Circuits again

In which I make my first radio calls, learn the downwind checks and do my first unassisted landing.


Today’s mission was, again, circuits.

I arrived and was sent out to preflight 2949. I was slightly disappointed it was 2949 as it was the only Jab where you couldn’t move the rudder pedals because someone had removed the pull-rings. However when I got to the plane I was happy to discover that the pull-rings had been replaced, so I’m back to being able to use all three Jabs!

We jumped in and taxiied over to the fuelling area to get some more fuel. While J was doing that there was this lovely old traildragger plan waiting to refuel. I meant to ask J what it was but totally forgot (sigh).

Unfortunately today I was back to using a school headset as mine is in for repairs. Last lesson it was making some odd noises when I turned the ANR on and off. I wondered if it wasn’t fitted properly so when I got home I went to refit it and when I turned the ANR on and off then it made a loud very unhappy noise and the earcups actually vibrated. I decided this didn’t sound too healthy so on Sunday I took it out to Moorabbin Pilot Shop which is the authorised LightSpeed repair place. The guy there said that he’d never heard one make that noise before, so I’m glad I took it. Considering the headset is less than 2-months old I’m not too pleased that it needs to be repaired already, but I guess it’s a good thing that it didn’t die on me during flight. Anyway, today I was back to a school headset, and just in time for making my first radio calls too…

I taxiied us over to runway 18R and did the takeoff. On upwind I was drifting slightly to the left, off the centreline. J showed me the line of trees to the right which runs parallel to the side of the runway and said I should use those to tell if I was still on the extended centreline or not. My landing for the first circuit wasn’t too bad, but still needed assistance. J said that I needed to make more positive control inputs though. He compared it to someone taking a dog for a walk and the dog leads the person (perhaps that should be ‘a dog taking their master for a walk’?) – he said that the plane was leading me rather than me leading the plane.

During downwind on the second circuit for the day, J went through the full list of pre-landing checks. To remember these checks we use the mnemonic CBUMFH (which is apparantly the sound the plane makes when landing :P)

  • C – Carby Heat – on
  • B – Brakes – off, pressure checked
  • U – Undercarriage – down (if it’s not down in the Jab, you have rather a problem)
  • M – Mixture – rich (N/A in the Jab)
  • F – Fuel – contents checked, pump on
  • H – Hatches and Harnesses – secure

U and M aren’t really relevant in the Jab. Mixture is for bigger planes. Undercarriage is important for planes with retractable undercarriage (obviously) but isn’t relevant to the Jab with its fixed undercarriage – if your undercarriage isn’t down in the Jab, you have rather a large problem.

My landing for this circuit was still assisted, but my approaches are definitely improving. However this time we touched down slightly hard because I didn’t reduce the power enough. I know why I did this though, I thought we were higher above the ground than we actually were. Other than that though, apparantly my judgment is improving a lot.

During the next circuit, J added something else – I was to make the downwind radio call (my first radio call). We ran through what to say and I discovered that I didn’t actually know what number plane we were in (nearly said 4924 for some reason) so it was a good thing we did the practice.

Lilydale Traffic
Jabiru 4929
Turning downwind runway 18

I was really nervous approaching the turn about doing the call. I put us into the turn, pushed the PTT button, and went through the call (remembering that we were 4929). I didn’t mess up so I was happy. Afterwards J was like ‘wasn’t as bad as you expected was it?’ and I was like ‘erm, no’ 😛

As we turned onto base for this circuit, J said that this time he wasn’t going to tell me when I was too high/low etc, instead I was to work it out and tell him what I was thinking. ‘Oh shit’ I thought, thinking that I wouldn’t have a clue. I decided that we were too high (I was right) so I lowered the nose. Having to think of all this for myself definitely helped, I think I’ve been relying on J too much to tell me what I was doing wrong. I controlled the approach, waited for the perspective change, then flared. Then I realised – I was doing this UNASSISTED!! After we did the take off (the ‘go’), I decided to make sure and asked J if he had helped at all. He was like ‘Nope, I didn’t touch the controls’ and I was just like ‘YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!’. I am so happy, I have finally done my first unassisted landing. 😀

Unfortunately, the next two landings were back to being assisted (sigh) but at least I know I can do them unassisted at least occasionally! This time I thought I was too high and it turned out that I was actually a little low. J said that because the runway is rather narrow, it tends to look long and thin (the ‘too high’ aspect) even if you mightn’t be. He suggested that instead of just looking at the runway, to also look at the area around the runway to find the shape. When I tried that, it definitely helped. I’d been having problems trying to see the shape of the runway on approach so this was really helpful.

During the debrief J said that my approaches are becoming far more consistent, which is good. My landings are also slowly coming along, but the approaches are definitely improving. This is good because it means that we can start to move on to the next lessons in the circuits about different types of landings (like flapless approaches) and emergencies. We couldn’t do this if I wasn’t flying consistent approaches. J said that my circuits today were the best I’ve done so far, so I’m pleased.

During the next mission we’re going to continue the thing with my flying the approaches and telling him what I think I’m doing wrong. Also, next mission we’re going to start on flapless approaches. I’m also going to start making the base call as well as the downwind one. The base one will be more interesting as I’ll have to reduce the power, raise the nose, turn and make the call all at the same time. It’ll be interesting to see how it goes!

I can definitely see improvement today, so I’m happy with this mission. I’m glad I’ve finally managed to do an unassisted landing, if only to prove I can actually do it! I was starting to worry that it’d take forever for me to get the hang of landing. I seem to be improving though! 🙂


6 Responses to Circuits again

  1. Jack says:

    YAY *claps* !
    congratulations on your first unassisted approach.

  2. GraemeK says:

    If the taildragger was white with blue trim it’s the Decathlon VH-KAR – I think Craig is doing his taildragger endo in it (at least, he was yesterday)…….

    Well done in the unassisted landing (it took me much longer to get to that stage).

    One tip on radio calls is to make them immediately before or in the turn – that way when other pilots hearing the call start looking for you, you’ll be easy to see because your wings will be banked.

  3. darksarcasm503 says:

    The taildragger was green with a blue nose. Looked a lovely old plane.

    A taildragger endorsement is on my list of eventual endorsements to get, they look like good fun!

    I thought I was taking forever to do an unassisted landing, so I’m glad to hear it wasn’t as long as I thought. I’d been thinking that everyone managed to do an unassisted landing before like 7 hours of circuits, so I was beginning to get a bit angry at myself 😛

    Yeah I was making the call during the turn. I put the plane into the turn, got that sorted, then made the call. When it comes to base calls I’m not sure what I’ll do, because there’s so much to do during that turn. Maybe start the turn, reduce the power, then do the call during the rest of the turn, I was absolutely terrified before my first call…by the second one, I got a mixture of being terrified and an absolute thrill (thrill of being a ‘real pilot’ perhaps? :P)

  4. Nick says:

    Nice job Darky.

    Your instructor is too kind. Mine made me do all the calls on my first attempt at circuits. There’s nothing like being thrown in the deep end!

  5. darksarcasm503 says:

    He was probably scared of my flying us into a mountain or something while I tried to concentrate on everything at once 😛

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