Weather again

Despite the weather starting to get very nice this week, sadly in Cambridge on Wednesday and Thursday (the days I had lessons booked) it decided that it would only do so in the afternoon, and leave things overcast at 200 feet or so in the mornings, thus no flying this week 🙁

I have however purchased a headset now (a relatively cheap one – might be too cheap but it seems comfortable form wearing it as a test, and even if it is then it could be useful for passengers in the future), so when I do finally get flying will get to give it a go – I’ve got 2 lessons a week booked for the next 3 weeks, so hopefully will get a fair number of them.

On to other topics – I’ve been watching with interest the Dragon commercial spacecraft going to the ISS – hopefully today we’ll see it berthed, and while not quite on the level of the moon landings, this is quite a big first in space flight…

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!

Straight and Level (1)

I checked the METAR when I got up this morning, and for the first time ever I saw CAVOK which was nice to see – the wind looked like it could be an issue, but it would depend on what it was doing by the time the lesson started.

I go to the aero club, and was briefed by my instructor (Anthony). He told me that as all the others were either in use or in maintenance we’d be using G-MEGS – this aircraft has a Garmin G1000 glass cockpit as opposed to traditional instruments, and I was hoping I’d get a chance to go up in it sooner or later to see what it was like.

The briefing explained what we were going to be trying to do (maintain a constant heading and altitude). Something that was pointed out that had never really occurred to me before is that there is no external (i.e. looking out the window) reference to determine what altitude you’re at or what rate you’re climbing/descending.

We also went through lookout (a very important part of flying), with a suggested scan pattern for how to look around properly. Next was the cycle of things to do while flying, which is Lookout (look around for other aircraft etc), Attitude (check the attitude is what is expected), Instruments (cross check the instruments to make sure we’re heading in the right direction and at the right altitude etc).

Finally we covered FREDA(L) checks – these are checks that should be done at certain points such as the top of the initial climb, and at regular intervals while flying. They are Fuel (check we have the expected amount remaining etc), Radios (check radios are on the right frequency and transponder has the right code set), Engine (check temperatures and pressures and that the mixture is set right), Direction (check compass and DI are aligned and that we’re going where we expect to), Altimeter (check it is set to the correct pressure setting), and Lights (this is only done at the top of the climb and on approach to the airfield – basically it is turning the landing light on and off).

Then it was time to go out to the aircraft – I was given a new checklist for the G1000 – nothing different outside, though obviously a few changes inside. The instructor left me to do the majority of the checks myself while he went through the paperwork indoors, which is nice to know I’m trusted to do them right (he did peer in to the fuel tanks when he came out, but that was about it). I noted a small fuel imbalance (i.e. there was more in one wing than the other), which wasn’t a problem but just something to be aware of.

Taxying is definitely getting more familiar now, I just need to avoid accidentally steering one way or the other when I brake (getting over instincts from driving a car really is quite difficult – I keep either trying to push the clutch or brake pedals when obviously they don’t exist)!

Once we got to the hold the power checks were fine, we got takeoff clearance right away (things were quiet it seemed), I taxyed us on to the runway for the first time, and my instructor took us up.

We did the FREDAL checks at the top of the climb, and we then went off to the area we’d be flying around in.

Anthony demonstrated the correct attitude, and showed me what it’s like when its out of balance, then it was over to me to try and maintain it.

I noticed that I was subconciously trying to judge altitude / vertical speed with reference to the clouds, which given they vary and are moving is really not a good idea!

I also found that getting the right level of correction was tricky – overcorrecting means that the next time through the scan its obviously gone the wrong way. I also found if I corrected for example direction, the next time through my altitude would be off – trying to do lots of things at once is quite tricky (demonstrated even more when I was asked to lean the mixture, and once done realised I’d started climbing a fair amount!).

The wind was a bit gusty, though on reflection this was probably a good thing as if it was calm then as long as I trimmed correctly it would basically fly itself, which would probaly have given me a false sense of security.

I did the FREDA checks a couple of times during the flight, which were fine –  at one point Anthony asked me where Cambridge was – without cheating and looking at the nice big moving map I had no idea – definitely going to have to work on that!

I turned us back towards the airfield, made the radio call to say we had the field in sight (totally forgetting to say we had information Charlie in the process) and was told to change over to the tower frequency.

