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About this blog

The life of a student pilot

Entries in this blog


Closing the log book

Over the last couple of weeks I have had a couple of brief, and a few very long, conversations with two ex-private pilots (one of which is also an ex-LAME) and a couple of ex-RAAF pilots (one of which was a test pilot and is still an active GA pilot). Basically, I have had a couple of concerns in regards to my flying ...

- Where is the GA industry going? With the increasing price of fuel (which will get worse with the carbon tax), the increasing age of the fleet and the continual squeeze on small airfields for development or reduced costs, will there be a GA industry in 10 years. More importantly, will there be a private GA industry whereby a private pilot can hire a plane for a weekend and fly somewhere. The general concencous was that it's not going to get any better than it is now.

- What sort of pilot do I want to be? I will never be a commercial pilot. I am in my early 40's and have way too many financial responsibilities to just give it all up and start again. Given what a low hours GA pilot is paid now-a-days I would do worse than halving my current salary, probably getting close to quartering it. I also don't believe it is practical anymore to fly for holidays. The weather can play havoc with your plans, you have no car at the other end and more than a day aircraft hire without a large amount of flying is not really an option anymore (i.e. you can hire if you want to fly all around the country, but not if you want to go see your parents for a week). Add to that the fact that my wife suffers rhuematoid arthritis and would find it difficult getting into and out of an aircraft, let alone walking to and from one across an airfield and fly really isn't going to be a mode of transport for us. So, I will only ever be flying for fun. The problem here, and this was the subject of my conversation with the ex-RAAF test pilot, is that I don't believe you can safely fly once every couple of months. A low hours pilot must fly regularly (the test pilot reckons fortnightly at least) to keep their hand in. I don't want to be a dangerous, low hours, once-in-a-while pilot.

So, given those two facts, my chats with the above people and a whole lot of soul searching I am going to stop flying. It's a damn hard thing for me to do as I feel like I never finished my licence and I hate to leave things unfinished, plus I am very saddened at not having the feel of a plane at my control again, but I just can't justify the money anymore for some fun and I can't justify the danger level I believe flying irregularly would create.

All is not lost though as I have recently found my interest in fishing again, as some of you may have noticed. I have joined the local fishing club and been along to an outing or two with them and am thoroughly enjoying myself. Fishing is certainly an acitivity where it is more easy to say "hey, let's go fishing this afternooon" than flying is to say "hey, let's go flying". I dare say it is more social too, as I have certainly met a lot more like minded blokes! I did however have to break the news to my wife that I need to buy a four wheel drive as the family camry is starting to suffer under some of the places I want to take it. She was all for it saying she'd feel better with me fishing than flying (I always knew it scared her a bit).

I am now in a strange state of being a little disappointed but confident that I have made the right decision. So, if you have made it this far into my little ramble, thank you for listening.


At 1pm today the sky was completely cloudless, it was about 17 degrees and there was not a breath of wind as I checked out the Piper Warrior I would be flying. I have a new instructor too, an ex-Brindabella instructor named Peter, who is working in conjunction with Goulburn Aviation to establish a new school here in Canberra. Let me start by saying that the Warrior is a really nice plane to fly. I really enjoyed it. Especially seeing as this one has a brand new engine. Today was actually the first day Peter had ever flown it too as the Canberra Aero club has only recently picked it up.

Anyways ... we flew out to the Barton training ground with the intention of me getting the feel for flying again. On the way out we had to dodge a fast moving, silver painted thing that was on a reciprocal heading. ATC had it flying all over the sky by changing the runway they were setting it up on but I eventually found it about 1000 foot over our head and crossing us left to right. Once it had gone by we climbed to 6000 feet, from our 4000, and got down to work. First up I did a left and right 30° turn, then upped the anty with two 45° steep turns, one in each direction. That is all that is officially required but Peter asked if I wanted to try 60°. I did, and they went fairly well given I haven't flown in 6 months. A 60° steep turn requires you pull 2g when it's done properly.

After the steep turns I put the plane through 2 clean stalls and 2 dirty stalls before it was time to head back to the airfield. Once back we did 2 circuits after the initial touch and go, so 3 landings in all. By this time the afternoon breeze had come up and there was a bit of a variable crosswind that made me work a bit but I was very happy with my landings. They were so much smoother than I normally manage. I don't know why.

That was it really. Peter reckons my flying was quite reasonable given I haven't flown for 6 months. We talked about things for a while afterwards, mostly that flying is all about attitude (the plane's this time, not mine). I do need to brush up on my checklist acronyms though as they have gotten a bit rusty. The next session will be my long awaited first navigation exercise. I am seriously looking forward to that one!


Well, after losing a lot of money with the support contract restructure I have now convinced the company that I am worth a considerable amount more money each year (actually, they offered it to me without much coaxing from me). I also have a 'senior' in front of my title now too, which I think means people are noticing my grey hairs.

In any case, with the added money, and the go-ahead from the wife, I am now talking with the person I mentioned last post about resuming my training. I will probably begin with yet another refresher as it will be yet another new aircraft (a Cherokee this time) before finally moving on to my navs. Oh, and the instructor is most likely going to be Michael, the same one I flew with at Moruya. The guy will start to feel like I'm following hime around soon!


Just my luck!

A new flying school has opened here in Canberra! Goulburn Aviation, a company I didn't even know existed, has done a deal with the local aero club to open a base of operations out of YSCB. It is being managed by one of the ex-Brindabella instructors who says he didn't even know they existed until well after Brindabella closed down their flying school.

Anyways, I got in touch with them and met up with the instructor on a Sunday afternoon to go over the flight plan for my very first navigation exercise. The plan was for a flight to Cowra and back again via Yass township the following morning. That's a flight of just under an hour in each direction. Monday dawned an absolute classic Canberra pea soup'er of morning. I got in touch with Peter (the instructor) and he said to sit tight. I watched the CAVOK on the NAIPS forecast slowly receed in to the afternoon and we eventually abandoned the plan when clear skies passed 2pm.

So, Tuesday morning I return to work only to find that the restructuring and rescoping of the lucrative support contract that pays for my flying will reduce my overall salary by something in the order of $15,000 a year. That means that I can't afford to fly anymore. At least, not until I finish putting my children through school which should be in about 2.5 years time.

So ... I guess this will be the last entry for a while. I'm doing my best not to look up and sigh whenever I hear a light aircraft winging over head. There have been more of them now that there's a flying school here again too.


Lesson 34: More Circuits

I promise not to waffle so much this time around!

Saturday's weather was clear with a good strength sea breeze blowing by the time I arrived at Moruya. It was pretty much right down the 05 runway though so was fairly easy to deal with, crosswing wise. However, when you're using 05 you start your final turn pretty much above a small hill then cross the river, then some trees before the boundary fence and then land. Those trees and the river tend to set up a bit of mechanical turbulence that can see your ASI go from a nice steady 70 knots to 60 knots very quickly. It can also bounce you about a bit and remind you that you can't let your feet go to sleep on the rudder pedals.

Regardless, the day was pretty uneventful with about 9 circuits being accomplished in an hour of flight. I did have to contend with an RA Gazelle in the circuit which was about 30 knots slower than us along with a few other aircraft departing on runway 36 while we were on downwind (and therefore directly above them as they climbed below us). I learnt two very important lessons though ...

1) Having the carbi-heat on a quadrant lever similar to the throttle and mixture is a bad idea. It does have a different shape and is smaller than the other two but imagine my surprise when I shut off the mixture as I turned base rather than turn on carbi-heat! A splutter of the engine, a "yikes" and a quick push of the mixture back to full rich and things were purring again. It scared me and the instructor though! Michael was pretty good about it though saying that every student does it at least once.

