Archive for the PPL Course Category

Lesson 40: Crosswind Circuits

Saturday, January 19th, 2013 | Permalink

Admittedly the original title was supposed to be “first local area solo”, but as you’ll soon discover a combination of many events brought a stop to any such aspiration.   Still, all good things…

The weather was quite good, visibility and the cloud base were all in my favor for going solo in the local area, the wind however, was almost a perfect crosswind.   The active runway was still 23 though so I felt experience of circuits on this runway would see me through.

The plane that hates me….

G-UFCB Cessna 172SP

G-UFCB : Cessna 172SP

My much loved G-SHWK is in the hanger with its cowling off and engine exposed, so we’d be taking G-UFCB.

This plane hates me……I don’t like it much either.

Oh you might laugh and think a plane can’t hate someone, how wrong you are.   G-UFCB historically has refused to start for me, used to stall when power was set to idle, makes weird creaking noises (or it used to, I’ve been avoiding it for so long).   We’ve not had the best of crosswind lessons together either.   It hates me, I hate it, we avoid each other – it’s a strange relationship, but it works.

Ice on the Plane

Upon going out to check the plane, I was reminded that if there was any ice on the wings (inc. the top) then I had to come back and inform my instructor – but the hope was it would have melted by now.

My fingertips were soon telling me it was unlikely to have melted 🙁

So armed with brooms, we climbed up onto the struts and made an attempt (all be it one that must have looked quite mad), to shift the ice off the wings.

Another instructor, who’s day job is flying airliners, came out with his student and made a comment

Good thing it’s not an Airbus

That made me smile, but I think it served its point – time to move it to the heated hanger.

I got the job of taxi driver again, but of course after radioing the tower to get permission to taxi, G-UFCB hates me, so why on earth would it start for me?!?!   No of course not, it would just splutter and make no real effort to turn over.   Thanks!   In one last desperate (and let’s pretend I actually know what I’m doing) effort, I stopped for a second, then primed the engine again and with one last muttering prayer turned the key……and voila, Charlie Bravo started!

Stress, just a little, but it wasn’t going to end there.

Taxing over to the hanger, all very normal nothing new – but what to do when I get there???

There were 3 people in hi-viz jackets, I didn’t know where they wanted me to be:  Am I getting to close?  Should I come closer?  Are you going to move?   If they were making me gestures they were half-hearted, but to be fair to them they probably thought they were dealing with someone who’d dome this before (heck, they probably thought I’d had at least one coffee this morning too, but I hadn’t).

In the end my instructor came to the door and relieved me of my stupidity…….turn the engine off, you can’t taxi inside, it has to be pushed.    Where’s the box on my training log for feeling stupid?   We can tick it completed now.

Go, Go, Go….

All heated up and deiced, Charlie Bravo was now out on the taxi way, blocking everyone – time to go, pronto.

That was the plan, G-UFCB had other ideas, it now refused to start again.   My instructor gave it ago, nothing.   The other instructor came over and had a look, with a little hand turning of the prop and a few more goes, it fired up!   Finally, I was feeling a bit more relieved about my previous reluctance to turn the engine off.   Time was disappearing, we were blocking the taxiway, we really had to go now!

Except with all the backwards and forwarding, I hadn’t set my seat position (and the last pilot must have been taller than me!).   I’d regret this indecision to stop and regardless of who we might block, I should have sorted that seat out.

Bleeding in the plane

After completing power checks we were just about to move to a position ready to call ATC to declare ourselves ready for departure – except my instructor had keener eyes then me and had spotted my index finger was streaming blood!   G-UFCB has now drawn blood from me, that sums up our relationship.

If you’ve ever questioned why there’s a first aid kit on the checklist – now you know!

Runway 05 :  It’s been a long, long time

In all the activity, the active runway had been changed to 05 due to the wind – I haven’t flown a right circuit for months, back when I was doing solo circuits.   Doubt was creeping into my head:  Could I actually remember the turn points?

My first circuit is often a bit rough, this was no exception, the crosswind made me converge (my current topic of “arrrgh”).

Leveling out was interesting, my seat was so low that if I looked straight out of the plane I was actually starring into the top of the instrument panels – not surprisingly then I was getting comments to not watch the instruments.  Yet at this stage it hadn’t even clicked in my head the seat wasn’t set right.

Then being a crosswind, it meant the base leg was much faster…….it’s funny, in reality the tail wind is only really adding 5-10 knots of ground speed, yet it made a world of difference.

My memory of this circuit is of having a voice in my head reminding me where to turn, unfortunately maybe I fly differently to  most other pilots, but that first turn right onto base put us way to close.   The crosswind then sped the world up and a combination of wrongness ensued – no doubt not helped by my brain trying to work twice as hard on a circuit route I’ve not done for ages.

To add to the woes the seat position being to low, now resulted in a perspective that when combined with the crosswind meaning the nose had to be put 45 degrees right of the runway, was at best not great and at worst – utterly rubbish (regretting rushing the seating).

All this concluded with a hard, not flared very well, wing not put into wind, rubbish landing…… it made me grimace on the touch down, I now define any landing that makes me do this as rubbish.

Try that again….

That first landing was so all over the place (overshot final, hard landing etc.) that I had a suspicion in my head it was going to be hard to come back from that with respect to box ticking.

Attempt two was perhaps a shade better, but I was converging again (I might re-title the blog at this rate) and it wasn’t really feeling instinctive.

Base leg was another one turned too soon, making an immediate turn to final required (which was also overshot).

If I describe the landing as “less hard” perhaps that’s the best way to describe it.   Again I felt like I was flying absolutely for the numbers with an intent to hit them at all costs – if I was hitting them, I was hitting them very hard.    This is an old landing habit of mine, I used to do it when I first started flying circuits and I could repeat it, lesson in, lesson out, no amount of hours seemed to make any difference.   It stopped when another instructor had a different strategy for landing.

Now my habit was back and it’s a bizarre thing, you know you don’t normally fly like this, but you are and no amount of thinking seems to fix it – I suspect the answer is to actually stop thinking so much.

On the climb out of this landing, it didn’t take a rocket scientist really, but the call was made the landings were not up to scratch today.   We’d do a few more to try and sort it out.

Third times a charm

I can’t take all the credit, verbal encouragement was needed to stop me drilling the plane into the 05 numbers regardless of whether the final approach had been good enough to touch down there or not.    Flying a bit further down the runway and having that extra bit of time to bring it all together resulted in a much calmer nicer landing.

Side-Slipping Base

Apparently my turn on to base was being done with too much rudder and I was side slipping in the turn.   This is where I’m going to nod my head, play the “legally I don’t know what I’m doing, so I’ll bow to your wisdom” card…….and then make a statement that may have no bearing on fact 🙂   You have been warned:   If this is what I was doing wrong, I’m baffled as every approach was high, I should have been dropping out of the sky like a rock.   More often then not I was taking 3 stages of flap because it was essential, not because it was there and I’d been trained to land that way / lower the third stage at 200-300ft etc.

