This is what it’s all about

An absolutely brilliant day today. Plans were initially kyboshed slightly. Yesterday I thought we had an aircraft all day (I’d booked two slots but I thought nobody else had booked anything) but it turned out that my two slots were all there were. That put paid to any plans of a ‘jolly’ up to Wellesbourne with Barry.

The first slot went out of the window too, because both I and Indy were late getting to Brize, so that would have given us about an hour to drag the airplane out, refuel it, do the ‘A’ check and then do something meaningful. Wasn’t going to happen.

Then ATC were on lunch from 1300 to 1400 (my slot started at 1330) so I was automatically losing 30 minutes of my second slot too!

Anyway, the plan was to head up to Burford with Indy, then across to Northleach Roundabout, before turning back and rejoining. Then do a few circuits to prove my landings were up to scratch, before me repeating the trip solo.

The first part of the dual flight went very well. No problems with the pre-flight (I even remembered to set QFE!) and we headed out to Burford. Set the calculated course for Northleach a little too far North, which took us basically parallel to the A40 which leads to the VRP at Northleach Roundabout. All the things Indy asked ‘Where’s that?’ I managed to identify without too much of an issue, including Little Rissington (easy really) and Bourton on the Water (where I was looking for some lakes ‘behind’ us, that were actually hidden by the wing at the time I was looking for them!).

We arrived at Northleach Roundabout (or at least, about a mile or so North of it) on time, and made the call to Brize for a Burford arrival before heading back. One the way back Indy asked me where Brize was (‘slightly to the right of straight ahead, so probably that large collection of buildings there’) and what the large collection of buildings off our right wing was (‘Fairford?’, ‘Isn’t it Lyneham?’, ‘No, I think it’s Fairford’, ‘You’re probably right’) before we spotted Little Rissington to our left and began the descent to be at 1000 ft QFE at Burford.

Called for rejoin and requested permission for visual circuits, which were approved. This was the busiest I’ve ever seen the circuit at Brize! There were three light aircraft in as we joined, ourselves in a PA-28, an Army Bulldog (I think) and a Microlight! It made a nice change not to be the smallest aircraft in the circuit at Brize!

With the Bulldog we carried out a couple of circuits, before an inbound heavy (that I spotted as we turned base on one of our circuits) caused both us and the Bulldog to have to orbit several times South of the airfield. Another positive today was my lookout, I was spotting other traffic quickly, which is almost unheard of for me!

Once the heavy landed, we resumed our circuit. I heard the Bulldog call that he was resuming downwind, but couldn’t spot him. Indy had spotted him peeling out of his orbit, but decided to keep quiet. I said aloud that I couldn’t see him, but if I didn’t spot him I would wait until he called final before resuming my own downwind leg. Indy later said that at this point there would have been no harm in asking ATC if it was safe for to resume the downwind leg given that I no longer had the traffic in sight.

In all we did 5 circuits to landings. Initially the landings weren’t great, and two of them I thought were particularly poor (on one I landed almost flat, with the mains touching down just before the nose wheel, and another I flared slightly too high – Indy guessed it was as little as a foot or two – but I thought I’d actually stalled as I dropped onto the runway, leading to a rather ‘firmer’ arrival than I would have hoped for).

However, all of these landings Indy deemed acceptable (but obviously not perfect) and my last two were the best I’ve done in a while. On the last circuit, just before the downwind call, I asked Indy ‘So, is this another roll or to land?’. All I got was a thumbs up, so I made the call ‘Golf Alpha Foxtrot, downwind to land’.

This last landing was also great (leading to a clap and a ‘well done’ from Indy!) and we taxyed back to the flying club, closely followed by the Bulldog. Indy co-ordinated the changeover with ATC, as I was about to fly the whole route again solo.

The solo trip was largely uneventful, which was particularly satisfying in itself. The trip up to Burford went well, and the run out to Northleach was almost a carbon copy of the trip with Indy. Probably North of track by a mile or so, but otherwise no problem at all.

As I reached Northleach Roundabout, I started the 180 degree turn to head back to Brize, and heard Paola (the OIC of the Flying Club) calling at Chipping Norton for a rejoin in one of the other club aircraft. I made my call too, and we raced (well, not really!) to be first back to Burford.

I was first (in reality, I was about 8 miles away, she more like 20) and called for rejoin after descending to 1000 feet QFE. The circuit was empty, and I made the base leg join without drama. The day ended with possibly the best landing I’d made in a long time, sadly I was the only person there to see it!

So, my desire for flying is most definitely back, and during the debrief Indy reckoned I had the makings of a ’45 hour PPL’. I’m not necessarily sure of that (I’m still a little nervous of my ability to identify my position on a map by looking at my surroundings) but it’s very satisfying to have a good day’s flying behind me again.

Probably no flying next weekend (work ‘Christmas’ do on the Friday, followed by the Flying Club Winter Dinner on the Saturday) but if the weather is particularly good I might be tempted to forgo the festivities and go flying instead.

That was fun!

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

Total flight time to date: Dual 23:10 – Solo 3:35
Take-offs to date: 83 – Landings to date: 78

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