Sunday, August 16, 2009


This post is to notify my (probably non-existant) readers that I am defecting to another website which offers more features now I've worked out how to use it.

The link to my new location is here. My blog has also undergone a name-change which may or may not last.

Please come visit my blog at its new home!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Radio Calls

Unfortunately for me, I suffer from a bit of 'mic fright'. This is partly because I seem to have an inability to get the headset mic in the right position to consistently pick up my voice - hopefully getting my own headset will cure this problem somewhat!

In an attempt to get over this 'mic fright', I'm going to have a look at radio calls used at a non-towered airfield (such as Lilydale).

All radio calls in CTAF (non-towered) airspace contain the same basic information:

  1. Location (the general area)
  2. Called ID (who I'm calling)
  3. Calling station ID (who I am)
  4. Calling station position (where I am)
  5. Calling station intentions (what my intentions are)
  6. Location repeated
Taxiing Call
Lilydale Traffic
Jabiru 4929
Taxiing runway 36

Entering Runway Call
Lilydale Traffic
Jabiru 4929
Entering runway 36
For circuits [or] for training area

Joining Circuit Call
Lilydale Traffic
Jabiru 4929
Joining downwind [or other positon if applicable - crosswind, upwind]/Runway 36

Turning Downwind Call
Lilydale Traffic
Jabiru 4929
Turning downwind runway 36

Turning Base Call
Lilydale Traffic
Jabiru 4929
Turning base runway 36

Turning Final Call
Lilydale Traffic
Jabiru 4929
Turning final runway 36
[Intention - for touch & go, for full stop etc]

Clear of Runway Call
Lilydale Traffic
Jabiru 4929
Clear of runway 36 [or] clear of all runways

Runways: what's in a name?

The runway is pronounced 'Runway Three Six' not 'Runway Thirty-six'.

Runways are named after their compass bearing, dropping the last digit. Each runway has two names, depending on which way the planes are flying.

At Lilydale, the runway goes from North (360) to South (180) so it's called 36 and 18. If you say you're using Runway 36, that means that you are taking off to the North. If you are using Runway 18, that means you are taking off to the South.

At Lilydale there are two runways, which run parallel. To differentiate them, they are known as 36R/18L and 36L/18R. To determine which is R and which is L, it is based on what you see when looking down the runway from the plane - i.e. 36R is on your right hand side.

The main problem with only having north-south runways at Lilydale is that if there is a crosswind, there is no way of changing to a runway that goes into that wind (or is closer to it). So far though, crosswinds seem fairly infrequent...

Saturday, August 1, 2009


The mission for today was stalls.

We dispensed with the usual briefing since we'd briefed on stalls on Wednesday and it was rightly assumed that I could remember it.

I was sent out to preflight Jab 5231. Happily, it is possible to move the rudder pedals on 5231. I went through the usual checks and Jeremy came out. He was like "do we have an airplane?" and I was like "well we have two wings and a tail so I reckon we're set!"

We got in and I started it. While I was taxiing Jeremy told me I was taxiing a little too fast (perhaps I have a need for speed?) - taxiing is meant to be done at a fast walking speed but nobody is really sure how they work out what a fast walking speed actually is! We did the various checks at the various points and Jeremy did the takeoff.

We went to the training area and climbed to 3500ft. We were just below the cloud here, so we couldn't go up to 4000ft but 3500ft still gave us enough height to recover from the stall by 3000ft.

First we went through the pre-stall checklist - HASELL. Then Jeremy demonstrated several stalls. To be honest, I expected something a little more scary but it was all pretty tame - although still fantastic fun. You reduce the power to idle (1000rpm) and at the same time raise the nose to maintain height. Eventually (with a lot of help) the critical AofA will be reached and the plane will stall. There is a stall warning horn which sounds when the critical AofA is reached. It's not a particularly scary sounding horn, although it might be more scary for people who didn't know what it meant and weren't expecting it (i.e. passengers).

Before entering a stall, it is important to do a clearing turn. This is a 360 degree turn to check that there is nothing around you and, most importantly, below you.

