Journey to becoming an flying instructor, Step 1 – Getting my AFI or as it is now called FI(R)

Well it's been a long time since I have blogged, for that I apologies. The reason has been I have been studying for my Assistant Flying Instructor (AFI) rating, I was going to blog during the process, however a lot of people fail or so i'm told and i wanted to keep any such failure private.  this was further compounded with being made redundant during my training, thankfully I'm now gainfully employed once more.

It was almost 18 months ago that it first crossed my mind that I would like to become a flying instructor (FI). I spent some time surfing the net looking for information and pricing and two things quickly became clear, first I would not get rich as an FI and second the cost of training is quite high. The average for a 3-axis microlight being in the order £5,000 (as of 2017), this includes the entrance exam, 15 hours of flying and 40 hours of ground school, but excluding the exam at the end and lastly and most importantly finding a school to serve as an AFI while training.

I decided to try and find someone local to help keep the costs down and Gareth Aggatte was both local (ish) and recommended so I arranged to meet him at the flying show in December 2016 and we talked it through, yet again I was told it will not make you rich!

 

Unfortunately, the school where I learnt to fly was unable to offer me the opportunity to train there so I approached the person who took my GST with (Chris Hasell at Boston Airfield) and we met up. He echoed what I had read on line about not getting rich and the costs and the work involved.  However, getting rich is not the driving force behind my decision and my understanding wife saw it as an investment for our retirement if nothing else!

So I booked the entry exam for the 14th October 2017 and turned up at Conington Airfield. Gareth was out flying when I arrived and I sat and waited nervously, like many I’m not great when it comes to exams and there is very little on what to expect on the internet. I had done some limited revision before the day by rereading my own exam notes from my blog. The weather was not looking great and I assumed it would be called off, I was wrong! First up was the written test, this is 50 question in the same style as those taken for the NPPL, there was 10 questions per exam previously sat. There were no triangles of velocities to do, which was a shame as I had revised these. The questions seemed slightly harder than the original ones, but that could just be down to me not having revised to the same level. Next came the flying test, this was essentially the same as a GST. I’m pleased to say even though it was at an airfield I have never flown to or from in a Microlight before I passed the ordeal.

So now the hard work begins, my day job made it impossible for me to get all the time off in one go, but Gareth was accommodating and my work too and we agreed on me doing a Thursday Friday and Saturday over 6 weeks, this commenced 26 October 2017.

Each day was a mix of ground school and flying (when the weather allowed) receiving pre-flight briefs, writing them up and then reciting them, all of this was being fitted around the schools normal flying and student lessons which on occasions worked well as it gave me time to study, but other times it meant progress was much slower. I think in hindsight I would have preferred the days to have been dedicated to the two of us that were on the AFI training course, it was due to this approach that I ran out of leave from work and did not complete my training until February.

Every cloud has a silver lining and this delay has meant an opportunity at my home airfield has opened up for me.

On the day of the test I had an idea of what to expect, but it doesn’t prepare you for the intensity of the day. From an overview point of view the day consisted of:

Receiving a briefing about the day and how I was to know when he was and examiner and when he was acting as a student.

Then the remainder of the day was composed of:

Giving a NOTAM briefing and talking about the types and how to review them (SkyDemon is allowed for this)

Giving a weather briefing and talking about weather fronts

Talking over a chart of the area and what all the symbols mean

Then I was given a briefing to prepare and present, I got 10b Stalling , this was a surprise to me as I had been told by more then one person it would only be an exercise selected from the first part of the syllabus! You have 20 mins to prepare and then you need to present it to the examiner.

Once presented we walked out to the aircraft and he watched while I did my prefight check.

Next we flow the exercise and then we done some of the other manoeuvres including PFLs, steep turns and recovery from dangerous attitudes.

Back on the ground and time for a quick cup of tea, you don’t get any feedback on how you are progressing, which is very unnerving!

Now to the last part of the day a nice gentle warm down, wait I got that wrong, in fact it is a 2 hour question and answer session.

Following this you get feedback on how you did and your result, I failed, well actually I got a partial pass.

