Circuits again

After a cancelled lesson yesterday due to some engine testing that was being carried out at Cambridge making circuits impractical, and the destination the instructor had planned to go (Duxford) to do them suddenly getting too busy, I was looking forward to today’s lesson. I did start to wonder if somebody had it in for me however as while checking the aircraft (G-UFCB – only the second time I’ve been in this one) I noticed that the nosewheel suspension mechanism had virtually no extension – fortunately there was time for the instructor to taxy the aircraft to the hangar where a couple of engineers opened up the cowling and reinflated the system.

I’d been warned last time that as I progressed in the lessons the instructor would be prompting me less and allowing me to make more mistakes (as long as they didn’t compromise safety obviously), and that was certainly the case this time. We got in 6 circuits, with one go around (I decided I was too high and too far along the runway to safely do a touch and go – the instructor said afterwards that it would probably have been OK given how long the Cambridge runway is, however I did the right thing in going around as I wasn’t sure).

One touch and go was a bit dodgy as I got confused with adjusting the trim and for some crazy reason looked down at it rather than just glancing down, meaning my primary focus went away from keeping us straight – I won’t be doing that again!

I did manage one landing where the instructor barely did anything to the controls at the point of the actual flare, though I think that was mainly as he’d helped me get it properly lined up during the approach – this is definitely my next milestone (making a circuit / landing with no control movements from the instructor), hopefully I’ll be there soon.

I was reassured that pretty much everything the instructor mentioned during the post flight briefing were things I was already aware I was getting wrong (as obviously while I don’t want to be getting it wrong at all, knowing I am and thus being able to work on it is far better than being ignorant!) – the things that I need to work on therefore are:

  • Maintaining 1000 feet in the circuit, I was often at around 1100, and sometimes 1200 – I think this is my old problem of keeping the nose too high as normally it was associated with me being a little slow as well
  • Maintaining 70 knots on base leg – I’ve been letting this fluctuate too much
  • Deciding when to turn on to final – I was nearly always turning too early, and thus ending up left of the centre line and having to try and correct
  • Airspeed on final – I’m still trying to do the instinctive thing of controlling rate of descent with attitude rather than with power, and thus my speed was starting to get a little low a few times. I’m going to try thinking “airspeed, runway” rather than “runway, airspeed” as I have been and see if that helps!
  • Rotating on a touch and go – I’m rotating a little late at the moment (around 60-65 knots rather than the 55 I’m supposed to be doing it at)

I think I’m alright on the checks and the radio calls now, though I do need to remember that my number one priority is always to fly the aircraft, whereas I think a few times I was starting to think ahead about the next radio call, and there was one moment I put a call in between the tower and another aircraft’s readback (I realised immediately as I started speaking, but decided as it was a short message (G-CB going around) to just carry on and get it said).

I have another lesson booked for tomorrow morning, however the forecast wind is not looking promising, so we’ll see what happens…