Lesson Eleven - 01/05/2017 - FAILED
After waiting what seemed like an eternity to fly again, I was scheduled with my secondary instructor to go up and complete circuits three. Sadly, this lesson didn't go well at all. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it made me feel incredibly down afterwards and I certainly could have done a lot better. I just wasn't setting up for approach in the right places, nor was I able to land/flare properly. However, it was my first time experiencing a considerable amount of wind at 20-25 knots with gusts of 30 knots having only flown with 4 or 5 knots in the past. In addition, nobody was backseating this time and the aircraft therefore handled differently. With all of these factors considered my flying my instructor had no choice but to fail the lesson and postpone putting me forwards for my solo. Whilst this was a little frustrating - not because I want to go solo in a hurry but because compared to my peers I feel as though I'm falling behind - I could understand that it makes zero sense to go solo if you can't even land, which is certainly harder than it looks! It's better be safe than sorry anyway!
The lesson being marked a fail meant that I had to have a meeting with a more senior member of staff. We discussed my downfalls, talked about what I can do or think about in order to improve things going forward and came up with a plan to rectify my weaknesses. Perhaps the best thing for my confidence was to hear that I'm not the first and certainly won't be the last person to have been failed at this point in their training. Being told not to worry, it was said that if there is one point in the training program where cadets require additional training the most, it'd have to be the circuit and more specifically the landing! On completing some paperwork, scheduling would book me in for a repeat of the lesson with the hope that focussing on my weaker areas specifically would help me improve things. This additional flying time is inclusive as a result of Performance Protection.
Lesson Eleven (Refly) - 03/05/2017 - CANCELLED MIDWAY THROUGH
Being booked with the same instructor, I returned to the airport determined to get over this 'approach and landing' hurdle. I was also surprised to see the aircraft had been allocated to me for a solo slot immediately after the refly of circuits three! On probing my instructor he replied that if I were to demonstrate promise he'd sign me off as solo-worthy. However in not wanting to get ahead of myself I put that to the back of my mind and focused on the task at hand. While the wind wasn't quite as strong during this lesson as the last, it was considered a crosswind which added a further complexity i'd not really seen before. You've got to love mother nature for providing pilots with an ever-changing environment.
Getting in the aircraft we taxied for takeoff in a northerly direction meaning that not only were there crosswinds, I was also now flying a completely different circuit route to previous lessons. Having to pick up relevant reference points for the circuit on runway 36 along the way, I climbed as normal and we jumped straight into the contents of the lesson.
During my first attempt I turned on to the final approach way too early which resulted in us being too high for landing (considered 'unstable') and thus we initiated a go-around. For the most part, attempt two was much improved although I did pull the nose up at the last minute which caused the aircraft to regain altitude - termed 'ballooning' - and lose the speed required to retain lift giving us quite a hard touchdown! The third circuit was a full demonstration by my instructor in the hope it would help dust the cobwebs off a bit, given it'd been well over a week since I was first shown it. I'm pleased to say it did just that! My fourth attempt was bang-on with the exception of setting the incorrect setting of flap during final, but other than that I got a buzz after my first decent landing and began to feel more confident in my ability.
Keen to improve further on attempt five we couldn't help but notice how the wind speed was increasing making for a rather challenging approach - especially considering I hadn't yet received any guidance on crosswind technique. The air was also slightly turbulent and we gained 100ft or so at one point. When in the circuit we heard the Hamilton based Air Ambulance (as pictured) request taxi for an immediate departure. This meant that the tower restricted the use of the larger runway until they'd vacated the area meaning we only had use of the much shorter and much narrower 36 Left. Despite flying the circuit rather well, my instructor decided to take over due to the wind and I'm glad he did as it was quite a turbulent approach and we were thrown about a bit. Once on the ground he called it quits as it was no longer safe to continue the lesson given the conditions.
With a cancellation midway through or a 'Y-Fly' as CTC Aviation calls it, I will need to go up and complete circuits three another time. If i'm honest this allows me even more time to perfect the technique which at this stage is certainly not a bad thing. It won't be tomorrow sadly, as a few of the Cessna aircraft are in for maintenance and others are allocated for instructor training. Fingers crossed it'll be the day after as i'm not liking these constant breaks in training when all I want to do is have some continuity and improve my technique in order to get over the solo hurdle. Hey ho, i'm sure i'll get there eventually. At least tomorrows delays are sensible. You can't really point a finger at instructor training or maintenance, both of which are crucial to a successful flying school.
Lesson Eleven (Refly #2) - 05/05/2017 - FAILED (WITH IMPROVEMENT)
With my primary instructor in training and my secondary on his rostered day off I was allocated another member of the team and being that it was the first time I'd flown with her, she suggested I briefed her on my weak points. Taking the time to listen to my concerns she made notes of things to watch out for in the flight and decided she'd turn the whole process of landing into a game. The game was this: Fly the circuit and then on final approach bring the aircraft down to about 1 - 1 1/2 feet from the ground before flying straight and level for as long as possible. She told me that having the power at idle would naturally cause the aircraft to lose speed and altitude and that I would need to bring the nose up to maintain straight flight. The flare would then come naturally. In order to win I had to see how far along the runway I could get before touchdown. The presence of the game was great and hugely aided my overall landing technique. In addition to landings, I was also given useful tips for the remainder of the circuit and I'm pleased to say that I can now fly a much improved circuit at the right altitude, speed and configuration before then falling short on the smooth touchdown. With the airspace being busy we only managed to complete about 7 circuits so i'm sure the latter will come with more practice.
Running out of time in the circuit and not completing the aim of the lesson in the time available meant this flight was also marked as a fail. Despite that though all of the feedback given to me was rather positive and the chief flying instructor agreed that CTC would fund an additional hour to help me iron out those final few creases. I'm getting there, especially with this new 'landing game', so hopefully I'll be solo by the end of the next lesson. Fingers crossed!
When I got back from flying and noticed it had been another week, I couldn't quite believe it. These blog posts act as my weekly countdown and it only seems like yesterday I posted the circuits part one post. A little over a week from now I'll have been in New Zealand for two months which is mad! I've been booked in for another meeting tomorrow to discuss my short comings in the most recent refly of circuits three before discussing my options going forwards.
I'll be back in a week with another update, but if I go solo you'll no doubt see it first on my social media channels. Why not go give them a follow.
All the best,