PPL – Done and Dusted!

I really have been horrible about updating this… but I promise I have not been idle!  Last Monday, 1st of September 2104 to be exact, I finally took and passed my flight test for my Private Pilot’s Licence!  More on this in a little bit.

Since my last update, after earning my Controlled Airspace Endorsement, I did what is called a Pre-licence Flight Test.  This was a long cross-country trip where I had to go through all of the paces from startup to shutdown and everything in between.  It was much like the test I did for the Recreational certificate, and much like that one, I found that at close to 3 hours of flying my brain was fried and I had trouble with some of the basic things.

In a nutshell, we went north via the Lane of Entry to Parramatta > Patonga > Warnervale and Cessnock where we did some touch and goes and engine failures.  I got a little discombobulated on the circuits and it took me awhile to get into the groove of it.. I also am finding that after a leg of straight and level, my brain takes some waking up to get back into the procedures of circuits.  So that was one area that needed improvements.

We departed Cessnock and on the way to the defunct Aero Pelican strip (YPEC) on the outskirts of Lake Macquarie we did our steep turns, stalls, incipient spins.  I found YPEC with no problems, and of course Chris pulled an engine failure on me right there…  no problem, from 3500 feet I had all day to get to the strip.  We just did a go-around and I began the trip back via Warnervale.

Before I could get back up to height, Chris threw in a line of hypothetical angry low clouds between us and I had to get down to 1500′ and get us to Mangrove Creek reservoir.  Luckily, I could see Warnervale from where I was, so I estimated my position, drew a line to the new waypoint, eyeballed the degrees for the track, subtracted 12 degrees for magnetic variation, a bit more for the crosswind, and determined a new heading.  Once I got us pointed in that direction, I worked out ground speed and an estimate for time.  Now it was just a matter of waiting the time, and looking for clues along the way.  I ended up very close, within a mile or less, and within a minute or 2 of my estimate.  Not bad for low level and being unfamiliar with the landmark.

We pointed back south so I could look for the Brooklyn Bridge and hop on the Southbound Lane of Entry back to Bankstown.  On the way we did another .2 hours of instruments – turns, descents, climbs, standard stuff.  We made it back to Bankstown and this is where I mentioned earlier the circuits started to really fall apart.  I did them OK I guess, nothing to write home about for sure, but neither Chris nor I were happy with them, especially knowing that I have done much better in the past.  

We then spent a few hours going over all of the knowledge items I should brush up on for the oral test before the flight test – Chris is a real trooper, they do not pay him near enough I am sure!

So I made a booking to do more circuits and a bit more practice in the training area, just to make sure I had stalls and steep turns down.  That was a very busy weekday, and workload was even higher – even had a runway direction change in the middle of joining on the arrival procedure – I had read about that but never had to do it!  Talk about pressure!   But, I just did what the tower told me and was now doing circuits on runway 11L instead of 29R.  After a couple of those, the tower moved me over to runway 11R (having me cross all the way over on a long crosswind leg).  For the final landing, I did request 11L so I’d be closer to the taxiway back to Schofield’s.  That was done as a short field landing, and we came to a stop before the first taxiway intersection.

We were much happier with the procedures and I had been working on the knowledge items, so we were happy to start thinking about booking me with a Testing Officer to do my official flight test!!

Of course, it immediately started raining for the next several weeks which is never helpful when you want to strike while the iron is hot.  After a couple of weeks, Bill rang me and scheduled Monday the 1st of September at 9 am as it looked like it was going to be the only decent day for weeks on either side (which more or less turned out to be the case).

This actually gave me quite a bit of time to study all of the items I missed on my PPL written exam, which would need to be discussed during the oral exam, as well as all of the other items of general aviation knowledge I needed to brush up on.  He wanted me to plan 3 different scenarios, and depending on the weather we would pick the best one on the day.  I even bought new charts so I wouldn’t risk adding confusion with my already well-loved charts.  I always donate my old charts to the flying school, they are good for new students who will need to learn how to read them but won’t need to buy them for awhile yet.  Pay it forward…

When the day arrived, of course I was out there bright and early (before they opened of course) and got myself settled with some coffee and looked over all of the area forecasts.  I decided I would have the best chance by choosing option 3, which was up to Cessnock again then to Singleton, Denman, then Mount McQuoid, Calga, and back.  Winds and cloud cover was very light in this direction, and I had recently done most of it during my pre-test, so it should be familiar enough.  Why make it hard on myself, right?

