Land ahoy!

Weather wasn’t looking great today. The morning was Ok, but the afternoon forecast called for showers, with the odd thunderstorm too.

Spoke to Steve (instructor number 3) this morning, and he seemed to think that the weather was gonna be Ok. Checked again later in the morning and he still thought it would be Ok, so I left work around lunchtime and headed over to Brize.

Pass is now sorted, so I don’t need escorting onto the station. This meant I could get in relatively easily, not having to wait for someone to come and fetch me from the gate. However, it also meant I was a good couple of hours early, so I sat in the club reading magazines and the pre-lesson brief in the Pratt book.

Steve came back from his previous lesson, and another surprise was presented to me. Steve’s mate was with him, and this was my first lesson with a 3rd person in the plane as a passenger!

Steve and I retreated to the ground school classroom, where he went over the briefing for the first part of ‘Stalls’. This was to cover stalling in the ‘clean’ configuration, with varying power settings. We went through the HASELL checks, early indications of a stall and the recovery procedures for when the stall happens. I have to admit to a slight nervousness over this lesson, as operating an aeroplane that was no longer flying didn’t particularly appeal!

So, we went back to the club, and Steve had me book out (a first). Then after I carried out the transit checks, and we all boarded, I went through the pre-start checklist, and actually managed to get the engine started myself (another first!). Then the pre-taxi checklist was completed, the last item of which is ‘Obtain taxi clearance’. I looked expectantly across to Steve, and he said ‘Off you go then’. Gulp.

So, ‘Brize Tower, G-BNRG request taxi. 3 POB for Burford departure’. Strangely enough, the person in the tower seemed to understand the gibberish that actually came out of my mouth, and I received my very first taxi clearance. Managed to acknowledge it, and we headed off to the hold point. Power checks complete, and I then requested ATC clearance, before switching to the tower frequency to inform them we were ready to go.

Line up instruction received, I taxyed us out to the runway, and Steve took over for the takeoff and I followed through on the controls. At a couple of hundred feet I took over, and we headed out to Burford, after switching over to Brize Zone.

At Burford, we let ‘Zone’ know our intentions (operating in the training area up to 4000 feet) and requested FIS before heading out and climbing.

The most noticeable thing was that ‘best rate of climb’ speed of 85 knots didn’t actually produce much of a climb. Obviously a third person in the aircraft makes a very noticeable difference (indeed, I had already noticed that a small amount of left aileron was required to maintain wings level) so we had to climb at more like 75 knots to actually get somewhere.

Once we reached 4000 feet, we carried out the HASELL check, including a figure of eight to clear the area we were about to go plummeting into when the wings stopped working 🙂

Steve demonstrated the first stall (power off), and then I had a go myself. First surprise was how difficult it was to actually get the aircraft to stall. A huge amount of back pressure was required to get from the point where the stall horn was blaring, into a fully developed stall. Even when the stall developed, there was just a relatively tame drop of the nose before the recovery was initiated (at this point, simply lowering the nose until we had about 60 knots or so and could then come back to level attitude and add some power).

Second stall was with some power, and third with full power. The nose-up attitude required to stall at full power was definitely a shock! By this point I was carrying out standard stall recovery (including full power) and had got to the point where we were only losing a hundred feet or so before recovering.

These short exercises actually took about 40 minutes or so, so we then decided to head back to Brize. Steve had found something interesting on the ground he wanted to look at, so demonstrated the ’emergency descent’. This basically entailed reducing power, dropping full flaps and then beginning a steep (about 60 degree) turn, keeping the air speed around the 70 knot mark. We were now descending at something like 1200 feet per minute, without too much of a drama.

Once down to 1500 feet, we headed back towards Brize. It took me a little while to work out why we were only managing to do about 75 knots at straight and level, until I realised we still had full flaps deployed! Chris and I agreed that it was probably a good idea to raise them at this point :). We continued towards Brize, and I actually managed to pick out Burford (and its garden centre) ahead! Perhaps this navigation lark isn’t going to be as traumatic as I first thought!

Steve made the call to zone to get us clearance to re-enter, and we were given a direct base leg join. I flew us along the A40 as I’d been previously shown, before contacting the tower (me back on the radio) to inform them where we were. At this point my radio work went all to pot:

PTT – ‘Brize Tower, G-BNRG base’ – release PTT – short pause – (thinks – ‘Oh yeah’) – PTT – ‘to land’

Obviously the short pause made Tower think I was finished, so my ‘to land’ obliterated the start of their response, and they had to call back to get me to ‘confirm my intention to land’. Whoops.

We continued on base, carrying out the pre-landing checks (another first for me) and slowing down while dropping the first two stages of flap. Managed not to cock up the call to final, but did respond incorrectly with ‘Clear land, G-BNRG’ when apparently we’re not allowed to use the word ‘Clear’ (implying I’m giving myself a clearance, I should have just said ‘Land, G-BNRG’).

Continued the approach as I’ve done before, trying to maintain the runway centre line while keeping the correct ‘picture’ to get us to touch down at the correct point. Got down to 200 feet (at which point previous instructors had taken over) and when we were down to about 150 feet I said ‘Errr….I haven’t landed yet’, to which Steve responded ‘That’s Ok, you’re doing fine’.

Gulp.

So I continued on, fixating (completely incorrectly) at the touchdown point on the runway. Once we got close I should have switched my focus to the far end of the runway to maintain the centreline and help with the decision on the flare point.

As it happened, the only thing Steve said he did was stop me pushing forward on the yoke as we got close to the ground (something I had no intention of doing!) and with a bit of a bump we were down, miles from the centre line. My first landing!

This was the first time I had control on the runway at landing speed too (blimey, how many firsts in one lesson?) and we weaved from side to side a little as I tried to regain and then maintain the centre line. Apparently some back pressure will help with this.

Got us slowed down, and off the runway, and then made the call to Tower to let them know we were clear. They gave us clearance to taxy back, which I did and parked in front of the bowser ready to refuel.

All I can say about this lesson really is ‘Wow’. So many ‘firsts’ and most of them I seemed to managed to handle relatively well. I think it’s proved to me that although there’s still an awful lot to learn, at no point was I so horribly overwhelmed that it all became too much for me. A very satisfying lesson on the whole, and I have to congratulate Steve on how calm he made me feel despite all the ‘new’ things that were being piled upon me.

Next lesson, Stalls part 2. I can’t wait 🙂

Total flight time today: Dual 0:55 – Solo – 0:00
Take-offs: 0 – Landings: 1

Total flight time to date: Dual 5:50 – Solo 0:00
Take-offs to date: 0 – Landings to date: 1

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