2) Don't cut the throttle too quick in the flare when in a Sundowner. You loose elevator authority and sink like a stone! That resulted in quite a bang on the deck. Not too rough but it quickened the heart rate for a moment.

Michael picked up on the bugbear of my flight training though. I seem to have the inability to pull back enough during the flare and almost always land too flat. We agreed it was something to work on in the morning. I then spent the rest of the afternoon fishing off the rock wall sticking out in to the ocean beside the airfield :)

Day two started with rain but cleared up by 9:30 so we set off for more of the same. I also did my first CTAF radio work. Because the morning held a very light southerly runway 18 was in use so I got to taxi along 05 then backtrack almost the full length of 18. This runway seems so long after using 05 for the last three flights! First up I did four normal approaches and said aloud each time "back, back, back" while in the flare. I read some advice in the latest Australian Flying magazine that said that saying things to yourself out loud may scare you passengers but is the best way of actually making yourself do something. It's something to do with the pyschology of actually hearing a voice tell you what to do. It seemed to work too. Today's landings were much better.

Getting towards the end of our time allotment Michael cut the throttle to idle just as I was about to start my base turn and said "lets see if you can get home with no engine.". The Sundowner has a best glide speed 10 knots faster than the C172, being 75 knots. It drops fast though at about 700 foot a minute. Even so, I had to pull full flaps to loose enough altitude to touch down a 1/3 of the way down the runway. It was also one of my nicest landings of the day! on what I thought would be the last circuit Michael decided to cut throttle again, this time just after the downwind turn. He said "what would you do now?". We were out to sea just off Toragy point (look at google to get your bearings). I said "head straight for runway 23!" to which he said "let's do it then". Again I set up the glide and was looking forward to actually landing on the dirt. However, I had enough height to put down right on the intersection of the two runways. I then taxied to the Sundowner's hangar right up the west end of the airfield and put the plane away.

That's it for another installment. As we walked back from the hangar we talked about our next session. We will probably spent about 3 hours of a Saturday arvo in briefing and flight planning and then fly my first nav on the Sunday morning. Michael also recommends that I do the first few navs as close together as I can to drill the flight planning home. So it might be a busy time next month!


With my nerves starting to set off that jittery fluttery heart feeling I set out down the coast early on Saturday morning. A few hour's stop over at my in-laws house let me refresh from the two hour drive and fix my father-in-law's computer problems. At about 2:30pm I set off for Moruya airport, an easy 30 minutes drive further down the coast. Arriving there I saw what looked like a great aero club atmostphere. There were people everywhere, watching parachutists land, chatting about aircraft and flying, and just generally hanging out with people with a similar interest. It took me some time to find Sheldon, the instructor I had organised to meet!

I eventually found him in one of the hangars and we set down to the business of talking about flying. He explained to me that the C172, the aircraft I had booked, was only 6 hours off of needing its 100 hourly service and they had a CPL test to do on Sunday. Sheldon asked if I'd mind flying one their other aircraft. My choices were a C150 and a Beechcraft Sundowner. The C150 I had given up on at Brindabella because my 186cm (6'2"), 105kg frame really makes them cramped and pushes the little plane right up to its maximum weight (if not a few kilos over). For that reason, even after Sheldon did his best to convince me to try the C150 again, I chose the Sundowner. Now, I'm very glad I did for the reasons you'll see below.

Now ... Sheldon also couldn't take me up and passed me on to the instructor that currently had the Sundowner out on a Nav exercise. This turned out to be Michael, one of the instructors I had known and flown with at Brindalbella airlines! While waiting for him I sat and read the Sundowner's POH and started filling in the aircraft endorsement questionaire. This asks things like several relevant airspeeds (stall, max speed, max cruise, max flaps, etc.), weights and balance stuff, the position of various bits and pieces, and so on. Once Michael was on the scene we started talking about the oddities of the Sundowner and I started to wonder if I had bitten off more than I can chew!

Meet the Beechcraft BE23 Sundowner (it's VH-AIO, 4th aircraft down here). This aircraft has several differences from the C172 I'm used to. Aside from being a low wing aircraft, it has a quadrant throttle in the cockpit, which includes the carbi heat and mixture as quadrant levers. The flaps are operated via a great big lever on the floor between and forward of the seats instead of the little lever on the dash of the C172. The elevator trim wheel is between the two front seats, not on the dash. Lastly, the fuel selector does not have a both setting like the C172 so you have to choose and manage your fuel usage from the two wing tanks individually. Performance wise the BE23 stalls at a higher airspeed than the C172, its best glide speed is 10 knots faster at 75 knots, best climb speed is faster and the landing speed is faster. Speaking of landing ... this girl has the most counter intuitive landing method I have met yet. Taking off is also a bit faster with a 65 knot rotation and needs to be gentle or you get the stall warning horn twittering.

As for that landing, ... with the C172 you pretty much cut power to idle over the threshold and it just flies itself down with you flaring to bleed off speed. With the Sundowner, you keep approach power on (i.e. 1500rpm) down through the flare and only once in the flare do you very slowly reduce the throttle to idle and let it settle. Basically, as Michael said, this is a plane you have to fly off the ground and back on to it. I figured all this, along with being forced to better manage fuel than just setting the selector to both and ignoring it would be a great learning experience.

Enough of the plane though, and on to the flying I hear you say! First let me say this is a spectacularly beautiful airfield to fly from!!

For my first flight back we decided to head in to the "training area" which, by the way, extends from Bateman's Bay down to Narooma and in between the coast and the Pacific Highway. I did the takeoff using runway 05 which, by the way is only 800 metres long and is gravel for the last third. This flight was fairly boring training wise. It was a really hazy afternoon with visibility at about 10km as we headed north. Over the toll gate islands at the mouth of Bateman's Bay itself I did a few steep turns in each direction, Michael showed me a clean and a dirty stall and I did a clean stall myself. We were, by then, back down near the airfield so I set up a best glide at 75 kts and tried a steep decending gliding turn to get us back down to 1000 feet where we joined the circuit for runway 05 on upwind. By now there was an absolute howler of late afternoon sea breeze blowing and while on downwind we decided it was probably best if Michael handled the landing this time. I'm glad he did too because it was bumpy, choppy and gusty all the way down. At one point, while we were on finals at 70 knots the ASI suddenly dropped to just under 60 knots as the headwind suddenly stopped. A burst of throttle and a sort of "whoooaaa-oooaaaa" noise from Michael had us back on track and he showed me how the Sundowner landed with a powered flare. Four steep turns and three stalls in 0.7 hours of flying time ... try that out of Canberra airfield!

That was it for Saturday. I returned to the in-laws house where my mother-in-law had cooked the most amazing lamb shanks caserole I have ever eaten, spent the late evening until after sunset flicking a lure out from the banks of the Clyde river (unsuccessfully), watched some telly then went to bed with my mind spinning about flying stuff.

Sunday morning dawned crystal clear, 100% cloudless and hot. When I arrived at Moruya at 9:30am it was already going through 25 degrees and a light north easterly was blowing. I went straight out and started preparing the Sundowner for today's lesson. This one is going to be circuits so I can practise that powered flare landing. After filling the plane up with fuel, making sure the oil level was alright (it was near the lower limit but still ok) we taxied out to runway 05 again. I think Michael caught me out at one point just after we refuelled. I went through the post start, pre-takeoff checklists and announced myself ready to taxi. He said "are you sure" which immediately sent me in to a flustered hunt for what I'd missed. I found the directional indicator set to "30" whilst the compass was on "03". Nasty, trick that!

