Debrief – Saturday 6th May

Sky above Lee

On the morning of the 6th I woke up with nothing planned for the day other than reading and watching a film. My phone starts ringing and it is my instructor – interesting!

“Jordan” he says “Do you want to go flying?”.

“Of course!” I say.

Two hours later I am walking across the apron ready to head off.

Even though I had a short amount of time to prepare I knew what I wanted to achieve in this weeks flying time.

Agenda for today

  • Land on the numbers

One of the consistent problems I have have had with my landings is that I would often aim for a point that I wanted to land on and would then float a bit further along down the runway; not going to be helpful when I am landing on small grass strips! I don’t quite know what the symptoms of my inaccurate landings were but I was going to have a good go at working it out.

I flew two circuits with my instructor before he jumped out and let me go and fly some solo circuits.

My forty minutes flying solo started off with what I thought were some displays of dodgy airmanship on my part. When my instructor left me I was parked up on the apron just in front of the control tower. The apron is connected to the runway via a thin taxiway and a hold point “Alpha One”. Across the runway is a nice round piece of taxiway that is used for our power checks before take-off. It can be accessed via a hold point Bravo One or another hold point called Bravo Two which is a little bit further up the runway. I noticed another plane crossing over the run up area on the other side of the runway and heading towards hold point Bravo One. I began taxing towards hold point “Alpha One” and noticed pretty early I was going to be blocking the aircraft that needed to cross the runway and vacate it via Alpha One as there isn’t enough space to pass side-by-side. Realising my error I made an improvised radio call:

“Golf-Hotel Alpha. Alpha One to cross, I need to make sure I’m out of the way of the aircraft crossing Bravo One now.”.

It felt a bit like a distress call on my part and I was a little concerned that I came across a little bit harsh and snappy. The controller on the other side of the radio told me to cross and leave the runway at Bravo Two. Now. I might have told you where Bravo Two was up above, but at the time I didn’t have a clue. In my haste to get past the other aircraft and off of the runway I just proceeded to Bravo One and gave the other aircraft a wave of thanks.

I am sure that the controller cursed me and threw a few complaints in my direction and I don’t blame him as I definitely confused a situation that didn’t need to be confused.

What could I have done differently? When I saw the other aircraft taxing across the power up area I should have realised that we were going to come face to face someone was going to be blocked. I could have stayed waiting on the apron for a couple of minutes and I would have prevented any issues. The other aircraft stopped at the bottom of the runway to let me through; if another pilot was on their final leg they would have had to go around as there were two aircraft crossing the runway. That would have been my fault because I was unnecessarily blocking a taxiway.

The second thing I could have improved on here was my failure to identify where Bravo Two was. Instead of carrying on to the exit I knew, I should have just asked the controller where Bravo Two was. He would have told me it was just up the runway and I would have known where to go. The saying “If in doubt, shout!” is very relevant here; remembering it during stressful situations is another thing.

My second display of what I thought was poor airmanship was during my first solo circuit. I found myself closing in behind another plane on the downwind and base legs. I had decided that due to my closeness I would fly a go around without descending for the approach. Because of this I found myself quickly overflying the aircraft and lost sight of him. I send out a radio call “Golf Hotel Alpha, on finals but flying a go-around and passing above the aircraft on finals”. I think it was the right call to make, but it was quite nerve racking flying over an aircraft so close below me. I was also concerned about and wake turbulence I may have been producing, even though I am in a small plane.

If I see another event like this developing in the future I will probably decrease my cruise speed and stick a bit further behind the descending plane to avoid any potential close calls that may occur.

Other than those two incidents my session was fairly straightforward. I practiced a lot of normal approaches and attempted a few glide approaches – which had to be turned into powered approaches on final! Towards the end of the session I was getting closer and closer to the numbers. Looking back on my previous landings I think I was aiming at just past the numbers which caused me to overfly and land further down the runway but now I was aiming for the numbers I was touching down more accurately. I did notice that my obsession with looking for the numbers caused me to fly some accidentally slow approaches, so I will need to keep an eye on my airspeed on final.

Whilst it was nice weather with blue skies there was a lot of haze whilst airborne; I could only just make out the Isle of Wight in the distance. A side effect of this was me not being able to see the land marks I normally use to visually judge my circuits. This meant I got some good practice judging turning points and headings based on visually looking at the runway I was flying around.

Very quickly my session was over and I taxied back to a very busy apron, parked the plane around and shut it down.

Key take-aways

  • Watch my speed on final
  • Be more aware of other aircraft and think about how I should act
  • “If in doubt, shout!”

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