Navigation and what does the map say!

Today was looking good for my first proper navigation lesson; Mike had asked that I get to the club an hour beforehand to give him time to go over planning the route, allowing for wind etc. I dutifully arrived at the airfield an hour and 10 mins early. The weather was hot with a layer of broken could at around 8,000ft and no wind, the met office’s Low Spot Wind chart (214) showed variable at 5 knots.
On arrival things were not going quite as well at the club, the previous student (who will remain nameless) was late which had a knock on effect, his return was further delayed by the parachutist. I sat with Mike and we went through the planning of the route which was going to be Chatteris to Boston in a straight line, with no wind to allow for there was not much panning needed! I studied the map to establish the MSA (Minimum Safe Altitude) allowing for obstacles within 5 miles of the track and the highest I could find was 470ft, to establish the MSA we round this up to the nearest 500 and add 500, thus our MSA for this flight was 1,000ft. Our chosen altitude of 3,300ft saw us passing over Fenland airfield whose airspace extends up to 2,006ft so we were well clear of this, thus it was a direct route. On the flight log I noted down the radio frequencies for any station I might need on route Boston, Fenland, London Information, London Centre, Chatteris and Coningsby. Next I found the heading from the line on the map and added the magnetic variation to give the heading magnetic,  I measured the distance and worked out the time it would take us to fly it once we set course.
The previous student was now back and it was time to fly the route (well actually it was around 1 hour 45 minutes later then we had planned to set off!) we took off on runway 01 and set course to 350 degrees, we passed Fendland bang on the time estimate and all was going well. As we approached Boston Mike talked me through the radio calls need for “SAFETYCOM” which is how Boston operate, but also pointed out as it’s a shared frequency we should not make these calls until we were at 2,000ft or below. We descended down and made our first call to say we were 5 miles to the south and inbound, the next call was to say we were overhead. We turned once we were over Boston airfield and came back over the other end of the runway and called we were descending on the dead side, from there on the calls were as normal.

We landed OK and parked up, Mike introduced me to many people whose name I forget (if you are reading this, sorry!) We had a quick cup of tea and it was time to set off back to Chatteris.

Going back proved a little more difficult for me! I think this was due to having the map in the opposite direction to travel, I tried turning the map around, but Mike said this was not good practice, also you can’t read the place names as easily upside down!
Flying back we should have been at Chatteris 26 mins after setting course, but I could not see it and it transpired while playing with the map I had been going off course and was to the east of March, I still could not see Chatteris, but by now I could see the drains and I turned and followed these back, a route I knew well!

My next issue was the landing; I powered back where I normally did and found myself very high over the airfield so we went around, thinking the issue was that I was too tight in I went a little wider on the next go and we did get down near to the runway, but still too high and much too far down the runway, on the next go I took the power off earlier (not really early enough) and we made it down, but the touch down was a lot longer down the runway then I would have liked. This was all due to there being no wind to slow us down, this is not a situation I’m accustomed to and had not allowed for it, I hope it’s a lesson learnt for the future!
Another issue I had, and would love you feedback on, is the choice of glasses, I have a good pair of varifocal glasses which are fine for normal reading. they are set-up more for computer work, however reading the small print on the map in flight and on the ground is very much a challenge. Having Googled it, it would seem bifocal are generally better for pilots, what do you think?

Parachutes everywhere!

I was first to fly in G-CEGL on Saturday so I needed to “burp” the aeroplane! Burping the aeroplane is required as the Rotax engine has a dry sump, so to get oil into the engine and to be able to get a reading of the amount of oil you need to turn the propeller by hand in the correct direction until the engine makes a burping or gurgling sound twice. You can then check the oil level before starting the engine, with our engine and I assume its the same for all Rotax engines of this type, the oil level when cold reads low normally at the bottom of the stick, but once up to temperature  it will read about halfway up.

Mike ask if I wanted to do another hours solo today and I said yes, this time I was to practice flying at different speeds as before, but also steep turns and Mike gave me a briefing on this together with testing me on what to do if I got into a spiral dive. Which was to take the power off and roll the wings level, as the aeroplane levels out the nose will come up and at this point we apply full power and climb away.

