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.


Triple First

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Which craft!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flooded drains
Welney Marshes

A roller coaster of a ride!

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

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

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

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

Runway 29 Chatteris

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

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

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

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

landing light lit landing Light fitted

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!




Local flying and few practice emergency landings

Today was solo to build my solo hours and practice some forced landings, but before I did them I was to fly out to Whittlesea, over to March and back to the drains where I would practice the forced landings.

Last week I did fly also, but due to working away I didn’t have a chance to write a blog about it; it consisted of a brief check flight with Mike and then Solo, it was quite gusty last week as it was this week too with the added complication of localised rain showers, which I was advised to fly around where possible. Luckily the only shower which made me alter what I was going to do was as I was flying back to the airfield. I had planned to fly down the drain and turn towards the airfield joining on the downwind leg, but downwind was where the rain was, so I turned early and joined on the base leg instead, I missed most of the rain and landed safely.

So back to today; I had my camera with me and wanted to try and shoot some video, I had tried this before, but it came out overexposed and out of focus. The overexposure was easy to fix, I use the camera in manual mode so as to “disk” the prop and last week had it set way too slow at 1/40th this week I upped the shutter to 1/160th and the prop was still disked, I also changed the focus to manual and set it to infinity, but I guess this is not going to work out to well as it was still blurred, I’m not sure if this is due to the mount vibrating, shooting through the propeller or the settings used, you can see what I mean on some of the video on this page, the parts shot from the cockpit.

Luckily the club has Alan, who knows more about these things and has the professional kit to go along with it and will be taking some high quality video which I hope to share with you.

I taxied out to runway 01 and took off, the crosswind was not too bad at that moment, I applied full power and off I went, it is quite amazing how much the climb rate increases with just one person in the plane. I remember feeling quite isolated the first time solo, when you look over at an empty seat where the instructor once sat; there is no one to reassure you or correct you! I turned on to crosswind and left the circuit to the east out to the drains, I followed these until south of Chatteris turned to cross the outskirts of the town and set my heading to Whittlesea. The day was a little hazy and I could not see Whittlesea, the doubt started to creep in, what if I was going in the wrong direction, would I ever find my way back! I got the map out to reassure myself and soon after spotted Whittlesea. Once there I checked the map, I saw that if I flew east I would see March and after some more doubt I recognised the prison and rail yard which confirmed it was indeed March, looking once again at the map I thought about following the railway line out of March and back to the drains, but shortly after I started following it some radio chatter from the parachute control referred to some traffic they were keeping an eye on, this traffic had to be me, so I decided to fly more east towards the drains. I was also aware that if I went too far north I could end up in RAF Marham’s air space which would not be a good thing.

Back at the drains I few up and down a few times and practised a few emergency landings ensuring I stayed above 600ft the first 2 I would not have made my selected field, I would have been short, the third one I would have made it down in the field, but the smoke in the distance confirmed I was not into wind, the next one seemed to go OK and on my last attempt I was too high, I guess if it was a real emergency landing at that point I could have side slipped, but I was not about to try that on my own and while practising, maybe I should have!

Time was getting on so flew back to the airfield and saw canopies in the air and the parachute plane landing, I held out to the east, I thought I heard the “all canopies down” call so I turned towards the airfield and called “3 miles out inbound, confirm all canopies down” and I got the confirmation I wanted. The landing was quite tricky as the crosswind had picked up, as I approached the landing I was still sidewards to hold off the crosswind, I flipped the plane around on the rudder to point down the runway, remembering the warnings that it was very important to be pointing in the correct direction, however with all this going on I failed to hold off as long as I would have liked. The landing didn’t seem to bad, I have made worse with Mike by my side while practising circuits, so given the conditions I was quite pleased! Back in the clubhouse, Katie asked how it had gone, I said it was OK, but the landing was tricky and she said yes it did sound as if it was a bit heavy. I have never noticed the sound of a landing so either my hearing is not great, Katie’s is very good or I’m the only one to make such a “noisy” landing, I will be listening to the others landing to see which it is!

Navigation not so lost

Well after last week I can say for the first time I was not really looking forward to this week’s lesson, in my previous post you may have picked up on my dejected feeling following my return flight from Fenland.

This week I decided to try and take control, first I followed the advice left by Katie on last week’s post (thanks Katie) and used Google maps to become more familiar with the landmarks surrounding Chatteris, paying particular attention to those that should be on my return. Next I emailed Mike to find out where we would be flying too and was given either Fenland or Boston via the previously used routes.

So I pre planned the routes and on the day I added the wind and drew out the triangles of velocities at home for both, which was good practice too.

I went to the airfield still feel a bit downbeat, this was picked up on by Mike who said I should be enjoying it! I explained that after last week I was concerned about my ability to navigate especially to find Chatteris and to know the status of the parachutists. One option that Mike put forward and I think I will pursue is to go for my restricted License first then as I have a share in a C42 I can fly around and get my confidence at a much lower cost before adding the Navigation to it.

