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PPL Diary

(Warning: Dry humour may remain; add salt. Aircraft may go down as well as up.)

Trial Lesson

I'd been interested in flying for some considerable time. In fact since building my kit car I have wanted to build a kit plane.

But first to learn to fly.

My wife had kindly bought me a 'build your own plane' type book at a jumble sale. Frankly this was a rather frightening book which I can't recommend here. I can still remember there was a picture of a man flying his homebuilt plane, shortly before he crashed and didn't walk away.

Rather more encouraging were the three books she bought for me next. Firstly because they were good books and secondly because my wife had thus clearly sanctioned my aeronautical enthusiasm. The books were "Learning to fly in 21 days", Ron Machado's "Private Pilot's Handbook" and "Stick and Rudder". All recommended. I hope to add a page on books and exams to this site shortly.

Next was to look out for local airfields. I was lucky that some people I know are glider pilots, and once they had stopped trying to convert me away from powered flight, they recommended Bourn airfield as a good, friendly place to learn. From what follows it should be plain that I have found this to be the case wholeheartedly.

The first thing you need before learning to fly is clearly a wife as, shortly after I had passed a big academic exam, she presented me with a trial flight voucher for Bourn as a present.

So we all turned up at the airfield as a family and I went in to meet my flying instructor (FI). Let's call him 'Brian' to protect the innocent. He sat me down in his office and explained that they usually did the trial lesson just like a 'real lesson', in that there would be a pre-flight briefing and then we would go out and do some flying. This was just what I wanted to hear. And we got to play with a model airplane too.

I should say at this point that I am afraid of heights. I should also say that the cockpit of a C152 is rather small, at least compared to me. I might also say that the headset cable had a worrying tendency to get tangled up in the shoulder strap as I tried to look about the cockpit. However I soon had much more to worry about as my FI fired up the plane and we began to take off.

Now that was fun, and the fun was greater than the sum of the worries, good.

The trial flight went by very quickly, including my go at gingerly handling the controls. Being offered control had rather surprised me, despite the fact that I knew it was coming, and that was the whole point of the exercise. There was a lot to take in, many instruments, the perspective from the cockpit especially during turns, but mostly the whole 'feel' of flying in a small, light aircraft was still quite alien.

We did the usual fly-past for the video camera and then landed for a chat. Landing didn't feel too strange, in the sense that it felt right as we did it.

Time for a picture, along with my elder son, and then home to decide whether to book another lesson or not....

7th August 03

First Lesson: Effect of Controls

Still smiling (mostly inwardly) from lesson beginning to end, so flying was for me. The instructor was also showing his teeth, of course he must have been smiling too. That's nice :-)

We were looking at the secondary effect of controls, such as power producing yaw. My FI also kindly demonstrated that the plane was quite safe and we could recover from a wing drop near the stall. At least that's what he said had happened as I said 'Dear me, what on earth was that, pray?' or something broadly similar in general meaning. So there I was; reassured. It must have been true, my FI had said so.

I was able to guide the plane in to land using the yoke alone whilst everything else was taken care of. Main problems were spotting where the airfield had hidden itself so well during our short lesson, plus of course I had no idea when to flare and hold off yet. The controls were very different in feel at approach speed and I found myself 'steering' the yoke like a car, which I knew was wrong, but I couldn't quite resist it. I was also rather unsure as to what I should be looking at in front, but it was fun even so. Overall I had to agree with the aim of the lesson: The controls did have an effect.

So that was it, I was hooked on learning to fly and I had a good school and instructor.

13th August 03

Second Lesson: Straight and Level

Now everything wasn't all new at once I got to do some power checks and some longer taxying. In the air, my FI would set a strange attitude and I would have to get us back to straight and level and re-trim. Then I let go of the yoke to see if we really were in trim. This was a good game. Plus with something for me to do, the weird angles to the ground weren't a concern. I was really beginning to feel as tho' I was in control of this aspect of things. I do wish the thing went faster when I pulled the throttle tho', it just seems more intuitive.

This lesson also sorted out what the rudder does amongst a few other things, since I hadn't really got a feel for it last time. There was a nice little exercise where a yaw could be started by banking and then caught quickly on the rudder. That's the best I can describe it. The aim was to go straight ahead, but wag the nose from side to side a little bit. Very useful.

17th August 03

Third Lesson: Climbing and Descending

Having sorted out taxying last time, my FI suggested I speak on the radio at the same time. Oops, better not try that again without stopping first.

