Archive for October, 2012

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 🙂

Lesson 33: First Navigation

Monday, October 1st, 2012 | Permalink

Arriving at the club, this would be a lesson of many firsts….

Finally allowed to leave the circuit, this would be my first lesson not flying in a rectangle for a loooong time, I can’t remember being above 1000ft without being told “watch your height…”.

G-MEGS External


My instructor for the day was still out flying somewhere, so I was told to go and check out the plane, I’d be flying MEGS……..

Pardon me?   I could have sworn you said MEGS and must have misheard you……You’ll be flying G-MEGS.    They realise I’ve never flown MEGS before right?  Better check……Nope still flying it.

Ok then, G-MEGS it is.


Plane Checkout

G-MEGS Garmin 1000 Glass Cockpit

Garmin 1000 Glass Cockpit

So why the fuss about the plane, it’s a C172, so what’s the issue?    It’s a C172 with a Garmin 1000 glass cockpit.   All the bells, whistles, buttons and switches you could ever wish for appear in G-MEGS.

It was an option half way through learning circuits and an instructor thought better of it as there was enough to be learning without a whole new set of switches and lights.   So believe it or not, of the clubs 4 Cessna’s, I’ve never got to fly this one before.   Don’t get me wrong though, I’ve often walked past it wanting to one day have a go.

All those extra switches and lights require a different checklist, it’s fundamentally your standard C172 checklist, but now you have to check the G1000 isn’t detecting faults and dials now appear on the screen etc.   There are a couple of other buttons to press and as you can see below the yoke in the picture, there’s a million circuit breakers!

Briefing & Weather

Having had the slowest checkout of my life, with moments of “Where the heck is that..?”   I finally returned to the club house to catchup with my instructor and confirm we were going flying somewhere other than laps of the airport.   We were, Yaaay!!

The plan was to fly out, make a right turn, find “point Alpha” (a good reference starting point for bigger navigation sessions), do some radio work, request a QDM etc. and  come back for an overhead join.   Then it would be a touch and go, a left hand climbing turn out and then off to “Six Mile Bottom”  (it’s a small village East of the airport and has a good railway crossing a road landmark).

I forget what the actual wind was on the day, but if this had been a circuit lesson it would have been cancelled (greater than 10 Knots crosswind).   As the objective of this lesson was not about me landing, worst case the instructor could always do it, so the lesson remained on.

During the power checks another student, who from the radio calls had just been released solo, discovered the wind was to much and ATC called him back.

The digital RPM on the G1000 makes you faff with the throttle,  1722 RPM, but I want 1800….. that sort of thing.

Take-Off with Crosswind

The crosswind was so high that I asked the instructor “I think I’m doing this take-off….” during take-off brief.  A reminder to turn ailerons into wind and level them before rotation, but other than that yeah I could have a go.

Other than the crosswind that made for a semi-straight run, the take-off was ok.  The G1000 continued to have a “new toy” effect on me, rather than glancing at a gauge that is ballpark “80knots”, the digital airspeed just appeared to be all over the place, 72, 80, 84, 76, 80, 74, 81…….   I had a flash back to a previous lesson where the instructor said “You know what an 80 knot climb looks like… look out of the window and fly what looks like 80 knots!”    To that end I gave up on the digital display, looked up and started flying properly again.

Navigation to Point Alpha

Point Alpha

Point Alpha : Aerial Photo

It’s just basic maths, but it still surprises me how quick by plane you can be over a “nearby” landmark, which by car would have taken a lot longer to reach.

Such was the case with point alpha, I’d climbed up to 2000ft, turned right and within a matter of minutes (it felt like a handful of seconds), my instructor was asking “So let me know when you can see point alpha….”    Looking down and to my left, it seemed to already be there.   This is some sort of trick question, I’m going to point it out and then get told “ahhh everyone says that, but notice how….”    Nope, it really was point alpha – my god we reached that quick.

Strangely I’d looked at this point on my map a week before briefly, but hadn’t topped up on my knowledge of the surrounding area.   My instructor pointed out a few of the surrounding villages, I may have lived in this area for several years, but my geography is going to need work 🙂


Now to see about getting Cambridge to supply us a QDM (Magnetic Track to a VHF Direction Finding Station), or in short:  “Which way should I point the plane if I wanted to fly to Cambridge????”

This is done with the syntax:


The repetition is to allow the station being called sufficient time to get a fix.   They then reply with a bearing and a class of its accuracy, with “Class A” being +/-2 degrees.

Every radio call I was making was having me think twice as hard as normal, the new aircraft call sign: Golf Mike Echo Golf Sierra, kept making me think “remember what plane you’re in”.    I guess I’ve flown  Whiskey Kilo too much.

