GST day so possibly my last blog as a student pilot!

Sunday the 21st June saw me turn up at the airfield for another double lesson, well it would have been if it were not for the weather. Mike and I set off for the first hour and with a strong wind from the West the runway choice was the seldom used 29. With the possibility of my GST the next day we flew a few circuits on Runway 29. We don’t often use this runway as it is shorter than the others and not as wide (well on paper it is as wide!) as there are cables and trees a little bit before the threshold and some bushes at the other end!

After my first take off we left the circuit and went to look at the stall speed VS0 and VS1 the book for our aircraft says VS1 (flaps up at full weight) is 41kts I stalled the C42 a few times and we noted the speed, which was a lot lower then what the book said, it was actually stalling at around 34kts so next we tried it at VS0 (full flaps) here the book has the stall speed at 32kts and the actual stall speed was around 28kts, it may be due to the aeroplane not being at full weight, but it’s nice to know we have a little extra wiggle room if needed in our aeroplane (it may not be the same in yours!).

I was then asked to fly us back to the airfield and to join the circuit for 29.

My landings weren’t great but were getting progressively better on each circuit. I was landing too far to the left on the runway, as Mike pointed out. On 29 the circuit is climb out and turn just before the road (A141), turn onto downwind at the second field before the drain, turn on to Base leg after you clear the 16 foot drain and turn on to final at the kink in the drain and just before the farm house.

I still don’t like 29 by at least I now feel I can use it when needed.

Back on the ground and in the clubhouse I was watching the wind speed increase, it started gusting to 24kts which is outside of limits and Mike confirmed it was now to windy for solo.


Monday and its GST Day

There are four mile stones in learning to fly a microlight

  1. First solo
  2. First solo navigation
  3. Completing all the exams
  4. Passing your GST (General Skills Test) and Aircraft technical part 2 the oral exam

I had completed the first 3 so only had number 4 to go. On Friday my GST for Monday had been cancelled due to the weather forecast, however come Sunday it was back on again and Sunday evening and night my nerves were getting to me, I did not sleep much, which is not good as I wanted to be alert! I got to the airfield in what I thought was good time, arriving at 08:30 my GST was due for 09:30. I unlocked the hanger and got the Keys for the club house that Katie had kindly left for me, I unlocked the clubhouse turned on the PC and radio, I went to walk back to the hanger to check out the aeroplane and noticed a C42 had just landed on runway 24. It was not one of ours as they were all in the hanger, it was the examiner Chris, I waited for him to taxi over and shunt down. While he was doing so I made him a cup of tea (well it couldn’t hurt!), I said I will just get our C42 out and do the walk around so it was ready for the test, but her said to wait as he will watch me do the check out, I was not expecting this but at the same time it was not a problem.

We finished our tea and went to the hanger, I burped the aeroplane and checked the oil, it was a little low so I put 100ml in, I checked all the cowling housing screws as it had been of the night before to allow us to fix an issue with a drip tray! I was around half way round when Mike my instructor arrived and he started to chat to Chris while I carried on. I pull the aeroplane out of the hanger and clear of runway 29. Next Chris briefed me on what to expect and checked we were using the same terminology e.g. if he asked for a standard stall recovery what would I do…

He said not to worry and treat it like I was flying with Mike, easily said not so easily done! It was time to take my test.

I started the aircraft up and checked the oil pressure, all was good, I ran through the remaining checks and I forgot to check the flaps while checking the controls (damn nerves), I realised my mistake and checked them a little late in the sequence, I pointed this out to Chris, no point in hiding it! He said you realised your mistake and put it right thus it’s not a problem! during the check list T is for trim and this “somehow” had been put up to the top, so I corrected it. Chris asked where I wanted to fly to take my test, over the drains was my reply, ok he said take-off and fly me out to the drains and we will do some flying at different speeds on the way.