No further improvements

It got a bit better, I think I got a bit calmer, but events re-enforced that me and Charlie Bravo don’t get on much (that being said my last lesson had been rubbish as well and that was in the much loved Whiskey Kilo).   The back of your mind thought that in two circuits, the objective of this lesson had gone whooshing out of the window perhaps didn’t help my mind set……..and all my bad habits have returned since the last lesson so I can hardly blame that.

The landings didn’t get much better though, the convergence was clearly so rubbish that air traffic even told me off for it (or more accurately told me to sharpen it up due to a plane flying in directly onto final).

Another distinctly average affair, Christmas has taken its toll.

Got to get back on this horse.

After a short debrief, my mind was pretty set on figuring out if all my flying had died a death and I couldn’t actually do it any more……..or whether this has just been a bad run of it lately.   Back in the club I asked randomly

“I suppose nothing’s free tomorrow, so….”

Well, actually……someone has cancelled, 9am tomorrow.    An instructor I’ve never flown with before, hmmm not exactly what I wanted – there are a couple of names I was hoping to be free who I historically fly well with.   Fly tomorrow with someone totally new to me, or leave it a week???

I decided to leave it.

A decision that rattled around my head all of the short drive home.   Forget it, I need to fly again: Immediately, at this point in time I needed to know if my flying is really back to square one, or if this is just a bump.   I can’t wait a week, a week and I’ll be doubting myself because there’s been a gap.    A quick call back to the club and the 9am slot was mine.

Now we’d have to see what tomorrow would bring…..

Lesson 39: Bad Weather Configuration Circuits

Thursday, January 10th, 2013 | Permalink

In the training sequence “the next lesson” is supposed to be a local area solo flight, build confidence of being out of sight of the airport and on my own etc.   However, at this time of year, getting solo flight weather conditions is the same odds as winning the lottery.  I’ve been cancelled 4-5 times over the Christmas period and I only drove down to the club for this lesson with expectation of getting cancelled and because it’s easier to re-book if you can see the diary in front of you.

I was set to fly with what used to be my regular instructor, but recently it’s been a good few months since we’ve flown together.    One look at my training log and the body language was as I’d expected and I reciprocated.

Bad Weather Configuration Circuits

With a cloud base at approx. 1,500ft going solo was completely out, but we could go and brush up the bad weather circuits (Flown at 600ft instead of 1,000ft).

It’s still nice to think back that there was a time when if the cloud had been like this and the intent was to do circuits, I’d have been cancelled.   Now at least there’s some confidence I can fly a low altitude circuit (600ft being only 100ft above the legal minimum height).

I’d flown one before in my previous lesson but I wasn’t expecting to be flying them today so just being honest I was rusty on the “when, to do what”.    A quick refresher:

  • Lookout at 400ft during climb
  • 500ft :  Two stages of flaps (Not “Flaps to 2” as I might have said in the breifing……Ehhh,  2, 20, 2 stages, it’s only a name 🙂 ).
  • Level the aircraft out at 600ft and trim for 70 knots.
  • Turn through 180 degrees  (rather then flying crosswind as a straight line).
  • The turn onto final becomes a 180 turn from downwind straight to final, due to being ~50% closer in on the runway.

Roughly right, apologies if that’s not quite a complete briefing on the topic, I’d refer you to the book of words, but this lesson is not in the book of words…..

Plane Checkout & Taxi



I had my choice of planes, actually it seemed bizarrely quiet a the aero club today.   Oh well, I’ll take my favorite plane G-SHWK, we’ve had a good run recently.

Someone has been giving it some TLC as its starboard strobe is now fixed 🙂

All checks done I sat around in the plane for a few minutes, in the past a senior instructor has told me that post-solo I’m allowed to start the engine on my own.   That’s one of those things I’d been looking forward to doing, but then I’ve gone so many lessons without the opportunity self-doubt has crept in and now I found myself reluctant.

Of course when the instructor showed up the first comment was “you don’t have to wait for me any more to start the engine…..”


The log book says we did 8 of them, I’ll be honest I can’t remember the exact sequence of all of them and even if I could chunks of it would become repetitive and boring to read as is the way with basically flying round and round in ellipses.

In the first climb out the sequence of things was a bit rough and the height shot through to 700ft, this would be a trend I’d find hard to break.    Once trimmed up the height was recovered so that by downwind we were flying 600ft – though I look back and remember spending less attention on  my airspeed for achieving this (a point the instructor would pick me up on).


I’m going to paint a red line on the front of this plane, just left of the bolts above the engine cowling and straight to the propeller…..or something, even when I was trying to pick a field and flying straight to it I found myself moving my mental line (was it the bolts I’d lined up with the field or just left of them),  correcting for the wind and/or the balance and then bang…..instead of flying 050 and heading straight for the landmark of the base turn, I was back on 030 converging on the runway.

Being already 50% closer in on the runway then a normal circuit this convergence was pretty crap actually.    It was something I just kept doing until I over compensated and diverged on a circuit.

Landings are sorted :  Famous Last Words

Oh I wish I’d never emphasised the fact I believed I’d cracked my “rubbish” full flap landings.    Right from the get go, first circuit I knew I was doing the last 50ft wrong, but I couldn’t stop it.  Old instructor, all my old bad habits came rushing back to haunt me…….I felt my eyes staring too steeply down on the asphalt, I tried to stop that but my brain couldn’t resist a fear of losing all the airspeed in the flare, so I didn’t flare properly and wham, a hard landing.

I did eight landings in this lesson, I hated all but one of them.    None were so rubbish they forced a go-around, none were so rubbish you’d call them unsafe, but I hated them.    I still hate them, I look back at this lesson and am really bitter about some of the stuff I was sub-consciously doing.    It was like I’d reverted back to how I used to fly just because somewhere in my head I knew who was in the right seat.

The landings were so rough that at the end of the lesson my instructor asked me to do a couple of normal circuits just because even she said she’d seen me do better then what was happening today.    They were a bit better, maybe the last one was decent.   But I have to walk away from this with my head screaming Arggghhhh!!!!

The Good / The Bad

I kept overshooting in the climb, this was not great but I’ll try and be positive and argue that you don’t typically go and take-off into bad weather, feel free to counter with arguments of go-arounds.

Once the extra hundred feet was lost I felt I was doing a decent job of holding the height, I’d even say it was trimmed up…….but I was trimming for height holding.   Quite rightly my instructor later flagged me that I was sometimes flying too fast, an extra 10 knots of speed making life more rushed then it needed to be.