The part I failed was the briefing, it lacked content, I was surprised by this as it was very close to what I had been taught. All I can assume is that there is a big mismatch between what I had been taught and what was expected. I sat down with Katie one rainy day and we spent many hours reviewing and improving my notes (thanks Katie). I booked up my retest and represented a new briefing of the examiners choice, this time I passed. You have 30 days to complete the retake in and yes, the retest costs too!

In summary it is a very big commitment in time, money and effort, no wonder there are so few instructors.

I please to say that I’m now working as an AFI (sorry but FI(R) just doesn’t sound right) at Chatteris for Cambridgeshire Microlights under the CFI Katie Denham or I will be when my license is returned by the CAA, 30 days and counting!

A flight from the wrong seat!

A friend of mine is nearing his solo cross country exercises and we thought it would be a good idea for him to get some practice in with me in the passenger seat. The main reason for this is the cost saving over taking lessons, I would still be P1 or “pilot in command” and as such I’m responsible. We discussed the Idea with our CFI Mike who strongly suggested I have a lesson with him in the pilot seat first, as this sounded sensible I booked up a lesson for the 23rd of Jan.

The day came and although wet and cold the wind was light and it was looking good to go flying. I arrived at the airfield and got the aircraft ready, warming it up while Mike and Katie walked runway 23 to check its condition as it is not often used.  Mike joined me in the aeroplane and we restarted and went through the normal checks and I taxied out to the runway. The taxiing was not too much of a problem, I lined up on 23, but as I was used to the view from the other side Mike pointed out that I was pointing to the right, I repositioned and we were ready to go. Full power and we were soon airborne, my normal markers for the climb attitude and the horizon were both missing, the horizon was missing due to cloud, I found myself chasing the needle, but not too badly and this was easily corrected.

We climbed to 3,000ft and trimmed out, next Mike wanted me to do a standard stall recovery, I had not anticipated this! I carried out a HASELL check and stalled the aircraft and recovered ok, but not as good as it could or should have been so I tried again, this time it was much better. Next Mike said OK dangerous and unusual attitudes and took control. He put it in to a nose high situation followed by a spiral dive and had me recover from both which I did.

The hour was fast coming to the end when Mike uttered the words I always hated while training, “OK where are we and how do we get back to Chatteris?” I recognises where I was, there was an old RAF airfield in sight and some lakes, but I could not remember the names so I asked for the map and soon found our location and selected the heading to take us back. This to me is the beauty of always having Skydemon with me and on, even on local flights, instead of the 2 or 3 mins pondering over the map and looking down, it would have taken a few seconds and my peripheral vision would have been out of the window, to me a much safer option, but I know not everyone will agree! throughout the flight occasionally I would go for the throttle  when I wanted the stick and vice versa, i guess it’s all down to muscle memory.

I joined the circuit downwind for 23 and the approach was ok until I turned final, I was not lined up and spent so long getting on to the centre line I decided to go around. Mike took the controls and said he would show me the prospective so he flew the circuit and did a touch and go. My turn again, this time the circuit was much better and I was lined up on final full flaps and all was going well until the round out, I got my hands confused and messed up the touchdown causing us to bounce, Mike quickly took the controls and with a squirt of power we landed and I taxied us back in.

Approach runway 23
Approach runway 23
Touching down Runway 23

It appears to be much more difficult to fly from the other side then I thought, back in the clubhouse Katie said it took her many hours to get comfortable flying from the righthand seat and mentioned a number of people doing so without undergoing instruction die each year due to getting their hands mixed up at the critical point in the approach, I’m very glad I had the lesson.

Exercise 16b – Operation at minimum level

Its been a while since I have blogged due to having completed my training and gaining my NPPL(M) in June,’ I’m flying a lot, but don’t think it will be of great interest to those who read this blog! Thus I have asked my friend and fellow C42 share holder to write a guess blog for you.

Today I left early (about 09.30) for the airfield in the hope that I would be able to go flying with my good friend and fellow airplane shareholder Adrian. It took me a little longer than usual to get to the airfield as I got stuck behind multiple agricultural vehicles en-route, which is normal for this time of year in these parts as they are harvesting sugar beat.

Upon arrival at the airfield I could see that Adrian was already there and some others had just arrived also; walking into the clubhouse I was greeted with a cup tea that had already been made for me, which is always greatly appreciated.

