Tag Archives: go-arounds

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!

Day 19: Lessons 25/26– Forced Landings

Date: 30/03/2011

Hours flown Dual Command Instruments
This flight 2.00 0.00 0.00
Total to date 24.64 1.40 0.70

Today was the nicest flying weather in pretty much the nearly 5 weeks I’ve flown. (Discounting, of course, the storm that hit the Sydney area around 3pm this afternoon!)

The ride was NFR (November Foxtrot Romeo), probably the aircraft I’ve spent the most time in now. I was expecting to do steep turns today, but that’s slated for tomorrow. Today – for both lessons – we did (practise) forced landings.

From a theory point of view, there’s an established body of knowledge and procedure around engine failure/forced landing situations. Some of this focuses around establishing “high key” and “low key” decision points at 2500 feet and 1500 feet AGL (above ground level). However, as John pointed out, in real forced landing situations – especially in the heat and stress of the moment – you won’t necessarily know the height of the ground below you and be able to calibrate the high key and low key decision points very accurately. More practically, John recommended that in forced landing situations I choose, preferably, a suitable landing place either to the left or right of the aircraft, that lies visually “under” the wing. In other words, a spot on the ground that you can be sure you can glide to. Failing suitable landing spots to the left or right, try a landing site ahead of the aircraft, or in the last option, behind the aircraft.

So, in real (and simulated) engine failure/forced landing situations, it’s the usual mantra of Aviate-Navigate-Communicate.

  • Aviate – Convert airspeed into height until you reach optimum glide speed (around 75 KIAS in a Warrior). Reach and maintain optimum glide speed. Select your target landing area, taking (quickly) into account a range of factors including wind speed and direction, size of site, slope of site, surface of site, obstacles and obstructions etc. Plan your approach, including contingency plans (eg. what if I can’t make it? what if I come in too high? too low?) And, do a quick run-through of engine/fuel controls and system to see if the engine failure is fixable. (CMF – Carby heat on, Mixture full rich, Fuel pump on, switch fuel tanks).
  • Navigate – Execute your forced landing approach as described above.
  • Communicate – Squawk 7700 on your transponder, and make your Mayday call.

Then if time remains and circumstances permit, do a more comprehensive check of engine and fuel systems – CFMOST. Carby heat on. Fuel pump on. Mixture full rich, including cycling mixture control through full rich-lean range and back. Oil – how are my oil pressure and temperature? Magneto switches – try switching just to the left magneto, then to the right, to see if the engine can run on just the one. And Throttle – cycle through full open-closed range and back.

While this is all going on, of course, there may be passengers to take care of. Calm and reassure them (to the extent possible). Give them something to do – ask them to help by watching out for other air traffic. Instruct them to remove eyeglasses and pens/other objects from shirt pockets.

From a glide approach point of view, part of planning your forced landing (and changing your plans as circumstances dictate) is how you’re going to get there and get down. Do you have enough height for a full circuit? Can you perhaps do only a straight-in final approach, or can you do a base and perhaps even a downwind leg? Do you have enough height that you can even do an upwind leg as well? Do you have to extend your glide a bit to lose height before the landing? Or do you need to cut things short and head straight for your landing site? At all events, can you glide to about 1/3 down your intended landing site? (When, and only when, confident of this last point, is the point at which you can use flaps to slow yourself down).

In real situations, I think if you manage to do all of this, you’re doing well. Main priority, when all is said and done, is to get the aircraft down on the ground and walk away safely and without injury. If the aircraft is undamaged, that’s a bonus, but lives and personal safety are priority #1.

So, how did I do?

First, John demonstrated a forced landing approach to the little gravel strip out at St Mary’s. Easy as pie. Then back up to 3500 feet and it was my turn. I approached way too high and would have overshot the strip and not made it down. Next attempt from 2000 feet was better, I even pulled off a decent sideslip on my own (to lose height quickly) to get down and would have landed relatively safely.

Next attempt I selected a reasonable landing site but lost site of it and therefore had to select an alternative which was nowhere near as good. And in any case, I’d made a poor choice of site given options available – I went for a site on the right hand side of the aircraft, where obstacles and some hilly ground abounded. There was better, more clear and flatter ground off to my left.

