First post PPL Flight – Circuits at Lanseria





22 June 2018

Using the PPL for the first time

Date of FlightAircraftRouteTime(hrs)Total(hrs)
22 June 2018ZS-JAB (SR20)FALA(Lanseria, Johannesburg) - FALA1.077.4

There is something about flying yourself for the first time with a freshly minted PPL certificate. No instructor to sign you out. Nobody double checking the tanks and the oil to make sure that you’ve put the caps back properly. It’s weird. But in a good way. I decided that I wanted to practice my landings and circuits mainly to keep current and proficient. Well. This was a lesson to me. This was going to be one of the worst flights I’ve ever done. 5 circuits. 2 reasonable landings. 2 balked landings (one from a PIO which got very scary very quickly – fortunately I remembered Thomas Turner’s One-Bounce-Rule and quickly got on the power and was away). The second balked landing was the scary one. I had a big bounce and wasn’t about to try my luck again – Full throttle but she just wouldn’t climb – so I ended up floating about 50ft above the runway for a while until airpseed built – in retrospect I should have triued to recover the landing with a bit less power to level off and give it another go – it’s a 10,000ft runway so there is almost always a chance to correct the landing – although this feels like cheating becasue not all runways are 10,000ft long!

 

So I left the field somewhat demoralised but have thought about it a lot and played through the scenarios in my head. I know what was wrong (poor airspeed control) and this is fixable – and to be honest the conditions were lousy – significant turbulence and variable winds on the final approach made nailing the airpseed somewhat tricky. Next week is another week – and it’ll be the first flight with my wife and daughter.  



Solo at last!

108 Landings. One hundred and Eight. This is how long it takes to teach an old dog new tricks. I flew(yeah, I know) through the upper air work – stall spin checkout done at 10h. But I’ve been in the circuit for the last 3months and 17hours trying to get the simple landing right.

Weirdly, the abnormal landings have been relatively easy. The 50% flap landing is a breeze – managing to nail that almost every time. The flaps up landing is downright scary in the Cirrus because it requires a a spurt of power JUST before touchdown to level the nose and that 90kts over the threshold feels VERY fast. Recovery onto the runway with simulated failure after rotation – easy. Glide from downwind to full flap recovery – easy. But the run of the mill 100% standard flap landings have been a disaster. Why, I’m not sure – the ongoing issue is me pulling back too early and too aggressively and cutting power at the same time so invariably either ballooning or being perfectly placed for the landing 3ft above where I should be with the resultant *positive* touchdown.

But suddenly it came right. I did another 100 or so landings in the flight simulator trying to get that coordination of reducing power gradually and gently pulling back and it has come right. So right that after 9 trips around the circuit, my instructor suggested I drop him off at the tower and have a trip around the circuit on my own. The weather was playing ball with a variable 7-8knot wind mostly form the left so I thought about this for about 3milliseconds and agreed.

The first thing you notice is that when you’re one-up in the SR20 is that she’ll actually roll forwards at 1000rpm without requiring 1500RPM to break free. Which is nice. My goPro’s died in the run up bay but amazingly my checklist and run ups were up to scratch. (Although the cockpit seemed at LOT warmer than it was – suffice it to say I was drenched in sweat with jus the slightest of tremors) As though by magic, the circuit was empty (just as well as there was some guy who was aggravating ATC no end by not complying with any instructions) – even the scheduled 737’s seemed to be miraculously absent. I taxied onto Runway 07 – in between some lapwings who seemed miraculously unconcerned by the 70″ rotating prop passing meters from them – seriously, what dumbass bird sits (not standing but sitting) ON the piano keys? (They only moved when I flew over them on short final).

Then the words I’d been waiting for, “Juliet Alpha Bravo, runway 07, cleared Takeoff, report right downwind 5500ft, good luck sir!” (I love FALA ATC – they are really nice guys considering the scale and variety of traffic they deal with). Full throttle, temp and pressures in the green, good fuel flow and off I went. 70kts comes quickly with one on board , rotate and the climbout was only marginally brisker than I was used to. (Insert brief moment of panic After takeoff checks at 400ft, clear left, ahead and right and crosswind turn, GO. 155deg, landmark sighted, clear left, clear ahead, clear right and GO for downwind turn.

