Learning to fly, or thinking of learning? Post your questions, comments and experiences here

Moderator: AndyR

By NewbieFH
so had 2 firsts today

1st of all it my first flight (from scratch) with no instructor, spoke to him in the club house, signed out given a key and be back in 60 mins essentially (way more but you know)

so very slowly and very methodically went through everything, taxied out for a couple of circuits then a little local bimble to practice re-joining

just at the flair the low volts light starts flashing, took my attention instead of forcing it down i went around (not so much shock as surprised and had my attention away) as thought it was the safest thing

the lamp stayed on in the climb out, at circuit height cycled pitot etc.. and it went out, knew I wasn't in a immediate danger but decided to land on the next one anyway.

felt good to get out especially on my own,Ii'm happy with my decision, i "knew" the plane wasn't going to fall out the sky and didn't want to be the student statistic, bit annoyed it happened but still learnt a lesson.

keep safe and if in doubt, land, the worst that happens is someone says you were "too cautious"
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By Rob P
Sounds a wise decision to me. Well handled.

Rob P
By johnm
Very sound judgement and very sensible to consider after the event whether there’s anything to learn for the future
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By T67M
Going around when something "doesn't look right" is usually the right decision - well done for making that call. "Forcing it down" is rarely the right decision. In this case, since the light stayed on for a significant portion of the circuit, it does sound like a genuine fault which presumably you have reported to the owner so that it can be fixed? Hopefully it's something simple like a loose drive belt, but I have had something similar on one aircraft I've flown which turned out to be a broken alternator mounting bracket. If the plane had flown again, it's likely that the alternator would have literally fallen off the engine causing who knows how much damage!

It is also worth bearing in mind that some aircraft will normally flicker the low-volts light during the flare - you have the throttle at idle, low airspeed, low engine speed, thus the alternator is working hardest at that moment and may not be able to keep up with the electrical demand of the aircraft, especially if you have high demand items like the pitot heat turned on (I assume you did since you mentioned you recycled the pitot heater).

I'm actually quite surprised you even noticed the light during the flare itself - after the "last look" at the airspeed over the hedge, my eyes are going to be down the far end of the runway and I'm unlikely to notice anything in the cockpit during those few seconds.
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By akg1486
As long as the engine is running and there's no fire onboard, going around for a normal landing is the right choice. Well done. :thumleft:
By NewbieFH
yep acknowledged, the checklist says its on, I flew the same aircraft today, unloaded the Pitot and the Landing lights, still had LV lights, but school advised me it was going in for a check tomorrow and they were happy. so i some completed circuit consolidation :)
By TopCat
I think if I'm already in the flare, that is, I know for certain that I'm going to make the runway for a normal landing, my reaction to most things * of concern inside the aircraft, would be to continue with the landing.

In this case, just before landing with the throttle presumably at idle, or close to it, I don't know whether the abnormal low-voltage light is an indication of a significantly lower-than-normal idling speed (providing less alternator output than usual), which might indicate an engine problem, and I certainly don't want to attempt a go-around with only partial power available.

I also don't know whether the alternator failure is because of a fire that's burning through the wiring, and I wouldn't particularly want to carry that into the air if there was an alternative.

For any pilot, not just a newish student, I completely understand that something genuinely startling might be off-putting enough at a critical moment to render continuing with the landing unsafe, so I hesitate to suggest that the go-around was the wrong decision. However, if the LV light coming on is that off-putting, then it's possible that discovering only partial power available for a go-around would be even more so, as might a developing fire.

I absolutely agree that a go-around is the correct decision if the aircraft is behaving normally, and something makes you unhappy about the approach (such as something wrong with height, speed, gusts, drift or a sudden sheep). And of course 'forcing it down' is likely to be a very bad idea. But if you're already in the flare, there's no need for that anyway.

If a safe landing is effectively made, it's not clear to me that throwing it away in favour of the unknown is the best option.

I should reiterate - I am not saying it was the wrong decision in this case. If your attention had been dragged away from the landing, then the landing might not have gone well.

However, it might be worth reviewing with your instructor all the things that can go wrong at critical points in flight, and mentally going through them so that you have a plan for the various eventualities. That will reduce the last-moment thinking needed.


