Lesson 14. Circuits 10am Saturday 23 October 2004

Here we are in October. Several things have happened since my last lesson. I did a couple of circuits on the 2nd of October that were quite frankly the worst I have ever flown. The landings are getting better. That was part of the two weekends devoted to the Club Competitions where members compete for trophies and the right to compete for Waikato in the Regionals before competing in the Nationals later on. So no flying then. The weekend after, Susan and I went up north on holiday. Then the week after we get back, I fall sick with a cold and have to cancel my bookings. The Saturday booking was during no flying weather but the Sunday wasn’t too bad. This brings us to Saturday the 23rd of October. Some things have changed at the Aero Club as well which require a mention. Firstly, we have a new plane. A 1997 Cessna 172R called ZK- WAM. Roger has decided that all new Aero Club planes will start with the designation WA (for Waikato Aero club of course!) so he had it re-registered with the CAA. It is a beast but flies and ground handles like a dream. Long range tanks mean it can fly from Hamilton to Invercargill without refuelling (6.5 hours endurance). Fuel injection means no carburettor which means no carb heat to forget about (woohoo!). The fuel gauges are actually accurate (and reliable!). Control response is fantastic. My only gripe is that it only has 30 degrees of flap (unlike ETA and JAF which have 40) so you have to fly the approach more nose up than those two (that fact has caught me out more than once).

The other thing is that a company called CTC has started training operations at Hamilton, so now we don’t have the sole run of the place. This means we have new transponder procedures and a much busier airport to deal with.

Back to the lesson. I was down to fly with Paul but Ryan swapped so he could take me up and give me the low down on WAM. Instead of 3 fuel drains to check WAM has 13 (yeah 13!!). There are a couple of minor changes to the startup and pre-take off check procedures (no carb heat), mainly the new addition of an electric fuel primer pump (no more manual priming) and a separate fuel cut off valve (for emergencies).

That out of the way, we started WAM up and Ryan went over the radio controls and transponder procedures. Then we had to wait a bit while some poor student pilot in EJZ had problems with her headset mike or maybe even the radio in EJZ. Then we had a pilot fly in from somewhere who didn’t know Hamilton airspace or the airport layout and didn’t understand English very well either.

I did my radio procedures as well as I could and we trundle down to the turning point. I used a bit too much brake in the swing around and got a frown from Ryan. We did the lineup checks during the taxi so its time to check the runway is clear, pick my reference point and wait for the clearance to depart. It comes and off we go. Full power. Whoops not on the right rudder quickly enough. More right rudder, she really moves off the line fast. Ok quick glance at the gauges – all in the green. OK, there’s 45 knots showing so start to ease back on the stick and let her unstuck. Away we go. More right rudder. OK lets see, we are not at 65 knots so lower her nose down a bit and let the speed build up. Trim. OK that’s more like it. OK, nearing 200 feet AGL now so check the airspeed, good, now raise the flaps, OK. Now what? Landing light. Landing light? I ask Ryan, and he said to leave it on for the circuit due to burn out problems caused by switching on and off (must check this with Roger). OK, turn at 700 feet AGL to the left, where are we turning to? Ahh yes Mt Kakepuku right there at 180 degrees. OK, maintain the 80 knot climb, too fast, so back on the stick and trim it nose up. OK, down comes the airspeed, watch the bank angle, its getting up to 30 degrees, don’t want much more than that. Hold on some opposite bank to maintain the bank angle, OK, 1200 feet coming up on the altitude indicator which is 1000 feet AGL, our circuit height so it’s time to level off. We aren’t quite heading towards our reference point to nose it down, let it settle and ease back the power to 2000 rpms. Trim. OK, we are fairly early in the downwind leg so lets do the checks first and then call the tower. OK they’re done, but there is quite a lot of traffic in the area so lets continue downwind because Ryan is looking for someone out to our left.

Me: “Whiskey Alpha Mike is downwind Grass 36, request touch and go.”