I made the call to tower asking for a crosswind join, the reply was fairly long though and I wasn’t quite sure how to respond, so the instructor did it. He pointed out that they’d only asked us to report on final, which was unusual (normally it would be earlier) and suggested that the controller wasn’t expecting any other traffic for a while.

I made the turn on to the downwind leg, and then the instructor took over for the landing.

There was a bit of a crosswind coming down to land, and it was a little gusty so as last time it was done a little fast – we did have a little bounce on landing, but it wasn’t too bad.

Once off the runway I did the post landing checks, and taxyed us back to park. It was quite tricky to see where to position to park (there are points in the ground to attach the tie downs to which prevent the aircraft from being rocked by the wind), but I got it pretty well lined up in the end which was good.

On reflection, I think I prefer the normal cockpit to the glass one – it’s much easier to look at a moving needle on a dial and understand both the current value and the rate of change versus a digital readout and moving ‘tape’ behind – then again apparently glass cockpits are becoming the standard on new aircraft…

Next week assuming the weather cooperates it will be Straight and Level 2, which is the same thing but with different airspeeds, so yet another thing to deal with – should be fun!

Effects of Controls (2)

Today both the weather and my health (I developed a cold over the weekend which meant I cancelled the lesson I had booked for yesterday as I wouldn’t have been fit for it) came together and I finally got another lesson.

When I got to the airport I wasn’t sure if the lesson was going to happen as while the cloud level was OK, the wind was a bit gusty, however in the end my instructor (Anthony) decided it was good enough.

After the (slightly reduced as it had been checked for the previous lesson but not flown) pre-flight checks, we got in to G-SHWK, I started the engine (I did initially get this slightly wrong trying to put the mixture rich before it had caught), did the pre-taxi checks, made the radio call for taxi clearance, and off we went to the hold.

Taxying is definitely getting more familiar, though I did notice I was close to riding the brakes a few times which is a no-no (I need to remember that I use my toes to slow down and my heels to steer – overcoming instincts from a car which says to use your toes on the pedals only is quite hard). I did find it slightly more tricky taxying with the stronger wind – I need to revise what I’m supposed to do with the ailerons in this situation I think.

After the power checks, I took us to the hold, and radioed ready for departure. Unfortunately we had a bit of a delay as there was a small jet doing some circuits, and because of wake turbulence we had to wait for a short time after it had landed before we were cleared. Fortunately ATC was able to fit us in before another light aircraft that was coming in on a long final or we’d have had an even longer delay!

Once we’d climbed up, Anthony handed over control to me, and asked me to hold the datum attitude (this was harder than it has been previously due to the occasional gust of wind trying to blow us around). He pointed out I had a tendency to be a bit rolled to the right (apparently this is quite common, but if I can stop doing it at this stage in my training it will make things easier later on) – I think the reason for this is due to the layout of the instrument panel and the fact I sit on the left it’s more obvious when you’re rolled left than right, so I’m perhaps over correcting.

We then went through the main part of the lesson, which was about the effects of power (i.e. different amounts of throttle), flaps, and how to lean the mixture. Things were quite bumpy at times, but I didn’t feel worried at any point or start to feel sick or anything which is good to know.

Once we’d covered everything, we turned back towards the airfield – I noticed we seemed to be making rather slow progress getting there despite a normal indicated airspeed, and this was a good example of how the indicated speed is affected by the wind and can be vastly different to the ground speed.

Anthony took over to take us in to the circuit once we reached the field and did a crosswind join. The downwind leg of the circuit went rather quickly (due to the wind now being behind us!), and we were informed of some traffic on final and asked to report when it was in sight.

When we turned on to final, we could see the traffic ahead touching down, and were advised by ATC to expect a late clearance. Anthony expected it to be fine given the wind meant it would be quite a while before we got to the runway, however he then spotted the traffic ahead had gone past the taxiway he was expecting it to turn off at, which meant it would have to turn round and backtrack along the runway.

ATC asked us if we could change to the parallel grass runway, which Anthony agreed to as were far enough out (if we’d been too close then we would have had to do a go around and another circuit).

Anthony explained he would be landing with slightly higher airspeed than normal, as otherwise there was a small risk that if the wind suddenly dropped, we would lose a lot of airspeed quite quickly, which made sense. Likewise once we had touched down he immediately raised the flaps to avoid a strong gust lifting us up into the air again.

