A Busy Day At Chatteris!

Light Wind and a cloud base of over 3,000ft today so all looked good for another lesson on Practice Forced Landings, as I drive down the single track road and just before I turn on to the dirt track that leads down to Chatteris Airfield I see a guy with a parachute walking towards the track, well this is new, I thought to myself, I stopped and gave him a lift back to the club, he had been trying out or learning with a new winged suit and got a bit off target!

As I walked to the clubhouse I saw a new aeroplane parked up, it had a long wingspan and turned out to be a Chevvron 2-32C 3 axis Microlight in for a check flight with Mike.

Mike asked if I would mind him slotting in the check flight before my lesson, I had no problem with this as it gave me time for lunch and a cup of tea! As I stood drinking my tea Stuart came in and asked if I was flying in our C42, I explained I was waiting for Mike and he kindly offered to take me up while I waited.  While we were flying I had a go flying it from the other side, wow I could not believe how much more difficult it was flying left handed. Straight and level was not too bad but 30 degree turns, well that’s another story!

Just as Mike was about to turn onto final the Parachute plane called Clear Drop and we all left the circuit as is the agreement.

The time all canopies where down, the check flight paper work done and Stuart and I were on the ground my slot was over. However Simon was up next and didn’t mind waiting, so Mike and I went up for some PFLs, it was to be only 30mins, but again the time we got back it was nearer 45mins…

This time I was using constant aspect to fly down to a mark where I estimated I would need to be at 700ft to glide into the field. This combination seemed to be working well for me, let’s hope it continues!

Just before I left we had another visitor to the club in a recently recovered Skyranger, pictures below.

Side Slipping on glide approaches

Today we had a low cloud base once again and an increasing wind! Mike had return from his holiday too so I was back flying with him.

Our C42 had been serviced during the week and had the ballistic chute reinstalled too, this in turn had restored the trim to its default setting and to me it seems to make the aeroplane fly better!

As the Cloud base was low we decided to fly a few circuits and power back doing only a glide approach touching down on 06 and then going around, this seemed to be going OK so we left the circuit to the east and did some side slipping practice and then returned.

Side slipping seems to go against what we have been told in that except for side slipping we are always trying to keep the slip indicator ball in the middle, but now we want it hard over! Mike pointed out that slipping to the left (stick to the left rudder to the right) gives the pilot a much better view, which it does, and thus recommended to slip this way on approach. The other thing I was doing wrong was trying to keep the nose straight, but this was my mistake as the nose has to move off to present the side of the aircraft to the airflow, recognising and accepting this fact makes it a lot easier to side slip.

C42 Cockpit – Slip indicator top middle

Back in the circuit the exercise now was to leave the power on so I was high, then power back and either side slip or S turns to drop height. I did both on the next approach S turning and then side slipping and we landed ok on the far half of the runway. We back tracked and repeated this again this time it worked better and we landed normally.

My hour was up; it seems to go very quickly when you are in the circuit!

A Cold Front!

Today my flying lesson was moved forward by 1 hour as the British weather forecast showed a cold front moving through around the time my lesson would be ending; it was Katie that had spotted this and the foresight to move it.

When I arrived I duly burped the aeroplane and pre-flight checked our C42 over, I could not get it out of the hanger as the wing would not clear Mick’s C42 if I tried. Not wanting to take any chances I went into the club house and asked Mick for his assistance and he happily obliged taking his aeroplane out of the hanger as he would be flying a little latter. I don’t like moving any aeroplane even the one I have shares in on my own, I believe it to be safer to have two people to do it one watching each side. This way the risk of causing “Hanger Rash” is reduced! For those that have not heard the term before, hanger rash is when one aeroplane bumps another and causes damage however slight. We have recently been the victims of hanger rash and although it only caused light damage to the aileron covering, it could had caused damage to the rods inside; this is why whenever you witness or cause hanger rash it is very important to report it, so the owner of the other aeroplane can check it out before flight. However there is a tendency to cover it up or not report it probably due to the fear of the costs of fixing the damage; however the real cost could be so much higher if not reported! Maybe the BMMA or someone could do a piece on it!

Anyway Katie and I were off and decided to do a flapless take off due to the wind, it was a good job too as it would have been very easy to over speed the aeroplane’s VFE  in these conditions.

Once again as we cleared the runway Katie declared an engine failure and I selected a field and we would have been down OK, these I don’t seems to have too many issues with.