Insight #25

Select your preferred forced landing site with care (within the constraints of circumstances and available time). A split-second decision like the one I made above (poorly) can mean the difference between a nearly “ideal” landing site and a much less ideal one.

My final practise forced landing was pretty reasonable. I changed my choice of site 3 times on the way down – once because my preferred landing site had a fence running lengthwise straight down it – but my final site was quite good and I would have got down OK. If anything it showed me that a decision you make at 3500 feet may have to change once you get lower and can see more features on the ground.

More Training Area experience

Apart from the focus on forced landings, I also got some much-needed training area experience, as I approach my Training Area solo. Stuff I’m now more solid on:

  • Departure procedures from Bankstown – maintain 1000 feet (or 1500 depending on takeoff direction) until over the railway tracks. Then up to (say) 2300 feet (no higher than 2500 feet as that is lower boundary of surrounding Class C airspace). Then up to (say) 4000 feet once over a line intersecting Tadpole Lake to the north and 3 Lakes to the south (again, no higher than 4500 feet due lower limits of Class C airspace).
  • Radio and transponder procedures. Once abeam of Prospect Reservoir, switch radio to 124.55 (Sydney Radar) and transponder to 1200.
  • Inbound approach procedures (reporting in at Prospect or 2RN, and joining traffic pattern for landing at Bankstown).

What’s next

So, tomorrow (as usual, weather permitting) we will do our lesson on Steep Turns, with a little Incipient Spins drill thrown in. And in the afternoon I’ll do my pre-Training Area Solo theory exam.

Friday I’ve got a checkride scheduled with Ashley (from my First Solo checkride) so he can verify I’m ready for my Training Area solo. Then, perhaps Monday (or Sunday, if I schedule it?) my Training Area Solo, which I’m really looking forward to. The aircraft all to myself, just me, away from the airport for the first time! Very much looking forward to this.

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.

Day 14: lesson 17 and First Solo!

Date: 22/03/2011

Hours flown Dual Command Instruments
This flight 2.00 0.20 0.00
Total to date 19.14 0.20 0.70

My first solo finally happened today!

It absolutely poured rain this weekend, and to cap it all off, I contracted a stomach bug on Sunday which put me out of action. I pulled the pin on my 2 planned lessons yesterday, as I was still feeling crook and the weather yesterday anyway still being pretty dodgy. (The south coast of NSW has got an absolute drenching and floods in the last few days – it’s clearly been a pretty big trough system). So when I woke up this morning I was very mindful of being “behind” by 2 more lessons. OK, you can’t do anything about the weather. But it was still a lost day.

This morning didn’t look great either, early on there was fog down to 500 feet which would definitely have kiboshed any flying. However the TAF (Terminal Air Forecast) for Bankstown for today forecast some clearing, and I figured that you need to be out at the aerodrome to capitalise on breaks in the weather. (And after all, forecasts are only forecasts). So after dropping the kids off I hared out to Schofields noting some clearing cloud along the way.

Getting here about 0915 and meeting the Grade 1 instructor with whom I’d been slated to fly today, we checked the ATIS and called the tower, as conditions were still marginal but appeared to be clearing. Tower said that we should be right to fly in about half an hour. My instructor (Ashley) reckoned we’d be right to get the pre-solo checkride done, so I preflighted the aeroplane, which today is UFY (Uniform Foxtrot Yankee), possibly the club’s oldest Piper Warrior.

Pre-Flight and Fuelling

I called Shell to get some AVGAS in UFY’s tanks. Chris at Shell asked me to taxi the aircraft to the edge of the tarmac and he’d meet me there with the truck. (Apparently due the heavy rain there’s a NOTAM – Notice to Air Men – requiring vehicles to stay clear of the grassy areas of the aerodrome to avoid churning up the ground and making mud). I advised Ashley of this, and to my surprise, he asked me to start up the aircraft and taxi it over to the clubhouse. (Up until today I’ve not been allowed to start or taxi the aircraft unsupervised, so this was a first.)

I ran through the pre-flight checks, primed the engine and attempted to start it, but repeated attempts were to no avail. Not wanting to flood the engine or do something stupid, I advised Ashley, who jumped in the aircraft with me and advised me to pump the throttle twice. Which I did, and then I got a start! So a small trick picked up there that may come in handy. Taxi over to the apron in front of the hangar next to Schoies, shut down the engine, then follow Ashley’s directions on left and right rudder as he turns the aircraft around to a suitable position for fuelling.