Did the weight and balance and performance charts, finished out my flight plan, submitted my notification, called for full fuel then grabbed my wad of papers and went in to get Bill.  Without going on too much about it, I feel like I did very well on the oral exam portion, definitely felt well-prepared (thanks, Chris!).  

I went out and did a preflight-inspection on trusty old INH and before long, I was starting up the engine with Bill in the right seat with his testing officer hat (and glare) on, and the dreaded Clipboard.  Now Bill has been doing this for longer than I have been alive, and he just oozes authority.  Think back to when you were 17 and taking your driving test – and now imagine your grandpa (who is also the sheriff and a former race car driver) is the one giving the test, and I think you’ll get the idea.

Anyway, the flight itself was much like the pre-licence flight so no need to bore with those details.   Mistakes were certainly made, and nerves were at an all time high.  But in the end, it appears that they are mostly interested in whether you recognise and correct your mistakes, and whether you are safe.  I am not sure I would have passed myself, but I must have done OK because he passed me!

We did a very long debrief session afterwards where we went over everything I did wrong, what I did right, what I could have done differently.  He had me listen to some recordings and checked my comprehension so that he could tick the box for “speaks English” (whatever…).  Then he extended his hand and said “Congratulations”.

So now I am just waiting for the paperwork, reflecting back on a long and circuitous path to this point, pondering what is next, and scheming my first trip!  I now have almost 85 hours in the logbook, and it took only about 16 hours in the Piper with the Recreational Certificate behind me – I would suggest however one’s mileage would vary widely – some might do it quicker, and some might take significantly longer.  In the end, I feel like I had a very solid grounding in piloting and navigation, thanks to Brett over at Sydney Jabiru, and that my skills were sharpened and my confidence increased thanks to Chris at Schofields.  I have been very lucky to have been put with some very bright and talented instructors, and only hope I can emulate their examples.  

I am just beginning to be broadly aware that I don’t even know what I don’t know, and will be learning aviation for the rest of my life!  For now, I just plan to enjoy the privileges and sharpen my skills through experience.  Who knows where this will take me – the sky is the limit; and it turns out the sky is a very big place!

Well, This is Cool…

Now that I have worked my way through the syllabus, racked up enough dual and solo hours, the next step is to take a practice Flight Test.  In fact, CFI Brett emailed me last night to see if I wanted to schedule the flight for 1500 on the 19th of May, so not this Sunday but next.

Whoa.

Or course I said, “hell yeah!” so now I will need to really study up on all the finer points.  I feel pretty comfortable with flying so that is one worry out of the way.  Main points to focus on are:

  • Departure to the training area
  • Steep turns
  • Stalls
  • Practice Forced Landings
  • Arrival from the training area
  • Flapless circuit
  • Normal circuit
  • Go around
  • Glide circuit
  • Short Field Takeoff and Land (STOL) circuit

…and of course, the million-and-one details that comprise each.

However, as it turns out, it is well-within the rules to have any reference materials I need with me so you can bet I will be putting together a handy reference sheet for all of the little reminders I might need (laminated of course)… nothing too detailed, but perhaps some of the acronyms, radio call reminders, transponder codes, etc…  As well as a chart of the area so I don’t get lost on the way back, which could be embarrassing…

Presuming I do well on that, then the next flight could very well be my Certificate flight test!

It.  Better.  Not.  Rain.

Another Milestone!

Yesterday was another gorgeous day with not a cloud in the sky and minimal winds – great day to drive down to Wollongong and get some more solo flying in!

As of last trip, my total solo hours were 2.7.  The rules state that you must have a dual session with an instructor after each 3 consecutive hours.  2.7 is close enough, so the first thing was to hop in for a couple of circuits with Bruce.  This is a good thing, as you can tend to forget things if you haven’t flown for a couple of weeks.  I think it also helps build your confidence back up before you take to the skies alone again.

