Solo Circuits

In which I’m let loose without any dual, play follow the leader with a Warrior, do several go arounds and wonder if my radio isn’t working.

*************

Today I was going to do a mission of solo circuits – the first time without having to do any dual first!

I arrived, was given the folder for 5231 by J and was given my instructions for this mission – go out and do some solo circuits, do a mixture of flapless and flapped landings and have the plane back by 10am.

I went out and did the preflight. Then I realised I didn’t know a very important piece of information – which runway was in use. I looked at the windsock but it was completely dead so was absolutely no use. One of the Warriors had started up nearby so I figured I’d wait and see which way he went but after a minute he was still faffing about and not moving so I went inside to ask somebody. Murray (one of the FIs) didn’t know either so we wandered outside to see what other people were doing – by that point the Warrior was on the move and heading for 18 so I just followed his lead. I clearly wasn’t the only one who was confused though, a Jab started heading down to 36 before changing his mind and heading towards 18.

I did the takeoff on 18R and headed off for my first circuit. It was pretty uneventful but my landing was fairly unstable. I was fairly close to touchdown when I decided that it was just too unstable for my liking so I powered up and did a go around (made my first go around radio call too).

The second landing was flapped and fairly bumpy. Overall though it was pretty uneventful.

There was a fair bit more traffic than usual in the circuit today – about 4 or 5 aircraft including me. I haven’t flown with this much traffic for a while and never flown solo with this much traffic so it was an added challenge.

On my third circuit I was on final when another aicraft decided to line up and take off in front of me – despite the fact I have right of way! I just powered up to do a go around (making a rather irritated sounding go around call!). I moved to the right of the runway so I could see the other aircraft and started on my fourth circuit.

This circuit I decided to do another flapped landing which was, again, rather bumpy and a bit swervy after touchdown.  Clearly it wasn’t my day for flapped landings.

The next landing I decided to do flapless. This one was much smoother than the previous one. I ended up a bit high on final which gave me a chance to practice sideslipping too – I definitely need more practice at that, it took me two tries to put the control inputs in correctly, the first time I tried it went to turn so I think I mustn’t’ve had enough aileron input in. The second try it worked just fine.

The next circuit was a flapless landing. Once again, someone decided to line up and take off when I was on final. By this point I was starting to wonder if my radio wasn’t working and nobody was hearing my calls, the way all these idiots kept deciding to ignore me on final and take off! This time I wasn’t as close to the runway as I had been the first time so I managed to time it that I came into land after he was off the runway. Despite all this fuss, my landing was pretty smooth which is nice!

The next circuit was my final circuit for the mission. I was intended to do a flapped landing but got about halfway down base before I realised I hadn’t lowered the flaps so it ended up being a flapless landing. It wasn’t as smooth as I was hoping for but overall it wasn’t too bad.

I taxiied it back to the school and shut down. I wandered inside to pay and while I was there, asked the FIs who were standing around if they’d been able to hear my radio calls – I was wondering if my radio hadn’t been working properly which is why I’d been cut on when on final. Apparantly everyone could hear me fine, so I guess those two pilots were just idiots!

I was chatting to Murray while I was filling in my logbook about the stack of traffic. Apparantly he saw my first go-around and was impressed with how calmly I handled it all and how I moved to the side of the runway etc. To be honest, at the time, other than the frustration factor, it didn’t really feel like that big a deal to me. As I told Murray, I was simply doing what I had been taught. 🙂

Next mission is on Wednesday, hopefully I can knock off the last 1.1 of solo time I need before we can head off to the training area again. I actually can’t believe I only soloed for the first time last Saturday, I already have 1.9 hours of solo time up and it feels like I’ve been doing it for so much longer than a week. I guess that’s at least partly because I feel so calm about it all and it all feels so normal – I’m flying it the way I normally would, except without J there. It’s definitely making me more confident about my flying in general, far far more confident and my PIC decision-making skills are improving a lot (as evidenced by my adventures today). Overall, things are going along rather well it seems! 🙂

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9 Responses to Solo Circuits

  1. GraemeK says:

    Looks like you’re really getting the hang of this PIC thing, Darky – well done!

    You gotta wonder at people who line up with another aircraft on finals – even if they can’t hear you on radio, they should have a really good look (both directions) for anyone on final before they enter an active runway.

    BTW – re runway direction. It seems people are forgetting that 36 is the default direction in low/no wind. There’s a thing creeping in to use 18 – my instructor was surprised the other day when 18 was active when it should have been 36.

  2. Darky says:

    Yeah I was taught to have a good look too and if there’s any aircraft on base/final wait for them to do their thing first…

    I thought 36 was the default choice too. Perhaps because it was forecast to become southerly they decided to use 18 straight off, I’ve no idea. I just followed the Warrior! 😛

  3. GraemeK says:

    Yeah – did the same, can’t go wrong! My checklist callout was “No wind, if anything 1-2knots from the north, use default runway 36. Everyone else is using 18 though, so ‘Lilydale Traffic, Jabiru 4964 taxiing runway 18 …..'”

  4. Nick says:

    Nice work Darky. I posted something very similar on Downwind a moment ago.

    Re aircraft on final, I’ve been taught that when you line up at the holding point for the active runway you turn the aircraft to face final and then you can be in no doubt as to whether there is traffic approaching.

  5. Darky says:

    Nick, that’s exactly what I’ve been taught (and do!)

  6. Flyingninja says:

    Great post! And your flying is just going extremely well. Very, very proud of your achievements. Just got a question about your runway selection prior to circuits. Doesn’t ATIS tell you which runway is in use for circuits etc? I’m not sure because it would appear that there are little quirks that apply to every aerodrome.

  7. Darky says:

    Thanks FN 🙂

    And no, we don’t have ATIS (no tower)

  8. Flyingninja says:

    That would explain it. I’m a member of the Sports Aircraft Builders Club at Serpentine and the same thing applies there, too. Standard radio calls and constant lookout… as you’ve found out when people still lined up on your final approach. I always look even when cleared for anything.

  9. Nick says:

    Re runway selection:

    We had an interesting situation this morning (I’m sure very common) where prior to the tower opening at YMMB we had aircraft departing on 17 and 35. The wind was from the North but only around 4 knots and variable, so 35 seemed the obvious choice. But if you had watched the departing traffic it may have been confusing. Even the windsocks were undecided with the Northern sock showing a Northerly and the Southern sock showing a Southerly.

    Thankfully I had my instructor there for the first part of the lesson to offer his advice, and so we used 35 and other aircraft behind followed our lead.

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