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Lesson 34: More Circuits

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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!

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