Hours 13 & 14: Flapless approach and landing, pre-solo test
Today, I had two flights. The morning flight was a revision of regular circuits. The midday flight was practising flapless approaches and landings (new!). I also passed the pre-solo written exam and experienced problems with my cameras. It was an exhausting yet very satisfying day.
Full-length video for Hour 13. Audio only.
Full-length video for Hour 14. Video starts at 15:48.
This Wednesday, I had scheduled two flights. In the morning, Hour 13, I would do another revision of circuits with normal take-off, landings, and the occasional go-around. If my performance on the morning flight was adequate, the plan was to practice flapless approach and landings in the midday flight, Hour 14.
During the break between the two flights, I also planned to sit for the written pre-solo test, a multiple-choice test with 20 questions in 40 minutes.
Because the first flight was another regular circuit training session, I documented it in the same log as the second flight, which had new training.
Today was super busy. Let's see how it went.
First, a bit of background.
Flapless approach and landing
A flapless approach in general aviation refers to landing an aircraft without deploying its flaps.
Flaps are movable surfaces on the wings that increase lift and drag, making land at slower speeds easier. In a flapless approach, the pilot opts not to use these, usually due to a system failure or as part of specific training exercises. This means the aircraft will approach the runway at a higher speed and may require a longer distance to come to a complete stop.
It's a technique that demands precise control and a thorough understanding of the aircraft's handling characteristics.
Because of the higher approach and landing speed, the pilot has to modify his technique compared to a regular ("normal") approach and landing.
Below, I describe the technique with specific airspeeds that apply to the Cessna 172, like the VH-AHH (that I flew on the day). The most crucial difference is the airspeed. In the Cessna 172, the base, final, and landing airspeeds are generally 5 knots higher when compared to the normal speeds.
Firstly, the approach speed will be higher than in a normal landing with flaps. A typical approach speed with flaps in a Cessna 172 might be around 70 knots on final, but without flaps, the pilot should aim for approximately 75 knots to maintain stable flight. On the base leg, flapless flight is done at 80 knots instead of 75 knots in flapped flight.
The glide slope will also be shallower due to the higher speed and reduced drag. Pilots often use visual cues like the PAPI or VASI lights on the runway or rely on their experience to judge the correct glide path. At Cadmen, no such lights exist on the runway, so the pilot uses attitude and speed to evaluate the correct glide scope.
The touchdown point will likely be further down the runway than with a flapped landing. This is because the aircraft will carry more speed, requiring a longer distance to decelerate.
Roundout and Flare
The roundout and flare maneuvers are critical. The pilot must gradually raise the nose to nearly level to arrest the descent rate. This is done more cautiously than with flaps, as the higher speed increases the risk of "floating" down the runway or even taking off again.
Once the wheels touch down, the pilot should keep the yoke back to place as much weight as possible on the main wheels, increasing braking efficiency. The rollout will be longer due to the higher landing speed, so the pilot should be prepared to use more runway than usual. Even more, caution is needed here because if the roll is too steep, there is a risk of hitting the plane's tail on the runway and causing structural damage to the frame.
Use of Brakes
The pilot should apply the brakes smoothly but firmly once the plane is securely on the ground and the speed has reduced sufficiently. Overuse of brakes, especially immediately upon landing, can lead to skidding or other control issues.
A pilot can land a Cessna 172 without flaps by understanding these adjustments and maintaining precise control.
Pre-solo written exam
I took the written pre-solo multiple-choice exam during the break between the first and second flights.
This exam contains questions similar to those I saw in the RPL exam, but fewer (only twenty). I had 40 minutes to do this test, which was plenty of time.
The questions included altitudes and distances, seat belts, QNH, collision avoidance rules, radio calls, aerodrome symbols and signals. In the week before the exam, I revised the RPL exam materials and focused on a practice exam that Greg gave me a couple of weeks ago.
With this exam passed and my medical certificate issued, I am now ready (on paper) for my first solo.
However, I feel like I need more time to be ready from a skills point of view. I'll be doing more practice in circuits in the next two or three hours of flight training to prepare for the solo better and then get a check ride to confirm I'm ready.
Video equipment and operator failure
Unfortunately, I had an equipment failure that affected both flights. My older GoPro, a Hero 10 model, decided to die in the morning. I was unable to turn on the camera after multiple attempts and batteries. It seems like this camera has given up the ghost, and I have sent it back to GoPro for replacement. It was under warranty.
In addition to the GoPro dying, I forgot to turn on the second GoPro. I usually do this at the runup bay or at holding point Alpha to capture the entire flight (if I turn it on earlier, these cameras typically overheat and turn off halfway through the flight). Unfortunately, I was too busy with the checklists and forgot to turn on this camera. As a result, Hour 13 only has audio recorded.
