Archive for the Actual Lessons Category

Lesson 7: Climbing & Descending (Part 1)

Thursday, September 29th, 2011 | Permalink

G-UFCB Cessna 172SP

G-UFCB : Cessna 172SP

Fly when the sun shines!    It has been a particularly hot September, record breaking in fact, so this lesson was squeezed in as a spure of the moment “it’s going to be hot all week” reaction.

Consequently, I’d be flying with yet another instructor!   I can remember looking forward to saying “I’ve flown in all the clubs planes….”.   The concept of flying with all of their instructors, was not on my list of things to do – but seven lessons in, I’m nearly there (Flown with 5  –  3 to go).

This time I’d be flying with an ex-military & civil Test Pilot.  So I was hopeful I’d come away from this lesson, feeling like I’d been pushed to my limits and the carrot of new and tempting things, had been waved before me.


We went through why I wanted to fly,  my background (normally ticks the general box to cover “Knows planes”) and then cracked on with the detail of how to climb and descend – properly.

Power, Attitude,  Trim :  Covers all but the leveling off case:

Climbing:   Power (Full), Attitude (Maintaining 80 knots), Trim

Descending: Power (1500 RPM), Attitude (Maintain 90 knots), Trim

Leveling off: Attitude (Straight & Level), Power (2300 RPM), Trim.

On top of the Cruise Climb/Descents, we’d also be looking at a Glide Descent (Power to Idle) and Part 2 would focus on the same topic but with flaps.

Plane Checkout

Flying Golf Uniform Foxtrot Charlie Bravo (G-UFCB), today – the oldest of the clubs planes and the one that dislikes me the most… will not turn right with rudder properly, it won’t idle at 600RPM (splutters like it’s going to die) so you have to remember to ‘idle’ it at 1000 RPM.

All that said though, it does fly just fine.

Being a morning lesson I guess it’d just been tanked up because the fuel gauge said it was full and manually checked the tank it was indeed brimming with fuel!    We were in no risk of running out, that’s for sure.

Taxi and Power Checks

Yay, the first lesson where I’ve not been pulled up on riding the brakes!  I put a lot of mental effort into this lesson to only use them when really needed in turning (and brake tests!).

Unfortunately my power settings on the ground still aren’t cemented in my head.    There isn’t that many settings to remember:

  1. 1000 RPM, first check of the magnetos
  2. 1200 RPM, whenever stopped.
  3. 600 RPM (Idle), before releasing the brakes.
  4. 1800 RPM, Power test into Wind and second check of Magnetos.

But some how I keep having to look back at where I am in the checklist, this is one of those small things to look forward to becoming instinctive.

Radio Read Back!

My radio calls were going so well, until today when I promptly read back every detail of our clearance to take off, except the:  Clear for takeoff part!    Still my instructor said I sounded confident with the radios, so I’ll take the positive out of this.

Some of the Items that must be read back to Air Traffic Service Unit:

  • Runway in use
  • Clearance for anything involving the runway (land/take-off, hold short of, enter etc.)
  • Altimeter Settings
  • Airways / Route Clearance
  • Taxi instructions
  • Any instruction with a requested read back

Take Off

There are two types of instructors in this world:   One will take you through a perceived least risk path and those that conclude “You can’t go far wrong with me in the plane, so you go for it and if you screw it up – I’ll take over and sort it.”

If you’re spending this much cash, my advice is you want the latter…… In the UK the bill is roughly £3/min.   As the chief flight instructor of the club once said to me:  “You should enjoy it…….It’s a very expensive way of not enjoying yourself.”

To that end I was told I’d be doing the take off,  my instructor would keep his hands on the controls and make sure nothing could get screwed up.

Putting full power on (this time in a more controlled motion of the throttle then just ‘wam! full power’), Charlie Bravo actually stays pretty straight – Oh I’m sure to experts watching from afar, it wasn’t the most pretty take off run, but I’ve had experts slam me and the plane into the runway before – so for my money, this was good for a  second go.

65 Knots start pulling gently back and we’re airborne!

……and then we’re yawing left, waaaay more then I was expecting, in the excitement my brain takes far to long to connect the dots of pressing the right rudder, but it gets there and it’s soon sorted out.

Climbing and Descending

The sky is a sea of blue, there’s almost no wind, and there’s a huge horizon – this really is perfect flying conditions.