Otherwise taxying was improving in leaps and bounds including deliberately weaving to check the instruments. However I wasn't here to taxy, so up we went, then up and down we went with PAT for a bit. There's not much else to say really, it was quite straightforward: Power, Attitude, Trim; Attitude Power Trim. How else could you do it? Of course the idea is that it should be second nature, so that I could get on with something else, like keeping heading, maintaining balance, lookout and watching the engine Temperatures and Pressures.

I couldn't help notice in the reading beforehand that the aircraft has different 'best rate of climb' and 'best angle of climb' speeds. I thought about this a fair bit. At first I thought: If we are climbing at best speed, isn't that obviously the best we can do to avoid obstacles? The answer is 'no'; this is what 'best angle of climb' speed is for. It took a while with a pen and paper to show that best angle of climb is always going to be at a slower airspeed than best rate of climb, but not necessarily by much. Perhaps I'll add the relevant sketch of excess thrust versus airspeed to a page here sometime. Now I understand it, I'll be able to remember it more easily.

20th August 03

Fourth Lesson: Turning

How can we be on lesson four without ever having turned the aircraft? Well there's turning willy-nilly and then there's going where you want to go. This was all about turning onto wanted headings and then doing the same thing whilst climbing or descending. Clearly a climbing turn is not the C152's forte, it being rather too low on power to do both together as well as it can do them separately. A standard turn is done at a 30 degree angle of bank, which took a bit of getting used to doing by only visual reference to the horizon. It looks different for right and left turns, due to sitting off centre in the cockpit. It also led to a bit of height loss or gain if the horizon became hazy through the turn!

Actually this was one of the most fun lessons; the turn is great: There's a real feeling of 'zooming' about the sky. Grand!

So now I had done the really basic manoeuvres separately and my confidence was good. It must be time to put them together next time..... After all, I had a lofty 3 hours 55 minutes now.

26th August 03

Fifth Lesson: Consolidation,
Air Law exam

Right then, you take off! So I did. Not too bad but wandered 30 degrees off course since I was too preoccupied with other little things, such as staying airborne. It wasn't actually my first take off, but it was the first time I'd done the walk round, start up, radio, power checks, taxy checks, backtrack, line up and take off as one fluid process from cold.

The other excitement during this take off was that the engine noise stopped at 600ft, which I can tell you is quite focussing. However before I had thought 'oops', it ran on again with a bit of a splutter. My FI took over and back to land. Carb ice was diagnosed by the CFI after his check flight, supported by having the classic conditions for it. Now, I had checked with carb heat immediately before take off, but both my FI and I will certainly check for longer in future.

Nonetheless, I was absolutely thrilled with take offs, as the people at work will testify, I was still buzzing the next day.

This was also quite a big day since I had earlier passed my medical at lunchtime and the air law exam at the club just prior to flying. I got 100% and I think having studied for various exams fairly regularly during my career did help with exam technique. There should be an 'exam' page on this site shortly, I hope.

In general, taking off myself was very interesting and finally did convince me that small planes do want to fly. Steering with my feet at motorway speeds and on three wheels was a little odd tho'. Gradually I was to realise that smaller corrections are needed as speed builds. Before this realisation is was easy to get into what track drivers call a tank-slapper where corrections are having to be made for earlier over-corrections.

The consolidation plan was a good one; I didn't want to start circuits yet as I knew things would get busy at that point. It was great to just beetle about putting some of the basic manoeuvres together. There was also a chance to start flying at critically low airspeeds. This went off nicely and it certainly did feel different. There was no chance of a turn without more power. It also felt good to experience a continuous move from the front to the back of the drag curve, getting two different airspeeds for the same power, but vastly altered attitude.

3rd September 03

Sixth Lesson: Circuits I
take off to downwind,
RT written exam

It gets busy doesn't it? Oh yes it does. We had briefed the 'take off and climb to downwind position' part of the circuit (i.e. off and up then heading back parallel to the runway in the opposite direction at 1000ft). There are 13 different things to remember for the first half of the circuit, which is why this lesson left out the other 13 things to do before landing again. Now, individually, none of this was new to me, but putting it all together in fairly quick succession whilst keeping lookout and maintaining a ground track in the wind was very hard work. The lesson just flew by, although each actual circuit was only maybe two minutes actually in the air.

