Runway 21 and the curse of the trees!

There was no flying last week due to the wind, however I went to the club anyway and I took some hooks with me which Katie and I fitted to the cupboard that Pat had built for our Group’s aeroplane, so there was not much to blog about.

Before today most of my circuit training has been on runway 24 which is nice and long and wide, but today the wind and mud dictated we use runway 21. It was also yet another windy and gusty day, you can tell when it’s not a great day to fly when you arrive and see all the aeroplanes are safely in the hanger and there are lots of places left to park!

It had only been two weeks since my last lesson, but on the first circuit I had managed to forget just about everything, climb attitude, letting the nose drop in the turns and as for the touch and go, well I was so preoccupied by the sight of the trees on the threshold and missing them I came in way to high and ended up powering on and going around, the next attempt wasn’t much better to the point that Mike flew the next approached and showed me how easy it could be even in these trick conditions!

As you come in over the trees the wind shear means you drop a lot of height quickly, or maybe it was just the way the wind was, either way if the approach looked good way out it was actually to low! My third and fourth circuit were OK, not as good as Mike’s, but then he is the instructor. On what should have been my last landing I seem to have re calibrated  my internal altimeter by around 15ft and we were forced to go around again as I rounded out to high. My actual last landing (the extra one) was OK, not the best of the day, but it was OK.

On taxiing back I mentioned to Mike that I have trouble remembering which runway is what and he suggested I walk the runways, when we got back in the clubhouse he volunteered Katie to take me around the airfield. It was interesting to walk the runways and Katie knows the history of them too, but I’m not sure it has helped me to remember them, however it did show me how wet and muddy they are currently, I think I may now have trench foot!

Approach

I now have a 1/8 share in the training aeroplane so after Simon returned I offered to wash it for the first time and I could not believe the amount of mud on the underside and tail plane, roll on the summer, but then it will be bug season and I assume they are more sticky to get off then the mud!

One last thing to mention is the strobe is back on the aeroplane and working just fine thanks to a team effort, I fixed the electronics, Pat machined out the aluminium tube and fitted it and Mike glued the bits together and refitted it to the aeroplane, total cost of the repair was around £12 compared to a new strobe at £85.

So in conclusion, not as good as my last lesson, but the conditions were a lot trickier; I feel I’m making progress, but not as fast as I would have liked.

Let them eat cake, oh and a great day to fly and practice my landings!

What a difference a week makes, last week too wet and windy this week hardly a cloud in the sky and only a light wind. So time to fly, but wait as I’m checking the aeroplane out ready for my lesson Alan arrives together with his wife and granddaughter and CAKE, lots of cake! Well those of you that read my blog may have noted the occasional reference to Alan and the lovely cakes and savouries he brings in, all freshly baked by his wife. Well today we had both quantity and quality, but the club house was full and it was unlikely there would be any left by the time we got back!

All the C42’s were out when I first arrived and Hazel was just getting her Thruster out in fact the hanger was looking decidedly empty, I have not seen it this empty since the summer. I went into the clubhouse and got the strobe out of my flight bag and showed Katie the capacitor that had blown. Shortly after Pat and Sheila arrival and then Mike returned in the training C42, I hooked up the Strobe to my test power supply and showed Pat it working, it was just the capacitor that had malfunctioned, the only issue I have now is putting it back together! I had ordered the correct size tubing online, but instead of sending me 57mm they sent me 60mm which was too big, I’m waiting for them to return my email on the matter, I will report back.

Hazel going off in her Thruster
The ad said 57mm not 60.001

I’m interested to find out if the strobe issue is a common fault, so if you have a self-contained strobe unit such as the Skyflash 2000 that is not working and would like to donate it to me, please send me a message via my contact page.

So to my lesson, my last flying blog was entitled “Going backwards in the circuit” and I was quite down beat about things, well like the weather things were a lot better today, my first two landings were quite good, even Mike said so, the third I came in a little hard and bounce so full power straight on and around we went. I noticed something different on this landing, on the first two landings I had ensured I changed my focus from the landing point to the end of the runway and told myself not to land, but to fly as far down the runway I could without landing which resulted in a good slow landing, this was not new Mike had told me this before but today it seemed to make more sense to me. On the bounce landing I noticed I kept my focus on the landing point, so the next time I made sure I changed my focus as I had the first two and again I landed quite well, the only real issue was still only using the left side of the runway! We didn’t get as many circuits in today as the parachute club are back from their Christmas break and they have priority.