So, we did 2 circuits, one just normal and the last one Bruce simulated an engine failure right after take-off.  Since there was plenty of runway remaining, the drill is just to pop the nose down to the glide attitude and land the plane on what is left of the runway, then vacate and taxi back to start over.  Once that was done and he was satisfied, I went back up.

I needed about 2.3 hours to get to the required 5, but this is alot to do in one go. So I broke it up into chunks – about 3/4 of an hour just doing circuits, trying to nail the landings and other elements of a good circuit.  Once I see brain fade coming in, I land and come in for a break.

After a half hour or so, I had rested and processed sufficiently and decided to go back up and hit the gorgeous training area.  This is the coastal stretch between Port Kembla and Kiama, and is a visual overload for anyone who loves the ocean and coastal scenery in general.

From my last experience, I knew that I needed to really concentrate on just keeping it Straight and Level (lesson one haha) and more practice on my left turns.  Since I knew going in that these needed work, I was able to anticipate issues before they occurred, and kept myself at 2500 feet (ok +/- a little bit if I decided to just sight-see for a minute).  But – buzzing up and down 20 or so miles of even the most beautiful rugged coastline can get a bit monotonous after awhile and again I decided to pull it in before I started just tuning it out – I am not doing this just to “tick boxes” and go through the motions… I have my day job for that hahah 😉

In fact, one of the driving reasons for heading back to the field was that I was getting very low on fuel.  Although I practice engine failures whenever possible, and I am always thinking “where can I land if it goes pear-shaped?” I don’t want to experience a real one – especially if its preventable!

So, brought her down, rested and drank some more water, fueled up and headed back out.  At this time I only needed another .3 hours and, time being money, decided to just do a few circuits to knock it out – besides, the brain was really overloaded this time so best to stick with the familiar…

And that’s it for this weekend, another milestone complete – 5 hours as Pilot In Command towards my Certificate.  This week I’ll contact Brett and we’ll go over What’s Next – in preparation for (hopefully) my Flight Test!

Plenty to go after this (arguably a lifetime) but feeling pretty good about my progress.  There is a real chance I might have my certificate with passenger and cross country ratings by the end of the year!  After that, I will want to parley this into a PPL rating to increase my options of what I can fly and where, but for now this feels an awful lot like “Living The Dream”

First Area Solo!

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Well this is a month for firsts, doesn’t seem long ago I posted about my first solo and on Saturday April 13, I did my first Area Solo! First did an hour of circuits just to warm up since it had been a couple weeks, then after a break, I finally cut the cord and called a crosswind departure into the training area for another glorious hour of toodling around between Kembla and Kiama (from Wollongong).

Bruce mentioned before I went up after the break that the air was nice and smooth at around 3000 feet, so I headed there.  I think it changed a little during that time and was actually a bit choppy, so I found a nice little pocket around 2750 feet and just tried to keep it steady.

Here are some pictures, I snapped a few quick ones with my phone since it was nice and smooth for the most part:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/k0adhlct4wiqvxp/qw_XokeSgk#/

A couple of things I noticed after all this time in the circuits, it is bloody hard to hold straight and level for a long time!! In the circuit, I guess you only have to hold it for 2-3 minutes, but boy can it wander when you are just buzzing around!

Also – after 1.5 years of mostly right-hand circuits, my left turns need some work! Skid ball was all the way to the right, I guess I was carrying too much tension when giving it left rudder into the turn since I hadn’t had to think about those for over a year!

Anyway, a good solid morning of challenging myself and lots to think about between now and next weekend! Only a couple hours left solo for the required 5, exciting stuff! In fact will have to do a dual first come to think of it…

How was everyone else’s day??

First Solo!!!