This was my first experience of landing on a grass runway (it’s quite nice that Cambridge has both grass and tarmac) – it was a bit bumpy, but apparently it can be more forgiving of heavier landings (though today’s was fine).

We taxyed back (parking outside the hangar rather than on the grass as the aircraft would need some more fuel before the next lesson – I was paranoid about hitting the wing in to the hangar, but it was all fine), shut down and that was that – total time in my logbook is now 2 hours 45 minutes.

I managed to book another lesson for first thing tomorrow morning as they had a space, so if the weather’s alright I’ll be doing Straight and Level (1). I also picked up the first theory textbook (Air Law), so I need to start studying this when time allows.


Just a quick update to say that unfortunately all 3 flying lessons I’ve had booked this week have been cancelled due to bad weather, which after last weeks was also cancelled is starting to get really frustrating 🙁 – I suppose it could be worse though, at least I am learning during the week when I can normally managed to book more than one lesson a week – if I was trying to do so at the weekend I’d have no chance.

I’ve got two booked in next week anyway, so hopefully things will improve by then!


No flying this week as the lesson I had booked was cancelled due to bad weather, but I did get one thing out the way – my CAA medical.

I don’t actually need to have one of these until I fly solo (which won’t be for another 2 or 3 months at least), but I wanted to get it out the way as if there were any problems I didn’t want to find out after having paid for lots of lessons etc.

The best appointment I could get was for 8am in the morning – the medical has to be done by a CAA Approved Medical Examiner (AME), and the nearest one to me was in Royston, as such a nice early start was required. Fortunately the directions I’d been given over the phone were nice and clear, so I had no trouble finding the place.

Initially it was just a matter of confirming basic details (as an aside the CAA hosts an application that the AMEs put the details in to directly, using a Citrix product to provide access (I used to work for Citrix and still do the odd bit of contract work for them, though not on this product), which my AME was quite critical of – I did notice however they were using a very old version so I suspect that’s where a lot of the problems were coming from!) and filling out a questionnaire that asked me if I had any known medical conditions etc – all nice and simple so far.

After this came the vision tests – firstly uncorrected (i.e. without my glasses), both near and distance vision – this was the bit I was most concerned about as while I knew my sight was within the limits having checked my prescription in advance, I have an astigmatism so my uncorrected near vision isn’t as good as it could be – fortunately these were fine. Then on to the test with correction which was no problem at all (I could read the bottom line on the chart which is one level greater than the standard required). The final sight related test was to check for colour blindness using an Ishihara test – this can be a problem with flying (particularly at night) as aircraft have red and green lights on the sides which can give you a clue as to whether it is coming towards you or going away from you etc – I’m not colour blind however so these were fine.

Next I was asked to stand on some scales, and then against the wall so my height could be measured. Then came the least glamorous part, I had to go in to the bathroom and provide a urine sample (fortunately I’d been told this in advance so made sure to attend with a full bladder) – this was fine and neither of the tests (which I think were to check sugar content and for the presence of any blood) revealed any problems – the next thing therefore was a basic physical exam – for this the AME checked my pulse, blood pressure, and listened to my breathing etc – again all fine.

Then came the ECG – I’ve never had one of these before, so it was an interesting experience – basically 10 probes are attached to specific areas of the body (via little sticky pads), which are hooked up to a machine that then analyses how your heart is working. The machine analyses the result and produces an interpretation, which in my case was “Sinus rhythm with sinus arrhythmia. Normal ECG” – the sinus arrhythmia bit just means that the timing between beats of my heart varies slightly with my breathing, and is quite typical in younger people (see wikipedia for more info) – I was given a copy to keep which I’ve put a scan of below:


Finally was a test for anaemia – this involves pricking my finger to get a tiny bit of blood, which then goes in to a machine that compares it to an internal standard to check the haemoglobin content. Mine was right in the middle of the range which is always good to hear. After that, the AME printed off the certificate (I wasn’t expecting to get it there and then, I’d assumed the CAA would send it out), and explained the limitations / validity to me.

The certificate is valid for 5 years, and if I’m still flying after 5 years then the renewal should be much simpler as I shouldn’t need another ECG until I’m 40 – because I need glasses there is a limitation that I “Shall wear corrective lenses & carry a spare set of spectacles” – I must sort out a spare set as I’m currently using the one I had after my main glasses broke!