Once that was sorted and we were heading for the runway Michael assured me that 05 was long enough for a touch and go. He said "you should be able to touch then lift again before you even reach the gravel. Sometimes, you might just get a bit of a rumble of dirt.". Michael was handling the radio too since I have grown up in the nice controlled airspace around Canberra. Moruya is fully CTAF, something I had no experience with!

All in all, the circuits are pretty normal. The differences are that they are all to the left, where as Canberra tower can send you in either direction depending on sequencing and that the upwind turn off 05 is made at 300 feet rather than 500 feet. If you leave it until 500 feet and have engine troubles you will be a long way out to sea and going for a swim! Overall, I was happy with my circuits and landings. That powered flare takes some getting used to and I found I had to try and forcefully relax an iron grip on the yoke during finals. After about 3 circuits Michael told me to start operating the fuel pump (something else new) during the circuit. This had to be turned off once at 200 feet (keeping your hand on its switch until you're sure the fuel flow doesn't drop) then back on as part of your pre-landing checks.

Another big differences was dealing with parachutists whilst doing circuits! It's kind of weird hearing the CTAF call of "4 chutes jumping from 5000 feet directly over Moruya airfield" then seeing them at 1000 feet, level with you while you are on downwind. There was also quite a few other aircraft in the circuit, joining it and leaving it too that kept you on a constant look out and thinking about situation awareness as you heard them calling on the radio.

The last two circuits were flapless approaches, done 5 knots faster than the normal 75 knot base leg, 70 knot final of a flapped approach. Both of those were quite acceptable I thought! Oh, there's another difference between the C172 and the Sundowner ... full flaps on a C172 feel like you have been tied to a huge building whilst the Sundowner's flaps give you the nose down attitude with a much reduced effect on speed. That means a little more speed management but, given the sink rate of the Sundowner, I found you can still recover from a too high entry on to finals. Oh yeah, another memory! On the first circuit we had a mix up with a C172 as we turned base. He was technically behind us but had a lot of speed on on an extended downwind. He asked if he could cut off as he wasn't sure he could slow up enough behind us which caused us to kind of have to overshoot our finals turn, then turn 180° back then right on to finals again to keep seperation. It made for a fun first landing attempt in a year!

After the two flapless landings we called a full stop and taxied back to the hangar. As we were filling in the log book with the 0.9 hours of flight time we started to count the number of circuits we'd done. We settled on 9 ... that's nine, repeat nine circuits in 0.9 hours. Again I say, try that at YSCB! No wonder I was exhausted.

That's it. We talked about my next flight. More circuits with me starting to get in to the CTAF radio stuff. That will probably be in 3 weeks as I'm busy the next two. Mind you, I could move the thing I have in 2 weeks if the reawakened itch really starts to bite!

Sorry for the length. I'm just over the moon, excited to be back in the air!!


... and back!

After almost a year off I'm getting back in to my flight training. I have bookings down at the Moruya Aero Club next week end on Saturday arvo and Sunday morning. The initial goal is to get back in to the groove, learn the new area and get endorsed on the constant speed propeller of their C172. Then it will be on to the navigation exercises.

I'm exicted! This is going to be a very slow week ...


Bye-Bye Brindy

Well ... my flight school, Brindabella, has closed up shop. They are going to let those that are near enough to a milestone complete that milestone, but then that's it. So, since I just finished my GFPT my flying days with Brindabella are over. They cite the every increasing costs of running the school at YSCB as the reason for the closure. The Canberra airport group don't want general aviation getting in the way of their big jets and have been slowly squeezing them out.

Right now, I'm not sure what I'm going to do. Moruya is looking like the most likely candidate for my continuing!


Lesson 32: The GFPT

This will be a long one ....

At 8am this morning the skies were relatively clear with a little bit of fluffy stuff hanging at about 2500' AGL. I arrived about 15 minutes early and Brian, the CASA examiner, was already there and waiting for me. We decided to jump straight into the ground questions side of the GFPT, so we retired to a quite room where Brian could grill me about the responsibilities and privelleges of the GFPT. This included stuff like how long you have to wait before flying if you've had alcohol and what you should do if you're taking prescription drugs, and so on. We also covered what I have to do when supervising a re-fueling, some stuff about aircraft weights and performance, what the various colour bands mean on the ASI and their values, and interpretting the weather reports (TAF and METAR). Happy with that after about half an hour Brian suggested we go fly a plane!

I walked Brian through the hangar pretending he was a passenger who had no idea about what he was about to get in to. That included warning him to stay near me, watch his head on the wings of the Jetstreams in the hangar and watching for moving aircraft once on the 'live' side of the field. Once out at the aircraft Brian stood out the front and watched me do the pre-flight checks. All was in order and I suggested I taxi over to the fuel bowser as there was only about 40 litres in the tanks. Brian walked over while I taxied the plane. Once there I fueled us up, again with Brian watching my every move. Once topped up I drain-tested the tanks, got us both on board, strapped in and secure and moved the plane out of the way for run-ups.

We were cleared for the Kings training ground via Bungendore after a short delay, during which I did the usual engine run-ups and finished off the pre-flight check-lists. Take-off was on 35 in between two Virgin jets, meaning I was asked to make my right turn towards Bungendore as soon as was safe so that I was out of the way of the jet behind me. On the way out Brian asked that I request an enroute climb to 6000 feet and the use of King's Alpha, something I have never done before. The western edge of the King's training ground butts up against Canberra's controlled airspace. As the class-C airspace steps from 4000 to 4500, to 5500 then 6500 feet the training ground is underneath the controlled space. King's Alpha is inside controlled space in the 4500 and 5500 bands up on top of the normal training groun to a height of 6500 feet. As it was we were kept at 4000 until a plane above us cleared then cleared to climb but stay at no more than 6000.

In the mean time, before the climb began, I was under the hood. I did the climb under instruments and Brian had me flying turns around the sky once we were at 6000. Under instruments he had me back down to 5000 whilst turning then back up to 5800 while turning the other way. All of the turns were greater than 180° degree turns so he was constantly stessing the direction he wanted me to turn. Eventually he asked me to remove the hood and pointed out that Bungendore was behind us at about 7 o'clock.

We were now at 6000 and he asked me to set myself up for some steep turns and stalls. I ran through the HASL checks by making sure I had enough height, the aircraft was secure, we were secure and a quick 360° turn to make sure we were alone. It was then a quick 45° degree steep turn for 180° in each direction before the stalls. I then performed a clean stall that lost about 100 feet in total. Unexpectedly in a clean stall the left wing dropped quite sharply but I managed to catch it with rudder even though it made the nose wave about all over the place. We came out on the same heading we started though so it was good enough! Next came a dirty stall with the flaps out and the throttle at the sort of levels you'd expect when on approach to land. A wing dropped again but it's fully expected in a dirty stall and I was ready for it.

Brian now asked me to set the plane up in a best-glide configuration. That had us at 65 knots and slowly falling from about 5500 feet. ATC called at this time and warned us about a plane crossing through King's Alpha. Brian told them we'd be back below 4000 soon and wouldn't be coming back up. He then asked me to do a steep gliding turn. This is something that Oscar, my instructor called me about yesterday and warned me of. It's something that's not really taught (it will be from now on). Essentially, it required me tipping the plane to 45° angle of bank while still in the glide and letting our speed build to about 80 knots. I then held it there and we spiraled down at about 1000 feet per minute.

