Lesson 23(b) – Pre-Area Solo Check Flight

The big day had come!  Back from a few awesome days camping with Josh.  Oh how I love 5 day weekends.  Cameron was my instructor today.  He is authorised to sign me out to do my area solo.  Having done my steep turns lesson with him, I felt ok about the flight.  My goal today, impress him!

Cameron was good enough to ring me earlier in the day and give me a run through of what was going to happen.  That provided a guide on what to concentrate on.  It went like this… “You will do everything, pretend I’m not there.  Then when we get to the training area, I’ll get you to do some steep turns, which you should be good at since I taught you, then you can show me your Practice Force Landings.  On the way I’ll get you do everything again without my assistance.  If that all goes well, I’ll sign you out for your area solo”…

The curve ball was there straight away, with the Western Winds blowing in, runway 30 was in use.  This was the first time I’d seen this runway used.  Cameron made me take him through all the arrival and departure procedures for each of the runways.  That was all ok.  Anyway we did our runups and taxied out.  It is a long taxi for runway 30.  We had no one in front and got clearance to line up.  On the taxi to line up on the runway, we both noticed a cough from the engine.  We did a 2 second meeting, “did you hear that?” while sitting out on the runway.  Cameron immediately called the tower and cancelled the take off ready request.

With this he asked if we could hold for 30 seconds to run up the engine and see if we could clear the cough.  We got the ok, did the run-up and when we checked, the engine was happy again.  Straight away we gave the tower the ready call and they gave us immediate clearance for takeoff.  I took control and we headed off without any further issue.  We talked about what happened and how to handle the situation.  Cameron said that it was likely the long taxi out caused the plugs to get some build up and it needed to be cleared again.

With that behind us and being in the training area, we did the steep turns.  On the first one, I went slightly past my reference point.  On the second it was all good.  They weren’t perfect but Cameron was satisfied that I was good enough for area solo standard and I would be safe enough to practice them myself.

Next was the PFLs.  We climbed to about 2200 feet and Cameron kicked off the simulated engine failure by closing the throttle.  I was into it straight away.  I did the checks, selected my field and then did a quick plan.  However I was thrown somewhat as all the previous practices were started from around 3000 feet.  Bugger, I’m already lower than my “high key point at 2500” before I started.  So I started flying outside of the plan I had already put together and basically did a rather rubbish job.  Ok lets try again he says…

With some words of advice and what to do if you are in any situation lower than each of the planning points, move on to the next point.  Also take more time to get the plan right as it will set you up for the greatest chance of success. This time we started from about 2000 feet.  Straight away into the routine and into the plan.  I started flying the plan and again wasn’t doing a good job.  Cameron then started guiding me and talking me through how I could fly my plan.  This meant going outside the normal method of getting into the “planned circuit”, with a steep turn.  Following his guidance I got back onto the plan and brought it around for what would have been a successful landing.

That was all we had time for, so we headed back towards Jandakot.  The first I had confirmation that it all wasn’t good was when Cameron said, “we’ll do a simulated radio failure entry to Jandakot”.  Knowing that a normal unassisted approach is a criteria of the check flight, the area solo had disappeared…

The simulated radio failure entry  was kind of fun.  The tower guys were awesome, they didn’t answer any of our “Transmitting Blind” calls, then when we were setup on finals, flashed the green light, meaning we were cleared to land.  Following this they gave us the ground light signals to taxi back to the Southern Apron.  Very cool!

In the debrief, Cameron wanted me to go back out with Adam, do the unassisted arrival to Jandakot and do heaps more PFLs.  If Adam was ok with those, Cameron would sign me out for the area solo.  His debrief was that the PFLs were ok, but thought that doing some more would be a good idea before wasting time alone during the area solos.

So, the next lesson with Adam was booked in for 2 weeks time as I was away the next weekend.  The flight this that Saturday wouldn’t come quick enough…

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