There are a number of steps to a stall.

  1. Put on Carby Heat to prevent Carburettor Icing (ice in the engine)
  2. Reduce the power to idle (1000rpm)
  3. While reducing power, raise the nose in order to maintain height
  4. The wings will eventually reach the critical AofA and the stall horn will sound
  5. Turn off Carby Heat when the horn sounds
  6. Release backpressure on the stick to allow the nose to lower
  7. Slowly increase power to full and at the same time raise the nose to the climb position
  8. Climb back to previous height
The reason that the plane is put into a climb after the stall, rather than just into a cruise, is in case a stall was entered (either intentionally or accidentally) closer to the ground. You want to climb as fast as possible to avoid trees and other potential things to crash into.

After a couple more demonstrations, I was given a chance to try. The first thing I noticed is that it takes a lot (a LOT) of backpressure to make the plane stall. You really have to force it to stall. When I asked Jeremy about this later, he said that it is due to the design of the plane - the planes are designed to avoid stalls which is a good thing, but also a bad thing training-wise as they want to teach us how to do it so we can get out of it.

One of the main problems I was having when entering the stall was keeping the wings level with the ailerons. It is important to keep the wings level otherwise there is the possibility of having one wing stall but not the other, which can get a bit messy.

I tried a few more stalls but still found it hard to get used to just how much backpressure is needed. I had the stick pulled nearly the entire way back and it still didn't want to stall. The rest of the stages of the stall I found fairly straightforward, although it is hard to remember to put the Carby Heat on - I did one stall and only realised that I hadn't put it on when I went to turn it off!

The visibility was fairly bad today. There were some low clouds and some patches of rain. It was quite bizarre to fly through the rain. We had to keep turning to try and avoid the rain but by the end of the lesson we were definitely running out of clear spaces to go to (which, unfortunately, was the reason the lesson had to end). It was really interesting to see the rain patches from the air though, there were these patches of misty air just hanging there in the middle of the sky.

When Jeremy did the landing today, he had me put my hands and feet on the controls to feel what he was doing. He talked me through the steps of the circuit and the landing, and it was really good to get a feel for what it's like. When on final approach to land, the pilot picks a spot on the runway to aim for - at Lilydale, this spot is generally the brown patch where everyone touches down, which is nice and easy to see from the air. When he is landing, Jeremy said he imagines that the Jab has raised cross-hairs on its nose (similar to WWII style planes) and he places the brown patch in the middle of those imaginary cross-hairs. I will definitely try to remember that idea when I eventually do landings.

Next lesson is going to be a mixture of more stalls and the other maneuvers that we've done so far. This is apparantly in preparation for circuits and learning landing and take off. Before learning landing/take off it is important to have a good understanding of the controls etc, otherwise it can get a bit tricky.

I am still on a headset hunt and today I asked Jeremy for his opinion. He suggested a David Clarke headset which they sell at the airport for $500. I asked his opinion of the LightSpeed Zulu which I've been looking at on the internet. He said it was a really good headset but costs $1,200. I said that price wasn't really a problem since I'm planning for this headset to last me for ages and apparantly the Zulu is a good choice. The Zulu has the Active Noise Reduction which the David Clarke doesn't, which is a good bonus. As Jeremy put it, you only have one set of ears so get the best protection you can! Next Saturday I'm going to go to Moorabbin Airport where there are two pilot supply shops (one with the Bose headset (which Jeremy has and costs $1,500) and one with the Zulu) and have a try-on to test how they feel. Right now I'm leaning towards the Zulu but I'm trying to not let myself be swayed by the fancy gadgets like Bluetooth and music!

Next mission is booked for Wednesday 12th August.

As a side note, who else thinks this is just an accident waiting to happen:
(Disclaimer: I mean no defamation to the company producing the....vehicles....I can, however, see the high potential for misuse by the people who buy them)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Stalls theory and revision flying

After having lessons cancelled because of sickness and weather, today I was back for my next lesson.