Once I levelled out on the heading Brian asked for I was about to power up when Brian said "no you don't. Your engine just failed". I went through the failure checks while pulling the nose up as our speed bled off and we were at best glide again ... carburetter, fuel, mixture, oil, switches and throttle. Then came a quick mayday call and a brief for Brian asking him to tighten his seat belt and remove any sharp implements from his pockets. I picked out a field off to my left and set up a downwind, crosswind and turned on finals. Then came full flaps as we were a little high and we headed in. At what I judged to be 500' AGL I pulled out and Brian asked if I thought we'd have made it. I commented that I was probably a little high and should have hit the flaps a little earlier. He seemed happy with that and asked me to level off at 1000' AGL.

We were now to simulate a decending cloud layer that was slowling forcing us down. Brian pointed out a likely field and I was soon flying a couple of low speed, low altitude circuits around it studying it. I'm not sure if he knew the field because there was a very subtle fence running across it about 1/3 of it's length in from the end we'd be landing (since the wind was now a westerly). There was still plenty of room on the far side, but I was wondering if he'd caught anybody out on this once. The field was clear of rocks and cows, looked flat and was long enough (even with the fence) so I once again set up a landing then baulked at 500 feet. Brian then asked me to turn on to a heading back towards Mills Cross and then on to Canberra.

At Brian's request I asked for circuits upon arrival. The first was to be a traditional touch and go landing since it was straight in on 30. On the second circuit Brian asked me to ask for a stop and go. I then set us up for a short field landing. I came in just a little bit fast, about 65 knots rather than 60, which caused me to float a little further than I wanted but some heavy braking soon had us stopped on the runway. I then stood on the brakes while holding full throttle for 3 seconds then let the horses go. At 50 knots I yanked us off the runway then held us in ground effect until we were at 62 knots where I climbed away at best angle of climb. Once I was up at about 300'AGL and climbing at 75 knots Brian suddenly called for a 'practise' on the radio, got permission and cut the throttle. I pushed the nose forward so we stayed on 65 knots, said "that field" while pointing at one ahead and to the right and Brian said "right, go around" and up we went again.

The last landing was a flap less landing in which I again came in a little fast, doing about 70 knots on the threshold rather than 65. That caused me to float a lot longer than I wanted and even with some heavy braking we drifted past the last taxiway (kilo) off the runway. I requested a quick back-track, got approval and took us back to the parking area.

As I shut the aircraft down and was pulling off my head-set Brian said "that's a pass. Well and truly". He was very happy with my training area work but had a few suggestions about my circuit work. He commented on my being a little fast on the flapless landing but did say I handled it well by holding the plane off rather than slaming it down. He also commented that my requesting the back track when I overshot meant that he had nothing to complain about (since it was proper procedure, I think).

Then it was back in to the building for handshakes all around and several questions about who my first passenger would be. I said I'll take a passenger up just as soon as I find somebody gullible enough!

That's it! I'm not sure what the next step is. I intend taking a break for a month to let the finances bounce back from the pumelling they have taken over the last 3 weeks. Then I will talk to the instructors about what I need to do next. Until then, though, thanks for listening. I hope you get as much out of reading these as I get writing them up!


When I arrived at the flying school at 8am this morning the air was clear and cool. There was a light westerly blowing and starting to increase a little. Alex met me there and signed me out before heading off to the other C172 to take another student out to the Barton area. I was headed for the King's training ground east of Canberra to have a final practise at steep turns, stalls, PFLs and PSLs before the big day.

Start up was normal but I lost a bit of time trying to find somewhere to actually do my run-ups. The GA parking area was completely full, including most of the grass area. In the end I used a spot we aren't really meant to use, but do on occasion after refueling. It's in the corner of the parking area, near the fuel pumps and the last exit onto taxiway charlie. Take-of was from 35 and I was headed out via Bungendore. There was an awful lot of traffic about today, especially hellicopters! I learnt on the drive back home that the local Snowy Hydro rescue unit was having an open day and had several choppers flying in.

My first task was to practise stalls, both clean and dirty, and some steep turns. All were performed to an acceptable standard. The clean stall lost about 50 feet, I reckon! The steep turns were even better than usual. While at 6000 feet and a little bit east of Braidwood, over the Shoalhaven river, I picked up quite a lot of turbulence blowing over Mount Pallerang to my west. At one point it was everything I could do to stay at 6000. I ended up at 1500rpm with the nose pointed down steeply and the airspeed on 110 knots and I was only just staying at a constant altitude. The plane wanted to go up!

Task two was to head back towards Bungendore and use an old disusd farmer's airstrip to practise PFLs and PSLs. I cut the throttle over the strip, went through the "Oh no, the engine has failed" bit and settled down to my PFL. At this point I noticed two ultra-lights taxi out of the bushes and head for the strip. It appeats it is not as dis-used as we thought! I aborted my PFL and headed off towards Mills Cross seeing as time was getting on. I practised a PFL over a field south of Bungendore but was now running short on time to get in a PSL.

At Mills Cross I was asked to make an orbit as the ATC was flat out dealing with all the chopper traffic in the area. While circling somebody, possibly one of the ultra-lights, was trying to call in from near the south end of Lake George. I could barely hear him and his transmission was full of noise. ATC couldn't get anything more and asked me what I had heard. I ended up doing two more orbits while we tried to work out what the guy wanted.

Eventually he was sorted out and I was cleared in to land. I was going to get in a circuit or two but had now lost so much time in aborted PFLs and being held up at Mills Cross, and ATC sounded really busy, so I decided not to. The one landing I did do though was a ripper! About 50cm upwind of the centre line and so gentle I barely felt it.

That's it pre-GFPT. While typing this I received a call from Alex who was booking my test with Brian, the local CASA rep. I'm not going to tell you when it is though, so it's a surprise when it is done. Let's just say it's towards the end of the week ;)


At 8am this morning it was as humid as I ever care it to be. Having grown up in far western NSW, I hate humidity and today was horrid! I was pouring with sweat by the time Oscar and I were at holding point Novemeber, runway 35. The flight today is to cover everything that the GFPT examiner would want to see. If Oscar is happy, he'll sign the form that allows me to book a CASA representative to test me for real.

The take-off and climb out were pretty much normal, other than we doing the short field version.10° flaps and hold full power on the brakes for 3 seconds the let her rip. Keep back pressure so lift off is as soon as possible, then let the plane accelerate to best angle of climb speed in the ground effect before letting it climb. We then turned on track for Bungendore and the Kings training ground. Oscar took over while I donned the instrument training hood then took over again. About this time our transponder strated playing up, according to ATC. The first digit kept flicking from the zero we had it set on to two, then back again. Eventually, ATC said he'd cope with it but we'd need to report it once down again. It was also about this time that I noticed that the trim wheel was really tight and quite hard to turn. That made setting up PFLs and glide approaches somewhat tricky later on and gave Oscar another thing to report!

25 minutes of steady instrument flying bought us out near Braidwood where Oscar asked me to remove the hood and work out where we were. Being new to Canberra he said this is only the second time he'd been out this way so I showed him how I determined where we were. The Shoalhaven river was ahead of us, as was a large plain with a single hill in the middle. That hill is just south of the town of Braidwood. For a few minutes we both just sat quiet and admired the view. The only comments were to state that this was why we want to fly. Where we were was clear but to the north and east was a thick blanket of clouds about 1000' below us. So, all we could see was white hills in to the distance. Mount Budawang, near the coast was poking through those clouds but the valley next to it down which the King's Highway runs to Bateman's bay was clear. In that valley, and down to the coast, were wisps of fog. It was an absolutely gorgeous sight!