“Remember, thou art mortal… Remember, thou art mortal…”

It is said that the Generals and Consuls of Rome, having returned from battle victorious, in their Triumphal Procession through the city, would actually have someone employed to whisper this phrase over and over in their ears.  One can only imagine how overwhelming to the senses such an event would have been, essentially focused on one individual and his accomplishments.  A prudent reminder that regardless of how invincible one might feel, you’re only ever a stab in the dark away from disaster.  I believe the Emperors after Gaius Julius Caesar largely abandoned this practice…

Before I continue with a metaphor that probably won’t withstand a lot of scrutiny, let me just say that on 9:30am on Saturday, March 30th, I probably could have used someone like that.  This was the day, after many months of anticipation and occasional setback, that I first Took To The Wing by myself – my First Solo Flight!

The previous few attempts over the past month or so were hampered by weather, and my almost diabolical ability to arrive for my lesson at the exact moment the winds/turbulence/thermals would reach a point beyond what would be prudent for a First Solo flight.  No sense freaking me out worse than necessary!

So this time, in conjunction with the 4-day Easter weekend and a much-needed getaway with Rebecca, I rocked up at 8am for the first flight of the day.  This turned out to be just the ticket, and after doing the daily inspection and preflight, Bruce and I went up for a few circuits around just to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything important.

(As a side note – my CFI Brett put me in touch with Bruce down at Fly Illawara at Wollongong Regional Airport so that I could go down there and try to rack up some solo hours without the extra time/expense of a Navs lesson from Bankstown)

3 quick circuits and nothing major bent and we called a Full Stop.  Bruce said “I’m outta here” and I dropped him off on the taxiway before taxiing back to enter runway 34 and make personal history.

Right away, something unrehearsed happened, as there was a huge ambulance helicopter sitting at the junction of several taxiways, and right in my path.   He didn’t look like going anywhere, so I just made a wide berth and got around him and continued on across runway 26/08.

Like the long walk out the lobby after a job interview, I slowly trundled my way to the threshold of 34, made my radio call, and acted as Pilot In Command for the first time.

Equal parts exhilarating and terrifying, and accompanied by my non-stop critical inner dialogue, this was certainly every bit as adrenaline-pumping as I had imagined it might be.  Even now as I type this, much of it is a blur.

I’ll try not to crap on too much, so that non-aviation interested readers won’t tune out (any more than normal) but the most noticeable thing was the aircraft performance was transformed!  I had a reasonably light load of fuel and with the instructor gone, this thing just shot out of the blocks like a Stripe-Assed Ape!  I am pretty sure I was close to 1000′ before I reached the end of the runway!

Anyway, I just did circuits, which are an established traffic pattern around the airport, so nothing really new or exciting there.  But with the enhanced performance everything happened much quicker.  I think that my training in Bankstown put me in good stead for some of the busier parts of the workload such as the radio calls etc.  The final approach slope was a bit higher and steeper as well, and the float down the runway longer until I worked out how to account for the lighter weight there as well.

So I did this for a little over 3/4 hour until I got to the point where I recognised the brain fade kicking in and went ahead and called for a full stop so I could come back down to earth and let this sink in for awhile.  Bruce was nice enough to welcome me back to terra firma with a radio call congratulating me on my first solo 🙂

I would also like to add my thanks here to Bruce Robbins at Fly Illawara, for working with me essentially as an unknown temporary “transfer” from another school, and spending the time necessary to make sure I was at the standard and got me familiar with the Wollongong airport.  I won’t post his number or info here, but please send me a note if you would like to contact Bruce.

So there you have it, .8 hours in the logbook as Pilot in Command, 4.2 to go as a minimum for my certificate, and an experience I can never repeat – First Solo!

Astute readers will note that I played it safe and avoided the Ides of March 😉

Progress Has Been Made

Well…. I was really hoping to be able to report this weekend that I had finally accomplished my First Solo as well as my first Cross Country Navigation exercise.

The plan was for a pretty full-on weekend – Saturday, we were to drive to Illawarra Regional Airport (YWOL) in Wollongong, and my flight instructor would meet me down there, having flown down with another student.  The hope was I would do some familiarisation circuits and *possibly* go solo.  Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate, so that didn’t happen.

The plan for Sunday was to do the Navigation flight from Bankstown (YSBK) to Wollongong and back.  This is where the fun really begins, as I get to put into practice all I have learned about the principles of navigation, flight planning, weather… and just getting to go somewhere in a plane!  This should be about 45 minutes down, a bit of time doing circuits down there, then 45 minutes back – most at about 4,500 feet AMSL (Above Mean Sea Level).

So I got up early Sunday morning, spread out my maps and charts and ERSA and other associated paraphernalia, and most importantly brewed a nice strong cuppa (long black, no sugar) and looked up the Area 21 weather briefing.  This is an overall forecast and report of a pretty wide area that includes all the bits we’d be flying though and over, including forecasted (and reported) wind direction and speed, atmospheric pressure (QNH) in hectopascals, cloud coverage, temperature, and any possible weather to be aware of.  It also lists NOTAMs, which is “Notices to Airmen” – operational hazards or other concerns in areas or specific locations that occur more recently or sporadically so as not to be in the printed information.  For example, intense parachuting activity, a light out on a tower, unserviceable runways, etc.

After digesting all of this info I came to the conclusion that there was a potential for the weather to be a bit messy, and Erring On The Side Of Caution, we decided that the Nav exercise was a no-go.

However, given all the time it has taken me to get anywhere with all this, I am very keen to keep the ball moving down the field so as not to lose momentum.  Since the local weather at Bankstown looked OK, we picked another topic off the syllabus and did the lesson on Short Takeoffs and Landings (STOL).

This is where you learn to takeoff and land in a condition where a runway may be shorter than the one you are accustomed to, or even if you have to land in a paddock with very little room to spare.

For takeoffs, it is mostly a matter of getting right back as far to the beginning of the strip as possible, and with the brakes on, rev up and let go once the engine is at max RPM.  This helps you shoot off like line like a rocket and you just get your nose up as quick as possible and adopt the Best Angle of Climb (Vx) until you are at a safe height and can go back to Best Rate (Vy).

Had a funny moment to start with – we lined the little Jabiru up rather than turning onto the runway, we circled around to get right back at the very end.  The runway at Bankstown (11R) is quite long – several times longer than what the J170 needs.  So adding another hundred metres or so must have looked funny – the Tower piped up “um, 7925 i think you have enough runway, mate…”.  And so we did, I think we were almost airborne by the time we reached the part where we normally start rolling!  We did seem to climb a bit faster than normal, but I put that down to the fact that we had only 1/2 the fuel on board than we normally do.

Landing is a different beast altogether, much slower and more positive – remember you are trying to get that sucker on the ground ASAP because you won’t have much runway to float over.  The technique here is to do the final at 55 knots (instead of 70) and stay on the back of the drag curve so that you are using power to make adjustments – just “drive it in” for lack of a better term.

I am happy to say that this really felt very natural to me, and I think increased my landing precision and confidence DRAMATICALLY.  In fact, on the last go round, Brett didn’t say a word and just let me do it all.  The first circuit, I think we touched down about 3 metres from the intended point, and after that they were right on the dot.  Very happy with that.

After this lesson, Brett had me call for fuel and supervise the refueling operation (flashbacks to my days in the USAF) while he got some stuff done in the office.  Since we had originally blocked me out for a few hours, and I only used up 1, I asked if I could go ahead and take a whack at the Navigation/Meteorology written exam – the last one in the syllabus.

This was a very challenging test, and I did have to use memory and common sense on some of it just to get through.  My E6B (circular slide rule flight computer) got a thorough workout, and I took every bit of the full hour, but I passed!

So, another 1.1 in the logbook, another item knocked out from the syllabus, a new level of confidence and precision, and NO MORE TESTS!  The next navigation flight (and possible solo) is scheduled for next Saturday the 16th.  Weather looks dodgy for now, but as we all know that can change in an instant.

Progress Was Made…

Noticed Something Today…

For today’s lesson, we concentrated solely on Engine Failure After Take-off (EFATO) and circuit emergencies today. Something happened which really gave me a boost and encouraged me – while I had my hands full remembering the checks and various things to do during the emergency, it suddenly dawned on me that I was actually landing with out any concerted mental effort – in other words, it is finally starting to become part of my muscle memory!

I honestly never thought it would happen, but it finally *clicked* today – my instructor even asked me “what changed” and I don’t really know what to say other than it just was there. No more than I really thought about parking my car – it just happened.

Not to say they were perfect, but I am getting to a spot where I can now devote some mental energy into the finer points and other tasks rather than being 100% consumed with the mechanics of the landing.

It is a good day – I am drinking the last of my home brew lager and reflecting on the journey.

Night Moves

… a little too tall, coulda used a few pounds… tight pants, points, hardly renowned… (Bob Seger, Night Moves, 1976)

No, not THAT kind… THIS kind:

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Yesterday was my first weekday (after-work) lesson, and the above picture was taken on the last circuit just as the sun was going down.  The picture doesn’t do justice to the sheer serenity of the feeling when the sun is on its way down, and the air is getting cooler and just becomes a sheet of calm.

If not for the feeling of being as busy as a 3-legged dog trying to bury a turd on a frozen pond, dare I say it would be relaxing and meditative.

I got a lot of great feedback and food for thought based on my last post, and I think I finally got a handle on the “confidence” piece, or at least I am getting there.  There’s a lot to be said for anticipating rather than reacting!

We did more crosswind circuits, and it now looks like things are tightened up sufficiently that the main thing to work on is judgement of aim point, and speed and height in the flare, and settling it down rather than flopping it onto the deck like a fighter jet.  A lot more practice is required here, especially with the crosswinds.

In that vein, when Brett asked if I wanted to work in some circuit emergencies (not a problem with the squiggly bit between the two ends of a battery, but simulated engine failures), I was enthusiastic to move on to something new.  I reasoned that while the landings certainly need work, I need to land regardless of what else I am working on, so they are only going to get better over time anyway.

I still remembered most of the Forced Landings lesson, so when he cut out the engine and had me point back to the field, I instinctively went right to my best glide speed – 65 kts, maybe a touch faster into the wind – used appropriate amount of flaps, and actually made it back to the runway on 3 out of 4 attempts.  Although I remembered the initial checks and mayday calls, I did forget the landing checklist where you are supposed to shut off the fuel, master switch, etc…  will have to look it up again! We did go over it on the Forced Landings lesson, but I had completely forgotten!  But, for a first go, I think I’m pretty happy, and Brett marked it down as solo standard. Even on the 1 out of 4 that I didn’t make it to the strip, I think I probably still would have made it to the grass.

In all, I think we went around 7 or so times, and when the sun got a little lower than the picture above, we had to bring it in.  Made one last downwind call for a full stop and requested the North runway, to cut down on taxi time.  This time I promised Brett a perfect landing, just to wrap it up for the year.

Sadly, this wasn’t the case… as usual, great down to about 2 metres then misjudged the flare.  I did squeeze in some power at the last to try not to make it too hard, but it was still not a proud moment.  Ahhh well, 2013 is another year!

Workin’ and practicin’ Night Moves….

Crosswinds and Crossroads

Had another action-packed lesson this weekend in the Jabiru J170 at Bankstown Airport, during what is statistically the highest-afternoon-winds month in the year:  (http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/averages/tables/cw_066137.shtml)

As a follow-on to the last lesson, we were to work on final approach and landing, as Brett reckoned I had the other elements of the circuit down pretty well.  And, while I thought last session was windy – I hadn’t seen windy, yet!

It was a hot December day and ATIS report said winds at 080 degrees at 18 knots, max crosswind 12 knots.  To my memory, a 30 degree crosswind of 18 kts would give a crosswind component of 9 knots.  So either it was gusting, or the wind was changing direction occasionally.  OK, so a bit of a left crosswind (and a hell of a tail-wind – wheeeee!).  But then I realised that 14 knots is the maximum for this aircraft – 2 more and we’d have had to cancel…

*GULP*

However, for this to work, I have to be able to trust my CFI completely, so if he is comfortable then so am I.  The first indication that this will be one to remember was the sheer speed at which we taxied:  simply idling along, I had to ride the brakes at times just to keep it from getting away!  But, we got to the runup area, completed the checks, and sidled up to the holding point (Yankee at runway 11 Right, for the nerds…).

