Flying Training

Lesson 13: Circuits

Saturday 31 December 2005 at 6.30am with Niall Higgins in Citabria VH-RRW

Weather: warm, hazy.

Another early start, and another session of circuits. We concentrated on getting the speed and height right on final approach, which starts with the turn onto base. Niall introduced the use of flap as an alternative to sideslips for losing height, though I have the distinct impression that flaps are frowned on round here. In summary the steps to a smooth approach seem to be:

  1. As you approach the end of the downwind leg set carby heat to hot (which itself slows the plane down slightly as the lower density of the warm air reduces engine power).
  2. Make the radio call, eg "Camden traffic, Romeo Romeo Whisky, Citabria, turning base for runway 10, touch and go."
  3. Throttle right back, raising the nose to maintain lift and to avoid the speed building up.
  4. Turn onto base, keeping the nose attitude unchanged during the turn.
  5. On base, aim for a steady descent to the final turn, using very minor adjustments to the throttle and attitude. For example, if the sink rate feels too high, increase the throttle slightly and nose up. The speed should be more like 70 knots than 80.
  6. Aim for a final turn no lower than 500 feet AGL. At Camden, which is at an elevation of 230 feet, aim for 800 feet on the altimeter. Make the radio call as you turn, and once again, keep the nose attitude unchanged. If you lower it you will gain speed and if you raise it you run the risk of stalling. This turn should be particularly gentle and it's good form to roll out exactly on the runway heading.
  7. On the final leg, return carby heat to cold, pick the aim point, line the track up with the runway (little rudder movements, similar to on the ground) and watch the performance. The speed should be reducing to 60 knots over the fence, at which point you throttle full back.
  8. The attention now is on the aim point. Flare close to the ground and then hold off keeping a firm hold of the stick while pulling it gently back.
  9. As the aircraft touches down, stick full back and keep it straight with the rudder.
  10. On a touch and go, don't waste time - throttle and stick forward, keep it straight down the runway and go!

Now all this went fine except for a couple of things: Firstly, I tended to be too fast on final approach. This meant a last-minute sideslip (the difference being that I'm starting to do this myself rather than Niall having to do it) or the use of flap. I did one landing with full flap, then on take-off took it upon myself to retract the flap as the far end of the runway approached. This did not please Niall: "Don't worry with those bloody things!" I think he may have actually initiated the take-off at this point as I was obviously leaving things rather late. Remember we were on runway 10, which is not particularly long, and ends with trees and a river.

Next booboo was to undershoot, ie I touched down before the white cones marking the start of the grass runway. After judging that we were going to pass safely between them Niall let me go through with this as a learning experience, and I didn't repeat it.

Lastly and most embarrassingly, I nearly groundlooped on my last landing. This approach and landing felt like the best to date. The touchdown was smooth, and may even have been a three-pointer. I kept the stick back, looked at the reference point at the end of the runway and then blow me if we didn't suddenly start to head rapidly towards the left side of the runway, and those serious-looking cone markers. Niall yelled, "I've got it!" or words to that effect, and once the incipient ground loop was averted he returned control to a rather chastened student to park it. Of course as I taxiied onto the apron there were Rob Marshall (the proprietor), Kerry Scott (my usual instructor) and a prospective client all watching with interest. It turned out that, in Kerry's words, I'd "had a brain explosion" and my feet were doing exactly the wrong thing, ie I had my left foot out to turn right. Ouch.

My lesson was over, but there was too much happening to go home immediately. We had a local turf farmer about to take a Tiger Moth flight with Niall, Kerry Scott and another fellow off on a formation flight and Anita Pacanin doing her first solo. Here are the photos:

Tiger Moth Flight

Niall Higgins is the pilot. The student is a local turf farmer who has been watching planes fly over his house for years, and whose wife bought him this flight as a Christmas present. By the end of the flight, and despite being, shall we say, 'a little unwell' he was ready to sign up for lessons, and did.

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Chocks away!
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Taxiing out
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Take off
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Up, up...
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...and away

Formation take-off

Kerry and Rob Marshall in the Cessna 180 VH-DLB and Sinclair Sassen (the other formation student) and Jim Drinnan in the 182 (BMX). Here are a few stills, and a video of the takeoff. I wasn't there for the landing, but it was also in formation, and I believe they have some good air to air shots too.

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Kerry, Cessna 180
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Kerry, Cessna 180
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Cessna 182 VH-BMX
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Cessna 180 VH-DLB

Video clip

Click a link below to play, or right-click & choose 'Save As' to download.
Real Media (582 kb, requires Real Player) AVI file (2 Mb)

Anita Pacanin's first solo

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Anita Pacanin flew her first solo in WKM. Pictures, and videos of a couple of earlier circuits, are here.