Archive for July, 2012

For whom the phone rings: Flapless Landings (Lesson 26: Solo #3)

Monday, July 30th, 2012 | Permalink



The weather had been horrid in July and finally when the sun did come out, I didn’t have any bookings on the plane.   This resulted in the longest gap between flights in my training – good weather AND a plane never lined up.

In an effort to meet those who had been lucky enough to get flying in the one week of glorious sunshine we’d had, hear stories of how good it was and encourage them to cancel at the weekend 🙂   I went to the monthly aero club get together at a local pub, really good evening as always and it got my name around the flight instructors that I was desperate to go flying!

They say you make your own luck, maybe that’s true because at 8:20am the following Saturday morning the phone rang – the aero club had a very last minute cancellation for the 9am slot, they knew I wanted to fly and was within easy reach of the airport with such short notice.

The weather was good and I finally had a plane!   🙂


I hadn’t flown in the best part of a month, so my currency was in question.  The briefing was pretty short and sweet though:   Go up, we’ll do some flapless landings with an intent to do duel/solo – but we’ll see how we go, if I was ok flying, I’d go do some solo.   If we got up there and it was all a bit too rusty, we’d leave the solo for another day.

Fingers crossed then…..

Circuit 1
Take off and Climb were all good, but forgot to back the power off to 2000 RPM in crosswind, as a result the airspeed was on a run for 100kts before my instructor reminded me to watch it.  Following another plane doing epically wide circuits (and over a village it shouldn’t have been flying over), the approach was done from far out and was high, I found myself adding a little power when none was needed, but we got down, the landing was ok and for once, not flat!   Yay!

Circuit 2
Was all round more awake on the airspeed, my instructor reminded me I was converging on circuit and to set a reference to fly on.  I remembered my downwind call, ATC came back to inform me we were number 2 following the Extra 200 …..unlikely to catch that, but because it’s small fast and maneuverable it can be a trick to spot, my instructor had it a clear 10 seconds before I did.

Approach was ok, but I must have missed a radio call as I radioed final, only to be told by my instructor I’d been cleared to land already, Air Traffic repeated the clearance….not a big problem, but obviously you don’t want to miss calls etc.

Landing was a bit hard, could have held off a touch longer.  Up we went again.

Circuit 3
Downwind was a mess, first I flew it at 870-950ft, on a 1000ft circuit 🙁   Then my instructor asked ‘Where are we?’  and this just threw me……Cambridge, England, The World……?    What do you mean where are we?

“What phase in the circuit?”

Ohhh downwind, aaargh, downwind call.

The rest was all pretty good, until 50ft off the runway when rather than sink, it floated up, a slight moment to grimace then on with full power……going around.

My instructor said I could have landed it, but ballooning has been drilled into me as a no no!   So I decided on the spot to be safe.  There are no points for dropping a plane on tarmac from 50ft.

Circuit 4
Under orders on the climb that the altimeter would not read 850ft this time, I was told to make it a ‘to land’.

It takes 10min a circuit, so I knew either enough was enough, or maybe we’d be landing so she could get out (leaving me to fly solo 🙂 ).

Downwind was at 1000ft, radio calls all remembered and the approach was fine – it’s amazing how hope of flying solo focuses you!

The landing was average, being flapless it was a faster approach, so took a while to stop and I was reminded not to use the brakes until we were at taxi speed.

Exiting at delta, I did the after landing checks and my instructor said to drop her off near the tower, I could go solo for ‘a while’.

After the mis-understanding of what boxes I was aiming to tick last time, I wanted to be clear on what I could and shouldn’t do……but it seemed to boil down to:

Go do a few solo circuits, as many as you like, I’ll radio if the time gets silly.

The fuel gauges said I had 3hrs plus reserve of play time 🙂   The instructors last words being ‘Go have some fun’.

Solo flight #3  –  Flapless Landings

C-130 Engine Check

C-130 Engine Check

With a call to the tower for ‘further taxi’, I was cleared to taxi back to Alpha……Then told there was a C-130 doing engine power checks down there and to watch out for it.    The traffic you get here makes it interesting.

