Which surface is better for landing? For some reasons I like concrete. Grass is softer, and the touchdown seems easier and gentler, but concrete is flatter and smoother. And takeoff from a concrete runway is surely much better.
I had a lot of landings on the grass. In fact, I had REALLY a lot of landings on the grass. Today I fly patterns on the aerodrome with a grass strip.
Today I made many landings. The main outcome is that finally I mainly fly the airplane than it flies me. I see where it is going to land, and at least I have proper feedback from the flight controls. At least the approach becomes stabilized. Previously it was more like “trying to aim to some point by any means, using all available flight controls”. Now I have to be more precise: the strip is shorter. I was pretty good in theory, but for the some reason it did not help a lot. Possibly the reason is that I mainly concentrated on an instantaneous correction without building a ‘big picture’.
Today I have a level-up: now I analyze my track during the approach and try to keep the straight paths really straight, and curved paths as smooth as possible. I use trim even in turbulent weather. I mainly set the flaps to the desired position for landing earlier instead of correcting a glide path by using flaps.
I am making progress. I perform slower than I wanted to, but I am moving on.
Once again, I have a new instructor. I hope that this time he will stay with me until a checkride, because it’s fun to fly with different people, but there is a significant overlap between exercises. As a result I fly more hours. Of course, it is an experience, and those hours are credited to my total time, but I want to move faster.
We are finishing navigation flights and continuing practicing landings and stabilized approaches. The weather is great now.
Today I finally flew a real hang-glider after some days flying trainers. It was an aircraft with a 18-square-meters wing. The first impression is fantastic, at least I am in the middle of recommended weight limits! In Russia I flew only training hang-gliders manufactured by Aeros with a 16-square-meters wing, I am a little bit heavy for them. As I understand, Icaro makes hang-gliders with a 1-meter step wings. It is so cool to fly a hang-glider that perfectly fits!
After using training models with 21-square-meters wings I had to run much faster during takeoff, and act more aggressively during landing. However even with this wing I can takeoff with a nil wind.
The second new factor is a new harness. This one is used for flying, while previously I wore the one that is more suitable for running. To be honest, I did not see any real difference during takeoff and landing, but it is amazing in the air. The only drawback is that I have to take it off to carry the hang-glider back to the hill, and put it back on before takeoff.
I have to leave today, but I’d like to come back. There are a few places in the whole world with those incredible mountains, and where it is possible to fly in all seasons. I associate this place with a spirit of freedom. I think that later, when I will be older and calmer, I will have a strong desire to live in a such place. Therefore I just have to become older and calmer, find a pretty mountain and master my flying without an engine. However, it will be later. Now I have a lot of things to do, for example, finish my PPL 🙂
What is required for a good landing on a pretty small landing area? One should correctly estimate an altitude, estimate wind and apply proper wind correction and make coordinated turns with a predictable altitude loss. Today I practiced those things, except for wind estimation which is easy because there are a lot of windsocks on the hill. Firstly do 45-degree turns, then 90-degree turns. The goal is establishing a proper course on an appropriate height, i.e., I should not lose substantial altitude before and during my turn. Then level the wings, flare and land.
Straight legs are much better, for both the glide path and horizontal projection. You can do good solid takeoffs even with a nil wind. Of course I understand that with a 16 wing I will still need to run much faster and longer. Landings are good, almost all of them are on the feet and with a proper wing stall. I am making progress 🙂
I am going on with my hang-gliding path. Today I am flying a different hang-glider, also 21 sq meters, but more stiff sail. It is controlled much easier, but start is more difficult, and the flight is lower.
I made 24 exercises “takeoff-flight-landing” straight ahead, and 4 flights with a 45-degree turn. This hang-glider is heavier, and it is harder to bring it back to the starting point, but it is much more predictable. But in flight a feel that he is less laterally stable: once you turned, it keeps turning (unlike “target” hang-glider which I flew before in Russia). To stop turning you should apply a control force to turn in the opposite direction. Like for an airplane.
I also flew with my instructor in a tandem flight. Also 21-meter hang-glider. I feel that there are A LOT of thermal flows here. Almost everywhere. Of course I cannot find and use them so great as my instructor does. And he even does not use a vario!
They use Land Rover Defender to bring hang-gliders uphill. So strange feeling in that ride: a lot of Italians, they are constantly speaking (as usual, with expression!). I think that it was 3-4 parallel conversations. I don’t speak Italian now, so for me it is like a white noise, but the feeling is pretty funny 🙂
They have a TINY landing spot here! Initially I did not even understand that that tiny glade is a landing spot! It is really a spot! The approach is almost as in an airplane, almost standard full-rectangle circuit, but the landing… In a hang-glider in any case you have only one attempt. And here it is especially important. I saw somebody landed uphill though, but it is a totally different skill and it should be practiced. At least to overcome psychological barrier: it is not easy to fly directly to the ground (more speed, steeper angle), and then abruptly stall the wing.
