Flying Training

Lesson 4: Climbing and Descending 1

Sunday 13 November 2005 at 9:30am with Kerry Scott in Citabria VH-MWY

Click thumbnails to enlarge.

Click to enlarge
Tiger Moth
Click to enlarge
Citabria MWY
Click to enlarge
Warrior PBS
Click to enlarge

Weather: clear, as you can see.

Up at 7am to see the start of the Australia-Uruguay World Cup qualifier in Montevideo (0-1). Didn't have the heart to drag Alexander away from the game so I left them in front of the television and drove down to Camden, dropping Cathy off at Nepean Hospital on the way.

Arrived to find I was flying in VH-MWY (the blue Citabria). Filled out the Flight Authorisation forms, and noted that 60 litres had been added to the 30 litres already in the tank. Kerry left me to do the preflight inspection, most of which I got right, though I missed (a) checking the rudder controls and (b) viewing the maintenance release, which I believe should be in the side pocket. I did check:

Preflight inspection

  • Fuel levels. Took the wooden measuring stick from the pocket and the stepladder from the hanger. Placed the stepladder beside the left wing, unscrewed the fuel cap [check the seal!], placed in the stick till it touched the bottom of the tank, withdrew it, put a thumbnail against the top of the wet bit and read the level - 42 litres. Replaced the fuel cap firmly. Repeated with the right wing - 48 litres. Total: 90, which matched the figure in the book.
  • Seat secure and correctly adjusted (ie I checked the bolts, and sat in it)
  • Throttle movement. Carburettor heat movement. Trim movement (and back to take-off position)
  • Full and free movement of the controls (well, aileron and elevator anyway)
  • Lowered the flaps as per the book.
  • Switched on the master switch, strobes and navigation lights. Note that MWY doesn't make the whining noise that RRW does, as the turn co-ordinator's gyro is not driven by an electric motor (check this with Kerry).
  • Walked around the plane once checking all the lights. All OK, even the tail light (which was u/s on RRW).
  • Back inside. Turned strobes and nav lights off. Switched landing light on.
  • Out the front. Checked landing light.
  • Back inside. Switched off landing light and master switch. Started a walk around with the fuel drain tool.
  • First checked the fuel drain in the right wing (this may not be the right order by the book) by withdrawing a few cc of fuel and checking for water and grit. None. Colour blue (AVGAS)
  • Checked the flap hinges, including split pins. Checked for aileron movement (leave the door open to see the stick move).
  • Checked the whole wing, looking for popped rivets or skin wrinkling. OK.
  • Checked the pitot tube for blockages (eg insects). If this is blocked the airspeed indicator will read incorrectly.
  • Checked the condition of the tyre, and the security of the wheel fairing and the wing strut.
  • Opened the engine cowl hatch (different latches from RRW) and checked the oil. Just under 6 quarts (that's right, quarts. Measurement units are all over the place in Australian aviation). Closed the hatch.
  • Visually checked inside the air intakes (but keeping well clear of the propeller). Checked the filter over the air intake - just a few bugs. Checked the windscreen - clean.
  • Checked the left wing as for the right - fuel drain, tyre, strut, skin, flaps, fuel vent. The fuel vent is an L-shaped tube extending under the wing and into the airflow, which allows the pressure to equalise in the tank as fuel is used.
  • Realised I hadn't left the master switch on to check the stall warning so nipped back inside to turn it on. Then back out to flip the little vane that indicates a disturbed airflow over the wing. This trggers a horn (as you can hear on this video). [This should be checked at the same time as the navigation lights]
  • Withdrew and checked fuel from the under-fuselage fuel manifold. Ensured the vent was properly closed by pulling on the pins.
  • Checked the tail, bracing wires, elevator, elevator trim tab, rudder.
  • Back round to the cockpit. Raised the flaps. Master switch off and replaced the inspection list in the door pocket. Noted the reading on the log (which measures hours). Didn't reset the G meter - is this a requirement or does it reset automatically?

Kerry then gave me a preflight briefing, covering climbing at Best Rate of Climb (60kts, but we use 70 kts in the lesson) and Cruise Climb (80 kts), gliding descents (60 kts again) and Cruise Descent (95-100 kts, same as normal cruise). She introduced some more acronyms:



and, for return to normal flight:



The routine is engine T + P (oil temperature and pressure in green), mixture (full rich), carburettor heat (cold for climb, hot for descent), then PAST.