I had about 3 hours before my scheduled lesson so Adrian and I talked about where we could go in the meantime. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t that great, the cloud base was quite low and rain looked likely although it was not forecast until much later in the day. We ruled out going over to Cromer as the weather looked worse that way; a northerly wind was bringing unpredictable weather in off the North Sea. So we thought we might try a trip up to Skegness as we have never been and it wasn’t too far away, but in a northerly direction also.

Pat and Colin said they were going to Skegness but they have a lot more experience than us, so we said we might but would get the airplane up and see what the conditions were like; we had thought that if it wasn’t too good up there we would just pop over to Fenland for brunch, they are only 16nm away and have a really good restaurant; well worth a visit if you are in the area, they also have a great ground radio service.

The aeroplane had its 100 hour service the day before and we were the first to fly it so we wanted to do a couple of circuits and just make sure the aeroplane was okay before we went anywhere too far afield. Everything with the aeroplane was fine and was actually improved as we had a new oil pressure sensor fitted so the readout on the gauge in the cockpit was showing as it should now.

We took off and did a circuit with a touch-and-go and then climbed out to the east towards Ely as the parachute aeroplane had taken off as we turned onto finals for our touch-and-go. We only got to about 1500ft as the cloud-base was really low, it didn’t look good for going anywhere really so we stayed out to the south-east of the airfield waiting for the parachute aeroplane to come back in and then waited for the “all canopies down” call to indicate that all of the parachutists were safely down on the ground and it was safe for us to return to the circuit.

We descended to 700ft and joined the circuit on right base to land.


Above you can see our course, see we didn’t go very far at all. This data is captured on my iPhone using an application called CloudAhoy (www.cloudahoy.com) It captures your GPS position data and overlays it over Google Earth for you to study later on from a desktop computer.

Disappointed that we were not able to go anywhere we cheered ourselves up with a bacon and egg sandwich and a coffee from the parachute centre.

2 o’clock came around quickly and it was time for my lesson with Katie. Today we were going to do an exercise that I had been waiting to do for a while, waiting because not that the weather had been too bad but because it had been too good!

 

Exercise 16b – Operation at minimum level

My usual instructor Mike is away at the moment so I am flying with Katie instead; it is interesting how instructors differ from each other in both the way they teach. I like the way Katie looks at things slightly differently, but saying that I appreciate the experience that Mike has, using them both has certainly helped me learn to fly.

Anyway the lesson started with a pre-flight check of the aircraft and a walk around to make sure that everything was as it should be. Fuel wasn’t a problem as Adrian had put several litres in earlier for our trip that didn’t happen so I had about 6 litres more than I would have had usually; we tend to fly with 30 litres unless we are flying further afield. I have always used the physical check-list when starting up and going through the pre-flight checks, but more recently I have doing it from memory; this time I did it from memory and didn’t need to relate to the check-list at all; but maybe I should have because during taxi to the runway I realised that I hadn’t switched on the strobe or the fuel-pump! Although I would have noticed these before take-off having the physical check-list in front of me could have avoided this.

During the warm up Katie said she wanted me to do some navigation at minimal operating level of 600ft. She wanted me to find and follow the disused railway from Chatteris to Somersham and then to Ramsey and then find my way back to the airfield.

So I took off on runway 01 and climbed out to 600ft, 100ft below the normal circuit height we use. Flew downwind and then left the circuit to the south with a precise and clear radio call “Chatteris Golf Charlie Echo Golf Lima, leaving the circuit to the south”. With the map on my lap I could see that the disused railway started south of Chatteris town so I flew down the east side of the town and I soon picked up the disused railway scar in the landscape, got on the right side of it and followed it down to the next village, where I was expecting to clearly see a branch in the disused railway to the west towards Ramsey. However I forgot with the wind on our tail I reached Somersham much sooner than I thought, so soon that I thought that the settlement I was about to fly over was no way Somersham, but my map didn’t reveal any other settlement on route. By the time I realised what was going on I had passed Somersham to the east and was heading towards RAF Wyton, it’s difficult to miss the enormously wide runway and the dispersal pans where the Vulcan’s used to sit on QRA during The Cold War

