Still Need To Improve The Air Traffic Pattern


Today (06/02/2012) was yet another lovely day considering the rough storms we’ve been having. The day was calm with the sun shining and very warm with a temperature of 73 F. I arrived at Thunderbird at 8.40 am and discovered that my instructor was already flying with another student in the plane that was booked for me. I had already checked in but had to wait for the plane so that I could pre-flight it. In the mean time I waited and had some strong black coffee provided by my school. 😀 It’s so strong that I can drink only a very little. I walked around the reception area going through the books on display and available for purchase by students.

Just then Jeremy arrived and we greeted one another. “Hello Jeremy, long time no see!” I said smilingly. “Yes it is” he replied also with a smile. I told Jeremy that I hadn’t preflighted the plane yet. “Oh that’s okay I’m going to do a little ground work with my student with whom I just finished a flight” he replied. I preflighted the plane and by the time I returned Jeremy was ready go. “What would you like to do today? Takeoffs and Landings or do some maneuvers? Oh by the way when did you fly last?” “I would like to practice more landings, and I flew with Sarah last Wednesday” I replied. “Oh how did that go?” “Well we did 10 landings and she said 7 of them were good safe landings”. So as we walked out toward the plane Jeremy said “What a wonderful day for flying!” “I agreed’.

We did 7 landings today and they were all good. However now that I’ve got the landings down, I still need to work on my Air Traffic Pattern(ATP). As I mentioned in my last post I still needed to work on that and today it was pretty evident. Jeremy said that my takeoffs were good with the exception of the first few. With the weather being so warm today we were using the maximum amount of runway to take off at the best angle of climb rate of 63 knots for the Piper Warrior plane. In warm weather the plane takes a lot longer to fully take off so hence the maximum use of the runway and the steep climb to avoid any obstacles such as trees to clear the runway.

Once we took off at 65 knots, “Now accelerate to 79 knots” said Jeremy. This is where sometimes I have a problem deciding whether I should push the yoke in or pull it toward me. I see that it’s so simple as I write this but at the time of execution it doesn’t seem to occur to me that I must push the yoke in. As you’re climbing the airspeed drops, as you push the yoke in to descend the airspeed increases. Once having reached a height of 1,400 ft I had to leave the Upwind leg of the ATP and turn left in to the Crosswind of the ATP. It had to be a gradual and slow turn with a maximum bank angle of 30 degrees. Sometimes I exceeded this and Jeremy had to point out to me as to what I was doing. Once we reached a height of 1,900 ft I had to turn the plane, again with no more than a 30 degree bank angle in to the Downwind leg of the ATP. This was the tricky part for me and on the first few occasions I didn’t do too well until my instructor pointed out what I had to do and how I should be doing it. Having reached 1,900 ft you must stop the climb and turn in to the Downwind. To stop the climb you must push the yoke in and then reduce power to 2200 RPM. All the numbers i.e. the various heights and speeds at the various stages in the ATP are there for a reason. If you don’t stick to these then the plane ends up being too high or too low, and then you have to adjust the speed to make corrections and then this affects the other stages of the ATP. The whole ATP must be very smooth with only slight corrections if needed, and if you’re doing it correctly from the beginning you won’t need to make corrections.

In the Downwind, I then had to do the flow check and reduce the power to 1700 RPM once abeam the numbers and add the first flap to slow the plane down and then pitch for an airspeed of 90 knots. Then in the Base leg I was sometimes too high and this was because I had turned into the Downwind initially at a very high altitude. I added the second flap and was pitching for a speed of 80 knots. Then I turned in to the Final leg and here sometimes I had a problem of keeping the wings straight. So the plane wasn’t coming in at a straight and level angle toward the runway. Although I eventually ended up landing the plane nicely on all occasions, I could see that my ATP needed considerable improvement.

When the lesson was finished Jeremy explained in the Ground School what I did wrong and what I needed to do to correct it. He explained that once descent begins at abeam the numbers of the runway the airspeed should be at 90 k and the descent rate should be 500 fpm. Then in the Base leg, the speed should be 80 k with a descent rate of 500 fpm and then on final the speed should be between 65-70 k and the descent rate should be 500 fpm. “You’re still a little too aggressive and impatient with the plane. The plane has a delayed reaction, so you make a slight correction and wait for the plane to respond” said Jeremy. Clearly all these figures varied in my Air Traffic Patter, even though I knew what they should be. Again as I mentioned in my previous posts, I know the theory but not the practice and this is what I need to improve upon. So Jeremy concluded by saying, “Let’s see if we can improve upon this tomorrow”.

Nice day for flying

Nice day for flying

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