Another Saturday and another morning in the air! The weather was slightly overcast with some gaps and a light breeze blew from the north.
The agenda for today
- Get better at checklists
- Crabbing on the Downwind
- Watch my speed on the Base & Final legs
- Fly a more uniform downwind leg of the circuit
- Pay more attention to the radio calls going on around me
- Focus on landing on the numbers
The airfield was nice and quiet at 08:30 in the morning and I had a quick briefing with my instructor in which we discussed glide approaches.
A glide approach is when the power is cut early on the base leg and it requires use of “ my skill and best judgement” to get myself onto the ground without using any power – particularly tricky in the low wind conditions!
Compared to my flight the previous week I had a good handle on my radio calls; no messed up lines and I spoke with a bit more confidence.
I was able to get through my checklists a lot smoother than before, it helped that I had spent sometime imagining what I was going to be doing before heading down to the airfield. The only hitch was the engine taking a few goes to get started; only working on the third try when my instructor tried – he pumped the throttle a lot so I will have to keep that in mind.
Due to the low winds we climbed very shallow and it took us a while to get up to 1000ft. We turned onto the cross-wind leg at 300ft rather than 500ft and hit 1000ft just before turning onto the downwind leg.
Getting the plane down was a bit of a challenge, I was using the third stage of flap very early to increase my rate of descent. Early in the session there wasn’t much in the way of wind and I didn’t have to worry about crabbing into the wind on any leg – I didn’t get any crosswind practice today.
I did end up flying a consistently weirdly shaped circuit when I checked back on Sky Demon after the flight. I was flying an extended cross-wind leg; possibly due to the low angle of ascent. On the downwind leg I seemed to fly to the mouth of the River Meon which meant I ended up closer to the airfield at the end of my downwind leg; there was no reason for me to do that! I ended up with the same result as the previous session in a crosswind. I will have to continue working on my downwind leg in the future, a big improvement will come from me keeping an eye on my heading and flying parallel use of, not at an angle to, the runway.
Whilst taking off for my first solo circuit of the day I noticed that the wind had changed direction from a headwind to a tailwind. This meant that the runway in use was changed from 05L to 23R. All whilst I was airborne! Not a disaster though; I flew a turn on the end of my original downwind leg and flew back down the downwind leg.
I had misheard a couple of communications between the tower and aircraft on the ground and thought that an aircraft about to depart would actually be changing runway before departing. In reality they hadn’t and were flying along behind me. I had a bit of a nasty shock when I saw them flying towards me after my turn. I made a quick radio call to let them know where I was and they had already clocked me and luckily they were climbing away from the circuit, flying harmlessly above me. The big lesson learned here was to listen and make sure I understand everything that happening – important when I fly into more controlled airspace.
Other than a bit of the cockpit falling off on me, I was able to complete some good solo practice. I flew some normal and glide approaches hoping to hit the numbers every time, which I didn’t!
One thing I did have to keep an eye on was some lower level clouds making their way over the airfield; flying through clouds is a big no-no, especially in the circuit.
All in all it was a very enjoyable session. I greased some landings and had some less greasier ones. It’s really sinking in that I can fly a plane all on my own now!