Mike asked what I would like to do today and said with some trepidation cross country dual to Fenland. I said this mainly as I wanted to confront my demons and prove to myself I can do it, or not!

So we discussed the approach at Fenland and how we were going to leave Chatteris too and we then set off. We taxied out to runway 24 and held there as Katie and Pat were on the runway at the far end putting down so grass seed. After a short while they spotted us waiting and cleared the runway and we took off, we flew the circuit while climbing and left on the base leg setting course to Whittlesey Station which is only 8nm, after setting course and completing the plog with the times I could see the brickwork smokestacks in the distance and knew from my Google research this was whittlesey I could see.

Small red is the train station and the larger red where the smokestacks are in Whittlesey

As we got nearer I noticed the light coloured industrial units which again from Google I knew where just below and to the right of the station. I flew over the station and set course to Fenland, I was a little slow getting on course, but I knew from studying the map I needed to fly over the east side of Thorney and over the bypass and indeed I was which was both good and reassuring, just after going over Thorney bypass it would be time to make the call to request an overhead join at Fenland which I did and they gave me the runway in use, the circuit direction and the Altimeter setting. A few minutes before the estimated arrival time I spotted Fenland and I changed course to fly over the numbers on Runway 26 at 2,000ft and called to say so. We were overhead and descended dead side.  We joined down wind, on final I came in a little low so I added a bit more power so as to touchdown beyond the displaced threshold and I made a good landing.

This had all gone much better than last week! Time for a cup of tea and then the return and to see if I would spot Chatteris or not!

Again we took off and followed the circuit leaving on cross wind and setting course to Whittlesey, with the smoke stacks clearly visible and the heading set we few towards it again I could see the industrial units so knew where the station would be, this was also helped by an approaching train!

When overhead Mike took the controls and we talked about London Centre and he made a “Practice Fix” call to which they responded that we had a 2 line fix putting us overhead of Whittlesey! A very useful service and they have a leaflet which explains more here.

I had the controls again and we were flying towards the Airfield I soon spotted Chatteris town and the Forty foot Drain above it which was our guide to the 16 foot drain where we joined the circuit for 24. However at this point Mike said fly the circuit for 24 but we are going to land on 23! This had me a little worried as I have never landed on 23 and it seems a lot narrower, the reason for landing on 23 was to ensure I didn’t go over the new grass seed! For the second time today I made a good landing and I was happy with my performance and so was Mike! The only things of note picked up were to correct things sooner, both in setting headings and when I realise I’m a little low on the approach.

So a good day flying which I enjoyed, however I think I will still go for my restricted license first.

One step forward two steps back!

Well if the weather had been better the plan was for me to do a solo navigation to Boston, however it wasn’t and I didn’t. Instead we did a dual navigation to Fenland Airfield via Whittlesey Train station thus creating a dog leg.

It had been 2 weeks since my last flight and it would seem my mind has been erased to the point that even though I blogged about how to draw the triangle of velocity I was stood staring at the  white board clueless! Still with some help from Mike on the first leg it slowly came back and I completed the flight sheet (here is a blank flight sheet (PLOG) I put to together based on the one we use in the club, feel free to modify/use it), I called Fenland as its PPR (prior permission required) and they told me the runway and conditions at the airfield. Mike asked how I would make a standard overhead join from the south direction and I drew this on the white board ok. Next Mike asked how I intend to leave Chatteris and the runway I would use again this was ok.

So into the C42 and let it warm up while we waited for the parachutists to descend. We departed on runway 01 and flew the circuit but kept climbing to our cruise altitude of 1,500ft and set course to Whittlesey, we arrived overhead bang on time, but a little to the right of track. I had some trouble spotting the train station as it’s only a small single platform one. After spotting it with the help of an approaching train we set course to Fenland. About 5 miles out from Fenland I made a call and requested an overhead join, this was the first time I have been to airfield with a control tower and getting the flow of messages in the correct format was all new to me but Mike guided me through what to say and when. We joined overhead descending on the dead side and landed on runway 36  the landing was not my best and Mike then informed me that when I do my solo cross country flights I have to hand in a form and have it signed, on this form one of the things they do is rate your landing!

