Flying Lesson # 15 – Circuits with Cross-wind Landings

April 29, 2012

This week was to be the one of my first solo, which is possibly the biggest milestone in the journey to becoming a Commercial Pilot! Unfortunately it just wasn’t to be. But cross-wind landings were.

After a week of less-than-desirable weather, Sunday started out cloudy and overcast. After the cloud dissipated, a larger than normal cross-wind (for Archerfield’s runways at least) remained. To go solo, you must have: more than 10 hours of instruction (check), a Student Pilot Licence (check), an Aviation Security Identification Card (check), a current Class 1 or 2 Aviation Medical (check), a generally calm, sunny day (not quite).

I’m not concerned about the amount of hours it takes to go solo (it will probably be 16 hours for me), as I said to Robert, I’m not after bragging rights at the pub. If the day isn’t suitable, I’d rather get a solid lesson of instruction and improve my skills than go out solo in bad conditions and struggle just to get a low hour solo. Robert advised that when going for an aviation job, solo doesn’t even come in to it. They are only concerned at how long it took you to get the Commercial Licence. So for now, I can only sit, nervously anticipating that long awaited moment.

As I mentioned earlier, Saturday was a complete right-off with heavy rain periods plaguing most of Brisbane. Sunday started out overcast and miserable looking, however it did clear up just in time for my lesson at 08:00. I was greeted by Robert at the flying school, grabbed the keys to JOO and headed out to get set up. I’m recording every lesson now with my GoPro HD Hero 2 so it takes me a little longer to set up these days. With all checks complete, Robert and I headed out to the runway and took off for another day of circuits. As there was a fairly strong cross-wind, the focus was on landings. I’m still not perfect at landing in a cross-wind; maybe a little more co-ordination would help matters. I know what you’re saying, what’s a pilot without co-ordination? Well before you write me off, let’s discuss briefly what is required to land successfully.

After turning final, one must:

Maintain the correct glide slope by constantly judging the size of the runway. That’s right, no textbook figures to maintain. If the runway looks thinner than it should, you are too high. If it looks fatter, you’re too low. Somewhere in the middle is desirable!

Speed needs to be maintained around 70 knots. This is done by changing your power setting, attitude of the plane or both simultaneously.

While maintaining the correct height and speed, you also need to make sure the plane is heading straight down the centre line of runway. This is done by manipulating aileron.

If Carb Heat is applied, it’s at this point that you need to remove it.

As you approach the threshold, you need to round out high enough so as to not cause a mess of metal on the runway but not too high as to have too far to fall.

You then begin to float down the runway, co-ordinating aileron to maintain centre line, and rudder to keep the plane straight.

Keeping the nose nice and high and after the power is cut, the plane should touch down smoothly.

Easy, I know. However this is suggesting there is no wind. Apply a little cross-wind and it all goes pear-shaped!

As you come in for your approach and are trying to maintain centre line, the wind wants to push you off course as much as possible. This is when we start crabbing, which is basically turning the plane into the wind to counteract the push, whilst still heading toward the centre line.

As we approach the threshold, rudder is used to balance or straighten the plane ready for touchdown. If we don’t do this, the plane will land ‘crossed up’ and we end up back with the mess of metal on the runway. However, when we balance the plane, the force counteracting the push is removed and the wind again wants to remove us from the runway. To avoid this, we dip the ‘into wind’ wing and use aileron to bring the plane back to centre line. As one wing is now lower than the other, we land on that wheel first, before touching down on the second main gear wheel and then finally the nose wheel, before adjusting rudder pressure to steer the plane down the runway.

The issue that I am having is co-ordinating aileron and rudder at the point of touch down. I either concentrate on rudder, resulting in a nice straight though somewhat ‘off centreline’ landing, or I concentrate on aileron and land crossed up on the centre line. With time, I’m sure they will both work together.

The entirety of this lesson was taken up by cross-wind training. Moving forward, the plan is to hopefully go solo next weekend (weather dependent), then start on area training the week after. This involves moving away from circuits and start flying around the training area. Yay!

On a side note, after the lesson on Sunday, my father and I headed out to the Brisbane International Airport for a little plane spotting. We found a nice dedicated viewing area just off Dryandra Road, Eagle Farm. I have uploaded a heap of photos to Facebook (www.facebook.com.au/StudentPilotJourney). Check them out and like the page while you’re there!

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