We climb to 3000ft before my instructor reminds of some of the points in the briefing and then we crack on to climbing to 4000ft, full power, keeping the airspeed at 80 knots.   I trim the plane for the climb, but keep my hands on the controls almost for the sub-concious comfort of “I’m still flying it.”

At 3900ft I begin to level off, until the plane is sorted we’ll still be climbing so it’s important to pre-empt the final altitude to provide some ‘error time’ in which you can setup the plane for what you want it to be doing next, without it overshooting and then needing descend and mess about.

We fly 4000ft feet for a while, my hands still on the controls which is obviously noticed by my instructor who asks “What happens if you take your hands off the controls?”    So I do…….Nothing, we continue to fly 4000ft straight and level, he seems pleased.

The view is just stunning, the one catch to learning to fly is that you’re learning to fly – you can’t really stop and take pictures (or spend that much time looking down).

No time for sightseeing, I set power to 1500RPM and control the decent to 3000ft @ 90knots, sometimes dropping to 85, but it’s close enough.

This task of climbing and descending is repeated a few times, no issues here, the numbers are in my head and I could do this all day.

Refining my Turns

My turning is ok, but this instructor suggests my use of rudder is lagging the turn action and it could be smoother if I could get use to putting the rudder on as I turn and predicting how much is needed – rather than as you realise the balance ball is showing the plane out of balance and then applying rudder (which makes the plane jolt).

The problem with prediction is you need experience to be able to do it well – no problem, he asks me to just start doing some fairly rapid banks left/right to 20 degrees of turn, ‘get a feel for how much rudder you need as you turn harder’.

It’s not why we’re up here, but it’s going to be useful practice for when we start the official turn lessons.   Definitely got something out of this sub-lesson.     I’ve said it before, the best lessons come from when your instructor works to what they can see you can/can’t do:  Helps you refine the stuff that needs work and tempts you with glimpses of things you want to already be doing!

Glide Descent (A polite way of saying “falling out of the sky!”)
If the engine fails at altitude, your best option is a glide descent, aiming for the best endurance your plane can achieve – which comes at a certain airspeed for the plane you’re in.

Essentially a glide descent, is to take the engine to idle (~600RPM) and then trip up for an airspeed of 90 knots.

We did this and were descending at 500ft per minute.

The physics is obvious, you’re falling out of the sky at 500ft per minute, you are going to hit the ground if you don’t do something.   The reality at least for a while though, is quite surreal:

At 4000ft, falling (gliding!) at 500ft per minute, it will take you 8 minutes to hit the ground……you can glide for 4 minutes and still be only at 2000ft, which would be a perfectly acceptable flying altitude, so you have some time to think and get yourself sorted – especially if you were to be gliding for your life.

If you get in planes and worry about what will happen if the engine fails, you should try this exercise with an instructor.    At 4000ft with the engine at idle, you’ll feel almost as if you have all the time in the world.

Once down to 3000ft, we did another cruise climb and descent and then it was time to head back home.

Local Knowledge

For the very first time I actually felt like in my head I knew my orientation (just about!).   In early lessons I felt lost from about 500ft up in the air, even though I should have known where in the city I was and which way we were pointing when we took off – the fact is so much is going on that orientating yourself goes out of the window very quickly in the early lessons.

Main roads really look so much less like main roads from 2000ft up, but this time I just about knew where I was and we could follow the A14 to home.


For a glorious sunshine day, this lesson landed in some fairly hard cross-winds, there was going to be no hope of getting to even come close to doing this one.

But I came away happy with the lesson, it was very cool and I’d fly with the instructor again any day.

Lesson 6: Straight and Level Flight (Part 2)

Sunday, September 25th, 2011 | Permalink

Change of instructor again, I’m not convinced this constant changing of instructors is good for my flying.

This lesson was focused on flying straight and level but at different airspeeds, changing airspeed rapidly and also an element of practice and refinement from what was done in part 1.

We’d be flying G-HERC today.

The weather forecast had been for a glorious blue sky day, unfortunately when are they ever right?  It had been blue sky at 10am, but now at 2pm it was massively overcast.

Plane Checkout

Other than the landing light not working, which I was reminded was not a legal requirement so didn’t matter (If I was being cynical if you’re not going to do anything about it, you could argue why is it on the checklist at all…..), the plane, being G-HERC, was in good order.   As the clubs’ planes go, this is one of the best.

