Archive for January, 2013

Lesson 41: Local Area Solo

Monday, January 28th, 2013 | Permalink

The previous lesson didn’t go well, so 24 hours later I was back at the club hoping for a better personal performance in the re-match.

Flying with a new instructor (new to me anyway), slightly conscious that this might be a big ask:   “Hey you’ve never flown with me before and my record probably says my landings 24hrs ago were crap…….but mind sending me for my first local area solo???”

Still he seemed up for giving it ago and seeing how I flew today, so we’d crack on.

That Plane again & the Visibility Discussion

G-UFCB Cessna 172SP

G-UFCB : Cessna 172SP

We’d be taking G-UFCB, I knew with Whiskey Kilo out of action it was either this plane or Romeo Charlie (as MEGS with all its glass cockpit toys was unlikely to be an option for a first solo out of sight of the airport).   Romeo Charlie was currently booked with someone else, so I was back with the plane that quite simply, hates me.

Forget the plane for a second though, the wind & cloud base were looking great but the visibility was 7,000m.   My instructor glanced the solo limits:  8,000m   We might have a problem here.

Serious hmmm’ing and ahhhh’ing ensued.

Now for my first stroke of luck of the day, a senior instructor became the voice of encouragement that it’s likely to actually be ok, go and see for sure, but it should be fine and getting better throughout the day.  When I was new and had even less experience, I used to think this was one of the more pessimistic instructors around – I’ve since learnt it’s more a voice of good experience.   For him to be optimistic about the weather, meant it felt definitely worth a punt of going up and seeing for sure.

G-UFCB strikes again

Charlie Bravo wasn’t about to throw in the towel and let me go flying that easy, it was being cold and grumpy today.   Its second radio had decided to suffer from the cold and pack-up, the display was unusable.   Sparking the second debate of the morning….

Given the second radio was out, I wouldn’t be able to get the ATIS (Air Traffic Information Service) on the way back if I went solo – at least not without changing radio frequency on com 1.   If you think that sounds easy enough, note that you’re not meant to ever leave a frequency without ATC knowing you’re doing so – if they can’t raise you on the frequency they last had you on, search and rescue starts to become an option.    Now seriously at Cambridge with radar and all the other bells and whistles of a proper airport, this is unlikely, but procedurally…’s not something I should be doing.

Again an experienced voice stepped in with some sound logic:   “Just get ATC to give you the ATIS and if they question it tell them why……you only have one radio.”

So we were still on for flying G-UFCB, I’d go do a sloooooow checkout (the visibility was just below limits but set to get better, time to trust the forecast and drag out my checks a little 🙂 ).

With some support from the airport staff we got the plane out of the hanger and got our taxi clearance.

Runway 05 again

Thankfully it was a pretty quiet morning for airport traffic, we did our power checks at Charlie and were then given clearance to backtrack down the runway, before turning round at roughly Delta (Taxi on the grass to the same point takes longer and in this game time = money).

Having flown 05, right hand circuits only the day before I was a bit more confident I knew my way round (I realise that to ‘outsiders’ of flying that sentence must sound stupid, perhaps to other pilots it sounds stupid too…..but in my defense I’ll argue there’s a reason why most clubs have a “currentcy” limit of about ~28 days).

Circuit #1

It seemed like a good circuit, I made sure my downwind checks were done with audio statements so my instructor was aware they were done etc.   There’s a quarry at the far end of the downwind leg, knowing that I’ve been taking flak for converging in circuit, I set that as my reference and for my money we flew straight for it and were dead centre with it at the end of downwind.

My instructor was being pretty quiet and just letting me fly it my way, I assume because I should be able to do this by now and so he could just assess whether I was flying ok or not, end of story.   To that end though, I was careful to make sure I turned base when I wanted to turn base, irrespective of anything else.

On completion of the turn, the runway was looking good, couldn’t be happier.   Now just to get the speed down, the flaps to 20 degrees and turn final.

