were actually really very good. Of the 4 or 5 touch-and-gos, all but one were lovely light landings, straight and aligned with the runway. (I so wish John could have been in the plane to experience these … my afternoon lesson, as I’ll relate in my next post, featured much rougher attempts).

Repeated glances at the VDO (forget what this stands for, but it’s basically the meter in the cockpit that measures how long the engine’s running – it’s the basis on which they bill you and you log your hours) showed that my hour was nearly up, so I radioed for a full stop landing with a request to land on 29R (“north side”) to land closer to the clubhouse and minimise taxiing time. Not getting clearance for 29R, I landed on 29L having been granted permission to make a right exit across the other 2 runways. Holding short of these both until cleared to cross by the tower, I quickly made it back out of the manoeuvring area, made my final taxi call and got over to Schofields and parking. Parking her on the grass, I shut down and allowed myself a moment of congratulation on getting through my first completely solo sortie!

Endorsement on type

Having completed my mandatory 1st through 4th solos, John had Ashley (my instructor from first solo on Tuesday) retrospectively stamp and authorise my logbook with an endorsement to certify that I am now competent to fly by day, in VFR conditions, on PA28 type aircraft (that is, Piper Cherokee Warriors). My first endorsement and I couldn’t be prouder of it!

Video of a landing from 3rd solo

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.