Short Field Landings and Solo Circuits

In which I discover I’m not allowed to take out any cars on approach, learn how to do a short field landing, force 5231 to do a go around and suffer a Tomahawk with a stuck mic.

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

The plan for today’s mission was to spend the first half working on short field landings then sending me off solo so I could get the last 0.4 PIC circuit time I need

I preflighted 4929 (haven’t flown ’29 for a while!), we jumped in and had a mini-briefing on short field landings in the plane.

Basically, short field landings are where you want to touch down pretty much on the treshold of the runway. To do this, instead of having the approach aim point about 1/3 down the strip, you put your aim point a bit before the threshold of the runway – basically, you intentionally come in a bit low and undershoot. You also try for a lower airspeed, around 65kts I think.When you come over the aim point, you pull the back back to idle and which bleeds off the remaining power.

As we were using 36, which has a road running across just before the threshold, we were going to make the threshold of the runway the aim point and pretend that the first taxiway was the start of the runway and try to touch down there. If we aimed to touchdown at the threshold of the runway, we’d run the risk of taking out any cars that drove by in front of us – apparantly we’re not allowed to take out any cars, much to my disappointment!

I taxiied us to 36 and did the takeoff. J took over on downwind to demonstrate a short field landing. The base leg is as normal for a flapped approach. When you turn final you drop the second stage of flap (so have full flap). The approach is a bit flatter than normal and you’re aiming to undershoot. When doing a short field landing, you’re not looking for the same level of finesse as a normal landing, you’re more intending to put it down on the runway (although not with forward stick pressure or anything, just not holding off as much as with a usual landing). Normally after touchdown you’d immediately apply the brakes but to save the brakes and the runway we didn’t do that, we just powered up and did the ‘go’. When doing a T&G after a short field landing, you need to remember to raise one stage of flaps before the take off.

I was given control for the next circuit to attempt a short field landing. The approach seemed fairly unstable but the landing itself wasn’t too bad, although slightly heavier than intended.

The second approach was more stable but I needed to use more backpressure on landing. I think I’m not used to the different sight picture so I don’t realise just how much more backpressure is needed. I’ll have to remember that next time.

The next landing was a normal flapped full stop on 36R. I dropped J off and was sent off to get the final 0.4 solo I needed.

As I was taxiing to 36, there were some strange noises coming over the radio. First I wondered if it was just my radio but a bit of fiddling worked out that that wasn’t the case. Then I wondered if some idiot had gotten their hands on a VHF transmitter and was intentionally messing around with the frequency. I soon worked out though that an aircraft had a stuck mic, a Tomahawk. Unfortunately this seemed to mess up the transmissions from everyone else so it was quite hard to heard what was going on. The pilot with the stuck mic was one who liked to read out his pre-takeoff checks which made it even more difficult to hear what was going on!

I think the stuck mic was partly the reason I missed 5231’s final call. I lined up on 36L and had this horrible feeling that I’d cut somebody off so took off as soon as possible. 5231 then made a going around call and I realised I was right, I’d done the exact thing that had annoyed me last week, cut somebody off on final. Sorry 5231, it was totally accidental!

5231 ended up in front of me but was doing some very weird things. He seemed to get fairly low on upwind (maybe an EFATO?) then flew a really wide crosswind so his downwind ended up over the mountains. By that point I wasn’t sure if he was doing a circuit at all, so I just turned downwind at the usual place. 5231 then called me on the radio to check I’d had visual of them when I turned downwind, I replied that I had. He sounded a bit annoyed that I’d turned downwind where I had, but seriously, what was I meant to do with him flying some crazy wide circuit? These are the times when I wish I was still flying dual, but I guess learning to deal with things like this is one of the biggest things of flying solo. Sometimes it feels like I’m making it up as I go along when I fly solo, not the actual technical flying, but reacting to situations…I guess as I get more experienced my reactions will feel less simply responsive and more considered (if that makes any sense!).