Pre-Flight Checks

Suffering again from New Instructor Syndrome, I picked a whole new set of stupid things to screw up – including a bizarre moment of having started the plane not letting go of the ignition key…….No I don’t know why either!

Getting quite tired of still not having the pre-flight stuff down to a formality. part of me wants to blame the format of the checklist, because it’s easy to lose your place.   The other part of me feels like I need to spend 2 hours doing nothing but starting the plane up, pre-takeoff checking it, shutdown and repeat……repetition, repetition, repetition.

Unlike other instructors though, this time when I missed a step, I was 5 steps further along before the instructor spotted the miss.   Either he expected me to have this sorted by now, or he had other things on his mind.

I did the radio call for taxi clearance.

Now I’m sure the tower abbreviated our call sign on their response (G-RC), and once they do, you can begin using the abbreviated version (but they must do it first).   So I called back using an abbreviated call sign, which my instructor flagged me on for doing.   I put up a small amount of defence that I thought they had abbreviated, he assured me they “never do on the first call.” That must be a house rule, because the book doesn’t say they can’t…… We’ll see, I have more lessons to check  🙂      Either way I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

Flying at 2,500ft

Trimmed up at 2500ft:  100knots, 2300RPM.

We did some work dropping the power to 1900 RPM and flying at 80knots, trimming to hold straight and level and then back to 100 knots.

Normally I’m fine, but on this lesson I was typically overshooting my designated altitude by 150-200ft, not great.    There was so much wind that getting it in trim was just a constant battle, needs a bit of work though.

The lesson was made a bit more frustrating by the fact that normally I’m allowed to do all the turns, my turning is fairly good and all instructors before have been happy to just give me a new heading and let me fly on to it.   Today, on the grounds of allowing me to focus just on the task at hand, my instructor was doing the turns……. For my money this approach had no positive impact on the quality of my flying.    It felt like doing the course by the numbers, instead of assessing where I was at and adjusting the lesson accordingly.

We moved on to a different type of changing airspeed, much more similar to how in a car if you wanted to get to a new speed as quick as possible, you might floor the accelerator and then back off as you approach the target speed.   Same in a plane, to go from 80knots to 100knots, you can just open the throttle fully and then back it off as you approach 100knots.

The difference in a plane is that if you just put full power on, first the increase in torque and slipstream from the propeller will yaw the plane (so you need to be prepared with rudder) and an increase in power will give you an increase in lift, so you need to push forward on the controls to keep the nose level before trimming the plane a little (as airspeed will be constantly changing during the acceleration, you won’t be able to easily “set” the trim for the new airspeed until you get there).

Rapidly reducing airspeed brings with it a higher work load, as you close the throttle the nose will drop rapidly and the speed will be killed pretty quickly.   Now there’s more to do in less time, holding the nose level and starting to trim nose up quickly before bringing the engine power back on to 1900RPM……from a 100knots to 80 knots, there’s about 3.5 seconds to get everything sorted.

Slow Flight with Flaps

As the last part of the lesson, we brought the airspeed down to inside the white arc (Below VFE) – the speed at which the flaps can be operated.   And then put the flaps down to 20 degrees.

Looked after the nose of the plane as the flaps moved and then trimmed it up to fly straight and level at 70knots, always looking around for other planes, checking the power and instruments.

We repeated this a couple of times to get a good feel for it.

Bounced Landing

Instructor did the landing, but was to fast and pulled further back into the flare of the landing to kill the speed – but didn’t have the altitude.    The result was we hit the main landing gears hard and bounced, he recovered it just fine though.

At some point it will be me making that mistake…..

End of Lesson

All in all the lesson was enjoyable, but the weather was overcast and I didn’t feel I clicked with this instructor the way I have with others.   However, flying with lots of different instructors should get me more comfortable jumping in a plane with someone I’ve only just met – when that distant final check flight comes, that’s probably how it will be, so I need to be fine doing it.

I was told I could move on to Climbing & Descending.

The Extra ‘Lesson’ : Aerobatics

Saturday, September 24th, 2011 | Permalink

The Extra 200 that did not want to start its engine!A month ago this plane refused to start for me.  The second time I tried to go flying in it, the gods of clouds had other ideas.

Third time lucky, it was perfect blue skies – All the Extra EA-200 had to do was start!

I would be flying with the clubs’ Chief Flying Instructor, so a screw up in the plane would probably find its way back into my Cessna file, but in reality this flight was more about flying something a bit different, a lot more responsive and just getting up there and doing some absolutely mental maneuvers that you wouldn’t dare do in many other planes.

