There’s a mission objective for each lesson and here are the missions so far:
- SIM1: For practising the start-up checklist
- AP1: Familiarisation
- AP2: Effects of controls
- AP3: Straight and level
- AP4: Straight and level 2
- AP5: Climbing and descending and medium turns
- AP6: Climbing and descending 2 and steep turns
- AP7: Slow flight & stalling
- AP8: Stalling 2 (I LOVE stalls and the HASELL check list!)
- AP9: Ground referenced manoeuvres (basically performing S bends over and road and circling a tree at low altitudes)
- AP10: In flight emergency drills and emergency descents
I forgot to say before but I bought a Jeppesen flight bag so I didn’t have to bring the leather ground school case with me (also everything’s cheaper in dollars so why not?). This is a bit of necessity when moving out here but everything else like our headsets, log books and maps was provided by CAE J
The PA28s that we fly are fully glass cockpit and equipped with a traffic alerting system which is exciting as although we studied them in Instruments I’d never seen one of them in action. As Falcon Fields has two parallel runways this brings your approaches surprisingly close to the aircraft/helicopter for the other runway when you’re coming into land and it’s normally accompanied by a “traffic, traffic”, which I think is pretty cool (as I'm frantically trying to spot the closing traffic). I've never flown from parallel runways before but I guess it makes circuits more interesting as you’re never quite sure which runway you’ll get placed on and it is practice landing on a shorter or longer runway with VASISs or PAPIs* to guide you in.
One thing our instructor has tried to do is to get us used to the local area and flying by landmarks we can see. This has involved learning the various mountains around Phoenix (excellent landmarks as the visibility is always phenomenal). We normally flew for an hour, stopped off at a local airfield for coffee and breakfast then switched over with my flight partner, taking it in turns to fly each leg. I really liked getting a feel for landing at different airports and it was great practice using the radio.
Radio is definitely not my strong point, I feel really nervous every time before I have to speak and although my instructor normally tells me what to say it doesn’t stop my ‘telephone nerves’. It especially doesn’t help that on my second lesson ATC at Gateway wouldn’t give me a taxi clearance as they said I was passing my message in the wrong order, whereas most airports around us know that we’re student pilots and are slightly more lenient towards us. At Gateway I was getting confused with the message, as the ATIS** information was Kilo and I was to hold at point Kilo on the taxiway. I really couldn’t wrap my head around the message and still find they speak really fast over the radio. I’m not in too much hurry to go and visit Gateway again because of this but they are a busy airport normally dealing with larger jets and not archer students so it’s understandable. One day I’m going to conquer this airport and ace the radio.
This week I squawked my first plane! We had an issue in the starting of a plane in that the starter motor was just turning the propeller but it was refusing to start. We would have been stuck at Chandler had my instructor not tried to start it for about 15 minutes; eventually he succeeded but I don’t think I would have been able to do it by myself. When we got back to base, we ‘squawked’ this in the book, I then took it over to maintenance to explain the problem and that’s how things get resolved over here.
For those interested:
*VASISs consist of two lights whereas PAPIs have four; they help you stabilise your approach and tell you if you’re too high or low to land on the blocks if you maintain your current attitude. If there are two whites and two reds then you’re right on the targets (one of each for VASISs), more white’s means too high and more reds means too low. Look out for them, a lot of airports have them to guide you to the blocks, I’d just never really used them before.
**ATIS stands for automatic terminal information service and is a frequency you should tune into in flight to obtain the current weather/runway conditions for that airfield before making your initial call to the tower. It’s really useful for knowing which runway is active and what the current winds are like, you can find this frequency on your aeronautical chart next to the airport you want to visit, although not all of them have an ATIS.