Back in the air again

Today was to be my first flight for 5 or 6 weeks. December is always busy for us so I didn’t really expect to get much flying in.

Was due to fly with Indi, the plan was to get myself checked out again and given the OK for solo, before doing some solo general handling work myself.

The weather looked great in Swindon, but the TAF for Brize Norton predicted worsening visibility, along with increasingly heavy showers. The actual for 9am included CBs and TCUs!

Decided to head out there anyway, and arrived at Brize around 10 O’Clock or so. Chatted with Indi to decide what we were going to do, before deciding the weather looked Ok, and heading off around 11:00 or so to get the plane checked out, aiming to leave around 11:45.

The plan was to go out into the local area to do some revision of general handling exercises, before coming back and finishing off with a few circuits. Then, if all went well and the weather was still Ok, I would go out and do a bit of solo work.

Pre flight went fine, and all the checks were normal up until the ‘ready for departure’ call, when Indi tapped the altimeter. I had written down the QFE when ATC had given it to me, but hadn’t actually set the altimeter. This is the second time I’ve done this now. The only reason I can suggest is that the pre-departure checklist just has a single item ‘Check instruments’. This involves checking the DI is aligned, that the AI and turn co-ordinator are working correctly, and that the altimeter is set to the correct QFE and showing (virtually) zero. I keep forgetting the altimeter bit, so I think I’ll write this specific item onto my checklist to ensure I don’t miss it in future.

We took off normally, and headed up to Burford, before climbing up to 3000 feet and heading North into the training area.

First item on the agenda was stalls. Initially a clean stall, recovering at the stall warner. This went well, and Indi asked me to do a ‘base turn’ stall. I thought I’d covered these before, but I obviously didn’t have the procedure down correct, as all I was doing was putting the plane into a gentle descending turn!

What I should have done, is get the aircraft configured for base leg (2 stages of flap, about 1750 rpm and 75 knots in a gentle descent), then on the turn to final ‘panic’, overbanking and pulling back too hard on the yoke, causing the aircraft to stall. Indi demonstrated this, and I had a couple of goes. These went better, which was good news.

We then moved onto some steep turns. By this point the sun was becoming a real problem, whenever we were heading into it visibility was almost nil due to the haze. Indi told me a technique to ‘lock’ my arm against the cockpit wall once I had the correct attitude selected, to avoid having to ‘hunt’ for the correct attitude repeatedly. None of my attempts was great, consistently losing or gaining 100 or 150 feet in the turn. Something I need a bit more practice at obviously.

We now decided to head back, as the visibility was getting worse and worse in the haze, and when we headed back towards Brize into the sun it was almost impossible to see. Indi was basically giving me vectors to steer. We ended up slightly North of where we intended (overhead Little Rissington) so then set course almost due South towards Burford after informing Brize of our position.

Several minutes later, there was no sign of Burford, and we started to try to work out where we were. Somehow, we had ended up at Blenheim Palace! Intending to fly about 5 nm South from Little Rissington, we appeared to have actually flown about 10nm East!

Neither of us are sure how this happened, but almost certainly the very poor visibility hadn’t helped us realise that we were off course. Perhaps the DI had become misaligned during the manoeuvring we had done earlier?

Anyway, now a bit more sure of our position, we again informed Brize we were heading in. This time, we misidentified Burford, and it was only the fact that I had to orbit to descend to the required 1000 feet QFE that we realised we were in fact at the next village over.

Finally we entered Brize Zone, and even at just 1000 feet AGL it was difficult to pick out the runway at Brize. Luckily the airfield itself was easy to see, and we were cleared for a base leg join. As we rejoined, Indi asked if I would like to do a few circuits, and I agreed. We received permission for this from ATC, and continued into the circuit.

The first landing wasn’t much to write home about. I allowed my speed to get a bit low on final, but spotted it and sorted it out (Indi had said she’d noticed, but was going to let it go and mention it later). The landing itself wasn’t great, I flared a little too high so ended up meeting the ground with a bit more of a bump than I would have liked.

The other landings got steadily better as I knocked the rust off, with the final landing of the 5 being pretty much spot on, but perhaps I could have got the nose a little higher before touching down. I mentioned that this was something I’d recognised before, and Indi tried to demonstrate the correct attitude as we taxyed down the runway. Something I need to work on in future flights I suspect.

After the flight we had a good chat about how it had went. Indi was generally pleased with my flying, putting most of the little errors down to just being rusty. Hopefully things will be better when I fly next (supposedly tomorrow)!

The plan is to try to get me to go out for some solo GH work, before perhaps doing a Nav Ex in the afternoon. Barry was there (he’d been at much the same stage as me back in October, but has since completed his PPL with Indi) and he is hoping to get checkout out at Brize tomorrow too, which might involve a flight out to Wellesbourne, with my flying the return leg.

Total flight time today: Dual 1:25 – Solo – 0:00
Take-offs: 5 – Landings: 5

Total flight time to date: Dual 22:10 – Solo 3:10
Take-offs to date: 78 – Landings to date: 73

One Response to “Back in the air again”

  1. leiafee Says:

    Good idea to make extra notes on your checklist. Mine has one or two extra things written on it and some more circled in big letters.

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