Flying Training

Lesson 19: Circuits

Sunday 2 April 2006, 4.00pm with Kerry Scott in Citabria VH-RRW

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

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Determined not to get rusty again, I turned up today, one week after my last lesson, to similarly clear conditions. I was over an hour early, time for a leisurely check over Romeo Romeo Whisky. All in perfect condition as usual, with 100 litres of fuel and 6 quarts of oil. It has about 70 flying hours till the next major service.

I watched the small handful of planes tool around the circuit, noting that they were using runway 24, and chatted to a newly-qualified instructor - Jason - who reported that an American pilot had told him that on any of a thousand GA airports like Camden, on a day like this, you wouldn't even be able to find space in the circuit to transmit a call. I think the conversation started because the toilets have been closed "because asbestos has been found", and I wondered why the toilets were so big for the number of people using them.

Click to enlarge Anyway, I digress. Kerry rolled up in Whisky Kilo Mike, having taken a RAAF Caribou pilot up for some tailwheel experience. She said compared to the Caribou, the Citabria must be like flying a handkerchief. We had a quick briefing, where Kerry said we would fly some normal circuits, then try a simulated engine failure after takeoff (EFATO) and perhaps some glide approaches. It turned out that the wind had other ideas, but it was an eventful lesson.

I taxiied out to runway 24 without incident, called the tower and departed without diverging too far from the centreline, but I came a little unstuck on the circuit, finding myself too high on final. This was partly due to the wind (see history graph) Camden wind for 24 hours from 9am today but also because I was unfamiliar with the landmarks on 24, and basically forgot to measure two wing chords from the threshold. Anyway, this resulted in some hefty sideslipping to lose height, which Kerry turned into a learning opportunity by putting in about 45° of left bank and asking me to hold in right rudder to keep us straight. I repeated this on the next circuit and an extra complication was the smell of fuel, which was a little unnerving until Kerry deduced that it was coming from Oran Park Raceway (as we only noticed it at this end of the circuit).

It became more apparent that we were dealing with a tailwind (this was about 4.30pm) so the tower had us make a turn on crosswind and switch to circuits on 06. I was more familiar with this circuit, of course, but I managed to do a couple of poor landings, pulling the stick back slightly too much and dropping it onto the runway (ouch) so Kerry decided to take me on a low-level beat-up of the runway so that I could learn again to judge the height by noting the 'still point' ahead and to the side. I reckon the point to look at is about 2 runway edge lights ahead, which Kerry tells me is about 200 yards.

Camden temperature for 24 hours from 9am today In amongst these landings Kerry also pulled the throttle once with runway remaining (letting me get close to the runway before powering up and continuing the climb) and twice on the climbout. On one of these we had time to look around and see potential landing spots and I might say that these seem to me few and far between, what with houses, hills, powerlines, fences and ponds. I'd actually asked in the office about whether anyone had carried out a successful forced landing around Camden but Jason only told me about the messy incident with a twin-engined plane on a night flight which resulted in the death of an examiner who Jason actually knew.

It was too windy to practice glide approaches, but it was useful crosswind practice. I learned to point into wind on base and final legs, and to hold a little into-wind aileron on late final, keeping it straight with rudder. I think there were perhaps a couple of smooth landings in there, but the consistency is still to come

Three more events require mention. One was my poor radio procedure when the tower said, "Number 2 after the Cessna on final", and I responded, "Following a Cessna on final". Kerry correctly assumed I had not actually located the Cessna, and gave me a strong message about misleading radio calls before saying that the right response would have been, "Looking for traffic".

It was this Cessna I believe that took a very long roundabout route to get onto final and then from my perspective seemed to disappear into the trees between the river and the runway. He managed to drag himself in over the threshold, but it must have been quite close.

The last event was when the tower advised us on upwind to follow an inbound Citabria that suddenly appeared at our level from the direction of Bringelly. The tower gave him a rocket for not sticking to 1800 feet when inbound, and I mentally gave thanks for the clear conditions.

Click to enlarge All in all a better experience than last week, though we still haven't covered everything we need to before a first solo, and I'm not yet consistent enough in my circuits for Kerry to trust me on my own. Next week's lesson (on Saturday) will be circuits again, and I'll sit the pre-solo Air Law exam first. Kerry's teaching a theory course from 9 till 4 so she says she'll be glad of a flight at the end of the day

A pretty sunset on the way home put me in a good mood, though it reminded me that with daylight saving now ended the afternoons will be short, and it will be a little harder to fit lessons in after the weekend sport.

Instructor's notes: "Circuit improved. Need to use reference points on circuit to keep square."