The knowledge that I was doing my PPL with the club seemed to help, a quick read through my file showed I’d at least know what the controls all did when I got up there, so we could skip the real basics.    He asked what I’d like to do…..  “Anything but straight and level flight.”

Take Off

I was expecting good things from this plane, what I wasn’t expecting was to “back track” (taxi the wrong way up the runway, right to its edge), turn around and then go screeeaaaming down the runway at full pelt.

Forget steady climb, we were near vertical and at 1000ft before you could say “Wow”.

The take off and rate of climb this plane has puts other planes in their place.

We made a sharp turn to the north east and headed to an area of fields.

Controls, Rolls and Loops

Once we hit 3000ft, I was given the controls to just have a feel of the plane and see how much more responsive it was then the Cessna.   I was told I’d probably only need to fly it with 3 fingers.

With a few shallow but fast turns I’d convinced myself my instructor was very far from wrong…….  This plane flies soooo elegantly, just point it where you want to go and it goes (immediately!).

The Extra 200, even though it is the smaller brother of the EA-300, just responds to any control input instantly and gains or drops altitude like a rocket ship!

My instructor took the controls and performed an aileron roll, then promptly let me repeat the exercise.

Next we tried some loops, getting to about +2 – 2.5 G as we came out of them.

I was then basically let loose with the plane for a few minutes to try pretty much anything I wanted to do.    Even though I suspect there’s nothing much you can do to badly wrong in that plane from 3000ft, I did keep asking “Are you ok if I roll…….are you ok if I loop?”   Firstly I didn’t want to do a maneuver without sufficient airspeed.

For something a bit different, I banked the plane on to a 90 degree turn, pulled back on the stick and put the Extra into as tight a turn as you’re ever going to get (much tighter than anything a Cessna can do!!).    After which the instructor asked if I did any simulator work, because most people don’t do that sort of thing on a trial lesson – I’m not sure if he meant it as a complement (Good to do something a bit more fun then straight and gentle turns etc.) or as a dig (you’ve picked up some bad habits during 90 degree turns).   We only lost 500ft, it was fun and there’s not many planes you can jump in and be allowed to do that sort of thing in, so I’m sticking to it being a compliment 🙂

Straight and Level Flight:   Inverted

A quick talk through of how to do it and then it was over to me to put it into a roll and then that just as we approached being inverted, pushing hard forward on the stick and leveling off.

We’re now flying straight and level, but upside down.

I’m no longer attached to my chair and only the safety harnesses are essentially keeping me in the plane at all!!

We flew like that for maybe a mile.

For me this was the best thing we did in the lesson, it was amazing to just be hanging upside down and see the plane just flying absolutely straight and level while inverted.   Being able to look down and see cars on the main roads driving along, thinking “if only they looked up, how strange must we appear from down there!”.

Insane Rolls and Tail Slipping

To end the lesson my instructor took over and gave me a demo of how insanely fast the Extra will roll if you wanted it to – betting I couldn’t keep count.

He wasn’t wrong, after about 9 rotations in as many seconds, I’d given up counting and was just enjoying it too much.

For the finale he put the plane vertical, climbing straight up, before taking the power back to idle and then letting the plane literally “slip” out of the sky backwards!   Looking out the window, you’re essentially falling back through the sky while pointing vertically up.   Before spinning the plane back round to point straight for the ground, putting power back on and pulling out of the maneuver.

We’d managed to get the G-force meter up to a touch under 5G.

Touch and Goes

Heading home, to burn the last of the fuel we did a few touch and goes.   A landing followed by full power and then back into the air.      The first of which had to be aborted due to a Cessna not leaving the runway quick enough – I was flying with the clubs chief flight instructor, so although I was thinking “we’re leaving this abort a bit late”, I’m sure he knew exactly what he was doing and to be honest in an Extra it’s so manoeuvrable and has so much power in reserve you have lots of time to make decisions.

After we’d landed, my instructor went back to work and did his day job – I on the other hand was in a world of excitement and the beginning of a major headache, caused more by the constant vibration of the plane, then the spins, rolls and mad maneuvers I think.    Nothing a coffee couldn’t fix……

I’d recommend going up in an Extra to anyone, if not for the fun you’ll have doing maneuvers, for a familiarisation of how insanely responsive they are.

