Flying Training

Lesson 30: Short Field Circuits

Saturday 8 July 2006, 8.00am with Kerry Scott in Citabria VH-MWY

Weather: freezing (literally!), calm and sunny.

This was the lesson I'd prepared for last week by reading the Training Manual and the Pilot's Operating Handbook. The relevant part of the POH is pages 3-7 and 3-10:

TAKE-OFF (Obstacle)

During an obstacle take-off, use the normal take-off procedures with the following exceptions:

  1. Flaps - SET 14° (2nd notch)
  2. Lift-Off - 50-55 MPH [44-48 kts]
  3. Climb - 58 MPH [51 kts] (best angle of climb) until clear of obstacle

TAKE-OFF (Soft Field)

For soft field take-off, use the normal take-off procedures with the following exceptions:

  1. Flaps - SET 14° (2nd notch)
  2. Attitude - TAIL LOW but clear of ground
  3. Lift-Off - ASSIST using elevator
  4. After Lift-Off - LEVEL FLIGHT to obtain safe margin of airspeed prior to climb
  5. Flaps - UP

LANDING (Obstacle)

Use normal landing procedures. In addition:

  1. Flaps - FULL DOWN [35°]
  2. Approach Airspeed - 60 MPH [52 kts]
  3. Throttle - AS DESIRED to control rate of descenr
  4. Slip aircraft as necessary to increase rate of descenr


A relatively high rate of descent is possible in this configuration when at full gross weight and the throttle closed. If airspeed is allowed to decrease below 60 MPH [52 kts] level off can only be assured with an application of power.

I'd also checked the take-off and landing distances in the performance charts on pages 4-4 and 4-8. At maximum gross weight (1650 lbs), 15°C (60°F), pressure altitude of sea-level, dry runway and 14° flap, the 7GCBC needs 305' to take off and 567' to clear a 50-foot obstacle. The initial rate of climb is 1145 feet/minute.

The runways at Camden are:

  • 06/24: 4800 feet (1464m)
  • 10/28: 2400 feet (723m)

so there's plenty of room for manouevre.

Click to enlarge Click to enlarge I arrived shortly after 7am to find MWY already out of the hangar and gradually icing over, it was so cold. At 7am the AWS reported a temperature of -1.7°C, dewpoint -2.4°C, relative humidity 95%, wind calm, vis 10km and QNH 1026hPa. I took a few photos of the ice, but it was nothing to worry about as it was always going to disappear quickly once the sun hit it.

Click to enlarge I filled out the paperwork and carried out the preflight, then sat down to check through the appropriate lesson in the student record (Circuits 14 - Shortfield Take-offs and Landings). I didn't recognise the TOSS acronym but when Rob explained it was take-off safety speed I knew the figure - 52 knots. The next knowledge-based objective was to establish the correct take-off and landing distances for the prevailing weather distances. By interpolation from the table on the POH p4-4 (using 30°F) the take-off distance would be 267'. The landing roll is probably much the same as at 15°C, ie 310 feet. The impressive take-off distance is because being cold, the air molecules are packed more tightly together, so can hold up more weight.

Click to enlarge I already know from the POH that the take-off configuration was 14° flap, and I also knew that we'd be running up with brakes on (strangely, not in the book) and Kerry confirmed this when she arrived. Basically this was the long-awaited lesson in the effects and use of flap for landings, which I hadn't done since lesson 13. I should mention that Kerry drove into Camden just for this one lesson, which I really appreciated.

Click to enlarge Having decided that 60 litres of fuel was enough for this lesson, we taxiied for runway 24. Kerry had me wait a while in the run-up bay to let the engine warm up before the run-up test. Since the relative humidity was 95% we kept carby heat to hot while we waited.

Run-up tests complete, we taxiied to the hold point, made our CTAF call and lined up. At Kerry's prompting, I lowered two notches of flap (14°) and held my feet on the brakes while we throttled up, releasing them (and making very sure my heels were well back on the floor!) as the RPM passed through 2000. I help the stick slightly forward, maintaining a tail-down attitude for increased wing incidence. The aircraft ran forward for a short distance and then we were airborne, with a very nose-high attitude requiring substantial forward stick to keep the speed up. We climbed at VX (55 knots) until Kerry advised me we'd passed the simulated 'obstacle' and I then raised the flaps and stabilised the climb at 70 knots. Kerry told me the take-off run was probably 100m, which is in line with the performance chart.

