Flying Training

Lesson 18: Circuits

Sunday 26 March 2006, 4.00pm with Kerry Scott in Citabria VH-RRW

Weather: clear and sunny. Visibility all the way to Sydney.

First lesson in 5 weeks, and I was obviously rusty and unprepared. In particular I hadn't done sufficient preparation for engine failures (the CFMOST checks) so Kerry decided just to concentrate on my flying. If I demonstrated consistent circuits then the plan was to practice some glide approaches, but in the end I just wasn't consistent enough. The first and only radio call I made was at the runway hold point, and from then on I believe we made about 8 circuits and landings, including a couple of stop and gos, with a final landing on 10 (the grass runway). My list of misdemeanours included: having my feet too high on the rudder pedals (ie inadvertently applying brake), not giving it full throttle on takeoff, climbing at a speed other than the recommended 70 knots, drifting off the extended runway centreline on climbout (the slipstream effect pushes the nose left, so it needs plenty of right rudder), making the crosswind turn too steep (it's a climbing turn), exceeding the circuit height of 1300 feet, uncoordinated turns, flying one wing low, flying the downwind leg too close to the runway, or too far away, diverging from the runway, converging on the runway, exceeding the descent rate of 500 ft/minute, incorrect trim, unnecessary trim adjustments, overshooting the base turn, making the final turn too steep, dropping below 500 ft on final approach, approaching too fast, too high or too low, touching down with the plane not quite straight on the runway (ouch) and suggesting a stop and go when the tower had closed and there was other traffic in the circuit.

Obviously some work needed before the next lesson...

One tip I picked up was that since you're already feeding in a bootful of right rudder on the climb to counteract the torque and slipstream effects, the crosswind turn is coordinated by reducing the amount of right rudder, not by actually giving it any left rudder. And one last thing - I wore a pair of running shoes which didn't give me as much feel on the rudder as my normal old leather shoes, so I'll leave them at home next time.

Kerry sent this email which has put a more positive spin on the lesson:

Hi Iain,

Just a quick message to say, "good to see you yesterday" and "well done on the circuits"

Other pilots at your level that have been in the same situation as you with delays in their training have been unable to cope with flying a circuit at all, let alone landing the aircraft without damaging it, so you gotta be proud of your efforts yesterday afternoon.

You can see that if a circuit is flown badly, landing the aircraft can become extremely difficult. However, you can also see that when you fly an accurate circuit (as you started to demonstrate towards the end of our session), landing the aircraft is a lot less difficult. This is why I nagged you about flying the aircraft and not letting it get away from you. I will constantly encourage you to fly accurately so that you won't take a "close enough is good enough" approach to piloting an aircraft. I have seen / flown with private pilots that do not want to learn anything new, and make a minimum effort at commanding an aircraft, and they are not the types of pilots I would want to send a member of my family with, if you know what I mean.

Some good lessons close to the ground for you too, as the taildragger will buck if you don't have it straight (both aircraft and flight inertia) coming in on final.

I'm really looking forward to inserting some emergencies into the circuit next week, as well as giving you back the responsibilities of situational awareness (knowing where other aircraft are) and communication (radio).

Please let me know if you have any questions on the aerodynamics we discussed, and / or on any of the emergency drills.

Have a good week, Iain!



P.S. In student record:

"After 5 weeks, much revision in general flying."