Circuits

With clearance to start up, we taxied out to 29 left and on the way Ashley talked me through the plan. He hadn’t flown with any of my usual instructor’s (John) students before so his preference was to sit back, let me do a couple of circuits and only speak or intervene if I was doing anything that was unsafe or dangerous. He was at pains to emphasise that this wasn’t to make me nervous – which I appreciated.

So, taxi via Kilo, Lima and November to run-up bay for 29L, then into the bay for our run-up checks. Run-up and pre-takeoff checks complete, I ran through my now-learned safety briefing – which Ashley seemed content with. Then clearance to taxi to the holding point S4 short of the runway, switch to tower frequency and make the call. “Bankstown Tower, Warrior Uniform Foxtrot Yankee, ready for circuits on two nine left”. After a brief hold, we were given takeoff clearance and off we went.

Running through the circuit routine, everything went pretty smoothly. I was a little more apprehensive than usual, due to new instructor I guess. After two circuits, landings for both of which were quite good, Ashley commented as such and joked, “Wait till you see what I’ve got in store for you!” Nothing, he added, that I shouldn’t already be ready for, but it was a somehow welcome effort to lighten things up. Ashley did add, though, that my approaches had seemed a little low, and asked what I was aiming for. The runway numbers, I replied. Ash’s suggestion was perhaps to aim for a mark or two above the numbers, seeing as I had plenty of runway and to try to make sure my approaches weren’t too shallow. So I tried this on the next few landings, with good results.

Then Ashley put me though my paces! Over the next 3 circuits we did:

  • Simulated engine failure after takeoff (handled well)
  • Go-around (handled well)
  • Simulated engine failure on downwind (handled OK. This was a glide approach to the runway and I should have got full flaps out earlier than I did. Landing was fast and bouncy. Ashley’s assessment was that I would have been able to stop the aircraft by the end of the runway, but that the glide approach was safe enough and that given my proximity to the runway I could have used full flaps much earlier than I did. It was a really good bit of feedback!)

Insight #19

In an emergency situation necessitating a glide approach to the runway (or other suitable landing area), if you’re confident you’ll make the runway, use your flaps early. It will make your approach and landing slower, easier and safer!

First Solo

After 2 more circuits – one very good, one good except for wobbly landing roll – Ashley judged that I was ready to go. So we came to a full stop on 29L, then taxied back to the run-up bay. Ashley hopped out and asked me to pick him up at that spot after one circuit. He closed the door and walked away.

Wow! I was immediately hit by a feeling of space in UFY’s cabin. No instructor sitting beside me, no-one to have to squeeze my arm and hand past to get my right hand down to the trim wheel between the seats. Funnily enough things also seemed really quiet, too.

“Bankstown Ground, Warrior Uniform Foxtrot Yankee, ready for first solo in run-up bay for two nine right.”

And acknowledging Ground’s directions, “Taxi to holding point Sierra four for two nine right, Uniform Foxtrot Yankee.”

Reaching the holding point, I switch to tower and make my call. “Bankstown Tower, Warrior Uniform Foxtrot Yankee, ready for first solo circuit on two nine right”. Takeoff clearance received, I lined up and opened the throttle.

Made my rolling checks as I was under way – engine revs max and stable, T&P’s (temperatures and pressures) good, ASI (Airspeed Indicator) live. Hitting 55 KIAS (knots indicated airspeed), I eased back on the control column and up we go, climbing out much fast than usual with only one passenger on board (me!) at a best-rate-of-climb speed of around 75 or 76 KIAS. 300 feet and I check engine RPM, T&P’s, carby heat cold, fuel pump on, alignment with runway. 400 feet I start clearing my turn (right-centre-left) and picking a reference point 90 degree to my left, then at 500 feet into a 15-degree banked turn to the left, keeping an eye on my airspeed.