In myself I didn’t feel the approaches were bad, but as I’ve said above, the last 50-100ft my descent angle was to steep with not enough airspeed for that angle (my view of why it goes wrong).   I’ve seen those speed dials and attitudes many times before, when it goes wrong the picture in the window looks like it did and the speed dials are reading 45-50 knots, if they read 55-60 and the descent angle was a bit more shallow then changing the attitude would not drop a ton of airspeed the rate of descent would be arrested, I’d have more confidence in myself to flare harder and touchdown would be feather like.


This wasn’t my best lesson as you can tell, I wasn’t happy with a lot of what I was doing, but I am happy that if someone said “are you confident to fly a 600ft solo circuit”  I could say yes without guilt or worry.  Sure the landings were rough, but they weren’t unsafe and I know I can do them better, this was just one of those days where it didn’t quite happen.    The fact I haven’t been able to fly since mid-December also probably played into it.

There’s a tick in a box, so it’s not all bad, my landings were good enough that my instructor said she’d have sent me solo with them – but I just know I can do them better then that and that’s why I’m particularly hard over on the issue.

I’ll just keep looking forward to that elusive local area solo.


Lesson 38: Precautionary & Precision Landings

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013 | Permalink

At around 11:20am I got the Standby call, a trail experience booking hadn’t shown up for the 11am slot and if I could make it in for twelve, the lesson was mine.  🙂

Unfortunately upon arrival the wind was too high to go and do local area solo flying, but we could skip ahead and do some other stuff.

G-HERC (Golf Hotel Echo Romeo Charlie)

G-HERC (Golf Hotel Echo Romeo Charlie)

A relatively quick briefing of Precautionary Forced Landings, Precision Landings and the Bad Weather circuit configuration (70 knots, 2 stages of flaps, low circuit height [600ft]).

Precautionary Landings (opting to land, typically in a field while you still have power etc. rather then being forced to land when something cuts out), goes hand in hand with the need to do a precision landing – as the name suggests, hitting the aiming point (often referred to for runway landings as “landing on the numbers”).   So we’d go out look at the precautionary landing, then come back and do some precision landings and fly some bad weather configuration circuits.

Just for a change we’d be flying G-HERC, haven’t flown it since September.   I wandered out to find it, except they’d moved where they refueled the planes so I was soon returning to question “Where is it?”

Of all the typically used club aircraft, Romeo Charlie always feels the most shiny and new.

It might be shiny and new, but it didn’t start first time 🙁

Taxi & Take-Off

Taxing out a business jet was doing circuits, sounds like a fun way to spend the day, but for us it meant we got ATC requesting we back track on runway 23 and await clearance.   No sooner were we backtracking we were cleared to take off, so just the task of spinning the plane round and opening the throttle (always after a last chance to stop “are you happy?”).

Due to traffic, we were requested to exit via the overhead (left turn rather than right, climbing turn up to 2,000ft and then exiting by flying overhead the aerodrome).

Climb to 3,000ft……became 3,400ft :-\   Was happily enjoying the flying, hmmm, we’ll go back down.

Time to pick a field, after a bit of looking (benefit of precautionary landings), I found a nice big field at 8 O’clock, it was largely into wind and would be hard to miss.

Flew a circuit around it, then down to 600ft, initially I was thinking I was aiming to “land” on this approach but actually the aim was to just fly over on this pass (clearly not everything had stuck in the briefing).   Looked like a pretty good and big field, no obstacles etc.    Another circuit, but now holding 600ft and then a turn on to final, descending, descending….waiting for the call from the instructor to declare it ok and give the “go around” command (can’t fly below 500ft height).

With that done it was back to Cambridge, a couple of good points:

  • In prep for flying solo I was much better versed on where the airport should be, very pleased to find it was where I expected 🙂
  • Radio calls were generally smoother then previous few lessons, much happier with the transfers from approach to tower.

I don’t read sign language, my instructor was pointing down, down, down……I was happily flying 2,00ft with the crosswind leg approaching (which we should be crossing at 1,000ft).   A plane taking off didn’t help the situation as we then had to slot in behind it – only to find it wasn’t staying in the circuit.

First precision landing, just too low maybe 200ft to soon, aborted and we’d try that again.

My instructor then called to get permission to do a low level circuit (600ft, instead of 1,000ft), she flew it for bad weather, so also much closer (maybe 50% closer) to the runway.   Once we turned on to base I was given control.

This time my precision landing was on the numbers and touched down as soft as you like, wooow 🙂

Now to fly my own bad weather configuration, low level circuit.   During downwind I was converging a bit to much, but other then that it was spot on and trimmed up @ 600ft and the touch down was even more perfectly on the numbers and even softer on the wheels.

Gone are the days of my horrible landings with full flaps and preferring flapless approaches.

One more to finish it off.

The final approach was a bit oscillating, I went down to three red, one white (bit low of three degrees which is what you sort of want), but that became four red – more power, now it was 3 white one red.   Just coming over the threshold a touch too low, meant I was likely to touch down before the numbers, touch of power, a bit of wind and it all converged to result in a thump (by no means the hardest landing I’ve ever had, but relative to the previous two, it was hard).    It had to end badly didn’t it, but hey, it wasn’t the worst I’ve done and in this wind, I can’t say I walked away that disappointed really.


All in all I was pretty happy with these 55 minutes of flying, the odd point here, a touch of stuff to tidy up there, but a few more boxes ticked and a few really nice landings chucked in for good measure.


Lesson 37: Practice Forced Landing

Thursday, December 20th, 2012 | Permalink

I pondered ringing the club, the weather was looking bleak again.   I’d waited until the last minute for the phone to ring or the weather to clear, time to make a decision:  We’ll go for it…..

Taking one step out of my front door, the rain started to come down, gritting my teeth at the realisation I walked back into the house.   Disappointment was quickly followed by a rush to decide what to do next:   Call the club or Go anyway?   If this got cancelled I didn’t have much left in the books, it’s easier to book lessons with the club diary open in front of you, so what the heck – drive down there, it’ll get cancelled and we can book some more lessons.  Maybe even get a coffee out of it 🙂

Club Arrival

Light rain was coming down, but the weather was made to feel worse then it was by the bitter cold wind.  It felt almost embarrassing to be turning up in this weather, I’d take one step through the door and find instructors holding hot drinks, reading news papers and wondering how to fill their day.   I left my flight bag in the car, won’t be needing that – or so I thought.

My first words to the admin girl were “I know it’s going to get cancelled, but I figured I’d just come anyway and book some lessons.”    She’s clearly wiser then me though, replying she didn’t think it was.  Really?   I give up on this weather lark.

The instructor raised similar questions of why did I think it would be cancelled…..   The wind, the rain, you can’t see a patch of blue anywhere.   But the weather system at the club said the wind was actually only around 8 knots, gusting to 10-12.   Doable.   The  cloud base was up at 2000-2200, bit on the limits just about doable and the rain……actually it was starting to stop quite nicely, the odd drop here and there but getting better.   We’d wait for some feedback from an instructor currently in the air, but I guess I’ll put my hi-viz jacket on and go and find the plane then.