Power checks done I lined up and waited for Charlie Bravo to land, as it did I was cleared to line up. They were touch and going, so I wasn’t even on the runway when my lineup clearance was upgraded to a takeoff clearance……..I still find it a bit weird to watch other pilots who I now know, land planes in front of me, and take off behind them.   It’s very cool, but just strange.

Full Power and we were off, knowing my instructor was in the tower I tried to make the climb as straight as possible, how good it looked from the ground is hard to judge, seemed good to me.

Keeping one eye on Charlie Bravo ahead, I climbed up to circuit height.  It was all good until I glanced right and realised I’d not set the transponder!  Opps, hopefully they wouldn’t notice the updated blip on the radar as I switched it on :-\

Radio calls done, downwind was really nice, to be sure I had plenty of time I extended a little, watching Charlie Bravo on final.   Coming in behind them, ATC told me to expect a late clearance, it was all good, a nice 70kts on the airspeed, everything feeling calm and with time to think.   It’s that sense of time to spare that tells you it’s going well.   Got clearance to land and with a slight bump I was down 🙂

Solo circuit #2
More of the same, all flown pretty nicely, there was some traffic about to join the circuit so I was conscious of them.

Overshot the turn onto final, leaving me right of the runway but nothing that couldn’t be easily fixed.

The landing was perfect, like a feather touching down.  When you get it this right, it’s always a nice rush of adrenalin.

Solo Circuit #3
No time to stop and pat myself on the back, just enough time to squeeze another lap in yet!    Really enjoying myself on these circuits, I was thankful for every second of flight time.

I’m pleased with how consistent my flying was on these solo circuits.

The approach was good, but it just didn’t quite want to come down that last 80ft, so the landing was a bit labored and chomped a fifth of the runway before touch down.  Perfectly fine, it’s a massive runway and I wanted to get down as I had traffic behind me.

There was no way I was getting this stopped by the exit point Charlie, so I was preparing to exit at Delta, when ATC said

‘….Whiskey Kilo, backtrack, exit at Charlie’

This means, turn around on the runway and taxi back up it in the opposite direction to its normal use.

I knew there was traffic on final, so I wanted to get this done sharpish, facing oncoming planes that have intention to land is not fun!

Soon sorted and on the way to parking.

In the plane the parking looked ok, it was when I got out I realised it was slightly shocking, the front wheel was 10cm right of the wheel platform!  This made tieing the plane down ‘fun’ and just about possible.

I was asked how it was, and said I thought it went well, I was really happy with one landing and no worries with the others.

My instructor said it had all looked fine from the tower.

Excellent stuff, 3 solo flapless landings ticked off.

A very good way to spend the morning, in finally improved weather 🙂

Credit for the C-130 Picture

Total Washout : Rain, Rain and more Rain…

Saturday, July 7th, 2012 | Permalink

Lots of Rain on the Windows

Nothing but Rain.

April was a bad month and resulted in almost all lessons being cancelled, June was the wettest in a hundred years and now July is looking like a total washout as well.

Second lesson of this month cancelled, due to an almighty downpour – it was so bad that you didn’t need the forecast to know the phone was going to ring to cancel, a look outside the window at 8am told you all you ever needed to know about the weather for the rest of the day!

Not much you can do about these things – but I’ve decided to head down to the aero club and book up plenty of weekends for August to try and get things back on track (if the sun ever decides to come out this summer).

It does provide a good reason to sit down with the Human Factors book and get cracking with the revision for that, as it’s the next exam to take.

See what the weather holds next week I guess…..

Lesson 25: Crosswind becomes 2nd Solo

Thursday, July 5th, 2012 | Permalink

The Extra 200 flat tyre strikes again, unfortunate for whoever had it booked, but once more very lucky for me!   As again it meant an instructor was free with not much to do but call around the clubs ‘stand-by’ list.


Having done my first solo only the day before it was surprising to be flying again so soon, but you can’t beat the feeling of showing up to the club hoping to go play with airplanes 🙂

Although the sky was blue with a few scattered clouds at 2,500ft the wind was at 10kts, varying between 5kts and 17kts.  Unlikely to be going solo, but I needed time doing crosswind landings, so we’d go for it and see how we got on.