The crosswind was nothing like the day before, so I turned a touch too soon, but corrected it in the turn and just let it come round a little slower.  Final approach was initially high, but it all came good.  Passing over the threshold everything was calm and under control, rate of descent felt much better.

With a gentle tap of the main gears, we were down.   It felt good, but my instructor said nothing – I couldn’t do it any better, so if that wasn’t a tick in a box we should call it quits now!

Circuit #2

On the climb out my instructor said the touch down was in fact very nice, my flying was fine and one more like that and he’d be happy to send me solo 🙂   I don’t know why this didn’t phase me, perhaps because my flying felt right and I had one good circuit in the bag, so I came at this circuit with a mental attitude of “of course it’ll be fine….”

All very much the same as the last circuit, perhaps the slightest bit harder on landing but still so gentle you’d have mistaken it for a speed bump at 5mph etc.

Approved to go flying Solo

The normal last minute reminders & formalities (i.e. radio tower to inform them the instructor was getting out) and I was good to go.

Now the people in the tower have always been pretty good to me, but upon asking for ‘further taxi’, their niceness just confused me.   Knowing that the active runway was 05, they cleared me to pull over to the siding of Bravo and do my power checks there…….normally you do your power checks at the side of the holding position, which today would be Charlie or Delta, so I wasn’t expecting Bravo to be part of any discussion.   A quick request for them to repeat the instruction and we were back in business, better to be sure and all that.

I decided that I was going to spend ~30-40 minutes out somewhere around Point Alpha and Grafham Water, having already told my instructor I wasn’t planning to try and come back and touch and go.   I’ve flown enough circuits to sink a ship recently, I wanted to spend some time out of sight of the airport.

All clearances sorted, a mile of runway ahead, the throttle went forward and at 200ft I verbally told myself out loud

I have to find my own way back from this point on….

I knew there were a million ways to resolve it if I did get lost, but as a personal goal I didn’t want to use them.   I just wanted to fly out, then bring it home on my own, without calling for help – do that and everything else would be a bonus today.

I don’t think I’ve ever flown 05 except for circuits, at 600ft and beginning the turn out to the left it was almost surreal to see the river Cam and recognize it etc.   You don’t really see it on 23 because you can’t turn until around 2,000ft.   I’d learn later my wife was running along side it at this exact moment and watched me climb out 🙂

From here I built myself a little mental plan:

  • Climb to 2,500ft
  • Find Point Alpha
  • Do some Practice Force Landings
  • Some Steep Turns
  • Head home

Now I’d seen the Cam. I knew where the A14 was so Point Alpha was going to be easy, even though I’d never found it this way before (I’d never even flown out of the circuit this way before, forget finding anything).   I cannot begin to explain how calm and relaxed I began to feel from this point on, the whole experience began to feel simply amazing, I guess I’ve clocked enough hours that all self-doubt aside, when it comes down to it I can fly the plane with no real major problems.

Point Alpha

Point Alpha

It’s taken about a year and half from that first experience of being in a C172, to now, out on my own in a C172……..sure there’s a lot of boxes left to tick, but the altimeter read 2,500ft, nobody was in the right seat.  If you’re thinking about learning to fly, I assure you that this milestone is a particularly addictive one.

And if you look to your right, you’ll see Point Alpha,  look back a few posts and you’ll get a bit of help pin-pointing it.

Practice Forced Landings

C172 in a turn

Turning to find some fields

With one landmark found and Grafham water in the window, time to find a good spot to do some PFL’s.  I did think about practicing a stall but my luck was on form and I didn’t want to push it 🙂

Admittedly the first one wasn’t a work of art, the target became too far away and I hadn’t really given myself the best of alternative options.   Still, on pulling the throttle out, I could still imagine some farmer beginning to panic about the C172 that had just started lining up to ‘land’ in his field.  It must be quite a sight from the ground.

This first descent also introduced the first complication, at 2,500ft giving it plenty  of attention, I’d known exactly where I was and finding my way home would be easy.   Now I’d descended to ~600ft AGL and made a number of turns, focusing more on the best field choices rather then navigating.   The world looks very different at 600ft, would I be able to find it all again???