G-SHWK in the hanger (Keeping warm)

Temperatures had dropped to freezing overnight, so the plane (Whiskey Kilo) had been moved into a hanger.   This made checking the plane a much more civilised  affair – the hanger being heated to ~18C.  It still strikes me as a little strange to just be walking around a plane in a hanger with only a handful of people who know why I’m there, any minute someone is going to come and ask me what on earth I’m doing.  But nobody does.

Whiskey Kilo still has a broken starboard strobe, but other than that, in top shape with plenty of fuel.

Coffee & Cake :  Waiting for the plane

Now just a matter of waiting for the plane to be brought out of the hanger, but a fire alarm meant this would be delayed – every minute wondering if the weather was going to get better or worse?

Time for a coffee, as I was with an instructor I’d previously got some cake from on a cancelled lesson, the joking request was “….just missing the cake.”   The gods were looking down kindly on me today, as my instructor disappeared and returned with a cup cake, the last in the box 🙂    I believe home made and excellent.   Coffee and cake while waiting for your plane, life is good.

Have headset, will taxi planes for free…

The fire alarm meant there was no sign of our plane moving, another GA pilot hanging round the club suggested we move the plane ourselves.   Swinging open the massive hanger doors, it was then a case of musical aeroplanes as Charlie Bravo had to be shifted out of the way first.

Now we had Whiskey Kilo out, but what to do with Charlie Bravo?   As I had my headset in the plane I got the job of turning it on, radioing the tower and getting a taxi clearance to shift it to parking.

If anyone owns an airfield and wants planes shuffled around,  my parking is getting pretty good 🙂

Seat belt nearly scuppers it all.

With planes shuffled and the time ticking on, time to get going.   In the rush I’d jumped in, started the plane up and then realised I hadn’t put my seat belt on, great, now I needed to open the door 🙁    This seat belt decided it was going to try and bring all the antics to an abrupt and painful end, it just would not release, pushing it all the way back in, gently trying to take it back out, try and try and try…….it just wouldn’t not go.   I think we came to within 20 seconds of calling it a day and shutting down, when finally – Hurrah!  It released.  With the instructor having already done the rest of the pre-flight checks,   We can go:

Cambridge Tower, Golf Sierra Hotel Whiskey Kilo with Information Juliet……..Requests Taxi.

Climbing out

The take off was alright, I can’t say I payed special attention to it but it seemed straight enough, sat at a nice 80 knots and all very civilized – until my instructor noticed the heading direction indicator (HDI) wasn’t aligned to the compass, ahhh but I have an excuse, she blitzed the pre-checks this wasn’t one of my checks today 🙂    Easily corrected once straight and level.

Easy until I overshot 2,000 and went to 2,300ft.   Where the horizon stopped and a mist of clouds began, we’ll go back down then shall we….

Practice PAN

Nobody said anything about reading anything.  A random thought as I was told my instructor had control and I was handed a piece of paper and told to prepare to do a practice PAN on 121.5  (Emergency radio frequency), the world is listening, no pressure :-\

We listened as another student did his, doing a disgracefully good job of it too, great thanks for that.   But then events transpired that we had a window to press on and get at least one practiced forced landing in before returning to this.

Attempt #1

The book says aim to fly it almost like a proper circuit, with hindsight from 2,000ft two things went wrong next.   Firstly at 2,000ft fields look actually quite small – I can make it, but could I land in it & stop?   This combined with wanting one I could fly a circuit to, meant I basically picked one to far out.

The airspeed was a pretty decent 70 knots all the way, but after 1,000ft of descent, the wise voice in my head (that would be my flight instructor on the intercom) suggested perhaps we wouldn’t make that and how about another one a bit nearer.

All in all we had the advantage of largely being surrounded by fields, but this was rough to say the least.   Still I’ll take a positive from it, I still find it bizarrely calm to close the throttle and drop to 500ft.

Attempt #2

The mistakes on the second go were much the same, first the fields all seemed too small, which pushed the field selection further out, to one that put us at 2,000ft and essentially in the downwind approach.   Two stages of circuit to fly, 1,500ft to drop, seemed almost ok.  My naive self still ponders if I’d have made it to this field,  but with some (no doubt much wiser) words suggesting we might not .  How about picking another?  Having dropped some altitude and the fields starting to look a little bigger, now the field directly in front of us was looking pretty good.

From there on in this attempt went much better, ultimately concluding in a decision we’d have landed in that field.

Time for that Practice PAN, PAN, PAN

Actually I thought I’d nearly escaped doing this 🙂  The practice is a good thing, but they say a lot of people lock up just in fear of pressing the Mic button to talk to their airport tower the first few times.  With the radio set to 121.5 Mhz (Emergency Frequency) and the next call being to “London Centre” with no previous practice, ever, of this call.   I just wanted it to be half decent 🙂

All said and done, it might have only been a one off practice, but actually hearing someone come back and the response you’re going to get etc.  I found really useful.

Attempt #3

Much happier with what the size/shape would look like from 2,000ft (and what they’d actually become when down at 500ft), it was easier to keep the field selection to roughly within the 10 degree angle that the plane should be able to glide to.

This attempt still had multiple re-selections though, what looked open at 2,000ft had a big power line or pylon thing 1/3 into it at 1,000ft.   Thankfully the original field wasn’t selected as the only show in town, but its surroundings, were good too – so the field selection could be quickly switched to the field to its right as required.

Found myself talking my decisions/actions out loud more on this approach and generally it felt like progressive progress was being made.   Decisions like holding off on flaps no doubt works better if you say you’re intentionally holding off (you haven’t just forgotten they’re there – which is easier to do then it might seem in the mix of checklists and everything else going on)

Attempt #4

I think because I’d anticipated the sequence, was sub-consciously aware the airspeed was up at 100kts and wouldn’t drop to 70 for a good 10 seconds, when the power was cut, I jumped straight to finding a field and skipped over setting the airspeed initially 🙁

Other than that, by now I found I was quite comfortable with how big a field was actually going to be when I got down to 500ft and being sure about the size, played greatly in my head with respect to how far I’d try and push the selection window outwards.

Once selected, because you’re flying over lots of fields, telling the instructor which one was the one we were aiming for was always interesting:

The green/yellow one, next to the slightly darker green one, just after the brown one, just right of the green one with a hedge.

I need to start a campaign for farmers to paint big letters in white in their fields, that would make the process a whole lot easier 🙂

Heading for Home

Time to head for home, other than my entry into the circuit, dropping straight through 1,000ft to 800ft, oops.   It was a crosswind join that went alright.

Another nice landing to cap off the lesson and all in all, fairly decent and I enjoyed it.  I think a couple of those glides could have been better, especially the first two but what I really took from this lesson was a good feel for perspective of what the fields & surroundings would look like from 2,000ft and that a certain size/shape at that height, would turn out to be all good once down at 500ft.