Checkout & Taxi

G-HERC (Golf Hotel Echo Romeo Charlie)

G-HERC (Golf Hotel Echo Romeo Charlie)

We took G-HERC, now located back on the grass so I wouldn’t have to worry if I was pouring AVGAS in the wrong place on inspection.   Not essential, but it now had a broken landing light (hopefully that wasn’t me, but technically nobody had flown it since my solo, so maybe a connector didn’t like my landing).

To date, I’ve always done the external checks jumped in the plane, done the internal checks and then waited for an instructor to show up.   Upon arrival this time my instructor said that from now on, I could start the engine on my own – “After your first solo……If we trust you to fly it on your own, we should trust you to start it.”    A reminder to just double check with the instructor on the day that they’re ok with that, but that this was the general policy – and it did mean the instructor could then stay in the office until they heard the engine fire up 🙂

Even the small tick boxes count.

Circuit #1 – Crosswind Demo

I flew the circuit down to 300ft, then my instructor took over to demonstrate a landing with a proper crosswind.   His last 100ft felt vastly more controlled then when I do it, but I suspect he wanted the landing back as perhaps it could have been a better example 😉     He’s been in enough of my ‘landings’ to know I’m in no position to judge though!

All the same we were down, after a bit of running commentary control was passed over, flaps went up and we were soon back in the air climbing to 600ft for the turn onto downwind.

Circuit #2

This was a bizarre one, Air Traffic Control told us there was a Citation jet, from memory on the ILS (could be wrong), a few miles out.   Both me and my instructor were looking for it, before I asked “do you see it, because I don’t….”.   My instructor said he couldn’t see it.    Air Traffic then radioed to ask if we had visual with the Citation – I radioed back “Negative, we don’t have a visual G-RC.”

This lack of visual was then relayed to the Citation (though they probably heard us as everyone was on the Tower Frequency) and Air Traffic told us to not descend below 1000ft.

We turned on to base, still holding 1000ft – very careful to hold the altitude in the turn.  It might have been miles away, the tower might have radar and be aware we didn’t have visual etc.   but I really didn’t want the accident report to read “Student lost altitude in turn, descending below instructed altitude, before being hit by a Citation….”

Apparently my instructor had never flown over the runway at 1000ft either and this was a bit of a first for him too.   It sort of feels wrong to see a runway you had intended to land on pass 1000ft directly under you, I did ask if I should move over to the dead side, but effectively there was no need because we were flying at circuit height.

Half way ‘down the runway’ (still at 1000ft) my instructor asked ATC if we could be cleared to make an early turn onto downwind.   It was declined,  G-SHWK (another club Cessna) was already on the downwind leg.

Circuit #3

We entered the downwind leg maybe 800ft behind G-SHWK, so it came as no surprise when ATC said we were number two in the circuit.

I just made sure to follow them round, they seemed to be going out further on the downwind leg then I typically did, but we just followed them round the circuit and let them set the turn points.

The approach was nice an consistently good, my instructor observed that the crosswind that we’d come up to find in the first place, was now totally gone.   Shame, but then he said if it stayed like this on the next circuit I might get to have another go on my own 🙂

Landing was ok, I can’t seem to get away from touching down flatter then I’d like.

Circuit #4Touch and go…..To Land.

I remember semi-audibly going through the motions of the pre-landing checks, in a sort of “doing it on my own, but you should know I’ve remembered them” way.  Anyone would think I was trying every trick in the book to be deemed worthy of another solo.  🙂

On final I announced “final, for touch and go”

And that’s what we were cleared for.

However, the landing was clearly ok because as I started reaching for the flaps, my instructor radioed to the tower

  “This is to land……instructor is getting out.”

As the crosswind was now all but gone, I’d get another solo after all.   🙂

Parked up near the tower, the instructor got out and this is where I might have mis-understood what he wanted me to do next.   I understood it as go around the circuit a couple of times, which I took to mean 1 touch and go, one full stop landing.

Solo Flight #2

Got clearance to taxi to holding point Alpha all nice and easy, but upon arrival there as I turned into what little wind there was, I heard “Student…..Kilo Papa…..Request Taxi.”   Oh great, I was about to have another student on his own behind me!   One of us was bound to screw something up.

