Flying Training

Lesson 52: Circuits and Training Area

Sunday 25 November 2007, 1.00pm in Citabria VH-MWY. Instructor: Craig Marshall.

Weather: Warm, hazy, scattered cloud at 3000 feet. Little wind

It's been 2 months since my last flight in a Citabria, so I had to do a flight review before taking it up myself. This took the form of three circuits, during which Craig stayed largely silent. After the first landing he said simply, "Use the rudder to keep straight, not the stick." After the second he said, "That was much better," and before the third he said, "Make this one a full stop, and let me out."

At Craig's prompting I stopped between the arrival and departure taxiways, and pushed the stick forward to let him out (the Citabria is even cosier in the back than the front!), before continuing back to 06. Soon I was airborne and heading north west, keeping Mayfield on my left. Everything looked green and fresh after the recent rain, and the dappled sunlight was attractive.

At 95 knots (176 km/h) it doesn't take long to reach Warragamba, and this marks the northern border of the training area, at least for Curtis Aviation students. I turned right and followed the pipeline east towards Sydney. I was keeping a lookout for other aircraft, but the first I saw of one was a shadow on the ground below and to my right. At first I thought it was my own shadow, but as I was in a right turn and the shadow was maintaining course it became obvious there was another aircraft in the vicinity. And there it was, a Piper Cherokee below me amongst the ground clutter. He was probably at 1500 feet, the inbound altitude for Bankstown, and I was at 2400 feet, just shy of the control step.

When I saw another aircraft inbound, this time above me, I though it might be quieter to the south. On the way I noticed what at first I took to be birds below me, but they seemed to be flying a very regular pattern. On closer inspection they turned out to be radio-controlled aircraft, apparently operating from one of the disused airfields in the area.

Orientating myself over Bringelly I headed back to the dam, south to Mayfield and made my inbound call. The tower told me to join base and call at 2 miles. I recall that this is marked by a bridge over a river on the road west of Cobbity, but my position was an estimate. The tower told me to maintain 1800 feet and turn upwind (as another aircraft was on late final below me). As I turned again the tower told me to maintain the turn, and descend to join the circuit on base. It wasn't what I was expecting (which was to continue upwind and fly a normal circuit), but the tower was doing me a favour by getting me on the ground as soon as possible.

From 1800 feet I could probably have done a glide approach, but I left some power on (about 1500 rpm) and found myself a little high on final. A sideslip soon fixed that, and from memory [I'm writing this a month later] it was a smooth landing.

Taxiing clear of the runway I switched off the transponder and parked MWY opposite the Curtis office. Mission accomplished - a solo flight where aviation, navigation and communication all went smoothly. Now for my first passenger...