Hour 12: Circuits, repeat 5
In Hour 12, I was determined to get it right. I knew all the areas I had to improve. Correct use of attitude to manage airspeed, trim, "thinking ahead of the aircraft", lookouts, BUMFISH, heading, round-out, and radio calls. I spent much of the week running the circuit in my head and on the chair, memorizing the procedure. In Hour 12, I was going to test my preparation. Also, I have footage of the entire flight from both GoPros for the first time.
The weather this morning was similar to last week's Hour 10 flight. It was only a little colder and with a lower QNH.
Here's what BOM shows for the day (for its historical records):
ATIS reported this:
Runway 06, wind variable 5 kts, occasional tail wind 3 kts, vis > 10 km's, temp 20, QNH 1010
Apart from a few showers in the area, the conditions were almost ideal for circuit training.
I was excited to test the skills I had practised at my desk (more about this below).
My desk flight training
My previous circuit flights showed a pattern of problems with my plane handling. The same issues repeated. I tended to be late in the controls, my BUMFISH check was sluggish (if I managed to do it), radio calls froze my brain, etc.
I realised that practising all these items in the cockpit while flying the plane in a circuit would not work. The cockpit environment during flight is too fluid, stressful, and incompatible with how I like to learn.
So, I decided to take a different approach. I brought the cockpit to my workbench.
I printed the dashboard of the Cessna 172 from my X-Plane 12 simulator and placed it in front of me on the desk.
You can see me training with this paper cockpit in the photograph on the right. I sat for a few minutes and played a complete circuit in my mind. I would start with the radio call at holding point Alpha and take off. I imagine the instruments operating: airspeed would show 60 kts, and then I would rotate by pulling back the imaginary yoke. Once over 750 feet, I'd bank 15° left to the crosswind left. I'd continue my climb into crosswind and the left again into downwind.
I'd make the radio call for a touch and go, ensure I don't overshoot the 1,350 feet circuit altitude and do BUMFISH. I'd keep an eye on the imaginary threshold and reduce RPM to 1,800, then add 10° flap as soon as airspeed was below 110 kt. At 45° from the threshold, I would reduce RPM to 1,500 and start the 30° bank turn to base. Right after levelling the wings, I'd add more flap, check the speed for 75 kt, and trim.
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I would continue the imaginary flight for a touch and go and repeat.
After a few times, I could run through the paces with little hesitation. I also did a lot of BUMFISH checks and radio calls while waiting at traffic lights on the long drive to Camden.
I will continue using my desk flight training as a suitable learning method. It is even better than doing circuits in the simulator because it allows me to focus on the process, not the simulated flying.
BUMFISH in a flow
Another thing I tried was to convert BUMFISH into a flow. I thought that what matters in BUMISFH is ensuring all the checks are done.
The order should not matter. I wanted to devise a way to do the tests reliably, and coming up with a pre-landing checklist in the form of a flow was a good idea.
A flow check in aviation refers to a systematic review of cockpit instruments, controls, and systems to ensure they are set correctly for a specific phase of flight. The aim is to verify that all settings are as they should be for optimal performance and safety.
While a flow check is a quick, routine scan, it is often followed by a more detailed checklist to confirm that nothing was missed.
I created this flow:
With flows, you have to remember a motion, not an acronym. In this case, I'd start by looking at the undercarriage through the left window, continue with the breaks, and work my way up, right, and down the dashboard. Motion is easier to remember.
Before spending too much learning "BUMFISH in flow", I checked with Greg to see if having a custom version of this checklist is okay. While I think it is OK, the examiner might have a different opinion.
Unfortunately, examiners do have a different opinion. In aviation, standards are critical, so my custom BUMFISH in a flow checklist was not approved. Bummer.
I was confident I could complete the circuits correctly after spending so much time "desk flying" the day before. I emphasize "correctly", not perfectly. For example, I could remember and execute the BUMFISH checklist radio calls, retain RPMs, airspeed, flaps, altitudes, attitudes, and landmarks, and use all that correctly in the circuit. This does not mean my circuits won't be wide or crooked. But there's no use trying to get a perfect circuit if I can't remember and execute the pre-landing checklist or I'm consistently overshooting the circuit altitude.
In my pre-flight briefing with Greg, I explained my preparation and that I'd like to test myself. So, I asked Greg not to prompt me. I wanted to imagine that I was flying alone. Greg agreed.