I was now ready for my flight, but for the first time Mike was happy for me to go straight off on my own. I sat warming up the aeroplane and was ready to go about the same time as Mick, we had all been using runway 19, but Mick went straight up on the nearest runway 29 and I taxied out to 19, as I was back tracking on 19 I heard the parachute plane call “clear drop” which gives you a few mins and had previously been cited by the parachute plane’s pilot that there is sufficient time for you to line up and take off, which is what I did. How on returning I was advised that in future I should taxi off of the runway and hold clear.

My flight was uneventful but on my return to the airfield I call asking if all canopies where down and it was confirmed, so I called and joined base leg, immediately after my call I hear “Clear Drop” as I was unsure if there was enough time I decided to leave the circuit and hold to the east.


Later that day two fellow students achieved their first solo flights, so just a quick shout out to Alan H and Alan B congratulations and well done guys! How was it?

Chatteris Air field

Two weeks for the price of one!

While I would love the title of this week’s blog to be the reflection of a special offer at the flying club, it’s not. The title refers to the fact that I missed a week of the blog as a few people pointed out to me, so this week’s entry covers two weeks!

If however you are looking for a special offer AviationLogic are giving away some free, yes free, copies of its new app ApproBase to readers of my blog, to find out how to claim yours visit the review post here and read the comments they have posted, an offer not to be missed!

Two weeks ago we had our open weekend at Chatteris, I attended on the Sunday only, I could tell it was busy as I could not get parked down by the flying club, instead I cheekily parked in the parachute club’s car park! There were many new faces at the club and a few old ones too! A nearby gliding club, Peterborough and Spalding Gliding Club (P & SGC) attended with one of their gliders and all the Microlights were lined up outside and to top it all the sun was shining down. My wife and some friends had come over too, to watch the aeroplanes and parachutists. I also had a lesson booked which was a continuation of the previous weeks forced landings with a few circuits thrown in for good measure.

It was a most enjoyable day apart from one incident where on opening my Jerry can and petrol sprayed out all over me, luckily  and in accordance with safety procedures there was no naked lights around else I would have looked like the guy on the Pink Floyd album cover “Wish you were here” check out Google  if you are too young to know what I mean!

 This weeks was an hour solo after a brief check flight.

The check flight was a circuit flown from the active runway 19, easily my favourite runway as it’s the widest and longest. I taxied out and flew the circuit which I know well and made what I thought was a good landing, certainly a very soft landing, then Mike congratulated me on flying a good circuit and an “Excellent” landing. I was very pleased by this and taxied back to the clubhouse to drop Mike off. I thought it would just be a case of going out and getting more experience of flying around the local area on my own, but no, today I was to fly three or four circuits on my own and then climb out to the east, level out at 2,300ft and trim for 70kts and ensure I maintain the exact height, then to do the same for 80Kts and 60Kts.

My first circuit we good, not as good as the one before, but I was happy, my second one not so great and I decided to power on and go around while I had two stages of flap on. It’s hard to keep the nose down with full power and two stages of flap and keep the speed in the white arc, but I did and around I went. This time I was determent to make it a good one else I was going to stay in the circuit until I did a good one. As I turned on to final I was little low, but no too low so I put some power on early and took it off as I rounded out and I touched down softly, flaps up, full power, off to the east I went feeling happy with my last circuit.

Next was to keep height while flying at different speeds, this not hard to do when Mike is sat next to you, but on your own you think you have it and then glance at the altimeter to find you have lost 200ft or gained it! Finally I was all trimmed for 70kts and holding 2,300ft so power on a bit keeping the nose down and watching for 80kts, this was harder to trim for but I got it after a few tries, right down to 60kts and trim, this I liked the most and stayed in that configuration as I flew into wind and towards Chatteris. I descended down to circuit height and called my base leg join, I really wanted this to be as good as my earlier circuit and all seemed to be going well, then I was low so power on a little and I continued to my touch down point,  all was going well. I rounded out and took the power off but it bounced not too badly, but still a bounce and then a second slight bounce possibly due to my speed and the uneven nature of the runway, but I was down. I’m not sure why I bounced the first time I think I may have rounded out to late or more likely  stopped bring the stick back. But all in all it was a good days flying which I really enjoyed.

ApproBASE Review

I got a tweet from this AviationLOGIC asking if I would review their app ApproBASE so I decided to take a look!

For more information on the app visit their website at

About the ApproBASE App
Version 1.1.1

ApproBASE Is a simple but useful app if you are new to flying or like me a student pilot about to venture away from my local field while learning navigation. It collects via a few screens you approach heading and details of the circuit you want to fly. It then generates a nice animated graphic showing you the circuit and headings, helping you to visualise the circuit removing any uncertainty.

The first page you see when ApproBASE loads is the Welcome screen which contains the disclaimer also. I understand why the disclaimer is here and why its is shown every time you run the app, however it would be nice if the “Agree” button could be hit without scrolling down!

I’m not sure I would try and use it inflight (but that’s just me!), unless I was using an iPad for navigation anyway. I would however use it to review how I intend to join a circuit I had never flown, before setting out.

This leads me to the first enhancement I would like to see, that is an option to print out the circuits for my navigation notes. Yes the wind direction may change and I might need to re plan; using the app in advance of joining, then using it in flight maybe an option I would consider.

What would make it of use for me in flight is the option of entering an airfield (or farm strip) in a directory or a favourites list by longitude and latitude and maybe the radio frequency too. When you select this airfield and enter the runway and approach direction it could display the radio frequency together with the distance and direction, allowing me to make the call that I’m X miles south (or wherever), this together with the animation on a single screen would be of great help!

The graphics are clear and the animation is simple to understand, but I’m not sure I would pay the £3.99 for ApproBASE, I would have paid 69p without thinking about or even 99p, over that I tend to want to make sure it meets a need I have and to be honest I have never thought about this or the need for an app to show me how to fly a circuit. However with the enhancements above I would  buy the app at the asking price or even a little more!

I showed ApproBASE to my instructor thinking he would say it was not necessary, but instead he said it maybe a good teaching aid, he proceeded to enter an airfield we use for out landings as follows:
Runway 27 RH, overhead join from the south, unfortunately the animation shows an approach from the north! I will feed this back to AviationLOGIC and up date this review with any response.

Currently ApproBASE is only found when you search the app store for iPhone only and not iPad, it does run on the iPad, but within the iPhone compatibility display not as a native iPad app.

If you have used this app why not let me know what you think below.

Forced landings from high altitudes EX16A

Simon and I set of for our lessons together today, after leaving my house in the pouring rain we thought it wise to call ahead to check if the lesson was still going ahead, there had also been a problem with the aeroplane and we wanted to  check that this was not going to impact our lessons also.

We were quite surprised to hear the weather was so different at Chatteris, which is only around 38 miles away by road, apparently it was a nice day to go flying apart from the gusty wind, but this seems to be the normal at the moment!

When we arrived the aeroplane was ok to fly, but was awaiting the cowlings to be refitted, which delayed the lesson by a while.

In the clubhouse Mike covered the theory of the lesson I was about to embark upon, Exercise 16A which is to carry out a safe descent, approach and landing in the event of a power failure during flight or to carry out a safe unplanned precautionary landing in an unfamiliar field.

This is what I took away from the lesson, on forced landings, WARNING it may not be complete or in the correct sequence, I hope it is, but just in case you have been warned, these are my notes from memory!

  1. Adopt glide attitude and min sink airspeed.
    The first thing to do is to fly the aeroplane (this is a reoccurring theme which Mike rightly stresses) by adopting a gliding attitude with minimum sink airspeed and trim it for this. For our C42 this is 58 knots, but in practice we aim for 60 Knots and trim for this speed which gives us our glide angle, which I believe was stated as 10 degrees.
  2. While maintaining attitude and airspeed, check wind direction and strength by observing smoke, wind turbines, or any other means you can, if you cannot determine it and you are near where you departed use the direction it was when you took off.
  3. Select a field ideally on your left and below you, you can always lose height, but can’t gain it! Always keep the selected field insight and on your left. The field must be big enough to land in and have a suitable surface, ideally not a recently ploughed field or a field with a high crop in it.
  4. Plan your approach picking out a circuit height point on the base leg from which you can make a glide approach to the field. We use 700ft for this.
  5. Make Mayday Call,
    MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY, Name of station addressed, Aircraft call sign, Aircraft type, Nature of emergency, Intentions of pilot, Position (or last known position) Altitude and heading, Pilot Qualifications, any other useful information e.g. Persons on board etc.
  6. Try to restart the engine check or change the following. Master on, mags on, fuel tap on, fuel Pump on, start engine
  7. If the engine does not start, Throttle Closed, Mags Off, Fuel Off, Master remains ON
  8. If you make the 700ft point as planned fly the glide approach, if too high extend the base leg and turn back on to final, if to low short cut the base leg on to final.
  9. Establish a normal approach, proceed with the landing aiming for the middle of the field once you are 100% sure you will make it deploy flaps and bring the landing point back to 1/3 of the way in.


Putting all of the above in to practice sounds simple, but it’s not, so today we simplified it by missing out the mayday call. The first time we stayed with power and Mike asked where I would land, it seemed to take me forever to select somewhere and it was too far away! The next time Mike closed the throttle and I had to find a location, identify the base and final legs as well as pick out the 700ft point on the base leg, things went ok and we made the approached and would have landed in the field selected. The next one was no so good, I select a field to far away, miss read the altimeter thinking I was at 1,500ft when Mike and my eyes were telling me I was at 500ft! we powered on and climbed to 700ft and flew to the 700ft mark and then continued the exercise. My last two were ok although one of them required me short cutting the base leg to make it, but make it we did. As we were flying back to Chatteris Mike closed the throttle (we don’t kill the engine for safety reasons) and said ok put us down on runway 19 from here, so I selected my 700ft point and flew to it, I was a little high so I extended the base leg and then turned on final aiming for the middle of 19, as we were nearly over and high I deployed two stages of flaps and was holding off drift too, all was going well, too well, and then just above the runway I put in the wrong rudder direction which Mike and I both instantly realised and I corrected before touch down.

This lesson left me almost as exhausted as my first solo, it takes so much out of you, one day I hope it will all be second nature as it is to Mike, Katie and the others! Until now I had not realised how exhausting learning to fly could be, but it’s still good fun too!

Lesson 15 today, Unusual and Dangerous Attitudes

Another nice day to fly, a bit bumpy and a little breezy at times, but not as bad as it has been.

After a briefing on what happens to the aeroplane when in certain scenarios and asking some questioning of me as to what is the danger of and how to recover from each of the following: climbing to steeply e.g. above 45 degrees, descending at angles greater than 45 degrees, banking at more than 60 degrees and a combination of all of the above, all demonstrated with the aid of a model aeroplane we set off to experience this first-hand.

After the “all canopies down” call Pat taxied out to runway 06 and I followed. We lined up and took off without due delay as the parachute plane was also lining up to take off, but on a different runway.

We climbed out to the NNE and to a height of 3,000ft, having left the circuit and flown away Mike took the controls to demonstrate the first of the manoeuvres, however before we started he said if at any point I start to feel unwell to let him know! How very reassuring this is to someone who doesn’t travel very well!

Mike showed each of the manoeuvres and the corresponding recoveries, the only manoeuvre that made me feel a bit odd was the recovery from a steep descent, which you can feel the G force being excreted on your face. This attitude also gives the most disconcerting of all views, 45 degrees may not sound a lot, but when you are staring at the ground and it is rushing towards you at an ever increasing speed, it is!

Next Mike put the aeroplane in to each of the attitudes and asked me to recover from them, the only one which gave me a slight problem was the steep ascent, the recovery is easy enough, nose down and full power together until the nose is level with the horizon, however a few times I let it go passed the horizon before levelling out. Other than this I think the exercise today is really about experiencing these attitudes and the recovery of them to help ensure you don’t find yourself in the situation, but if you do it arms you with what you need to know to safely recover.

To help remember what to do if the nose is above the horizon power on, if it’s below the horizon power off. Correct the attitude before rolling the wings level if one has dropped.

There was just time to fly a circuit or three before the end of the lesson so I flew us back and we joined base leg 06, which is one of the smaller runways. My first attempt had us down with a bit of a bump so power on and around I went, my next attempt was still worse I had come in to low and was on a very shallow approach and again needed to go around, this time the approach was much better and so was the landing although I did bounce twice, they were small and we were down, on the roll after landing Mike asked where the stick was and I instantly knew I had not brought it all the way back! Mike explained that is why we bounced, as he has done before but for some reason I just stop moving the stick back (see my other blog entries).

But none the less another enjoyable days flying.

Mike mentioned my next lesson is going to be 16 forced landings!



Solo outside the circuit. Today the flying conditions were good!

Today the flying conditions were good and this was confirmed by the fact that the numbers of available car parking spaces at the club were limited! As I parked up I saw a couple of aeroplanes I did not recognised taxiing up towards the clubhouse and I saw Simon busy refuelling after his lesson.

A number of people where stood in the hangar looking at a steam engine Pat had built, it is indeed a fine piece of engineering.

As I went around to the club house Mike was in deep conversation with someone I had not seen before, so I went into the clubhouse and it was just as busy inside. As I walked in I was offered a cup of tea, which I gratefully accepted. I stood talking with one of the people who had just arrived in a Zenair CH70 Microlight, the other aeroplane was a Skyranger Swift also a Microlight.

It was soon time for me to check out the aeroplane before my lesson, all was ok with it and Simon had kindly filled passed the 30ltr mark by 3 or 4 litres. It is something Simon and I need to get better at as I did the same after my lesson by only by around 2 ltrs.

Back in the clubhouse Mike outlined today’s lesson which was a quick circuit or 2 and then I was to fly out to the drains and practice flying on my own, keeping the aeroplane on a chosen heading and height to be decided in advance by myself, the reason it was to be chosen in advance was to ensure I practiced accurate turns and controlling the height.

We flew the circuit without Mike telling me the turning points and I landed ok unsure if I was to do a second circuit or not I asked Mike just after touchdown and thought he had said yes, so I put the power on, but he soon corrected me and I throttled back and taxied back to the club house.

It was now time for me to do my first full solo including leaving the circuit fly around and finding my own way back to the airfield. One thing that always plays on my mind, is how I can be sure if all the parachutists are down before landing as I often don’t hear the “all canopies down” call, Mike gave me some pointers i.e. if the parachute plane is sat in the middle of the runway they are not down however if its parked then they most likely are, but added if I was unsure then radio and ask.

So I was now in the aeroplane alone and was waiting for the parachutes to descend before myself and 3 other aeroplanes could taxi out and take off. The first two went and I was next as the 4th had only just started up, I taxied out to runway 24 and took off, I climbed up to 2,000ft and turned to the east and flew out to the drains. Far beneath me at circuit height and to my left were Mick and Thomas who were flying along the drains also. I flew up towards where the drains narrow at Downham Market and turned around and flew back down the other side, then as I got nearer I looked out to try and find Chatteris airfield, having spotted where it was I turned and flew the route again, but this time at 3,000ft and then a descending turn and continued descent  back down to 2,000ft, I did this a few times and was tempted to take a few pictures, but thought better of this on my first solo outside of the circuit!