5500ft early on right downwind (with two up we only make circuit height at mid runway), power to 60%, level off. Before I could report downwind TWR comes on “Juliet Alpha Bravo, right base your discretion, report final approach number 1, no traffic to affect”. Downwind checks, flaps 50, HOLD THE NOSE, fight the balloon, fight the secondary balloon and trim… Grab phone, take selfie (remember the flat goPros), dump phone, find base leg landmark. Clear left, clear ahead, clear right, 100kts, 50% flaps, 30deg turn… NOW!

Rollout on 335deg. Throttle to 30%, check under 100kts, flaps full, pitch for 90kts. Look for extended centerline, approach segment clear, finals clear, start gentle turn to final. Roll out on runway heading at 500ft AGL. 4 reds. Oh sh*t. Power in, pitching for 85, the 4 reds become 3 and then 2 reds and 2 white.

“Juliet Alpha Bravo, final approach 07”

“Juliet Alpha Bravo, runway 07, clear to land”

“07, clear to land, Juliet Alpha Bravo”

Too much throttle, pull back a bit, nail 77kts over the fence. Those bloody lapwings are still there! Get lost you bloody birds. Which they did. Exactly as I flew over them…

Throttle gently to 10%, fly into ground effect, hefty boot of left rudder for the crosswind correction, cruise down runway 3ft above, cut throttle and doesn’t she just settle magnificently onto the runway like the docile little beauty she is.

“Juliet Alpha Bravo, nicely done sir, left alpha three, ground clears you Alpha, Sierra to the helipad for instructor pickup”

<a data-flickr-embed=”true” href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikeblackburn/38020952864/in/dateposted/” title=”Post solo 28 Nov 2017″><img src=”https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4561/38020952864_1a4ee3fcd3_b.jpg” width=”1024″ height=”768″ alt=”Post solo 28 Nov 2017″></a>//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

And thus am I now solo. And I forgot to enter my 0.5h solo PIC time as PIC time in my logbook. Le Sigh. I’m now endorsed for solo flight in the circuit at Lanseria Airport. I am warned that often the circuits go a little pear shaped after first solo and it may take time to get back again – but nothing can take away from the experience of going solo for the first time.

Progress?

Update: – I’m still in the circuit. I’m still not solo. I’m still ok with that.

I had a break from flying for 2 and a half weeks – mostly due to the combination of both my instructor and me being away (but not coinciding). So I was expecting a terrible flight on Friday. And…. I was wrong.

From the get go – I was comfortable, relaxed and the flying was, well… OK. Not stellar, but not terrible and very definitely safe and to standard. We did 9 circuits and 10 landings.

2 of those landings were 50% flap, 1 with flaps up and one was a simulated engine failure after rotation with adequate runway ahead (which bizarrely, was my best landing of the day). I joked that the instructor should just pull the power over the threshold on every landing and I’d be ok….

We did another EFATO with no runway and managed that OK apart from being distracted so much by the Fault check that I lost about 15kts (should be at 90kts for the SR20 best glide) – so less than ideal but still would have made the field I chose – had a hairy time on the go-around from the option because there was a helicopter that wasn’t supposed to be there – we got to wave at the farmer too….

I’m SLOWLY getting the three phases of the landing right – my approaches are still good – it feels natural to adjust power for rate and pitch for speed and for the most part I’m over the threshold at the height and airspeed I want to be at. Roundout is ok too and I’m able to fly along the runway in ground effect (and for the first time I actually could feel when entering ground effect).

The issue is still in the holding off phase – as power comes off I need to be pulling back gently and it still is a bit jerky – but it is definitely getting there. I need to concentrate on the end of the runway more on the roundout though – I tend to find myself peering over the nose – which isn’t conducive to good attitude flying.

IMG_1414

In other news I picked up another exam this week – Principles of Flight. I took the books with on holiday and had every intention of cranking out both Principles and Met while away but only managed to finish Principles. Spent Monday through thursday doing past papers on the Principles and then rushed off on Thursday to do the exam. To be honest, the exam was a bit of a joke – I do them online in a monitored room – 25 multiple choice questions, 30min to complete.

