Saturday, April 29, 2006

Lesson #13 The Circuit IV

Another breezy day in the circuit, what's a student pilot got to do to get a calm day around here?

The wind at the beginning of the lesson was 11 kts, 10 degrees off runway's heading, by the end of my lesson it was 50 degrees of the runway's heading -to our right, at a constant 12-15 kts.

This lesson actually went pretty well, the wind made us crab a bit on final but it wasn't too bad until until the last couple of landings. This lesson was good practise and most of the landings were made without any assistance from Dave -- four nice ones. I'm still making some little mistakes here and there, nothing critical, just forgetting the occasional call to tower.

I don't know what it is with my last landing of the day, but I always find a way to mess it up. It certainly didn't help that the wind had shifted around to our right and cause us to crab pretty good. Dave showed me one way to correct for this, it was by using the rudder to keep us straight with the runway and then use the ailerons to keeps us from turning... this is also known as a forward slip.

I did this during the last part of final but it, surprise... surprise... increased my glide-slope as it enduces additional drag on the aircraft. (Actually this meneuvor is also commonly used to scrub off altitude without increasing ones forward speed). Correcting for the crosswind using the forward slip caused my sinkrate to be too high and I had to get on the power late, Dave helped out with the controls.

Watching me mess up my last landing of the day, (Dave had pointed out the fact that I'd have an audience for this landing earlier to me as we turned final), were a couple of pilots and about half the passengers of a regional jet, which was holding on the Alpha taxiway for 03. Just great...

The winds have now become my enemy... and my flight instructor gets a kick out watching me crumble under pressure...

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Lesson #12 The Circuit III

What a crazy week we had weather wise.

The last decent day we had here on the Island was a week ago today, which was the first day of the trout season. (Me and about another dozen or so firefighters got together and went fishing).

We all met at the fire hall at midnight, cooked up a huge scoff, then had a "few drinks". We headed out to the local fishing hole at around 3:00AM, then we sat around a rather large bonfire and drank some more until day break, at which time the fishing began. It was a great time, the weather was perfectly calm and +5c (40F) at daybreak, it turned out to be a great day. I caught quite a few tiny ones and threw nearly all of them back. A couple of the boys had a bit too much to drink, but nobody ended up in the lake... or the fire, so I can't wait to do it again next year!

Anyways... on to the flying.

I had hoped to get out flying on Sunday (16th), but the weather was terrible. The next week was also a wash out, as the weather took a turn for the worse. We had a low overcast and a constant wind for the whole week, with a couple days of heavy rain thrown in for good measure. This was all a courtesy of a stationary low, anchored off the coast of Nova Scotia.

Saturday the 22nd looked promising, it was suppose to be windy in the morning but the winds were forecasted to diminish in the afternoon, which was when I had my lesson booked for. The winds did come down but not very much, just enough to fly.

I did not find it a good day for circuits.

I arrived at the airport, chatted with Dave for a couple of minutes and then headed out to pretrip the aircraft. Dave came out, we finished with the pretrip and then I made the call to tower. A couple of minutes later we were flying. The winds at the beginning of the lesson were 10 degrees off the runway's heading @ 12 kts gusting 18.

To make long story short, we bounced around pretty good for the whole lesson, which made everything that much harder. It was tough to trim the aircraft because the nose and the wings refused to stop moving long enough for me to get an accurate fix on the aircraft's attitude.

We made six circuits, I made four of the landings all by myself, one of which I had to do some last minute manoeuvring to make it happen. We came over the threshold at about 50 feet. then we got a strong gust from our left that pretty much blew us right off the runway... OK, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit... but not much! Without any assistance or coaxing from Dave, I added a bit of power and "flew" us back over the centreline and then completed the landing at about the 1,500 - 2,000 foot markers. Dave commented that I had done a great job of salvaging it, he also told me that I always have the option of doing a go-around if things get really messed up.

After an hour or so of bouncing over all the sky, I was mentally drained. Flying the aircraft was alot of work. I saved my worse landing for the end. Everything was going well but during the last little bit I started to descend at too high of a rate, (damn winds) so I had to get on the power, stayed on it a bit too long, then we floated for what seemed like forever and finally I put her on the ground with Dave helping me all the way.

