My Circuits Are Finally Coming Together

final approach

Final Approach

When learning to fly, you ideally need a lesson a week at the very minimum to build up your skills. Anything less than that and you could be throwing money away as you tend to spend part of your next lesson getting re-acquainted with the aircraft. I have had a really bad run of luck since I started flying due to the good old British weather, and many of my lessons have been cancelled. At the time of today’s lesson I hadn’t flown in three weeks. This was very much reflected in my take off from Deanland which was rather messy and not up to the standard I was achieving during my last lesson.


More Circuits At Headcorn

My instructor today was Richard Foster who is the CFI at Flight Sport Aviation. He is a very experienced and capable microlight pilot and flew an Ikarus C42 from the UK all the way to Cape Town in South Africa! Such is the reliability of this plucky little aircraft.

The flight over to Headcorn went smoothly and we landed and went to pay the ‘tower man’ the obligatory £25 for circuits. After a latte in the airfield café, I was ready to get stuck into some circuits.


Step on the ball!

forces in a turn

Courtesy of

An error which I have been making during my training so far is not paying enough attention to the balance ball, making my turning manoeuvres uncoordinated – ie the nose of the aircraft is not pointing in the same direction as the flight path. When turning, same side rudder needs to be applied to keep the aircraft in balance. This is because in a turn, the aircraft has a tendency to skid outwards, in a direction opposite to the turn, due to the centrifugal force (see diagram). Imagine a car, travelling on ice. Its wheels may be pointing left, but the direction of travel is to the right.

So generally, turns need to be coordinated with same side rudder. The slip indicator will show you whether flight is coordinated. Ball to the left, apply left rudder. Ball to the right, apply right rudder. Step on the ball!


My landings are coming together…

I was lucky that the crosswind wasn’t too bad today. All in all I did 9 circuits, and my landings were getting better and better each time.

Another error I have been making during previous circuit lessons has been overuse of the control column to correct deviations from the runway centreline. The Ikarus is an extremely light aircraft, so handling has to be positive but gentle. Large inputs of stick on final will make for a messy approach. In fact, the approach can be flown mainly with rudder to correct centreline tracking combined with slight inputs of stick to counteract for drift.


…and aren’t so bouncy!

Chuck Yeager, the United States Air Force pilot who was the first man to travel faster than the speed of sound supposedly said; ‘If you can walk away from a landing, it’s a good landing. If you use the airplane the next day, it’s an outstanding landing’. Although he has a point, I always think that a bouncy landing is followed by the inevitable ‘walk of shame’ back to the flying hut! Around half way through my circuit session, it all seemed to click. No longer was I afraid of the fast approaching runway, so I was able to flare, low enough not to balloon and bounce. It was such a thrill to feel that what is probably the most difficult flying manoeuvre to master is finally coming together. As I write this post, I am still on a high!

Go slip those surly bonds!

Categories: Flying Skills.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>