Twas the lesson before Christmas, when all through the hanger not a microlight was stirring apart from Mick’s which was out!
OK so I’m no poet! But it was my last lesson before Christmas and it was to be solo revision, but with low cloud base and gusty winds, it was decided to make it a dual lesson.
I was not expecting to go flying this week due to having been poorly most of the week with a heavy cold, however I was feeling a bit better so I decided to drive over and see.
The aeroplane was in the hanger, but when I went to burp it I could feel the engine was warm and on checking I found it had already been out so no need to burp it today.
I pulled it out of the hanger and on to the grass where Mike and I climbed aboard, I ran through the pre-flight checks and I decided with the wind being strong and gusting to take off without flaps. We called Runway 21, but as re reached the threshold of 24 we could see the wind had changed a little so we decided to change to runway 24 and we lined up ready to take off.
As we rolled down 24 we were very soon airborne and climbing rapidly, 500ft and I switch off the fuel pump, 1,500ft and we levelled out due to cloud, to the south west there was a large gap in the clouds so we changed heading and flew towards it. We climbed above the first layer of clouds and reached 3,000ft, the view was spectacular, it was the first time I had flown above the broken clouds like this in a microlight and it reminded me of my first long-haul flight and why I love flying, it was also a lot smoother at this height. We flew around the hole in the clouds for a little while and I was wondering what today’s lesson would be or if it would just be a pleasant, but bumpy flight, then Mike uttered the words I dread! “Where are we” as usual I was not sure so Mike said to get the map out, which I did, I looked around for things I could recognise, a small town or village in front of me a large town or city at 2 O’clock and a runway in the distance just off my nose, but what did all this mean, I know it means I’m lost! After some prompting and be reminded to also factor in the direction we were flying I guessed that given the rough direction we had been flying the City was Peterborough and then all the other pieces fell into place the small village was Ramsey and the runway was Conington. I then spotter two more runways to our left and I should have kept quiet as Mike said “ok what are they?” After some searching and guessing they were identified as Alconbury and Upwood.
I made comment that this why I want to buy and fly with Skydemon, but as Mike said although Skydemon is very good what happens when the GPS doesn’t work, then you need to know how to identify where you are and fly from the map.
For some reason whenever Mike asks me the question “where are we?” I seem to panic and feel I must give an immediate answer when in the real world I could just obit or even ask for a training fix. I said this to Mike and he agreed and then had me use the radio to get a training fix, we had done this once before, but this time I was to do it! So I changed the radio to London central 121.50 and listened for 30 seconds to ensure they were not dealing with a real emergency and then made the call “Training Fix, Training fix, London Central, G-CEGL, request training fix” Back came the reply which I could not understand and I turned to Mike who had not caught it either, Mike said calmly just say “Say a gain G-GL” which I did and the operator repeated, he was requesting our current heading which we gave and then after about 20 seconds back came our location I replied “Roger G-GL” and they asking if I required any other assistance, I replied “Negative, Thanks for your help, Switching to Chatteris 129 decimal 9” this was for some reason very nerve-racking (I guess as I didn’t want to get it wrong or waste their time), but also very re assuring that there is a network of professional people just a radio call away that could help if needed and I had made the call myself, well with Mike coaching me.
Mike then said “fly us back to the airfield”, I knew if I turned on to an Easterly heading it should take us back to the airfield so that’s what I did, in the distance I could see a large river which concerned me as there is not one there if we were indeed where I thought we were! We flow over a railway track which I turned to follow as it should have been the line out of March which runs down to Ely crossing the drains and this would put the airfield on my right. After a few minutes I spotted the airfield and the river was in fact that drains which have flooded filling the area between them. My last challenge of the day was to land the C42 into the gusting wind, just as we rounded out a gust wind saw us rise and balloon up, Mike said to give it a little power then to take it off and keep the stick coming back which I did and we landed OK, I said to Mike I was about to go around and he said that normally or if I was on my own I should have gone around, but in these condition it probable would do the same again, I guess this is an advance technique to be mastered a lot later in my flying!