Ground Lesson

Today was my ground lesson – the idea of this was to cover all the procedures on the ground (pre-flight checks etc), and learn how to taxy around the airfield.

I arrived a bit early, and while waiting for my instructor to finish the previous lesson saw another Hercules being tugged around, and a pair of helicopters leaving, which was quite interesting.

Once my instructor (Catherine) had finished with her previous student, we went through to the briefing room and she explained all the procedures that we have to do on the ground (e.g. checking the aircraft documents, reviewing the technical log, checking weather conditions and NOTAMs etc). There was a lot to cover, but fortunately like most things in the aviation world, this is made easier to remember by using checklists, so you can make sure you don’t miss anything.

Once we’d gone through all that, Catherine handed me a copy of the checklist for the Cessna 172, a hi-viz jacket and a headset, and out we went to G-HERC. We went through the external checks, which cover a huge amount of things ranging from the obvious (remove the tie downs which are used to hold the aircraft to the ground in case of strong winds while it’s parked), to the very subtle (check that various bolts have retaining pins in place) – I’ll be interested to see how quickly I get through these next time, and how long it takes before I forget the bit about standing upwind when doing the fuel drain check and get a mouthful of fuel.

With the external checks completed, it was on to the internal checks. These cover things like checking all the instruments are functioning (or at least not obviously broken), that the controls all move as expected etc.

Now it was time to start the engine, we talked through the procedure, in particular about how important it was to make sure the starter had disengaged after starting the engine so it didn’t burn out, and then Catherine demonstrated (I’ll have to do this myself next time). With the engine running it’s then time to check the avionics, and the instruments that require the engine to be on.

We got the ATIS information (not hugely important today since we were only going to be taxying, but still part of the procedure), and then after getting permission from ATC Catherine took us off the grass and on to the tarmac taxiway, where I took control. I found for some reason my instinct on the throttle was wrong, when I thought to myself I wanted more throttle I actually ended up giving it less, and vice versa. I also kept pointlessly turning the yoke (on the ground you steer with your feet as they turn the nosewheel).

The tarmac taxiways have a yellow line down the middle, the idea here being that if you centre yourself on them, then you know your wings are well inside and not going to hit anything. Apparently ideally we shouldn’t use the breaks much, other than when actually stopping, so controlling the throttle accurately is quite important to avoid going too fast (the ideal speed is a fast walking one).

Once we got off the main taxiway to a hold point, Catherine demonstrated some tight turns (using the differential braking where you only brake one wheel), which I then tried. It was by that point time to head back to the parking area – before doing so Catherine set the aircraft up as if we’d just landed, and got me to run through the after landing checklist, then taxy us back to the parking area. The taxiway was fine – the tricky bit was knowing when to turn off on to the grass, and then making sure I went through the gap between other aircraft properly (I didn’t want to bang wings on my first proper lesson!).

We got back to the parking area, went through the shut down checks, and then tied down the aircraft. We went back to the office for a quick debrief, during which time I was given a fair amount of information to read through before my next lesson. This was an expensive one, as as well as the ground lesson cost, I also had to pay the PPL course ‘ground fee’ which covers all the ground tuition I’ll get, and buy the textbook and my logbook…

Next lesson (Effects of Controls part 1) booked for next Wednesday weather permitting, so already looking forward to it.

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