For Hour 14, I recorded the flight with the GoPro Hero 12, except for the last ten minutes, again due to overheating. It was a hot day. Next week, I will use external power and leave the battery out to improve airflow in and around the camera.
I'm working on a new log for the Peter's Flight Log YouTube channel (coming up) and these log pages.
I am still working on it.
What do you think?
The weather today was generally good. Over 10 km of visibility, QNH around 1024, light wind in the morning with an occasional tailwind at midday.
Here's what BOM shows for the day (for its historical records):
For the 9am flight, ATIS reported this:
Runway 06, Wind calm, Vis > 10 km's, Cloud Sct 3,500, Temp 16, QNH 1024
For the midday flight, heres the ATIS report:
Runway 06, wind variable 6 kts, tailwind 3 kts, vis > 10 km's, cloud Sct 3,500, Temp 20, QNH 1022
As always, winds tend to increase as the day progresses, but unlike previous weeks, the winds were well within my capabilities to fly in today.
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For the morning flight, the briefing was... brief. It allowed me to consolidate and improve my circuits, landings, and go-arounds.
There was a lot more to discuss for the second flight.
Greg gave me a pre-flight briefing for the midday flight, where I would learn how to perform flapless approaches and landings. As you can read elsewhere in today's log page, flapless approaches and landings are helpful in case of specific emergencies.
Greg explained that a flapless approach and landing are generally not the first choice for pilots but can become necessary under certain circumstances. One of the most common reasons is a flap system failure. In the Cessna 172, the flaps are electrically operated. If there is an electrical system failure, then flaps will not function (other planes have a manual backup option or are entirely manually operated). If the flaps aren't deploying as they should, the pilot has no choice but to land without them.
Another scenario could be during specific training exercises. Pilots might intentionally perform flapless landings to better understand the handling characteristics of their aircraft under these conditions. It's a way to prepare for emergencies and become a more versatile pilot.
Sometimes, pilots might opt for a flapless landing when flying into an airport with a long runway. The extra length allows for the increased landing roll that comes with higher approach speeds. However, this is less common and usually only recommended if there's a good reason.
Lastly, environmental factors make a flapless landing more desirable in some rare cases. For example, with strong, gusty winds, deploying flaps could make the aircraft more challenging to control during the approach and landing. In such cases, the pilot might decide that the increased stability of a flapless approach outweighs the benefits of using flaps.
So, while flapless landings are not the norm, they are an important technique that pilots must understand and be prepared to execute when the situation calls for it.
If you are curious about my training syllabus, as recommended by CASA, you can look at the
"Sample syllabuses for flying training operators" on the CASA website. I'm copying some snippets of the syllabus for the "Flapless and missed approaches" lesson plan below.
- Circuit consolidation
- Flapless approach and landings
- Missed approach procedure
- Missed landing recovery
- Assess: maintain effective lookout
Long briefing – Flapless Approach & Landing and Missed Approach
- Flapless approach & landing
- Missed landing procedure
- Missed approach procedure
- Review/expand previously introduced knowledge as required
- Propeller wash, rotor wash and jet blast and how they affect other aircraft [A1 4(i), A4 4(j)]
- Obtaining or calculating the crosswind and down or upwind components [A2 4(a)]
- Interpreting windsock indications to determine wind direction and speed [A2 4(c)]
- Causes of loss of control of aeroplane on landing [A4 4(f)]
- Judging descent profiles in various configurations [A6 4(d)] (partial flap & flapless approaches)
- Prioritising activities during non-normal situations [A6 4(e)]
- Review flight sequences, what to expect, see & do
- Check essential knowledge
- Reinforce threat & error management
- Reinforce significant airmanship points
And much, much more. I think you get the idea.
On Hour 13, the day's first flight, I started slow, or "behind the plane", as Greg said. This means that, again, I was slow to anticipate and execute an action, such as turning or changing the power settings.
This improved over time as Greg reminded me I was supposed to fly ahead of the plane.
After the third circuit, my performance increased significantly, and I almost caught up with the performance level I was supposed to be at in my training.
Again, I stuffed up my first radio call, requesting clearance to start and taxi for circuits. For some reason, my brain shorted, and I twisted my words. Perhaps it was the lack of coffee. I always start my day with two coffees, except on Wednesdays, when I don't have time to make coffee in the morning. You can hear the voice recording (no video, unfortunately).
One thing that did stand out in Hour 13 was an instruction from Tower to execute an "orbit" as we were moving downwind.
