Forgive me, I have been quiet and not posted much in the way of content these last couple of weeks. I have had a couple of hours in the air both with Charlotte and Dan but not really visiting anything new just yet I’ve been “in the circuit” which most pilots will probably tell you is the most tedious and soul destroying maneuver but quite honestly I love it. You stuff all of the most essential bits of a flight into one short zip around the airfield, touch down (hopefully nice and smoothly) and off again… its great!
For my own refresher purposes, heres a verbal description (bear with me) of a circuit:
Start the aircraft according to the checklists. Request airfield information and inform ATC (Or Air/Ground radio) of your intentions. Complete the checklists and taxi towards the intended runway. Carry out power-checks, complete final checklist and taxi towards the runway holding area. A good look out and call for departure. When cleared, line up. brakes on, full power, temps and pressures green, release the brakes heels on the floor steering with the rudder and nose wheel straight line down the runway. Airspeed comes alive around 45kts and at 55 the aircraft wants to fly. Nudge it into the air with gentil back pressure and climb at 70kts with cowling nicely lined up on the horizon. Above 200ft and with a steady rate of climb raise the flaps in stages, compensating for the slight droop and trim. (easy so far) 500ft a good look out and a 15 degree angle of bank onto (whatever bearing you need for the wind – lets say we’re taking off on 240 with a LH circuit in a light wind) In this case we would turn onto 150 and climb for 800ft (avoiding overflying the cathedral) level off, power to 60% in the circuit and trim. When the tail is in-lin with the extended runway line, we can take a 30 degree turn onto downwind on a heading of 060 (parallel with the runway) we should have the wind behind which is going to increase speed. Call downwind. now for the Downwind checks – Brakes Off and free, Undercarriage is down and locked, Master Switch is ON. Mixtures would be rich, Magneto’s On and Operating. Propellor Pitch is set, Flaps are Clean, Instruments are reading as they should be (QNF set on the Altimeter? DI matching compass?) Landing light is on, Temps and pressures are green, Carburetor heat would be on, Hatches and Harnesses Secure. Now, its probably about time to have a look over your left shoulder to check if the runway threshold is at 45 degrees to the wing/tail square, then a 30 degree turn onto Base. Power to 20% and when in the white arc or below for the airspeed, engage 2 stages of flaps. Drop the nose and aim for 75kts and 700ft turn in when appropriate and make the final call. Judge the wind speed and cross wind based on the information from the radio aim for a smooth descent and an airspeed of 65kts over the threshold. If its a bit high and a bit quick,the third stage of flaps could be added. Set the airspeed with the pitch and the height with power. Anticipate a bit of a sink, so perhaps a poke of power is needed to get over the threshold at a good 65kts power off and into the landing attitude as the ground pops up around your ears, around 10ft or just about from the ground… hopefully this should result in a nice smooth and soft landing.
So thats a circuit and even writing it I was holding my breath… its such a thrill to do it, a real buzz… but with every buzz there is a buzz kill and for me, that is exams. I have to start taking them. It’s unavoidable if I am going to progress… so exam 1 is iminent.
Air Law. It is about the most boring and needlessly complicated thing I have ever had to do, there’s acronyms that don’t tally with what they mean, like CTR (Control Zone) which makes more sense in the military world which is the same thing but is known as a CTZ (that make sense) there’s ambiguous complex answers to simple solutions… like, when a small aircraft takes off after a large aircraft what is the minimum wait time… well, if the large aircraft used all the runway its 3min but if not, its 2…. so why not just say 3 for both situations? Im certainly going to wait for another 60 seconds after Jumbo has smashed a hole in the air. Anyway… it would seem that Air Law, like in most life situations is written by bureaucrats who just love to complicate things to make sure that they have a purpose.
I have rinsed through and pretty much learned by heart the Pooleys Air Pilots Manual Exam prep book and the questions at the end of chapters in the textbook.I have also been using the PPLCruiser website www.pplcruiser.co.uk (tell them you heard about it here) which for a small fee you have access to quite a comprehensive question bank. Word of advice though, do it lots. Over and Over and then, do it some more as the question rotation is a bit random. Sometimes you’ll get 100% 3 or 4 times in a row, then suddenly it will spit out some crazy questions you’ve never encountered and you’ll be back to 60% again.
I’m nervous as I may try to take the exam tomorrow, but… I don’t want to fail (obviously) and it would be embarrassing to be so close to flying solo to stumble at this little hurdle. I’ll be honest, its been 22 years since I last took an exam… and despite getting rather good results, I hated study, I couldn’t abide it. Anything to get out of doing it. I didn’t do a single bit of revision for any of them… this though… different kettle of fish, I WANT to do this, which makes it even more difficult.