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.  



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…