In the debriefing my instructor was looking through the checklist, and announced that next up was potentially a Local Area Solo, subject to getting good weather next lesson.   90% of me is very excited, the other 10% is thinking they must be joking!

Lesson 36: Flying in the Rain (PFL Attempt #2)

Monday, December 3rd, 2012 | Permalink

The Met Office had half of the west coast in flood warning, locally the clouds were overcast pretty much everywhere, the METAR said cloud base at 1,800ft with rain coming.   Well it’s got to be another cancellation then hasn’t it?

Apparently not.  A call to the club instructed me to come in anyway……..I spent much of the drive thinking “must be joking we’re not going in this.”

Upon arrival, to my surprise the lesson was still on.   Another quick run through the briefing of a Practice Forced Landing (PFL), then out to check the plane.

Plane Checkout



G-SHWK, still with one strobe not working, had a rain covered windscreen and I must have walked round that plane with a constant muttering of “This is getting cancelled…..”    It was already spitting by the time I was checking the propeller.   Normally this results in an instructor marching out to say it’s all off.

I like turning switches on and off, so figured might as well do the internal checks – but this lesson is going to get cancelled, for sure.

Internal checks done, just waiting for an instructor……..and waiting……now doubt starts to creep in.   This doubt thing is new, recently I’ve found myself expecting some sort of meteorological challenge, no idea why but I think it’s a sub-conscious sign that I’m past the “new and nieve student” phase and am now anticipating that more is expected of me.   Perhaps I should be speaking up more about the weather?   Perhaps that’s why I’m still sat in a plane and there’s no instructor in sight.   Maybe they’re waiting to see how long it takes me to reach this conclusion on my own?

We can’t seriously be going in this, the windscreen is now raindrop covered again.   Must be waiting for me to come back.   The next hi-viz jacket out of the club door isn’t my instructor, so I decided to lock the plane up and go and see if there’s been a revelation back in the club with respect to the rain and clouds.   There’s still no way we’re going to get up in this.

On return to the club my instructor was confused to see me, assuming there must be a problem with the plane.   Hmmm apparently we’re still going, really?    Ok then.

Locked up Plane

On the walk back to the plane I was told the people who’d previously come out had been on their way to G-SHWK to test a headset…….except I’d locked the plane up 🙁

This is my favorite of the clubs airplanes, I don’t want anyone attempting to steal it!

Taxi to Delta – Via the Grass, past the expensive Beechcraft

With a slight bit of mental autopilot (ATC said taxi to Delta, I replied taxi to Alpha….), it was off to the far side of the airport.  On a sunny day a trip to Delta is quite nice, it’s down a grass hill taxiway.  On a freezing cold, threatening to rain hard any second, November morning.   Alpha would have been nicer, but we had a chat amongst ourselves it’s all good.

G-SHWK to the Sky

Our long taxi, ball park a mile, down to delta had allowed the Beechcraft to start its engines and as they were cleared to Alpha, beat us to the runway – now we’d have to wait for them to take off.   No harm though, if you want to watch planes take off, holding point Delta is about as good as any spot you’ll find.

With that done and the windscreen scatter gunned with droplets of rain, we rolled out on to the runway, opened the throttle and it was up, up and away.

Up…..up……straight into a haze of mist and stuff that had aspirations of becoming cloud.

At 1,500ft – Horizon, what horizon?

Another few hundred feet to the cloud base and this would have been on, but as things stood it had been a lot of fun getting to this point (I was still amazed I was actually in the air at all).

Time to call it quits and head for home, still we could try a high glide for the landing and get a bit of practice in.

Returning to the Airfield

We were overhead before realising/remembering, that it was a right hand circuit and I’d managed to fly it more in-keeping with where we should be for a left hand circuit.   Now we were too far downwind, to save time my instructor took over for some steep turn adjustments to our position.

It’s been ages since I’ve flown a right hand circuit and forget looking out of the back window to see where the runway was relative to us – it was just fogged up with rain/mist and condensation.

Removing the power for the glide approach, the net result was I was guessing the base turn.  Guessed wrong and was promptly FAR to high.    A chance for a demo of how much you can get a Cessna to drop in side slip if you want to, but even with all of that and full flaps……..we’d have landed halfway down the runway.    Time to Abort and try that again.

Again cleared for a high glide, this circuit was at 1,500ft.    Now being a full and proper circuit it was a bit better, but as soon as the runway disappeared to the back windows, it was gone – I’ve done this enough times to generally know what the world in front of me should look like turning on to base, but I’ve not done a high glide this way round before so there were still some variables.

It was again to early and to high, but workable.    There’s two large pools of water at the near end of the runway (land short if you dare) which give huge amounts of sink, so you don’t want to come over these low with no power.

The landing was a bit flat, but a gentle enough touchdown to be happy with.   My second (what I’d call) decent landing with the same instructor in a row, it’s starting to feel much more natural and to be expected.  Looking back, other than in hideous crosswind, it was September the last time I landed hard.  Maybe I’m learning something….

40 minutes of flying – but no tick in a box.

Sure we didn’t tick the PFL box today, but I’ve never gone flying in weather like this before.  In months gone by this would have been a early morning phone call telling me not to bother, so from an experience perspective I count it as having actually been really useful.   It was a chance to take off in light rain, get a bit more radio practice in, do another glide approach and get another landing on the books.

All in all, a lot of fun, valuable practice and a great experience.


Practice Forced Landing Briefing: The lesson that never was

Saturday, November 24th, 2012 | Permalink

Normally if the phone rings before 9am on a weekend, it’s the aero club, often a good thing as it means there’s a last minute slot going 🙂    However, on this particular day the phone rang, but realising it was past 9am, this couldn’t be a cancellation.

It was still the aero club, but this time ringing to tell me I was late for my lesson.  ‘Lesson?, I never booked any lesson for this weekend, same time next week is what’s on my phone.’   Other than to suggest in over a year I’ve never missed one yet, we won’t go into who was right or wrong here, it doesn’t matter.

What made this particular call a bit strange was the background banter of whether or not I should just come in anyway:

“Come in….”
“What’s he doing?”
“Practice Forced Landings”
“Oh, well we don’t have the weather for that…”

Maybe I just wasn’t awake enough at the time, but after a debate of whether I could get down there quick enough to still grab the lesson, this banter was some what amusing  🙂

Bad weather seems to leave the instructors filing ‘important paperwork’ (possibly involving coffee and talking about the weather), so it doesn’t always mean it’s a total loss for a student.   I was invited to go down anyway and we’d go through the briefing for the lesson.   Good stuff (and the one thing in flying that is actually free! 🙂 ).

Practice Forced Landings

General idea is to get comfortable with the procedures involved should the engine stop or decide to burst into flames.

Without thrust, the aircraft will assume a landing configuration…….in as much as you’re going down whether you wanted to or not.