Looking out my window down at the airfield I’m picking when I’m 45 degrees to the runway, then at about 800 feet I roll into my downwind turn, radioing tower as I do so, “Uniform Foxtrot Yankee, turning downwind, full stop”. Tower advises me to follow traffic (was it a Cessna?) on late downwind, I can’t see it yet so I acknowledge, “Number 2 in circuit, looking for traffic, Uniform Foxtrot Yankee”. Settling down at 1000 feet (fighting off my tendency to gain height in early downwind), I throttle back to 2350 RPMs and start to run through my pre-landing checks, cruising at about 95 KIAS. Brake pressure – good. Undercarriage – fixed to aircraft. Then I sight the plane in front of me so I radio tower, “Traffic sighted Uniform Foxtrot Yankee”. Then the rest of my checks – Mixture, full rich. Fuel Pump – on. Instruments – T&P’s good. Switches (that’s magneto switches) to Both, Hatches and harnesses secure.

Level with the threshold of 29L I throttle back to 2000 RPM and put out 2 stages of flaps, quickly bringing UFY back to about 70 KIAS. Checking again for 45 degree alignment with the runway, I put my carby heat on, throttle back to 1500 RPM, lower my nose and turn left onto base. The aircraft ahead of me has just landed. I fly my base leg, making sure my IAS stays at 70, also that I’m losing height as I go, using combinations of pitch and throttle. At 550 feet I turn left onto final, trying to wake my feet up and conscious of my airspeed.

300 feet and I flip the carby heat to off, adding just a little throttle as my airspeed was creeping a touch below 70 KIAS. Then lower the nose and pull the throttle back to nearly closed. Using my feet as I’m getting blown off runway centre line just a little bit, then I’m just over the threshold, throttle back to full idle and eyes on the end of the runway to judge my landing flare. Bringing out down, I didn’t achieve quite the “chirp” sound of the tyres I was looking for, landed just a bit too hard for that, then I’m on the ground and on my landing roll-out. I manage to make this one a good one, braking smoothly and only remembering belatedly to pull back on my control column.

Turning left off the runway, I radio ground that I’m taxiing back to the run-up bay to pick up my instructor. As I taxi it hits me that I’ve just flown an aircraft, alone, for the first time in my life! A life-long ambition realised and the excitement hits me. I whoop like an idiot into my microphone, glad that I’ve done it and glad that I had my thumb off my radio switch so no-one else had to put up with hearing me.

I enter the run-up bay and pick up Ashley, who grins at me, shakes hands and says “Congratulations!” I then make my last call for the lesson. “Bankstown Ground, Warrior Uniform Foxtrot Yankee in run-up bay for two nine left for Schofields, request taxi clearance”. Ground clears me to taxi back to parking via Lima, and adds a welcome note of congratulations on my first solo, which I acknowledge warmly. A long taxi back to Schofields, a quick shutdown, and I’m done.

So. Everyone always raves about the day they did their first solo. I can now proudly join their ranks. Awesome. Between my memory, and this written account, I’m sure it will stay with me for many years.

Day 12: Lesson 15 – 10th circuit lesson

Whew!

OK, not an awful lesson. In fact not a bad one. But a really great one for reminding me of the dangers of complacency, and also with a salutary lesson about coming to a full stop on runways.

We’d wanted to get a 2nd lesson on stalls in today, but weather just too marginal, so as with this morning we stayed in the circuit, in which I’ve now clocked up 10 hours! In preparation for my pre-solo checkride with a more senior instructor (scheduled for tomorrow), John threw in a series of simulated engine failures as he knows the instructor tomorrow will want me to handle these.

Apart from the first simulation – which was an engine failure on late downwind and on which I failed to immediately initiate a glide approach to the runway – the engine failure stuff was all good. A couple of simulated engine failures on climb-out and on crosswind went well. Despite failing to initiate the glide on the first time around, we did 2 glide approaches to the runway and I handled these pretty well. Oddly enough, my best landings seem to happen when I’m gliding the aircraft in!

The other stuff was OK, although the last 2 landings very damn scratchy indeed. On the 2nd last landing I approached too fast and too high, resulting in me landing skewed on the runway and requiring immediate work on the pedals from my instructor to control the nosewheel properly. For some reason I’d been reluctant to immediately correct my direction on the runway using the pedals, thinking I might somehow damage the nosewheel assembly? Not sure. Anyway, instructor simply asked me where my feet had been – they should have been on the pedals from the get-go, firmly correcting the direction of the aircraft.