Time was soon up and I flew back down the drains, turned towards Chatteris and descended to 700ft, circuit height, were the parachutists up or down!? As luck would have it I saw their aeroplane climbing out so I knew it was safe, I carried out my normal checks and saw another Microlight on the taxiway. I made my joining call and Mick in the other Microlight call that he was lining up for immediate departure and was gone long before I turned on to final. I made my final call and lined up with the runway, which I then needed to correct. As I came into land I held the aeroplane above the runway trying to keep it flying as we are taught and it seemed to hang or rise slightly for a split second before a very gentle touch down, probably the second most gentle I have done, and I felt very pleased with the landing. As I continued down the runway the nose came off the ground a couple of time which I had not experienced before and I meant to ask Mike about, I assumed it was a combination of the lighter weight, full flaps being on and the wind. However on my return to the clubhouse I was asked “how was it?” and I said it was good “and the Landing?” I said it was good too, the approach could have been better lined up, but the landing I was pleased with, I asked why and Katie said it look as if I had bounced, which I hadn’t, maybe the wind caused it to balloon slightly, but if so from in the cockpit it did not seem so. I wanted to discuss this with Mike, however he was in deep conversation, we did discuss it briefly after and he said if it balloons I should go around.

I have relived the landing a number of times and to me I can still not explain what they saw from the clubhouse as for me in the cockpit it seemed a good landing! Thus I left feeling puzzled and confused.

On another and lighter note a friend who reads this blog sent me some stuff and it was taped to the card pictured below which summarises my learning to fly through his eyes!

Plane goes here, relating to not getting it in the middle of the runway; Compass with the wrong points, to me having miss read it; windsock to all the gusty wind; the parachutist, my concern over knowing where they are; Left and right the wrong way around, I haven’t worked out, maybe he is confused! and lastly tea and cake he believes is the real reason I go flying!

I think it’s a fair summary of all the issues i have faced!

I try to give the real feeling I have and not the “haven’t I done well” approach some blogs take.

I’m leaving the circuit!

Another fun day to fly with variable and gusty wind and some light rain too!

Today was too windy to go solo and we were back on my least favourite runway used so far 21 (see previously posted the curse of the trees here ). Today’s lesson was mainly about leaving and rejoining the circuit, after taking off on 21 we climbed to 1,300ft, about 200ft below the cloud base and then turned towards Ely which we could see in the distance. I flew out to the drains and then turned through 180 degrees and came back towards Chatteris airfield, I knew it was ahead of me, but I could not see it at first. As we approached it Mike asked how I planned to rejoin the circuit for 21, my plan was to fly to the left and then come around and join on downwind, Mike had a better idea carry straight on and join on base leg, so long as I was down to circuit height before joining. I throttled back to 3,000 rpm and descended to 700ft, there was a lot of turbulence probably the most I have experienced in the microlight to date, I made the radio call to say we were joining base leg and proceeded to land. My approach was a little low so I added more power and came in well clear of the trees, in fact to high and a I rounded out to high also, so power on and around we went. We just flew the circuit this time and my landing was better, but not good so around we went again and this time it was acceptable. After climbing back up to 1,300ft we headed towards Ely once more and then back to the airfield, the weather was getting worse now with stronger gusts!  I spotted the airfield a little sooner this time and flew us back for a touch and go, the approach was quite good this time as was the round out, but then the aeroplane suddenly went up, thinking I must have ballooned I put the power on and went around, puzzled I asked Mike what I had done wrong, but for once it was not me, but a gust of wind that blew at an inopportune moment. We went back out towards Ely once again and as soon as I had turned back towards the airfield I spotted it, I think I must be getting used to seeing it, I flew us back for the last time and made probably my best landing of the day in what has to be the most challenging conditions I have flown in to date.

Shortly after I had refuelled  the aeroplane Simon arrived for his lesson, sporting his newly acquired headset, a nice pair of DC 10-13XL’s, he is just starting on circuits and made a couple of 50ft passes over the longer wider runway 19, however the weather continued to deteriorate and his lesson was cut short. Simon also has a share in the C42 so needed to refuel it after his lesson, he got his new Jerry can out and this is when we found out not all jerry cans are made equal, unfortunately his has a breather tube that restricts the opening to the point where we could not get the pipe from the pump in. Thus it’s worth checking this before buying a can, they should also have a UN number stamped on them. My Wavian Jerry can seems a good choice and Simon is now going to get the same.

