Flying Lesson # 5 – Circuit Training

February 12, 2012

Today was probably the most nervous I have been throughout this process (with the obvious exception of the first flight of course). Circuits! To understand my anxiety, it’s important you understand what a circuit consists of and why it is used.

A Circuit or Airfield Traffic Pattern is a standard path followed by aircraft when taking off or landing, while maintaining visual contact with the airfield. At an airport, the circuit is a standard path for coordinating air traffic. Circuits can be defined as left-hand or right-hand, according to which way the turns in the pattern are performed. Left-hand circuits are the most common.

A circuit consists of an upwind take-off and climb to 500 feet. At which time the pilot conducts a climbing turn onto the cross-wind leg. Whilst checking for appropriate separation from the airfield, another climbing turn is conducted on to the down-wind leg. The climb is levelled out at 1000 feet and at this time, a radio call is made to identify the aircrafts position and explain your intentions. Checks are also required at this point to ensure the aircraft is set up for landing. Again, once appropriate separation from the runway threshold has been established; the pilot lowers the power setting, extends the flaps and commences a descending turn on to the base leg. It’s then a case of turning level with the runway (final) communicating with the ATC then landing the aircraft. During circuit training, touch and gos are performed to give the trainee as much exposure to circuits as possible. So basically, once you have landed, you retract the flaps, power on and take off for another lap.

At the start of the lesson, we had our usual 1 hour theory lesson in the classroom. Robert explained the process of conducting a circuit and what we were aiming for in each leg. This is one area that I have done a lot of study as it is the lesson I’ve been waiting for, for a long time.

After the theory, I proceeded out to the plane (VH-JOO) and did my exterior checks. Robert doesn’t join me for this part of the lesson anymore as he trusts that I can complete it all on my own. I discovered that the plane required fuel, as it had just below the required amount for the flight. We ordered the fuel and sat and waited for the Mobil truck to arrive.

Next door to Gill Layt’s is Archerfield’s only helicopter flying school. While we were waiting for the fuel truck, we watched the choppers performing take offs and landings. Here’s a bit of trivia for you, helicopters can actually perform a gliding approach should their engines fail. I had no idea and found it fascinating.

After refuelling, we completed the remainder of the pre-flight checks, radioed for clearance and headed out to the runway. Take offs for me are becoming a lot more fluid now and I don’t think Robert is needing to assist at all anymore. Landing however, well.. landings are a whole other story (a-whole-nother for the bogans amongst us.. haha).

I completed all of the circuits for the day with a lot of help from Robert. Some landings were good, some I’m sure, were just controlled crashes. Robert insists that I’m doing as well as can be expected at this point, but the landings are just disappointing me at this stage. I understand the concept behind the landing, can easily identify the stages of sink etc and have moderately good approaches. It just seems like I brace for impact or something just before touching down and lose my mojo. I’m sure I will loosen up and relax with time!

Circuits will consume most of my training from now until my first solo flight (somewhere between lessons 10 and 15) In the meantime, there are quite a few things I need to get sorted out before I’m allowed to go solo.

  • Aviation Medical – Before solo, you must have      an Aviation Medical conducted. This needs to be done by an approved      Aviation Doctor or DAME. There are different levels of medicals available      depending on what activities you are conducting. I only require a Level 2,      however, as I will require a level one when I wish to get my Commercial      Pilots Licence, I’ve been advised to get it now to ensure I meet the      medical standards required before hand. Costs: Medical – $400, Eye test –      $330.
  • ASIC – The ASIC is an aviation Security      clearance card. Basically it states that you are an appropriate person to      be in high security areas of airfields etc. They conduct a very thorough      back ground check on you before issuing the card. Cost: $196.
  • Student Pilot Licence – This is basically a      licence that states you are able to learn to fly an aircraft and operate      it within the licence guidelines. Cost: $50.
  • Aviation Headset – Whilst I can use the Flying      Schools, I will need my own and I’m tossing up my options at the moment.      David Clark’s = $450 – Bose = $1000. Not sure which one I’ll go with, but      will update you once I’ve decided.

All up, I’m looking at $1476 plus the costs of my lessons. Eek. Why does everything Aviation have to cost so much? If anyone wants to sponsor me, let me know 🙂

Next Lesson – Circuits, circuits and more circuits!

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