A roller coaster of a ride!

It had been 4 weeks since I last flew and I wondered how much I could forget in such a short space of time, well the answer seems to be quite a bit! First off was the order of the checklist, it took a little prompting from Mike, but it was in there somewhere and soon came back!

During the 4 weeks the C42 has had its BRS (Ballistic Recovery System) removed and sent away to have the parachute repacked, to be able to fly it we had to have a new weight and balance done as the allowed flying weight drops from 472.5Kg to 450Kg without the chute in a microlight. We also had an oil thermostat fitted so it will warm up quicker and hold its temperature better, hopefully it will help prolong engine life too.

The aeroplane had not been flow today so was cold, however with the oil thermostat fitted it warmed up very quickly and I was able to do the power check almost by the time I got to it on the check list!

The weather was looking ok and within limits however the wind was blowing directly down runway 29; I have never flown from or landed on 29, it’s a lot shorter and narrower than our other runways and for good measure there are some cables on the approach too!

Runway 29 Chatteris

Take off was no problem and with the wind we gained height very quickly, we flew out to the west and over March and then turned towards Whittlesey while practicing trimming for 70, 80 and 60 knots, I struggled with this as I knew that for 70 the trim should be neutral and the power set to 4,200 rpm, however this was not working and it took me a while to figure out it was down to the balance of the aeroplane without the chute had changes and therefore I needed some extra trim. After some practice and some initial faffing around this was ok, but needs to be polished in a future solo. Next came unusual and dangerous attitudes, Mike took the controls with me lightly holding the stick and first put the aeroplane in a steep ascent and then said “you have control recover”, the recovery is easy enough, nose down and full power together until the nose is level with the horizon. Next Mike put it into a spiral dive, again this in my mind was OK power off, level the wings ease back on the stick and power on as the speed drops ones back in a climb, only problem I had was I closed the throttle, but not all the way so speed was building fast!

High rate turns was last on the agenda for today and I was pleased that I maintained altitude, however in the first turn I would have failed due to not performing the look out before the manoeuvre and my turn to the other direction I rolled out to soon, it should have been 360 and I rolled out at 270 degrees, in my defence I did spot another aircraft as we were through 180, but that was not an acceptable excuse!

Now it was time to return to the airfield and we were make slow progress at 3,000ft, Mike asked what I estimated the wind speed at and I guessed 60kn, he then said “well if its 60 up here will it be less or more at 1,500ft”, “less due to the friction of the earth” I said, Mike replied “good, so lets descend to 1,500ft and fly back at 80kn”. At 80 knots it was very bumpy, there was also a light rain storm just off to our left and as we came into land on 29 I was all over the show, it was like being in a roller coaster and I don’t like roller coasters! So we went around, the second attempt was more composed and the storm had moved away so the conditions were better too and we landed ok, it left me feeling quite shattered, but it’s all good experience!

Back on the ground I had with me a replacement bulb for our non-working MR16 halogen landing light. The replacement was a 9W LED and I fitted this after washing the aeroplane down, it’s a lot whiter light and brighter than the old one so long as it lasts, it’s a cheap, easy and good upgrade!

landing light lit landing Light fitted

Round and round we go, not in the circuit but advanced turning

Simon and I went over for our lessons together and only just made it there in time due to cars queuing after leaving the car boot sale down the road, note to self to leave a little earlier in future!

On arrival Pete very kindly made us a cup of tea and Simon discussed the lesson he was about to have, “EX 10b – Stalling” with Mike. Pat and Katie went for a fly in Pat’s C42 and shortly after Mike and Simon set off too.

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On their return more tea was drunk and Mike produced a large Panettone cake and cut Katie a large slice which she somehow ate!!!

Today, by way of a change and mainly due to the wind direction and gusts we didn’t do circuits in my lesson, I would like to say it was due to me having become proficient in landings, but I’m not there yet! Instead we did “Advanced turning (up to 60° bank angle) – To carry out a coordinated level turn at steep angles of bank and to recognise and recover from a spiral dive” this was both new and fun for me!

We left on runway 24, which was a relief as 29 had been being used, it’s not too bad for taking off, but not the best runway for landing on when you are still learning as it is shorter, narrower and you come in over some power lines. We climbed up to 3,500 feet as we wanted the calm air above the inversion layer, with Peterborough visible in the near distance Mike demonstrated the 45 degree turn and then let me have a go. The 45 degree turn is much like any other turn except you need a bit more back pressure and you need to up the revs a little. I found turning anti clockwise I was losing height and when turning clockwise I was gaining height, this Mike explained, is a common error and is caused by using the nose as a point of reference to the horizon and not where the horizon was on the windscreen, I then tried again and it was much better. Next came the 60 degree turns, wow you can really feel the G force in these turns pulling on your face, its only around 2 G, but you feel it none the less. In these turns it’s principally the same as the 45 degree turns, but it takes more power and considerably more back pressure. On my first attempt I let the nose drop and nearly entered a spiral dive, which is the next part of the lesson! The next attempt went better and on coming out of the turn we felt a bump, which is a good thing, it means we have hit our own wake turbulence meaning we had done a full 360 turn and remained at the correct height.

Next came the spiral dive, this is when you do a 60 degree (or steep) turn and let the nose drop causing the speed to build to dangerous levels, the normal reaction to this is to pull the stick back to reduce the angle of attack and reduce speed, but as you are in a steep turn doing so just tightens the turn and makes it more violent, or at least that was how I perceived it. Mike explained what we need to do is, take the power off and roll the wings level, as the aeroplane levels the nose comes up and at this point we apply full power and climb back to our designated height.

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This concluded the lesson, but next was to find the airfield, not a clue had I! What could I see? a town with a prison and railway, well that as it turns out is March, and a gentle turn I spotted Ely cathedral in the distance and the drain below us, from here I knew where we were and flew us back and we joined downwind for runway 24. On final it was a bit hairy with the gusts and I was bit all over the place, but the flare and touch down was quite good especially given the conditions, the only issue I had was Mike telling me to move the stick to the right, well apart from when you are side slipping you move the stick and rudder in the same direction, which I did in an almost automatic fashion and then found we were steering off the runway and I needed to correct it. I was that surprised at my landing in these conditions I found myself asking Mike if he had assisted, but apparently it was all my own work.


Mike and I put the C42 in the hanger and returned to the club house for a cup of tea!