Monthly Archives: December 2013

Lesson 20 – Advanced Turning

After all the circuit lessons I’ve had recently, I was really looking forward to doing something different. Today’s lesson would be on advanced turning. “How can turning be advanced?”, I hear you ask. Well, essentially, it’s a fancy way of saying steep turns.

We’d be looking at two different steep turns today:

  • 45 degrees of bank
  • 60 degrees of bank

These are steeper than the climbing turns (15 degrees of bank) and standard turns (30 degrees of bank) that I’ve been doing up until now. In the pre-flight briefing, I learnt that in normal flying we wouldn’t normally do any steep turns. The reason we learn them is primarily to practice it as a collision avoidance technique. I’m hazarding a wild guess that even without this lesson, if I saw a plane coming straight towards me I wouldn’t instinctively have done a ‘normal’ turn anyway – but hey.

As the angle of bank increases, the wings have to create greater lift. You create greater lift by increasing the angle of attack. Much more back pressure is required when doing a 60 degree turn than when doing a normal turn.

For a given airspeed, the angle of attack in the turn is greater than during level flight. This means the stalling speed is higher during the turn. You wouldn’t want to be doing a steep turn when flying slow (like turning on to final, for example) or low.

During normal straight and level flight, the wings create sufficient lift to support the weight of the plane.

Lift = weight   and the load  factor is 1g

During a turn, load factor increases. In a 60 degree turn, you’ll experience 2G. Fighter pilots can experience up to 9G. Aircraft are certified to withstand up to a specified load factor – typically around 3.8g for a light aircraft. The Va airspeed is the maximum airspeed at which full and abrupt control movements can be made, without risk of over-stressing the aircraft. If you’re above Va, you need to be very careful not to make any sharp control movements or you’ll risk breaking the plane, and nobody likes to watch a wing fall off.

To do a steep turn to the right:

  • HASEL checks
  • Roll right
  • As you go through 30 degrees, increase back pressure, full power, and use right rudder to keep in balance
  • Roll off, using rudder to balance
  • Power
  • Positively select straight and level attitude
  • Trim

A steep turn to the left is slightly different, but to keep in balance you need to rudder right and left (because of the yaw effect from the increased power).

When doing a steep turn, if you don’t apply enough back pressure you risk entering a spiral dive. The natural instinct is to pull back to try and stop the descent, but this is the wrong thing to do. Instead, you should move the throttle back to idle and roll the wings level (out of the turn). Then gradually pull back to reduce airspeed. Once airspeed is lower than Va, apply power and climb as normal.

After checking the aircraft, we taxied out and were soon up in the air. We climbed to 3500 feet and carried out a HASEL check,  having a good lookout to make sure nothing else was nearby. My instructor demonstrated a 60 degree turn. Wow. Feel the g-force! My cheeks felt pinned back and it was a struggle to move my arms. I wanted – no, needed – to have a go at this! My first 60 degree turn went ok. I underestimated just how much back pressure is required to stay level, but eventually worked it out. When rolling out of the turn I didn’t release enough back-pressure and we ended up about 300ft higher than when we started.

After a couple more, I had the technique nailed and was able to do a level steep turn to the left and the right.  45 degree turns feel rather sedate compared to the 60 degree turns, whilst the 30 degree turn feels positively balmy after all that steepness. If only all turns could be at 60 degrees, it would be such fun (probably not for the passengers in the back though!).

We intentionally entered a spiral dive and recovered using the correct technique. Like stalling, in the Warrior it’s a bit of a non-event really, so long as you follow the appropriate recovery technique.

After a few more practices, we decided that we’d done everything we’d needed to for this lesson, so we headed back towards the airfield. On the way, my instructor put up the Instrument Screens – essentially big sheets of plastic that literally block the pilots view so that you can’t see out – to give me a taste of the IMC (instrument meteorological conditions) lesson coming up.

