Flying Training

Lesson 5: Climbing and Descending 2

Sunday 20 November 2005 at 9:30am with Kerry Scott in Citabria VH-MWY

Weather: overcast. Cloud base around 3500 feet.

Took all the boys with me today. They set up their soccer net and cricket stumps and played happily.

Checks went smoothly - I'm settling into a routine (which Kerry has confirmed): Once round with the master switch on (and strobes and nav lights) to check the lights and the stall warning, and then switch off the strobes & nav lights and switch on the landing light - a quick nip round to see it's on and then back to the cockpit to switch it, and the master switch off. Sit in the seat to check the controls and to lower the flaps, then a leisurely walk round the whole aircraft checking every structural component. I found nothing more serious than a couple of missing screws on the right wing root fairing. One thing - remember to raise the flaps again at the end of the check!

Engine start also went smoothly this time. After start we used Kerry's ROARS check:

RPM - set to 1000
Oil - pressure and temperature in the green (pressure at least in the top of the yellow, and it may take a few minutes to reach operating temperature on a cold day)
Amps - positive, indicating the alternator is working
Radio - on, switched to ATIS - listen to weather, check runway in use and set QNH on the altimeter
Strobes on

then there are a few more items which need to be read from the checklist.

Brendan and Angus came down to the flightline to see me off. Taxiing felt a little more natural now, and I was beginning to feel comfortable with using throttle, rudders and brakes to keep the plane on the centreline and to turn into the run-up bay before the flight (it needs a firm touch on the right brake to turn it and then opposite rudder to straighten up).

Run-up was also smooth. It would be good to be able to read the rpm drop more accurately when checking the magnetos. I could tell that they dropped 'not much' and about the same amount. 'Not much' might be about 100rpm [Yes - the divisions are 100 rpm].

We then taxied to the hold point, actually coming to a halt well short and about halfway round the last bend so that we had a good view of other traffic on final. Having already made a call as we left the run-up area we had only to wait for permission to taxi onto the runway. Then I had power and stick, while Kerry kept the rudder.

I still didn't make a great job of the take-off. Lifted the tail ok, but didn't quite understand Kerry's instruction to "let her take off!". She meant to release pressure on the stick, but I thought she meant "Don't pull the stick back." Obviously I had just enough forward pressure on the stick to prevent us taking off and Kerry had to take over.

The weather was aerobatic-unfriendly (Cloud around 3,000 feet), so we stuck to the syllabus. Kerry demonstrated best rate of climb (at 55 knots with 2 stages of flap), and also the effect of full flap on a climb (reduced angle and rate, because there's more drag). Then I tried the best rate of climb. The secret is to raise the nose, hold it, then check the performance, ie the speed. It's a another application of:


Or for climb:


The effect of full flap on a glide descent was to increase the rate of descent from 500 fpm to 900 fpm. This was the cue to bring in the effect of power on the descent. It turned out that a fairly small application of power reduced the speed of descent to 200 fpm, and a little more power halted the descent altogether.

This is the start of the landing training, and indeed the next part of the lesson was demonstrating a base leg descent, and then a final approach. On the base leg, the textbooks recommend using power to control the rate of descent (down to an altitude of 600-700 feet on the turn onto final, which is around 400 feet AGL at Camden) and the attitude to control the speed. On final the books appear to change to using angle of attack for rate of descent and power for speed. However Kerry says you can use the same model as for the base leg. Presumably it comes to the same thing in the end as the approach must be made at the right angle and speed. I need to reread the books. [Note - after several sessions of circuits with a couple of other instructors I've grown used to using AoA for rate of descent on final, and power for speed, as per the book.]

After the final approach technique we tracked from Mayfield (where we checked the ATIS and made the inbound call) to the Cobbity bridge, where we called in to request permission to join the circuit. From here we descended on a long base leg, following a Cessna on final. It was quite hard to spot the other aircraft in the reduced visibility - it's certainly obvious why most planes are painted white.

Throughout the flight I felt that the turns were more co-ordinated, and I was better anticipating the effects of increasing power. Kerry said she was really happy with the way I was flying, and thought I seemed more confident. However she made a note in the student file that I still need to work at keeping the wings level.

I flew most of the final approach, with Kerry taking over the rudder as we approached the threshold. I had the stick, but I wasn't holding the wings sufficiently level so Kerry took over again before we touched down. This is OK, as I'm not meant to be doing landings yet. Kerry's just giving me a feel for it, and is ready to take over if I put us in an awkward situation.

Following the rollout I taxied us back to the flightline, and parked it by turning onto grass and applying left brake to turn us on the spot through 180°. Then it was the ROARS shutdown checks:

RPM - 1000
Oil - pressure and temperature in the green
Amps - slightly positive
Radio - off
Switches - check magnetos - left off and on; look for the rpm drop, then right

Finally mixture to fully lean until the prop stops, and all switches off, rear to front. Headphones away, out we get and tie back the controls with the seatbelt to hold them still. We didn't check the fuel as the next student and instructor pair started their checks straight away.

Next to us in RRW was a 16-year old student (Reece) who'd just flown his first solo. He was having his picture taken with a very proud dad (Bruce) in attendance. Bruce learnt at Camden 35 years ago, and hasn't flown in 20 years due to mortgage, kids etc, but is intending to get current again.

So, next week it's turns, which is obviously another major component of the landing pattern, and then there are a couple of stall lessons before we start circuit training. Reece went solo after 7 hours of circuit training, so if I did the same that would be 15 hours all up, which seems the average time to first solo. Hopefully by that time the fine control needed over attitude will be second nature. [It took me around 13 hours of circuits, and 23 hours all up!]

The boys were happy enough with their time there, so there should be no trouble taking them in future. The main thing is that they should look out for traffic and keep an eye on Angus.

[From "1st Solo" at

"The 3rd and final pattern trip and landing was ok again, but I noticed on final that my airspeed was dropping a bit. Normally you want to approach at 65kts in the 172. I figured it was because of the wind, so remembering my training I pitched down for airspeed, and then added a little power to remain on glideslope."]

So that's what Kerry's saying - keep the aim point static by using AoA for speed, and use power to stay on glideslope. Check in the Flying Training Manual.

Kerry adds:

CCHAT = Change Check Hold Adjust Trim (if you have to adjust, then back to change...last thing is trim.) (I've attached my S&L Brief which has a pictorial of this Method).

Heights on Base... you'll find your text book is talking about 700-600ft AGL (above ground level)... not AMSL (mean sea level), Camden is 230ft AMSL. Therefore 700-600ft AGL = 930 - 830ft AMSL (or on the Altimeter), and at Camden, we must then be established on final approach no lower than 730ft which equals 500ft AGL.

If you read the book, you will see the benefit of using AoA for height and Power for speed on final is that your aim point should not then move from 1/3 up the windscreen. Whereas, if you use Attitude for speed and need to slow down, you will possibly lose sight of the aim point as you raise the nose to slow up. BUT.... if you are using small changes in attitude / power, the difference in the end product is negligible. This is why I have suggested a single method to begin with... and refining can be done later.

The 'S' in the pre-shutdown checks is to ensure that each magneto is 'earthing' - or switching off. If we don't see a drop in RPM, then this is a problem that needs to be reported straight away as the prop will still be 'live'.

Also, FYI, we shut down by pulling the mixture, rather than switching the magnetos off, so that we can ensure that no fuel is left in the carby and there is thus no chance of the engine 'firing' if the propeller is hand turned in the next pre-flight inspection.