Into the circuit

Lesson 7

Date:- 11 August 2017

Aircraft: – ZS-CCT

Route: – FALA –– FALA

METAR: –METARMETAR FALA 111300Z VRB06KT CAVOK 23/M00 Q1027 NOSIG

Hours:- 1.6

Total Hours:- 11.3

Having got my stall/spin sign out last week it was time to get my circuit on. I was really looking forward to the new challenge and spent a lot of the week reading up on circuit technique. Unfortunately I also stumbled upon this Accident report which came up as the first link when I searched for SR20 circuit technique. It struck a little close to home – same aircraft type, same flight school and same airport as I’m using – it’s worth a read purely for the point of view of awareness and how things can go horribly wrong for even experienced aviators.

Here are my notes and plan for the circuit at FALA for the 07 right hand (yes, usually they should be left hand but FALA’s is right hand for 07 and left hand for 25) traffic pattern.
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It looks like a lot of work – and it is. After a thorough briefing it was off to preflight the plane for this trip – which was the very lovely ZS-CCT – a relatively new Gen 3 Garmin Perspective equipped SR20. My previous flights have all been on the G2 Avidyne workhorses so this was a pleasant change – don’t get me wrong I really have a soft spot for the G2’s especially ZS-BOR. To all intents and purposes they are the same plane but the G3 stands a little taller, goes a little quicker and is a lot more slippery (wheel spats and some more streamlining), doesn’t have a rudder-aileron linkage (the G2 has a small amount of rudder movement with aileron input – just a little) and of course the fancy avionics. But to sit in the plane it feels very much the same and after the first turn in the taxi it felt completely normal. The best part is the Air-conditioning so you can actually do run-ups with the doors closed!

The A4 taxiway is still closed at FALA so short field departure for us again – which was somewhat pedestrian given the ISA+19 conditions – giving us a density altitude of 5900 feet. First circuit was for the instructor to fly to show me the ropes – well, that worked out fine until downwind when we got asked to orbit, and then orbit again, and again and then once more just for good luck – by this stage I was flying (hey, it’s always good to practice level turns!). Eventually we end up back on downwind, fly the base and then had to go around because the departing plane aborted takeoff…. There’s no bad experience.. (but you know it’s busy in the circuit when ATC apologizes for messing you around.

And so we went on – upwind, crosswind, downwind, base and finals – 7 circuits in all. Good fun. But hard work. It seems like only a few seconds from the after takeoff BUPMFF checks to the downwind BUMPFF checks, calling downwind, calling base and then the approaches – which if I say so myself were going really well.

Unfortunately it all tends to go a little pear shaped on roundout – I keep rounding out a little high and then coming down hard through ground effect. The instructor flew one of the landings and oh man, I was in awe of how smoothly she put the plane in ground effect and we just floated gently down. However, with 6-7 landings per hour in the circuit I suspect mine will improve in time.
11 aug circuits

More circuits next week. More Air-law studying this week – I’m told I must pass air law before I’ll be allowed to solo – I’m not ready to solo yet but give it a couple of hours and I will be….

The air law looks intimidating. But in practice it is pretty straightforward stuff – all relevant and interesting. The difficult part I suspect is going to remember all the validity times of the various documents, Medicals, licenses and so on – my feeling is that this is the sort of stuff that is a setter of multiple choice papers dream material… Ah well…

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Stall Spin Checkout and Dual Check

Lesson 6

Date:- 4 August 2017

Aircraft: – ZS-JAB

Route: – FALA – Magalies GFA – FALA

METAR: –METAR FALA 041300Z 14004KT 040V170 9999 SCT035 20/M00 Q1024 NOSIG

Hours:- 1.3

Total Hours:- 9.7

 

Well it’s fair to say that I have had mixed feelings about this flight. It’s a bit of a rite of passage in my mind. After every 10h prior to going solo we have to have a “dual check” where the head flight instructor flies with the student to make sure he/she is progressing well and to check up on the quality of instruction his instructors are providing.

Since I’ve done all the upper airwork exercises it was also an opportunity to do a “stall/spin signout” which is required (for good reason)prior to starting work in the traffic pattern. A lot of people kill themselves by stalling or spinning at low altitude in the circuit, particularly on the base-final turn and stall recognition and prompt recovery are thus important to have a good handle on.

It’s difficult flying with a new instructor – especially one you haven’t met before. But he seems like a decent sort and is very enthusiastic about doing things the right way. In fact, I thought my existing instructor was very “by the book”. This chap was even more so – but in a very good way. So we did things a little differently – the hard part for me was that I felt like I was having an exam and he was very much in the mode of instructing. In fact, he did all the radio work despite the fact that my regular instructor told him I’m quite capable – but it was nice to concentrate on the flying.

As it turned out it was just as well he was doing the radio work – but more on that later. Because taxiway A4 is closed at FALA at the moment for repair and resurfacing we are doing intersection takeoffs and the run up bay for 07 is unavailable – so we did our run ups on the apron and taxi’d out to toward A3. (Along the green line). As it turns out we could have done our run up short of A3 because wouldn’t you know it but 3 737’s all pushed from the apron simultaneously and we had to wait for them. Which would have been fine except one of the 737 crews managed (between the 2 of them) to forget the well NOTAM’d closure of A4 and they taxied merrily off toward the A4 end of 07. One imagines a few red faces when they had to do a U-turn in the runup bay and come back. While all of this was going on we just waited and waited and waited on the taxiway.