Lesson 5: Straight and Level Flight (Part 1)

Monday, September 19th, 2011 | Permalink

G-SHWK after todays flight


It’s the staple of flying, straight and level – no change in altitude or direction.

The first catch of the day was getting to the aero club and being met by a different flight instructor!   A part of me wanted to get through this course with the same instructor, previously I’d moved lessons to align with the same instructor (normally with a result of rain and instead of flying, we’d be drinking coffee).

Having been through the briefing for this lesson previously (and then cancelled due to cross-wind).  I was really hoping to check the plane and just get going.   With a new instructor that was not going to happen, we’d have to go through it all again.

To my surprise that was no bad thing, he introduced himself as flying Airbus for a commercial airline as his day job and taught students part time.  The briefing took a different style and brought with it a certain absoluteness on the ‘real essentials’:   Put very bluntly:

The thing that will kill you in a plane like this, is hitting something or being hit by something….  Lookout is essential.

Briefing goes smooth, though I’m still having odd random moments of brain freeze where I know the answer, but the right words will not come when prompted with an on the spot question.   Today I think that’s more from nerves of a new instructor.

I say I normally check the plane and he’s happy for me to go get on with that.

Pre-Start & Radios

‘New Instructor Syndrome’ caused me to mess up a few of my pre-start checks that were second nature, one thing that kept catching me out was waiting for a response, only to turn and get a sense of “That’s great….Get on with it…don’t wait for me.”

Having used the radio’s only once, I was expecting NIS to mean I wouldn’t be getting to use them today.   Any such thought rapidly got shot down:

“Are you ok with the Radio?”

“I’ve done it once last time out.”

“Good, you can get our taxi clearance then…”

The gods of the airwaves are still being kind to me and the request rolled off clearly and fluently – though I’ve gotta say some airplane registrations are easier to roll off the tongue than others.   Golf Sierra Hotel Wiskey Kilo, is not one of them!

We got clearance to taxi to holding point Alpha, my read back was good…and then it was out of the window with any rehearsed radio as air traffic control immediately called:   “Golf Wiskey Kilo, Cancel last taxi instruction, taxi to Holding Point Bravo.”

With a glance to my instructor as if to say “You or me?”,  I hit the mic button and replied….Call back correct….Plane designation in the right place, abbreviation of call sign at appropriate point.    It was one small step for man, but another giant boost in confidence for using the radio.

Taxi and Take-Off

Taxing was another small step better, but arrrgh I’m still riding the brakes!!    I don’t notice I’m doing it, then it’s pointed out to me and I suddenly realise I’m pressing them……still to the casual outside onlooker, it at least looks like I know what I’m sort of doing.

I radioed the tower we were ready for departure and handled the take off clearance.

For my next ‘first’, I was informed I’d be handling the throttle & rudder for take-off.   Perhaps it’s a good thing this instructor hadn’t seen some of my earlier taxing rudder work!

Lined up on the runway I began pushing the throttle in and was informed of my first mistake.   Instead of putting the power in smoothly, in the excitement I just went in one continuous motion to full power (nobody said anything about smooth or incremental , I’m sure it was just “full power”).

We carried on, tearing down the runway, I was allowed to get as much of a feel for the keeping it straight as the runway would allow.   It wasn’t something I’d call pretty, but we kept vaguely straight……..2 or 3 more goes and we should have it looking about right.

The instructor did the actual take off, but my first take off feels like it’s on the horizon now.

The Lesson

So far everything we’d done had been repetition of what I’d done before.

I was handed control at around 1000ft and held the climb until we got to 3000ft.   The sky was very calm, very blue and perfect for learning straight and level flight.

Throughout the lesson my instructor set the plane up into a bad configuration (Wings not level, often pitching slightly downwards, throttle set wrong) and then the controls were handed over to me to get the plane back onto a straight and level by bringing the wings level, re-setting the power to 2200rpm, sorting out the attitude, holding and then trimming the plane.

We did some heading hold work on 330 degrees, and then turned left to follow the A1198 down to Wimpole Hall.   I’d been their the week before, it’s better from 3000ft!

Another turn and we were heading back to the airport.

During the whole lesson my instructor reiterated that lookout, was the most important thing to get drilled into instinct.   The other thing he said was that for FREDA (Fuel, Radio, Engine, Direction, Altitude) checks, to do them not as a set piece one immediately after the other and thus taking say a minute of stopping and doing very little else mentally.   Instead to do one, say Fuel, then carry on flying….then do Radio and carry on flying for a minute or two, then do Engine.   Never stop flying the plane!


