It’s been a busy couple of days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video by Katie

Flying on a Wednesday evening, who would have thought!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Fenland airfield gets Déjà vu!

Low cloud 80% chance of rain and no cake at the club things were looking very bleak at the club for my dual and solo to Fenland!

To make things even worse Katie and Tom had just decided to land as rain was moving overhead Chatteris airfield, oh well no solo and possible no dual for me today, I thought to myself.

With that Mike turned to me and said do you want to go flying? Do you think the weather is OK for your cross country? Well I said, it is supposed to start improving from 12:00 and clear by 14:00 if you are OK with it I’m OK!

So I checked the aeroplane over and found it was a little low on oil, Katie duly added a 100ml and this put it back to where it normally sits.

I pulled GL out of the hanger and then phoned Fenland airfield, they were open and the weather was reported as light rain.

As I warmed our C42 up, light rain began to come down, but by the time we taxied out it had all but stopped. Off we went towards Chatteris town, over the Forty Foot (or Vermuden’s) drain and turned towards the wind farm to intercept the course, we were at about 1,300ft, but some passing cloud forced us down to around 1,000ft. Whittlesey was our waypoint and not even I can miss Whittlesey with the brickworks chimneys of Whittlesey towering into the sky! The Railway station was my turning point and flying the heading took us directly over it, an almost 90° turn to the right and we were heading to Fenland airfield, at Thorney we were a little left of track, I always seem to end up left of track and I think this is due to a tendency to fly slightly left wing down, I must work on that!  With Spalding in the distance and the river Welland in the distance on my left as markers I altered course to the right and I could see fenland airfield in the distance. The cloud base was too low for an overhead join as we had planned to do, so Mike asked how I planned to join now.  Remembering the discussion we had earlier that day I knew the joining turn has to be in the direction of the circuit, so my plan as it was a left hand circuit was to fly towards the Base leg downwind meeting point and join there, this got Mike’s approval and as we approached he pointed out reference points for the circuit. The join and the landing all went to plan and we parked up and had a cup of tea!

Parked at Fenland

The flight back all went to plan, the rain had gone and the cloud base had lifted to around 1,300ft all the way back and the conditions continued to slowly improved.

Back on the ground Mike asked if I was going to add fuel before my solo back to Fenland! My solo was on!!!

I refuelled and had a quick bit to eat before setting off. For once I hit all my marks and did not go off to the left. I called Fenland radio and was told to watch out for another aeroplane on long final and asked for my position, I gave it and saw the other plane in the distance, I watched him come in, timing my base leg join so he was on the ground as I joined. Again the landing was good and I taxied over, parked up and paid my landing fee. I had forgotten to take a cross country form to be signed, but luckily the flight school at Fenland let me have one of theirs and signed it for me, a second guy in the school comment it’s déjà vu I saw you here earlier didn’t I!

Time to head back, this like the flight over all went to plan too!

So now with both solo cross countries completed my GST is getting nervously close…

 

 

 

Solo Practice

The sun was shining and the overnight rain had stopped, the ground was soft and by the time I arrived at the flying club the car which I had cleaned less than 24 hours before was now covered in mud!

I arrived a few minutes late today, mainly due to a large number of caravans on the road. In the clubhouse Mike had made us all a cup of tea and there was some cake of a new variety left over from Saturday, I’m not sure what it was called, I think Katie said it was a Lumberjack cake, it was good whatever it was, but my favourite cake at the club remains the upside down cake that Alan’s wife makes.

In the hanger Dave was fitting a brand new landing light a 15W (3x5W) LED light to his C42, although I did not see him coming in to land those who did said they could see his light a long way out, long before they saw the C42!

As I dunk my tea Mike and I discussed today’s lesson which was to flight out solo over to the drains and practice steep turns, stalls, and engine failures.

Checks complete, I taxied out to runway 24 and took off turned to the east and climbing to 2,500ft once over the drains I started with the stalls and found following the refresher a couple of weeks or so earlier I was able to make the aeroplane stall each and every time; my recoveries seemed a little aggressive, in that I tent to put the stick forward to quickly and too far, but on each attempt my height loss was less than 100ft with my best attempt being around 70ft. Next I tried steep turns and these seemed ok, I even hit my own wake turbulence a couple of times! So on to the practice engine failures, I pre-selected a field each time to ensure I was away from houses etc and using the constant aspect ratio method I would have made it into each and every field, which is a great improvement, the only issue I have with this method is I find it gives me a very short final approach and I’m too low to convert to a normal final.

Katie and Julie about to go up
Manea from 2,500ft

Time goes to fast while I’m flying and it was time to return to the airfield, I joined on downwind 24 and making the call, I also asked for confirmation that all canopies were down and got the reply that they were. By now I could also see the parachute plane backtracking runway 19. He lined up ready for take-off as I turned onto base leg and duly took-off. For some reason I flew straight passed the centreline for 24 and was heading for 19, I guess subconsciously my mind was following the parachute plane, I made a couple of turns and quickly got back on track for 24, the landing was light, but the plane seemed to float a long way down the runway before touching down due to the lack of a headwind. When I was having problems with circuits I think this was a worry for me and maybe why I failed to keep it flying and made it touch down! This time as I floated along I recalled one of Mike’s maxims and I paraphrase “If you have not touched down then you are still flying, so simply put the power on and go around if you run out of runway”  this was nearly always followed up with “no one has ever crashed into the sky!”.

Our C42 is out of action now for the next 3 weeks as every 5 years the ballistic parachute has to be removed and sent a way to have a new rocket motor and the parachute repacked.

Next Saturday most if not all of the syndicate are planning to get together and clean her as well as doing any little jobs that are needed, I’m looking forward to us all meeting up for the first time!

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 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 base leg instead, I missing 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 over exposed and out of focus. The over exposure was easy to fix, I use the camera in manual mode so as to “disk” the prop and last week had it set way to 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.

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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 remembered 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 and 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 fly 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 cross wind 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 “noisy” landing, I will be listening to the others landing to see which it is!

 

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.

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.