Look Mum, no instruments!

One of the flying competitions I have not bothered to try my hand at is Non Instrument Circuits, Sunday saw a competition practice day so I figured I'd give it a shot.  Goal - to fly an aircraft accurately around the circuit without any reference to instruments whatsoever.  I briefly scanned the official FlyingNZ rules:

Two into wind standard rectangular circuits are to be flown. The competitor is to supply means of covering the instruments from his/her vision BUT they must be clearly visible to the Judge.
The competitor will nominate climb speed, down wind RPM, base speed and speed on final when established at or below 300’AGL, prior to crossing the fence.
Competitors will be judged on take off speed, climbing speed once established in the climb, 500 foot turn into cross wind leg, downwind height and RPM once established straight and level, down wind, maintenance of down wind height, base speed, approach speed when established on base below 300 feet , quality of the landing, circuit accuracy and airmanship.
Competitors may choose to carry out a ‘touch and go’ or full stop landing following their first circuit.

Fortunately the Club has premade cutouts designed for each type which neatly obscure the instruments from my vision but can be seen by the judge.  It nicely slots in on top of the control column and suddenly I am the Wright brothers!

Marks out of 10 will be scored for:
500’ TURN
Minus 1 point for each knot +/-
Minus 2 points for each 50 rpm +/-
Minus 2 points for each 50 ft +/-

I decided to go with the tried and true numbers for my selections:

Takeoff speed:  50 knots
Climb speed:  80 knots
Downwind RPM:  2300 rpm
Base speed:  70 knots
Finals: 65 knots

As this was a practice run I got to do a couple of normal circuits first to get my bearings and work out what I needed to think about when flying on eyeball mk 1.  I opted to practice a couple of precision approaches which were not too bad, I would need those for the Gentlemans circuits and Senior Landings later.

Things I noticed on my first attempt at non instrument circuit flying:
  1. Hard to claim sufficient RPM for takeoff when you have no idea what it is.  I guess you could say it sounds good enough for takeoff!
  2. What I thought was an 80 knot climb attitude was more like 95.
  3. The 500 foot crosswind turn was not right all day, always high, sometimes as much as 300 feet.
  4. Navigating the actual circuit wasn't too hard, as I reverted to my early circuit training - e.g. fly at that landmark, then turn towards that one and fly to that etc...
  5. Downwind height was between bang on 1000 feet to 1300 feet.  That's a lot of points to lose but at least I wasn't about to bust airspace! 
  6. It took me 3 or 4 circuits to work out that 2200 RPM is better for the straight and level attitude I had selected.  I think it was giving me a 20fpm climb but as long as I could get to 1000 feet I would be OK.
  7. It took a couple of circuits to get my ear sorted for the correct power setting to give 1700 RPM prior to the descent.
  8. Base turn was high also, but we were mucked around a bit by other traffic in the circuit.
  9. Finals speed was pretty much bang on.
All in all I think I might be competitive but I need more practice, especially the 500 foot turns.  And I think a heavy aircraft will help a bit, so I'll have to make sure I get a fully fueled WAM.  The competitions are coming up in September.  Really looking forward to trying something different this year.

PS.  Propellerhead aka Barry, if you read this, consider yourself challenged to Senior Landings!  The loser buys the first round at the bar.


That is one hell of a challenge. I reckon I could nail the airspeed fine. My instructor has a habit of randomly covering my ASI, and probably , possibly, maybe the engine rpm but I don't have a hope in hell of judging my altitude without instruments.

Excellent exercise though, must make you a bloody good pilot!

respect to you!

PropellerHead said…
Hi Euan - WRT today (Saturday) you're on!! Cheers Barry :)