We flow west towards the approaching front thus ensuring we could get back if it moved in on us. We made a few PFLs and I got in to some and was sort on others and even too high on a couple. The gusting strong wind made it difficult to judge. My selections of field although fine from on high often had power cabled crossing them as we got closer, making me reselect an alternative field. A tip from Katie here is to check if they have straight plough lines or if they have a “bump” in them if they do it is probably where they have gone around an electricity pole!

As the wind was too high for the parachutists we overflew Chatteris airfield and tried a couple PFLs there, again I was too short and then to high on my last attempt I got it just about right, however I thought I was going short an got my self-transfixed on the runway threshold causing me to round out a bit high resulting in a bit of a bump as we landed!  another thing in today’s lesson I had not come across before, is lowering the nose slightly in a strong wind will help stretch the glide a little, here we are only talking 5 kts or so and only a marginal extension in ground coverage, but every few feet could count in a real engine failure!

At least today I remembered to clean the aeroplane up on the taxi back, strobe off, transponder off and flaps up.

Another good thing today, the aeroplane was not to muddy so it was quick to clean, which was good as just after putting her away in the hanger the rain started, good timing!

Parked at Fenland

Triple First

Today Sunday the 11 Jan 2015 was triple first for me as it was my first flight in 2015, my first flight in a microlight over my home and my first flight using Skydemon to navigate!

On arriving at the club I met Alan who was just leaving and had not been able to fly, thus I thought this would be the fourth consecutive week the weather would stop me from flying too!

After the normal greetings etc. Mike ask what would I Like to do, normally I reply whatever you think I should be doing to work towards my GST, however today I had some new toys with me, over Christmas I had got a Garmin Glo satellite receiver  and a Skydemon subscription, I had a little play with these at home, but not flown with them, so I asked Mike if we could fly using them and plot a route over my house and back, he agreed.

So the first task was to install the partly homemade iPad Mini 2 bracket. I’m using a homemade one as we have a Garmin satnav bracket in the aeroplane and I therefore needed to adapt a Garmin arm to take an iPad mini. This was made from a sheet of 3mm Perspex I had ordered and then cut to size and bent to shape using a heat gun, this was a lot easier then it may sound! An existing Garmin mount arm and ball and socket purchased online for around £5.00 the lot, some nuts, bolts and a circle of aluminium provided and assembled by a friend. The end result can be seen below.

The GPS mount was a universal phone suction mount that my son no longer uses, purchased online for around £3.00.

This post is not meant to be a review of Skydemon or the Garmin Glo, which I plan to do later, once I have got to know them better, however I will give my first impression of them both.


First Mike showed me how to remove the inadvertent waypoints I had added which was simply a case of dragging them to the next point, or the origin, or destination.

Which craft!

He next showed me pulling the compass up and out to reveal the HSI display, but the collapsed view is preferred.

Now with it all installed it was time to go flying, it was windy again so no flaps for take-off! We departed on runway 24 and flew the circuit leaving on the downwind leg to converge on the course shown on Skydemon, the first thing I noticed and liked is you could roll out on the heading as there is no over or undershoot, and the display shows you the direction you are travelling and the direction you need and when you are within a few degrees it turns green. It made it very easy to fly accurately, I just can’t see myself flying without it once I have my license the way it calculates the direction means you don’t need to allow for drift as it does this for you too!

We flew out to just south of King’s Lynn, then turned east over Bawsey Lakes and on to the village where I Live Gayton.

The Garmin Glo had a rock solid fix throughout so there is not much to say re this it just does what it says it does!

Flying back, Mike did his normal of, ok take me back, but this time I could use Skydemon and I flew us back without issue I used the extended centre line shown on the Skydemon map to line up on the runway very early. As I was about to touch down a gust of wind caused us to balloon, but I held it on the stick and made a very soft touch down, Mike complimented me on the land too!

This is what flying should be like, well for me anyway!!!

Kings Lynn
Gayton Norfolk
Gayton Hall
Gayton Cricket ground
Gayton, Norfolk

Back on the ground and with the aeroplane refuelled I was about to go home when Stuart asked if I would like to go for a fly with him, I did not turn him down! We stayed local as he flew a few circuits and then around the drains and back for some more circuits. It was very interesting to see how someone else flies, the main difference being he comes in much higher than I on the landings. I think I may have picked up a few tips from watching him fly.

