Lessons 15,16,17 – Circuits, Circuits and More Circuits

Quite a bit to catch up on, as time has been limited and the only constant where everything else has had to give – has been actual flying lessons.

It’s funny how time flies when you’re having fun.    I remember waiting to do my first take off, then my first landing – each time feeling like it’s just out of reach, then it happens and before you know it you’re looking back and can’t remember how many times you’ve done them.   I’d struggle now (without referring to my log book) to tell you now how many landings I’ve done.

Now I’m just waiting to fly solo for the first time……and the knowledge that you’re maybe a few good circuits away from doing it, is a double edged sword.




All three lessons were flown in G-SHWK. For no real reason, now my favourite of the clubs planes.

Lesson 15 was to focus on general circuits, touching on aborting/go-arounds.

Lesson 16 & 17 were flown on the same day (due to a bit of a club mix-up on bookings – and my eagerness to go flying, I just decided I’d have both slots with a few hours gap between them).   Again the focus was on circuits, but these lessons introduced the first emergency scenarios and beginning to get a feel for “if the engined failed, which field do you think you could reach Vs which field you could reach.”

All three lessons, rather amazingly were with an instructor who historically brings the rain (or I bring the rain to her – depends which side of the story you want to listen to).

Circuits, Circuits and More Circuits

Unlike almost all the previous lessons, when flying circuits I find I have a hard time remembering the good/bad/ugly from each circuit and it all just merges into a collective event.    Probably due to the increased workload going on.

First circuit of every lesson to-date has tended to be not brilliant, but from there on in generally the circuits of lesson 15 went smooth enough – a running theme of perhaps a bit more power still on during touch down then would be ideal and a constant bombardment from my instructor to keep my hand on the throttle for the entire circuit (more on that later).

Lesson 16: can be best remembered with my instructors arm & map covering all of the cockpit instruments – for most of the flight.   Apparently I’m flying on instruments to much……my defence of you can trust them didn’t go down well :-\   Countered quickly with the fact that the instruments won’t tell you you’re about to fly into someone else and an emphasis on the fact we fly at a very busy airport, while many pilots learn at much smaller airports and thus tend to make mistakes when flying into bigger airports with heavier traffic and stricter necessity to follow procedures (She has a point I guess 🙂 ).

With the map covering the instruments I apparently fly well, without the map I start flying on instruments and the desire for absolute accuracy (1000ft +/-0.1ft altitude etc.) causes the control surface workload to skyrocket – ask an autopilot to achieve 1000ft +/-0.1ft and see how many inputs it makes to achieve it……this probably illustrates what I must look like attempting to achieve it.

We practised a bit of engine failure and a couple of aborts/go-arounds and it was time to land – lesson 17 just a few hours away.

Lesson 17 – The Latest in Aviation Equipment

After lesson 16, my instructor had a very tired arm and so came up with a cost effective instrument to improve my flying:    A piece of paper & some sticky tape with the words:


Written on it, with a smiley face of course……… 🙂

From about 100ft, my instruments were covered by the paper and I was told in no uncertain terms that I know what an 80knot climb looks like, so fly it and stop staring at the instruments (not that I could now).

A scary thing happened next:    With no instruments and only my instructor to tell me when to turn on to crosswind, I climbed at 80 knots, turned using 20 degrees of bank – and by some ‘miricle’ leveled out on crosswind at 1000ft!   My instructor thought I was cheating I suspect because she said “How did you know when to do that….”    and my honest response was “I have no idea – it just sort of looked right.”

Hmmm….they say something similar in the book about the landing perspective.    Could it be I’m getting the hang of this VFR flying lark, but am just holding on to the instruments like a safety blanket?     Maybe my instructor knows what she’s talking about!

My only problem now was trying to break the habit of staring down at where the instruments would be resulting in a very strange effect that you find yourself attempting to look through paper.

With the paper my flying was (instructors opinion) calm and smooth with plenty of time left to do other things like pre-landing checks.    When she took the paper away……..back to worrying about every single foot of altitude, every RPM over 2000.   Must look up, Must look up, must look up!

Grass Runway Landing

As we came in to land air traffic control announced that runway 23 main was closing for an inspection – and could we accept 23 grass?

As I’m heading closer and closer to going solo I’m doing most of the radio work now, but for this I had to look at my instructor and give a “I have no idea, can we?”  

Apparently we could – but that left the remaining issue that I’ve never landed on 23 grass before (or any other grass runway for that matter).

Issues to remember about grass runways:   Narrower (esp. compared to 23 main which can take 747’s), shorter and well errrrm they’re made of grass!

Took a few seconds to get it lined up properly as without all the nice PAPI toys and other lighting unless you’ve flown it before it takes a bit longer to actually work out what you’re trying to line up with.

After that the approach was good,  the landing ok – but I continue to be at 50ft with too much power…….and a grass landing?    Well it’s like a tarmac landing except it’s as bumpy as anything!

We backtracked on the runway to get to the taxiway and then had to hold position because one of the other clubs Cessna’s was coming in and hadn’t got stitched up to land on the grass 😉

I can’t seem to repeat the super smooth landing of my first two landings ever done, it’s beginning to get a little annoying that they were almost perfect and now I can find issue in almost every landing I’ve done since.

I left this string of lessons with one recurring phrase:   Look up!


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