I made a course correction and started flying north-west hoping to see the disused railway branch I was after, I still couldn’t see it, I could see a golf course and then identified Ramsey on my left; I knew the disused railway was there but I just couldn’t see it. Anyway we continued on to Ramsey, past Warboys on our left and then Katie advised me to turn right as I was getting close to Upwood airfield which is used for gliding and the last thing we wanted was to get tangled up with that lot; I could see gliders on the ground but there didn’t appear to be any flying, no wonder really as the cloud base was so low but honestly I had forgotten it was even there. We followed a road leading out of Ramsey to the north which I verified against my compass so I knew we would be shortly intersecting the Forty Foot Bank which I could follow to end up being south of the airfield, and safe far enough outside the circuit. I could see Chatteris town in the distance so I knew we were on track. Coming up to a small lake Katie asked me to keep at 600ft and do an orbit around it without loosing or gaining altitude, I performed the manoeuvre as requested and was happy with it. We continued towards the airfield were I performed my airfield approach checks and made a radio call to make clear my intentions “Chatteris Golf Charlie Echo Golf Lima, joining the circuit extended finals” I forgot however to tell them I was going to be using Runway 01, oops. I lined up, avoiding the farm house to the south on our approach by doing a dog leg around it, back on the centre line, power-off 60kts stage one flap and nose down attitude, quickly followed by the second stage of flap, all was looking good on the approach but my speed was a bit erratic due to the blustery conditions and the fact that I wasn’t nose-down attitude enough.

I touched down and immediately returned to one-stage flap for take off, full power and climbed out. This time to perform a 500ft circuit, and a bit closer to the airfield than we usually perform a 700ft circuit. Another touch-and-go and round again, the next touch-and-go was a bounce and put power on to catch it and climbed out to just 300ft this time quickly retracting the flaps fully. This time at 300ft we performed an even tighter circuit closer to the airfield and avoiding flying over the RSPCA centre, a farm and a couple of tractors which were out in the fields ploughing. We did a couple of circuits like this and then went down to 200ft for more of the same. At such low level things look completely different, things happen really fast and you feel your airspeed is higher than you are used to, of course it is not it just feels like it because you are closer to the ground. At this point a bit of light rain started so on the next circuit we landed and taxied back to the hard standing. Generally, Katie was pleased with my flying but she was worried about my slow airspeed on approach, I was sometimes getting under the orange triangle which should be your minimum approach speed, but also keeping it under the maximum full flap speed. It takes a lot of concentration to make sure your approach speed is correct and at such low altitude to begin with there is a lot to think about and do.

I learnt in this exercise that when flying at lower than normal altitudes your work load is increased because you have to do things a lot quicker than you are used to. Also things look different at this altitude, and keeping an eye on where you are on the map is a lot harder than it is at say 3000ft. Smaller A and B roads are sometime invisible, as are disused railway lines!

Hoping that the weather improves for next time were I can do some practice on on my approaches and hope to overcome my approach speed problems very soon.

 

Happy and safe flying!

 

Simon

 

First flight as a qualified pilot!

Almost 3 weeks beforehand I had taken my GST and passed then yesterday (Friday 10th July) my licence dropped through my letter box. In eager anticipation I ripped the envelope open, there was a nice looking blue book, which I assumed would be like a passport, I opened it and it was just a plastic wallet, I don’t know what I was expecting, but the black and white piece of paper that purport to be my licence was not it! oh well the main thing is I can now fly and as it has been less than 30 days, so I can fly without needing a check flight too. The 30 day rule is not a legal requirement is just written in to our aeroplane’s syndicate rules.

I arrived at the Chatteris airfield and could not believe on such a fine day there were not more people flying, what a waste of a great day, I thought to myself, I was also quite pleased as it was not busy for my fist fight. It’s a very odd almost unnerving feeling, not needing to ask if it was OK to fly and OK to fly to wherever! I checked the aeroplane out and got her out of the hanger. I went back in to the clubhouse and said I’m off and where I was planning to go and off I went!