I made a note of things to get right next time which included not climbing before developing enough airspeed on the take off.

Several things went right tho' and I remember being pleased that I could take off and maintain a heading much better now. This was done by looking at the wingtips and horizons after take off.

The next day I passed the RT written paper (97%) which I had been studying in the background. Very helpfully, Bourn had arranged a groundschool for the practical RT exam to occur over the next few weeks.

16th September 03

Seventh Lesson: Circuits II
first full circuits

The secret of a good landing is a good approach, they say. How true. Now I was doing the approach to land rather than the FI, I was often way out of shape when landing, so he had to rescue us. Occasionally it had gone right and my FI generously pointed out he hadn't had to touch the controls on those occasions. But don't get the wrong idea - if he had stopped verbal instructions as well, we would be toast.

It was windy tho'. I had said so to my instructor on arrival, who said that had not been predicted. The wind was not really gusty, but it was variable over perhaps 60 degrees and slowly variable in strength over a fair range as seen on the windsock. This made it really hard to select a runway into wind. The crosswind at circuit height was also stronger than at landing, as I suppose it must always be due to ground friction.

The crosswind was noticeable on takeoff roll and required aileron control. After take off on 19, the flight path goes thro' a gap in a tree line. Here today was the kind of buffeting which would have scared me to death on my first lesson.

Student pilots are all told to use throttle for height and attitude for airspeed. Now I can sort of see why that is said, but if I'm to do this instinctively, I need to know how it really works. Time for another home made diagram before the next lesson. It seems to me that the approach is rather like level flight translated to the approach path - and the throttle lets us 'climb' or 'descend' relative to that flight path. Throttle thus climbs us to a ground intercept further away. More than that, it would seem more sensible to apply throttle and elevator in some sort of synchronism. For instance if the nose is moved to set airspeed, then the throttle must have to be moved too to maintain the intercept (aiming) point? This is what I was thinking on my drive home (that and 'I must desist from trying to gain altitude at traffic lights and just stop with everyone else'). We'll see if this theory helps next time.

Although I knew my check mnemonics (BUMFFICH etc), actually calling it out and doing it in the time available was quite often beyond me. This needs to get a lot faster and I need to look outside whilst doing it.

I made more notes of things to get right next time. This still included not climbing before developing enough airspeed on the take off, plus practicing the checks aloud, with the hand and body movements needed until they were second nature. (Better draw the curtains for this one). An old fault also reappeared; increasing attitude during the pre-turn lookout since I felt rushed.

I had a lot to think about before flying again. This was where I expected to be during first circuits and it was nice to have finally gained a feel for the extent of this challenge. I'd like to be as thrilled at landing as I am with taking off. Let's see how long that takes.

Six hours and 25 minutes training in my logbook.

30th September 03

Eighth Lesson: Circuits III
the other way round

R01, RH. Mmm, it looks different this way round. Now I can't see the runway because my FI's head is in the way. Guess this was why my first circuits were left handed.

Not a great day. Arrived late due to traffic. Conclusively proved how rusty I had become in the last few non-flying weeks. Then had to cut lesson short and rush back to work. Grim.

Top tip: don't try to squeeze your flying in, it won't work.

24th October 2003

RT practical exam

Now it was my turn. I had already met a chap leaving the exam centre who had failed. But the person who emerged immediately before me had passed.

I walked in and sat down with the RT kit and the examiner sat in the other room with his RT kit. We checked the connection and I began the test with "Station name, callsign, request radio check wxy daaysimal x and taxi instructions". Half an hour later it ended with "Vacate left and park at the flying club". And I had passed.

My examiner said I had passed quite well (what a nice chap!), since I was one of the 'elite few' who had been allowed to land in a certain place to finish the test, rather than being sent around and about a bit more whilst the examiner repeated some tasks. This is not to say there was nothing to learn however and he gave me a debrief. I thought this was good as it gave me some real world pointers in what to expect.

I have to say I was quite nervous initially, but did settle into it. The exam can take up to 1.5 hours (depending on the route - there are several exam routes). I had been given a 3 page brief with a number of radio frequencies I could use if I thought them relevant. The brief also had the flight times and some instructions about the flight. There was also a plastic sheet with my route and relevant information already drawn on it.