In aviation, the term "orbit" refers to an instruction by Air Traffic Control (ATC) for an aircraft to fly in a circular pattern over a specific point on the ground. This is usually done to manage air traffic, create spacing between aircraft, or delay an aircraft's arrival at its destination. When ATC gives an orbit instruction, the pilot will turn the plane to fly a circle, typically of a specified radius, around a designated point. The ATC may determine the direction of the orbit as either left-hand or right-hand turns, depending on traffic and other operational considerations.
Orbiting is often used in holding patterns but can also be employed in other phases of flight. For example, a pilot might be instructed to orbit while waiting for clearance to land or to give way to other aircraft in busy airspace. It's a common procedure that pilots are trained to execute, and it's crucial for maintaining safe and efficient air traffic flow.
It was my first time hearing this instruction while flying it, so Greg stepped in to respond to the Tower and explain what I should do. You can see this orbit in the FlightRadar24 video for Hour 13 elsewhere on this page.
Hour 14 was very interesting. I practised the flapless approach and landing that Greg had explained in the briefing. Without flaps, everything happens faster because the plane flies around 5 knots faster. This may not sound much, but the circuit is already a hectic place to be.
On the plus side, with a flapless approach and landing, the pilot does not have to worry about extending flaps downwind, base and final, and then retracting them for a go-around or touch-and-go.
I did feel that I had more effective control of the plan without flaps. I also did feel the extra 5 knots as the plane hovered and flared over the runway. Unlike the usual "thumbing" touchdown when using flaps, the actual touchdown felt smoother. I think that this is because of the flatter approach.
Also, because of the extra knots, the plane takes more runway to touch down and even more runway to stop using the breaks. When we did the final full-stop landing, the aircraft stopped after the entry to taxiway Delta, which we usually use. Greg requested clearance to backtrack, meaning to turn around on the runway to get back to taxiway Delta. The extra runway needed is another reason why flapless landing is usually used only if there is a good reason and not routinely. In my first flapless landing, I had to use more runway and apply more breaking than ever before, plus we had to backtrack.
In Camden, an alternative to backtracking would be to use taxiway Echo, which would mean additional taxi distance and more time on the runway. This could delay other planes in the circuit lining up to land.
It was a fun day. However, I knew that I had regressed in some areas. The first half of Hour 13 was shocking, and this started with my botched radio call. Things improved after that.
I am annoyed about my lack of consistency. This shows that although I have had good circuits during which I performed well, I have not
consolidated these skills, and I oscillated between adequacy and
I aim to improve to consistently execute the circuit adequately in the next two hours. This is the only way I will take my
first solo flight.
Hour 13 instructor review
Here is Greg's review (Hour 13, normal circuits):
Runway 06, Wind calm, Vis > 10 km's, Cloud Sct 3,500, Temp 16, QNH 1024 Time of flight 0900 local Peter started the session behind the aircraft, height, speed and power was not managed well on the first couple of circuits. Landings were satisfactory. Continual assessment of Heading, Height, Spacing and Speed is required during the entire circuit pattern. The session improved as it progressed. Tighter control of airspeed is required, 70 kts is not 80 kts. If the airspeed is incorrect for that point in the circuits you must initiate action to correct and not accept that it is wrong. This also applies to your turning points in the circuit. I can see you identify the turning point however you continue to fly passed it while you complete other tasks. I would like to see you develop a more proactive approach managing the aircraft. I am happy for Peter to progress to the next subject in the training syllabus.
Hour 14 instructor review
Here is Greg's review for Hour 14 (flapless approaches):
Runway 06, wind variable 6 kts, tailwind 3 kts, vis > 10 km's, cloud Sct 3,500, Temp 20, QNH 1022 Time of flight 1345 local The session again started slowly with Peter again behind the aircraft. Peter initially struggled to manage rate of descent when conducting flapless approaches. The FI demonstrated the flapless circuit, Peter then managed the flapless approach better. Tighter control of airspeed is required, again if the ASI is showing 80 kts do not call it as 70 kts, correct it. Power management improved during the lesson. Go around was well managed although remember when using flaps the steps are full power, set flaps to 20, recommence the climb, retract the flaps in 10 degree intervals. I am happy for Peter to progress to circuit emergencies.
Next week, I have another two hours of scheduled flight training. In the first hour, I'll practice normal and flapless approaches and landings in the circuit. I'll practise emergency procedures in the second hour if that goes well.
I'm very much looking forward to that!
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Shorter and narrated video.
Flight path from Flightradar24 for Hour 13.
Flight path from Flightradar24 for Hour 14.
More from Peter's flight log