It took me 3m15s. Why? Because they seem to ask the same questions over and over again. So all that is required is to carefully read the question to make sure you aren’t being tricked – and then to select the answer. Got 24/25 right. Apparently there are people who struggle to pass these exams. Go figure. Of course, pride comes before a fall etc so I’m still going to put max effort into the next one which I think will be the R/T theory because it’s similar to Air Law in many respects.

On Friday next week I have another dual check which means that I’m close to 20h (19 to be precise) – I’m hoping that goes well and I get signed off – so we should be solo by month end. Or whenever I’m ready. Whatever, I’m cool…..

IMG_1440 2(C-17 Globemaster from McGuire AFB – Apparently here supplying the embassy)

Dead Mag & Air Law Pass

Bittersweet. This is how I’d describe my specially arranged Friday morning flying session. I’d specially organized this to get some flying in when (a) the wind isn’t howling across the runway as it is wont to do in Jhb in August and September and (b) it isn’t so hot..

 

But the best laid plans of mice and men…. it was a beautiful morning. Preflight was fun as the morning rush of BizJets, KingAirs, and the Scheduled 737s took to the air – always interesting to see how they differ in initial climb performance – the B200s and C90s not so stellar compared to the B350s, and the BizJets, well…. they all look pretty smart on climbout.

 

We started up ZS-JAB and let her warm up as we did the pre-run up checks and watched the stream of departing traffic. But when runup time came… There was an alarming decrease in revs and a very rough engine on the right magneto only, no drop on the left – uh oh, this plane had a dead magneto. Well, there was no way we were going flying in her this day. So we taxied back to the ramp dejectedly, and checked her into the Hangar. Where, of course, they couldn’t replicate the problem.  Another student flew her an hour later – no problems whatsoever. So that was a bit weird. But I’m happy we stayed on the ground.

 

As someone pointed out to me – it’s better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air than in the air wishing you were on the ground…. And learning to deal with disappointment of cancelled flights is part of the game – good training for when I’m the one making the call on whether we go or don’t go…

 

This enforced grounding meant that I could exercise the privileges allowed me by my newly minted SPL(A) – writing exams…. due to all the delays in getting medical and SPL sorted out, I’ve been studying hard for Air Law which I need to have passed to go solo. I was booked to do the exam on Friday – so I set off to give it a crack. Which I did. and I passed – 97%! I cannot recommend the PPL mock exams from Swales highly enough – a lot of what I expected and had seen before came up – but even if it hadn’t I would have been ok – because I really put a LOT of effort into the Air Law studying. I know stuff that I will no doubt never use – but it ended up being a LOT more interesting than I thought.

 

All in all, a good week. Air Law done, SPL(A) obtained, no flying but hey, I can fly any time… Like tomorrow for instance….. (weather permitting)

That’s better..

I’m still in the pattern. But things are looking up. Yesterday’s flight was MUCH better than last week’s. Weather for a start was much improved – winds light and variable instead of 12 gusting 15kts. It’s amazing how much easier it is to concentrate on the roundout etc without being blown off the side of the runway.

 

The air was smoother too which made handling the plane in the pattern just that little bit easier. We did 8 landings with a runway change from 25 to 07 in the middle of those – much less traffic than last week too and to be honest I’m feeling a lot happier in the plane.

 

I’m making peace with the fact that it’s probably going to take 20hours for me to solo. I read a great article by John Bishop in this month’s Pland&Pilot about how flying simply doesn’t come naturally to all of us. I read this shortly after last week’s below par performance and it struck a chord.  The thing for me is that in my head, I was going to be the ‘natural pilot’ who doesn’t struggle. I have the hundreds of hours on flight simulator, lots of online flying time and a good understanding of flight. But the aeroplane isn’t a flight simulator, and I’m realizing now how bad the modeling is in flight simulator. You can’t model control forces easily in FS but what I’m finding the most frustrating is how poorly p-factor and torque are modeled. Full power in the SR20 requires FULL right rudder application on the ground. In FS, the slightest application of rudder sends you off into the weeds – so my right foot is lazy in the real plane. In flight, the merest increase in pressure on the rudder is sufficient in the real aeroplane. In FS, you need to hoof the rudder in a bit more. The net result is that I’m not the sh*t hot pilot I imagined I’d be.