To pass the written test all that I'd needed was CAP413. (I found my copy of Pratt did set the scene, but didn't find it that useful for revision). However, in my view, in order to pass the practical, some spoken training is needed. There's quite a difference between answering written questions with an order and timing freely chosen on the one hand, and speaking coherently with a flow of precise information whilst traversing a route on the other hand. I had two sessions where a group of us had sat down with a tutor and we ran thro' some real routes from a real chart, having found all the frequencies beforehand. This did the trick for me.

I found info on what the exam would contain pretty hard to find beforehand. However I can recommend the CAA Safety Sense leaflet number 24 as being a good guide. Hope it helps you too.

3rd November 2003

Ninth Lesson: Circuits IV
getting better

"You're getting a feel for the plane." And just maybe I was too. It had been quite a good circuit despite an overshoot on turning final. But I had us back on the extended centreline in good time. I too was pleased with the landing as it was the first where I felt I'd really done it at all properly since the disruptions of starting circuit work. In fact the whole circuit had felt good since I had remembered to do everything without prompt, plus the height and directional control had been the best ever from takeoff roll to full stop.

I must have passed some sort of test, because next we did something new - short field take off. Line up, ten degrees of flap, power on but hold it on the brakes......... then let go. That was fun. We climbed steeply out at Vx, 55 kts, having rotated at 50. It was steeper, but it soon became apparent that the vertical rate of climb was less, by looking down at familiar ground features, so we changed to Vy, 65 kts, and lost the flaps. A good demo of Vx versus Vy, the meanings of which had previously caused some head scratching whilst reading the books.

As a response to the disappearing Autumn days, I had taken the afternoon off and gone up for two shorter lessons. This had proved a good plan, with some time to think over several cups of tea in between. It also meant that I got to meet a few more students, staff and club members. In fact the airfield was buzzing with visitors too, since it was 'free landing' week.

This afternoon had been picked for flying much earlier on, based on my reading of the Met 96 hour pressure forecast chart. Much to my delight, it was indeed a day of light winds from the SE and no cloud to worry about for circuit work. A calm day in a less settled week. It did get hazy towards the end of the day tho', particularly as the sun began to go down. Surprisingly I was able to spot R01/19 fairly easily in these conditions. RH and LH circuits now felt equally OK.

Learning points of the day had been getting the power, flaps and trim sorted much more quickly on base, getting more snappily into turns, moving to a 'point and power' approach when about 300ft on final and just beginning to play with the flare and float on landing. Embarrassment of the day had come with my first radio call: 'wrong aircraft, lining up, wrong runway'. Oops, and I had just passed RT days earlier, but sitting at a desk it'd all been rather easier...

A lovely afternoon.

Downwind for R01

Downwind for R01 RH. The big crossed runways are mostly disused. 01/19 runs left to right as a much paler line midway between the horizon and the bottom of the picture, towards the left. The small part of the big cross which intersects 01/19 is 06/24. Both are about 600m.

Last time downwind for R01

Downwind for R01 RH again, last time for today. It's there !

levelling off from climb out

A smile almost breaking thro' the concentration.

Eight hours and 30 minutes training in my logbook.

06 November 2003

Tenth Lesson: Circuits V
A Lovely Winter's Day

Do I really need words?

about to reduce power on base

about to reduce power on base

runway at 2 o'clock

runway at 2 o'clock

see it yet?

see it yet?

see it now?

see it now?

descending turn onto final

descending turn onto final

power and attitude

power and attitude

looking good

looking good

looking very good

looking very good

PS not all the dark stuff is runway...

PS not all the dark stuff is runway...

... and those tyre tracks in the field are not mine !

Nine hours and 50 minutes training in my logbook.

22 November 2003

Eleventh Lesson: Circuits VI
Xmas Eve Revelations

Hi, I'm here for my Nav Exam....
Shall we fly instead?

And so it came to pass that the Nav Exam paled in the face of going ad astra.

Revelations began early in the lesson, but not in the expected area of landings. My take-offs had been OK, having raised not much comment from my FI or me for some time. But as I talked my way thro' the take-off "VSI alive... 45 knots ... T+Ps, revs OK, 55 knots.. rotate...stay low.. climb..etc", I asked my FI if I really did 'stay low'. In answer my FI demo'd a take off with a very positive rotation followed by holding markedly low to get the airspeed up quickly. This was a bit of an eye opener as I liked the view it gave out front before the climbing attitude was adopted. I was sold on this and began to do it that way each time.

