I am a new student just a bit over 15 hours and I seem to be having a bit of trouble holding my speeds in the pattern once the flaps start coming down on downwind. My instructor says I'm almost there and I'm close to nailing the pattern. My final approach and touchdown are quite good considering my downwind and base legs are not where they should be.
I've spent almost five hours in the pattern and I thought things would have clicked by now. My instructor says I'm doing great and it'll come; at that point I'll then wonder why I didn't get it all along. Is this a common phase of training that gives students trouble? Any tips or advice anyone may have?
Trim is a big part of getting your airspeed where you want it to be. If you are not trimmed out very well, you'll most certainly be struggling to get your airspeed where you want it.
You also might want to identify power settings that make sense...if you ever lose the airspeed indicator you still need to be able to land the airplane (more on that in a second). Having target power settings (instead of just guessing) will get you to the airspeed you want pretty quickly. So you when you reduce power, reduce it to a specific number. Then set your trim so you get a 400 ft/min (or whatever works) descent rate. Having trim and power on the money will help smooth out your airspeeds.
Another problem I see is that pilots are not visual enough in the pattern...I know you are still learning, but once my student gets the pattern down, I like to cover up his airspeed indicator. I want my student to get the feel of the aircraft...the aircraft will tell you where it needs to be. Without the airspeed indicator you have to feel the speed of the aircraft. I go to my power settings and use my target descent rate and "notice" how the airplane reacts...then adjust accordingly.
Former NWS Meteorologist and CFI