Anyway, at least that’s out the way (and nice to know a doctor thinks I’m not likely to drop dead in the next 5 years at least!) – I’ve got two lessons booked next week so hopefully there will be some better weather and I’ll get up in the air again!

Effects of Controls (1)

I’d originally booked two lessons this week on Wednesday and Thursday – unfortunately due to poor weather neither of them happened. Fortunately there was a space for this morning, such that with a bit of rearrangement of my day I could fit it in, and fortunately the weather was good enough…

I’d already had the ground briefing on Wednesday, so after some initial confusion as to which aircraft we would be using (the one I was initially holding the keys for wasn’t there – it had been taken for maintenance), we went out and I started the checks on G-HERC.

The external checks seemed to go OK – I needed a few reminders about things, but nothing major which was good. I did spot that whoever flew it last yesterday had forgotten to put the control lock on (this locks the ailerons and elevator so they can’t get blown about in the wind). We had a bit of trouble with the door to the luggage compartment not wanting to close, but Catherine (my instructor) sorted that out.

The internal checks I was very happy with – I didn’t really struggle to locate anything etc (clearly studying the picture of the cockpit I’d been given after my last lesson paid off). Unlike the ground lesson when Catherine did it, I started the engine this time – apparently I did everything right (I didn’t hold the starter too long or anything), which was good.

I managed the radio call to get taxy clearance without making a mistake, though apparently I was perhaps talking a little too quickly  – I know from when I’ve done public speaking in the past that I tend do that when I’m nervous – hopefully over time this will sort itself out (apparently this is the opposite of most people who are rather slow and speed up!).

My taxying was OK – not the smoothest in the world but then it is only my second time doing it. We got to the hold (a point prior to entering the runway that ATC clear you up to), at which point I did the power checks (these are to make sure that everything is behaving correctly with the engine, as this is obviously something you want to discover before attempting to takeoff), and then made the call to get departure clearance. This was given straight away (the airport wasn’t that busy which was nice), so onto the runway we went.

Catherine did the take-off and took us out to the area we’d be doing the lesson in.

We went through the primary effects of the controls, then the secondary effects, including a demonstration of the start of a spiral dive (this is where the aircraft gets in to a state where it’s yawing heavily in one direction, which causes it to roll in that direction, which causes it to yaw further etc), and recovery from it.

Unfortunately there wasn’t a visible horizon due to the cloud cover and general haze etc, so we didn’t spend any time practising holding a datum attitude as this would have been pretty much impossible.

Next was practising with the trim (this is a way of setting things up so you aren’t continually having to apply forward or backward pressure on the yoke, i.e. so you can let go of the controls and the aircraft doesn’t start climbing or descending) – the principles of this made sense, and I found getting a coarse trim relatively straightforward (fine trimming is going to be quite difficult though I suspect).

All too soon it was time to head back – as we came in towards the airfield Catherine talked me through what she was doing as we did an overhead join, then followed the circuit round to land.

After landing, I took us off the runway and did the post landing checks, then took us back to park. Lining up with the tie down holes etc is quite tricky, but with Catherine’s guidance I managed it. After that, it was just a case of shutting down the engine and doing the post shutdown checks.

All done, it was just a case of filling out my logbook (which now shows a nice 2 hours flying time), and paying the bill.

Next lesson will be effects of control part 2, which covers a few other bits and pieces such as the effect of airspeed and propeller slipstream etc – this is booked in for next Wednesday (weather permitting), as is my CAA medical (which is basically to check that I’m not going to drop dead at the controls, and necessary before I can fly solo – while this won’t be for quite a while I want to get it out the way as there’s no point paying for lots of lessons only to find out I can’t get the medical!).

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.

Trial Lesson

Yesterday I had a trial flying lesson with Cambridge Aero Club at Cambridge Airport. I’d decided to do this before signing up for the course in case I discovered I was petrified once in the air etc (while I had been up in a light aircraft before, I was about 14 or 15 at the time as it was in the CCF at school).

I had a short briefing with my instructor (Steve), who asked me why I was doing the lesson, and then told me what we were going to be doing, and roughly where we would be going etc. He also demonstrated with a little model what all the flight controls do (though having done lots of reading about this I was already familiar with it).

