Diary of a Student Pilot

David Walker writes about his experiences as he learns how to fly, after winning a competition to become a pilot.


Part 12 – Nuts and Bolts

I’m now just over 30 lessons into the course and all is going well Recently, I sat my second exam and thankfully passed – but only just. Not bad when you consider that there wasn’t a single question on the test paper that related to what I’d been studying for the past several weeks! It was only after I’d completed the test, I was then told by two different instructors that my exam was not only the most difficult, but equally the most obscure of all the exams too. So, to get a pass, I felt rather pleased.

Just like driving a car, flying can also have its fair share of “fun days”, with the occasional minor technical issue, bad weather or poor runway condition etc. A few weeks ago, I met up with a new instructor who was going to be with me for the lesson. He needed to observe that I do a couple of circuits ok, to then let me loose for the remainder of the time going solo “round the track” again.

I did my full checks of the aircraft on the ground, fired up the engine and we went to the end of the runway. All was going fine. We took off, turned right and settled into the circuit. To help alleviate force in the control column, you have a “trim” wheel located in-between the pilot and co-pilot’s seat. This is rotated forward or back depending on your requirement and can turn a difficult use of the control, into a blissful operation with just a couple of turns.

I levelled off at 800ft and started to trim. But halfway along it became stuck. No matter what I did, the thing just wasn’t going to budge. At no point were either of us in any danger, so in a situation like this you remain calm, fly the aircraft and come back in to land.

Back on the ground we called an engineer over. He had a look and saw that it was a minor cable issue. However, as safety is always the number one priority, he didn’t hesitate to order a brand new one, which I’m told was promptly fitted as soon as it arrived. My instructor and I changed over into a different aircraft for the remainder of the lesson, but as too much time had already passed, it wasn’t going to be possible for me to go solo.

Instead, I did another lap of the track and then did a practice landing by using the glide method only, as if the engine had failed. Essentially, this isn’t much different to the powered approach, but still needs to be practiced in case it does actually happen one day. Needless to say, it was a slightly frustrating lesson, but equally it goes to show that not everything goes well all of the time. To see what it looks like from the pilot’s point of view when practicing a glide approach, this excellent short YouTube video shows exactly how you can remain in control at all times and bring the aircraft down safely. Note: Although you can still see the propeller spinning in the video – it is actually at idle speed, so it’s not generating any thrust at all. Despite the frustrating day, it was still good to get in the air, even if it was only for a short time.

Video Credit – CJ The Pilot.

If you have ever wondered what it’s like to take the controls of an aircraft, or you just simply fancy taking to the skies and see some amazing views, then the great folks at Abbasair are always on hand to help out. From coffee and cake at the Runway café, through to soaring in the amazing De Havilland Harvard, I can guarantee you will not be disappointed with your visit.


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