The first circuit was sloppy because of the turns and I wasn't surprised to be told so. I hadn't flown for a month, and the next circuit was much better. I even remembered that the rudder pedals were not just a foot rest. We were flying 06/24 because of the crosswind on the usual 01/19. This meant new landmarks to pick for circuit turns and a new approach picture, including a displaced threshold to meet building clearance requirements on R24. The buildings were a great thing to spot from the air when looking for the turning point onto base.

But we were really here to try and get some more experience for me on landings. Before the lesson we had agreed that there wasn't much more I could learn on the ground. It turned out that my fault of flying into the runway (late flare) had now changed into flaring too high and probably too gently. Whilst this showed a perhaps commendably raised self preservation instinct, we still were not landing correctly.

I realised that my FI was saying the same things to me each time it went wrong, which was something like 'keep going' - I had thought this meant I was not pulling back early enough. It really meant 'keep aiming for the numbers' a lot longer before even thinking about flaring. Another demo followed where my FI made a real point of locking onto those numbers in the approach for far, far, far longer than I did, followed by a very definite flare to complete the landing (in the nick of time, or so I thought). Although the best landing I managed after that was a small single bouncer amongst many go around situations, I felt I had learned a lot, in that I had a new aspect to think about and get right next time.

In fact my general problem seemed to be trying to land too flat. What I really needed to work on was making a more definite, later flare -- and then continuing to pull back until the stick was really quite a long way back on touchdown. What was making this easier to understand was that, just like things had stopped appearing to happen quite so quickly in the circuit, now landings too were becoming a more familiar (and less petrifying) perspective. Today this had got to the point where I was able to look around a lot more in peripheral vision, listen better to my FI, plus the one-time 'death grip' on the controls had completely vanished.

Once again, very enjoyable and some good progress made - some of it good mental progress.

Soon it was time to go home. It was time to play Santa for my young family.

24 December 2003

Twelfth Lesson: Circuits VII
A Little Light Relief

"I'm much more relaxed about your landings now"

It was a blustery day, so some not inconsiderable effort had been expended in simply flying a regular shaped circuit. I was also working hard at turning level, not climbing slightly. This was all to do with pulling the stick back too early when banking for the circuit turns.

I'd learnt when landing that I should be pulling the stick back in a number of little movements. Most importantly I'd realised that I was actually relaxing after the flare and not concentrating on keeping pulling back to keep the nose up in the landing attitude as the airspeed fell off.

When my FI said he was getting more relaxed with my efforts, that made for two of us. It didn't mean I could land yet by any means, but it wasn't such a white knuckle ride for either of us.

More, please.

06 January 2004

Nav and Met Exams

Absolutely no chance of flying, again.

I'd been ready for Nav for some time and had since got myself ready for Met too. Nav is the only exam so far which has made any inroad into the alloted time, in fact it's a good idea to take almost all the time by going over and checking the plotting.

If you can already read a map and have used a compass, then there are only two parts left to Nav - the whizz wheel and the bits of Nav equipment/system knowledge which generate a few questions at the end of the paper. Most of the paper is practical use of the map and whizz wheel in order to fill in a PLOG and do the resultant fuel calculations. I got an E6B from ebay along with a kneeboard for a song. The E6B does all the AFE/CRP-1 does, but is aluminum (sic) not perspex. It's cheaper. The photo shows them side by side doing the same wind triangle.

Top Tip for whizz wheel: Draw the actual wind triangle on graph paper with a protractor, set up the whizz wheel. Mark by name the actual lines on the whizz wheel, i.e. heading, ground track, drift, etc. Note that these really are on the whizz wheel and the point of origin (at the bottom of the wheel), is your point of origin. There's no fancy maths on the wheel, it's just a handily small piece of reuseable graph paper where lines and angles are drawn and measured. Once I'd shown it with a few examples, that did it for me.

E6B left, CRP-1 right

Also needed are a simple ruler marked in map miles/km and a protractor. The ruler suits both mil and half mil maps - so don't get it the wrong way round. I put a mark on the half mil scale, to avoid having to check every time.

protractor, E6B, ruler

Top tip for the Nav exam: read the map legend.

I'd taken Met first, followed by a cuppa before Nav as it's a longer exam. There is a lot to learn for Met, but it is logical. I had been reading Met books for some months as I found it really interesting, plus I had been looking at and decoding METARs and TAFs since lesson three. Pilots are absolutely obsessed by the weather (wx), since that's what we fly around in. If there's going to be a natural downdraught (from hills, clouds) that exceeds the climb rate of the plane, then you're going down at the point. You might not want that. I think the general idea with Met is to be able to understand and interpret the importance of the forecasts, rather than make them.

