Glide approaches and more solo

I had a lesson booked for Wednesday – the weather wasn’t suitable for any more solo work (it was borderline in terms of the club’s limits, but given I’d only been solo once before it would have been a bad idea as I doubt I’d have been able to handle it!), so instead the instructor decided we’d do some glide approaches.

For these, we’d go up to 1500′ instead of the usual circuit height of 1000′, and then at a suitable point on the downwind leg pull the throttle, and then from there try to glide in to the runway without using any power. While there’s one less thing to think about as you clearly can’t control your rate of descent with power any more, it does make deciding when to turn to base and final, and when to take the various stages of flaps very important.

We did one normal circuit first (which ended with a go around as I failed to take all the power off before trying to flare – something that wasn’t going to be a problem for the glide approaches!), and then came the first glide. For this the instructor talked me through a lot of it (when to go for flaps etc), and while I was expecting the first one to result in a go around, in fact it ended up as a quite nice landing. We did a few more, starting at various different points on downwind due to traffic – they all seemed to go OK (I made the runway etc), and I realised they should help my normal landings quite considerably as they give me a much better idea of what the gliding performance is like etc.

The last one went a little wrong – as we got to the runway I became preoccupied with looking at it, and didn’t pay enough attention to my airspeed. In doing so I think I tried to ‘stretch’ the glide by pulling back, which is a) a bad thing to do as it causes airspeed to potentially get dangerously low, and b) actually has the opposite effect as it will tend to make you land even shorter (unfortunately it’s quite a hard instinct to get over). The result was a rather hard touchdown (and the instructor saying afterwards that if the speed had got any lower she would have told me to go around for safety).

If I ignored the last one however, I was in general quite happy with them – I was expecting a glide approach to be significantly more difficult, and while I imagine if I didn’t have an instructor sitting next to me providing useful prompts it would be quite a challenge, it still went better than I expected. The only thing that was identified during the lesson is for some reason I was subconciously applying left rudder when I didn’t need to, causing us to be out of balance.

I had another lesson booked today (Thursday) – the forecast looked a little bit questionable this morning, but by the time I got to the aero club it was looking a bit better. The aim for the lesson was going to be to do some dual circuits, and then if the weather held out it would be followed by 3 solo stop and gos – the idea with these is unlike a touch and go where you land, then apply full power and take off all in one go, you instead land, then either backtrack up the runway or taxi round (depending on what ATC allows), and take off again.

The 3 circuits with the instructor went pretty well (I was complemented on flying some very nice stable approaches), and then it was time for him to get out, and I was on my own again. The first one had a few interesting bits while in the circuit – due to an aircraft inbound on the ILS approach I was asked to orbit (make a 360 degree turn) for spacing, and then after that once I was visual with the other aircraft I decided to extend downwind a little bit to ensure sufficient spacing. The landing went nicely (perhaps a little flat, but not too much so), and taxying round the airfield was easy enough.

The second solo circuit went fine, right up until the touchdown – as with my very first solo I thought I’d bounced, and so went around (although the instructor (who was in the tower again) thought it had been fine – it may have been a little bounce but not one that I needed to go around from). I did another reasonable circuit, and then this time had a fairly significant balloon when I flared, so I went around again – at this point I was starting to get a little concerned, but it was third time lucky and I landed safely (not the best landing I’ve ever done, but not the worst either). As I’d done an extra two go arounds there wasn’t really time to do the third stop and go, so I was advised by my instructor (via ATC) to return to the parking area.

At this point I noticed the fuel was starting to get a little low (not in any way dangerously for me, but not sufficient for the next lesson), so I requested fuel to the tower, who advised my instructor would come down and meet me. Once he appeared, we taxyed round, and then had to perform a relatively tight turn and park with one wing quite close to a hangar for the refueler (this was why the instructor came to meet me, as I don’t know if my taxying skills would have been up to that alone!).

Anyway, another 40 minutes solo time into my logbook – I think I need to do 2.5 hours before we start moving on to other things, so I’m making good progress. Next time apparently will be dual followed by 3 solo touch and gos (weather permitting of course) – hopefully this will be tomorrow morning, although the forecast is looking like there might be a fairly strong wind at an unfavourable angle.

One thing I did realise during this lesson was an explanation for my left rudder problem – I realised I was attempting to line the side of the cowling I could see up with the runway, when in fact if I’m flying straight that should be curving off to the right. I tried to correct whenever I noticed I was doing this – hopefully I’ll soon be able to convince my brain to forget that mental picture or it will start to make things difficult!