Over flying Runway 19

Time for some tea and cake back in the club house!

Finding my way in navigation!

Not a good start to the day as far as flying goes; I normally book my lessons for 14:00 and was about to leave home at around 12:50 when I got a call from Mike. I assumed he must need to move my lesson for some reason, however on answering the call Mike ask if everything was OK, to which I replied “yes everything is fine, I’m just leaving now, I will be with you before 14:00”, the reply was, “I have you booked in for 12:00”. Sh*t, I thought and quickly checked my calendar, no  I have it written down as 14:00, then I checked the on-line system and as normal Mike is right and I’m wrong. Luckily for me Mike and AAA Microlights are very accommodating and by moving a few people around a little he found time to squeeze me in. Thanks Mike and apologies to all impacted.

Today’s lesson the first following my solo was navigation, I pulled out my map which had a route plotted on it from some time ago and Mike thought it was a good route to fly, but we were going to fly it in the opposite direction. Mike had me add the headings and 5nm lines on each leg counting back from each waypoint. I then added a wind arrow to the map and for this flight as the wind was light we made an approximation for the headings and time to fly each leg.

I had checked the aeroplane beforehand so we were ready to go, after starting up the parachute aeroplane called “Clear Drop” with gives around 5 mins before the first parachutists will be on the ground. Our engine was not even up to temperature for the power check, so we taxied away from the club house and waited for the engine to warm up and the parachutists to all come down. A while later we got the radio call “All Canopies Down” so we made our way over to Runway 06, not one I have used much, in fact I think this was only the second time.  Up we went and made a climbing turn to the right on to crosswind leg and then another on to downwind, just as if we were going to do a circuit, but we continued to climb until we reached a chosen height of 3,000ft. I spotted our first point on the map, a roundabout not far from the airfield so from here we changed direction to a heading of 230° towards our waypoint of Kimbolton and noted the time. At around the halfway point Mike asked what could I see and I saw an airport to my left which was Wyton and, after a little prompting, another airport to my right which was Peterborough, ahead was a third airport Alconbury which we flew over; this was re assuring as it meant I was on track. Next was the A1M, A14, A1 junction to my right and in the distance was Grafham Water, about 2nm to the right would be our turning point, Kimbolton Airfield. It appears that spotting little airfields from 3,000ft needs a little practice! I finally spotted it and we turned on to the next leg with a heading of 120° and a new waypoint of Main Hall. As we flew this short leg I called out the things I could see and tried to relate them to the map. As we approached Main Hall, going by the time flown, Mike asked if I could see it and I could not, we must have been over it and Mike suggested we orbit while I look for it, but even with Mike telling me where it was I could not see it! A needle in a haystack comes to mind. Then all of a sudden I can make out the grass strip from the surrounding grass fields! Note to self; on any solo navigations pick something easier to see and check it out on Google earth first!

Main Hall

Form here we turned on to 030° to get back to Chatteris. All the time on each leg I had to make corrections to both height and direction and every time I looked for a land mark I changed one or the other!

My first big error would have been, if Mike was not next to me, a simple one of misreading the compass, I was little disorientated from orbiting, else it would have been a simple turn to the left (it’s the only excuse I have!), but I knew I needed to set a heading of 030° so as the compass clearly has 30 marked on it, no problem, Mike asks do I really want 30? I look at the map and saw it said 25 so I said, no 25, then Mike pointed out my school boy error 30 and 25 on the compass are 300° and 250° I wanted 3 on the compass 30°.

Now with the correct heading we flew back to Chatteris and on the way we done some more landmark spotting and again it took me a long time to find one, Sutton Meadows airfield, which Mike pointed out so easily. I guess or at least I hope the more you fly the easier it gets to spot these things, as I did spot Chatteris airfield OK. Here stated yet more issues for me and I guess one of the main points of the lesson which was correctly joining the circuit.