 

This realization has been good for me. I always said I wanted to be safe and not to rush and get the license with the lowest possible number of hours.  I’m only flying once a week. I think I’m doing ok. And the best part is that I still get to look out the side window occasionally and think to myself “heck. I’m actually flying this aeroplane!” And that’s a wonderful feeling.  The other wonderful feeling is when the instructor turns off the PFD and tells me to look outside, I do a turn and roll out on heading, on altitude and at the correct speed. Attitude flying. I’m getting there.

Tailwinds…..

Some days you’re the bug..

It had to happen sooner or later. I had to have a bad day flying. Now don’t get me wrong, a bad day in the aeroplane is still better than a good day at work (or something like that), but my last lesson was a real struggle.

In fact, it has been a bit of a difficult/frustrating week. The ongoing issue with my medical was finally resolved this week. I missed the aeromed panel in July becasue a document they needed wasn’t with them 7 working days prior to the panel meeting, so I was deferred over to the August meeting. Which was held on the 15th. Now the communication from the CAA was along the lines of “you will receive written confirmation of the results of the panel within 7 working days.”

By the 9th working day following the meeting I was getting a little twitchy. on the 10th day I emailed the panel member I’ve been communicating with. No reply. On the 11th day, the reply I’ve been waiting for – you have been cleared to fly! I was supposed to receive “shortly” a formal confirmation and the certificate, so I waited and waited. 2 days later, no letter, no certificate, so I phone the responsible person – “oh yes, we’re just waiting for the panel to fax the documents”. Fax? in 2017? #facepalm. Anyhow to cut a long story short, I have in my grubby hands the required medical clearance.

Before my lesson on Friday I thought I’d pop into the CAA to apply for a student pilot license which one needs before one can write any exams or go solo. I’ve been assured that this process usually takes 3 working days. Imagine my horror when they say it will be ready in, you guessed it, 7 working days. Hurry up and wait. Le sigh. At any rate, we are making progress, albeit slow progress toward me being in a state of being legally allowed to go solo.

Hurdles to be overcome before going solo?

  1. Get SPL
  2. Write and pass Air Law for the PPL exam (requires 1 above first)
  3. Land the plane properly – and thus the reason for me feeing like the bug and not the windshield…

Friday’s lesson was TOUGH. Having a look at the METAR may give some insight as to why this should have been the case…

FALA 011300Z 21012KT 160V230 CAVOK 25/M07 Q1022 NOSIG

Let’s break this down – 01 Sept, 1300Z (1500Local) – Wind 210deg 12kts variable between 160 and 230deg, 25deg celsius. Which doesn’t sound so bad except when you realise that the runway heading is 245 deg – which gives us wind ranging from 25deg from the left to full 90deg from the left at 12kts. Add to this the uphill runway (FALA gains 100ft across the length of the runway) and the high levels of traffic and the stage wasn’t set for a great afternoon of flying. We flew ZS-ZIP which I’ve maligned before as being a bit of a dog, but to be honest, I’m starting to get a bit of a soft spot for her. She’s very docile in the pattern, perhaps not the most athletic of the planes but very useable and forgiving – which is just as well.

Every plane I’ve flown on flight sim, and every aircraft I’ve read about flying as a GA aircraft would have one believe that it is important to flare the aircraft before touchdown. Not so the Cirrus. The Cirrus requires you to fly it onto the runway – i.e descend under power, fly into ground effect then reduce power to allow her to gently descend onto the runway.  I’m REALLY struggling with this. as the power goes and the airplane slows you need to pull back on the yoke gently to settle her in. I’m a tugger. I cannot get that smooth pull down, and on the odd occasion when I do, I don’t get the power off so she won’t land. we had a number of somewhat positive touchdowns.

In my defense the wind was swirling around and we had almost full crosswind at times but I cannot help feeling frustrated, especially when my approaches are really pretty good – despite never getting the same length of final due to ATC/ traffic restrictions – we flew a lot of very short final approaches. My one consolation was when the instructor offered to do a landing just to refresh my technique. As she flew over the threshold she muttered “No wonder you’re battling, it’s horrible”.