As much as the view captivated us we were here to work so, now that we were over the Braidwood plains, I did the pre-air work checks, including a slow 360° looking for other traffic. Then I steep turned a full circle to the left and right at 60° banks before leveling off and doing both a clean configuration and a dirty configuration stall. We then headed back towards Bungendore and an old, un-used farmer's strip. Over that strip I performed both a Practised Forced Landing and a Precautionary Search and landing. We then turned for home, with me swinging us east again around Bungendore so that we didn't intrude on Canberra's controlled air space.

At Mill's Cross I called for entrance to the airspace and tracked straight in. Once switched to tower frequency I requested a couple of circuits. The first landing, the straight in from the training ground, was to be a short field landing. I came in a little high, being put off by the straight in approach rather than the usual circuit approach, but managed to bleed off the height with flaps and touched right on the numbers. After lifting off again we were held on runway heading until well over the city. We were then directed on to a left crosswind taking us over Parliment House while searching for an Embraer on a two mile final. Because we were held on the upwind for so long I only caught sight of him just as he was landing. ATC were working hard this morning so we decided to make this our last circuit and a glide approach, for which we asked permission. When opposite the threshold Oscar cut the throttle and I lifted the nose until we were holding 65 knots while also turning straight for the piano keys. As it was we came in with plenty of height and I needed lots of flap to bleed it off and land.

After we were down and back in the building we filled in the paper work and signed everything off for me being ready for the GFPT. My plan is to do an hour solo repeating everything we did today as I felt a bit nervous for some reason. I just want an hour or so to myself to prove I can do this. Then I will book the GFPT itself for the first opportunity after that solo!


In order to finally bed down my flaring I did an hour of solo circuits today. At 8am, as I was prepping the plane, it was cool'ish, cloudless and windless. Perfect flying weather!

There's really nothing to report this time around. All 7 landings were of an acceptable standard. One I was particularly proud of when the plane seemed to just fly on to the ground as smooth as can be. The only highlight was that on one circuit, landing on 30, I was asked to maintain runway heading. As I lifted off and was doing as i was told and passing Mount Ainslie, ATC told me I'd be on about another mile of upwind. He then changed his mind and told me to join left downwind for runway 35. As I did that, and was nearing Parliment house they told me to do a single orbit for sequencing. That completed, I continued my circuit on 35 and touch and go'ed on a huge runway! I was then told to do a right circuit on 35 joining right downwind for 30. It's amazing how fast you go through post take-off checks then landing check while still climbing to circuit height and trying to juggle getting on the downwind track of a runway more than 90° off the one you just took off from!

If you want to see my shananagans you can see them here. Set the time to 9am on the 21/1/10 (you have about 2 weeks or so from that date before they scrub it). You should pick me up just turning final on a short approach to runway 30, with a squawk (beacon) of 0040.

Talking with Alex afterwards, we agreed that my next flight will be the GFPT check ride. That will be the weekend after this one, I think!


I have been ananlyzing what I was doing wrong all week and I reckon I know what it is. I'm not lifting my head up enough and looking down the length of the runway. It should be similar to driving a car where you look in to the distance rather than study the road just ahead. When I move from watching the numbers at the end of the runway on approach to looking down the runawy I'm not going far enough and am getting stuck sort of looking a bit beyond the nose.

That in mind I spent an hour doing circuits with Alex. The very first landing was much improved even if the flying conditions weren't. There was a bit of a breeze, it was overcast and 33°. It was thermals galore! In fact at one point I was trimmed for 70 knots, at 2nd stage flaps and 1500rpm which should set you up for a 500' per minute decent. I was going up at about 100' a minute.

We did about 6 or 7 circuits in all and all but one landing was good enough. The one bad one I clean forgot 3rd stage flaps on final and came in too high. That required too much of a power cut which meant a steep decent and then a harsher flare. It still worked but was a bit bumpier. One of the landings was also a flapless approach that had us floating along a huge length of the runway.

That's it this time. I'm a couple of days overdue on the write up, it's late and I've had a couple of glasses of wine or four! My landings are better again which makes me happy. Next flight will be a solo circuit session just to bed that down then, hopefully, I will move on to the GFPT pre-check.


My landings suck! Even in near on zero wind and about 30°, as it was this morning, I just could not get the flare right. This was a lesson in short field operations. So, holding full power on the brakes for 3 seconds then letting loose and hurtling (well, as good as a C172 can hurtle) down the runway. Lift off is at 55 knots and you hold 60 knots until at about 300' then level out to the normal 75 knot climb out. Landings need an approach at 65 knots slowing to 60 on short finals with full flaps. This has the nose quite high and needs a lot of power to hold a 500' per minute decent. Once the wheels are down it's full brakes to stop or, if it's a soft field and you have length, holding the nose wheel up for as long as possible.

My take-offs were good, my circuits were good and my approaches were good. My landings are a completely different story though. Although the first circuit we had to do a go around because ATC thought things were getting too tight on the ground. We managed 5 touch and gos (or stop and go's for short field practise) in the 0.9 hours I clocked and every landing but one sucked.

Alex's advice is for me to spend an hour doing circuits with him to work out what I'm doing wrong, then do the GFPT check ride and then the GFPT itself. All in as short a time as possible. So, I might have to speak to the wife about spending a lot of money in a short period of time!

That's it ... I was so annoyed with myself that I made me load 400kg (that's what the weighbridge said) of old wood fence in the trailer and unload it again at the tip. Now I hurt too!


It was 30 degrees celcius with almost zero wind when I arrived at the field at 10am this morning. ATIS said it was variable 5 knots, which basically means it's so light they can't tell where it's coming from. Today's flight is to cover more instrument stuff. Namely failed instruments and unusual attitudes. I would also be flying with yet another new instructor, this time a bloke named Alex.

One thing I have learnt recently is that flying with multiple instructors tends to teach you lots of different ways of doing the many different tasks in the cockpit. You then get to build your own style from them all. Today, Alex showed me how he always flicks the strobes on as you cross a runway threshold and off again as you leave one - something I had never been shown before. Apparently, the commercial pilots do it that way just to make themselves that little bit more visible when they are on an active runway. As he said, it can't hurt to impress the GFPT examiner just that little bit more with procedures like that. That ones is now safely filed away where I'll most likely forget it next time I fly!

Back to flying though ... even though the wind was mostly still it was still a bit bumpy, even 2000' off the ground. I was still on the climb out, having just switched to and contact approach, when Alex said he was taking over so I could put the blinker glasses on. I did the rest of the climb and leaving of controlled airspace under "instruments". Once out on our own (wow, 5 words starting with 'o' in a row) I did a standard turn to the left and another to the right just so that Alex could get a feel for my instrument flying. Then he said "Right, try a 60° steep turn". I said "What ... under instruments" and, given the nod, off I went. The first was a dismal failure because I had no horizon to work with. The second to the left, then one to the right were good enough. It really is weird pulling such a turn under instruments only!

Now, Alex placed a square of paper over the attitude indicator (AI) so that all I had to work with was the turn indicator and VSI. Both of these instruments lag so you have to work to a make a change, wait for an effect, make a change ... and so on plan. Doing anything else simply has you chasing the needle around the dial. After a while the piece of paper was moved to the VSI, so now I could only use the AI and the altimeter to judge if I was in level flight.

After flying about for a bit and with the peice of paper in position Alex took over the controls and told me to close my eyes. Next came a bit of disorienting flight involving turns, climbing and diving. He then said "eyes open, your plane" and I grabbed the controls again. He wasn't too harsh though and it was easy enough to roll wings level then pull out of the dive, or level off if climbing. We did that a few times and it was time to head back.