So we were now flying at 3,000ft on a heading of 060° and needed to descend and turn to join the circuit on Base leg which we did, however before this I got confused and found myself thinking if we took off on 06 we need to land in the opposite direction i.e. 24!  I know this is wrong, but in my confused state it made sense to me! Mike needless to say corrected me and we joined left base for 06. With little or no wind the approach was faster and I rounded out and then stopped the round out and bounced, I put power on and went around the next time I was more composed and made an OK landing and taxied back to the club house for a much needed cup of tea.

As I was last to use the aeroplane and now have a share in it I needed to wash it before putting it away.

Just before washing it Frank was coming back in his Flexwing which provided me with something to take pictures of for this post!

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I really enjoy my first navigation exercise, but it has also served to remind me just how much more I need to learn and how much more practice is needed before it becomes second nature.

Round and round we go, not in the circuit but advanced turning

Simon and I went over for our lessons together and only just made it there in time due to cars queuing after leaving the car boot sale down the road, note to self to leave a little earlier in future!

On arrival Pete very kindly made us a cup of tea and Simon discussed the lesson he was about to have, “EX 10b – Stalling” with Mike. Pat and Katie went for a fly in Pat’s C42 and shortly after Mike and Simon set off too.

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On their return more tea was drunk and Mike produced a large Panettone cake and cut Katie a large slice which she somehow ate!!!

Today, by way of a change and mainly due to the wind direction and gusts we didn’t do circuits in my lesson, I would like to say it was due to me having become proficient in landings, but I’m not there yet! Instead we did “Advanced turning (up to 60° bank angle) – To carry out a coordinated level turn at steep angles of bank and to recognise and recover from a spiral dive” this was both new and fun for me!

We left on runway 24, which was a relief as 29 had been being used, it’s not too bad for taking off, but not the best runway for landing on when you are still learning as it is shorter, narrower and you come in over some power lines. We climbed up to 3,500 feet as we wanted the calm air above the inversion layer, with Peterborough visible in the near distance Mike demonstrated the 45 degree turn and then let me have a go. The 45 degree turn is much like any other turn except you need a bit more back pressure and you need to up the revs a little. I found turning anti clockwise I was losing height and when turning clockwise I was gaining height, this Mike explained, is a common error and is caused by using the nose as a point of reference to the horizon and not where the horizon was on the windscreen, I then tried again and it was much better. Next came the 60 degree turns, wow you can really feel the G force in these turns pulling on your face, its only around 2 G, but you feel it none the less. In these turns it’s principally the same as the 45 degree turns, but it takes more power and considerably more back pressure. On my first attempt I let the nose drop and nearly entered a spiral dive, which is the next part of the lesson! The next attempt went better and on coming out of the turn we felt a bump, which is a good thing, it means we have hit our own wake turbulence meaning we had done a full 360 turn and remained at the correct height.

Next came the spiral dive, this is when you do a 60 degree (or steep) turn and let the nose drop causing the speed to build to dangerous levels, the normal reaction to this is to pull the stick back to reduce the angle of attack and reduce speed, but as you are in a steep turn doing so just tightens the turn and makes it more violent, or at least that was how I perceived it. Mike explained what we need to do is, take the power off and roll the wings level, as the aeroplane levels the nose comes up and at this point we apply full power and climb back to our designated height.

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This concluded the lesson, but next was to find the airfield, not a clue had I! What could I see? a town with a prison and railway, well that as it turns out is March, and a gentle turn I spotted Ely cathedral in the distance and the drain below us, from here I knew where we were and flew us back and we joined downwind for runway 24. On final it was a bit hairy with the gusts and I was bit all over the place, but the flare and touch down was quite good especially given the conditions, the only issue I had was Mike telling me to move the stick to the right, well apart from when you are side slipping you move the stick and rudder in the same direction, which I did in an almost automatic fashion and then found we were steering off the runway and I needed to correct it. I was that surprised at my landing in these conditions I found myself asking Mike if he had assisted, but apparently it was all my own work.


Mike and I put the C42 in the hanger and returned to the club house for a cup of tea!