In the event such things occur, there’s a sequence of priorities and things to be getting on with in order to maximise the chances of the end result being a landing, rather than a crash.

Practice Forced Landing Briefing

Practice Forced Landing Briefing

  1. Set Best Glide Range Airspeed :  70 knots in a Cessna 172 – Anything faster or slower and your glide range will be reduced, though worth noting that best glide range is not the speed to set if you want best glide endurance……..but unless we’re trying to avoid ditching in the sea for the maximum amount of time possible, range is what we want.
  2. Select a Field : It might be a bunch of houses ahead of us, but perhaps there’s a field behind or on the far side of us, you never know your luck maybe even an airfield 🙂     Preferably into wind as this will reduce our ground speed, start planning – can we reach it etc.   When selecting a field, it’s all about the S’s:
    1. Size
    2. Shape
    3. Surface
    4. Slope
    5. Surroundings
  3. Restart Checks :  Assuming this is an engine failure, now we have given ourselves maximum range and know where we’re going to try and put the plane if all else fails, time to see if we can’t get the engine going again.
    1. Mixture:  Is it rich?   Exercise it and reset to rich
    2. Throttle:  Is it open?  Exercise it and set to about half power.
    3. Fuel Shut Off:   Should be ON   (fully pushed in)
    4. Fuel Tanks:  Select Both
    5. Aux. Fuel Pump:  ON
    6. Magnetos:  Left, Right, back to Both
    7. Try Restarting the engine.
  4. Check the Plan:  If it hasn’t restarted, time to double check we can still make the intended field, that nothing new hasn’t now come up to make that original field unusable (e.g. now we can see there are power lines etc.), are we still at the right airspeed.
  5. Distress Call:   Time to wake up the world……7700 on the Transponder to indicate an emergency, radio call “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday <Call Sign> <Type of Emergency> <Location> <Number of Persons on board>”.    Unless by some miracle there is an airfield within glide range, in which case this radio call should be enough to promote you to number 1 in the landing order.   Other than deploying the emergency services, that’s about all Air Traffic can help you with – so unless the engine restarts and the crisis goes away, not much need in talking to them after this.
  6. Check the Plan:  Airspeed / Can we still make it / Is it still the field for us.???
  7. Shutdown Checks:   This plane is now officially no fun, but it’s potentially going to be less fun if you hit the ground with everything live, time to turn it all off (If the emergency was a fire, you’d have already forgotten about restarting it):
    1. Mixture :  Lean / Idle Cut Off
    2. Throttle Closed
    3. Fuel Shutoff:   OFF (Pulled out)
    4. Aux. Fuel Pump:  OFF
    5. Magnetos:  Off

At some point we want to turn the Avionics and Master Switches OFF, however, the Avionics drives the transponder, so we might want to avoid turning that off straight away.   The master switch drives everything, if we turn that off, we’ll lose the avionics, the flaps, the lights…….primarily we’re concerned we might still want those flaps and we won’t want to take them early, because once the height is lost there will be no getting it back.   As a result these will be the last two switches to go off.

Circuit / Approach

As per the sketch on the white board above, the aim is to be at 1000ft at a specific point, or “Low Key” point.   From here the final part of the approach can be flown:

  • Too Low : Fly more directly to the aiming point
  • Too High: Fly away from the aiming point, or ‘S’ turn.

The idea is to aim for a touch down point about half way into the field selected, as the height is lost and it is certain we could make that point, the aiming point is brought closer to around a third into the field.   Though speed needs to be considered, as the book of words says:  “Better to reach the far end at taxi speed……..then to undershoot into the near side hedge at flight speed.”

At around 500ft, staying legal, the practice will be called off and a verdict of whether we’d have made it or not given.  It’s probably ironic that aircraft have some of the toughest design & production certification requirements of any industry – but you won’t find any air bags or crumple zones here, they’re designed for high probability of safety in the air, not crashing into a fence.

Well that’s the general theory…..

Next lesson we’ll see how it turns out in practice 🙂

Extra 200 & The Weather

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012 | Permalink

G-GLOC in climb

G-GLOC in climb

Not having much luck with this plane at the moment, from it’s engine not starting, to it having a flat tyre and then bad weather.

It doesn’t seem to like me much.

Having recently had a few days off work I thought I’d have another go at getting up in it, but it was still not to be, two days of terrible fog and a cloud base of 200ft at its worst, forget doing aerobatics 🙁

We’ll keep trying though, all good things…..


Lesson 35: Advanced Turns

Monday, November 19th, 2012 | Permalink

The first words ever posted on this blog were:  “It’s going to be about flying and nothing but flying…”   The opening lines of the ‘about page’ at the time, setting the scene for:   “Why document it all anyway?”  ……and also a subtle hint that, as you might have noticed, I don’t name instructors.   That was always intentional for two reasons:  I was conscious from the get go that it’s not fun to find your name randomly on web pages and secondly a lot of what gets written up is subjective afterthought with lots of scope for error.   Why bring it up now?

This lesson ended with that slightly awkward moment, I’ve seen other blogs go through:

So are you still writing that blog then?

Busted…….it was inevitable, I’ve mentioned the aircraft names in every post (they can’t sue me for libel) and recently I was conscious of using the airports name and photographs more and more, it was getting easier and easier to stumble upon and be able to connect the dots.

Still, if you come away with any impression other than the club and instructors there are all fantastic – you’re on the wrong blog.   Fingers crossed my bad lessons grumble more at myself then anyone else, to enjoy the highs you must experience the lows….

Back in good old Whiskey Kilo :  Low Fuel



With a general lack of AVGAS at the airport, this lesson would be done in G-SHWK, it’s only been a few weeks apart, but I miss flying it 🙂

After a short discussion on the lesson and a general summary of lesson background theory and objectives:

  • Steep Turns (45 Degrees)
  • Collision Avoidance
  • Stalling/Recovery during a Steep Turn
  • Demo of a Practice Forced Landing

Actually ‘collision avoidance’ was more of a rationale for the need to do a steep turn. Finding a reason to do one (other than because they’re fun) was something I actually faffed around trying to find…..avoiding hitting something, so obvious!  :-\

On with the plane checkout.

Upon turning the master switch on, the fuel gauges read “5 gallons Left, ~10 gallons Right.”   That’s as low as I’ve ever seen (except for when they didn’t respond at all) and at that moment I was pondering going back and checking we were still taking this plane…….bit of quick math (~15 gallons in the tank, ~10 gallons/hour fuel consumption:   1 hour lesson + 30 minutes reserve).   Doable, I’d crack on and see if it was all in vain later.

The dip stick confirmed the fuel gauges could be believed.

Cleared for Immediate Take Off

Another one of those bizarre moments upon lining up for departure (why I find it bizarre I’ve no idea, but it is…).   Having called ‘ready for departure’, air traffic replied asking if we could accept an immediate clearance – we could, upon rolling on to the runway the plane on final approach made its radio call and I realised I knew the pilot…… if I didn’t get out of the way sharpish and forced a go around, I wasn’t going to hear the end of it.   Full power!!!