Off we went with no issue, 200ft flaps up, 500ft fuel pump off, I turned to the left before the A141 and continued to climb, I turned onto downwind talking him through what I was doing all the time as he had asked in the briefing, I’m performing a lookout before executing a climbing turn to the left and will continue to climb and I asked him to look also. I levelled out at 2,000ft and called to say I was leaving the circuit, all good so far commented Chris, who could tell I was nervous! Now show me flying at 60 straight and level, I got us to 60 and he commented we appear to descending I powered on and climbed back up to 2,000ft and ask if it was ok to try again, it was, this time all was good, ok show me flying at 80kts, again all was ok and he said to return to our normal cruise speed, I took it back to 70kts and continued out to the drains. We were heading towards Ely and the start of RAF Lakenheath’s MATZ, so I said this to Chris and that I would like to turn 90° to my left and follow the drain, he said good, it’s your responsibility to keep us clear of airspace, was this part of the test too, I guess so! I remembered what Mike had said and made a point of checking the gauges and make sure he knew I had checked them I did this during the climb out also and every 5-10 mins during the test too. Ok show me a steep turn in either direction up to you, I made a small turn to the right and asked him to check for traffic, all was clear so I turned to the left adding power glancing at the VSI and ASI but mainly watching the horizon, I rolled the wings level and took the power back down, a quick check on the altimeter showed I was at almost the exact same height, good I’m happy with that said Chris. We were coming up on the start of RAF Marham’s MATZ so I said to Chris I’m going to do a descending turn to left as we are approaching a MATZ and there is cloud as well, he seemed pleased with this so a quick lookout and I commenced the turn.   Ok he said show me a normal stall and recovery, OK before I do I will just perform a HASELL check, Height 1,500ft, I’m going to climbing back to 2,000ft now we are clear of cloud before I stall and without waiting for confirmation I climbed back to 2,000ft, Airframe I checked the flaps were up and all looked OK, Safety Hatch was still locked on both sides, harnesses both done up, I asked him to check his, all good he said, engine gauges all read ok, Location ABC (clear of Active Airfields, Built up areas, Clouds, crowds and Controlled airspace), Lookout, again I asked for him to look too as I performed a clearing turn both to the right and left, ok into the stall and power on nose down and recover to a climb, good, ok now show me a stall in a turn. A quick HELL check and I stalled it in the turn and recovered and then levelled the wings, good, ok now stall it in a glide descent with pitch only recovery. Another HELL check and into a glide descent we went, I pulled the nose up and stalled, nose down and back into the descent. OK climb back up and we will look at some dangerous and unusual attitudes! First he put it nose high and said recover power on and nose down, ok next was a spiral dive, stop the spin with the rudder ease the nose up and on with the power as the nose comes to the horizon. OK how did that go, he asked, I thought it had gone well, but from his tone I could tell it hadn’t. I was not sure, I said I was a little late on with the power, in fact he was referring to the nose high recovery and apparently I didn’t put any power on!!! (Shit, I have failed I thought, oh well) let’s try that again said Chris and this time he said very good. OK you have an engine failure and he closed the throttle, trim for 60kts, selecting a field, I have chosen that one it has some crop, but we will walk away ok I said, fuel pump on, check fuel tap is open, check mags are on, try restart, it has failed. Check we are still on track for the field, change radio to London Centre make a mayday call, turn on to final, leaving flaps off for now due to strong headwind, Ok I’m going to make the field first stage of flaps, all looking good and Chris says good go around. At around 1,700ft the engine failed again as before I went through the same procedure this time I was little higher so I had second stage of flap on, I was about to say committal checks when he said good go around, we were at about 200ft with a farm house coming up in front So I said I making a climbing turn so as to not over fly the farm house, good said Chris and at 2,000ft he says we only have fuel for 15mins! make a precautionary landing, oh shit what do I do, I can’t remember, then he said use that field over there, OK I said, I’m descending to 1,000ft to over fly it and check the terrain and for wires etc, I’m going to follow a circuit as if it was a normal runway, but will overfly it again at 200ft, good said Chris take me back to the airfield and land. OK I’m climbing back to 1,000ft and will fly us passed the drain so I can turn on to base leg and join, I could have joined on long final, but Mike teaches us a downwind or base leg join is safer and Chris agreed. I heard a radio call from another Microlight taking off on 29 and said although we won’t rely on it, it’s a good indication that the wind is still favouring 29, another good from Chris, I called 2 miles out. A little later and at circuit height I called joining base 29 and I asked him to confirm his harness was done up and his hatch was secured, fuel pump on, I turned on to final and landed on 29, again over to the left, I commented that I was to the left and corrected it. I back tracked 29 and cleaned up the aeroplane, strobe, fuel pump & transponder off, flaps up… I made a call that we were back tracking 29 and asked him to keep a joint look out for any inbound aircraft.

I parked up and he Chris said I had flown well, at this point I’m thinking as he didn’t say I had passed it was going to be a partial pass. Back in the clubhouse Mike said cup of tea here for you both, adding is a celebratory cup and Chris said it was and then started to ask me question about the aircraft. Explain the fuel system, its elements and the order they come in, I did so after nearly missing out the fuel tap! What would do if you had flames coming out of the engine, was another and what would I do if you smelt an electrical burning type of smell another, I answered these correctly. What is the service interval? That had me, 100hrs, I said, what would be check / changed, oil and filter I guessed adding, luckily for us Katie takes care of that, but I know the details are in the manual. He suggested I read up on the servicing. What could I have done to make my pre flight check safer? I thought about this, but could not come up with anything! after some prompting it transpired I burped the airplane without applying the handbrake. Chris then  congratulated me on passing my GST, I had done it! I was totally shattered from the lack of sleep, nervous energy and metal energy, I stayed for a few cups of tea while Mike completed the paper work and to give my self-time to recover.