Insight #15

If you land with your nose not properly aligned with the runway direction, use your feet and pedals immediately to correct the aircraft’s direction and get it back in alignment with the runway centre line.

And the last landing was pretty ordinary as well. I forgot my learning from Day 11 Lesson 13 about not letting the airspeed go too low on finals. So I applied heaps of power on late final, managed not to balloon too much but took ages to get down on the ground, and in my haste to exit the runway I braked too hard and nearly lost control of the aircraft! Instructor intervention again required. I think I was still smarting from the crap previous landing plus the one I’d just done and let the pressure get the better of me. What would have been far better would have been to ease off and use the next left exit off the runway. I had plenty of runway remaining, I still had a fair bit of speed and would have reached the exit quickly enough to avoid disrupting any traffic behind me.

Insight #16

On landing roll, avoid applying brakes so heavily that you risk locking them up and losing control of your aircraft. If you can’t safely turn for an earlier runway exit, take the next one down. You’re on the runway, you’ve got right of way, so don’t be in such a hurry that you take risks. Don’t dawdle, but by the same token, don’t let haste make things unsafe.

Apart from the above John was pretty complimentary about the lesson. I just don’t want to repeat the above ever, let alone in my pre-solo checkride tomorrow (weather permitting).

Ah well. It’s all good learning.

Day 11: Lesson 13 – 8th circuits lesson, and we’re getting there!

Date: 16/03/2011

Hours flown Dual Command Instruments
This flight 1.10 0.00 0.00
Total to date 12.74 0.00 0.00

Yesterday was an enforced day off, which I used to good effect by finishing off my PA28 Endorsement Questionnaire (which I’m about to check against the answers) and doing study for my pre-s0lo theory exam.

Had an hour of circuits this morning and I feel like I’m finally starting to turn the corner! I made a “6/10” landing – the highest rating my instructor has given me so far – and am doing much better in holding off the control yoke on the landing flare. More work to do, but I think I have got the “feel” now. At least 2 out of the 6 or so landings made that lovely “chirp” sound of the tires, and on the later landings I succeeded in not banging the nosewheel down onto the runway.

I erred towards too much height (above 1000 feet) on some of my downwind legs today, which resulted in having to lose heaps of height on my base and final legs. (Wasn’t awful, but not ideal). On one particular landing this resulted in me arriving way too high over the runway, which in turn resulted in me trying to overcontrol my height off the runway with throttle and letting my airspeed creep too low. That’s not good.

Insight #13

Watch the airspeed on late finals! I made one really slow landing on which I was going as low as 50 knots even before I was over the runway threshold. That’s too close to the stall (even though I had full flaps out). Need to maintain about 65 knots over the airport fence and 60 knots over the runway threshold.

On another landing, I arrived a bit high, and while my use of control yoke is getting much better in general, on this particular landing I “ballooned” the aircraft into an upwards trajectory when I wanted to be going down towards the runway!

Insight #14

Watch the height on final approach. If everything else is set up well and you’ve got 2 stages of flap out but still too high, you can consider using your 3rd stage of flap (if you’re still on early finals). You don’t want to arrive high over the runway threshold – if you do, then you’ll take up precious runway length getting down to flare height before you can land, and you risk buggering up your landing by trying to get the nose down too fast. (A go-around nearly always the best option if this happens).

It was really good to experience these two things today, it will only make my future landings better and my watch of height and airspeed more vigilant.

A couple of interesting things today, both relating to a particular controller in the tower about whom my instructor was not very complimentary. On the 2nd circuit, on early downwind, John grabbed the controls to take evasive action as he spotted an aircraft on late crosswind climbing towards our level and coming close to us! It was only as John was doing this that we received a call from the tower advising us of this traffic to our left. Bottom line, the pilot in the other aircraft had started his crosswind leg far too early (probably before he reached 500 feet) which resulted in his catching up to us just as we were on early downwind. John demonstrated the classic responsibility of the Pilot In Command to “see and avoid”. However, the tower should have advised us of the traffic much earlier than they did, a fact which John pointed out via the radio.

On that same circuit, despite our having made the correct downwind call for a touch-and-go, the tower failed to give us landing clearance when we were on very late final approach, so we initiated a go-around (which I’m happy to say I handled quite well despite retracting initial flap too early).

John’s description of the particular person in the tower at this time was “hopeless” …