Takeoff was normal, I have even learned to keep centreline quite well by anticipating the weathercock into the wind and balancing with opposite rudder.  Although the crosswind leg of the circuit (right-hand this time) happened very quickly due to the tailwind, I was able for the most part to keep a good heading and attitude, and remembered the fuel pump and light switches most of the time <grin> .  I only turned off avionics once I think 😛  Good thing the master and magnetos are on the other side of the panel.  But I digress…

I definitely feel an improvement on the downwind leg, seems like the heading and spacing are coming pretty naturally, and the radio call is second nature.  Still can fluster up my pre-landing checks if I get distracted, but get there in the end.  Have to watch height – a few times, due to the thermals, I gained a couple hundred feet without realising it.

Base turn and leg are pretty solid now, with a good glide path, speed, and spacing.

But, WT*$@#&^ is up with my finals??  Back to that in a bit…

Last lesson, on an equally hot and thermally day (but not as windy), I made a rather steep turn low and slow onto finals.  I *think* that the wind gusted enough at that moment to put me almost sideways, and I just had this dreaded image in my head of a low speed stall and graveyard spiral into the ground from low-altitude.  It really did my head in.

So I seem to be really extra cautious about that particular descending turn (though I didn’t really used to be I don’t think) and it is causing me to turn way too shallow and early, consuming much of my time on finals just getting lined up, when I should just be settling into the glide to land.

Another thing that happened this time was at the end of the takeoff, before turning crosswind, a “really gnarly updraft” (Brett’s words) occurred at about 200 feet, which rolled me right over in the blink of an eye and again… that really Got My Attention.  I managed to right it, but it took several more circuits to get my legs back under me.

Brett explained that over areas where there are a lot of parked cars or tin warehouse roofs, there is going to be a great deal of heat generated – which rises up and causes that momentary weirdness.

So – one more data point:  anticipate these things so I won’t get caught off guard.  Next time I’ll know.

In all we probably did 7 or 8 circuits, and called a full stop for a break.  Plan was to pull into a runup area and rest for a bit, let the brain catch up, and go back out for a bit more.  BUT!  No sooner do I get it onto the taxiway and adjacent to the runup area, that we start lurching off the tarmac to the right.  Nothing either of us could do!  After stopping the engine and investigating, looks like we blew the nosewheel tyre.   Well, good thing we didn’t go up again then, as it could have happened on the next landing, and certainly have been much worse.

Some calls to operations and the ground crew picked us up, and its all been sorted, but that’s really a separate story.

Onward to Debrief, which is Our Little Chat after the lesson where we talk about what went right, what went wrong, focus areas, what’s next, etc.  Pretty much went as expected, need to get those turns onto final under control, watch my trim, work on landing technique, etc.

But the main takeaway was this – the main concern he has right now with sending me solo is basically that I still lack confidence.  That was quite a revelation, because I feel like I generally don’t lack confidence in most situations.  But you know what?  He is right!

This is it – the connective tissue that ties it all together!  Hell, I KNOW how to do this stuff!  I’ve passed the tests, I can take off, I can fly straight and level, turn, descend, (mostly) land, make the calls… Mechanically, I know how this thing ticks… but what ties all those things together?  The CONFIDENCE to go from one action to the next because you KNOW its what needs to be done, without questioning yourself.

I have always suffered from this critical internal chatter that is very good at presenting all the ways something can go wrong, but can’t seem to ever cut in mentally and just say “yes, but I know how to deal with those things”.  So I consume a LOT of brain cycles churning though that stuff that could be spent more productively.

Of course PRACTICE is the best way to just simply make it routine enough that you can shut the running critique off.  And I am getting there.  But even after 30+ years of riding motorcycles, it would still pop up from time and its enough to run you into a ditch just on sheer force of will.

So that’s where I am at… accumulating practice, but currently also researching ways to silence the inner critic, or at least answer it in a way it can be satisfied and fade away.  Email me with ideas!

And for the smart-asses – no, I am NOT “hearing voices”!  At least, that’s what they tell me…