At Fenland we had no time to stop for fear the weather was closing in, so I paid the landing fee and we set off back to Chatteris. It was the return navigation that fell apart! I took too long to set my course so we were away from where we should be and then I miss read the heading and somehow set the course of 350 and not 315, when asked where we were I struggled to correctly identify the position on the map, but after a while I found our location and corrected it buy flying over where we should be and resetting the course. At Whittlesey Mike ask if I was over the station and my reply was that “I thought we were“ thought was not good enough so we did an orbit and I was correct so we set course for Chatteris. I seem to keep drifting off course especially when reading the map and by the time we had got to Chatteris we were not approaching it from where we had planned. To make matters much worse I could not see the airfield Mike told me to turn to the left which I did and if he had not I would have over flown it, which as it’s a parachute club it is not allowed or safe to do. So we flow around the airfield in a wide circle and Mike enquired how I was now going to join and land. I was now disorientated and concerned over not having seen the airfield and was explaining how I would join 01, but talking about 19, eventually it click and we joined on the base leg and I landed. Mike commented that I would have got a 10 for that landing and it was one of my best. But during the debrief it was clear that I not ready for solo cross county with the lack of location awareness and the ability to fly a consistent heading in doubt too.

The day left me thinking on the way home, have got what it takes or if I should cut my losses and pack it in.

I love flying, but learning to fly, for me at least, is a rollercoaster of ability and emotions of which I’m current at a low point again!

I need to learn to read the map more frequently and relate it to where we are while keeping us on the correct heading and at the correct altitude; I hope over the next few weeks this will become easier and I become safer as the thought that I could have over flown the airfield while there was parachutists in the air concerns me greatly.

Navigation to Boston Airfield and Triangle of velocities

I arrived at Chatteris on what seemed a damp and grey day around an hour before my lesson to plan my flight to Boston as I was nearing the airfield I saw a C42 flying in the circuit and I was thinking to myself that the parachutists would not be jumping with such cloud cover, however as I turned into the track leading to the airfield I saw the twin Otter taking off closely followed by the main training C42. It often seems to have its own micro climate which allows for the microlight and the parachutists to go up while all-around the weather would not permit! When I left home it was layer cloud and raining but here it was scattered cloud and improving all the time.

In the clubhouse I made myself a cup of tea and set about planning out my route to Boston, possibly my last dual navigation to Boston, all was going well and I drew out the triangles of velocities on the whiteboard and then checked my results on Skydemon light which is a great piece of software and I hope to buy and evaluate it on either on an Android or iPad once I have my license (so Lookout for a future review of flying with this!) most of my calculation worked out ok and with little head or tail wind I didn’t notice my fundamental error! In fairness to me it has been a while since I did the Navigation exam!

Triangle of velocities

So how do you draw the triangle of velocities?

First Draw a vertical line to represent North with a diamond on the top to show it as a true north.

Next plot the course you want to fly, for this draw a straight line from A to B on a map and read off the heading using a protractor. For Chatteris to Boston we want a heading or Trk(T) of 349° so next we draw this line on.

Next go to the Met Office and get the spot wind for your altitude, Sunday this was 260/15 so we now need to draw this on.


The wind is drawn across the north line e.g. above I marked off 260° on the left of the north and drew through N and out far enough to be able to mark off the wind speed on the wind line. Add 3 arrows to show it’s the wind line. Take a ruler and mark the wind speed on the line from the north line, it doesn’t matter what scale you use mm, cm, your map ruler, whatever so long as all  the measurement use the same scale. I used mm on this drawing for the blog.

Next draw a line from 15mm along the wind line the length of the speed you will be flying and make the line intersect the Trk(T) line at that point . So below I have drawn from the 15mm mark a line that is 70mm (we fly at 70knts) where it joins the Trk(T) B – C below.

 So above we have:

A – B 260° line with point B marked at 15mm (from the Met office 260/15)

A – C our Track True from the map

B – C 15mm along the wind line (wind speed) 70mm long (our speed in knots) drawn to intersect our Track true at the 70mm point

If we now measure in mm A – C we get 67mm and this is by the magic of pythagoras theorem our Ground speed allowing for the wind 67 knots.

If we measure the angle of the line B – C   from north we get 336° our heading true.

And if we measure the angle D we get our drift angle 13°

Thank you Pythagoras!

So back to my flight planning well the fundamental error I made was I measured B – C as the ground speed even though I had drawn it 70 long for my airspeed!!!

The flight to Boston went ok, I got a bit off course, but spotting Fenland airfield I re aligned and was ok from there. I soon spotted Boston and just to the left was the airfield.

We landed OK (in fact for me it was quite a good landing!) and I got the teas in, while we were drinking our tea Mike was asked to do a check Flight which he agreed to do as no one was booked in after me. I stayed drinking tea and chatting to people. Sometime later we all watch Mike land and needless to say it was a perfect landing in every way.

Once Mike was done we set off back to Chatteris and the navigation all went to plan we joined on a long final for runway 24 and again the landing was not bad. I refuelled the plane and cleaned the prop and some of the birds muck off the wings, as while we were out Stuart had booked the aeroplane and it was not good to hand it over in the state it was in.

My next lesson in a couple of weeks’ time and weather allowing is going to be a solo to Boston and back!!!