While Mike was doing the paperwork Alan arrived for his GST and I’m very pleased to say he passed too, it would have been awful if only one of us had passed.

I cannot fly other than under instruction until I have my license back and it’s all signed, the part I find odd is you can’t even fly under supervised solo until it comes back it’s instructed or nothing!

I guess I will need to change the blog title now too!

I will continue to blog about my continued learning and flying experiences and keep my journey to become a pilot on the internet in case it helps anyone else.

I would just like to say a public thank you to Mike & Katie of AAA Microlights for the help and support on the journey and to Chris the examiner for putting me at my ease and passing me!

Myself and Chris the Examiner








No Flaps!

The weather forecast for today all week had been low winds with broken cloud at 3,000ft with good visibility, so as I have had a few lessons cancelled I thought I would take advantage of the nice Easter bank holiday Sunday weather and book a lesson followed by an hour solo. On arriving at Chatteris it was a gloomy day, this has its benefits in that the parachutists would be grounded! But Mike was also concerned that the weather may not be suitable for a solo, however we would wait and see what it was like following my lesson.

My lesson today would be PFLs and Flapless landings; we took off on 01 and for the first time in this direction Mike closed the throttle and declared an engine failure! I put the nose down, but there was nowhere to go, well other than a young oilseed rape field, not ideal, but we would walk from it, if this was a real engine failure. We powered up and went around and flew a couple of normal circuits to start with, but we were to come in on the orange triangle (52 kt – Recommended Minimum Approach Speed) we normally come in at 60kt. Then on the third circuit we did a touch and go without flaps, I needed to sideslip to get down as I had left the power on far too long,  it is surprising how far you float and how slowly you come down on a still day without flaps!

G-NT Landing
Flex Wing Microlight
G-NT Landing






We then left the circuit as the sky had cleared enough for the parachutists to be up and to call “Clear-Drop”. We left to the south as we knew Katie and Julie were to the East; as it turned out they aborted the drop and returned to the airfield as the visibility was not great.
Out to the south we did a few PFLs and I was again not great, but a little better with each one.
Time was up and I flew us back to the airfield and did another flapless landing. Once we were parked up Mike debriefed me as normal, but his words hit home, “I must fly the PFLs as if my life depended on them, I need to do all that I can to get into a field and not simply say that “I didn’t make it and power up and go around!”, Chilling words of wisdom.

The weather had cleared up sufficiently for me to go solo which I did under Katie’s supervision as Mike was off flying with his son. I flew out to the East and practiced trimming and did 3 PFLs, all went well, even my PFLs, I need to sideslip, but at 600ft they were looking good, we don’t go any lower when solo to ensure we don’t fall foul of the 500ft rule and for safety.

I flew back to Chatteris and could see the parachute plane on the ground so I joined base leg and landed normally, it was a very soft landing, which I thought felt good. I taxied back and went in where Katie was waiting for me and asked how it had gone and also comment on my landing looking good!

I gave the aeroplane a quick wash and put it away with Katie’s help before heading home from an enjoyable days flying.

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

Practice Forced Landings (PFLs) with a different instructor

As there was no flying last week due to the weather so today was going to be my first lesson with Katie.

I arrived at the airfield at around 09:45 for my lesson at 10:00 this had been brought forward from 12:00 as the slot was free and the weather forecast showed it getting more un-flyable as the day goes on , it was Katie who kindly text me to suggest this and if she had not I would not have flown.

On arriving I noticed our aircraft was out and down near the clubhouse, which I thought was a bit odd as I was expecting to get it out of the hanger and burp the engine as this was the first flight of the day. It transpired that Katie had kindly got it out and warmed it up read to fly for me.

