Circuits and bumps

First day in the circuit today. Arrived early as per usual (about 1:30 or so for a 3:30 slot) and Felix was still waiting for Asma to arrive back from her 11:30 slot. Not a good start!

Turned on the radio so we could listen to the tower, and heard Asma reporting finals. Not long after she was told to go around, and then on her next circuit she was told to orbit! Good start.

Chatted to Felix about exams and various bits while we waited. He went off for his flight around 3:00 or so, and Asma briefed me on circuits, what to expect at the various points and also the importance of the pre-landing checks (that need to be carried out from memory). Once we’d finished she went off to join Felix.

I hit the books again and tried to get on with some more bits of Air Law. Once I’d finished that I tried to commit the landing checklist to memory. I think I managed Ok!

After a while I heard them call finals again on the radio, so thought I’d go outside to watch Felix’s landing. When I spotted him, he looked rather high and was climbing, so he’d obviously been given a go around by the tower too! They were obviously having an off day.

Finally it was my turn to fly. I went out and checked the aircraft, just finishing off as JP returned. Nice to see the club’s aircraft getting good use.

Asma joined me, and we got ready to leave. Got the engine going relatively easily (must be getting the knack!) and we headed out to the hold after getting our initial taxi clearance (for the visual circuit!). All checks complete, we headed out on to the runway, and Asma gave me the final walk through of the take-off procedure.

Cross winds were quite bad today, practically straight across the runway at about 10 knots, and gusting pretty badly. Basically you need to point the ailerons into the wind as speed builds to stop the aircraft drifting, gradually reducing this as speed builds and the control surfaces have more effect.

Once take off speed is reached (about 65 knots or so) the aim is to have the ailerons centred, before easing back on the yoke to get the nose into the air, then continuing until the aircraft lifts off. Then the nose is gently lowered to keep the aircraft flying just above the runway until speed builds, before establishing a climb at 85 knots. Trim for this to make it easier to maintain, and continue the climb.

A quick check of the engine instruments to make sure everything is Ok, then it’s a question of maintaining the runway centre line (not easy given the wind conditions) and climbing out until 500 feet before making the crosswind turn to the left by 90 degrees (shallow 15 degree angle of bank due to the fact that we’re still climbing).

On crosswind we reach 1000 feet AAL and level off (resetting trim), then making the downwind turn. Levelling off was still causing me problems, but on the 3rd circuit I seemed to be getting the hang of it again after some hints from Asma.

We then carry out the pre-landing checks (sufficient fuel, mixture to rich, fuel pump on, carb-heat check, brake check, landing light on, electric trim off and seat belts secure) and make our call downwind (to ‘roll’ in military parlance).

Once the landing point is about 30 degrees behind the aircraft (or as we’re passing over the farm Asma had pointed out as an aiming point) we make the turn to the base leg (and call ‘finals’ as they do in the military world!).

Once we’re about 45 degrees from the landing point, we start getting set up for the descent. Throttle back to about 1500 rpm, check the speed is in the white arc and then drop two stages of flap. Stop the nose from rising and with a bit of luck the aircraft will settle at about 70 knots on the same trim setting as we used for level flight.

Finally make the descending turn onto final, trying to take into account the wind so as to arrive nicely lined up for the runway centre line (at least, that’s the way it’s supposed to work!), and deploy the final stage of flap once we know we can reach the runway.

Then it’s a simple (ha!) matter of keeping the speed at 70 knots, and keeping our landing point at the same position on the windscreen. Easy peasy (well, nearly).

The last bit of the landings I hadn’t really been briefed on, but Asma talked me through each one. It’s a little difficult judging the correct point where you change from trying to get the aircraft down onto the runway, to then changing your mind and trying to hold it off in order to bleed away speed and ensuring that the touchdown is on the main gear only. I’m sure this will come with practice, and a couple of times Asma had to ‘help’ me keep the nose up as we went into the flare. On the whole though, most of the landings were ‘Ok’.

Once landed, you then change your mind and decide you’re going back up! Get the nose gear centred so that you’re heading straight down the runway, get rid of all the flap, quick check of the engine instruments and then full power, ailerons into the wind and the whole process starts again.

Did 4 circuits in all, total flight time just 40 minutes. By the third one I was starting to get the hang of the take-off and turns to crosswind and downwind, including levelling off correctly. Asma said that my flying was generally good, and that my R/T was fine too. Obviously there’s more to practice (including the actual landings) but at least I’m still making progress which is the important thing.

So, with a bit of luck I’ll be back on Wednesday (if Lynne can find a replacement instructor for Chris) otherwise I’m back on Thursday with Asma (British weather permitting of course!). Definitely need to get my finger out and get some exams sorted…

Total flight time today: Dual 0:40 – Solo – 0:00
Take-offs: 4 – Landings: 4

Total flight time to date: Dual 8:25 – Solo 0:00
Take-offs to date: 6 – Landings to date: 6

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