Flooded drains
Welney Marshes

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

The BMAA Flying Show 2014

This year the flying show was held at Telford which for me is further to travel, on arriving at the show we saw a sign for “PATS Open day” but continued on as the Satnav said too and there was no mention of the flying show, however at the roundabout there was a flying show sign directing us back to where we had just come from! Parking at the show this year was more reasonable at £4.00 last year at the NEC we paid £10.00, the walk from the car park was also a lot shorter.

Our first stop was the careering area at the back of the hall where we all had a breakfast roll and coffee.

The show filled the hall where as at the NEC there was space left. Two notable absences from the show this year were no Eurostars EV-97’s on display and no flying area for models.

This year eGo  was at the show, which is an interesting SSDR, which I have mentioned in other posts, it has recently gone into production with the first production build aircraft said to be due soon. The display model was a little battered in places, but as the sign next to it read “I May not look my best at the moment, but I am a hard-working development and test aircraft” we chatted a little while with Adrian Hillcoat, Chief Executive Officer and Director at eGo who talked about the glass cockpit, the handling of eGo and the easy of flying it and how they will help owners transition to the eGo. It looked a lot small then I expected but a lot of fun too, I look forward to seeing them flying around.

We moved on looking at many stands and talking to many people, too many to include all of them here! We spoke for a while with the guys at CFS Aero who have recently been appointed a Rotax distributer, We asked them about a recent post I did relating to turning the engine backwards and the potential damage it could cause, they said they will investigate and let us know, so I hope to be able to update that blog soon!

We stopped to look at the C42s on display by Red-Air UK and spoke to Malcolm Stewart, we took the opportunity ask if when keying the mic all C42’s trim and or fuel gauge displays alter, he explained that many do, some more than others and if we wanted to lessen the problem we should separate the white and coloured wires running under the stick area as its normally caused by RFI. Moving over to G-KTOW the C42 glider tug and talking to Jonathan who’s C42 is kitted out with 2 EMSIS monitors replacing the need for many gauges, Jonathan kindly switched on the master switch and showed us them working, they seemed very impressive and created a lot of room on the dash too! I would love to get some for our C42 at some point…

We look at Skydemon too as all three of us are getting ever closer to taking our GST and would like to fly with a tool that will keep us on track and out of controlled airspace,  at our club the majority who use a moving map use Skydemon in their microlights. Rob from Skydemon was happy to show us their software and answer any questions we had. My only concern with using cf-lgSkydemon is using the inbuilt GPS in either an Apple or Android device people in the club have reported not having a GPS signal at times. I raised this question to Rob who suggested the use of a Garmin Glo as it has a much faster refresh rate (10 reports per second) and is not an “assisted” GPS, it also supports Glonass removing the dependency on a single satellite network. I think this is the route all three of us will probably go once we have our licences.

Overall we enjoyed the show and will probably go again, but still feel it could have more 3 axis microlights, as we did last year and without the Eurostar probably even more so!




Solo Practice

The sun was shining and the overnight rain had stopped, the ground was soft and by the time I arrived at the flying club the car which I had cleaned less than 24 hours before was now covered in mud!

I arrived a few minutes late today, mainly due to a large number of caravans on the road. In the clubhouse Mike had made us all a cup of tea and there was some cake of a new variety left over from Saturday, I’m not sure what it was called, I think Katie said it was a Lumberjack cake, it was good whatever it was, but my favourite cake at the club remains the upside down cake that Alan’s wife makes.

In the hanger Dave was fitting a brand new landing light a 15W (3x5W) LED light to his C42, although I did not see him coming in to land those who did said they could see his light a long way out, long before they saw the C42!

As I dunk my tea Mike and I discussed today’s lesson which was to flight out solo over to the drains and practice steep turns, stalls, and engine failures.

Checks complete, I taxied out to runway 24 and took off turned to the east and climbing to 2,500ft once over the drains I started with the stalls and found following the refresher a couple of weeks or so earlier I was able to make the aeroplane stall each and every time; my recoveries seemed a little aggressive, in that I tent to put the stick forward to quickly and too far, but on each attempt my height loss was less than 100ft with my best attempt being around 70ft. Next I tried steep turns and these seemed ok, I even hit my own wake turbulence a couple of times! So on to the practice engine failures, I pre-selected a field each time to ensure I was away from houses etc and using the constant aspect ratio method I would have made it into each and every field, which is a great improvement, the only issue I have with this method is I find it gives me a very short final approach and I’m too low to convert to a normal final.