I flew the approach, turning on to the downwind leg of the circuit I was  bit tight on the circuit so we extended the downwind and flew a bit further before turning onto the base leg.    My instructor asked if I’d ever landed before, to which I replied no, so he promptly let me get on with doing the descent and approach / line up for the runway.

I felt my line up was as good as it could ever get, at one stage I was maybe 50ft lower then I’d liked but a bit of power corrected that, we came in heading straight for the centre line.   At around 100ft my instructor took the controls and talked me through the last stages of the landing – before promptly hitting the runway a little hard to an explanation of “This thing doesn’t land like an Airbus.”   🙂    If I’d have done that landing, I’d have been proud of it, so he’ll get no complaints from me.

It did leave me with the sensation that my first landing is not far away, it was tantalisingly close today.

All in all another really enjoyable lesson, winter is approaching which is likely to cause more delays and missed lessons due to bad weather, but all you can do is keep trying.   When you get the weather, particularly like it was for this lesson, flying is the best way to spend your day…..

Lesson 4: Flight Control Effects Part 2.

Monday, August 29th, 2011 | Permalink

The lesson started in serious risk of being cancelled, as is becoming a bit of a ridiculous tradition for me, within 5 minutes of setting off for the aero club the first drops of rain fell from the skies!!   There was hope though, if all else failed my instructors 4pm slot had become free so we could cancel and try again later…….I should be more sympathetic of the rain we were getting, at the same time I was hoping the skies would clear, New York was getting hit by a hurricane!

G-UFCB Cessna 172SP

G-UFCB : Cessna 172SP

G-UFCB was the plane for today, in a punt that the sky would clear I checked out the plane.   I’m getting more efficient at plane check outs (efficient = faster,  without any shortcuts 🙂 ).  Nice to see Charlie Bravo in better shape, when I did my externals lesson on it, it was in pretty beat up shape.   Now it was looking good to go and as luck would have it the sky was beginning to turn blue!

With the lesson all systems go, we jumped in the plane and did the start up checks.  The airport had a CP-140 Aurora almost ready, so with a few “….that’s fine” additions from my instructor we were done quickly with the checks.

CP-140 Aurora

CP-140 Aurora

And then….

First Radio Call

I’ve been reading car license plates in phonetic alphabet for the last three weeks, so I was hopeful my first taxi clearance call would be ok.    We did a quick practice…….it went great, except my instructor said “Umbrella?  U is Uniform….”    I didn’t know where that had come from, I still don’t, I said it totally fluently, I hadn’t stuttered or stumbled, just rattled off: “Golf Umbrella Foxtrot Charlie Bravo..”     That’s what practise is for I guess!

“Ok when you’re ready, press the radio button and get our clearance…”

“……..Tower, Golf Uniform Foxtrot Charlie Bravo, Information with Bravo, QNH 1010, request taxi.”

“Golf Charlie Bravo, information correct…….”

Smooth and no stumbling or ‘errr’ moments, job done!!  Now to beat that CP-140 Aurora to the run way (if it got going we’d be delayed as they’d have priority).

Taxing to Runway

At the risk of my instructor seeing this and screaming I speak lies, my taxing is getting better 😉    I’m still not predicting the inertia as well as I’d like and have moments of overcompensation, but this lessons taxing was a lot better than Lesson 2 (Taxi / Ground Checks).   I also find myself leaning towards the more responsive effects of the brakes to due ‘good’ turns.  Just getting to the runway is not my definition of being able to do it etc.    It’s coming along though.

The Plane Air Traffic Forgot.….

We got clearance to take off, but as we were checking the runway approach, we spotted a plane coming down for a landing.   My instructor felt we were still good to go, so we went……but we later heard on the radio that ATC had semi-forgotten they’d cleared them to land and cleared us to take off!   [Why it’s vital to check the approach, even if you have clearance!]

Climbing through the Cloud Gaps

The goal was to see the effects of differing power and flaps, which we were hoping to do up at around 4000ft.   My instructor set us up on a climb through the gaps in the clouds and then passed control to me to try and “keep this picture”.    That went smooth, but unfortunately there was no horizon up there, so it was controls back to the instructor for a sharp decent to 2000ft.

