Flight log

Hours 24: Yet more pre-solo circuits!

Today was the day I would do my first solo! I was almost certain. The weather was ideal for the occasion. I was rested and confident.

Not so fast... A couple of mistakes in the circuit and a faulty RPM gauge meant that Hour 24 was yet another pre-solo circuit flight. Still, I learned a lot and I now feel that Hour 25 will be the One!

Full-length video for Hour 24. For the first time, I captured video door to door.

Today's lesson would be Hour 24 in my log book. Each of my last five or six lessons was a potential solo flight. My solo hasn't happened yet due to weather, problems with my flying, or both. Nonetheless, I am not in a hurry. With each lesson, I learn and improve, bringing me closer to a safe first solo.

In each of my previous potential solo lessons, I did not go in with the expectation that the solo would happen. I counted them as "lesson first" with a "maybe" for solo.

But today, I went in with the attitude that this lesson would be my first solo. I felt that my flying was safe enough, and I understood what was expected. Critically, the weather was as good as it gets and certainly more than good enough for a first solo.

The solo, though, did not happen. Due to incorrect plane handling and an issue with one of the gauges in the instruction, Hour 24 was another lesson. It was a valuable lesson, of course, but not a solo.

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Weather 

Today's weather was perfect after a week of rain, wind, and thunder. As you can see in the video (at 09:45 of the full-length video), the wind was calm just before take-off, and visibility was practically unlimited.

Here's what BOM shows for the day:

No complaints about the weather on the 6th. This is as good as it gets for circuits.

ATIS reported this:

Information Alpha: Runway 06, Wind variable 5 kt, occasional tailwind 3 kt, CAVOK, QNH 1017, temperature 27°C.

The flight

Pre-flight checks and taxis were uneventful. All I have to do, really, is to stick to the checklists. 

Davide asked me to do the safety and departure briefings at the runup bay without my "cheatsheet". You can see me going through the briefings at 16:05 in the full-length video. I handled the briefings well enough.

I finished the checklists, received clearance to take off, and started the circuits. The first circuit concluded with a regular approach (30:22). The landing was relatively smooth, not the usual "thumb". I touched down just after the third dash, which was my aim.

That was a good start! Let's go for Circuit 2, which would be a flapless approach. Unfortunately, I was too high to make a safe landing, so I went around (35:49).

Just as I applied full throttle and started to climb back to circuit altitude, ATC alerted me of a Citabria ahead. I misunderstood the information and thought ATC was asking me to follow Citabria. Davide jumped in and responded to ATC (watch this at 36:02 and notice how the Citabria flies towards the left. This was a mistake. As I did not understand, I should have asked ATC to repeat.

Another mistake in this go-around was that I did not trim for the best climb speed (74 kt) to get back to circuit altitude as quickly as possible. Instead, I increased the airspeed to over 100 kt, making the climb much slower. I did realise this toward the end of upwind, but it was late. The increased speed on upwind also caused me almost to exit the control area. This mistake alone was enough to write off the solo. But there will be more.

In the third circuit, I would attempt another flapless approach.

And I made the same mistake as in circuit three. Too high to land safely (see 40:58). At this point, I failed to land in two consecutive flapless approaches. Davide talked me through another flapless approach in circuit five, but the solo was now out of the question. As with circuit three, again, I did not trim for the best climb speed, causing the plane to gain too much speed and climb very slowly.

Finally, with Davide's instructions, I got a good flapless landing (see 45:52). This was now a regular lesson. I could do a good flapless touch-and-go on circuit five (see 50:53).

Left on my to-do list were engine failures and glide approaches. I executed a good glide approach in circuit six (see 55:17), only requiring up to 20° flap.

On the crosswind leg of Circuit 7, we simulated engine failure. That's when I must react by trimming the plane for glide speed and looking for a suitable location to land within 30° of the nose (see 56:59). I managed this situation satisfactorily without landing on a farm.

At this time, Davide mentioned that he suspected the RPM gauge was under reading, especially at high RPMs. He took control of the plane and executed a couple of brief climbs and dives to see how the gauge reacted. The gauge seemed to max out at around 2200 rpm, even though it should have gone at least 2500 rpm during the short dives at full throttle. You can see this troubleshooting process at 58:41.

Because of this, Davide decided to end the flight. He passed the control back to me, and I did a normal approach and landing (see 01:01:03). We taxied back to the hangar, and Davide did some more testing on the RPM gauge (1:03:51).

So, once again, no solo, but I learned a lot. The two main issues were my failed flapless approaches and the incorrect climb on the go-around. These are two mistakes I vow never to make again.

However, the situation with the RPM gauge was a little more concerning. This would need to be looked at by the mechanic, and decide how to fix it. If a replacement part was necessary, could VH-AHH fly in the meantime? If not, when can I have another go at a solo? 

I cancelled my second flight for the day because it was impossible for the mechanic to evaluate the issue, and I booked another flight for Monday. In the meantime, I'll check on VH-AHH on FlightRadar24 to see if it will record a flight between today and Monday.

Hour 24 instructor review

Here is Davide's review for Hour 24:

TBA

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Shorter and narrated video for Hour 24 (Coming soon).

Flight path from Flightradar24 for Hour 24.

Citabria at 12 o'clock.

Too high for a safe landing in this flapless approach.

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