We didn't cover the theory, but I'd read that extensively in Bob Tait's Basic Aeronautical Knowledge and the Flying Training Manual. Kerry also provided a couple of revision sheets, which I will need to read over before next week.

I sat in the seat while Kerry moved the plane away from the hangar (I know - this seems inappropriate, but Kerry insisted that it's easy to move).

Pre-start checks:

  • Harness fastened and secure
  • Fuel shut-off valve - ON
  • Brakes set (ie feet on the top of the pedals)
  • Electrical switches - OFF
  • Door closed
  • Window open (it gets hot)
  • Air vents open

Engine start

  • Master switch on. What else did I *not* switch on? See below.
  • Feet on brakes, stick back
  • Primed the engine - 4 pumps with the priming pump, then locked it.
  • Throttle around 1 inch forward.
  • Carby heat - cold.
  • Mixture - full rich.
  • Called out "Clear prop!" and then held the starter button down. The prop spun but the engine didn't want to start.
  • Released starter button (the starter motor gets too hot if over-used). One more pump on the primer. Locked. Held down starter button again. This time it started on around the second revolution.

[The reason it didn't start is that the magnetos were not on! How did I miss that? Kerry switched them on while I did the second priming.]

  • Check oil temperature and pressure (T + P)
  • Set radio frequencies. Selected ATIS frequency and set QNH on the altimeter. Checked active runway (24 this time, the less commonly-used runway). Crosswind - can't remember the figure but it wasn't significant.


  • Brakes off, throttle back.
  • Round to the right, following that yellow line. Kerry reminded me to really pump those rudder pedals on the ground to get the tail moving round. She has described the Citabria as 'a bitch' on the ground, but reminded me that having learnt on this plane it should be easy to convert to a Cessna.
  • Downhill slightly past the office and refuelling station, so throttle back. Straight on past the normal left turn to runway 06. Stop at the run-up area. There was already a Cessna O-1 Bird Dog there, so I pulled in to the right before him.

Pre-takeoff checks

  • Feet firmly on the brakes
  • Stick back
  • Flight controls - full and free
  • Elevator trim - set to take-off position
  • Fuel shut-off - ON
  • Mixture - full rich
  • Engine instruments - normal
  • Window closed (otherwise the run-up check will be rather windy!)
  • Engine Run-up: Throttle smoothly forward to reach 1700 rpm. Hold those feet on the brakes and keep that stick back!
  • While the rpm is at 1700:
  • Checked T + P
  • Apply carburettor heat and look for rpm drop (due to reduced density of the warmer air). No drop means no fly. Wait a few seconds to see if there's a recovery, which would indicate that ice is melting.
  • Checked magnetos. Left off - look for small drop. Back on. Right off - look for small drop again. The drop can't be more than 200 rpm, and the differential between them must be not more than 50 rpm. No drop means it's not earthing, which in turn means a live magneto and potential serious injury from the engine firing if the prop is moved. Of course if the engine cuts with one magneto off then the aircraft can't be flown.
  • Throttle back to idle. Check it's running smoothly - it should be around 600-700 rpm.
  • Back to 1000 rpm.
  • Check cabin door, windows and harness


  • Brakes off. Throttle up. Taxi forward to the end of runway 24. More throttle to go up the hill; less to go down the other side. Apply brakes before the hold point. Kerry made the radio calls (there's still too much for me to think about!) and there was a Cessna coming in, so we waited while it landed and cleared the runway.
  • When we get takeoff clearance it's brakes off, taxi to the centreline of the runway, then throttle forward. Kerry had the stick, I had the rudders. I knew there were multiple effects trying to push the nose left (engine torque, propeller slipstream, gyroscopic effect as the stick is pushed forwards) so I gave it plenty of right rudder. And bugger me if it didn't head straight for the right edge of the runway this time! Fortunately it's a wide runway in proportion to the size of a Citabria, and we have a short take-off distance, so Kerry managed to get us airborne before we left the bitumen, but obviously this rudder work is tricky.