So we need to find some respite from the wind. It IS the windiest time of the year in Jhb at the moment, but I’m going to try and carve out a morning slot this week to try and get the landings sorted so we can carry on with the circuit emergencies – we’ve only done no flap and 50% flap emergency landings – no engine failure on downwind, no EFATO drills. While I want to believe I’m not impatient to go solo, there is a little part of me that wants to get it done. But really, I’m in no rush….

Below is a video from an earlier circuit session, also in ZIPpy but under much better conditions – with a greaser at the end for good measure. Take it as read that the flying was MUCH worse last time….

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ru1cl_zXXs&w=560&h=315]

Into the circuit

Lesson 7

Date:- 11 August 2017

Aircraft: – ZS-CCT

Route: – FALA –– FALA

METAR: –METARMETAR FALA 111300Z VRB06KT CAVOK 23/M00 Q1027 NOSIG

Hours:- 1.6

Total Hours:- 11.3

Having got my stall/spin sign out last week it was time to get my circuit on. I was really looking forward to the new challenge and spent a lot of the week reading up on circuit technique. Unfortunately I also stumbled upon this Accident report which came up as the first link when I searched for SR20 circuit technique. It struck a little close to home – same aircraft type, same flight school and same airport as I’m using – it’s worth a read purely for the point of view of awareness and how things can go horribly wrong for even experienced aviators.

Here are my notes and plan for the circuit at FALA for the 07 right hand (yes, usually they should be left hand but FALA’s is right hand for 07 and left hand for 25) traffic pattern.
image
It looks like a lot of work – and it is. After a thorough briefing it was off to preflight the plane for this trip – which was the very lovely ZS-CCT – a relatively new Gen 3 Garmin Perspective equipped SR20. My previous flights have all been on the G2 Avidyne workhorses so this was a pleasant change – don’t get me wrong I really have a soft spot for the G2’s especially ZS-BOR. To all intents and purposes they are the same plane but the G3 stands a little taller, goes a little quicker and is a lot more slippery (wheel spats and some more streamlining), doesn’t have a rudder-aileron linkage (the G2 has a small amount of rudder movement with aileron input – just a little) and of course the fancy avionics. But to sit in the plane it feels very much the same and after the first turn in the taxi it felt completely normal. The best part is the Air-conditioning so you can actually do run-ups with the doors closed!

The A4 taxiway is still closed at FALA so short field departure for us again – which was somewhat pedestrian given the ISA+19 conditions – giving us a density altitude of 5900 feet. First circuit was for the instructor to fly to show me the ropes – well, that worked out fine until downwind when we got asked to orbit, and then orbit again, and again and then once more just for good luck – by this stage I was flying (hey, it’s always good to practice level turns!). Eventually we end up back on downwind, fly the base and then had to go around because the departing plane aborted takeoff…. There’s no bad experience.. (but you know it’s busy in the circuit when ATC apologizes for messing you around.

And so we went on – upwind, crosswind, downwind, base and finals – 7 circuits in all. Good fun. But hard work. It seems like only a few seconds from the after takeoff BUPMFF checks to the downwind BUMPFF checks, calling downwind, calling base and then the approaches – which if I say so myself were going really well.

Unfortunately it all tends to go a little pear shaped on roundout – I keep rounding out a little high and then coming down hard through ground effect. The instructor flew one of the landings and oh man, I was in awe of how smoothly she put the plane in ground effect and we just floated gently down. However, with 6-7 landings per hour in the circuit I suspect mine will improve in time.
11 aug circuits

More circuits next week. More Air-law studying this week – I’m told I must pass air law before I’ll be allowed to solo – I’m not ready to solo yet but give it a couple of hours and I will be….

The air law looks intimidating. But in practice it is pretty straightforward stuff – all relevant and interesting. The difficult part I suspect is going to remember all the validity times of the various documents, Medicals, licenses and so on – my feeling is that this is the sort of stuff that is a setter of multiple choice papers dream material… Ah well…