Today's mission was to be stalls. We went through the theory during the briefing but when we went out to fly the visibility was too poor to actually do stalls.

First we went through what a stall actually is. Contrary to what most people think, stalls in aeroplanes do not have anything to do with the engine (unlike in a car). Stalls occur when the wing's angle of attack goes beyond the critical point.

The angle of attack is the angle between the chord line of the wing (an imaginary line running through the wing from the leading edge to the trailing edge) and the airflow.

The angle is the Angle of Attack (AofA)

When the wing goes beyond the critical angle of attack (16 degrees usually) it experiences a reduction in lift. It is possible to stall at any airspeed or attitude - it is possible to stall whether flying straight and level, climbing, descending etc. The wing does not 'lose lift' (which would imply that there was no lift at all and the plane would just plummet to the ground), it experiences a 'reduction in lift' which means that it will descend.

Relationship between Lift and Angle of Attack (AofA)
- the top of the red curve is where the stall occurs.

It is generally not possible to stall unless the pilot actually forces the plane to stall. It is not possible to be simply flying along and then stall, the pilot must do something to force the stall (such as raise the nose attitude). It is considered bad airmanship to go into an unintentional stall.

Before entering the stall, there are a number of checks to go through.
  • H - Height
  • A - Airframe
  • S - Security
  • E - Engine
  • L - Location
  • L - Lookout
Height refers to the height of the plane above ground level. The stall must be recovered from by 3000ft AGL so it is generally advised to be around 4000ft AGL before entering the stall. Airframe means checking that the landing gear is raised (if applicable) and the flaps are in the desired position. Security means checking that all hatches and harnesses are secure (basically doors and seatbelts) and there are no loose items that might fly around the cockpit during the stall. Engine means checking for normal engine operation. Location means checking that you are away from any towns and anything to crash into (other aircraft, mountains etc). Lookout means to make an inspection before performing the stall (generally do a 360 degree turn) to check that the area around (both to the sides, above and below) are clear.

Location is important with stalls as you can't perform stalls over towns or built up areas. This is because, as Jeremy put it, 'when people see a plane stopped in the air with no engine noise, they tend to crack the shits and call the police'.

In order to force the plane to stall, the power needs to be reduced to idle (around 900-1000rpm) and the nose needs to be raised beyond the critical AofA.

Symptoms of an approaching stall include:
  • decreasing airspeed and noise level
  • controls less firm and less effective
  • pre-stall warning (noise)
  • shuddering airframe
  • relatively high nose-up attitude
During the stall the nose will drop by itself and the aircraft will descend.

To recover from the stall, the angle of attack is reduced by moving the control column to the neutral position as the nose drops. Then, as the airspeed increases, raise the nose slowly and simultaneously apply power. Raise the nose until it is back in the climbing position, as this will allow us to recover the height we lost during the stall.

I also got around to apologising for my vagueness regarding things like the handing over/taking over procedure. By the sounds of it though, I'm not the only one! Anyway, it's all sorted now, I know what I'm meant to be doing and why!

After the briefing we popped outside to see if the sky was clearing up (it was pretty cloudy). It did seem to be slowly clearing so we decided to wait 10 minutes and see what it was like then. To fill in the time, we started to fill in my logbook.
The logbooks are pretty easy to fill in, you just need to put in dates, the type and rego of the plane, the PIC (instructor's name), what we practiced and the time.
Example Logbook page (not mine, clearly)

While Jeremy was printing my training records, Neroli (the wife of the guy who owns Lilydale) came over and started talking to me. She sends out an email to all the female pilots and wanted my email address (which was fine). Then she asked me "So are you going to live in Australia permanently?" I was like "Yes. I was born here, really!" (I get this so much, apparantly my accent sounds fairly British). Jeremy was pretty amused by the whole thing.

