More Circuits

In which I get angry at a Helicopter, make some new radio calls and try a flapless landing.


Unsurprisingly, today’s mission was more circuits.

I preflighted 5231 and then taxiied us to runway 36. After completing the pre-takeoff checks, we had to wait for a Helicopter who was on final, then decided to sit around on the runway for a bit. That was only the start of the annoyances that this Helicopter was going to cause…

When the Helicopter finally lifted off and cleared the runway, we lined up and I did the takeoff, where I discovered that the throttle wouldn’t go in fully. Luckily though, we still had enough power.

My first circuit was terrible, I admit it. I forgot that I was meant to be doing the downwind and base radio calls, and I pretty much turned in the wrong places and basically made a hash of the whole thing. When we were on final, the Helicopter was back (dun dun duuuuuuun!) and decided that it would conduct some exercises between the two runways. J got on the radio and told him that he couldn’t do that, because it meant that both runways were out of action! We did a go around while the Helicopter moved to the east of the runways.

The next time around my circuit wasn’t quite as terrible as the last one, I managed to make both the downwind and base radio calls.

Lilydale Traffic
Jabiru 5231
Turning downwind runway 36

Lilydale Traffic
Jabiru 5231
Turning base runway 36L for touch-and-go

I was banking too much on the turns though, which wasn’t a good thing. The approach wasn’ t too bad, but I needed assistance with the actual landing. I’m still missing the middle part of the landing, the flying above the runway part. It’s really frustrating because I know I need to do it and what I should be doing, but when I’m actually trying to do the landing, it’s all happening so fast that I tend to forget.

The third circuit was slightly better. As I was turning downwind, the Helicopter made a call saying that he was turning downwind so J and I were looking around like mad trying to work out where he was, then we finally saw him and the silly berk wasn’t on downwind at all, he was turning base! We were both just like ‘GAH!’. Then the pilot decided to have a conversation over the radio with another pilot and I’m sitting there waiting for them to shut up so I could make my downwind call. Finally they did, and I was like “Lilydale Traffic, Jabiru 5231 IS downwind, runway 36, Lilydale“. I probably sounded pretty irritated! Once again, I needed assistance with the landing but I think the actual approach wasn’t too bad.

The next circuit, J took control and demonstrated a flapless landing. This is used when the flap system fails or in particularly windy/rough conditions. It’s basically a normal landing but without the use of flaps. In some planes the approach speed needs to be higher to compensate for the higher stall speed, but in the Jab it’s safe to use 70kts for this type of approach as well. Also, power is reduced to 1600rpm rather than the normal 1800rpm. The approach is flatter than a normal approach (use of flaps allows the approach to be steeper) and the nose attitude is a bit higher than for a normal approach.When doing a touch-and-go flapless landing, it is important to remember to lower the flaps before doing the ‘go’ (the take off).

During downwind on this circuit we heard the Helicopter pilot say that he was departing for Essendon – we were both like “Yay!” and I bet we weren’t the only ones somehow!

The next time around it was my turn to try a flapless landing. I found it difficult to control the airspeed properly, it seemed to be hard to make it slow down. I don’t think I had the nose attitude high enough however. I needed assistance for this landing as well.

The final circuit was a full stop, as the wind was starting to come up and make things difficult. It has been fairly gusty all lesson but at this point it was starting to make things rather difficult for me. When doing the base call on this circuit I said we were landing on 36L but actually we were going to do the full stop on 36R. J corrected this in the turning final call. The landing wasn’t too bad, but I needed assistance again (sigh).

During the debrief J said that I’m having issues when making turns, I’m looking out the side rather than out the front and gauging my attitude with the horizon. This is probably the reason why I’m tending to overbank when turning. He compared it to changing lanes in a car and doing a headcheck then, instead looking out the front, I’m still looking over my shoulder. I’ll have to work on this next lesson.

He also emphasised the fact that I need to do the ‘flying above the runway’ part of the landing, which I keep missing. I know that I need to do it and I know what I need to do, it’s just that when I’m trying to land, everything’s happening so fast and I just forget. I REALLY need to concentrate on this though, I think if I can get the hang of this then my landings will improve enormously.

I was a bit disappointed with this lesson, especially the beginning, I really felt I didn’t fly that well. I’m still frustrated that I need assistance every landing too. J said I was progressing though, even though it mightn’t feel like it. If he thinks I’m progressing, I guess I must be so I’ll take his word for it!

It was pretty crazy on the radio today, I guess all the ‘weekend warriors’ are out now that the weather is improving. If you don’t fly that often, I don’t see what’s so difficult with reviewing radio calls etc before flying. As well as annoying Helicopter guy, there was also a slight argument between two pilots at Coldstream, apparantly one who was on short final was cut off by the other. I’m not saying that cutting someone off is good Airmanship (not at all) but by complaining on the radio the other guy didn’t exactly show good Airmanship either! I guess this is going to become more common now the weather is improving. It does seem slightly worrying that my radio calls seem more professional than those of some licenced pilots though!

In other news, my headset still isn’t repaired yet. I’m going to give the shop a call tomorrow to find out what’s going on. After suffering with the school headset in the hot weather today, I definitely want mine back soon!

Things to work on next mission:

  • Looking out the front when turning and not overbanking
  • Doing the ‘flying above the runway’ part of the landing (very important)
  • Radio calls

4 Responses to More Circuits

  1. GraemeK says:

    “It’s really frustrating because I know I need to do it and what I should be doing, but when I’m actually trying to do the landing, it’s all happening so fast that I tend to forget.”

    Ahhh Darky, I can sympathise!

    Last Wednesday I had the worst lesson of my life. Normally, I can fly a nice tight circuit, height plus or minus a bit, nice and rectangular, right distance from runway. But do you think I could do that? Nope! And don’t even ask about my approach and landing!

    My instructor said it was OK, very bumpy, lots of updrafts/downdrafts on final, so things won’t be so precise. But I should be able to handle that, I’ve done it before!

    Same as you, I know what I need to do, but I wasn’t doing it. Especially the flare. I KNOW I should be watching the far end of the runway – but here I am looking six feet in front of the nosewheel – so I lose all height and attitude perception and the result is a crap landing.

    I had a chat with Jono afterwards – his comment was “if it was easy, everybody would be a pilot”. Maybe, but I’m starting to wonder if I’ll ever nail landings. As you say, it all happens so fast I tend to forget.

    Damn, it’s only that last few seconds, rest is mostly OK.

  2. Darky says:

    It helps to hear of other people having the same problem. And WHEN (not if) we both nail landings then we can remember that we are pilots for a reason – because it’s not easy but we still beat it 🙂

  3. Nick says:

    Interesting to read your comments on the wind factor. I did another lesson of circuits this morning will nil wind and it is amazing how difficult it can be getting the descent profile right – I was fairly high on final most times.

    I didn’t think I’d ever say it, but I am actually hoping for a little wind tomorrow morning.

    Oh and my instructor decided it was too smooth and to introduce some turbulence by kicking the rudder pedals in every now and then. That was a new one!

  4. Flyingninja says:

    Hey there, it reads like you and I are both at almost the same phase of our training! How amzing is that!! I’m also doing circuits and have 3.6 hours logged purely on circuits. I can relate to everything you’re writing. Check out my blog for my mis-adventures at 1000ft. Fly safe.

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