A tip from my instructor that if ATC ask if we can accept an immediate clearance, we can just start rolling and accept as we go, rather than confirm we could, then get offered, then accept and get going.   Arguably the latter is more procedurally correct (otherwise you’re moving, potentially on to the ‘Landing Area’, without actually having a clearance to do so).   The counter argument would be one of inference…..Debate amongst yourselves, I do as I’m told 🙂

Once in the climb, looking down and left I realised I could see the runway, we were getting pushed right by the wind.  An average attempt to compensate followed.

Commencing a 20 degree climbing turn to the right, it was just a matter of time before Air Traffic would ask us to switch frequencies.

More R/T errors and Brain Stalling

A lot of time has been spent pondering the mental stall from last lesson, so I was hoping to avoid it.  It’s sort of strange that in the last 10 months, it’s only in the last 2-3 lessons that I’ve had to switch frequencies.

The call to actually switch frequencies went ok, it went wrong when I called Approach and they called back the QNH (pressure setting for measuring altitude above sea level), that for no obvious reason threw me completely…….maybe they said QNH 1011 and I didn’t hear the QNH, maybe they didn’t say QNH, all I know is I just heard “1011” – for which I found myself thinking “what?  what’s that?”

I’ve got to get over this locking up issue, it’s at risk of becoming a bigger headache then my previous obsessive desire to fly on instruments.

Steep Turns

After a couple of steep turn demos, executed with zero change in altitude (a tough act to follow!), it was time for me to have a go.

First a 180, 45 degree banking turn to the right.

It went pretty well, from my memory of the dials it was completed with +90ft (apparently the limit is +/-150ft, so not bad for my first go).

Followed by the same thing to the left (to prove it wasn’t a fluke), it wasn’t quite as good but still within limits.

Collision Avoidance Turns

Essentially the same maneuver, but without any of the smoothness in entering the turn/applying power etc.   Just roll straight into it as if your life depended on it…….compared to the steep turns I’ve done in the Extra this was still a very civilised affair, but a bit more aggressive in motion then the first two.

Stalling in a Steep Turn

Before any stall there is a HASELL check (Height, Airframe, Engine, Location, Lookout).  Normally the lookout is a 360 degree turn at 30 degrees of bank, as we were up here to do steep turns, why not do a steep turn orbit.   The longer you’re in the turn the harder it is to keep everything in check, it wasn’t my best orbit, but it wasn’t too bad.

When asked what the first thing to do to recover was?  I answered “roll the wings level” …..Wrong.  In hindsight I have flash backs to being told this is what people tend to do automatically when in a wing drop stall, the correct action is to actually push the control column forward and get airspeed first.   Ahhh the stuff not yet engraved in my brain…..

After a quick demo and noting that it’s actually quite hard to stall in such a tight turn, it was time for me to have a go.

You learn faster from your mistakes so at least running through the “what are you going to do” meant it went smoothly on the practical (lets  all now forget the answers given in the theory shall we).

Demo of a Practice Forced Landing

Nothing quite makes you want to come back for more, like seeing what you’ll be doing/attempting next.

Time to see a practice forced landing, albeit one executed more calmly and with seemingly much more time then it would feel if I was attempting it.   Picking a brown field and gliding down, warming the engine every 1000ft, to around 700ft before finally calling it off.   It always amazes me how calm and almost relaxing it is to be in a plane with essentially no power gliding to the ground……strange (perhaps I have blind faith in the engine restarting).

My glide approaches in the past had a tendency to undershoot, so we’ll have to see how it goes.

Returning home

The fuel warning annunciator was flashing low fuel, the gauges were saying roughly zero in a turn 🙁    and about 5 gallons in straight and level……..time to run for home.

A bit of a practice run with my instructor for the radio calls, this might actually go half decent for once.

…..and the hand over back to the tower went fine, all well until they asked how we wanted to rejoin.   Good question.   I’ve only ever done overhead joins, they had to be awkward and give me options 🙂

Descending back into the circuit via a crosswind rejoin, dropping a touch low and then going a touch high (+/-100ft of circuit height), it was an average circuit.

Crosswind Landing

The turn on to final was late, resulting in an overshoot leaving us right of the approach.   This needed to be corrected for while flying into a crosswind.   Historically my crosswind landings have been bordering rubbish, only recently have they started to touchdown without an almighty thud.

I can actually remember flying the approach pondering what I was doing……..yes we were staying straight, but it was a half crabbed, half rolled approach to keep it that way and noting previous lessons afterthoughts of It goes wrong because I’m not reacting fast enough, this approach had a ton of input.

Just above the runway I mentally reminded myself to stop looking at the asphalt and look along the runway, applying a bit more back pressure we touched down almost as smooth as I’ve ever landed.   The technique for getting down might have been debatable, but the landing was one of my better ones……and if you want to walk away from a lesson happy, it’s all about that touch down.


Seemingly some good points, turns were in limits etc.   then a note on the approach technique and that it basically wasn’t right, the result was one wing kept lifting and this probably played into why there was a ton of input to keep it looking reasonable.   But I got it kicked straight just before we landed and the landing itself was alright 🙂

We can refine the technique getting down, compared to my early crosswind attempts, I’ll take that landing any day of the week 🙂


Flights Cancelled by Wind & Cloud

Sunday, November 4th, 2012 | Permalink

Recently I’ve lapsed on my general rule of booking 33% more lessons then I actually want or can technically make, it’s just been a busy few weeks and actually it’d been a pretty good run without a cancellation……but it couldn’t run forever.

So a couple of weekends back it was 25-35 knot gusting wind, scratching that lesson.

This weekend I was booked in for some less ‘sensible’ flying in the Extra 200, that was looking good all morning, but upon arrival to the aero club the Met Office had other ideas and within ten minutes wiped 2,000ft off the cloud base 🙁     What I really wanted to do with this session was some spinning, so for that we’d need a good few thousand feet, with the clouds down at 1,800 it was never going to happen.

So a couple of weeks of cancellations, but we’ll try again in a few days.   A couple of hours of blue sky can’t be too much to ask for can it?

Lesson 34: Short-field Take Off & Revision

Monday, October 15th, 2012 | Permalink

Having had a glance through the training sheet, I was semi-prepared for the tick box objectives of this lesson before arrival (though I have to admit I’ve not yet memorised the emergency procedures sheet quite as well as I should – equally I was expecting a slight grilling on this).


G-MEGS Garmin 1000 Glass Cockpit

Garmin 1000 Glass Cockpit

With several of the clubs airplanes in for maintenance, it would be another trip in G-MEGS.   I couldn’t have timed finishing circuits and having a flight in the book for MEGS any better, now it’s playing to my advantage, as not all students are allowed to fly G-MEGS (I certainly went a year walking past it).   If I heard the instructor right, you need at least two solo’s – these are just club rules, but I’d guess the lack of analog gauge planes is causing other students some availability issues.