I climbed up to 3,000ft and I had my trusty Skydemon and Garmin Glo setup with the route and I had loaded it on to my iPhone too as a backup. After about 10mins Skydemon reported loss of GPS signal, WHAT NO, I thought, lucky I loaded it on my iPhone too!  I knew where I was going so it was not a big problem, however it was a little upsetting, I switched off the Bluetooth on my phone and the iPad reconnected to the Glo and started to work, the problem did not reoccur! The Glo should be able to handle 10 concurrent connections, so I don’t know what went wrong, I will look into this later…

The trip was up to the Wash and then along the coast to Hunstanton around Hunstanton and back over Grimston on to south King’s Lynn and back to Chatteris this took 80mins from taxing to parking up on my return. The landing was good it floated long then normal, possibly due to the cross wind, but alas no one saw it, funny how everyone sees a bad landing but no one sees a good one!

To sum up, it’s an incredible feeling of freedom and responsibility to decide, plan and fly your own route without needing anyone to endorse it!

I’m planning on another couple of solos and then maybe take some friends up with me!

Some pictures from my flight are below:

Old Hunstanton and Hunstanton
Sandringham
Heacham

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s been a busy couple of days

Sunday I went flying and had a double lesson and then on Monday I got to go again for some additional solo (sssh don’t tell the bank manager!)

With my GST moving ever closer I’m trying to get as much flying in as I can, well as money will allow!

In my previous lesson I had not done a good job of side slipping allowing my speed to drop to low, so today we would revisit side slipping and do some GST revision.

It was not a great day for flying as it was very turbulent with a lot of lift and sink going on, this made it difficult to keep to an exact height and speed. Looking at my side slipping I had somehow reverted to trying to keep the nose of the aeroplane pointing in the direction we wanted to go instead of us tracking in the correct direction and while doing so I pull the nose up causing the loss of speed. So this was easily corrected and now seems a lot better.

We also practice recovery from stalls, dangerous and unusual attitudes, steep turns and some PFLs too!  All seemed to go OK and the hour was soon over. After a short break I had an hour solo to practice all of the above once more.

Monday morning things were looking a bit wind and today’s solo was in doubt, however about 16:30 Katie message me to say things had improved and I should be ok for solo practice.

On arrival it was still gusting around 20 kts so I had a cup of tea and chatted for a while with Katie and Alan. About 40 mins or so later the wind had dropped a little to around 18 kts and Katie and I went up and flew a couple of circuits, so Katie could see how I handled the windy conditions. All was Ok so I dropped Katie off and went and practice the things I had been doing the day before.

A lot of flying, but not much to blog about!

Latter in the evening Katie posted the video below of me landing on Facebook, which I have duly stolen and posted below!!!

Video by Katie

Flying on a Wednesday evening, who would have thought!

I normally only go flying during the day and at the weekend, but as I missed last Sunday’s due to the British weather and Katie was kind enough to stay late so I could make it after work, I thought I would give it a go!

It was a lovely evening, wind was around 5 kts some cloud at around 3,500ft and it was very smooth, perfect!

We started with me flying a couple of circuits with Katie; immediately after the first take off Katie closed the throttle and declared an engine failure! Nose down and select a field form those in front, all going well so far, the field I selected was possibly a little to near the edge of the gliding range and to make matters a little worse I put a stage of flap on before I knew for sure we would make it! As it turned out we would have made it, just! I powered up and climbed turning back towards the circuit for runway 24.

Downwind checks done, turning on to final and we can see smoke rising in the middle distance, its direction told us that the wind had changed direction a little and was now favouring runway 19. So I made a call to say Base leg 19 and we switched runways.

On the next circuit I left the power on longer and tried to sideslip  on the approach, it worked, but not as well as I have done it in the past, I allowed the speed to drop a little too low, as pointed out by Katie, I need to practice this some more!

Back on the ground there was just time to grab a couple of Jaffa cakes before I went solo! Paul had just got back from flying up to King’s Lynn and back via Wisbech and March and this sounded like a fun thing to do, so I asked Katie what I should do on my solo and she was happy for me to do the same.

I set off and followed the 16 Foot Bank (another drain!) which runs up to King’s Lynn and as I got near to Lynn there was a prohibited area on the map, gas venting (GVS/2.6) as i was about the same altitude 2,600ft I decided to fly wide of it. Just passed Lynn it got a little bumpy and looking at the time I decided to turn around and head for Wisbech. I trimmed for 80 kts and flew between Wisbech and Emneth and on to March. I decided to join the circuit as I had on my cross country by continuing on towards Chatteris town and then descending to join the circuit downwind for 19.

