Land in Sight!

We fly a lot of aerodrome patterns. We do it in different aerodromes for a richer experience. My instructor is not totally assured in my flying, and so he does not want to let me fly solo now. Probably with the only instructor from the beginning it can be faster, but now we have what we have.

However I do not complain. Safety is the first priority. Additionally, I enjoy flying even patterns, and I am happy to see my confidence improve. Furthermore, I need 200+ hours for my commercial license, and it does not matter a lot whether I have 45 or 60 hours under my belt after private.

Controlled Airspace

Karlovy Vary is a very beautiful place. Lakes and buildings look fantastic from the altitude.

Today I flew to the control zone. I did not expect that the workload would be so high: the flight itself is almost the same except that I have clearances instead of advisories, but I felt somewhat uncomfortable. OK, possibly it is just the unfamiliar environment…

The controllers speak English much better than our tower. Actually our tower is not so bad compared to some airfields in the vicinity: sometimes they only speak Czech. I remember that I am in Czech, and I try to do my best, but I wish to see some more operators speaking the international aviation language (which is English), at least at a basic level.

Additionally we made some landings on the way there, it is a good practice for me. I am becoming more confident, and I make better and better landings even on sloped runways.

They Are So Different…

I enjoy exploring new aerodromes. They appear very similar, but they are not. Of course I say that only with my level of experience, but I think that it’s true for many pilots.

Today we flew circuits in an aerodrome with a grass runway. The runway itself is rather uneven and rough: firstly, it has a slope, and there are small bumps and hollows. Secondly, the grass is very uneven, and does not cover the entire runway. Actually there is no significant difference, but I still like concrete runways much more.

Here is the picture about how approach to a grass runway looks like:

Approach. Land. Go. Repeat.

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.

Navigation

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.

Morning Weather

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.

Navigation Flight

The first navigation flight with a full stop in a different aerodrome. The complete planning: map route, NOTAMs, weather, fuel and time estimation.

The interesting thing is the definition of cross-country time. For example, FAA strictly states that cross-country flight should be more than 50 nm from the departure point, but not the EASA. Moreover, there is no even a column in my logbook for logging cross-country time. EASA simply requires using flight preparation and navigation procedures, i. e. technically even 5 nm between adjacent aerodromes qualifies, if you prepare for that and use navigation procedures. If we strictly follow the definition, it can be even the same aerodrome! It seems that I will have some troubles computing my totals in future. Just to be totally safe, I am going to follow FAA rules for my commercial time, but now I am just following the syllabus and EASA regulations (I am in Europe now, am not I?). So, navigation.

It is relatively easy to follow the map in Czech Republic: a lot of roads, villages, towns, rivers and lakes (ponds?). For me rivers are the most straightforward, but I am trying to use pilotage (i. e. spotting enroute landmarks) as much as I can.

We flew to Roudnice (LKRO). Much easier to land there: no trees on final, so, less turbulence. But the runway is a little upslope, and I have to keep the nose higher. Somewhat unaccustomed.

We found precipitation on our leg, and had to divert for some miles. I am glad that I did not have any difficulties to find where I am after that.

I failed to properly estimate my time: my computations showed about 10% faster route than the real one.

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Keep going, keep working 🙂

Emergency Landings

The weather is still not very calm, but not very turbulent. Therefore, we are working on emergency landings today.

It is a very strange feeling when the airplane suddenly turns into a glider. I don’t have strong skills for suitable field parameters estimation yet: height, size, distance. In theory everything is straightforward, but in practice I feel that I am falling like a stone, and all the fields are tiny.

I remember my skating training, when I was trying to make a 180 turn via jumping. Actually it is easy, but I had to overcome a psychological barrier. Now it is similar: I can just overcome a stress and start acting rationally. I think I also have to practice descend with flaps 30 and 40, when a sinkrate is relatively high, just to get used to the feeling.

I am not sure that it is possible to become fully confident with all that stuff in published hour minimums for a private pilot (a sight from the future: later I can only confirm that). But I don’t want to stop on a private license. And I want to fly after getting a license, not just put it on a shelf. I want to move on.

Landings

Today I was flying with another instructor. He told me a very simple and obvious thing, which I could not realize myself: during the landing I should look not only straight ahead, but also slightly to the left. On the early stages it helps to better estimate height above the ground. Hmm. It really helps to flare better!

Today I practice landings. Take-off, circuit, final, landing.

Today I also made my first navigation flight. Nothing special, but all towns and villages are somewhat similar from the air, and it can be difficult to understand which one I am overflying now. The best clue is usually a road (especially highway) or a river. Finally I am starting to quickly find and identify my home airport from more than 5 miles. I totally understand that it is really hard to NOT spot a 2 km length concrete runway, but that’s how it works when you start from zero level. In my first flights I experienced some troubles with finding even that huge runway 🙂

Landings

We started flying touch-n-goes: the airplane touches down, then I have to quickly set an airplane configuration to take-off without stopping, and take off again. It makes landings practice quicker: we save the time for full stop and taxiing back.

Fortunately I can fly circuits on my home aerodrome without landing fees. I know that for the US it is a usual practice (even for towered aerodromes), but for Europe it is not so simple. Some flight schools don’t care about landing fees, and just charge their students. The others try to find some uncontrolled airports where nobody charges those fees. So, I am somewhat happy in that sense: I can fly circuits at my home base, and I don’t pay landing fees for that. And we have a very long concrete runway here. I think that it is a great advantage.

My circuits are almost OK, but my landings are bad. Possibly I feel much more calm on altitude. One circuit is about seven minutes (actually it is a lot!), one landing is about some seconds. Unfortunately I cannot practice landings only, and I have to spend my flight time. I miss Western Step on Klement’eva hill, when I was able to practice landings on a hang-glider, just landings, without long approaches or circuits…