Note that if you experience an engine failure on take-off from runway 24, you're faced with finding a clear spot in a sea of houses. I'm sure just 5 years ago it would have been different. No thanks to the local council. I'm sure their planned endgame is no airport at all (like Hoxton Park).


This was the purpose of the lesson, so I paid attention while Kerry made a normal climb to 3000 feet, then demonstrated the gliding descent, cruise climb and cruise descent.

While climbing you can't see the horizon over the nose so you pick a landmark either side of the nose and watch that. As usual it's essential to keep a good lookout for other traffic, and to check the blind spot under your nose you need to lower the nose every 500' or make a turn (ie turn right, look out the left side; turn left, look out the right side. Turning seems to be the better airmanship because you also show your wings to anyone looking in your direction. However it's possible that a gentle nose-down may be kinder to your passengers!


On the glide descent the tricky aspect is clearing the engine every 500'. This means throttle forward to 2000 rpm (get used to the sound - remember CCHAT - Change, Check, Hold, Attitude, Trim) while simultaneously resisting the temptation for the nose to rear up and to the left by holding plenty of right rudder and holding the stick forward. Remember you should be correctly trimmed so after returning the throttle to idle and releasing the stick the plane should return to the glide of its own accord.

The flight

Now it was my turn. We set course for the Great Western Highway at Glenbrook and turned left to keep on the south side of the highway and intercept it again at Faulconbridge. This was my cruise climb. Saw the RAAF balloon at Glenbrook (it was their annual Open Day). Kerry had her chart out, and found that two sets of power lines converged at Faulconbridge. We found that this took us onto the highway at the fruit barn. Working back down the highway we found Highland Road and then the next very small looking area of houses was our street, confirmed by the water tank and the railway station. Kerry also pointed out that the pedestrian overbridge was a good landmark. At the end of our street we found the dark brown roof of Des and Gwen's house and then the dark green roof of ours, with the four dormer windows. The boys' trampoline was very prominent, as was Des & Gwen's pool.

We circled over the house and then set course for the Three Sisters at Katoomba. It was all visual - just fly up the valley towards Mount Solitary, looking out for the Three Sisters ahead (which are below the horizon so quite hard to make out). We clearly saw the air navigation beacon on Kings Tableland, and the observatory, and the Fairmont Resort at Leura was very prominent. We saw Katoomba airstrip, which apparently is only used in emergencies, but it's worth noting in case of engine failure.

Then I switched to a glide descent back towards Lake Burragorang. I had great difficulty with the engine clearing procedure, as I wasn't putting in sufficient stick and rudder to resist the slipstream effect. I need to revisit the training manuals, particularly the force diagrams.


Over Lake Burragorang it was time for some aerobatics. As before I flew the first loop, but Kerry wasn't happy with how slowly I pulled the stick back (I didn't want the wings to come off!) so she demonstrated one which was so tight I lost my headphones. It was hard work to pick them up again while pulling 4G! She then followed up with a barrel roll, whose control inputs I still haven't worked out, though I know it began with a shallow dive to build up speed (ie not like an aileron roll). At this point I began to lose interest in my surroundings. Wish my stomach wasn't so fragile. Kerry says she can fly aerobatics "all day".


So after the aerobatics I set course for The Oaks, or more accurately a big white patch in that general direction which is polythene over an orchard. We kept above 3000' over The Oaks, because of the light aircraft in the area, and made an inbound radio call to Camden. They informed us of the traffic in the circuit, we descended at 500' per minute to 1800', and Kerry took over for the landing, following a Cessna in. I taxiied back and parked it into wind.

Flying as a passenger

Kerry must be planning the radio part of the training because she gave me a hand-held radio and suggested I listen to the radio calls. Then she suggested that I join her and Judith in a Piper Warrior as she was taking Judith on a PETS flight (Partners' Emergency Training), intended to allow partners of pilots to make radio calls and be talked down if the pilot is incapacitated). This allowed me to listen to the radio calls, but also to see a very different cockpit layout, with more flight instruments, ADF, GPS and the works. It had a yoke, not a wheel, throttle and mixture in the middle (ie to the right of the pilot) and trim wheel on the floor.

It also gave me the chance to take a relaxed look around the training area, which will also be an aspect of my training that I'll be evaluated on.