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








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.

GST Revision Exercise 17C Part 1

Is it really October? The sun is shining the wind is almost non-existent, the clouds are high and scattered, all in all a perfect day to fly. It’s been three weeks since I have been at the controls of our C42 Microlight and I thought I may have forgotten a few things, but as it turns out it like riding a bike! Well the fundamentals that is, it would seem I have forgotten how to execute the various exercises to the standard required and to be honest I could not even remember having executed some of the manoeuvres, stalls in a glide descent for example!

So today’s lesson was take off and leave the circuit to the east climb to 6,000ft (the highest I have been) and then execute a stall with powered recovery, execute a stall within a turn and recover, execute a stall in a glide descent and recover without power,  medium level turns and steep turns.

So we taxied out to runway 19 back tracking it, as we approached the take-off point Julie call down wind and as we could see she was nearly on base leg we turned off 19 to allow her to land. She landed and back tracked to a taxiway, by this time the parachute plane was ready and holding short so we lined up and took-off, I was a little late in switching the fuel pump off and taking the flaps up but other than this all was good with the take-off. Turning to the east I called that I was leaving the circuit and climbed to 6,000ft; the view is amazing and reminds me why I love flying, we could see for miles, RAF Marham, King’s Lynn and beyond it the Wash and many other places too.

First I did a HASELL check Height, Airframe (check the flaps etc), Security (harness and hatches), Engine (Ts & Ps), location & Lookout (turning one way and then the other), next the stall, as some may have read I could make it stall very well previously and Mike pointed out my mistake. Instead of trying to maintain altitude by keeping the stick moving back I was trying to keep the nose level! As normal by following Mike’s instructions I soon had it stalling every time, as for the recovery this was not too bad it should be nose down (but not too much) and power on to recover to a climb, my problem was lowering the nose too much and too quickly almost putting it in to a dive, however it did recover it!

It’s basically the same technique for each of the stalls, just without power in the glide descent.

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Turning, well that should not be too bad I have done a few of these, or so I thought! Well my turns were too shallow and as I steepened them up to 30-45° for a medium turn and 45-60° for a steep turn, I found one way I lost height and the other I gained height, in fact I remember blogging about this, but still I had issue until Mike pointed out that I was using the nose on the horizon and not a point on the windscreen in front of me!

Time fly’s, if you excuse the pun, while flying so it was time to fly back and as I approached I saw the parachute plane just taking off and with no other traffic in the circuit I was straight down, I think I rounded out a little high, but the landing was ok.

And so ended another lesson, next week, weather permitting, it’s an hours solo to consolidate the stalling and turning.