When we returned to the clubhouse to our surprise there was some cake left, a great way to round of the days flying and today I actually feel like I made progress, but I have been here before, so yet again I will need to wait until my next lesson to see if it was progress or not!

This blog continues to get hits ranging from 50 to 105 per days and both my twitter and blog followers continue to build, now if only I could find a company who would like a low cost advert to help me offset my running cost that would be great too!

Lastly, but not least it remains for me to say thank you to all who have uploaded photos, many in response to my request for photos on the www.microlightforum.com which is a great place to hang out if you don’t already. However not all forums are as happy to help, Flyer’s forum www.flyer.co.uk  cancelled my post asking their members if they could help with “Disapproved” for the following reason “The reported message has the only purpose to advertise for a website or another product” I have emailed them back pointing out that my site is not a commercial venture or a rival to theirs and the link was direct to the upload page, I have asked them to reconsider, but to date no reply, oh well I guess not all forums are as self-assured as Microlightforum.com.

If you do have any pictures please help me grow the collection by uploading them here.

Grounded by the wind and how to take a strobe apart!

When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” – Henry Ford

A nice quote from Henry Ford and quite apt after my previous blog post here, but alas when the wind blows hard microlight pilots can but sit and drink tea!

Another disappointing day today due to a different reason; Mike let us know that there would be no flying due to the strong and gusting wind, I really wanted to fly in the hope of putting last week’s trials well and truly into the past.

I decided to go to the club anyway for a cup of tea and a chat. On arrival I saw my instructor Mike outside cutting drainage channels into the concrete slab, I asked if there was anything I could do to help, but my timing was impeccable as Mike had just finished so I went into the clubhouse and made the tea. In the clubhouse were Katie and Pat, passing the time of day with their usual banter, but welcomed the offer of a cup of tea.

I went and took some pictures of some of the Microlights which I have uploaded to the photos page on this site here. Talking about the site there has been quite an upturn on the page hits over the last week with a new daily high of 105 and a number of days above 70 hits per day. This seems to be traffic coming from Twitter, a post on the Microlight forum asking for people to upload pictures and from Google with people searching for “air law notes”, I hope that it will continue, but time will tell.

Shortly after I had made the tea Mick and Julie arrived and they were soon followed by Alan who was carrying a food parcel of savouries and cake, always a welcome site! We all sat around passing the time of day and optimistically hoping the wind would die down so we could fly, however it did not happen.

Collision avoidance strobe

The collision avoidance strobe light on our aeroplane had been removed as it had stopped working a few weeks earlier, I asked if I could take it home to see if I could find what was wrong with it and I also like seeing how thinks work. It’s a Skyflash 2000 self-contained strobe only requiring 12V dc and no external driver unit; it is a sealed unit with no obvious way of taking it apart that could be successfully reversed if it could be repair.

Inside the strobe
Strobe

After careful examination and noting another’s attempt to open it I came to the conclusion the aluminium ring must be holding an upper and lower plastic moulding with the circuitry sandwiched between them, but try as I might the aluminium ring would not turn or move in any direction. As the unit was scrap anyway I decided to take a craft cutting disc to the band, as I carefully cut throughout the band it suddenly sprung open a little, working my way around the band I managed to separate it from the plastic body to reveal the construction I had assumed they used. It looks as if the band, upper and lower parts had a silicon type bonding agent keeping all of them together.

Now it was open it was obvious where the problem was, the storage capacitor had blown its top and leaked its electrolyte out for good measure.

Warning: Xenon strobes use high voltage for striking the flash tube it may only be 12V dc in, but its hundreds of volts across the tube.

 

I have ordered a new capacitor which cost a little over £5 and we will see if that is the only thing that is wrong with the flash unit once it arrives. If so the next challenge will be to find a tube with an internal diameter of 55mm and 27 mm in length to hold it all together!

To be continued…

Going backwards in the circuit

Another day in the circuit, I don’t mind spending week after week in the circuit especially when I feel like I’m progressing, but today is a day I would rather forget! Anything I could do wrong today I did, I was letting the nose drop in the turn and coming out 100ft lower then when I entered the turn, rolling out on the centre line from base leg to final would have been good, but no most of the time today I had to correct it. coming down to steep, coming down to shallow, too far to left  on the runway, not enough flare on landing, touching down with too much speed and so the list goes on…

To make matters worse I read 3 – 5 lessons are normally needed in the circuit, well I have done a lot more than that and today I seemed to be going backwards in abilities. Both the club instructors tell me this is normal and most, if not all need a lot more time in the circuit then I have read and they reassure me that I’m making progress. However as I write this I can’t see a time when I can consistently land and they are not optional! This is much more frustrating than I thought it would be as I know what to do and when my instructor says turn here, throttle off here, flaps down… it all seems to work fine and I land OK, so I can do it, I know what to do, I just can’t do it on my own, its total frustrating.

If anyone has got any tips I would be glad to hear them.

Does using a PC flight simulator help?

On a different note today was the first day that I flew the C42 as a share owner which made every heavy touch down even more painful, but at least my eBay purchased noise cancelling headset seems to work OK.

You can also now follow my frustrations on twitter

Follow Me!

Who knows one day I may just progress from flying the circuit.

Web site hits new high

The blog hit a new high on Friday 24th Jan with 75 visitors in one day, I know it’s no Google or BBC but I was very pleased nonetheless.

Top search terms were “learn to fly” followed by “Microlight VFR” and then “e-Go”. The user stats have been bouncing around, as can be seen from the graph with a previous high of 66 (not on the graph) when a blog contained the words “engine failure” in the title, just goes to show how people like to read about drama.

A couple of people have messaged me to ask why I have not posted an update on my progress (or the lack of it!) for a while well it is quite simply down to the weather, if I don’t fly I tend not to blog. I did go to the fly club this weekend and the two instructors Mike and Katie were there, but no one else. The parking area for the aeroplanes looked like a small lake maybe we should fit floats to the C42s, now there’s an idea!!!

c42-floats

I went over as I was due to fly so I had nothing else planned and during the week I had bought myself a David Clark H20-10X headset from a well known online auction house. They were advertised as being in good condition and working, however when I got them they had two issues, the mic boom would not stay in place and the LED light that flashes to say the battery pack is supplying power was not flashing. I emailed the seller who assured me they were working when he last used them and that he had sold them with good intent, going by his tone I believed him and decided to keep them and ask my instructor to take a look at them, before sending them back to the sell if they still didn’t work.

Not everyone seems to know this, but if you use “buy it now” as opposed to bidding, even on a second hand item you are covered by the distant trading laws, no matter what the seller may say or put in their listing, they cannot be more restrictive than the rights you have in law. I’m not sure what the case is if you are buy from an overseas seller, but that was not the case for me anyway.

After having a little play with them I found the LED would come on if I put pressure on the connection to the battery pack and the mic stayed in place if I push the plastic sleeve back into the hole where it exits the head set.

Mike is very thorough in everything he does or so he seems; I guess that’s a good trait for a flying instructor, he tested them out tighten the battery connection and found one of the cable strain reliefs needed replacing so fitted a new heat shrink to it. I now have a working headset which I can’t wait to try out in the air, hopefully next week UK weather permitting

I’m thinking maybe I should write some reviews and then just maybe I would get some free samples!!!

e-Go reaches significant point in its funding

On the 11th December 2013 e-Go launched on www.SyndicateRoom.com to allow its many supporters and anyone else interested, the opportunity to become a shareholder and part of its exciting development journey.

They recently broke the £500,000 barrier, Malcolm Bird of e-Go told Clear Prop “we would like to raise £800k but can run a reasonable plan with £650k. The £500k is just a milestone towards our goal”. A number of news articles have incorrectly report that e-Go has met its target, while its true they have made great progress they are currently a little short, which is good news of anyone wanting to invest in this amazing aeroplane.

On SyndicateRoom.com e-Go state “e-Go aeroplanes is creating the striking, new, very lightweight e-Go aircraft. It will cost dramatically less to fly than traditional aircraft and is a design-led product for discerning pilots who relish new experiences. It uses novel technologies for performance yet achieves a low cost of development and operation by exploiting the newly deregulated environment in the UK. Interest in the product is high and we already have first deposits for aircraft which will be delivered in 2015.”

We hope they make it soon as we look forward to seeing the e-Go flying in the skies near us.

Pictures reproduced with the kind permission of e-Go Aeroplanes

 

Crosswind Circuits and Navigation Exam

This weekend I was at the club both Saturday and Sunday, Saturday was to take my navigation exam and Sunday was my lesson.

Saturday

The navigation exam for me was the most difficult of all the exams, you also get the longest time to complete the 20 questions and for the first time I used it all!

I should not have been surprised at finding it difficult as I had done the least revision for this exam, as I was unsure what to revise as the Microlight hand book is a bit light on the subject of navigation. Well it was a struggle and I came out certain that I had failed, however Mike returned with the news that I had passed, but only just which was disappointing in some way and a great relief in other ways.

For some reason my mind went blank in the exam, I could not remember how to use my whiz wheel or at least the answers it was giving me was directly between 2 possible answers on the sheet. I decided to draw the triangle out and again I was unsure as my result was not listed, this would not have been a problem if it was close to only one answer, but it wasn’t. In hindsight I was not really ready for this exam, plus I also had other things on my mind which did not help. Oh well a pass is a pass and I can now concentrate on the flying!

I would just like to say that I think taking this exam last is a good idea, as a couple of the answers to questions came from other chapters in the book. Also within the book it does say to get familiar with reading the charts and locating place on them, this is something well worth practicing before sitting the exam, it would have saved me some time that I could have put to good use on other answers.

Invalid Displayed Gallery

Sunday

Crosswind circuits and landings were the order of the day thanks to weather! Well I guess I had to do them at some point so probably just as well. Today’s runway was 19 and we taxied out around all the mud and little lakes that have appeared and lined up on 19. I think taking off is one of my favourite bits, full power hurtling down the runway, immediately followed by gently and serenely climbing skyward over the countryside. Most of my circuits have be flown from runway 24 so Mike showed me the circuit and I took over for the landing which was OK, not great but OK, having to “de crab” just before touchdown was a new thing for me and something else to try and coordinate. De crabbing is the term used when you come in to land slightly sideward to allow for the crosswind and then before landing you need to straighten up in line with the runway so you land with the wheels pointing in the correct direction. As the lesson progressed I was getting better so we decided to continue the lesson with full flap landings and these were not too bad either, my last land was the best of the day and Mike commented “that was not bad at all” and “a good one to finish on”. So maybe I’m finally getting my eye in on the landings, time will tell!

On returning to the clubhouse there was a lovely cup of tea waiting for Mike and I made by Katie, it’s one of the things I like about the club is how friendly it is, everyone talks and makes tea, I’m glad I chose this club to learn to fly with and hope to continue to fly here once I have my licence.

Circuit Training with a twist – Engine Failure on take-off

Today (8th December 2013) like the last few weeks was more circuit training, the conditions were a little bit windy to the point that the parachute club next door were not operating, but that didn’t stop us!

Today’s runway is 24*.  I could describe the circuit, but I have done that a few time in other posts, so what was different today well not too much to be honest, I still seem to get the height above the runway wrong on occasions and don’t normally pull the stick far enough back on the flare, but the news here is that we may have found out why! I tend to fly with my arm on the armrest, which seems to limit the movement of the stick as I’m using my wrist to move it and not my arm (too many hours spent on the Xbox 360), Mike spotted this and the last two landings were better so we will see next week if this is the key to my issue.

The twist this week is Mike took over on a climb out at just over 200ft and showed me what to do if we have an engine failure on take-off. We had also discussed this in the pre-flight briefing, you must get the nose down explained Mike and select a landing spot ahead of you, don’t try and go around and land back on the airfield you won’t make it, he adds.

We continued flying circuits and after another couple we are claiming out and Mike says engine failure and takes the power back to idle!  I impressed myself! Nose down selected a field to land in had time to put a stage of flap on and flew the best approach of the day right down to the field and then, just before touch down, full power and around we go. I guess it’s best for the farmer’s field and the aeroplane that we don’t actually put it down in the field if we don’t need to.

On the last circuit Mike says ok this time let’s make it a full flap landing and I make probable the best landing of my lesson.

I still find it very infuriating that at best I’m inconsistent, why is this part so damn hard? I likened it to when I was a martial artist, progression through to brown belt was quick, but the level of detail and consistency need to go from brown to black is a marked step change and that took me a while too, so maybe there is hope and maybe there is now a dim light shining at the end of my current tunnel!

How did you fined learning to land, easy, or is your experience similar to mine, I would love to know so why not add a comment below?

I rounded off the day by taking my Human Performance and limitations exam, which I’m glad to say is a lot easier than learning to land, I passed this leaving only the Navigation and Aeroplane technical exams to do, which I will probably leave until the New Year.

As I was leaving for the day I looked back and saw this lovely view view.

Sunset at Chatteris Airfield

* Runway numbering, as a passenger on a commercial airliner I had always wondered why an airport with 1 or 2 runways number them 27, 24, 03 etc. well since I started to learn to fly that is now obvious to me and it turns out to be quite sensible too! The runway number is the first 2 digits of the heading the runway aligns to. So if you are on the center line and lined up straight down the middle of runway 24 the compass will read 240 degrees.