I preflight checked the aeroplane and we got straight off using the main runway 19; the plan was to climb up to 2,500ft and use the constant aspect approach for the PFL, however almost as soon as we were up Katie closed the throttle without warning, I was not expecting this, but I put the nose down and selected a field ahead and we would have made a safe landing. We then climbed up to 2,500ft and tried it from up there, throttle closed, trim for 60kts, selecting a field much closed then I normally do using an imaginary line running in a semi-circle from the jury strut of one wing to the other, a quick check on the compass confirmed we were into wind so effectively we were on base leg already, I made a few turns and we came down and would have made it in to the field. One problem I always seem to have is watching the airspeed when climbing out with 2 stages of flap. Katie suggested to put the air intake bulge on or just above the horizon and the speed should be fine, I tried this the next time and it worked well; we also put the full drill in place for the second PFL and again I would have made it in and we were on base leg as before. The next one I was too high and would not have made it, here Katie suggest that side slipping would have be perfect, I have not done much side slipping and thus am not confident doing it close to the ground. We climbed up and Iined up on a river and I practiced a few side slips which went ok, apart from I had to apply too much thinking time before each manoeuvre, which would not be good on a real emergency landing, practice is needed here!  We then practice flying on power and attitude and Katie covered the ASI so only she could see it and I had to maintain speed in various turns, this was a good exercise and one I had not done before, it does force you to remember the relative horizon position and fly to it. The next PFL I found the field had power lines in it as we got lower, so I selected what appeared to be the only viable alternative to it, we would have got down, but probably ended in the ditch at the end of the field!

Our last PFL was overhead Chatteris, we can’t normally do this due to parachute activity, but the parachute school was grounded due to a technical difficulty, this time I was way too high even to side slip! We would have got down using the end part of the runway, however that is not in a good state currently so we powered up and went around. I landed normally with power, but then had brain fade, I don’t why but as we taxied back I totally forgot to clean up the aeroplane, leaving the flaps set, and the strobe and transponder on too!

Back in the clubhouse I was being made fun of for taxing with flaps on, until the next student inadvertently starting check out the wrong aeroplane! It’s a lot easier to do then you may thing when you are learning as you have your head full to overflowing with everything you must remember.

Today we had a choice of two cakes back in the clubhouse one nice Ginger cake (I’m not sure who made that one) and a very decadent chocolate cake made by Simon’s wife take a look at the picture below, but be warned even looking at it you will add  calories!!!


I found the lesson very helpful, getting a different aspect on PFL helped me see things I was missing before, but I’m still not there consistently. I need to hone side slipping as it will be a good tool to have, I need to try selecting a field where I need to fly a circuit to get into it with this method! Overall a very enjoyable lesson and I’m looking forward to my next one with Katie where we plan to build upon today’s.


Mock GST take 2!

I arrived at the fly club to find a new C42 in the hanger (I wonder which UK airfield has the most C42s!?) as it turned out, it was only visiting and they were doing so work on their propeller. The registration of this aeroplane was CFAX for any one old enough  (like me!) you instantly think of CeeFax the way some of us got up to date news before the internet!



Our C42 was still in the hanger which was not a good sign for two reasons; first Alan must have cancelled or there was an issue with our aeroplane! And second if it was due to Alan cancelling for some reason the cake selection would not be up to its normal high standard! On the subject of food we also seem to be getting a regular supply of nice custard doughnuts thanks to Julie. Julie is a fellow student at the club and recently passed her Air law exam, well done Julie, next stop Solo!!!

Today would be my last lesson with Mike for some weeks as he is off on holiday, if all went well there was a possibility of me booking up my GST! Alas it did not go as planned. Pre-flight checks, taxiing, take-off, climb out were all fine. Trimming was acceptable and a lot better than last time, Turns were ok both normal and steep, now that I use the horizon and a spot on the windscreen and not the classic mistake of using the nose!

Next was dangerous and unusual attitudes, for this I got a very good from Mike; however it turned out to be my pride before my fall. Next we had a PFL (Practice Forced Landing), I trimmed for 60kts made the Mayday call and selected a field, yes I did it in the wrong order, next I was too high for the field and reselect another which we would have just made. So we climbed back up to 2,500ft and we did another PFL. I trimmed, I selected the field I made the call and tried a re start (practice only we don’t cut the engine for real!), yes the restart should have come before the call! The field I would have made, but it involved a steep turn at a few hundred feet, which is less then ideal. We climbed back up to 2,500ft and what now seemed to be an unreliable engine failed again (ok it was only another PFL) this time there was a very large field almost below me, not even I could mess this up, I thought to myself. Well it wasn’t a total disaster this time I did it all in the right order; however I turned onto downwind a bit too tight which meant I needed a tight turn to get into the field, but we made it down, full power on and start the climb when Mike declared another engine failure, saying what are you going to do now! Nose immediately down to keep airspeed and I calmly I said “I’m staying in this field” and back down we went. The field was very long so no need to turn it was an easy decision to make.