When you qualify as a PPL, you’re only allowed to fly in VMC – visual meteorological conditions, which are a set of rules specifying visibility, distance from cloud, etc in different classes of airspace. Essentially, you need to be able to see the ground so that you can navigate based by the features of the ground.  To fly in worse weather conditions (eg. fly in IMC conditions) you need to be either Instrument Rated or have an IMC licence. The PPL syllabus includes an hour of IMC instruction designed primarily (I think) to scare people from wanting to intentionally try a flight in IMC.

So, with the screens up (and my instructor acting as the lookout – he had full visibility) I had to perform a series of manoeuvres like flying straight and level, regular turns, climbing and descending. I’ll go in to this more after having the full IMC lesson, but basically you need to learn to trust the instruments and ignore your human instincts. Your inner ear easily gets confused and gives you the sensation that you’re climbing or descending when in fact you could be doing neither. There’s a certain order and frequency you need to monitor each of the instruments, and the workload is insane.

I think I managed to fly pretty well using the instruments and didn’t find it very scary. My instructor seemed to agree as he said “you’ve obviously spent way too long on flight simulators”. A fact, sadly, I can not argue with.

After a while, we took the screens down and planned our approach. I was introduced to yet another mnemonic, CARPACER, as a template to use in radio communications:

  • Callsign (eg. G-GFCA)
  • Aircraft type (PA28)
  • Routing (Flying Gloucester to Coventry)
  • Position (5 miles north of Tewksbury)
  • Altitude (2000ft on 1020 QNH)
  • Course (Heading North)
  • Estimate (Estimate Coventry at 55 (minutes past the current hour))
  • Request (Request basic service)

Apparently that format can be used pretty much in any situation where you’re unsure of what to say.

So, to request our rejoin, we used:

  • G-GFCA, Tewksbury, 2000ft on 1001, heading south, request rejoin

(You don’t have to say all elements – use your discretion. Not much point in giving an estimated time, as ATC will have a pretty good idea how long it takes to get to them from Tewksbury. No need to say aircraft type as we were already on a basic service with them.)

Another week, another mnemonic to learn.

I wanted to practice overhead joins (I’ve only done one) so I asked for one, even though we were flying south towards the airfield and the active runway was 18. ATC obliged and asked us to report 3 miles from the field. We did so, and were handed over from Approach to Tower. Tower then asked us if we would mind taking a direct join on final so we agreed and after a relatively smooth landing, it was all over for another few days.

Here’s a little video clip of me doing a 60degree turn. The audio didn’t record for some reason, so excuse the crappy dubstep. Look at how steep everything looks out of the window – it really was like that!

Lesson 19 – final circuit consolidation!

The Aeros PPL syllabus requires around 3 and a half hours of solo flight before finishing the solo consolidation and moving on to advanced turning, PFL and navigation. I made a mistake whilst adding up my time last lesson and had overestimated how much time I had flown solo – it was 2 hours 55. So today would be another (hopefully final) lesson of circuit consolidation to build up my solo hours.

Out to the apron, I did the A-check and prepared to get going. The ATIS reported 6knot wind from 160, and runway 18 was active with left hand circuits. I was excited at the thought of finally getting to do some left-hand circuits. However my excitement didn’t last long! After completing the start-up checks and getting ready for taxi, the time was now 11.25 so I had to re-check ATIS (it updates at 25 and 55 minutes past each our). The active runway had changed to 22, with right-hand circuits, so I’d be flying the same pattern as last lesson. Nevermind!

I did three circuits with my instructor: one normal, one flapless, and a glide approach. Everything seemed to go well – I made the glide approach ok although it was fairly close. I put the first stage of flap in a little earlier than ideal, but it worked out ok. The idea with a glide approach is that you should be sure that you can reach two thirds up the runway before using flap. Then, with one stage of flap, you should be able to make it to one third up the runway. Only when you are absolutely sure you will make it to the threshold should you use the final stage of flap. Without any power, you don’t have the option of regaining height so you must be super careful to keep as much altitude as possible (by maintaining best glide speed).