I remember Crimea and Klementieva mountain near Koktebel. There are kilometers-width landing area, and the landing approach is simply “making turns to decrease distance from hill, and trying not to hit any bush”. Here it is impossible, course precision should be near perfect. I was never trained to overfly a landmark previously, and here it is an essential skill: without that it is impossible to make a good approach. I can relatively well fly towards some external reference, but I am really bad on flying directly over a landmark. Previously I just had to stay in a dynamic flow with a minimum altitude loss in turns. And now I have to be really precise. It is a noticeable lack of experience.
But in overall my flights are more smooth, takeoffs and landings are better, and muscles are stronger 🙂
Temporarily I fly without engine. I came to Italian hang-gliding school.
I don’t have a license. I don’t know anything about terrain and aerology of that place. I do no fly regularly, and I did not fly almost a year. So, I am starting from a basic exercises.
The training approach is somewhat different here. Initially you run with a 21-square-meters hang-glider. The sail is very light, like the one used in paragliders. It’s very easy to take off, but relatively hard to control it: it flies by itself.
I start with a very low angle of attack. It means that I try to gain more speed, but I don’t lift off for a long time, which is bad. I simply don’t let it fly for a long time! I used to fly 16-meters hang-glider, which requires more speed on a take off. The flight itself is very unstable. But landings are pretty good. I spent a lot of time on them previously 🙂
They don’t put the hands out of the downtubes if the landing seems to be on the wheels. Possibly that is because the landing spot is totally flat without any rocks, bushes and plowed furrows.
Also they don’t use radio for initial training. The instructor just stands near the landing spot and shows turn direction (if needed). And during the landing he is usually rather close, and can just speak loudly.
The training itself is possible during almost the whole day: the training hill is between mountains, and there are neither dangerous turbulence nor strong winds even in the afternoon. Ideal place to training. I remember my training in Crimea, where I had to wake up at 5 in the morning…
There are two trees near the landing spot, “to be more precise”. Once I flew directly to the tree, happily it was pretty far away. Don’t look at the obstacle, because if you do it, it becomes a reference point 🙂
Totally I have some crazy number of 2-3-meters-height flights during the day, definitely more than 20. I used to practice it 5-7 times during my previous training… My take off is much better, my flight is much more stable 🙂
Morning visibility was terrible. It was so awful that I almost lost any hope to fly today, but in the afternoon it improved, and the weather became flyable. Let’s go!
Today we are moving on. We fly circuits, but sometimes the instructor sets power to idle and says “emergency landing”. Usually he does that when I do not expect. Depends on altitude I should either turn around towards the runway and land downwind or find a suitable field and continue straight in. If I have enough altitude, the best option is turn and land upwind on the runway, but for that I have to be at least on a downwind leg.
Then the instructor simulated partial panel. Now we have only altimeter, VSI and engine instruments. No airspeed indicator, no CDI, no attitude indicator. To be honest, after about third circuit you can understand that in basic VFR it is not a problem: a familiar aerodrome and a good visibility allows to fly visually. Exactly what my instructor wanted. But initially I was confused. And turn coordinator really helps.
My landings are much better, my altitude estimation is also improving. I still cannot use to descend with flaps 40: I still feel that we fall like a rock. I think that it is because we rarely use flaps 40 in a normal landing because of a long concrete runway. I definitely need more practice.
Today I’d like to share my personal opinion about flight instructors. I came to the training base of my school when they did not have permanent staff, and I was flying with different instructors during my PPL.
At first I’d like to talk about some moments that I knew in theory, but did not always follow in practice. Especially considering the fact that I came from a zero level, and had to learn a lot.
The main point: be fully prepared before each flight. Videos, books, flight simulator – use as much as you can and as much as you have available time for. Mark blind spots and ask the instructor about them. But do not waste valuable flight time for that.
Know your syllabus in as much detail as possible. Know your weak points and problems. Ask about them if in doubt. Try to focus on weak points. Possibly it can be a bit easier to train with the only one instructor during the whole course, because he can track your progress, but remember: it is your license and your training. Nobody can track your progress better than you.
Some instructors make great briefings. Some do not. If the instructor does not formulate detailed flight exercises and goals, you must do it yourself before the flight. Do not introduce too many new factors (ideally no more than one new factor per flight). Syllabus helps in that very much. Again, know your syllabus.
Briefly ask about any flight control from the instructor’s side. Ask for details after landing. You should know the purpose of that and correct your wrong actions. Or at least understand what happens.
Action cam is desirable, because post-flight video analysis can help a lot: you can see a lot of problems which you did not see during a flight just because of a high workload.
It’s much better if the instructor is familiar with a training site: runway(s) characteristics, approaches, aerology, typical student problems in that place. I flew in non-mountainous terrain, and it is not so critical, but still important: instructors who know their home base very well are more effective.