I flew under the hood all the way back to Black Mountain where Alex took control again to let me take the glasses off. While I was doing so Alex requested a couple of circuits which made ATC change us from a 35 landing to a 30 landing. They also set us on the look out for a plane on Cessna 310 on a 4 mile final on 35. That put him 6 miles from us and lower - very hard to find. We found him eventually when he was about a mile and a half out. We were then given clearance for a visual approach to 30 ... Oh, and could you make it a short approach! We were now at 4000' (2000' AGL) about half way down a very wide downwind! There was some serious altitude to be lost by the base turn, which was at about 1300' AGL in the end and quite wide giving us time to loose that extra 300' or so. It was a steep approach all the way in.

Neither of my landings were the best I've done. I flared a little low on both and freaked Alex out a bit. He said that from the passenger seat it really looks like I'm going to hit wheel first. So there's still some work to be done on my landings. They really are my achilles heal! He also suggested I climb steeper on take-off, treating every take off as a short field one and using maximum angle of climb rather than maximum rate of climb for the first few hundred feet. That way, you get to 200' quicker and possibly have some runway left if something goes wrong on the way up.

That's it. In theory, I now have enough to sit the GFPT I think. I might be about 0.2 short on instrument flying. I have to talk to the instructors about where I go from here. That will be in early January though!


It was a crystal clear, absolutely cloudless and still morning when I arrived at the airport. Because of the way the buses out that way work though, I was there an hour early so I sat in the terminal building and had a coffee before heading off to the flight school. While waiting the voice over was announcing delays for all Sydney bound flights because of the weather there.

Today was to be either failed instrument and unusual attitudes under basic instrument flight or a solo flight where I practise the steep turns, stalls and PFLs I refreshed last time all on my own. Since the weather was perfect I opted for the solo stuff since you need a bit more height to do those. So, released by Oscar I began preping the aircraft. That involved adding a couple of quarts of oil which required a walk back to the hangar a couple of times. Fuel was good though, with about 150 litres on board. Nothing was out of order so I started up and went through the motions. The only hiccup being that I had to switch radios as COM1 was so faint on transmit that ATC said it was unreadable. COM2 was crystal clear though, so I'd just have to operate with one radio.

Taxi and takeoff were uneventful with 35 being the runway of choice. There was about a 5 knot crosswind from about 310 blowing now though so I practised a little bit of a crosswind climb out. Since I was heading for the Barton training ground I shot for the gap between Mount Ainslie and Mount Majura, over the local racetrack and out along the Barton highway towards Murrembateman and Yass. These two towns (well, ones a village), and the highway, form the northern edge of the training ground.

The flying was fairly uneventful. I did a HASL (Height, Area, Security, Landing) check by making sure I was at least 3000' AGL, a 360° turn made sure I was all alone, there was nothing loose in the cabin and I was strapped in tight and there were plenty of open fields in case something went wrong. Then launched in to a series of left and right steep turns that all stayed within 100' of where I started them. There was even a handy bush fire off to the west of Yass that made a nice marker point on the horizon for timing my turns.

Once happy with the turns I tried a couple of stalls. First up a clean stall where I just closed the throttle and kept pulling the stick back until the stall happened. Then it's full throttle, nose down hard, lots of right rudder to counter the throttle and level off. Easy-peasy and in about 200 feet all up and the nose stayed with 10° of where it started. The second was a dirty stall where you enter the stall with full flaps and 1500rpm. Because of the prop wash over the inner wing this tends to cause one wing to drop on you. This one dropped about 200' as well but the nost was probably 10° off when I recovered. The second was better though and I was happy enough.

Wondering if I should consider heading home, on the spur of the moment I cut the throttle without really considering the ground. This launched me in to a practised forced landing. I ran through the FMIIT (Fuel, Mixture, Induction, Ignition, Throttle) checks, made a fake mayday call and then felt like a bit of a twit giving a passenger brief to my make believe passenger. The PFL was ok, although I had to change field while on downwind as I noticed a set of power lines that I couldn't see when I initially chose my field. That made things a little more tricky but I reckon I would have made it down ok. At 500' AGL I floored the engine and climbed out.

Then it really was time to head home. So I tracked over Murrembateman, checked ATIS, requested clearance and headed for Black Mountain as told. It was getting quite bumpy now and one bounce dropped me about 20 feet and actually lifted me out of my seat. Just holding 4000' was hard enough with the up and downdrafts starting to happen. Eventually, I was directed on to a left downwind for runway 30 so I got to do the scenic flight right over lake Burley Griffon in the centre of canberra. Not that I got to see anything though as I was concentrating on hitting the top of the downwind leg at 1000' AGL and setting the seperatation from the runway correctly.

As I started on the downwind I was told that there was about a 10 to 12 knot gusting crosswind on 30 now. I've never really experienced a largish crosswind in the C172 until now and I agree with Vincent that it needs a lot more rudder than the C150 did. The landing was nice and smooth though with the stall buzzer just chirping as the main wheels touched, one each side of the centre line. The nose possibly came down a little fast though, maybe after 1.5 seconds instead of the usual 3. It was then a rapid taxi off the runway as I was told to expidite my leaving of the runway as there was C150 doing circuits and coming in behind me.

That was it, an hour and a half of solo time. I now have a total of 5.3 hours solo, so that part of the GFPT requirements is met. In a couple of weeks I'll do the remaining instrument flight stuff, then the GFPT prep flight in early January and I'll be ready for that great first hurdle!


I arrived at the flying school this morning at 9am after spending an hour sitting in the terminal building watching the business hour rush. I arrived at the airfield an hour early simply because that's when the last bus that would take me straight there from near home left. That's a downside of busing about - I set off at 7:15 for a 9:00 appointment! But, I did get to have a coffee and watch some big planes take off and land.

Anyway ... the flying school was in turmoil. Three or four new young instructors started yesterday and today was their first day on the job. I had booked to fly with Malcolm but was asked if I'd fly with some bloke named Oscar instead. I didn't mind but had to wait until he finished his drug test (I asked if that was testing whether he knew his drugs, or whether he had any in his system). It seems that Malcolm, who I found out actually came to Canberra from a Bankstown school, has now bought several of his junior instructors down from a company that is apparently collapsing. It seems Brindabella is growing it's flight training by moving in to the international student market next year.

Oscar turned out to be a damned good instructor I must say! I wanted to head out and practise a few stalls and steep turns in a 172. I'd done these in a 150 but just wanted the reassurance of an instructor sitting there when I did them for the first time in a different aircraft. He was happy to do that and suggested we head out to the Barton training area as he hadn't been out there yet. He also had only flown once in Canberra's controlled zone so he was intersted to see how I did the radio. It was kind of cool explaining the way we do things and naming landmarks for the instructor :)

Run-ups and everything else ground-wise went ok except that when I did the magneto tests the engine was a little rough. Oscar walked me through a sparkplug cleaning where we pushed the revs to 2100rpm and leaned the engine back just short of rough running for a minute or two then tried the magnetos again. All was nice and smooth now so we requested taxi clearance and headed off. While taxiing Oscar said he was going to treat this something like a GFPT test to get me thinking in the right mind set. He was pretty good at telling me what the examiner would want during each stage of start-up, taxi, takeoff and early flight. All of those were pretty uneventful in this case. The only thing of note is that it was getting bloody hot by now - or at least felt it with the temps now in the high 20's and humidity in 80's while inside an enclosed cockpit.

