Got some flying in today, and had what was an initially frustrating but ultimately rewarding and good fun lesson.
Turned up early and went through the "A" Check on the aircraft (which today was the slightly older Delta- Tango):
All went well on the pre-fight and for the first time I was tasked with doing some of the radio calls, which was a little bit intimidating but was able to get some kind of hang on it - there is certainly a lot of information you need to take in and when you've got a lot of other stuff going on your concentrating on you can very much experience a bit of information overload. Anyway got the old girl successfully in the air without too much bother and headed off the South-East training area.
Once we were up, the first half an hour was more than a little bit frustrating for me. We were basically right on the cusp of VMC (Visual Meteorological Conditions) due to a bunch of low cloud that surrounded the island and flying over the sea this basically meant that you just had just a complete wall of grey in front of you with neither a visible horizon or any kind of landmark in site. Not being able to see the horizon initially made life very difficult for me and I seemed to be forever ending up in an attitude not of my choosing and either in a slight dive or a slight climb. Nothing overly bad, but it just felt like sloppy flying as I was constantly not realising it initially and then having to correct the mistake. Eventually though I got the hang of it and stopped trying to gauge the attitude solely by looking out the window and relying more on my instruments (specifically the Attitude Indicator). Once that was figured out things got a lot better, and on the plus side that was a definite learning experience in terms of learning how to fly in less than ideal conditions.
So what did we do? The first bit of the lesson was stall recovery and we went through that a few times and it seemed fairly straight forward. Basically learning what to expect, how to identify the stall and how to get out of it as safely as possible. After that, due to the conditions being what they were, it was time for a bit of a change of plan as we moved onto circuits, something that I wasn't expecting to get to do until next weeks.
A circuit is basically a relatively quick way to cycle through the fundamentals of flying an aircraft and I will be doing an awful lot of them in the forthcoming weeks. Essentially a takeoff, followed by a climb to 500 feet, followed by a rate 1 turn with climb, continue the climb to 1000 feet, a level off, followed by a rate 2 turn, then straight and level parallel to the runway, followed by a rate 2 turn onto the base leg, a descent and set up for landing, followed by a final rate 1 turn and a landing. You can do these one after the other by performing "touch and go" landings, where once you've hit the deck you pretty much immediately drop the flaps, kick the throttle up to full and take off straight away without leaving the runway (which is quite a satisfying experience):
We did four in total, and I have to say they were a lot of fun - the first two were a bit flakey as a learnt what I was doing but the last two were noticeably better and certainly made me feel a lot better about the lesson. Looking forward to do doing a lot more of those as they certainly are a great way of learning the fundamentals.
So overall a good day and certainly felt like I improved by the end of it, and that's got to be good.
Oh, and we did have a passenger on board today (a mate of my instructor), who unknown to me apparently took some video of the lesson, so might get to post up some video sometime in the near future.
In preparation for having to use the radio for the first time this weekend (otherwise known as the magic talking box) I purchased myself a new toy:
My own headset. The club does provide loan ones for students, but the one I had last time up was a little bit flakey so I figured getting something reliable was one less thing to worry about. It's a David Clark H10-13.4 which gets good write ups and seems pretty comfortable. Oh and I got it off amazon in the end - they really do sell everything!
Well I didn't get to do any flying today, not because of the weather (surprisingly - as it's not been great and we even had snow yesterday), but unfortunately my instructor was temporarily grounded after being involved in a road traffic collision earlier in the week. He's OK (his bike less so), but due to the pain killers he's been put on for the next few days he's not allowed to fly and that means I too am grounded.
Still we made good use of the time and ploughed through some more ground school stuff, covering stalls, spins and a few other bits and pieces. Hopefully by covering off the full briefings we can get straight up into the air (circumstances allowing) this coming Saturday.