Logbook complete, I was sent out to preflight Jab 4929. I've found out that some bright spark has removed the pull ring on the 4929 that allows the rudder pedals to be moved forward - unfortunately today I was back to stretching to reach the pedals.
I started the preflight and realised that the fuel drain tester had somehow disappeared so I had to pop back inside and find one. Then when I got back outside and was preflighting, these two guys came over and started doing stuff with the plane (checking the wheel I think) - I'm assuming they were maintenance guys. Luckily, they said it was all alright to fly! I went through the rest of the preflight and I'm getting loads more confident at it. When Jeremy came out I got around to asking the few questions I've been meaning to ask for a while. The first was about checking the brakes - to tell if the brakes are getting too worn, the brake pads will be scratched and clearly used looking (they weren't). The second was whether or not I'm meant to dip the fuel tanks during the preflight - apparantly I'm not since there isn't a dipstick. I'm quite pleased about that as, since the fuel tank lids are on the tops of the wings, I'm not sure I'm tall enough to be able to do it!

We jumped into the plane, went through the checks and I started it. I learnt from my experience last lesson and this time I checked my headset was plugged in before I put it on (luckily, since it wasn't). I taxiied us to the runway and Jeremy took control for the take off.

When we got to the training area the visibility was clearly not good enough to go up to 4000ft to do stalls, so we decided to do a shorter revision lesson. We did a mixture of climbing, descending and turns (all types). Although it was disappointing that we couldn't do stalls, it was good to have a refresher on all of this. We only flew for about 30mins today since the visibility was poor and when we started to head back to the airfield the wind was clearly coming up, it was getting a bit bouncy.

Jeremy took control for the landing. There was a slight crosswind so during the approach the nose of the plane was pointing slightly to the side. I taxiied us back, did the last checks and we jumped out.

I've booked lessons for this Saturday and for Wednesday 12th August. Jeremy is going on holiday in the week between and, although I could have flown with a different instructor, after my experience with Murray I figured it was easier to just wait. Hopefully the weather on Saturday will be good enough for us to do stalls.

I've been looking into buying my own headset. I was going to wait until Christmas (to try and get at least part paid for by my parents as a present!) but I'm not sure I'm going to wait that long. To put it nicely, the school ones aren't fantastic, so it would be nice to have my own. Headsets range in price from $200 (school ones) to $1,500 (like Jeremy's Bose). However when I do buy one I'm not going to choose one based on price, but based on comfort, because it is a long-term purchase that will (hopefully) last me for years. I'm going to ask next lesson if Jeremy has any recommendations and I'll try and find a shop with a good range where I can try them on. There are so many different options around, it's going to be a difficult choice!

Random things I learnt today:
  • You can't move the rudder pedals in 4929 (gah)
  • Jeremy likes Freddo Frogs
  • People apparantly think I'm foreign

Saturday, July 18, 2009

An unexpected side-effect

As it says in the blog description, sometimes things other than lessons will find their way into this blog. This post is one of those.

Learning to fly is having an unexpected side-effect on me - I'm learning a lot about myself.

I'm discovering that I have what I can only describe as 'perfectionist tendencies'. I'm not a perfectionist, not by a long shot, I know that, but I've no idea how else to describe how I'm feeling. I have this overwhelming feeling that I should remember everything after hearing it once and get everything right the first time. Thus, I don't ask nearly as many questions as I should be. I just feel that 'clearly' everyone else remembers everything easily and gets everything right straight away. Even though I know this isn't true, and logically can't be true, I still feel like it. So, I feel like, if I ask questions, I'll look like an idiot. And even though I know that learning is more important than looking like an idiot, it's still hard to get over these 'perfectionist tendencies' - that I should be getting everything right the first time.

I think part of the reason I feel like this is that I feel out of my depth when it comes to flying. It's been a long time since I've been a complete novice at something, so I guess I've forgotten what it feels like to only have limited knowledge and experience. Add to that the fact that I'm not mechanically or scientifically minded, yet I'm pursuing a hobby that has strong mechanical/scientific elements, and that just makes my 'out of depth' feeling worse. I guess this is partly the reason I feel I need to get everything right the first time - so I can prove I'm just as 'good' as all the other students (or at least what I imagine the other students to be).