Fortunately TWR was on board and while the second 737 was backtracking to the departure end of 07 we were given clearance to do an expedited departure and turn out from the A3 intersection.

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Rest of the flight was essentially uneventful. The instructor was pretty good value because he had some different ideas about doing things (all of which seemed valid) – he even tried to cure my “looking inside-itis” by turning off the PFD (there are backup instruments) and I was quite chuffed to do a full turn and not be more than 100ft off initial altitude. Stalls were fine except as promised, this particular aeroplane definitely drops a wing at the stall break which caught me a little by surprise.

4 aug

A couple of (not so good) full flap stalls followed by one decent one and it was back to FALA for another landing – mine this time and really not too much drama at all. I feel like I’m getting the feel of the aeroplane.

So I’m officially signed off for stall recovery/spin avoidance and the next step is into the circuit for a couple of hours. Solo should be soon but I suspect it will be delayed due to a SNAFU with my medical – we were a day or two late in submitting documents (which have to be in 7 working days prior to the medical panel meeting – upshot is that my case wasn’t presented so will only be reviewed on 15 August. With formal decision only being communicated 7 working days thereafter.

In the meantime however, I’m getting stuck into Air Law which trust me is a fate worse than death. On the plus side, my Crazed Pilot audio recording cable arrived and it actually works. So hopefully now my post flight reviews of gopro footage will be more useful. I also found a good place to position the GoPro to get a good overview of panel and horizon – at ear level just forward of my head on the pilot side door window. Some more footage below….

 

 

The correct attitude

Lesson 5

Date:- 28 July 2017

Aircraft: – ZS-BOR

Route: – FALA – Magalies GFA – FALA

METAR: – FALA 18110Z VRB05KT 9999 FEW030 17/03 Q1031 NOSIG

Hours:- 1.4

Total Hours:- 8.4

Power + Attitude = Performance
This mantra is drummed into student pilots and has been for years. But I believe it goes beyond the physics of flying. Power is easy – Either you have it or you don't. So for me it isn't as important as attitude.

On Friday I had a revelation while flying. My instructor kept telling me to lower the nose, lower the nose, get the bloody nose down while we were in level flight. I was convinced the nose was low enough (in my defense the horizon consisted of 3 fingers of haze…). 70% power and ZS-BOR (my favourite SR20 in the school) is wallowing along at 105kts. So, in line with my stated policy of listening to the instructor, I trim the nose down 2 clicks. And…. as I expected, she starts to accelerate. And descend (OK, the VSI drops) – I hear my instructor telling me to look outside. I'm about to say, "I AM looking outside" but then it occurs to me I've noticed the VSI and I can't have noticed the VSI if I was looking outside. So I bite my tongue. And then I feel it.

There is a subtle shift I feel in my butt. And she accelerates to 120kts. The nose comes up, I trim her down and bingo. We are on the correct side of the power curve. Attitude. And now we're really flying…. I can feel now in retrospect how we weren't doing so well before – definitely on the wrong side of the curve.

That got me thinking about attitude – with the right attitude you can really fly. I want to fly with the right attitude. I'm too old and have too many people depending on me to take a slapdash approach to my flying. So I make sure I dress correctly and smartly for lessons, and have a pen in my pocket, pitch up on time, and learn the flows (OK, I'm trying to learn the flows).

"Just because you aren't getting paid doesn't mean you don't have to be professional"

I can't remember where I heard this but I think it's a good philosophy. Hopefully I'm still using it when I can't fly anymore.

Equipment

I used my old iPhone and MotionX GPS to record our track for the flight – I was amazed to see we flew almost 200km – lots of back and forth through the GFA – see pic below.
28 jul

I also tried (again) to record ATC/Intercom audio from my GoPro – but as we leveled off in the cruise the cable fell out – which I thought was weird, until I looked at it and saw the plug was completely bent out of shape. Which was very weird – until I reviewed the footage – I must have kicked the cable and ruined the plug when I got into the plane. Bother. So now waiting for a new one. Which despite paying Amazon for expedited shipping will still only arrive on Thursday according to Amazon and more annoyingly on Monday NEXT week according to UPS.

The flying

This was a lesson to firm up the stalls because next week I have my stall/spin/high GFA work signoff eval – with the chief instructor – it also forms part of the dual check which they use to make sure the instructors are up to spec – which means I'm flying with a new instructor for this. So we did power off, power on, landing and clean config stalls, reinforced HASELL checks, and even a quick rudder spiral dive for good measure. A selection of the stalls are shown in the video below – I was surprised at how benign the power on stall was – definitely less of an event than I imagined – still not something to take lightly. I'm finally nailing the power off stall – much less aggressive forward pressure and more of a check forward – still a bit hard on the right rudder as power comes in – interestingly I didn't appreciate this fully until reviewing the GoPro footage – I do have an inkling of how much to put in now though. I did appreciate it when the instructor said, "your'e good enough to get signed out, but I know you want to do them better, so let's do some more". – that's the attitude.

Landing was much better – although I did round out a meter or two too high so we had a very positive touchdown – but all in all not too bad at all.