02 February 2004

Thirteenth Lesson: Circuits VIII
Dusting off the cobwebs

Happy New Year! said my FI as I walked into the clubroom in March. Well, it had been quite a while away from flying due to Xmas, family and much effort at work. Plus the weather had been truly awful. But I had passed Met and Nav during one morning in the gap, so all had not been wasted.

The plane felt smaller due to the shared Xmas excesses of the occupants, but took off obediently nonetheless. My circuits were scrappy, I had to be reminded to do radio calls and landing were still not going well enough yet.

Not a great performance, but it got better by the end of the lesson. I hadn't gone backwards, just become a little rusty. I had a lot to recall and think over and was very keen to come again. It's easy to see why the CAA demand 'currency' of pilots in the licensing regulations.

16 March 2004

Fourteenth Lesson: Circuits IX
Feeling the Force

"But you've got worse problems now, your engine just failed." said my FI as he sneakily closed the throttle after distracting me on the climb out to look behind at my supposed deviation from the centreline. "What are you going to do?" But we had been here before, so I adopted a glide, trimmed for 65kts and nominated a field in which to do my emergency landing. Presently, the hand of the FI was removed, I restored engine power and we were on our way again.

The next bit of fun was the soft field take off. This amounted to gently pulling a wheelie as soon as possible and holding it until the aircraft flew itself off the ground, which was at about 45kts with 10 degrees of flap. The aim here was to hold the nose wheel out of the imaginary 'soft field' so we could develop enough speed to take off.

During flapless approach practice the angle looked all wrong with a poor view of the runway over the nose, having just been using 20 degrees of flap. The need to know the flapless approach is real in the C152 as the flaps are electric, so failure of electrics means no flaps. You wouldn't want to try this for the first time during a real failure. The landing was at 70kts, but felt very fast and it took a lot longer to stop.

It had been a good day. I had gone up for two slots with lunch in between. This has always proved to be a good plan. Moreover, occasionally my FI was happy to let me take off, then he would do a very tight circuit to get me on base for me to finish the circuit. This really was the way to do it at this stage since otherwise landing can be only maybe ten seconds total experience for each lesson.

But really the big change was that I had agreed to stop thinking and feel the plane fly. Yes, corny indeed. Of course I had thought it to death already and could afford to stop and let it become more instinctive.

The view when landing was now becoming very familiar. Things weren't quite so rushed. Everything I did had pretty much the expected effect and I was also expecting the effects of the wind and to look out for sink over different terrain. I was able to listen to my instructor and answer in real time, rather than try to remember what he said afterwards. In short landing wasn't quite so busy or scary. It wasn't graceful yet, but that could come later. It felt safe.

By the end of the lesson we had even beaten out of me the suddenly developed habit to pull the yoke slightly down as I pulled back to flare. So I didn't have to waste time any more by correcting pilot induced left bank. My other circuit work had been OK for some time but improvements were made there too in terms of rudder coordination and level turning onto visual headings.

Both my FI and CFI were now talking the 'S' word if some good weather could be found for me. With that and a few good practice circuits beforehand, I'd feel quite happy about taking it round alone now. Let's see.

17 March 2004

Fifteenth Lesson: Circuits X
A Day to Forget

"Well close it then" said my FI as I told him that my door had just popped open at 1000 feet on my first circuit. As it opened I had looked down briefly then took in even more of the drop below as I pushed the door open further in order to slam it shut. The bumpy air was already making me work hard and I really hadn't been expecting a shock too. It really spooked me and my lesson was so poor after that that I cut it short. I knew there would be bad days.

30 March 2004

Sixteenth Lesson: Circuits XI
Chalk and Cheese

"Just ignore the old hanger near the theshold" This was the approach to R06. Perfectly legal in terms of clearances, but the visual effect was that you wanted to gain height in order to 'clear' the old hangar. Absolutely not necessary and if tried, the runway would be overshot. That took one go to get used to it and it was fine after that.

A much better lesson, despite the variable wind. A complete relief after the previous day.

31 March 2004

Seventeenth Lesson: Exercise 14
Triple Bravery Tablets

"How do you feel about your last circuits"

'I thought they were really good'

"Fancy taking it round yourself?"