We landed after the glide approach, and my instructor jumped out, leaving me to go solo.

I flew five circuits. The first couple were quiet (I had one ahead) but then things became progressively busier – at one point I was number 5. A couple of left orbits were necessary for spacing (one of which I requested when the Technam in front was a little close for comfort) which sorted everything out. Although the reported ground wind was only 6 knots, it seemed to be much stronger at circuit height. On the upwind leg (after take off) the nose attitude needed to be lower than normal to attain the standard climb speed of 79. Equally, on downwind the airspeed went up to 125 at one point (it’s normally 100) which gives you even less time than normal to do all the downwind checks and radio call.

After the five circuits, I called it a day and taxied back to the Aeros apron. I have now completed 3 hours and 40 minutes of solo flight time, enough to move on to the next stage of training. Wahey!

Here’s the GPS tracks:

Here’s a clip of one of my circuits:

Lesson 18 – more circuit consolidation

Another day of circuit consolidation. I had a different instructor to last lesson, so we started off doing 3 circuits together. I decided to go-around on my first landing as my speed was a little high and I thought we risked a rather large balloon. My instructor said (afterwards) he thought I could have landed just fine, but was good to see I was able to make the decision myself. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!

We did 2 touch and gos together, before stopping for the instructor to jump out. We were on runway 22 today, which I had not done circuits on before, so I was quite glad to do the first few with the instructor whilst I got used to the ‘feel’ of it. Whilst there’s not a huge difference between 22 and 27, 22 doesn’t have a noise abatement procedure on right hand circuits, so the initial upwind leg felt a bit different.

I then did a further 7 solo circuits, which took about 55 minutes, before heading back. The circuit became busier and busier – there were 5 remaining in the circuit at one point – so there were lots of orbits and extended downwind legs. On my second solo circuit I had to extend downwind and ended up doing a 3.5m final. For a couple of seconds I felt a bit disorientated – I couldn’t see the airfield (I could, I just wasn’t focusing at the right distance) but I trusted the instruments (the ADF was tuned) and the general timing of the pattern and found myself pretty much lined up on the extended centreline at 3 miles. Goes to show how easily/quickly it can happen though, without the familiarity of the visual reference points (GCHQ for runway 27) you’re used to.

Here’s a clip of that circuit:

I forgot to start the GPS recorder, so no tracks this time.

Next lesson should hopefully be either advanced turning or practice forced landings (PFLs). Both of which require considerably better visibility than is needed for circuits, so I may have a longer wait for my next flight than usual…Fingers crossed.

More circuits..

Since the last post, I’ve had a further 3 lessons doing circuits.

During which time, I’ve clocked up a further 2 hours of time with my instructors, and 1 hour 45 minutes solo.

I’m working on becoming more consistent and trying to perfect my landing technique. In my last solo, I completed 8 take-offs and landings. The first 6 seemed pretty good to me, but then the last two were a bit ropey. I was probably getting tired. Or hungry. Or both. Probably both.

My next lesson will be about an hour or so of me entirely on my own. This is a new milestone, as up until now I’ve always done a few circuits with the instructor at the start of the lesson before he hops out and leaves me to go solo. Next time it’ll be me – from start to finish!

Here’s a clip of a couple of my circuits from the latest lesson. I moved the GoPro forward a bit, which I think gives a better view than the previous clips.

Here’s the GPS tracks from lesson 15. Notice how I had to extend the upwind leg twice, due to the aircraft ahead of me in the circuit practicing a fan stop. It was getting pretty busy up there, so I had to do a couple of left orbits before turning on to right base.

Compare them with the tracks from lesson 17, which I think look more consistent. This time, I extended the crosswind leg a couple of times for spacing before turning downwind – I was following a plane in front of me. ATC asked me to do a left orbit mid-downwind, which was a first for me. All seemed to work out pretty well!