The descents my instructor does always gives me a glimpse of how many more hours I’m away from being good at this flying lark 🙂

Changes in power, holding the planes datum, keeping it in balance and re-trimming I’m all pretty happy with.   On to moving the flaps.

Flaps and Oscillation

I should have realised this, but on the day I’d either forgot or the effect is just not that obvious enough in simulation.   Using the flaps makes the plane oscillate in pitch.

It’s obvious if you stop and think first (At least if you go back to initial & further effects of the flight controls!):

  1. Lowering the flaps to 10 degrees, gives a lot of lift.
  2. Lift causes the plane to pitch up.
  3. Pitching up causes the airspeed to drop.
  4. Reduced airspeed causes a reduction in lift.
  5. A reduction in lift causes the plane to pitch down.
  6. Pitching down causes airspeed to increase.
  7. Airspeed increasing causes an increase in lift.
  8. An increase in lift causes the nose to pitch up!
  9. …..and repeat, until at some point the plane will find its new equilibrium.

So if you lower flaps you get:   Pitch Up, Pitch Down….   If you’re raising flaps you’ll get Pitch Down, Pitch Up.

In flight this seemed fine and we did some practises of moving the flaps (always within the flap movement [VFE] speed of course!) and trying to keep the datum horizon out of the window.   Seemed fine, so on to playing with the aircraft fuel mixture.

Fuel Mixture Control

A question I always wondered, answered!!    On a Cessna with its push/pull rod controls, if you pulled the mixture control ‘all the way out’, the fuel would be completely cut and the engine would die!!!     Yet to ‘lean’ the fuel to air ratio, you have to pull the mixture control out.    Pull it to far out though and you risk killing the engine………so I’d always pondered this control, how did you make sure you didn’t accidentally pull too hard or get bumped?

It turns out the control has a second function:  You can twist it!

Done this way you’re always a long, long way from cutting the fuel.

We leaned the fuel and went from 10 gallons per hour fuel flow to more like 7 gallons per hour (fuel costs money: We’re now getting the same power for 3 gallons per hour less fuel!!).

On future flights I’ll have to keep a note of how much fuel my leaning has saved them and ask for the saving back at the desk 🙂

Time to head home…

I flew the circuit turns, my instructor flew the base leg and final approach with me feeling the flight controls, in preparation for that somewhere in the future, first landing of my own.    Once back on the ground, it was time for some more of my ‘self rated’ average taxing.    After landing checks done, taxi to parking done, shut down the plane and it’s another 55 minutes of flying signed off in the log book .

42.58 hours left to log.

Sennheiser Vs David Clark: Sennheiser Wins.

Friday, August 26th, 2011 | Permalink

Sennheiser HME-110 Side view

Sennheiser HME-110 Side view

They say the pub quiz rule is:

If in doubt, go with your instincts!

In the end that’s what I did to end the dilemma. My brain refused to accept that it could be possible anyone on this planet makes a better headset, at any relative level, than Sennheiser do.  So I bought myself a set of the HME-110.

A few people online recommended getting the replacement gel ear pads, so rather than risk having to pay postage twice, I thought I’d get some of those as well.

Today was my first flight using them (after many cancelled lessons due to rain!).

Verdict: The HME-110 is Absolutely stunning!

Anyone who reads my original post about the dilemma, go with all my pro’s…….forget any worries I had, they’re all nonsense.

Sennheiser HME-110 Special Edition Top View

Sennheiser HME-110 Top View

The weight difference is huge!

The HME-110’s are blissfully lightweight, yet feel rock solid in construction. In terms of weight I totally forgot I had them on in my flight.

Noise Reduction is fantastic and they don’t crush you’re head to achieve it either. I found the standard ear pads to be good, but I’m glad I got the gel one’s. Fit those and it’s another level of comfort. Add the gel ear pads to your order and you’ll still pay less than a set of H10-13.4.

I’d recommend them because they weigh so little and their noise reduction is excellent…….but why I’d really recommend them is because their sound reproduction is superb, I mean truly clear.

They are never going to match a set of studio monitors, let’s be honest about that, they’re impedance matched for an aircraft system so you won’t get the same raw volume if you tried. But in terms of frequency response, I’d believe the figures on the box any day, I tried them using some separate kit and their top and bottom end frequency response is sooo very good.

My worries about Microphone Boom Arm Radius:

Forget them, you can’t notice the boom arm in flight at all. It’s really just an optical illusion to some extent, once you’ve got them on, they’re lightweight the mic has enough reach to be perfectly positioned and the rest of the arm is outside your field of vision.