First up after reaching the training ground around Murrembateman (after pointing it out to Oscar who was studiously following on his VTC) and climbing to 5000 feet was a stall. We need the height because the legal minimum for these manuevers is 3000 feet AGL. We did one each of a full power off, flaps up stall and an approach configuration stall with power at 1500rpm and the flaps right out. The second tends to lead to a bit of a wing drop as the prop wash is still providing in board lift so only the outer wing stalls. Both of those went well and I were within the tolerance a GFPT examiner would be looking for. Next was a couple of steep turns in each direction. I used Yass as a reference point even though it wasn't on the horizon simply because the moisture and dust haze meant I couldn't actually see the horizon! They all went well too and were again within tolerance. I was pretty chuffed at this point :)

Oscar asked if I wanted to head back and I asked if I could practise a PFL since it had been a while since I'd done one. It's also good to do them towards the end of a lesson as you don't have so high to climb. The biggest problem I find with practising a PFL is remembering to treat it not as a practise! I chopped the throttle, did the mayday calls, found a good field after rejecting the one Oscar suggested as it had a power line running across it, did the passenger brief and pulled off the landing (well going around at 500 feet). I completely forgot the checklist at the start of the sequence! I'm sure I would have remembered it if the engine had just died, but by me chopping the throttle I kind of forget to do it. That's something for me to work on!

Heading back Oscar was asking where we start our calls. I said I like to listen to ATIS over Murrembateman then make the clearance request as I'm tracking towards Hall (about 5 minutes out of controlled space). I did all that and was cleared to track direct to Black Mountain (which I could barely see in the haze) for a left base approach on 35. I was also requested to climb to 4500 feet rather than our usual 4000 because of an outbound plane. It was WWS, my old 150 workhorse, and I picked it up off to our low left easily enough given he was lit up like a christmas tree. Approach then changed us to a direct approach on runway 12. Oscar's instruction at this point was kind of amusing. It remineded me of the "open your mind" scene from Total Recall. He kept saying "focus on the numbers" over and over in a hypnotic way. He meant the numbers on the end of the runway. The landing was decent enough with the stall warning starting just after flare and stopping as the wheels touched.

Afterwards, Oscar said he though I was real close to being GFPT ready. He especailly liked my taking control of the radio and having a plan for my approach to controlled space, and my making the command decision on when to go-around during the PFL. We spent about half an hour after the flight doing a bit of a debrief-come-critique that I found quite helpful.

I'm feeling more confident about this flying thing now. I reckon I'll aim for mid January for the GFPT, which means I'd better get the BAK out of the way soon. Since Malcolm is becoming increasingly difficult to get with his CFI duties taking over I think I'll stick with Oscar. He said he'd do everything he could to help me get over the GFPT line. He's even getting me a copy of the GFPT instructor's check list that the examiner uses to mark you.

My next lesson will be a solo out to Barton again, since that's the training area I've visited least. I'll go out and basically repeat what I did today but on my own. Then I just have the failed instruments and unusual attitudes parts of basic instrument flight and I'm ready!


Study time

I've sat two out of the four practise BAK exams I puchased from Rob Avery (if you fly you'll know him). I've managed 85 to 90% on both so I'm feeling a bit more confident about that upcoming BAK. Another study session with Terry and I reckon I'll be ready!


Last lesson, Malcolm commented that my landings were a bit hard and a bit too close to to be three pointers for his liking. For this reason, I wanted to do an hour of circuits just to drive home what I should be doing. This morning a bit before 9am as I drove up the Monaro Highway there was almost no wind and an overcast at about 3,000 feet AGL. Perfect conditions for some circuits.

Once at the school Malcolm started out with a half hour lecture on how you should land the plane. This is something I wish I had about 20 lessons ago!! Having somebody draw pictures and explain things rather than just show you how then say "right, your turn" was such an eye opener! Two changes that Malcolm wanted me to make made all the difference in the world ...

1) Don't shut the throttle to idle over threshold as I'd been told. Instead, slowly reduce it back to idle from threshold to late flare. When you shut the throttle your decent rate increases and the nose drops at the same time, right when you should be slowing your decent and lifting the nose. Ok, if you're ready for it and have some experience but not good for a learner.

2) Instead of a 3 axis movement to swing the nose straight, drop the up wind wing and flare, I was to straighten the nose with rudder at about 100 foot altitude (so about 15 seconds from flare) then lock my feet there. Then just steer the plane like a car with aileron to keep on the centre line. This means you can concentrate totally on the flare and not have to worry so much about co-ordinating everything.

One final point was that, as far as Malcolm is concerned, if the stall warning horn doesn't sound just before the wheels touch down it wasn't a good landing. Really, you should hold the plane about 1 foot off the ground as far as it will go. This should eventually end up with the stick as far back as it can go and you feeling like the plane is almost vertical. You are in groud effect at that height so even if the plane does properly stall it will just sort of cushion on to the ground.

After the lecture I headed out and did the pre flight while Malcolm found somebody to mind the front desk for a while. There was enough fuel on board so I simply taxied off the grass and on to the tarmac, shut everything down again and waited. While waiting a little tiny gnat like chopper came in and landed about 70 feet away on the edge of the tarmac. A group of people wandered out from Gate 3 and started taking photos of it while I stood watching. Soon enough Malcolm appeared, we jumped in, and I started up again. That caused a few people in the group to jump, spin round an look!

Anyway ... on the first circuit Malcolm took over and asked me to just loosely hold the controls so I could feel what he did. Of course, it was a perfect landing right on the centre line and gentle as can be. During the take-off roll I took over and tried it myself. By now, there was just a bit of a north-easter blowing so the crosswind was about 5 knots or so. I crabbed in, swung the nose straight 20 seconds out using the yoke column as my guide on lining up straight with the centre line, then just drove it home with aileron - so left wing down all the way in. At flare I pulled it up, held it ... held it some more and the wheels just sort of started rolling. There wasn't even a bump! It was about 5 feet right of centre but smooth as!

The second landing was pretty much the same but closer to the centre line, enough so to get a little cheer and clap from Malcolm. On the third Malcolm asked me to request a full stop. Once I taxied back he jumped out while I kept the engine running and I set off for half an hour on my own. TAV, on of the C150's I used to fly, was up doing circuits too and a little ahead of me. With me in TAW and TAV also doing circuits I really had to listen for my callsign! I got to watch him landing ahead of me on several approaches and ATC split us in opposite directions at one stage - me on a left circuit and him on a right. That let me overtake and land first for the last couple of circuits.

In all, I reckon it was one of my most productive lessons! I bedded down the very basics of getting the plane back on the ground and feel a lot more comfortable with my landings. I have also realised that while Terry is a great instructor in the air he doesn't spend a lot of time on theory. Malcolm has now spent at least half an hour before each lesson explaining things and drawing pictures on the white board. Also, I feel that Malcolm just tends to explain things in the air a little more and has now stopped grabbing the controls so often. He must be beginning to trust me a little! While in the circuit I also pondered the actual act of flying and that it is becomming second nature. I don't really think about flying now, instead I am listening to the radio traffic, watching what's happening outside and monitoring things like the oil pressure and so on.

That's it for a couple of weeks. Next up, we're going to alternate between me doing solo stuff and two more IF lessons covering lost instruments and unusual attitudes. At this rate, GFPT should be mid January'ish.


Another flight this morning. I arrived about 40 minutes early because the morning express busses from down in southern Canberra stop running. I caught the latest one but still got there early. I tire of busing but it's either buy a second car again (I sold our last second car as scrap metal after it threw a timing belt and killed the engine) or fly ... I choose fly!