I did three more circuits, all flapless landings. None of the landings were particularly spectacular but they certainly weren’t terrible either. My landings are definitely getting far more consistent.

I’ve now got 3.1 PIC circuit hours so next mission we’re ditching the circuit and heading off to the Training Area, yay! I think I’ve forgotten what the Training Area looks like by now!

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4 Responses to Short Field Landings and Solo Circuits

  1. Kaz says:

    hahaha.. Dude, I feel for ye with 5231,. Someone never payed attention to their instructor…

    Next worse to a stuck mic, no radio :s once had a CUB fly head on with me trying to land (no wind conditions), we swerved outta the way, he continued landing… never even saw us. This is usually when I would continue with my rant about old people and driving/flying, but Im sure you understand. 🙂

  2. Craig says:

    I was the other one in 5231.
    I found it quite interesting to hear the other side to the story.

    That stuck mic was annoying as hell and it was pretty funny hearing him verbalise his TMPFISCH checks.

    Sorry about getting annoyed on the radio.

    Next time, maybe just a quick call on the radio to see what the other aircraft is doing would be a better (safer) option than turning inside another aircraft.

    We weren’t doing EFATO. One thing to consider on a Jabiru is that it only weighs about 300kg.
    Compared to most other aircraft, a small increase in kg is a big percentage increase with a Jab.

    In this case, with two heavy people in ours, our Jab was probably around 40% heavier than yours, so your climb rate would have been probably at least double ours (maybe more), so it would have appeared like we were sinking compared to you.

    The other thing to consider now that you are more experienced in the circuit than a lot of other students is that sometimes (even after we prompt A LOT), some students take a long time to manouver the aircraft when they are just starting out in circuits, so the circuits can tend to get a bit wide at times when starting out.

    I hate big wide circuits as much as anyone, but unless we instructor physically take over the controls, sometimes things happen pretty slowly up there in the circuit.

    I wish I had done something like this blog when I was learning. It will be great for you to look back on this in a few years.

    • Darky says:

      Hi Craig 🙂

      Firstly, I really didn’t mean to cut you off, I felt like absolute crap when I realised what I’d done, especially since I’d been complaining about it the week before!

      When I look back on it, I should’ve just followed you around the wider circuit. At the time I was still getting used to the whole solo thing, which as you probably very well know, is VERY different to flying with your FI. I was sitting there going ‘oh crap, what’s he doing?’ and trying desperately to decide what to do. I don’t think you really realise just how much your FI does for you until they’re not there – even if it’s just being able to ask ‘do I follow him or what?’. I should’ve made a radio call to you and next time I will – I think I was still slightly worried about using the ‘right’ terminology rather than just using plain english and finding out what’s going on, which is pretty stupid really. I honestly didn’t think about the different weights and climb rates so thanks for pointing that out. I’m really glad you made this comment, it’s good to know what it was like from the other side 🙂 Sometimes I think I should put L Plates on the aircraft!

  3. Craig says:

    We have the same instructor. Jez has done 95% of my training.

    When we got up to controlled airspace procedures, Jez made a point of telling me that it doesn’t matter if you can’t remember the right terminology even when speaking to air traffic controllers. They are human. Just speak in plain normal english. Obviously if you know the correct terminology you use it, but if not, just get your message across. Everyone you speak to on the radio is just another human, so just speak to them like one.

    If air traffic controllers aren’t fussed if you can’t remember the correct terminology, another pilot at an uncontrolled airport certainly isn’t going to care.

    I have done tours to both airservices as well as Moorabbin and Essendon control Towers. When you actually meet them, they really reinforce the fact that they are there to help and they would much rather you speak to them in normal english rather than say nothing. They are all really nice people, and particularly the guys in the controls towers have a great sense of humor. I think you would have to, otherwise all the students pilots would send you crazy. 🙂

    You are absolutely correct about flying without your FI.
    Thats why PIC time is so important.

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