Not Paying Attention to Air Traffic Pattern…

It did snow on Saturday night but it wasn’t that much. When I reached my flight school at around 8.10 am on Sunday December 4, 2011, yes I was late for the first time :D, the weather was cold, but there was no breeze and no snow falling, although there was about an inch or two on the ground. The temperature was about 28 F. Tim was already waiting and after I greeted him I immediately apologized for my late arrival. “Oh no problem, I just arrived myself”, Tim said smilingly. As I requested Ground Control to taxi to the runway, I received a response telling me to go to runway 35L, but also to let Ground Control know what the state of the road was on my way to the runway. So half way there, Tim took control of the airplane and pressed the brakes to see if the plane would stop or slide. We found that the brakes were fine and plane did slide a little but not much, at least Tim was unconcerned. As we were taxiing to the runway, I could see the snow plows clearing the other runways.

Today we practiced more takeoffs and landings. However, in my efforts to perfect my landing technique I’ve been ignoring my Air Traffic Pattern. I read in my text book that a good landing is the result of a good Air Traffic Pattern (ATP). We did about 15 or so takeoffs and landings at Crystal Airport and the last 5 or 6 Air Traffic Patterns were near perfect. Those of you who have been following my blog, know that I had drawn a diagram of what an air traffic pattern looked like in one of my previous postings, and the various heights and speeds you were supposed to have as you approach the runway to land. My errors were quite a few. For instance, my flight path was not parallel to the runway on the downwind. My turns weren’t 90 degree turns from the upwind to the crosswind and from the crosswind to the downwind. Then Tim told me to either look at the heading indicator to see how much I needed to turn, or better still, find a reference point outside that is at ninety degrees to my flight path. I found this easier of the two methods, and since we were VFR, it was the most appropriate. So as I took off from the runway in to the upwind I had to rise up to 1300 ft and then make a 90 degree turn to the right. I found what I believed was a radio tower, or some tall structure that had a flashing light on top. This was directly on my right, so I used this reference point to turn right at 90 degrees. Now I was in the crosswind, and I looked to my right again, to find another reference point which was a water tower. All the time I was climbing until I reached about 1900 ft when I reduced the throttle to 2200 RPM and kept the airspeed at about 90 knots. Then as I was in line with the tower, the runway was on my right. I had to maintain my flight path parallel to it, so in order to do that, I kept the water tower in sight and flew toward it. Once I was abeam, I reduced the throttle to 1700 RPM and added the first stage of the flaps. I continued on this path until I was about 45 degrees from the runway, when I had to make another right turn in to my Base leg of the ATP. To do this I found another reference point and made that 90 degree turn and pulled the second stage of the flaps. I was already descending from my first reduction of power and the first flap at 1700 RPM. The speed was now at about 80 knots. Then I had to make my approach to land through the Final leg of the ATP. To do this the reference point here was of course the runway itself. I next introduced the third stage of the flaps and kept the plane steady in line with the dashed line along the center of the runway. The speed was now about 70 knots and slowing down, as I was over the beginning of the runway displaced threshold, I completely cut the power by pulling the throttle all the way back and the speed was rapidly dropping. This is the critical and most exciting moment for me i.e. the actual landing. As the speed decreases, you allow the plane to bleed off the rest of that speed and you hold it level for a while over the runway, then you gradually start pulling the yoke back and as the stall warning alarm goes off you know there’s no more lift from the wings and you gently touch the runway.

As I mentioned, the last few of my landings and ATPs were near perfect. But earlier when I started, I was not paying attention (to the ATP) to staying parallel with the runway, nor keeping the speeds correct, not turning at 90 degrees etc. The entire ATP path should be a rectangle whereas mine was not always a rectangle, and sometimes I would overshoot the flight path before turning. This then meant that I would have to make other corrections to return to the ATP to have a good approach to final landing.

Anyway, that’s how the Sunday flight lesson went. I’m getting a little nervous and excited about my first solo flight also. 😀


2 responses to “Not Paying Attention to Air Traffic Pattern…

  1. I notice that you are very methodical/throrough in your learning, descriptions of the day’s events, and incorporation of details about the weather, what you are learning, etc. Sometimes, I feel like I don’t need to read anything. lol It’s all there. 🙂 I had no idea how much precision drives you.

    • Thank you Lotus, but the thing is that since I started to learn to fly, precision has become very important. Weather is an important factor in flying, it’s probably the most important factor that you have to take into consideration in making a decision to fly. This is why I mention the weather, and my instructor told me that the exminers will be looking closely at how well I fly. He/she will know I’m a student pilot and won’t be expecting absolute perfection, as that will come with practice, but I’m trying to be perfect/precise now so that I’ll be close to the performance the examiner will be expecting.

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