All in-flight photographs were taken in accordance with the L3-CTS Operations Manual. Consent to publish them was sought from L3 Airline Academy's communications team. All flights were dual, I was not the pilot flying at the time and the instructor gave his/her permission.
The last few days have been fairly busy so i've split this post up in to a expandable headings. I've had lots of new things to learn and a couple of solos. It's been good fun and I'm pleased to be catching up to where I should be. I hope you enjoy this post, grab a tea/coffee... it's a long-ish one. :-) Click on a heading to expand it.
Flight Eighteen - 28/05/2017
With the past few days being rather foggy and with another band of high pressure forecast for today I was expecting to wake up to more of the same. You could probably imagine my smile therefore, as I rolled up the blinds to find the opposite. It certainly didn't match the weather that many of you would have had in Britain, but it was still quite mild and the fog was non-existent. However, with the sky being incredibly overcast and with the odd low level cloud dotted here and there it was a bit difficult to judge if I would actually fly or not. Being sure to head into the training centre nice and early I was able to complete all of my prep prior to my instructor arriving for work. This, coupled with the fact I was the both first on the aircraft and last on it for some time meant we had some flexibility in the schedule to account for the weather. The usual training areas to the east and west of Hamilton Airport were covered in low cloud but with the South looking clear we took the decision to head that way.
Once clear of Hamilton's airspace we got on with the lesson. This lesson built on the glide approaches I'd been taught previously in order that I be able to safely glide down to a field in the event of an engine failure. When it comes to choosing a field we use the 5s's which are:
As soon as you've identified your landing field you then position yourself to fly the typical circuit pattern around it and pull the throttle back to idle. The principle of gliding was relatively straight forward but the fact the field looked incredibly similar to every other made it all the more difficult. As this is part of flight training we don't actually land in the field but instead conduct the approach to about 500ft above the ground. For noise abatement, L3 procedures recommend we only use the same field twice. The makeshift circuit is flown at the aircraft's glide speed to help you sustain flight for as long as possible. Having already completed glide approaches at Hamilton I knew the plane was more than capable, yet commencing them from 3,500ft surprised me as to just how far they could go! All the more so considering a few people here have referred to the Cessna as a "fridge with wings", or at least compared to the rest of the fleet. Throughout the entire process you also have to learn to incorporate the following
Overall this was lesson was quite good fun and if you add to that the fact it was Sunday and the weather was too poor for solos then I pretty much had the airspace all to myself. It was quite peaceful to tell the truth!
Flight Twenty Two - 28/05/2017
The savvy ones among you may have noticed that Practice Forced Landings was listed above as flight eighteen and that all of a sudden I'm now talking about Basic Instrument Flight which is flight twenty two. Yep.. i've skipped a few. Why I hear you ask? Well, it comes down to the weather mainly and therefore we jumped forward a few lessons. Here's the explanation....
With a couple of hours between the first and second flight of the day I popped back to Clearways for a spot of lunch before then heading back to the training centre. On my return I once again planned and completed a walk around before my instructor decided that due to the lack of visible horizon we would have to cancel the Steep Turns lesson. Ah damn, I thought. I was quite looking forward to cracking on with stuff. All was not lost though as my instructor was told to complete a one-to-one mass briefing on the subject of basic instrument flight. For those wondering, flights twenty and twenty one are both solos covering the content from flights eighteen and nineteen hence the gap in flight numbers. I'll get around to completing those solos in the near future.
Up until this point in time I've been flying solely by reference to the horizon and whilst i've obviously had to use the instruments to periodically monitor speed and altitude, I've not flown using them as my sole aid. Thus, this mass brief covered the general procedures within instrument flight. The few instrument flights you complete this early on in the training are primarily aimed at a general awareness to the concept as the advanced stages later on in my time here cover it in much more depth. It was right back to basics and I was told how to maintain straight and level, enter a climb/descent, level off and turn without looking outside. I already had a vague understanding of how to do this but did not appreciate the scan technique whereby you only allow your eyes to sit on one single instrument per each couple of seconds. You simply glance, check it reads how it should and if not correct before moving on to the next instrument. Once we'd completed the mass brief my instructor told me to go home due to her now running out of time on shift to be able to take me flying. I still considered the day rather productive up until this point so wasn't too disappointed to have not gone up twice and began making transport arrangements. At the last minute though she changed her mind saying she'd much rather go flying and extend her shift instead of sitting twiddling her thumbs for the next hour and a half. Wahoo, let's go flying again.
