Lesson 10. Introduction to Circuits 10.30am, Monday 6th September 2004

And now I get to learn the bread and butter of flying, the airfield circuit. I had familiarised myself with this aspect of the manual and knew pretty much all of the theory so the briefing went fairly well. Ryan decided that we would not do touch and go landings as he wanted me to get used to landing the plane rather than trying to think too far ahead. The day was absolutely glorious, although we had a light wind blowing. Did the pre-flight on ETA, got her going, and the day of many firsts began. First, we were cleared to taxi to point Delta for Grass 08 (never taken off from there before), then we saw an old Yakovlev Trainer plane fly past on final while we held at the holding point – great to see those old planes still buzzing around. Then we took off for circuit number 1.

A large number of pilots state that when they go solo they are not nervous because they are too busy. They are 100% right. The circuit is a very work intensive time for the pilot because you must fly the aircraft along an invisible road at a certain speed, while keeping an eye out for other planes (and helicopters, microlights, gliders, balloons, skydivers, you name it) and an ear out for instructions from the tower. The good news is that the checks are regimented to help learning and I picked them up fairly easily. In almost no time we were around the airfield and it was time to line up for landing. OK, hold the aircraft level and keep her tracking on the centre of the runway, hmmm a bit of a crosswind here so nose the airplane into the wind, this approach looks OK, Ryan is not saying anything so we must be doing well, OK, over the fence now so throttle to idle, bring the nose back, more, more, more, down! Ryan then requested that we change runways to 18 because of the crosswind and they confirm. So it’s a fast coast down the runway at 40 knots to lineup on 18 as quickly as possible. Then its quickly through the lineup checks, add full power and off we go. The circuit around runway 18/36 is easier because you have the main tarmac runway to reference your turns off. All too soon we are in the downwind leg so it’s the downwind checks (the litany repeats until you can say it in your sleep). Then report in “Echo Tango Alpha is downwind for Grass 18, request full stop and backtrack”. Not many aircraft around today so we get cleared for landing straight away. This time Ryan does the landing and when we are rolling to a stop the tower throws us the next first for the day “Echo Tango Alpha, take next left backtrack to tarmac 18 as far as you need. Cleared for takeoff.”

Ryan swings the aircraft left and we head on the long tarmac runway for my first take off from the main runway.

I made a slight error in the turn onto final and Ryan picked it up almost as I recognised it, “How does this approach look?”

“Too high,” I respond. We were way too high.

So its cut the throttle and the plane glided in (my first glide approach) steeply. I didn’t flare fast enough to halt our descent and we landed a little roughly. I apologised to Ryan and he said he had experienced much much worse at the hands of students so I did OK. In fact, he was quite happy with my progress in learning the circuit procedures and maintaining my basic airmanship. We both agreed the landings needed work but all in all another good lesson.