Katie and Julie about to go up

Manea from 2,500ft

Time goes to fast while I’m flying and it was time to return to the airfield, I joined on downwind 24 and making the call, I also asked for confirmation that all canopies were down and got the reply that they were. By now I could also see the parachute plane backtracking runway 19. He lined up ready for take-off as I turned onto base leg and duly took-off. For some reason I flew straight passed the centreline for 24 and was heading for 19, I guess subconsciously my mind was following the parachute plane, I made a couple of turns and quickly got back on track for 24, the landing was light, but the plane seemed to float a long way down the runway before touching down due to the lack of a headwind. When I was having problems with circuits I think this was a worry for me and maybe why I failed to keep it flying and made it touch down! This time as I floated along I recalled one of Mike’s maxims and I paraphrase “If you have not touched down then you are still flying, so simply put the power on and go around if you run out of runway”  this was nearly always followed up with “no one has ever crashed into the sky!”.

Our C42 is out of action now for the next 3 weeks as every 5 years the ballistic parachute has to be removed and sent a way to have a new rocket motor and the parachute repacked.

Next Saturday most if not all of the syndicate are planning to get together and clean her as well as doing any little jobs that are needed, I’m looking forward to us all meeting up for the first time!

Turning a Rotax engine backwards

I have always been told never to turn the Rotax engine in the wrong direction as it will cause damage, but recently seeing someone turn a prop backwards a few degrees I challenged the person who said “what damage could it do!”, this got me Googling it and I found many hits saying it will damage the engine and as many saying it won’t, below is a summary of what I found, I have also emailed Rotax but not had any response!


  •  Turning an engine backwards will only cause an issue if it has a dry vacuum pump.
  • Turning an engine backwards to re position the prop is preferred as the engine will not fire even if the mags are on as they only work when rotated in the correct direction.
  • Turning the engine in the wrong direction causes oil to be squirted into wrong places.
  • Turning the engine backwards or forwards by hand causes no issues.
  • Turning the engine backwards causes the engine to suck in air, all you need to do is re burp the engine in the correct direction and all is OK.
  • Turning the engine backwards causes the engine to suck in air and if turned for more than one revolution this may enter the valve train, thus the engine must be vented.

What is the truth and what should one do if the engine has been turned in the wrong direction?

While there would seem to be some truth in a few of the above and others may be pure fiction, I’m not an aircraft engineer and I’m not going to comment on which are correct and which are not, but I what I have found out from 2 Rotax bulletins is this:

A rotation on less than one revolution in the reverse direction of the prop appears to require no corrective action, while a rotation of one or more revolutions in the wrong direction requires the engine to have the venting checked as layout by Rotax. The bulletin says that the rotation of the prop in the wrong direction may cause the ingestion of air into the valve chain.

Rotax references:


Service Bulletin: Inspection for correct venting of the oil system for Rotax engine type 912 and 914 (series)
SB-912-036 R1 SB-914-022 R1

Cited in Compliance 1.5 – “engines which have had the prop spun for more than 1 turn in reverse direction allowing air to be ingested into the valve train.”





Service instruction: Venting of lubrication system for Rotax engine type 912 and 914 (series) SI-04-1997 R3

Cited in 1.3 Reason – “and/or had the prop spun in the reverse direction allowing air to be ingested into the valve train.”


I have not included the SB or SI documents as I have not had permission from Rotax, but just google SB-912-036 or SI-04-1997 and you will find the PDF files!



Lesson 16A – Forced landings, constant aspect method

As I set off for the airfield today there was no way I would be flying it was windy, low cloud and rainy, unlike the day before when my friend Simon had posted on Facebook a picture from our C42 of clear blue skies with a comment of “a beautiful day for flying…” what a difference 24 hours make!

A beautiful day for flying… by Simon Read

My lesson was scheduled to start at 12:00 and I walked through the clubhouse door just before, all the aeroplanes where in the hanger and the ground was wet with the path flooded in places, it had stopped raining and the cloud base had lifted probably to around 1,000ft. I sat in the club house with a cup of tea and Mike asked “what should we do today”, “drink tea” I replied adding “it’s too wet and windy and the cloud base is too low to fly” Mike agreed but added “as soon as the weather has moved through it should be ok!”.