Seeing him start his taxi I cracked on with my checks and then set off for the holding point.

Radioing ready for departure, I got told to hold position.

I could see Kilo Papa to my right, taking ages to get through his checks, I was sure any second he should be lining up behind me, but nothing, just sat there.   Finally I heard a radio call:   “Kilo Papa requests to return to starting position….”     Not surprisingly the tower cleared him to do so, and then asked if he had a problem & if he needed assistance.   His next radio call really made me feel for him:   “…..forgot to make phone call for Prior Permission at……”.     I could just imagine the thought process in that plane, the moment of realisation that he needed to call his destination airport, hadn’t and now what should you do? – obviously what he did was the correct thing, but I now realised why it had taken him so long to build up to making that radio call.   Still it happens, not the end of the world.

Back to my task in hand……..I was holding for Whiskey Kilo, I think I know who was flying it, but suffice to say their landing, although touching down waaaay down the runway, made my landings look average.   So thanks for that!  😉

Once they were clear, I got my clearance to take-off.

First Solo Go Around

The take-off was pretty good and the same sense of calm hit me as I got up through 200ft.   It’s surprisingly peaceful on your own in an airplane, or at least that’s what I’m finding.

The circuit was fine, but 50ft off the ground or so the plane went nose up and started to climb – maybe I could have recovered this, but “do not let it balloon” has been drilled into me, that I had about 10 milliseconds of thought “Can I recover this?”, followed by a moment of “Bugger…..”    before pushing on full power and aborting the landing.

Still, get a bit longer in the plane on my own…..

Traffic in the Circuit

Getting back on to downwind, another jet decided it wanted to come in on the ILS, a french pilot.

On my third ever circuit of the airport on my own, ATC instructed me to do a right hand orbit.

No problems, if I do something well, it’s orbits 🙂

I made a metal node of the heading I wanted when the orbit was complete, just to be sure I didn’t lose the runway (it’s massive, but you’d be amazed).   Then went into a 30 degree banked right turn, 1000ft all the way around – I could fly in circles all day 😉

Getting out of the orbit was going to be more interesting, just as I was coming up to complete it, ATC radioed a long set of instructions to the french jet.   Now I really wanted to get on the radio to let ATC know I was completing my circuit and what did they want me to do?   Only to hear the french pilot say “…..can you repeat that?”

Arrrgh!   I need to get my message in, the heading dial was quickly approaching the point where I’d have to either level out – or decide to keep turning and do a second orbit.   I was only cleared for one orbit, but a decision needed to happen pretty soon and flying down the base leg with a fast jet I didn’t have visual with didn’t seem smart.

Thankfully the french pilot stopped for just enough time for me to jump in and tell ATC my orbit was complete and request if I was ok to continue onto base………before the french pilot went back into hogging the airwaves mode.   I was half expecting a call for the football results.

ATC cleared me to start the base leg, I’d radioed for touch and go all the way through this circuit and that’s what I asked for on Final……..and was cleared to do.

So I touched down, brought the flaps up, put the power back on and within a few hundred meters, it was back in the air.

To Land

A fairly pain free circuit, short of the excitement of doing this on your own actually quite a routine run around the airport.

Not my best landing, but not my worst.

I got through the after landing checks and as I was going near the tower  my instructor came out so I stopped for him.

“That wasn’t quite what we talked about was it?”

Didn’t really know what he meant, but figured he must have meant that we’d agreed two circuits and if you count the go-around, technically I’d done three.   I said I’d assumed I was to do two circuits, so the go-around didn’t count.

What he actually meant was, that I was meant to have done 2 full stop landings.    Land it, stop, ask for further taxi and do it again………nobody had said the goal was to get 3 solo full stop landings on the books!    Now I’d technically done 2 full stop landings and jumped straight onto solo touch and goes.

Hmmmmm, ooops!?!    I’m blaming ambiguous requirements 🙂

Still……..2 days, 2 solo flights……4 solo circuits, 1 solo touch and go, 1 solo orbit, 2 full stop landings.

A properly good 48 hours of flying.