Straight and Level (2)

The weather forecast had been looking promising, and I woke up to a good METAR and TAF, so I didn’t bother calling to check the weather and just went down to the airport.

While waiting for my instructor (Susan this time) to get back from her previous lesson, I had a chance to have a chat to someone else who is probably a few lessons ahead of me (he was about to do his first takeoff) – it was reassuring to find he was finding similar things difficult etc!

The briefing explained what we were going to be doing, first a brief recap of last lesson (flying straight & level at normal cruise RPM), then we’d be doing it at higher and lower RPMs (which means a correspondingly lower or higher nose attitude), and then with various stages of flaps down. I was told about a few ‘rules of thumb’ for working out what speed a particular RPM equates to etc, so I’m going to try and remember these as they look like they could be very helpful.

I was sent out to do the preflight checks on G-SHWK, and apart from managing to get a bit of fuel in my face while doing one of the drain checks (need to remember to be upwind of it in future!) they went fine – I’m pretty sure I’ve mastered these now. We had a new instructor ‘back seating’ (sitting in the back and observing the lesson), so I wondered if the effect on takeoff performance would be noticeable.

After take off, I made the radio call to switch from tower to approach and get a basic service from the approach controller. We were warned to keep a good lookout for gliders (as I noticed during the lesson there were a fair number of thermals about so it made sense that there would be gliders around) – perhaps it was useful there was an additional pilot on board 😉

We then went through the various exercises – I did spot a few other aircraft (the closest was a glider which passed overhead, we only spotted that as it went over so presumably it had been descending quite fast), so I think my lookout is doing OK.

I definitely preferred the traditional instruments to the G1000 I’d flown last week, and I think I was a litle better at keeping things level. More attention was paid to trim this week (this is adjusting a little surface on the elevator which relieves control inputs, meaning you aren’t having to apply forward/back pressure all the time) – one thing that was useful is I would be asked to trim, and then the instructor would take control and check it, which is good to know I wasn’t fooling myself that I’d got it right etc!

The biggest thing I found during the lesson is my brain wasn’t working quick enough in terms of working out what I needed to do – I’d be asked to reduce power, but it would take my brain a few seconds to figure out what that means the aircraft is going to try to do, and what I need to do to counteract it etc. I’m sure this will come with experience, but I think perhaps I need to study the textbook a bit more and make my own notes to try and get this straight.

Once we’d gone through everything, it was time to head back to Cambridge, at which point I found once again that my sense of direction (which on the ground is fairly good) disappeared entirely – must try and work on this I think. I made the call to switch back to the tower, and the instructor then asked to join crosswind. We went round the circuit (I was able to fly some of it) with the instructor pointing out a few useful landmarks she uses to know when to turn etc.

As we came in on final, it was a bit gusty, and as we were coming across the airfield boundary we had a bit of a drop, this left us a bit closer than we should be as we got lower, so the instructor decided to do a go around. It would probably have been fine if she hadn’t, but in this sort of situation it’s always better to take the safe option.

As we came round the circuit again we were asked to use 23 grass (I believe due to another aircraft doing a practice approach on the ILS for the 23 main runway). We bounced a couple of times in the landing which was slightly nerve wracking – the instructor said afterwards it was one of her worst landings, I guess it makes me feel a bit better about what are sure to be some ‘interesting’ landings when I start doing them!

I have another lesson booked for tomorrow morning, so assuming the weather holds we’ll be doing climbing and descending – which is clearly another important skill!