After a circuit during which my brain was only occasionally in front of the aircraft (Kerry reminded me of the downwind checks) we carried out a short-field landing with full flap. The procedure was to set carby heat to hot and throttle to idle abeam the threshold, check the speed is below VFE (75 knots) then lower two notches of flap, with a third on the base leg and the last two (35°) on final. We were pretty high, but with a nose-down attitude. The most noticeable thing was the slow speed - only 55 knots, reducing to 45 for the landing. The stall speed with full flap at MAUW is only 38 knots so there's still a healthy margin, and at this speed and descent rate it felt something like landing a helicopter, only quieter. The last part of the short-field technique is firm application of brakes after touchdown to bring the aircraft to a halt.

For the remainder of the lesson we tried varying amounts of flap, eg landing with three notches of flap, and even taking off with full flap. Although the latter is not standard operating procedure, the Citabria had no trouble maintaining a reasonable speed and rate of climb. It was really an education in why you wouldn't worry if you noticed the flap lever fully up on take-off. Which is ironic, because later in the lesson that's exactly what I did, leaning over to drop the lever on the take-off run and receiving a sharp rap from Kerry for my trouble. "Never, ever do that!" she said, "or you will ground-loop it." Rats. Just when a lesson was going well. I can't believe I did that when Niall had similarly told me off back in lesson 13.

Anyway, back to the positive aspects. My landings, with and without flap, were fairly smooth, and I'm learning to slow a too-fast descent with a little smidgeon of throttle so it keeps flying along just above the ground till touchdown. I made a reasonable job of hitting the planned touch-down point too (halfway between the first and second taxiway). In the middle of the lesson I made a flapless landing for comparison purposes, and it was obvious that the descent path was shallower, the approach speed faster and the landing roll longer.

Kerry also demonstrated wheeling it on, with a higher than normal approach speed and a level attitude, planting the mainwheels on the ground and decisively moving the stick forwards to dump lift. She passed control back to me for the takeoff before we got the tailwheel on the ground, but I got the picture. I'm aware that some pilots prefer to use wheeler landings in crosswinds. We'll see if this comes up in the crosswind lessons. The POH says (pages 3-9 to 3-10):

"Either wheel landings or full stalls (3 point) are permissible. During gusty wind conditions, increase airspeed by approximately 5 mph above normal followed by a wheel landing."

"Full stall (3 point) landings are recommended for soft or rough fields."

"Crosswind approaches can best be accomplished by using the wing down rudder method followed by a wheel landing. Keep the lower wing into the wind after touchdown. Do not drop the tail until airspeed is well below flying speed."


"The use of wheel brakes is not recommended until after the tail wheel is in contact with the ground. For maximum braking, the control stick should be FULL AFT."

At the end of the lesson Kerry emphasised that these were good skills to keep in practice, so use different landing configurations when flying solo. This would be subject to a decision on the suitability to the conditions. For example a full flap landing would be inappropriate (a) when it's windy or (b) with other traffic close on your heels.

Once parked it was time to consider the next lesson. As usual it's subject to the boys' sport and Cathy's shifts, but we'll make it within two weeks so I don't get rusty. If the wind is suitable we'll do crosswinds, otherwise the first instrument lesson. The latter sounds interesting, not least because it involves flying a different aircraft - Piper Warrior VH-PBS (affectionally known at Curtis as 'Peanut Butter Sandwich'). I've flown in this aircraft before (November last year) but unaccountably took no photographs, so I took a good look around it where it was parked, and photographed the relevant checklists.

Click thumbnails to enlarge. More photos

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PBS panel
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PBS panel
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PBS panel close-up
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PBS circuit breakers
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PBS checklist 2-3
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PBS checklist 4-5
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PBS checklist 6-7
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PBS checklist 8-9
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PBS checklist 10-11
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PBS checklist 12-13

Next lesson is booked for 9.30am so it will be another opportunity to practice arrival and departure procedures under Tower control. I'm looking forward to it.