Tower: “Whiskey Alpha Mike continue downwind number 2 after Chieftain.”

Me: “Continue downwind number 2, looking for traffic, Whiskey Alpha Mike.”

Ryan sees it and lets the tower know we see it.

Tower: “Whiskey Alpha Mike, cleared touch and go.”

Me: “Cleared touch and go, Whiskey Alpha Mike.”

OK, back on the power to 1500rpm, bring the nose up slowly so we don’t climb, wait for the speed to get below 80 knots and whack on 10 degrees of flap. Good, there’s 70 knots so round we go. Hmm we aren’t descending enough, so nose over a bit… not watching that airspeed… a bit bumpy over that gully… keep her on the centre line… too high… too fast… aahhh yeah 20 degrees flaps, too late on that. OK start the turn to finals, whoops a bit early, OK full flaps now, still too high, drop the nose down, Ryan is saying nothing, OK there’s the threshold so off with the power, look down the runway and let the aircraft settle, keep it straight, Ryan says there’s isn’t much wind so you can use a bit more rudder than normal to keep her straight. Bounced it.

I think it was about there I realised what a huge leap backwards my flying had made since my last lesson all those days ago. I was getting the hang of adjusting the picture by using the right controls but I really had made a hash of this one. No time to worry about it we need to get back on the power and get back into the air. A bit slow on the right rudder there, nearly got away from me. Ok we’re tracking better now, time to get airborne, back on the stick, more right rudder and we’re flying. The second circuit was only marginally better, I turned too far on the upwind leg and we were cutting into our downwind leg. I remember doing the checks when Ryan mutters something about second language speakers, I look down on our runway and there’s a Cessna sitting in the middle of it, with only half the runway required to takeoff. I think the conversation over the radio went something like:

Tower: “Tango November Tango, I think you should back track to the start of Grass 36.”

Cessna TNT: “Say again?”

Tower: “Tango November Tango, backtrack to the start of Grass 36, you are in the middle of the runway.”

We watched the poor guy taxi out and line up without backtracking. There was no way he'd have enough runway to get airborne.

Cessna TNT: “Backtrack Grass 36, Tango November Tango.”

By this time it was time for us to radio in.

Me: “Whiskey Alpha Mike is downwind Grass 36, request touch and go.”

Tower: “Whiskey Alpha Mike, continue approach number 1.”

Me: “Continue approach number 1, Whiskey Alpha Mike.”

By the time we had got to turn finals the Cessna had got to the end of the runway. I asked Ryan if we should go around, but he said to keep going. So we did.

Tower: “Tango November Tango, take next left and lineup Runway 36.”

Cessna TNT: “Next left for runway 36, Tango November Tango.”

Tower: “Whiskey Alpha Mike, after departing Cessna cleared to land Grass 36.”

Me: “Cleared to land, Whiskey Alpha Mike.”

The next time around was interesting, we were told to make short an approach. Ryan took control and in a blur of movement pulled the throttle, lost our airspeed and lowered 10 degrees of flaps while turning us towards the runway. Then he gave it back to me and told me to fly it in on no power. We realised that we had enough airspeed and height to make it down without adding power. Ryan said that we were doing both a short approach and a glide approach at the same time. Talk about firsts huh? Well I got the approach pretty good, we only need a slight burst of power near the threshold to carry us over which I got complimented on, it was just right. The landing wasn’t so flash though.

We did another circuit and landing, not too bad but I didn’t realise it at the time that I was approaching way too fast, it was I believe a hangover for me being spoilt with 40 degree flaps and having my nose attitude too low and not noticing this with the airspeed indicator. Ryan then took the next landing on Runway 36 and did the flying down the runway at the attitude he wanted me at. I think he likes showing off because after so much time flying round and round the circuit would bore anyone. Can’t blame him, he is off to chase his dream flying passenger aircraft in November, and good on him, he deserves it. My last landing of the lesson was like previous lessons, the best one of the day. Funny that.