If you’re worrying about that boom arm, believe me, forget your worry just buy a set and when it arrives trust me you’ll go “What was I worrying about! How good are these!!”

Flight Controls: Initial and Further Effects

Saturday, August 20th, 2011 | Permalink

Lesson cancelled due to rain, it started 5 minutes before my lesson was due to start and ended about 10 minutes after we called it quits on waiting for it to stop!

In the checklist of “Firsts”, in the hope we’d have got all the ground work done and be ready to hit the skies the moment it cleared:  I got to do the checks of the plane on my own, in the rain……Smart instructor!  🙂  To be honest it was a warm day and it was nice to be at the airport and walking round the plane.

What we were ment to do today was the practical of Initial and Further Effects of the flight controls.

Any action made on a planes flight controls has an initial effect, followed by a further effect if you continue that action without adding any additional control action.

So for example:

If you fly straight and level and then turn the flight control yoke to the right, the airplane will begin to “roll” to the right.  What you’re actually doing is increasing the amount of lift on the left wing by lowering its aileron (a bit like the effect of lowering the flap) while simultaneously reducing the lift on the right wing by raising its aileron.   The net effect is that you alter the torque around the planes centre of gravity and the plane rolls right…….that’s the initial effect of the action on the ailerons.

The plane is now rolling, a side effect of which is that the plane now has less lift, as a result it’s slipping out of the air nose first (because it’s heaviest).  This slipping or turning around a centre point (centre of gravity) is Yaw.   The further effect of the action of the ailerons is Yaw.

Left uncorrected, the yaw will generate more roll (because the further effect of yaw is roll), the increased roll will generate more yaw, the increased yaw will generate even more roll and on and on it goes putting the plane into a spin!

Flight Control Initial Effect Further Effect
Ailerons Roll Yaw
Rudder Yaw Roll
Elevator Pitch Airspeed

Once you make an action that takes the plane out of balance, you need an additional action to bring it back into balance or you will suffer from the further effect.   Thus when rolling the plane, you need to apply rudder to stop it yawing.

…….and that is initial and further effects of the flight controls, now all I need is blue skies to go and try it out for real.

Aircraft Ground Checklists, Taxing & Turns

Saturday, August 13th, 2011 | Permalink

G-UFCB Cessna 172SP

G-UFCB : Cessna 172SP

Lesson 2: Pre-flight aircraft checks, aircraft start-up checklists, taxing turns and shutdown.

85 – The number of checks, before the plane is started.

39 – The number of checks, after the plane has been started, but before you can take-off.

This was a ground only lesson, going through the following areas:

  • Where the club keeps the books
  • Aircraft keys and documents
  • External check list for the aeroplane
  • Internal (Pre-start, Pre-Taxi and Pre-Take-Off) checklists
  • Taxing
  • Turns & Tight Turns
  • Shutting down the aeroplane

It’s Exercise 5 of the PPL Course book.

As you can see from the shear numbers, there’s a lot to check.

G-UFCB as we found during the checks, was in a bit of a beaten up way.   Good news from my perspective:   Instead of talking about “if it has a bald patch on the tyre…”, this plane actually had one.   Instead of trying to imagine what a plane looks like when you can’t see any of its front gear Oleo this plane had no metal visible (even when the instructor pushed on the stabliser at the back to try and lift the nose). So from a lesson perspective, a good plane – at the end of the day the plane was already scheduled in for maintenance.

My first ever taxi was never going to fantastic, but for whatever reason no matter how hard I pushed on the left rudder pedal, the plane wanted to keep going right (I guess it knew its way to the runway!) – the instructor had a go and commented on it.   However, you can turn a plane like you can turn a tank – break one side and the difference in power will cause it to turn.

We did some turns, some tight turns (using the brakes), probably got in the way of a couple of people wondering “why are they spinning a Cessna round and around…” Then taxied back to the parking area, the taxi back was a bit better.

After Landing & Shutdown procedures (Just 17 checks), the lesson was done.

Before starting this course I’d done a lot of simulator stuff, read a lot etc.  What I realised today is that what you just can’t learn without doing it, short of having a like-for-like hardware simulator, is how it all feels:   How much friction is there on the throttle, what it actually feels like to set the heading indicator etc.   What does it feel like when the rev’s drop 100RPM.

Finally, the Cessna photo is not mine, so credit to John Allan