* other than suddenly noticing fewer than 3 greens, of course, or something that suddenly blocked my view - I'm sure there are edge cases
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By mossie
Having has a "low volts" warning on our boat and thought " ah - I'll just wait till the next lock to investigate (<10 minutes) - only to find the alternator on fire (flames - smoke - melting stuff) when I did investigate - with that experience under my belt I'd have got it down. Without this experience resulting in me buying a new alternator and replacement new fire extinguisher - I'd prob have gone around too.
As top cat said--good idea if your instructor went through all the scenarios you"re likely to encounter--or at least the ones that he"s aware of.--ie orbits--low fuel--aircraft appearing in front of when on final--etc.
One thing that i"ve noticed is that some students only mention on radio that they"re students on initial transmission. It helps if they prefix each xmission. as someone arriving at an airfield may not have heard their initial transmission, thus allowing them to take into account that the other pilot is a student.
By Harry.Brown
TC’s post is quite significant because he has come to a different conclusion from everybody else for all the right reasons. I would imagine he has an airline background.

TC says it was not the wrong decision in this case, I would say it was not the best decision in this case but a completely understandable action given the pilots experience.

I teach all students and pilots to always employ a strategy which I have used and taught for the last 25 years for decision making. In case of an abnormal or emergency event always fly the aircraft to the safest place. Notice I said SAFEST, not safe. The safest place in this event would have been the runway because as TC eludes to an electrical problem can start with a warning light and end with a major fire and loss of control.

ROG says your FI should take you through all the scenarios you may encounter, this is called Threat and Error Management and has been part of ALL licence training including the PPL for the last 20 years that I know of.

One of the threats rarely mentioned is the propeller clearance from the ground and one of the landing errors is high rate of descent coupled with a incorrect nose down pitch attitude, the net result can be propeller strike. As every FI will tell you, Bad Landing - Go Around. The problem can be that going around with bent blades or part of them missing can produce some interesting climb profiles! Fortunately most of the low hour pilots who get into this situation also suffer from having been poorly trained in the go around procedure and usually just collapse in a heap on the runway. But if you do go around after a prop strike you may regret it! Also consider that you will usually hear a blade strike on tarmac but may not hear it on grass.

Bird strike is another approach/runway threat rarely taught. I recommend, if you get the opportunity, have a look at a Canada Goose because head on they can really spoil your day and guess what happens if they go into the nose cowling air intake and engine air filter?

ROG, the reason students only mention STUDENT on initial contact is because that’s what CAP 413 states .

16 year old Sam Cross, who died on his second solo flight at Southend, would probably still be alive today if he had prefixed EVERY call with “student”.
By TopCat
Harry.Brown wrote:TC’s post is quite significant because he has come to a different conclusion from everybody else for all the right reasons. I would imagine he has an airline background.

You're very kind, but no.

I'm just a PPL with a very lapsed IMC rating, with average ability but perhaps above-average obsessiveness and below-average self-delusion - but then, how would I know? I've spent most of my almost 30 years and 1100 or so hours flying, internally bemoaning how badly I fly, but seeking at every opportunity to understand why, and to do better next time.

I was also very lucky to have a very hard instructor, who never let me get away with anything. An approach to which I was possibly quite well-suited, but for which I am still very grateful.

Apart from about 100 hours or maybe a bit less, all my time is in one aeroplane, which means my experience is a little one-dimensional, unlike lots of other skygods here with far broader experience than mine.

That said, I don't think I've often been criticised for holding back on the (very) few topics that (I at least imagine) I have a little knowledge of :)
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By Sooty25
I think before jumping to a conclusion over whether the go around was right or not, it might be an idea to find out more. For example, if the student has 2,500mtrs of international airport in front of him, he has a lot more time and space to recover from the distraction and continue the landing. If however, he is flying into 600mtrs with a slight crosswind, the time available is much different.

What does concern me more is the following;

NewbieFH wrote:yep acknowledged, the checklist says its on, I flew the same aircraft today, unloaded the Pitot and the Landing lights, still had LV lights, but school advised me it was going in for a check tomorrow and they were happy. so i some completed circuit consolidation :)

I'd have wanted the cowl off to make sure there wasn't something more sinister going on before I flew it.