I also got a recommendation for quite a useful app for the iPhone, which is AeroWeather. This useful little app is available either completely free w=for the lite version or £2.50 for the pro version (which adds a few extra features) and is really handy for checking weather information. It basically at a glance gives you basic details for all the airports in your nearby area, including most importantly straight away if it is suitable for VFR (Visual Flight Rules) flying:
You can then go in and get the full METAR and TAF data for your airport of choice, and it will even translate all the sometimes unintelligible stuff into simple to understand english:
It's able to access data worldwide so is useful for planning routes, and the pro version even gives you the relevant NOTAMs for the airports as well.
All in all a very useful little app to add to the arsenal.
Managed to get two sessions in this weekend as the weather has improved dramatically. Was a tad hazy today (which made actually being able to see the horizon rather tricky) but absolutely perfect conditions yesterday.
Got to do a few new things this weekend. Started off with my first go at taxing the aircraft, which I will be doing moving forward. Fairly straight forward, just got to remember to keep my speed down at times. Also today for the first time had to do all the pre-flight checks myself, doing a complete aircraft inspection “A” Check, startup procedures, taxi checks, engine checks at the hold point and altimeter setting. I also got to do my first two takeoffs, all on my own which was rather exciting (managed to use a tad too much of the runway the first time, managed to mess up the trim on the second occasion, but getting slowly better). So apart from using the radio to get taxi and takeoff clearances (which I sense is coming soon) I can pretty much (with the aid of a checklist) get the aircraft started and in the air.
Up in the air we went through a number of different exercises which included:
Flying at a different airspeeds straight and level
Ascending and Descending at different airspeeds
Rate 2 turns while maintaining altitude
Rate 1 turns while ascending and descending.
Basically all the basics you need to manoeuvre the aircraft to a particular altitude and heading.
We then moved on to do all the preparation stuff for a simulated landing (essentially preparing for it as though we were coming into land but staying at 3,000 feet), getting the flaps deployed, going through the various checks you need to do and reducing your airspeed while controlling your descent. We also did a session on slow speed flying (about 15 knots above the stall area), again doing turns, descents, ascending at those much slower speeds (where the controls are much less responsive).
They also got me to do two landing approaches, with the instructor taking over as we got to the last 100 feet or so and me just following on the controls. Landing is definitely the most hands on element of the basic flight - pretty much all the other manoeuvres are quite slow and methodical, working through the stages and trying to move the aircraft as smoothly as possible. The final stages of landing by contrast requires a lot of constant little adjustments on the controls as your trying to ensure you hit the runway as accurately as possible. Still it looks doable, and it’s not a lot of use being able to get an aircraft up in the air if you can’t get it back down again!
Got to study up on stalls and spins for next time, which will hopefully be next Sunday.
Well I headed up to the airport for my second proper flying lesson today, but the weather was decidedly against us. That put a stop to any chance of actually flying today, what with the combination of rain, mist, cloud and wind today. Not exactly unexpected this time of year and I suspect this will hardly be an isolated problem, especially this time of year. So two hours of ground school stuff it was to be, and at least according to the instructor, doing that now was actually a pretty good idea as it allowed us to plough through quite a lot of material and hopefully prepare well for when we do manage to get in the air.
Mostly straight forward stuff, understanding the various bits of the airplane better, going through all of the paperwork that is associated with flying, and gaining an understanding on how to read a weather report (something that I suspect will come up quite a bit if today is anything to go by!):
We also went through on the ground what we were going to do for the next few weeks and did the various briefings that were going to be needed. More on that when I get back in the air and actually get to do them.
Also over the past week I have at least started on the big pile of reading I’ve got to do. Basically in order to get your PPL you need to pass 7 written exams, namely:
Aircraft General and Principles of Flight
As I was advised to, I’ve been concentrating on Air Law to begin with, as that’s the one you need to get out of the way ASAP. All the others you can pretty much take whenever you like (although they must all be complete before you can get your licence), but until you pass Air Law they don’t allow you to fly an aircraft solo, so you need to get it done in order to progress. So I’ve been spending an hour or so each day learning about the rules of the air, different types of airspace and the difference between Flight Level and Altitude. Most of it seems fairly logical (which is probably a good thing!), although I have definitely wandered into a whole new level of the use of acronyms!
So that’s it for this week. Got two sessions booked in for next weekend, hopefully the weather will improve!