Found myself quite looking forward to another go in the glass cockpit aircraft.

The objective was to tick off a number of training boxes:

  • Short-field take off
  • Revision of slow flight
  • Revision of Climbing/Descending (with an emphasis on doing it at set speeds / rates).
  • Stalling with Flaps
  • Rejoining the circuit

Take Off

I’m quickly getting the impression that G-MEGS lives its life in tip top form, perhaps not getting the same abuse of trainee pilots like the other Cessna’s.

All pre-checks done, the plan had been to ask Air Traffic for permission to back track on the runway (taxi the wrong way up the runway in order to maximise distance for take off), with a plane coming into land and a mile long runway if we didn’t we might have got an immediate clearance.   I figured it’d still be more fun to do a back track and take off from there, so I requested permission to do it….  ATC as expected came back with instructions to hold…….once the Piper was down they were obliging to the request.

Lined up, with a full mile of runway ahead of us:  10 degrees of flaps set, toe brakes firmly held down, the engine was run up to 2,000RPM.    With the engine roaring, the brakes were released and the rest of the throttle opened……Everything that could be done to get this plane in the air in the shortest possible distance (apart from asking the instructor to get out), had been done and now we were charging down the runway and soon up, up and away.   Hope the kids that were at the airport enjoyed seeing this particular plane take off.

Climb out

Aiming for best angle of climb, this was done initially at 62 knots, before switching up to 80 knots once we were at a good altitude.   Really just to get some practice in flying best angle of climb.   Found the digital tape a bit easier to work with on this second trip.

Kept the climb coming up before starting a turn out to the right at 2,000ft.

Given the rubbish weather that had been forecast in the days prior, it was actually really nice flying.   A few clouds, but mostly blue sky and stable air.

Straight, Level……and Slow

My instructor asked me to fly at 70 knots.

I could just about remember that I wanted somewhere around 1,700 RPM to get this and it actually came together and trimmed up really nice.   2,500ft @ 70 knots.   Nice enough.

We did a bit of work with the flaps and various other speeds and familiarisation of flying out of the circuit.

Air Traffic Control were starting to get slammed by aircraft wanting to join or leave and we had a handful of planes to keep a look out for.  The Extra 200 was up (very fast, very aerobatic!), a Tiger Moth was around (very slow) and a Piper was somewhere in the area,  so lots to be looking out for!

Orbits at set speed

G-GLOC in climb

G-GLOC in climb

Just after being asked to make a turn, at 11 O’clock I spotted a planes wings 90 degrees dead flat to us, it was the Extra, doing a stall turn.    I must confess to now largely stopping and watching it complete the maneuver, they look good from the ground, when you’re altitude level with them, it looks even better……I have a flight in the Extra 200 booked for a couple of weeks time, started to really look forward to getting back up in that plane, sooo much fun!

My orbits were ok, I think the Extra distracted me a little, the first I lost ~130ft and that loss of height threw the speed from 70 to 82knots.   All generally ok, but I can normally orbit plus/minus 20ft.

Climb to 4,000ft

As we were about to revisit  stalling with the flaps down and stalls with flaps & power (approach configuration) it was time to climb back up, avoiding the clouds, to 4,000ft.   It’s been a while since I’ve been up this high 🙂

Found myself getting quite used to G-MEGS and the glass cockpit, once you get over the newness of it all it’s really quite easy to work with.

After an orbit to check the area for other aircraft, we did a stall with 20 degrees of flaps, with the nose and left wing dropping, it’s a fairly simple matter of pushing the control column forward, applying full power, adding some rudder and leveling the wings before recovering into a climb.

After another stall, I was asked to do one with flaps and power.   It all went fine, except I must have missed the request to recover on the ‘first sign’  (buffeting / stall warner), as I was on my way to letting it stall before the instructor said “Any signs of a stall?”       ……of course, oh right you want me to recover it already.   Fair enough.

Just to make sure, we did it again.

Descending at a set rate of descent

What goes up……… in this case, must come down at a pre-determined rate of descent.   Really just to polish up and check I could still do this stuff (it’s strange but I’ve been going round in circuits so much that it’s been months since I’ve had to descend for anything but approach to a runway).

First I was asked to descend at 500ft/min.    Seemed to get it all trimmed out nice for that no real issues and the stable atmosphere was no doubt helping the performance.    Next it was to try and make it 700ft/min.    This time the rate was wondering +/-50ft or so, but generally seemed a decent descent.

We leveled out at 2,500ft.

Just time to practice a few of those emergency scenarios I’ve not memorised enough, I think I had them in my head on run up to first solo, but now they’re slipping away, so some homework required 🙂

Circuit Rejoin

This would be my only “arrrh” moment of the flight, we got the ATIS information easy enough and my call to Approach was ok, they said to contact Tower and this was all good.   I then pressed the mic button to call the Tower and it should have gone like this:

“Cambridge Tower, Golf Mike Echo Golf Sierra, with information Alpha, QNH 999 hectopascals, request standard overhead join.”

Should have……but instead went like this:

“Cambridge Tower, Golf Mike Echo Golf Sierra, with information Alpha……….”

At which point my brain blanked out and my instructor took over to rescue the call.    I think the only issue here is I’ve not spent enough time familirising myself with the chain of events and when/who I’ll be talking to next, so I was trying to remember the who and the sequence and the sequences that would follow.

That screw up out of the way, the rest of the calls for joining the circuit were good and I was quite happy talking to the tower as we were put into a holding pattern over the airport due to traffic.

Descending on the dead side of the runway, it still surprises me how low 1,000ft feels when you’ve had an hour at 4,000ft.   Was a reasonable descent with an aircraft taking off as we were flying the crosswind leg of the circuit, just to keep things interesting.

Crosswind Landing

The weather was turning on us, from blue sky it was now an 8 knot crosswind, not far from the limits of a student.   I’ve spent a lot of time thinking through my crosswind landings, where they weren’t brilliant and consciously thinking about being more responsive.

Final approach was flown with the nose facing ~30 degrees right of the runway.

Leaving it a touch late to kick it straight (we were maybe 20ft off the ground), touch down was feather like and landings like this really put the icing on the cake of any lesson.

It had taken a bit of runway to get it all straight and calm, so ATC cleared us to back track and exit at Charlie, we could have got off at Delta but it’s a long old grass taxi if you get off there, so always grateful for their support.


G-MEGS External


All in all a good and very enjoyable lesson, I know there were a few mostly minor bits I needed to tidy up, but I was happy with everything and the instructor seemed pretty happy, noting a decent landing in crosswind (he’s been in some of my more awful landings).

The weather is just about holding and/or I’m getting pretty lucky, it won’t last I’m sure 🙂