Grafham Water Ahead

Grafham Water Ahead

Thankfully climbing back up to 2,000ft found the world how I’d left it, I soon found Grafham water and from there you know which way is which.   Little discoveries like this continued to make the flight beyond enjoyable, I really was having a lot of fun – partly fueled by the reality of what I was doing, partly because although the weather looked a bit average, it was actually a really nice day to go flying.

My second attempt at a practice forced landing went a lot better, this time I was more than happy that if I’d kept going, some random farmer would have had to be enlisted to help pull out a (well landed) Cessna from a field 🙂    I had no desire to land quite then though, so with the power back on, time to go and have some fun elsewhere.

Fen Drayton & Lakes

Fen Drayton & Lakes

Climbing back up it became seemingly expected to locate myself and then pondered what to do next.   For no particular reason other then to see what it looked like, I decided to fly over to Fen Drayton, there’s a good set of lakes just slightly north of there  – so it’s a village relatively easy to identify.

Here I decided to do some advanced turns, so kicking it off by working my way through the HASELL checklist, soon the plane was in a 45 degree turn round to the right, an abbreviated HELL check and then a turn to the left.   They weren’t my finest turns to date, I think I went +100ft on one and -80ft on the other, but as every second ticked by my confidence was sub-consciously ticking boxes – not so much about the quality of the flying perhaps, but more in terms of being confident with respect to the situation I was now in.

Enough fun, time to head for home

I guesstimated it would take 10-15 minutes to get back, with the clock saying I’d been up 30 minutes, time to see if we could find the airport again.

Knowing where I was, I knew that in theory if I flew a heading of 110 degrees the airport should appear.   There’s no reason it shouldn’t but you do wonder if it’s going to 🙂

Just to complicate things another Cessna came into view, I turned to ensure we kept well clear of each other and then set myself up behind it (I’d guess 4 miles) at about its 8 O’ Clock position.   I heard them give a radio call and knew I’d have to do the same very shortly.

The call went alright, I forgot to read back the active runway but they repeated and we got through it without any real dilemma.

Then the moment of truth, how did I want to join???    I wanted to take the easy way out and join crosswind (as I’ve done this with instructors more then anything else), but earlier in the morning two instructors encouraged me to do a standard overhead join.   If anything a more complex join procedure then anything else you can do, but I figured I’d take their advice and see how I got on (having never done a standard overhead join for 05 before in my life).

As the airport came into view the Cessna ahead of me however had other ideas, I told Approach that I had visual with them, but I knew I couldn’t keep following them if I was to do a standard join……one of us was not going to be doing that and I was beginning to wonder where they were actually going.   Forget it, keep them in sight and focus on the task:

  • Cross the runway threshold (23) at 2,000ft
  • Fly out a bit and then turn back 180 degrees
  • Cross the other end of the runway threshold (05)
  • Descend on the dead-side in a turning descent to the right
  • Cross the (23) threshold again at 1,000ft
  • Join the downwind leg of the circuit.
  • Complete the rest of a normal circuit and land…..

It’s something like that, and except for being so pre-occupied with flying each step pretty spot on (and forgetting to report dead-side), again ATC were kind enough to remind me to report my position.   The whole operation went arguably better then I’ve ever joined the circuit in my life!

I remembered all the remaining calls and the landing was a fine finish to an amazing lesson.   All that was left to do was to find somewhere to park the plane.


No problems, apparently the overhead join looked good from the ground, clearly good enough not to watch my landing, so I was asked how that went, but all good and I didn’t get flagged on anything.  So fingers crossed the Air Traffic folks in the tower hadn’t just spent 55 minutes bitterly grumbling about the student having a joyride to the north west………I’d like to hope I caused them only minimal hassle.

All things considered, perhaps G-UFCB has made some peace with me.

A long post, but if you’re thinking about learning to fly, let me assure you that this particular milestone is one that certainly makes it all worthwhile.

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.