I raised a point that Katie, Pat and I had discussed the previous week about the damage you can do by rotating a Rotax engine backwards by hand and showed a Rotax bulletin which related to it (I will write a separate blog about this) the conversation moved on to forced landings and the various methods of approaching the fields. Mike teaches to plan the approach hitting certain heights at certain places; this has the advantage of making it feel almost like a normal landing. Then in the microlight book there is the beat and turn and constant aspect approaches to forced landings also. I had re read the book and wanted to know more about the constant aspect method, Mike obliged and drew out the principle on the white board. He added it is difficult to use this method in an unfamiliar aeroplane hence why he teaches the planned method. Mike is always happy to accommodate his students and as the weather had improved Mike suggested we go and try it and see how it works for me! As we sat warming the C42 up it started to rain again but this soon passed and we managed to get up to 2,500ft and still be clear of clouds, Mike demonstrated the constant Aspect approach with his normal precision, then it was my turn and I got it down too! The cloud base was dropping so we flew to a brighter area and I had another two goes each time reaching the intended field on my next attempt I was a little short, but not by much. Finding another area where we could reach 2,500ft  I had another two goes including all the drills and reached the fields each time. As we returned to the airfield a shower was overhead and we flow through this and attempted another forced landing back on runway 19, but this time I would have overshot the field and we went around, I did find it distracting flying in rain previously I have only flown in very light showers! I flew a normal circuit in the rain which was lacking precision and height in places on final, but still managed to land nicely.

We had been pre selecting fields before setting the engine to idle, but the method seemed to work for me and next time we are going to try it with Mike randomly calling engine failure! I think Katie’s tip in the comments on my last blog will help with the selection of a field also, so I’m looking forward to putting it all together.

The constant aspect approach is described in the Microlight exercise book and by many websites, one such website which I found helpful is http://www.gremline.com/index_files/page0035.htm however in its essence it is vary simply described:

Select your Initial aiming point (IAP) while gliding along side your chosen field, or sooner if possible, and mentally note or picture the angle down to it with reference to the horizon, this is known as the Sight Line Angle (SLA). If this SLA begins to steepen then you are OVERSHOOTING your IAP. If the SLA begins to lessen then you are UNDERSHOOTING your IAP. you correct the IPA by moving closer or further away by making tighter or wider turns as needed.

Back on the ground the weather had suddenly changed again and it was now a beautiful day, typical!




Engine failures – GST revision Part 2 of X!

GST revision Part 2 of X! i’m not sure how many parts my GST revision will be in, I guess its down to the individual, I seem to be taking longer than I read it takes others, but it is all still flying!

Today should have been solo practice of the exercises in GST revision part 1, however the wind was gusting close to the maximum for the C42, thus Mike decided it would be better to move on to practicing engine failures. As I warmed the aeroplane up the wind was straight down runway 19 which is the widest and longest runway, but by the time we were ready it had shifted around a little and we were now to use runway 21. In the past I have had a lot of issues landing on 21 due to the trees on the threshold so I didn’t see this as a good start to the day!

We taxied out and departed from runway 21 without any issue, due to the wind we took off without any flaps and were soon airborne and climbing to our altitude, which today would be just 2,500ft so as to keep clear of cloud.

We turned east after climbing out  and ended up to the west of March where I practiced engine failures, on each attempt I under estimated the strength of the wind and the progress we would make into it, this left me short each time and needing to select another field closer. The fundamental error I was making, as pointed out by Mike, was selecting a field to far away instead of one out of my window and below me, one where I could just orbit losing height. Mike demonstrated how to do it and I though the field selected was far to near and we would overshoot, but as normal Mike knew best and his example was text book. As he said you can always lose height but you can’t gain distance.

Time had all to soon gone and Mike asked “Where is the airfield from here?”, the words I hate as I seldom have much of a clue as I lose my bearings while doing the exercises,  I replied glibly “a better question would be where are we!”, inevitably  Mike asked “OK, Where are we?”  I looked around and said “well I think that is March on our left “Mike prompted me some more “how can you tell, what features does March have?”  The answer was it has prison and a large number of rail tracks next to the prison, from March I knew to follow the rail track south east out of March and it would lead me back to Chatteris airfield, if I crossed the drains I knew I had missed the airfield, but this did not happen. I spotted the airfield a little late, but in time to turn onto an extended final for runway 21.

Identifying March from the air

My approach was not the best, I left it late putting on any flap, I had decided due to the wind I would only use a single stage of flap, which was fine with Mike, I took too long to get on to the centre line and then, there they were, the trees (See my old post the curse of the trees)! However we were over them and I was thinking I was too high and would possibly need to go around, but with the strong headwind we came down in plenty of time and made what Mike remarked as a very good landing. This was a good way to finish the day, but I was disappointed with not making the selected fields and will need to do a lot better for the GST and more importantly if I ever find myself in a real emergency.