We climbed back out and up to 2,500ft and repositioned to where Mike had declared the engine failure and Mike took me through how he would have done it. Mike’s way is to pick a 1,000ft mark which represents the point you turn on to base leg and fly a normal approach. In the past I could never make this work and had switched to the constant aspect approach, that had been working for me, but I had read somewhere that you should only use this once you are at the end of the downwind leg or at 1,000ft and as Mike said I was now mixing the 2 methods! Flying towards his 1,000ft mark Mike said you can flight tight if low or wide if high but hit the selected point at that altitude and the rest of the landing is just a normal glide approach. As normal Mike did it with precision hitting his 1,000ft mark bang on 1,000ft, we turned on to final and down came the flaps and we would have been safely in the field but about a 1/3 of the way in, Mike said if you are high don’t make all these turns just side slip to lose high and then demonstrated this. I had no done much side slipping and definitely not at low level, but it would seem to be a great tool to have in the bag and I will be practicing it.

Timing is everything and luckily for us students Katie has got her full instructors rating (congratulations Katie) now and is happy to take us (Mike’s students) while he is away, I’m looking forward to see how she teaches PFL as maybe Katie will be able to get it into my head!

As for the GST after today’s performance I have decided to put it back until after Mike returns.

Some visitors today at Chatteris:


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!

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 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.

First Solo after more circuits and practice engine failures

I took a day off work today to have a double lesson of circuits, I took the day off as the parachute club doesn’t normally operate on a Monday, thus allowing me to get more circuits in, so making best use of my time and money. The first hour went OK, some good landings, some not so good, but I was gradually improving over the duration of the lesson. The hour was soon up and we returned to the clubhouse for lunch; Katie took a new guy up for a trail lesson and I took some pictures of Hazel doing circuits in her Thruster.

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Lunch was soon over and Katie was back from giving the trial lesson and it was time for Mike and I to continue my lesson. After a couple of circuits on the climb out Mike shut the throttle and I immediately got the nose down and selected a nice black field to land in. I was pleased I reacted to the simulated engine failure, but Mike did point out my selection of landing site was not the best and to always aim for a field with a crop in where possible as a newly ploughed fields will stop the aeroplane quick and possible flip it over. Full power on and turning climb back up to circuit height. The landing was quite good for me, especially as it was yet another windy day! On the next circuit we had another simulated engine failure just as I turned on to downwind leg. Again I got the noes down and turned into wind and this time selected a green field! We climbed back up to circuit height and again my landing was not bad for me! On the next circuit Mike had another test for me, this time just before we turned on to base leg Mike said “right there’s an aeroplane on the runway about to take off, what should we do?” I said and apparently it was correct that we should extent the downwind leg to give them time to take off and that’s what we did. On turning on to final I kept the power on until we were nearer the runway and flew yet another OK approach and landing, apparently Mike wanted to check I would keep the power on as needed and I had passed this test too.

We taxied back to the club house and I felt quite pleased with my efforts, but the day was not over! Once back Mike asked if I wanted to do my maiden solo flight and I nervously agreed, well I think it was nerves, in hindsight I think it was a mix of many emotions ranging from excitement to trepidation as I filled with both self-confidence and self-doubt. Mike gave me a chat to re assure me and reminded me to go around if needed. Mike left the aeroplane and I commenced the start-up checks, I radioed my intent to taxi to runway 19 and commenced taxiing, I back tracked 19 and lined up for take-off and it somehow felt normal and all my nerves had gone. Another radio call stating taking off on 19 and away I went. 500ft fuel pump off (no flaps were needed for the take-off), the climb out was a lot quicker, as Mike said it would be and I found myself going straight through the 700ft circuit height, so I reduced the power and descended back to circuit height and turned onto crosswind, all seemed to be going to plan now. I saw my turning point and turned onto downwind, I carried out my checks, switched the fuel pump on and made my downwind call.  I turned onto base leg at circuit height and checked the runway and approach were both clear, as I came up to my turning point onto final I took the power off and put a stage of flap on and turned on to final, I then added a second stage of flap and saw I was going to be short, so I put some power on and continued. I won’t lie my landing was not the best of the day, but it was OK and I was down without breaking the aeroplane or killing myself! Like a mad man I had been talking to myself all the way around just as I do when Mike is actually sitting beside me, I guess its force of habit!

Back in the clubhouse I was surprised that it had taken 15 minutes, it seemed no longer then 2 or 3 to me. Everyone congratulated me and Pete added that I had done well especially given the wind conditions. I felt totally shattered and immensely satisfied of my achievement and indebted to Mike for his tuition and support from Katie and the other club members.

So a major milestone achieved, but I still have a long way to go.

Me looking smug after my first solo