This flying lark

While I’ve always found it fun, I think my ability is now getting sufficient to let me really enjoy this flying lark, and finish a lesson wanting more rather than being totally exhausted. I think this has been helped by (and I hope this doesn’t jinx it) the fact I’ve been really lucky with the weather recently – I got all my lessons last week (albeit one I struggled with due to a crosswind), today’s, and the forecast looks alright for tomorrow’s ?

On Friday we did a few dual circuits, then I did 4 or 5 solo. While solo I had to do one go around as the aircraft ahead hadn’t vacated the runway, and when I was coming in for the last time to land, I was told to expect late landing clearance (the aircraft ahead of me was also landing so would have to vacate), and they did mean late – I think I got clearance when I was about 20 feet above the runway!

I felt after that lesson that I was getting a lot more confidence when solo – I’m starting to find time to enjoy the odd glance out at the view around while on downwind, and generally not feeling like I’m going to drop out the sky at any moment, which I think is being reflected in landings generally starting to improve (or at least get more consistent).

The weather conditions were such that solo would be borderline, so we just did some dual circuits instead. We intended to try a crosswind landing on one of the grass runways (thats orientated 28/10 vs the 23/05 main runway) to try and sort out my technique, however once we got up there the wind had got such that it would be beyond limits.

The radio was the busiest I’ve ever heard it so far (not helped by I think two aircraft during the course of the lesson that had issues with their radio making them barely readable), and getting a word in edgeways was at times quite a challenge, but I managed it, and other than on the last circuit mistakenly calling final for touch and go rather than to land, I didn’t make any mistakes (there was one person at one point who transmitted ‘erm, erm, …, <readback of instructions>’!). I don’t know how the controllers deal with it though – I’m only having to worry about instructions sent to me, and where any aircraft that are ahead of me in the circuit are, the controller has to juggle all kinds of things and ensure correct separation etc.

On final on one of the circuits, there was a 737 (which I later found out was carrying racehorses as they were being unloaded when I was taxying back – it was an interesting sight) behind us on the ILS approach – I found it quite amusing hearing them be told they were “#2 to the Cessna on short final”. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see it land from above as it happened while I was climbing back out – we did have to do a couple of orbits though as it needed to backtrack the runway to get to the right taxiway (unlike a light aircraft a 737 can’t use a grass one!).

While I would have liked to have done a bit of solo, all in all I was very happy with the lesson – I coped with a wind that was the strongest I’ve flown circuits in (although admittedly it was pretty much straight down the runway which makes things easier), I had a couple of really nice landings (where you couldn’t actually feel the touchdown), and other than going around on the first one as I flared too early and ballooned, the others weren’t bad.

The biggest thing I realised during the lesson was that a lot more of it was becoming ‘automatic’ – applying my human factors knowledge I know this is because I’m now building up a muscle memory and thus not having to conciously think about how to do things, just deciding I want to do them, but it’s still nice to feel it in practise. I was also finding I was able to keep my head looking out a lot more, with just the odd glance at the instruments as a double check, rather than trying to fly by them (which the instructor (who I’ve not flown with before) praised me on, together with my general situational awareness, telling me that most people at a similar stage would be staring at the instruments etc). The only thing the instructor mentioned was that I should try and make a visual check of the flaps when I put them down / take them up just in case there was a problem and they hadn’t properly deployed.

Hopefully I can get some more solo time tomorrow – I’d like to try and do a solo flapless landing as I’ve not done that yet…