Sunset @ Chatteris
King’s Lynn, Norfolk
The Sun goes down!
Meeting of the drains nr King’s Lynn
Chatteris Airfield
Wind farm nr March

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was one of my most enjoyable flights so far, I guess because I was solo and “just” flying as opposed to practicing for my looming GST, But I will be back to doing that this Sunday!

Short field Takeoff and Landings

Short field Takeoff and landings were the order of the day as it was a UK bank holiday weekend thus it was too wet, too windy and too low a cloud base for a cross country!

Mike decided to demonstrate short field approaches and take offs, but first we would take off and fly out to the south and check what the cloud base was and also I wanted to switch headsets and try Mike’s out to see if it was much better than mine or not.

We were using runway 19 so after take-off we just continued out in the same direction we got to 1,100ft  with the clouds just above us. Mike offered to swap headsets, he is a great David Clark fan and has a H10-13XL I have an HX20-10XL, but the ENC  never seems that great to me, there is a difference, but it’s not massive. My headset being second hand and old also has the older larger battery pack. Mike’s headset did seem a lot quieter than mine without the ENC switched on and the noise reduction was more dramatic when switched on; so I guess either I have a problem or the H10-13XL is a better headset, on the plus side for the H20-10XL it is more comfortable!

I then flew us back to the circuit and landed we turned down the peri-track to clear the runway for Tom and Katie who were inbound behind us and taxied to runway 21 as the wind had moved around a little. Here Mike demonstrated a short field take-off; with the normal single stage of flap he increased to full power while holding the aircraft on the brakes, with the stick full back he released the brakes and as soon as we were airborne he lowered the nose allowing the aeroplane to accelerate in ground effect until we reached 60 knots and then we climbed away as normal. I then flow the circuit and Mike took over for the short field landing; we were to come in lower and with power, the normal 2 stages of flaps deployed, as we take the power off the aircraft decelerates rapidly, as the main wheels touch we apply full braking, while keeping the nose wheel off the ground as long as possible.

The remainder of the lesson was me trying to emulate what Mike had shown with me having various levels of success. The take offs where mainly fine, putting the nose down early enough was an issue the first time! The my first landing was OK and we stopped nice and short my next two were go arounds, where the approaches were ok but the round outs were not great, my penultimate landing was good and final landing was fine too, however the right wheel locked up under the heavy braking, I instinctively released the break and corrected with the rudder, which I was told after was the correct thing to do, however I just allowed it to rollout as normal after, forgetting this was short field practice!

 

This was fun lesson that I really enjoyed, the take-off and landing performance of the C42 is quite remarkable I don’t know the exact distanced and I was helped by the head wind but I would guess we were up in less than 60m and landing in 50m!

During the week I have been playing with an SDR (Software Defined Radio) a cheap USB TV tuner with the RTL chipset from eBay (about £4.00 + P&P), with the right software you can receive ADS-B messages and I wanted to see if we could see the C42 with it and we could! The strange thing is that while on the ground the code (normally 7,000 for VFR) is not seen, but once airborne it is, after discussing this we think it’s due the difference between Squitter messages and Squawking, squitter being the unsolicited broadcast of information every second or so from a mode S transponder and Squawking being the reply transmitted by the transponder in response to an interrogation message, I will try to confirm this and update the blog.

Lastly I have Skydemon (which I think is great) loaded on my iPad mini WIFI model and it uses an external Bluetooth Garmin Glo GPS. Following the update by Apple to iOS 8.3 this and many other GPS units have stopped working. This is a major issue if you intend to navigate using and external GPS, however I found that upgrading the firmware in the Glo to 2.7 and then “forgetting” the connection on the iPad and reconnecting it (this is an important step) it was working once more!

To upgrade simply follow the instruction found on the Garmin site

cf-lg

A shameless plug as a closing thought!  with the looming domain and hosting cost upcoming, I would ask you to consider clicking on one or more of the ads on the site to help me offset the site costs!

 

 

 

 

 

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