Compass errors

With that done, we set the heading bug and then went on to have a play around with compass errors.   To demonstrate how awful a compass is in a turn my instructor covered up the Garmin with his map (I’m used to flying with a map covering my instruments).

There was traffic in the area so ATC told us not to go above 3,000ft, we were at 2,200ft and if I’m honest my altitude keeping was a bit all over the show (+/-200ft), but I’m gonna blame the wind and the Garmin 1000 vertical speed tape that just seemed to be all over the place half the time.

Suffice to say the compass was once again verified to be rubbish in a turn, no awards for discovery there, but always nice to have a practical to prove it.

Touch n Go : Lots of Crosswind

Radio calls done to indicate we had the airfield insight it was time to rejoin the circuit, flying over the 05 numbers at 2,000ft and then turning back to cross the runway before making a descending turn – taking all the power off to get it down to a thousand feet.

Crossing 05, my altitude dipped to 930ft……I’d been flying nothing but a 1000ft for almost as long as I can remember, but suddenly with just 20 minutes up at 2,300ft, now everything felt really low.   It was a lot like driving at 70 mph and then pulling off into a 20 mph zone, feeling like you could just stop, get out and walk faster……..Now I almost felt like we were low enough to hit something, a double take that we were at 1000ft again.   Normal circuit stuff.

Such was the crosswind on final we were flying in with the nose 45 degrees off from the runway, and such was my concentration on attempting to make a decent show of the approach that I forgot to radio “final”  (400m out my instructor asked if I was going to…….arrgh).    If there’s one thing I’ve found in flying, it’s the ability for the mind to zone in on 1 task and forget everything else, it’s almost scary how focused you can become to the defeat of all else.

Don’t know why I bothered concentrating though, the last 50ft were awful and some instructor assistance was required to get it down with grace.   Crosswind landings have got to be a motor memory thing, I’m not reacting to the inputs quickly enough, there’s a reaction but because everything is reactive, the reaction and the amount of input needs to be instinctive…….and well, it clearly isn’t instinctive enough yet.

Navigation to Six Mile Bottom:   That’s a railway line?

Six Mile Bottom

Six Mile Bottom / Railway Line

As we climbed up my instructor told me to follow the railway line, my thoughts were “Ok I reckon that must be the train track…….but it must be one narrow train!”    I hope it looks wider on the ground, because it almost looked like a public footpath from the sky.

Again, no sooner was I convinced it was a railway line, the landmark I was looking for (road crossing the railway line) was insight – but self doubt kept playing in my mind such that I hadn’t gone “Yay there it is…..”    And we were over it moments later.

To try and put this distance thing into perspective, as the crow flies from the end of the runway to the yellow highlighted circle of Six Mile Bottom, it’s exactly 6 miles.

At 100 knots, subject to wind affecting ground speed, you’ll cover this distance in ~3 minutes.   However, you’re 2000ft up, a quick bit of crude math suggests that from 2000ft, if you look down with an angle of 10 degrees (or 80 from the planes perspective), you will be able to see a point 11,500ft away (2.1 miles).   Make that angle 5 degrees and it will be theoretically in immediate sight.

True Bearing, True Bearing…..

Just to get a bit of practice in, time to request a true bearing (also known as a QTE) from Cambridge.   This simply gives you the true bearing of the plane from the airport/station.   If you then fly the reciprocal of the bearing given, you’ll be heading to the station.

All done exactly as a QDM, but although it’s known as a QTE, the call is still for a “True Bearing”.

Time to head home

Calling ATC to tell them we had the airfield insight and request an overhead join, it was time to head home.   We were told to report when “overhead”  (2000ft and over the top of the airport).

Until my instructor spotted he’d turned off my RPM gauge (aren’t glass cockpits fun), I was flying for a while on the sound of the engine with my brain going “I’m sure the RPM was on the left of the display…..where’s it gone?”

Once over the dead side it was just a simple case of make a descending turn, down to a thousand feet and then it was as my instructor put it “back in your normal circuit”.     Yay the safety of the circuit, how I’ve missed you these last 55 minutes 🙂

To help keep the speeds up and maybe make it all a bit better, tried to do the landing flapless.   I may have remembered my radio calls this time, but the crosswind was still relatively immense, my attempt at landing in this much crosswind was, well, rubbish.   Time for a little help from someone who knew what they’re doing……

G-MEGS all turned off

G-MEGS Shutdown

All that being said, after months and months of going round in circles, this was an enjoyable lesson.

Finally have all four Cessna’s in the book, so maybe I’ll get to fly it again from time to time now.

Some links you might find useful for radio calls:

CAA: Radiotelephony Full Manual

CAA: Quick Guide for General Aviation Pilots