The weather wasn't too bad as I sat a read the Pilot Operator's Handbook for the C172N while waiting for 9am to roll on. There was an overcast but it was up around 3500 feet above airfield height and loked to be lifting. Eventually, Malcolm emerged from his office and we got down to a bit of a briefing. The intention was to go out and do a few steep turns just so I get the feel of them in the bigger plane and to throw in half an hour of instrument flight while we're at it. The briefing covered some interesting stuff I hadn't covered before - things like practising steep turns with a sticky dot on the wind screen right where the horizon should be. Malcolm reckons he knows some commercial guys that still imagine that sport being there. We also covered all the basics of instrument flight. Topics like always treating the attitude indicator as the centre of your attention, never looking away from it for more than two seconds.

Then it was flying time! Today's aircraft was TAW. Pre-flight checks, run ups and take off were all pretty standard. The only new thing here for me was that take off was on runway 12 and we were going to the Barton training ground so I had to do 3/4 of a circuit to head back in the opposite direction to take off. As we cruised over northern Canberra the weather started to get a little more murky than we expected, but other than a bit of drizzle it wasn't too bad. The cloud base had dropped though and there wasn't really the room for me to practise steep turns. We need 3000 feet above ground to do that and we could only make about 2500.

So, I pulled my headset off for a while and donned the rather un-stylish IF glasses then replaced my headset. Boy the cockpit of a C172 is noisy without a headset! The IF glasses, by the way, restrict you vision to a square area about the size of the "six pack" instruments. Only by tilting your head right up can you see outside. Malcolm then began directing me all over the sky while grumbling at times that the weather was getting worse. It appears that all those hours of flight simming have finally paid off because I found it quite easy, even if quite draining, to hold things together on intruments. All it takes is really gentle control inputs and a regular scan. Malcolm was impressed enought to say "you nailed it". We also covered how to keep scanning while working the radios. This involves looking away from the attitude indicator to the radio and placing your hand on the frequency knob. Then look back at the AI and do a scan. Then look back to the radio and change frequency a bit, then back to the AI, and so on.

After a hour it was time to come home. Mostly because we'd been forced down to about 1000' AGL. It's the first time I've had to make the entry call over Hall from 3000' rather than our normal 4000. We were cleared straight in on runway 12. On the way in over Canberra city Malcolm remarked on what a beautiful city it is to fly over. He has only lived in Canberra about two months now and reckons he's already seeing the benefits!

As we approached Malcolm requested that we do a touch and go and a circuit. We only did one circuit, so two landings, and they both sucked. I seem to be struggling somewhat with getting the nose of the 172 up high enough on landing. That and I'm not remembering there's an extra foot of aircraft between me and the ground. Once we were down Malcolm gave me several pointers on landing technique and suggested that next lesson we do circuits until I get it right. He'd do a few then release me to get up some solo hours and practise. So, until next time, that's it ... I'm not happy about my landings but over the moon about my instrument work.


Study Time

I met up with Terry, my ex-flight instructor, and Vincent (Extra260 at Orbx) for a bit of BAK study last night. We met at Vincent's office where we had access to whiteboards, tables and so on. We mostly focused on weight and balance stuff since that's where Terry reckons most people struggle. It was a pleasant evening of study and conversation. We are meeting again next Monday night too. I'll have to buy Terry a case of beer or something as a thank you after this!


Well, after about 5 weeks without flying I did so again this morning. All I can say is ... bloody brilliant!! Malcolm, the new CFI at Brindabella, is a very thorough pilot and teacher. Since I was chaning aircraft type I arrived at about 9am for my 10am flight so that I could sit in the cockpit for a bit and read the pilot's operating handbook. At the same time I was going to look over the cockpit, controls, knobs and switches. Instead, I spent 45 minutes sitting with Malcolm talking about every aspect of precautionary search and landing procedures. For those that don't know, a PS&L is like a forced landing but with engine power. Basically, if you found yourself short of fuel, the weather was closing in too fast for you to escape or the cloud level was dropping you'd find a good field and give it a real good look over by doing several low level circuits around it before landing.

So ... out at the plane the first thing I noticed was the extra room. Finally, my 6'2" frame doesn't need to be quite so folded! Other than that the C172 is just like a bigger C150. All the speeds are only about 5 to 10 knots higher and you sit a bit higher off the ground. I did the walk arounds and found so much fuel on board that the left wing tank's overflow was actually dripping fuel. I found that out by having it drip on my bald head. The extra fuel is not a problem though because this plane actually has more power than a wound up rubber band.

Getting back in to the swing of the radio calls was a bit of a challenge but I didn't screw up too badly. Takeoff was off 35 and we still have to do a weird taxi out on to runway 30 and back off again to dodge the roadworks going on between the GA and RPT aprons. Malcolm was running me through all the checks (as I said he's thorough!) all the way to holding point November. He also got me to recite out loud the takeoff briefing, something I've never been asked to do before.

The climb out in a C172 is far faster than a C150, especially with 10° flap. It felt like we were going through about 100' AGL at the intersection of the runways! Other than that, all was pretty much the same. Sitting on 105 knots out to Bungendore is no where near as boring though. Once out I flew us a little north to an old disused farmer's airstrip that Terry and I used for PFL practise and Malcolm walked me through a precautionary search. I then gave one a go myself while Malcolm sat there without saying anything. There was a 4-wheel drive tray top down on the strip with a bloke doing something nearby so I'm sure we gave him a bit of a show.

We then started back towards Bungendore and beyond to Mills Cross. On the way Malcolm said you've got to land now but have time on your hands ... set it up. I had a choice of two fields and chose a big open field up wind of the wind break trees running between the two. The wind was actually about a quarter cross wind and I didn't want to have any turbulence near the ground from the trees. Malcolm was happy with my three low level circuits giving the field a good look over so I set up for landing. I set it up as a short field landing holding 62 knots exactly with attitude and managing decent with the throttle.

Then it was back to Canberra via Mills Cross, as per normal. The run from Mills to Canberra seems a lot shorter in the 172 and before I knew it I was setting up for landing on 30. Again, I had to run through all the checks out loud for Malcolm's benefit. Malcolm then called for a touch and go rather than a full stop, so that's what I did. ATC then kept us on runway heading almost until Black Mountain before telling us to make a right circuit. We were just debating going left or right of Mount Ainsile when we saw another small plane coming straight at us after taking off from 30 - so we chose the longer path around the far side of the mountain. All was pretty normal after that other than being told to turn base then having it cancelled and to continue downwind, then told to turn base again.

Once on the ground Malcolm said my flying was very much acceptable. His only comment was that I need to pull the nose up more on landing - something I still struggle with.

Man it's good to be able to write a report up again! Next flight, I want to just go out and review everything I've done to date but do it in a C172. Malcolm thought that was a good idea too!


I do see a light!

... and it's in the shape of a Cessna 172. I had a chat with the new CFI at Brindabella and another with my old flight instructor. Eventually I came to the conclusion that Brindabella's maintenance is ok. The issue is that the C150's are bloody old and they won't replace them. So they maintain them as best they can but they are greatly reduced in power. Given that I weigh in at a about 100kg or so, adding an instructor and 80 litres of fuel actually puts me really, really close (if not a shade over) the maximum take-off weight of a new C150.

So, tomorrow morning at 9am I'll be off to the flight school to sit in the cockpit of the C172 for an hour reading the Pilot's Operating Handbook and looking things over. Then, at around 10, I'll be up again and getting back in to the swing of things. It's a bit of a shame I'm not flying with Terry as he's a great bloke and a joy to fly with, but hey, I'm flying again! I still see Terry too as he's helping Vincent and myself study up for our rapidly approaching BAK exam.

Until tomorrow arvo when I do a write up ... wooo hooo!

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