Medium Level Turns

In which I do my first preflight and learn how to turn an aircraft.


After two failed attempts at lessons last week (stupid weather), today I was back for a lesson on Medium Level Turns.

Medium level turns are the most basic and commonly used type of turn.

Elements of a medium level turn:

  • Constant height
  • 30 degree angle of bank
  • Balance

When an aircraft flies, two of the main forces acting on it are lift (up) and weight (down).
When in a medium level turn, the lift force is tilted so it is no longer equal to the weight.

When turning, there are three main things to remember:

  • Bank
  • Backpressure
  • Balance

Banking the plane moves it into a turn. The angle of bank for a medium level turn is about 30 degrees. When banking, the nose will start to drop and the plane will lose height. In order to maintain height, slight backpressure must be placed on the control column to keep the nose raised (increasing the angle of attack). During the turn the aircraft needs to be balanced with the rudder – when in balance, the ball on the turn indicator will be between the two lines.

When entering and during the turn, the work cycle ALAP has to be used:

  • A – attitude
  • L – lookout
  • A – attitude
  • P – performance

After the briefing, J told me to head out and preflight the plane and he’d follow in about 5 minutes. I wandered out to the plane and tried to remember what I’d been taught last lesson about preflighting a plane. I remembered to check the stall indicator (a small hole on the wing that you need to suck on to see if it whistles), the brakes, the flaps (bolts), the ailerons (movement and bolts), the elevator (movement and bolts), rudder (bolts) and checked the prop and the oil. The main thing I forgot was to check the fuel – to do that, you use a little tube to take some fuel from both the wing tanks and check that there is no water or anything in there. I felt pretty professional, walking around checking the plane!

We then climbed in and I got to do the startup. I ran through the checks, called ‘Clear prop!’ and started the plane. I taxiied us to the runway, ran through the next checks and gave up control for the takeoff.

After takeoff I got to take over the climb (I had mentioned during the briefing that I wanted to go over climbing & descending again). Even in that short time, climbing became so much clearer. I’ll see how I go over the next few lessons, and I might still ask for another lesson devoted to climbing & descending.

J then demonstrated a left turn. First you lookout – in the opposite direction, in front then in the direction of the turn. Then is the turn – banking and applying backpressure and checking balance. We did a 360 degree turn back to a town that was the ‘reference point’ – when back to the town we rolled out of the turn. He then demonstrated again and then showed me some common faults of students when turning and what they would feel like.

Then it was my turn. It was (as usual it seems) harder than it looks, it definitely needed more backpressure on the stick than I expected. When turning left, the nose is just above the horizon. When I turned the first time, I totally forgot to look before turning – I remembered during the turn. After the turn J was like ‘Just one criticism – you didn’t look at all before the turn’. I was like ‘haha oops, yeah’. I made sure I looked before every other turn! I did a few more left turns and it definitely got easier to maintain the height after a few tries.

Then we went through right turns. These are harder as I’m on the ‘high’ side of the plane so it’s much harder to look out for other traffic. J demonstrated a few times and then it was my turn. When doing a right turn, the nose is quite a bit below the horizon, much further down than I expected. It was also a lot harder to look out, although I made sure I did so this time!

After a few more turns in each direction, it was time to head back. I got to go through descending again, although I still feel a bit vague on it. J did the landing and I taxiied us back and did the shutdown checks.

It is interesting, after last lesson I had lost some of my enthusasism for flying lessons but after today that enthusiasm is back. It’s amazing how much difference someone’s teaching style can make for my learning and enjoyment of lessons. I think I was lucky to end up with an instructor who’s style works for me from my first lesson – now I just have to hope J doesn’t dash off and join the airlines or something!

My next lesson is on Friday, and our mission is climbing & descending turns. J calls lessons ‘missions’ which amuses me no end, as it makes it sound like we’re off to bomb Germany or something rather than just flying around Lilydale!


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