What a great way to top off a tough day.

Hopefully the weather will be better for my next lesson.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Lesson #11 The Circuit II

What a difference...

For those of you that read my last blog entry regarding my first lesson in the circuit, it was pretty obvious how bummed out I was. The whole time I felt overloaded with too many tasks, and as such I was constantly behind the aircraft for most of the lesson. After a few days of reflection I began to feel much better and decided to look at that lesson as half full, instead of half empty. I stopped dwelling on everything I did wrong or poorly, and I listed the things that I was did right, then I asked myself what I needed to do to make my next lesson in the circuit better.

After I finished up my duty crew requirements at the Firehall on Sunday, I went out to the airport a bit early. I felt much more confident and I was looking forward to my second lesson in the circuit. As luck would have it I was able to chat with a commercial student named John while watching Dave and a third student (Huey) do some touch and goes in the circuit. Yes, we critiqued each landing... it's hard not too!

To make a long story short, Dave and Huey wrapped things up, then I went out and preflighted the aircraft, a few minutes later Dave showed up and we were off.

My first circuit was OK, but I forgot the carb heat and my downwind call was late, Dave assisted me with the flair. My second circuit was good, I remembered the carb heat this time but forgot the downwind radio call, made up for this by doing a nice flair and landing all by myself. The next three circuits were great, other than forgetting the downwind call once more, I managed to do everything by myself and I made three nice landings all by myself.

During my last circuit I was feeling pretty confident, we got off topic and started chatting about all the new construction sites that are springing up everywhere. By the time I stopped yapping I found myself high on final. (I think Dave let me talk myself into this to teach me a lesson - very sneaky). We landed long at the thousand foot markers and we had to do a 180 on the runway to backtrack to the last taxi-way.

Dave helped with this landing, although I didn't think I needed it. At about 50 feet I noticed that we were long and a bit fast so I brought the nose up to scrub off a little speed, (I already had the throttle at idle). Dave told me afterwards that he thought that I was trying to flair way too early, which I wasn't. I was content to land long, but I wanted to bring my speed down to what I'm use to before getting down to flair height. looking back, I now relize that I should have told him what I was doing, instead of having him guess.

What went right with today's lesson:
At the end of my last lesson in the circuit I was exhausted and pretty stressed out about sucking at everything, today's lesson in the circuit was great! I knew what needed to be done, and when it needed to be done, I never felt overloaded or pressed for time. I flew the plane and managed to make four great landings all by myself -what a feeling! I'm also getting much better at dialing the trim in correctly the first time.

What I need to improve on:
On one takeoff I was slow rotating, I knew it before Dave called me on it. I forgot my downwind call twice, and I was pretty late with it another time. Twice I found myself a hundred feet low on the downwind, and I was high on final once during my last circuit. During one touch and go I managed to wander back and forth pretty good while I was prepping the aircraft for takeoff.

So... I still need to work on a few things, and I certainly need alot more practise time in the circuit, but I finished this lesson pretty pumped and feeling great!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Another windy day

I never relized how windy it was where I live until I started flying. I was going to go flying this afternoon but the wind was gusting to over 20 knots. I checked the weekend weather, Sat is going to be rainy and windy, but Sunday looks like it will be partly cloudy and calm, so I called and booked my next lesson for Sunday at 5 PM. Some will think that this is an unusual time to have a flight lesson, but in my world it makes perfect sense - let me explain how things work in the world that I live in.

I'm on duty this weekend at my Fire Station, for those of you that don't know I'm also a paid volunteer firefighter. We get over 140 calls per year, with another 100 or so calls that are false alarms, so it's a pretty busy volunteer station, this is one of the reasons why we are paid. Now, one of the requirements of being a firefighter at my station is that it must be manned during the weekend days to ensure that we're able to continue to give our community response times that are equal to that a full time station. So three weekends a year I have to do a weekend duty, this runs both Sat and Sun, 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM. So this weekend, both my days are out because I'm at my station, so I can only fly after I get off.

The weather for tomorrow isn't looking very promising, but Sunday looks good. So I hope to be working on my next flying blog entry Sunday night. Lets hope the weather work out for me on Sunday.

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