One of the things (and there are many) that concerns me about my up and coming solo cross country is landing at Peterborough. Aside from the fact that the airport has its own cloaking device, there’s the problematic task of joining the circuit.
There is a set way of joining the circuit at an uncontrolled airport, basically at Peterborough I’m going to end up joining mid left downwind. The last time I tried this with Bob on board I got myself totally and utterly disoriented. I mean I knew in theory what I needed to do; I overfly the field at circuit height and join the mid left downwind leg. I even drew myself a little picture of what the runway orientation would look like from my approach angle. It didn’t help.
As I flew vaguely in the direction of the circuit, I admitted to Bob “I don’t know where I am, I’m completely disoriented.”
Bob, for some reason seemed strangely reluctant to help. I was stressed and didn’t really appreciate his silence on the matter. To be honest I thought he was being a bit of a d!ck, I mean he’d warned me that he’d be helping less and less as the flight went on and although I accepted this when we briefed, personally I felt his timing sucked.
Reviewing the video footage though, I can see exactly what the problem was and why Bob “decided” not to help me.
I didn’t really need it. Despite my whinging and whining, I was pretty much where I needed to be, doing pretty much what I needed to do. I just didn’t realise it. And because of this I was stressed and angry and because I was stressed and angry I was doing stupid stuff (like dragging it in under power on a 6000ft runway).
As usual WMAP is her own worst enemy. So how do you solve a problem like WMAP?
The honest answer is that no one can, I mean the reason Bob wasn’t “helping” is that he was genuinely confused as to what the problem was. There wasn’t one.
So WMAP help thyself. I’ve had time to think, time to review some of the footage and time to reflect on how I can help myself. Here’s what I’ve come up with
Breathe – always been my problem, when I get stressed I genuinely don’t breath properly. Brain cells require oxygen to function, planes need brain cells to fly them
Look around me – instead of panicking and pleading for help, if I’d taken a moment to glance out of my window, I may well have seen a runway exactly where I needed it to be.
Be assertive – I let the intense traffic around Peterborough intimidate me, I think it’s the old “imposter syndrome” again. I perhaps don’t feel like I have as much right to be there as “proper pilots” do. Bob was fairly clear in our debrief, no need to land short, the runway is yours. Set up the landing and take your time if you need to. If traffic behind you is crowding then that is their problem not yours. I really need to take this on board, Now that I have enough situational awareness to know what’s going on behind me, I tend to stress about it too much. I noticed this on my way into City on a number of occasions where I’ve felt traffic was following too close behind me. It is not my problem to deal with.
Take my time – again, breathe and evaluate. When the I was reporting at the same alleged position and altitude at the Muskoka traffic, a few moments of analysis would have let me figure out how to deal with the situation. It is very rare that you don’t have time to inhale and think. I should remember that. And once again as Bob has pointed out, if it’s all going a bit quick, slow down, drop some flaps and take your time.
Have faith – if your flight planning is correct, all you need to do is fly your planned heading. It genuinely does bring you out exactly where you want to be, this was certainly demonstrated this flight. I need to have faith in my plan and follow it. It will do what I need it to do. In the same vein I actually need to have a bit of faith in my own abilities. All the time I was moaning about my lack of situational awareness, I was following another plane on the base leg. I must have had some idea of what was going on.
All in all, reviewing the video of the dual flight was a little bit of a shock. Normally I find a million and one things I could have and should have done better. This time, although it wasn’t exactly perfection I was viewing. It wasn’t the unmitigated disaster I feared either.
The truth is you can’t really solve a problem like WMAP until she admits that there really isn’t that much of a problem to fix.