I've also discovered that I'm vague about important things - like the whole handing over/taking over thing. I think that when I was first told to do it, I was thinking of so many other things as well (the whole overwhelming 'first flight' experience) and I didn't realise how serious things could get if that wasn't followed. Add to that my discomfort with the headset mic, and I'm a bit of a hopeless case. I feel I owe Jeremy an apology for my vagueness really...and will probably do so next lesson.

I think the main source of my problems is my insecurity in my own ability. When it comes to things I know, like music, I'm completely confident and in control and know exactly what I'm doing. With flying, I still lack confidence in myself. For example, with the preflight, I do the checks but I have absolutely no confidence in my ability to check and whether or not I'm doing the right thing. I think I need to start approaching it more professionally - I'm not just someone turning up to learn a bit about flying a plane, I am now a STUDENT PILOT and I need to act like one. I need to become more proactive about my learning.

I've decided that I'm going to start asking more questions from next lesson onwards, or at least try to. It is my own learning that is at stake here, and I am paying to be taught and have my questions answered. It will be entirely my own fault if I don't ask the questions and learn what I need to. I need to take control.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Checklists I need to learn

Friday, July 10, 2009

Climbing & Descending Turns

Today's mission was Climbing & Descending turns.

Climbing & descending turns involve the same three elements as medium level turns:

  • Bank
  • Balance
  • Backpressure
The angle of bank for these turns is less than for medium level turns - only 15 degrees. This is because if you bank the plane too far during a climb, the plane will turn but no longer climb.

It was a shorter briefing today becaus the main basics had been covered previously with medium level turns and climbing & descending. So, I was sent out to do the preflight. I am slowly getting the hang of checking everything, althought it still seems to take less time than it should. I did, however, make a breakthrough today - I discovered that it is possible to adjust the position of the rudder pedals. One of the main problems I've been having is reaching the rudder pedals and moving them closer made a huge difference!

Jeremy came out, we climbed in and I did the startup. It took a few times to get the engine to start, I think the throttle might have not been fully closed, because it started after Jeremy adjusted something. I put on my headset and was a bit confused to find no sound! I looked around to find Jeremy plugging it in (oops) and gave him a rather sheepish grin :P.

I taxiied to plane to the runway (also easier with the moved pedals), went through the last checks and Jeremy did the takeoff.

It was rather windy today which posed more challenges. There were a few big bumps at the start of the lesson but luckily it was smooth enough to continue the lesson. It certainly was more challenging to keep the aircraft on a constant heading - it kept wanting to roll and turn. I managed to fight it and keep it going where I wanted though.

First Jeremy explained the basics of climbing (which I wanted a recap on). To climb, the power is set at full and the attitude is the horizon just below the bottom of the windscreen.

He then demonstrated a climbing turn, a descent and a descending turn. To descend, power is set at 2000rpm and the attitude is the horizon about halfway up the windscreen. Before I took over, he demonstrated what would happen during a climbing turn if the plane was allowed to bank at 30 degrees or over. It was interesting to see how the rate of climb slowed and then eventually the plane stopped climbing at all.

Then it was my turn. First I had to put the plane into a climb, and then do a climbing turn. It was a bit difficult to calculate the angle of bank (15 degrees) and at times I think I was banking too far. The bouncing of the plane from the wind made it harder to maintain the angle. I think I was also letting the nose drop a little too far too.

After that I had to put the plane into a descent, and then do a descending turn. These were easier as you don't need to apply backpressure, as the nose is meant to remain low (since it is descending). I also found it hard to calculate the angle here, although I was getting more used to what it should be.

We did more turns in both directions (a mix of climbing, descending and medium level) before it was time to head back. Jeremy took over control earlier than usual, probably because of the wind which made the landing more difficult. Interestingly, he landed without using flaps, I meant to ask why and totally forgot (sigh).

I haven't booked my next mission yet becuase the booking sheets had disappeared, but hopefully it'll be 8:30am next Wednesday. I ordered the theory books earlier this week and they arrived yesterday. They look interested but I also feel like there's just so much to learn, it's rather daunting. Excitingly, I now have a logbook!