Round and around and around…

Well, the British weather likes to keep me on my toes. Was fairly bright first thing this morning, but the weather forecast didn’t look great. Sure enough, on the way to Brize the cloudbase was coming down, and there were a few light showers.

The Met officer at Brize confirmed my fears. The weather was here to stay, if we were lucky it would clear up mid afternoon.

Trudged back to the club (in the rain!) and gave Paul (first time I’d flown with him) the bad news. We decided to hang on and see what happened, and he briefed my on ‘advanced turning’.

While not a manouever you would using during normal flight, this lesson serves two main purposes. Firstly, a steep turn (45 degrees or more of bank) requires carefully co-ordinated use of all the controls to complete correctly. Secondly, the ‘max rate’ turn is something that is useful to know should your lookout ever fail and you find yourself rapidly approaching another aircraft, being able to rapidly alter course to get away from it is important.

Also, the potential pitfalls of these steep turns are the possibility of allowing airspeed to decay and stall, or to fail to keep the nose up and end up in a spiral descent.

Alpha Fox had already been checked out by the guy who was here for a club checkout, so myself and Paul dragged it out of the hangar (once the nearly dead battery had got the hangar door open!) and juggled it and JP around a bit.

The wind had picked up on the walk out to the aircraft, so Paul asked the Tower for a wind check before we started up, to make sure we weren’t outside the aircraft limits. He was happy with the result, so we continued.

Taxying out and the pre flight checks were all completed normally, but Paul jumped out at the hold to take a look at the nose leg, because we seemed to be sitting lower thank we should. He was satisfied again, so we carried on.

This was my first day with a strong crosswind for a long time, so I had to be careful with the crosswind takeoff technique. In order to stop the aircraft drifting along the runway, plenty of ‘into wind’ aileron is used, gradually reducing as the ground speed builds up and the ailerons become more effective. Then at 65 knots you rotate, and allow the aircraft to ‘weather cock’ into the wind. Once you’re at a safe height, you can then revert to more ‘normal’ control inputs to maintain the runway centre line.

Departure was all normal, we headed out to Burford and then out into the training area. Quick Freda check, and we were ready to begin!

Paul demonstrated some 45 degree turns in each direction, then I had a go. Entering the turn was Ok, using the correct combination of aileron, rudder, back pressure and increased power, but I was having trouble maintaining the correct attitude during the turn, so always ended up climbing or descending.

We then moved on to stalling in the turn and recovering from the spiral descent. The increase in airspeed in the spiral descent is quite pronounced, and if you’re not carefully to can rapidly exceed the limits of the aircraft. The recovery is fairly straightforward though. Power to idle, roll the wings level and gently use back pressure to arrest the descent and begin the climb. Then once the airspeed decays back to a more normal value, you can reapply power and continue.

Paul then demonstrated the max rate turn. This is an emergency manoeuver, used to get out of the path of an oncoming aircraft. The procedure is similar to the steep turn, but you use full power. This enables you to get a much steeper angle of bank and use more back pressure to maintain height. The idea is to carry out this manoeuver with the stall warning going off intermittently, adding and removing bank to stay just above the stall speed. You can build up some decent ‘g’ loadings doing this, and it was great fun!

We finished off with a couple more practice steep turns, which I carried out much more successfully than the previous attempts. I guess it’s the sort of thing that you master with practice, so it’ll get better with time.

We then headed back to Brize, using a side-slip to get down to the required 1000 feet QFE before arriving at Burford. We were still too high, so I had to turn away to allow us to descend sufficiently.

We switched to Tower from Zone and were cleared to join right base. They gave us the wind as from 300 at 10 knots, a significant crosswind component for runway 26. Again, it’d been a while since I had to do a crosswind landing, so Paul said I should just do the best I could, and if at any point I was unhappy he would take over.

Carried out the downwind checks and joined base. Called ‘final’ at the appropriate time and began the descent to the runway. Paul warned me that the wind was likely to push me through the centre line (which it did!) and as we lined up for the approach we were in an obvious ‘crab’ to maintain the centre line.

Speed control wasn’t great, wandering between 65 and 70 knots on the final approach, but nothing too much to worry about. Paul reminded me of the technique for a crosswind landing, which is to roundout at the usual height, then just before touchdown to ‘kick off’ the crab using (in this case) left rudder, and lower the right wing into the wind to maintain the centre line.

Amazingly, it all went perfectly! I rounded out as normal, and was a bit unsure as to when to kick off the crab. Paul prompted me, and I kicked it off and used right aileron to stop us then drifting to the left with the wind. Finally flared just above the runway, and the stall warner gave a slight bleat just before the right main gear touched down. The left followed shortly after, and I remembered to reduce rudder pressure (don’t really want to get the nose wheel touched down pointing off to the left!) and allowed the nose wheel to come down.

We taxyed back, and Paul was very complimentary about my flying. It’d been a hard (physically) flight, not just because I’d decided to keep my fleece on, and doing all that ‘work’ in the cockpit had brought me out in to a sweat!

During the debrief Paul went back over what we’d covered, particularly reminding me about maintaining the ‘picture’ during the steep turn. If you keep the view out of the window constant, then everything else will take care of itself and you won’t need to keep correcting.

On the whole, a very enjoyable flight. Next in the lesson plans is a few sessions of solo general handling practice, followed by two introductory navigation sessions. Once these are out of the way, I have to pass 3 more exams before I can proceed on to Navigation proper.

Total flight time today: Dual 0:50 – Solo – 0:00
Take-offs: 1 – Landings: 1

Total flight time to date: Dual 19:20 – Solo 2:50
Take-offs to date: 71 – Landings to date: 66

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