1st Solo Circuits

June 24, 2012

It’s all on me now!

I booked the plane out and made the required checks. Nothing out of the ordinary, except this time, If I stuff up there is no one to correct me. As I take off for an hour or so of solo circuits, the thought of ‘have I forgotten anything?’ haunts me. At least on previous lessons, if anything was going to go wrong, it would likely do so in the first 10 mins, while Robert was sitting next to me. Now that it’s all on me, I don’t have that surety.

As I’ve said previously, talking to the camera seems to calm me for some reason, so I decided to make a little podcast while flying. It made me accountable for everything that I was doing, like I had someone watching over my shoulder to ensure I didn’t become lax. The video will be uploaded shortly for all to see.

The skies were perfect, a very slight south wester blowing in, with bright blue skies without much cloud. A few of my landings were average at best, though they are all under control and are on the main wheels, which is good. I also had a few issues with my radio too. I think it was because I’m not use to the plane I was in – VH-UGF (JOO had some flap issues, for which Cessna is notorious). It was good practise at some mid-air problem solving though.

The one concern I always have is that the ATC will request something of me and I will have no idea what they’re talking about. This happened three times on this day! Firstly ATC requested, on my base leg, that I change runways to 28L to allow for a helicopter to take off. This was ok! The differing length, look and aiming point of 28L threw me a little though didn’t present any real issues. Second, after landing on 28L, ATC asked me on upwind to rejoin the right hand circuit, again no real issues. The last one disrupted me the most, though in hindsight was the simplest request of the day. ATC said; “ JOO Tower”, after thinking for a second what they were asking, I responded “JOO go ahead”, it seemed to work, they were talking back to me. The next part really threw me; “JOO change of sequence, follow behind Jabiru at 15:00”. Now this is the part that gets embarrassing, I know you’ll laugh though I’m sure every rookie would do the same thing. Instinct kicked in and I looked at my watch. After discovering it was only 08:30, I quickly realised they were talking direction! Damn! I said some mumbled response that indicated I was going to fly behind the Jabiru (at this point I still didn’t really know why I was doing it). It was only when I was half way down my down-wind leg that it made sense. The Jabiru was joining the circuit and they were allowing him to fly in front of me. At the point of the request, he was at my 15:00 (which I spotted after the watch debacle), so they wanted me to extend my upwind and cross-wind to allow separation between me and the Jabiru. The change of sequence part was because now, instead of me being third in the circuit, I was forth behind the Jabiru. One thing that eases my mind is that, even though at the time I didn’t completely understand the request, once I saw the Jabiru, common sense and instinct did the rest. I extended my upwind leg to allow time for him to pass by the tip of my wing and then extended my cross-wind to track directly behind him to avoid issues later on base. A good lesson in radio communication and a new found trust in my ability to apply common sense.


The rest of the time ‘flew past’ uneventfully. My last landing of the day was my best and I arrived back to Gil Layt’s perfectly on time. I parked and packed up the plane correctly and remembered to get the odometer reading. I’m really starting to feel good about my abilities now. It’s strange reading older posts, where I was convinced I would never get it down pat. It’s a really great feeling and it justifies in my own mind, the need to write after each lesson.

Robert’s away on holidays for the next two weeks so I will be flying on Saturday with Steve, the CFI. We’ll be doing precautionary search and landing practice.

Should be fun!

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