Flying Training

Lesson 51: Circuits

Sunday 28 October 2007, 11.00am in Piper Warrior PBS. Instructor: Matt Nielson.

Weather: Warm, some turbulence. Wind calm at first, increasing from the west later

Most of my flying has been in Citabrias, but since we use the (Piper Cherokee) Warrior for the navigation part of the training, I thought a session of circuits would be useful before the next navigation exercise. So I booked this lesson with Matt Nielson (who started at Curtis Aviation last week). Then it occurred to me that (since I now have my GFPT) Angus could sit in the back. This meant I couldn't do any emergency drills, but as I just wanted some circuit practice this wasn't a problem.

So, Angus and I rolled up at Camden on a warm, calm day, met Matt, filled out the paperwork and preflighted the aircraft. Angus thought this part took too long - "When are we going to go flying?" he asked, after the second time out to the wing (to check the stall warning).

Matt joined us, I buckled Angus into the back and ran through the pre-start checks. I asked Matt to confirm I had the correct grip on the throttle (forefinger underneath, thumb on top, other three fingers on the quadrant). Since the engine was warm, and on Matt's advice, I pumped the throttle twice, cracked it open 1/4" and turned the magneto to both. Nothing happened. Oh yes, "Engage" actually means pressing it. Imagine if cars were as different as aircraft...

I ran through the after-start checks which are more involved than the Citabria (eg fuel pump off, gyro instruments erected, DI aligned), started up the radio and checked the ATIS. Releasing the parking brake (pull the lever, but don't press the button), we taxiied to the run-up bay. Matt held the door open as we taxiied, because it was warming up rapidly under all that perspex.

Runups complete, I taxiied to the holding point and called the tower. We had to wait for a couple of aircraft to land, then we were given permission to line up, and eventually to take off.

We gathered speed rather slowly, but of course it was easy to keep straight compared to the Citabria. At 60 knots (maybe a little late), I pulled back on the yoke and we were off. The climb was sedate. The after take-off checks consist of retracting the flaps (but we hadn't used any), checking the oil temperature and pressure is in the green and, above 500 feet AGL, fuel pump off (and check the fuel pressure).

I turned crosswind at 800 feet. Matt commented that I'd turned too far, and advised me to line up the back edge of the wing with the runway. I called downwind, and was given number two after a Cessna on base. Downwind checks are also expanded over the Citabria - 'Fuel' includes fullest tank, and fuel pump ON.

Matt advised two stages of flap on base

5 landings.
First circuit - too high, so went around ("Good decision", Matt said)
Second circuit; first landing - 2 stages of flap (on base)
Third circuit; second landing - 2 stages of flap
Fourth circuit; third landing - three stages of flap
Fifth circuit; fourth landing - flapless
Sixth circuit; fifth landing - hands-off on downwind (to prove it was stable) and final (ditto). Standard landing configuration. Fairly smooth landing.
Matt said just the emergency procedures to do, then I could solo on it.
Angus' comments to Brendan: could do with airconditioning. Slippy seats. Hot.
To me: told me what he saw - so many swimming pools and tennis courts. One tennis court was also a basketball court (he's very observant)
He was very pale by the last circuit.


Lessons Learned

  • The Piper Warrior is very stable, so if trimmed to fly at 70 knots it will basically fly itself down to the runway.
  • It's heavier than the Citabria, so has more momentum. This means you need to anticipate more.
  • Pre-flight briefing - glide at 76 knots, not 60!
  • Fuel pump off at 500 feet AGL.
  • On crosswind, look back and keep the back of the wing parallel with the runway to make the turn square.
  • Downwind checks - at 'Fuel', switch fuel pump on.
  • After touchdown, keep the nose high till the speed has reduced (reduces load on nosewheel).
  • A session of circuits is not necessarily that much fun for passengers, especially if they're in the back.
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