In taking off and making a standard departure out to east, I was then asked to maintain straight and level using only instruments. I was then asked to climb, level off, descend, level off and then carry out some turns to get used to the instrument scans. I have to say I don't think i've ever consciously moved my eyeballs so much and the more and more flying I do the more and more I appreciate the industry-wide term - FATIGUE. It's pretty tiring looking at only instruments and not letting a trend develop. Once I'd become more accustomed to flight, my instructor then asked me to trim the aircraft for straight flight before closing my eyes and trying to hold the plane straight and level using only my body's natural perception of balance. I had no idea how I'd perform and was well aware of the human body's poor performance with eyes-closed balance. In fact, loss of situational awareness has led to many aviation-related accidents in the past and I was quite intrigued. One thing I used to my advantage was the sound of the engine as having had a few flights now I've come to appreciate the sound of the engine in straight and level flight so somewhat used that as a guide. This activity took 3 minutes before I was asked to open my eyes. According to my instructor I'd actually done quite well and had managed to keep straight and level for about 2 minutes before hitting a pocket of air and making a descending left turn. If left then we'd have eventually entered a spiral dive which just goes to show the importance of trusting your instruments in conditions of low visibility such as cloud. It was certainly an eye opener!
Following this my instructor took it up a notch by asking me to wear a hood. The hood/visor essentially blocks out all outside references meaning all of your vision is focussed on the instruments in front of you. We then repeated climbing/descending/turning again and again and again such to increase my competence with the scanning method and corrections needed. It's alarming how quickly the aircraft can roll about 10° should you become tunnel visioned on correcting your altitude and vica versa. Towards the end of the lesson I felt exhausted and apparently this is fairly normal following your first instrument flight. A lot of my coursemates have said the same too so I'm glad i'm not alone there. It was great fun though and I'm looking forward to expanding my knowledge in this area some more. It's certainly quite rewarding when you manage to get things bang on!
Flight Nineteen - 29/05/2017
With next to no fog on the ground during our early morning drive to the training centre, I was quietly confident that I I'd get to go flying today. With that said though I had next to no idea what the cloud and visibility would be like and from the photo above you might agree it looks rather menacing. The human eye is rather poor at estimating cloud height though and once I'd checked the airport weather report and had a chat with my instructor we decided it was more than adequate for the aim of the lesson. At least the horizon was visible, unlike the day prior. I quite enjoyed this lesson and I feel it was perhaps the best I'd ever flown. During this lesson I learnt that steep turns aren't all that different to regular turns and simply require a heck of a lot more back pressure in order to prevent sudden descent. We also covered incredibly steep turns utilised in collision avoidance and I have to say that the constant turning in this lesson made me feel incredibly dizzy. I can only describe the dizziness as something you might feel having had a full day on rollercoasters, so thankfully you don't have to do them all that often!
Flight Twenty - 29/05/2017
With the above lesson complete it was time for some more solos, the first of which being my out of circuit solo. This was scheduled for a couple of hours after I flew the associated dual-lesson, everything was still fresh in my head and the weather had barely changed. If i'm totally honest, I felt rather overwhelmed. The reason I say this is down to the fact that when you fly out of Hamilton's airspace you are then solely responsible for separating yourself from other traffic. You're also supposed to remain well clear of controlled airspace and fly clear of cloud. If you add these tasks to the existing workload it becomes a lot clearer to see how my mental capacity could be tested. With it taking about 40 minutes to transit to the eastern training area, this gave me around 1 hour and 20 minutes to practice stalling, practice forced landings and steep turns. Due to an incoming band of cloud from the west, most of CTC's trainees were operating in the same area making things a little more difficult to manage but all in all I enjoyed the solo. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't tired afterwards though!
Flight Twenty-One - 30/05/2017
The only word I can use to describe today is.. faff. It took me about three separate bookings/aircraft before I could finally go flying but I'm pleased I eventually managed to go as the weather was too good to miss really. The first aircraft had a little issue with its' fuel gauge and by the time I'd confirmed it as okay my circuit slot had expired but with thanks to CTC's operations team I managed to get a second aircraft, albeit a few hours later. On leaving the training centre and on the commencement of taxiing the control tower then announced cloud was below legal minima so I took the decision to turn back. Grrr... by this point it wasn't looking as though I'd ever get up in the air so went back to Clearways. However, they do say every cloud has a silverlining and as somebody else cancelled their flight due to sickness I managed to nab their aircraft and circuit slot. Despite the setbacks, I was really pleased with how this solo went and managed to get 3 landings in on the smaller runway 3 glide approaches and 8 standard approaches. The weather was pretty much perfect too!
Tomorrow I've been scheduled for the second of three instrument flights where i'll be looking at compass turns and limited panels etc. I'm looking forward to it! No doubt I'll fly a few more flights this week so I'll be back with another update when I've got something else to talk about. Hopefully you found this post interesting!
All the best,