We then went out to the aircraft, a Cessna 172 (G-UFCB) – Steve had already done the pre flight checks so he showed me how to get in (the first thing I noticed was quite how cramped the cabin felt versus my memory of my other flight  – I guess I’ve got a lot bigger in the last 11-12 years!), then went through some safety information about how to evacuate in an emergency (needless to say I hope never to have to experience this).

Steve then went through the pre startup checks, getting the engine going etc. He copied down the ATIS information (an automated radio message with details about current wind conditions, altimeter settings etc), and then radioed for taxi clearance.

We had to take a slightly longer route than normal to the runway, as there was a Hercules doing some testing near to the normal route (Cambridge airport is the base of Marshalls, who do a lot of maintenance work for both commercial and military aircraft). We ended up in a queue of aero club aircraft (it seems their entire fleet of 172s was going out!) heading down to the hold.

At the hold, we waited for the aircraft in front to do its power checks (making sure the engine is working properly and the temperatures and pressures are all normal), then it got clearance, taxiied on to the runway and off it went. We then did our power checks, got our clearance and we went on runway 05.

I was impressed with quite how quickly we left the ground – while the main runway at Cambridge is very long to accommodate the aircraft they perform maintenance for, we seemed to use virtually none of it before we rotated and were in the air.

G-UFCB at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) 2007 at RAF Fairford, England.

After we’d climbed out and got out of the Cambridge ATZ, Steve levelled off, and asked me to take control and try and maintain the ‘picture’ (how the horizon looks relative to the nose). I was surprised by quite how much the aircraft ‘wobbled’ due to turbulence and little bits of wind etc, and also by how gentle you had to be on the controls to avoid overcorrecting these.

There were a few things where Steve asked me to follow him through by lightly holding the controls – I found this quite tricky as I was paranoid about holding them too hard and accidentally putting an input in, but holding them very softly due to the vibration my hands were moving around a lot – going to have to get used to doing this I think.

The lesson continued with Steve managing the throttle and asking me to do some climbs, descents, and left and right banked turns. He also demonstrated how you need to ‘plan ahead’ when to roll out on a turn, by asking me to turn towards a lake, and level off when I thought we were heading towards it – of course we ended up pointing significantly to the left of it!

Despite it being an hours lesson, all too soon we were heading back towards the airport – coming in over Cambridge (above 2000 feet due to noise abatement procedures) was great – I didn’t manage to see my house, but I did recognise a few bits and pieces once I’d matched the overhead view of the roads to work out where we were. As we turned on to final (heading directly for the runway) I noticed quite how close the station was to the airport from the air (it’s a shame it takes so long to get between them on the ground!).

The landing was uneventful, and we then taxied back to the parking area, shut down and went for a brief post flight debriefing, at which point Steve told me I had been doing what almost everybody does at first, which is holding the nose a little too high when trying to keep it level, such that we climbed slightly (when it’s actually level instinct was telling me we must be descending), but other than that I did very well, which is always nice to hear.

Overall I had a great time, and booked my first ‘proper’ lesson (though apparently this hour will count towards the minimum 45 I need for a PPL which is good) for the following week – it’s going to be a ground lesson (learning how to taxi etc), so no flying which is a shame, however clearly an important aspect to learn none the less!

Things to remember from this flight:

  • Try to avoid bringing the nose too high when flying level
  • When taxiing on grass, you need to apply back pressure to try and reduce the pressure on the wheels
  • When going between hard and soft surfaces (e.g. a grass taxiway to a tarmac one), always do so at an angle so one wheel moves over at a time


Well, what to write on my first blog post I wonder, I suppose an introduction to what this blog will be about is probably a good start…

The primary reason I’m starting this is I’ve recently decided to learn how to fly and get a Private Pilot’s Licence (PPL), and having read a few blogs from people who’ve been through this process already, I decided it would be good to make a record of my experiences as well, both to try and help me to remember what I’ve learnt in each lesson, and in case they’re useful to anybody else.

I’ll also I suspect end up putting the odd rant or rave about some other topic that interests me, in particular I imagine a number of compsci ish topics will come up, plus perhaps things relating to technical theatre, which is another hobby of mine.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy reading, and do feel free to comment!

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