I was truly surprised, but did say 'yes' and after some words of encouragement, my FI got out and I taxied off for my first solo.

That first solo grin lasts for several weeks

The lesson had started off like any other. I knew my task was to show some consistency in landings. What happened next was a surprise. My first landing was just great. So was the next and the next after that. Suddenly I could do this all day long. We were coming in and flaring just right, with a hold off that had the stall warner chirping merrily. Something, somewhere had just gone click with a capital 'C'. It looked right and felt right. After four, it was time to go home and I thought: 'If I can do that again next time, then solo must be on the cards'. Then I was sent solo, there and then.

I was very nervous, but determined not to miss the chance. I knew my FI would not send me if I was not ready. I settled into my seat, making full use of the new shoulder room and instinctively leaned forward to look out past my FI before taxiing. Not necessary!

I lined up on R01, cycled carb heat, called departure and set full power. I talked my way through as normal. Things were just fine half way down the runway, so I commited to take off. That was a tremendous feeling. I remember thinking 'Now I've gone and done it'. I would just have to fly it round and land it now. There is no 'go back' switch on the dash. And no-one to fly but me.

The circuit was just as normal. If something wasn't quite right, I sorted it out. In fact as I settled into it, it seemed so similar to the previous four, that it was hard to see what could possibly go wrong. We had practiced all the emergency drills and I would have just done them if needed. Once again, the big thrill was looking to my right to call downwind, and seeing no instructor.

Setting the descent on base is my favourite bit on R01 in the evenings. It can be right into the sun, but it can show a lovely sunburst effect if clouds are in the right place. I won't ever forget how good it looked this time. Approach was a bit different, due to the lesser weight as my FI had warned. Just a bit less power to loose height. Speed had been nailed all the way from before base turn. Once again the warner blared as the wheels kissed and I was down. My feeling right then? Disbelief that I'd just done that.

And the triple bravery tablets of the title? They were for my FI on whose license I flew solo. Well done Brian.

09 April 2004

Fifteen 'Pilot in Command' minutes in my Logbook.

Eighteenth Lesson: Solo Consolidation
Glorious, Glorious, Glorious !

"See you later. Just fit in with the other aircraft in the circuit"

I was only too pleased to do this as my FI got out again. It was an early summer evening. Viz was good and it was almost dead calm. I found flying such a relaxing evening activity after a day's work. I had thought my biggest smile would have been first solo, but it didn't get any better than right just now and out came the big grin again.

I really enjoyed watching the other aircraft glinting in the circuit ahead of me. From base I could clearly see it land and clear the runway for me. Then it was my turn to make the calls and do the same.

There was plenty of time for me to look out and around in between actually flying the plane. The sense of freedom was immense. I just flew around until it was time to stop for the day. I can't think what could have made it any more perfect.

22 April 2004

Nineteenth Lesson: Solo Consolidation
All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up

"We'll have to find some worse weather for you. The keys are in the plane, have fun"

Conditions were pretty similar to yesterday. But I had never just been given the keys before. So this truly was solo consolidation. Out with the step ladder to visually check the fuel, pull Echo Fox off stand and up to the apron, push around the tail to line up, full walk around. Jump in, checks, start-up, radio and info, brakes, out for power checks, some turning for the gyros, a dose of carb heat, depart R01. This was just grand and oh dear, that expression was back again.

Actually they were not quite the same conditions. It was a bit bumpy on the climb out and my FI came on to tell me that the wind was very light, but very variable, including all the way round to tailwind. It was changing direction, plus sometimes it was dead calm and sometimes there was a breeze. This did make a difference on the approach and landing, leading to a bit of float when a breeze wafted along. The day had been much hotter too, so the lift and sink from ground features was also noticeable. The sun was also right in my eyes on base.

So - all in all a good day for taking pictures! This time I had put my camcorder in my flight bag. My FI agreed it would be fun to get some footage. What a star Brian is, he teaches me to fly and then directs the home video!

The video shows my fifth solo circuit. It's not my best landing (that was first solo), but it is the one on camera.

3.5MB, right click, 'Save Target As'

The conditions had been very kind to me - about time too. But soon it would be time to deal with a bit more weather or perhaps venture further afield ...

23 April 2004

1 hour 40 mins PIC

On to page 2 to see holiday flying and navexes....

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