Another item on my "to improve" list was landings and go-arounds. I made a terrible landing in Hour 11's last circuit that should have been a go-around. The issue was that I had already consumed half of the runway trying to stabilise the plane to land. This was a clear go-around. I was upset with myself and promised to land only if the approach was stable and I had runway ahead. I discussed last week's terrible landing with Greg and said I would go around without prompting if I'm not happy with the approach.
We also had a chat about BUMISH and flows.
Greg told me about new versions of the Altocap circuit standard, which I copied below. The new standard requires reducing RPM to (first) 1,800 once reaching the threshold downwind and then 1,500 before turning base.
There was also a new version of the checklists for the Cessna 172S. This is the checklist we use in the cockpit to do things like starting the engine and doing the runup checks.
With all that in mind, we got in the plan, did all checks, and lined up at holding point Alpha.
Yet once more, I called Tower for takeoff clearance and reported my position as "Holding point zero six" instead of "Holding point Alpha"!!! I could not believe it. I had practised this a lot in the car and my desk flight training. I promised myself this was the last time, shrugged it off, and continued with the takeoff.
Takeoff, crosswind, downwind, radio call, BUMFISH, flaps, RPMs, etc., were all decent in circuit #1. I kept speed, altitude and heading better than ever before. On final, I ended up high, and, as promised, I did not land.
Instead, I did a go-around, and that felt good. I could see that I was too high and chose not to attempt to correct a bad situation. The go-around was the best option by far.
So, we were off for circuit #2.
In circuit #2, crosswind, downwind and base were decent again. I did the radio call, BUMFISH, and managed airspeed and altitudes well-using power and attitude. My turn to final was wide, and I ended up on the right side of the runway, so I continued the turn to intercept the runway and then line up. There was plenty of space, so this was not a problem. The airspeed and altitude on the final were good.
I continued with the approach and landed... with a big bounce. When I look at the video recording, I'm surprised at how long that bounce was—almost two seconds from the first touchdown to the second. I understood the problem there: insufficient pull-up. I knew I could do better in circuit #3.
Circuit #3 was, again, decent, similar to the previous circuits. Repeat, repeat, and improve is the name of the game here. Significantly enhance the landing and round out so I can land on the main wheels first. And it worked; landing #3 was by far the best. There was probably a tiny bounce, but it was a solid landing on the centre line.
Landing #4 was a repeat of landing #3, and landing #5 was a go-around because we did not receive clearance from tower (they forgot? perhaps we should have asked?). Landing #6 and #7 were OK, and #8 (full stop) was excellent; I think my best, with barely any bounce and a much smaller thumbing noise.
This was a fantastic session, and I had made real progress for the first time. Greg's feedback and my paper dashboard practice are finally bearing results.
Hour 12 was the first one where I felt I was in control of the plane.
While I had to do a lot of work to make all my circuits identical, I finally had a solid base to work from in this session.
In Hour 13, I will not be struggling to remember BUMFISH or to control airspeed and altitude. I'll be able to work on other things, especially spacing, and improving the quality of the landing via better roundup so that the main wheels touch down first.
Here is Greg's review:
Runway 06, wind variable 5 kts, occasional tail wind 3 kts, vis > 10km, showers in area NSC, Temp 20, QNH 1010 Time of flight 0900 local A noticable improvement by Peter, well done. Peter adopted BROC in upwind, maintain circuit height of 1,300 feet, reduced power to 1800 RPM, then 1500 RPM prior to turning base. Attitude and height was maintain. Base and final still require a little more focus from Peter, specificially: 1) Airspeed - When reducing power to 1,800 RPM, maintain the attitude and slow the aircraft to 80 kts, time to hold. Prior to turning base reduce power to 1500, commence a descending turn. On base maintain 70 - 75 kts and trim to hold. On final maintain 70 kts, trim to hold with 65 kts over the threshold 2) Power - Good examples of power adjustment today. Remmeber you may require adjustment of either or both attitude and power on base and final. 3) Nose higher on landing - You must land on the main wheels first, landing on all three usually result in a bounched landing. I was very pleased with your performance today, Peter. Please maintain the focus and dedication as it is giving you results.
Peter has requested one more session of circuits before moving on in the syllabus.
Unfortunately, the wind and gusts picked up around noon, and we decided not to proceed with the second scheduled flight of the day.
So, I'll be back next week for another circuit session. I want to consolidate and improve before continuing with new exercises.
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Flight path from Flightradar24.
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