So, instructors, according to my personal experience. They are great pilots: they all fly well. But that is not enough. A good instructor is not only a pilot, he is also a good teacher…
Instructor #1. I flew an introductory flight and some first exercises with him. Then some short cross-countries. He hardly speaks English and hardly speaks Russian (he is Czech). It matters. I need much more instruction, not just a flight time and gestures language. It is not the only problem though. He is very nervous. All controls are abrupt. Much more abrupt than necessary. Later I realized that I learned the same piloting manner: other instructors mentioned that, and I made my analysis (again, action cam helps a lot!). Anyway, be a little skeptical, your instructor is not perfect by all means. Of course I don’t say that you should correct him or try to argue, but you should ask if in doubt.
Actually he is a good pilot. But I don’t like him as an instructor. He prevents to make any mistakes even in a safe altitude. He correct everything in advance by himself. I would not like to train landings with him: I need my landings, hot his landings. As like all maneuvers (stalls, emergency landings etc.). Theory is good, but practice is necessary. I think that instructor should allow to do the maneuvers, and correct only if it is a safety problem.
And the worst thing that I cannot ask because of language barrier! I don’t speak Czech, he does not speak English. He can act as a safety pilot, but I am zero hour student, I need an instructor, not just a safety pilot!
With that instructor I had to correct everything fast and abruptly just because if I don’t do that he does that. From my opinion, too abruptly. I did not see other instructors acting like that.
Instructor #2. I flew some circuits and a couple of cross-countries. He speaks English, he almost does not touch the controls without necessity. He is mainly a helicopter pilot, and it seems that he builds his PIC hours. Even I can see that he needs much more experience as an instructor: he hardly remembers PPL syllabus and does not provide good briefings. He does not remember Vx, Vy, Va etc. for C150. He also highly focused on flight instruments instead of external references. He is a very good pilot, and his landings are also good. But he cannot explain what’s wrong with my flying, so, cannot properly explain what should I do to correct my problems. But he is highly motivated, and, again, he is a good pilot.
WIth him I made a habit to use checklists, pilotage and dead-reckoning. He is really good in it.
From my opinion, we made too much circuits. It is my fault too: I had to land earlier for discussion, not practice the same mistake. But it’s really hard to understand that you repeat the same mistake. Possibly for instructor too, I don’t know.
Instructor #3. We flew circuits, stalls, landings and cross-countries. Great English. He did not touch controls a lot. He is an airline pilot. At least I have briefings! Actually not so man words about that instructor: we made just a couple of flights, mainly cross-countries, he is good. I am good in cross-countries too. I am not so good in landings.
Instructor #4. The most experienced, he sees the problems and knows how to solve them. He knows and tells exact action sequences, flies real VFR (I think he can perfectly fly without instruments at all), he tells some hints. As I know, he has a lot of aerobatic hours. He feels the airplane. Unfortunately he is not a PPL instructor, he is a chief pilot.
Instructor #5. Very experienced, but not very motivated. For example, we flew about 15 circuits. Debriefing, and “you do it in a wrong way”. So why 15, why not 3? You definitely have enough experience to understand it after 3-4 circuits! You know your right way? Land, explain, fly again! What for we flew so much “in a wrong way”?
Instructor #6. He has a lot of glider hours. So, his piloting manner is a bit biased: at any moment he is always looking for a suitable field in case of engine failure, and approach is usually steeper that I used to (what if we lose the engine on the approach?). But by all other means he is good. He is a real instructor, he knows how to explain, and he possibly enjoys that. He allows me to correct the problems, or, if I do nothing (or I do not see the problem), he can point on that without touching the controls. It really helps.
Instructor #7. He has about 5000 flight hours. He is very experienced, and he is very calm. He knows how to explain, he knows what to do. I fly commercial program with him, so it is not about touching the controls. But I like to feel that he knows what to do even if something goes wrong. At the same time he is OK with flying in IMC, flying in B airspace and flying to different (possibly challenging) airports.
Possibly I will increase my list 🙂
How I used to fly short cross-countries? Take off, climb through rollercoaster bumpiness, turn to the desired course, straight and level, adjust trim and RPM. Then suddenly see +5 on the VSI, correct, trim. Then -5 on the VSI. Adjust, straight and level again, then suddenly left wing goes up. Quickly wings level, trim. And near the forest behind again +5. During those flights I really did not totally understand what is the purpose of trim in C150. And the flight control is not the only task: I have to follow a chart, apply a wind correction and notice time. Spring in Europe can be challenging for a student pilot.
Today everything is totally different. Thermal activity is weak, and at least I can fly straight and level without applying flight controls all the time. An airplane can actually fly very stable without any pilot action. Relax. I even have plenty of time for observing pretty castles below: there are plenty of them in Czech. Early morning is a perfect time for training.