I think this post is better understood just by watching the video (find referenced charts below):
My instructor had kept saying to me in the previous lessons “one of these days I’ll release you for the first solo flight” (but then in French). Today, August 30th 2013, the time has come.
I arrived today at the aéroclub René Barbaro, in the aerodrome Toulouse-Lasbordes (LFCL), at about 18:15 (16:15 UTC… to keep it #avgeek). When being asked what would be then plan for today, my instructor, Thierry, immediately answered “est-ce que ça te marche si on fait trois tour de piste et aprés je te lâche?.” To that question one can only answer: “oui, bien sûr!“.
Thus, we took the Robin DR-400-120 Petit Prince with matriculation number F-GNNI (Fox(trot) Golf November November India). A mainly wooden French plane which is quite popular in France. The aircraft has a piston engine which delivers 120 HP, cruises at about 200 km/h, has an empty weight of about 600kg (573kg as per the latest rapport de pessée)… you can see it below:
As Thierry proposed, we first made 3 tours de piste, that is 3 laps around he aerodrome circuit.
Despite of some comments on the landings, one take-off performed with flaps retracted (see #Jk5022), at the end of the third landing Thierry got off the aircraft, got his walkie-talkie to hear and intervene in the communications if needed (which was not needed) and went to aéroclub office.
Then, I was finally alone in the plane.
Message to the radio (the tower was not working by then, thus I sent a message to other aircraft in the frequency, 122.7): “Toulouse-Lasbordes, DR-400 au parking Airbus, je roule au point d’arrêt piste 34“. I then went through the different check lists, going through each step in a mixture of Spanish and French (I normally proceed with the list in French but then it felt strange to talk to myself in French thus: “giro al sur y la bille va a la derecha, el cap y el compas decrecen…”).
At about 17:35 UTC, I finally pronounced the words “Fox November India, je m’aligne et je decolle, piste 34“, and with that there I went! (I had to align and take off rather quickly as there was another airplane about to announce its entry in finale).
From then on, an easy flight around the aerodrome that did not take very long but meant a big step for me ensued; a big reassurance. Let’s go through it. Come on board with me…
Take-off: even if I could have taken off at a lower speed, due to the heat and as precaution, I was going to rotate at about 110km/h. Up until then I repeated “the runway is cleared, la vitesse monte, the runway is cleared, all parameters are green…“. I saw some birds flying low and crossing the runway, so I gave myself some seconds before pulling the stick backwards… “je décolle!“.
Climb: immediately after taking off, I had to push the right pedal to compensate the engine effects. During the first phase of the climb I ascended at about 130 km/h (a bit faster as I was alone in the plane) and at 760ft, or 300 pieds sol, I proceeded with the check list après décollage: “volets (flaps) de premier écran à rentrées, pompe électrique off and check that all parameters are still green“. Proceed with the climb now at 150km/h.
Integration in the aerodrome circuit: You can see in the pictures below the aerodrome circuit, both as it appears in the aeronautical chart [PDF, 644KB] and with a satellite image.
As soon as I had passed the village of Balma I turned East still ascending (following the green line upwards and to the right as per the satellite image). Then, just between Balma and Pin-Balma (blue circles in the satellite image) there is a farm which serves as starting point for the aerodrome circuit.
There, I announced myself again: “Fox(trot) November India au début de vent arrière piste 34“. I then reduced the gas from 2,500rpm to 2,000rpm, switched on the electric pump, the carburetor heating and deployed the flaps to the first position (10º)… with those settings the speed should come to 150km/h. I then noticed that while performing these actions I had gained some 200ft (above the 2,000ft of the circuit), which I proceeded to lose quickly and, once corrected, I trimmed the aircraft for 150km/h at 2,000ft QNH.
When I spotted the Château de Pechestier (see carte VAC above), I turned right following the ligne à haute tenstion, reduced the power from 2,000rpm to 1,500rpm (keeping the speed at 150km/h) while losing altitude from 2,000ft to about 1,100ft when over flying the commercial centre at the turn between the sectors étape de basse and finale.
Final approach: “Fox(trot) November India en finale pour un complet“. I then deployed the flaps to the landing configuration (60º) and fixed my sight on the number 34: “vitesse (> 120km/h) – le plan (3.5%) – vitesse – l’axe – …“.
Landing: I believe that one has been the best landing I have performed so far. I guess I was so concentrated that I definitely did my best… I slowed down, exited the runway, “Fox(trot) November India la piste est dégagée, je roule au parking et quite la radio“. I then proceeded with the different check lists, went to the parking of the aeroclub, turned off the airplane… and that was it!
Thierry: “Well, How does it feel the first solo flight?”… the first solo flight.
Albi is small city close to Toulouse. It is mainly famous for its UNESCO World Heritage Site Cathedral Sainte Cécile and the museum of the painter Toulouse-Lautrec. I had been there twice, but I hadn’t yet written a post about the city. Today I’ll write about another special feature it has.
In Albi there is a car racing circuit. I have a colleague who likes cars, motor-bikes and has been already using that circuit in one of its open days.
Yesterday, I wrote a post about the stall exercises we performed in last Saturday’s flight lesson.
Let me connect the dots. On Saturday, while having lunch, our colleague told us that the circuit in Albi was having an open day that precise day. He encouraged us to propose to our instructor to fly to Albi. And here comes the catch: “Why?” Because the aerodrome of Albi, our colleague explained to us, is embedded in the car racing circuit!
We gave it a try, demanded our instructor to go to Albi and succeeded. See below the flight path recorded with my Garmin:
In the following screenshot of the Visual Approach Chart (carte VAC) you may see how when the circuit IS active the runway of the aerodrome is shortened as the circuit crosses the runway! (You may download the chart here, PDF, 360KB).
You may see it better below, in the Google maps view, how the circuit intersects the runway:
Finally, enjoy the video of the final approach of our flight. If you pay attention to it, you’ll notice the cars racing in the circuit while we are approaching and how we are in fact touching down only within the allowable space when the circuit is active: