The Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers, Pilot Scholarship 2009


Instructor Cadet Sergeant Sarah WILMOTT

Day 1:

I arrived at Tayside Aviation, where I was warmly welcomed by staff and cadets, and shown the the cadet crew hut where we planned and waited for our flights. After a few hours of getting to know everyone, another cadet and I were taken to the Airlie House Hotel where we settled into our rooms.

Day 2:

Started with a full briefing on what was expected of us and also what we were expected to learn throughout the course, we were also given a welcome pack in which we were given books to learn, flying logs to fill in and checklists to complete each time we went flying.

With the briefing out of the way we made preparations to make our first flight with our instructors. My instructors name was Euan and told me he enjoyed extreme sports. Using the checklist I had been given, Euan helped me complete a walk around check which basically involved checking the aircraft was serviceable and that it and enough fuel and oil, an internal check checking all the instruments worked properly and also went through all of the procedures for taxiing, take off, checks in the air and engine shutdown.

After my first flight I felt really excited and couldn’t wait for the next flight. The second flight was later on in the afternoon at about 1630hrs, in this flight I learnt how fly straight and level using the horizon whilst checking the altitude to ensure that I was flying straight and level, I also learnt how to recover the plane from different positions and with the throttle and trim tab running inefficiently. On the return to the air field, the airstrip lights were on and I realised that it had got quite dark in the 45 minutes that I had been flying for, in other words, a night flight. Once all the paper work had been filled in, we headed back to the hotel.
Day 3:

Unfavourable conditions; snow and low cloud. We all arrived at the flying school and were given the news we had expected: no flying until the weather improved, in other words grounded. We sat in the cadet hut for the rest of the day, taking advantage of the free time in which we could study for the up and coming exam. We left the flying school early as there was no chance of weather improvement. After dumping our books and changing out of our flying suits we all took a walk down to the local leisure centre where we all went to swim. A meal out,  followed by some revision and homework. I turned in for yet another early night.

Day 4:

The combination of high cross winds and low visibility it was another day spent in the cadet hut studying for our exam. We planned to go ice skating  if we had another day of no flying.  We ended up back at the hotel, studying for our exam or catching up on our school work. After dinner, we carried on with our studying and all had another early night hoping that tomorrow would be a better day to fly.
Day 5:

Grounded again, the visibility is getting better but we all keep looking at the Met weather forecast hoping for at least a change in the wind direction so as we can start flying. One of the boys was taken ill last night with food poisoning and hasn’t come into flying today. Back at the hotel we watched a film before going to bed.
Day 6:

The weather was better today, the cloud had risen and the wind had dropped slightly. However as luck would have it, this all happened after my day’s flying slot! Other people managed to go up and when they came back down I was glad that I hadn’t gone up because it had been a very bumpy ride for all and it was very difficult to land their planes. Once I got back to the hotel, my roommate and I decided to go to the gym. We spent an hour at the gym before returning back to the hotel for our early lunch. After watching the film we stayed up and talked for a bit before heading back to our own rooms.
Day 7:

The weather is progressively getting better as the days go by, today it was cloudy however when we got to Tayside, we found that it was very windy as well. We spent the morning doing homework and revising for exams, and then the sun came out towards the afternoon. I managed to get a flying slot and went up. There was a lot of turbulence and there was hardly any horizon, I tried to learn how to do climbs and descents but found it too difficult without a horizon so headed back to the airport after about half an hour of flying.
Day 8:

Today was a very eventful day, the weather was perfect and I had 3 flying slots all to myself. Euan took me up and has been given me more responsibility when taxiing, radioing and flying, I was also allowed to take the aircraft off on my first flight of the day. I took off first time almost perfect; I think it was beginners luck though. Once in the air, we continued with the climbing and descending exercises including climbing and descending turns which I found slightly more difficult. After completing the exercises we returned to Dundee where I had my de-brief and waited for my next slot a few hours later. On my next flight, I practiced recovering from stalls when climbing. This involved recovering from a stall without using power and also recovering whilst using power. The stalling exercise allowed me to see the Grob’s capabilities whilst in a stall and it also enabled me to be able to recognise a stall when I was in one so as I could recover quickly without losing much height.
Day 9:

Another day with fine weather allowed me to get straight up into the air and revise my stalling techniques and how to recover from them. Back on the ground I was briefed on stalling when in a turn I was taught how and why it happens and how to recover from it. After a small break I was back in the air and quickly revised my stalling techniques. Then I was given a practical demonstration of stalling whilst turning and what to do when it happened, I then performed a few myself. Later, Euan went through stalling on approach with me before he showed me the circuit pattern away from the airfield.
Day 10:

Today the weather conditions were perfect! There was hardly any wind which is perfect for doing my practice circuits. This morning’s flight I revised my stalling on approach techniques and recovered from them pretty well, my instructor then flew us onto the circuit and “flew me through” the circuit pattern that I would be doing later on in the day. He then proceeded with a touch and go manoeuvre which is a landing immediately followed by a takeoff. He then went for another circuit, this time; I followed him through on the approach and the landing. After some more studying for my exam and a brief on circuit patterns I was back in my plane preparing for taxiing. Now more confident with radios and taxiing, I took the aircraft through all of the motions right up until the departure. Takeoff is also getting easier, but I must remember to keep my hand on the throttle. I then started to get used to the circuit pattern on my own going through the turns with few prompts from Euan. When it came to the touch and goes however, I brought the nose wheel down which causes a nose shimmy and strong vibrations in the cockpit. We continued circuits and touch and go’s, each time getting better with my landings. On the last circuit pattern, Euan talked me through what to do in the case of an engine failure downwind, in other words over the Tay. He then proceeded with a glide approach to the runway showing me the difference in landing points with the glide. After taxiing back to Tayside, I continued revising for my exam which I was confident I could pass the next day. On my third flight of the day, my landings were near perfect and I was completing touch and goes on my own. It was looking promising for my solo the next day. I ended the evening with some more studying so as I was sure to pass my exam and turned in for an early night.
Day 11:

Today felt like a really big day for me, the weather was favourable and my first flight of the day included more touch and goes with some emergency procedure simulations for example engine failure after takeoff. After my first flight I felt confident that I could pass the exam that I had been preparing for the entire two weeks, I sat the exam and passed first time with 86%. Now it was just a waiting game, and all I was waiting for was the green light from Euan saying that I was going solo. On my second flight I continued with my circuits and touch and go procedures this time I included a “going around” procedure which basically involved aborting the landing and applying full power. Then on what I thought was my second to last touch and go, Euan asked me to apply the brakes and to taxi off the runway onto the main apron. He then proceeded to radio the tower informing them that the “student is going on first solo.” It suddenly hit me when I was on the south side of the apron ready to do my power checks and when Euan was getting into his hi-vis jacket that this was what I had been waiting all week for. I was going solo!

I watched as my instructor made his way to the ATC tower and then slowly, I began to focus on the task at hand, I first went through my power checks which ensure that the engine is working properly and then my pre-takeoff checks which ensure that all my instruments are working, the required lights are on and that that all the safety features are working. With a nervous voice, I then radioed the tower informing them that I was ready for my departure for my solo circuit. After following their instructions to taxi to holding point Alpha and to line up on the runway I was given clearance to takeoff and begin my solo flight. The only thought in my head was thinking about what Euan would say to me at each point of my circuit had he been in the plane with me.  Once I had the runway lined up I applied full throttle and let the aircraft takeoff. At 200ft my flaps came up and at 300ft I made a small turn to the left to comply with the noise abatement rule. Using my visual reference points to help me know when to turn I directed the plane into a turning climb onto the crosswind leg of my circuit over the Tay.

After reaching 1000ft, I levelled off and made my 30° turn downwind over the middle of the Tay allowing for the crosswind that was slowly pushing me back towards the runway. With my wings level and parallel to the runway I radioed into the ATC tower telling them where I was and that I wanted to land. They told me to report to them when I was on the finals approach and where I was in the queue of aircraft wanting to land. I was lucky and happened to be the only aircraft wanting to land at that time. After letting ATC know that I had received and understood their transmission, I proceeded with my pre landing checks which include making sure that that breaks were off, that the engine was still okay and that the canopy was closed and would remain closed. After flying over the Dundee rail bridge I made my base turn which was 30° of bank followed by the throttle pulled back all the way to idle.

By this point I was almost shouting out exactly what I should be doing at myself so as not to forget things like applying back pressure on the control column so as I didn’t lose height. I rolled my wings level and then brought my flaps down to 30° before lowering the aircraft nose to maintain 70kts trimming the aircraft as I went. Now the plane was starting to descend at a steady rate and I was approaching my 500ft point at which I would have to be 500ft above when I turned onto my finals. Turning onto my final approach I noticed that I was a little lower than I would have liked to have ideally been, I rolled the wings level applied full flap and powered up to 1700RPM. This brought my nose up slightly so I corrected by pushing the nose down slightly. At this point in time the only thought in my head was Euan’s voice telling me over and over: “Aiming point, airspeed, aiming point, airspeed...” I was so focused on my aiming point and my airspeed that I forgot to radio the tower to tell them I was landing! Thankfully they came on the radio telling me that I was clear to land, I acknowledged that I was clear to land and continued focusing on my aiming point and airspeed.

I was right on target for my landing so as I came over the threshold and the numbers I pulled back the throttle to idle and came in hovering over the runway for my round out. Euan’s voice then came into my head telling me to pull up, it was all that I had remembered him saying on my previous landings that day so I did what Euan’s imaginary voice was telling me to do and pulled the nose up so as I couldn’t see the end of the runway and held it there listening out for the stall warner. Once I heard the stall warner I held the plane in its position. It was only seconds later that the wheels touched down gently onto the tarmac of the runway; and as soon as the speed was below 55kts, I applied the brakes and lowered the nose so as the nose wheel was now on the runway. Almost squealing with delight that I had made a near perfect landing I quickly turned the plane round and vacated the runway with congratulations from the tower and permission to taxi back to Tayside.

I recovered from my adrenaline overload a few hours later when I went flying again this time with my instructor and departed to the north to the mountains.

I flew for the majority of this flight apart from when I was taking the above photo’s, the experience was absolutely amazing! The whole course has been one of the best experiences of my entire life, but the most rewarding and exciting part of the course was today on my solo flight. The feeling of flying a circuit all by myself from takeoff to landing is phenomenal, words cannot describe the feeling and the only way in which I can think of explaining it is by simply saying: try it yourself, and feel the marvel of flying solo for yourself.

I would like to thank the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers for funding this experience and Euan for his patience in training me. Thank you all, Sarah Wilmott.