Friday, March 24, 2006

lesson #10 The Circuit

Well, that was a most humbling experience.

Where do I even start... I guess I'll take you through the circuit and I'll save my personal comments and thoughts on this lesson until the end.

Friday morning Marc (the flight school owner) called and left me a voicemail, it seemed that Saturday was booking up fast and if I was going to fly this weekend I better get my name in for a slot on Sunday. I called and chatted with my flight instructor Dave, after a bit of chit chat about how the weekend was shaping up (availability and weather) I decided to take the afternoon off work and get a lesson in. It was my first oportunity to go flying in a few weeks and I didn't want to chance putting it off until Sunday and have the weather mess things up again.

I arrived at the airport 15 minutes early and then had to wait for 45 minutes until FFRN got back. Another student, who is working on his commercial licence had Fern over in Cape Breton. They finally returned a half hour after my lesson was supposed to start, since I had time to spare it wasn't much of a issue. I talked with Luke (the commercial student) for a minute or two on the apron and then went and preflighted the aircraft. She needed fuel, so I went to see what was keeping Dave and then we pulled her over to the pumps and topped her up. Finished preflight and then made a call to tower to let them know what we were doing and off we taxied to runway 03.

I first check for traffic and then pull out onto the runway and line her up with the centerline. Do the runway checklist. The taxi and runway checklists are used to make sure that the aircraft is in the proper configuration for takeoff, and you haven't forgot something stupid like leaving the flaps down or your fuel selector on your left tank. I call tower and inform them that we're rolling on 03. As I go to full throttle the aircraft wants to go left and I have to get on the right rudder to stay straight. While I'm steering with my feet (rudder) I also need to check a few things to ensure that we're good for takeoff. Things that need to be checked prior to rotation are: air speed indicator (is it working), tach (are you getting full power) oil pressure (in the green) and oil temp, (usually still on the low side), and how's the engine sound. Runway 03/210 is 7,000 feet but 60 mph comes rather quickly and we begin our rotation, then trim for climb at 80 mph, maintaining a straight out track from the runway, which is not as easy as it sounds with a 6 knot crosswind and your bouncing around. Drop the nose at about 500 - 600 ft to do a forward scan for traffic, we do this because we can't see anything ahead of us in this climb configuration.

At 800 ft I begin our crosswind turn, no more than 15 degrees of bank, because we're climbing. During the crosswind leg we reach circuit height (1,200 ASL) so I reduce throttle to 2,100 rpm and quickly trim the aircraft for level flight. I turn another 90 degrees left at 30 degrees of bank this time, this turn puts us on the downwind and this track parallels the active runway.

I call tower to inform them of our location, " Charlottetown radio this is foxtrot romeo november on the downwind for runway 03". Then I have to get right into my downwind checks which I need to commit to memory. Dave suggested that I should basically sweep left to right to ensure I get everything. For the first few circuits I kept forgetting one or two things, but by the forth or fifth circuit I have it down. Mains on, mags on both, brakes, carb heat on, mixture rich, fuel selector on both tanks, engine oil pressure and temp in the green. Near the end of the downwind leg I reduce power to about 1,700 rpms and wait for our speed to drop down into the white arc, then I add 20 degrees of flaps and quickly trim for 75 mph.

I make sure that I turn in time so that I don't cross the runway's centerline. Left turn to final is at 30 degrees of bank, 75 mph @ 1,700 rpm.

I call tower, "Charlottetown radio this is foxtrot romeo november on final for runway 03, touch and go". Ch'town radio replys with wind information and anything else I need to know. I adjust our power to control our decent, and then pull the throttle back to idle at the runway's threshold. Flare at a few feet, hold it with ever increasing back pressure until she settles down onto the runway nice and gentle like. Adjust trim for takeoff, flaps up and back to full power for takeoff, which happens quick because we're still doing 30-40 mph when I apply power.

My thoughts on this lesson:
As you can see there is alot of work to doing circuits, and it all must be done in addition to flying the plane. I found my first lesson doing circuits alot of hard work, very heavy on the multi-tasking. I found my first few circuits a bit overwelming, with Dave talking me through most of it. The next few circuits I kept forgetting things on my checklist and I was doing things less than acceptable, which to be quite honest drives me right up the wall. This lesson has left me somewhat discouraged, something I haven't felt since my first couple of flight lessons. It seemed that for the most of this lesson I couldn't do much of anything right and I was constantly behind the aircraft for most of the lesson.

I was doing stupid things like straying from our circuit height, which is 1,200 ft, so why the hell am I at 1,100 feet - trim's not bang on and we drifted down a bit on the downwind. I never caught it because I was doing something else. Another thing that I kept doing poorly is trimming for a proper glide speed of 75 mph. I found myself working the yoke to maintain the proper pitch to adjust our speed, when I should have trimmed it right the first time and then adjusted our glide slope with throttle. Dave told me time after time to stop doing this and trim the plane correctly. Finally my flare needed alot of work, a couple of times I flared too early and we floated back up and I needed to add a bit of power. Another couple of times I was not quick enough pulling the yoke back during the last bit of the flare just before main gear touchdown and Dave helped me out.

There's just so much to do and so many things that you need to keep your eyes on, all at the same time, while your doing something else or thinking about what you need to do next. I felt like a juggler who was forced to juggle one ball too many. At the end of a very long hour we finally called it a day. I asked Dave if I sucked as badly as I thought I did, he said that my experience was average and that I will get better at circuits, all I need is more practise.

Late edit:
I should add that a couple of days later as I'm putting the finishing touches on this blog entry, I feel much better. Looking back at this lesson, I realised that near the end I was starting to get comfortable with the pace at which things must happen. By writing this blog entry and effectively going through this lesson again in my head, I have identifed the things that I was doing wrong and I know what needs to be done to fix it. I still expect to make mistakes during my next lesson, but I feel much more confident now than I did a couple of days ago.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Weekend waiting and flying

I went out to airport yesterday, even though the weather conditions was marginal. Waited around and chatted with Dave, watched some planes do some takeoffs and landings. After an hour or so it didn't look any better so we decided to try again today.

Just called Dave to book a lesson for 11:00Am, weather looks so so, winds are light which is good, but there's a "few clouds" just above circuit height, so I'll grab a bite to eat and head out to the airport and see what happends.

Sunday Edit:
No flying today. Weather looked great at 9:30, called and booked a lesson for 11:00, Went out to the airport and watched the low evercast to the north and west, then periodic heavy flurries for about an hour before we gave up for the day.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The weather's great and terrible.

No flying this past weekend.

It was beautiful and warm all weekend, but it was too windy. Great weather for melting the last little bit of snow, but not good for flying. Since my next lesson is circuits we need a realitively calm day... which the past weekend wasn't, and today definitely isn't.

METAR CYYG 131400Z 30021G29KT 15SM FEW040 05/M02 A2971 RMK CF1 SLP061=
METAR CYYG 131500Z 32014G27KT 15SM FEW038 BKN049 06/M02 A2973 RMK CU2SC6 SLP069=
METAR CYYG 131600Z 31020G28KT 15SM BKN040 07/M02 A2976 RMK SC3 SLP078=

The next few days look like crap as well. Nothing I can do but wait it out.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A non flying update.

I haven't been out flying for the past couple of weeks, last weekend it was too windy so Dave and I got together to get a couple of briefings out of the way, slips and basic circuits. Dave wanted to leave certain things out of the circuit brief such as crosswind landings and such until we started doing them at a later lesson.

As it was, the briefing for slips was fairly quick, but the briefing for basic circuits covered alot of information. Dave wouldn't win any awards for his drawing abilities, but I found his diagrams helpful. Since I've alread done some landings and takeoffs, and a couple of touch and goes, I'm pretty familiar with circuits and the things we do at each stage. During the brief we went over the various parts of the circuit, the altitudes and usual rpm settings for each, and what we should be doing to prepare for landing, checklists etc. I found this brief very informative and I took lots of notes for later review. I also got a copy of the official up-to-date version of our checklists and our emergency procedures, so more stuff to remember

As I said earlier, I wasn't able to fly this past weekend, when this happens I usually try to get some time off work to get a lesson in during the week, unfortunately this is not he case this week. This upcoming weekend is also out as I'm going to be out of province with my Fire Dept's curling team. I suspect it will be a long weekend, interrupted by the occasional sip of good wiskey.

Weather permitting I'm going to try and get a lesson in sometime next week, hopefully things will be less busy at work and I can start working on my circuits.

A few more lessons and me thinks it will be getting close to solo time... a few of my friends want to know exactly when this is so they can seek shelter in their basements... I've got some funny friends.

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