Today we planned to take off around 8:00 and we were not too far off schedule taking off at 08:15. Again, I did all checks and taxiing under Gerry’s watchful eyes. Radio call to ensure everyone in the pattern (or circuit) knew we would be taking off from runway 11. Rotating at 55 knots and keeping the runway heading, I was instructed we were going to start by doing a few touch and goes. We did 2, focusing more on sticking to the pattern than me getting the landing part right. It was then off to the training grounds for steep turns, stalls, S-turns and turns around a point. I only really have problem with the latter. The other exercises seem to come along quite well. The important bit being practised is the ability to do the exercise where you have to consider the effect of the wind when determining the turn-angle for a uniform ground pattern WHILE you maintain constant altitude. In the stall you also have to maintain constant heading and in the turn around a point you have to maintain a constant distance from the point. After about 1 hour we turned back towards Winter Haven for 30 minutes in the pattern with me having to do as much as I was able to. This was very very tough; hard work indeed. Take offs and initial climb OK though I get a feeling I’m moving too fast. I guess I instinctively want to move slower so I have more time to consider all the stuff I need to do. Turn onto cross-wind leg. For runway 11 there are not many visual reference points so I do this on heading. 11 minus 90 is 020. Nice 15 degrees climbing turn to a heading of 020 and if I don’t watch it, I start to lose climb before reaching 1,100ft. 980ft and it’s time to turn to downwind. 020-90 is 290 (and not 190 as I did the first time!). Level off at 1,100ft, reduce power to 2,100 RPM, R/T call downwind, keep altitude, watch runway threshold, keep look-out, go through BUMPFICH checks (Brakes, Under-carriage which is a bit of a moot point in a Piper PA-28 with non-retractable), mixture – 2 part vermouth to 1 part gin, pitch which is another moot point in a Piper with fixed pitched propeller, fuel sufficient and fuel pump on, instruments OK and Ts&Ps, carburettor heat and hatches and harnesses secure), 10 degrees of flaps and in the US start descent but in the UK just turn onto base. Call base on the radio, 1,700 RPM, 25 degrees flaps, airspeed 75knots, look for anyone long final (no mid-air collisions please) 30 degree turn into final, full 40 degrees flaps, keep airspeed at 70knots, point nose before runway, keep aircraft aimed at centre of runway and ensure you are on the right glide-path. That’s really it… how hard could it be? Well, as with most things if you know how to do it, it is probably not very hard but this was really draining. I went through 8 full patterns with landings and touch and goes. My take offs really improved and though I could slowly feeling my landings being more controlled the quality did not improve much. I do not have a problem in general holding off the flare so I hope I am going to click into this really soon. In one of the patterns just as I was going to call downwind someone else did! That threw us a bit as it means someone is at the same height going the same direction as you on pretty much the same track… and we could not see the plane! The smug bastards could see us and told us to look over our left wing as they were flying a tighter pattern than I was (Yeah, he’s doing his checkout ride tomorrow – I’m on my third day; what do you expect, eh?). The problem was, we still couldn’t see him. He then called base. Now we knew around where he would turn from downwind into base and were both scanning as mad (now having re-joined downwind ourselves) but we still could not find him. Very embarrassing though we mutually agreed that it was either a stealth Cessna or it was equipped with a Klingon cloaking device. They uncloaked on final when I finally spotted them. Seeing the other aircrafts in the circuit is also hard work.
After nearly two hours of flying, it was a full stop and 1.5 hours relaxation before next session. I was soaked. The sun had been on the whole time and it’s 25° Celsius but we have plenty of fresh airflow and the concentration and hard work just soaked me through.
The second session was more or less a duplicate of the first except I didn’t do any S-turns of turns around points. I was so tired (and soaked again). I had all these grand plans of flying 3 sessions a day, 5-6 hours and I was ready for bed at 15:00 after a hard days work. I just popped into the learning centre to finish off the second of 11 mandatory videos I have to sit through. This was on special manoeuvres and quite relevant to the training I am doing right now.
I have to admit, at this point only my confidence in the system and my general learning abilities being at least that of the average student, convinces me I will succeed at this. Getting all those techniques right at the right time and with required accuracy seems so hard and so far away, I am beginning to realise the size of the task ahead. Two students at the school quit their training half way through over the past month. However, neither could apparently overcome really basic stuff, so I am still cautiously optimistic.
Gerry is off to a big airport tomorrow for a full day of “Fire training” so I am flying 4 hours with a replacement instructor. He is French and seems a pretty calm and OK guy but we will see.
I have had my Cross pen nicked from the school, which really pisses me off.