So, where did it go wrong?

Two slots booked today, this time in the Cherokee that I’d never flown before.

The plan was to repeat the route I managed to mess up yesterday, ideally in similar conditions to see if Indy can give me any tips on dealing with navigation in poor visibility.

Sadly the session was delayed because ATC were on lunch for a couple of hours, so the flight before mine left late. However, we were still left plenty of time for one session in which to repeat the route.

As per yesterday, the flight started out well. It took a little while to get used to the Cherokee (it has the trim wheel up on the roof for example), but I soon adjusted. Having the ASI reading in mph rather than knots also wasn’t as much of a factor as I had thought it might be.

However, it had a noticable tendency to roll left unless pressure was kept on the control column to prevent this. I mentioned it to Indy, and she had a go, and the only way to get it to maintain wings level ‘hands off’ was to compensate with opposite rudder trim, that left the plane flying decidedly out of balance. Sadly, I just had to live with it.

The checkpoint came up on time, but a little closer than it should have been, so I used the standard closing angle method to get back on track. We called Wellesbourne and advised them of our intention to turn in their overhead. Several minutes later Stratford came into view, along with it Wellesbourne, directly on the nose.

I started to look around to see if I could work out where I had gone wrong yesterday. What I think had happened was that I’d got confused between the buildings at Wellesbourne with those at Gaydon (about 5 miles to the East). I had then unwittingly headed towards these rather than maintaining heading, and ended up over Gaydon. What I had decided was Stratford was probably Wellesbourne itself.

We headed back, and this was where the tendency for the Cherokee to roll left was causing me more problems. Indy later pointed out that I was tending to ‘weave’ along rather than maintaining a heading, and the left roll tendency meant I ended up left of course.

Again corrected using standard closing angle, and our final point appeared right where it should have been at about the correct time.

We called Brize for a rejoin, and turned to where I thought Burford should have been. Today, Little Rissington was visible, and after a bit of head scratching I realised we were closer to the Zone than we should have been, and I had to orbit just North of Burford in order to get down to 1000 feet before we could rejoin.

Indy pointed out a large town to the West, which I had some trouble identifying (but turned out to be Witney). Indy said I was having a tendancy to use small features to establish my position, but often something big and obvious is the best way to get a handle on where you are.

The rejoin was all normal, with the Tower controller not giving me specific joining instructions so I just joined Right Base as I usually do. I knew the handling of the Cherokee would be different to what I was used to in a Warrior, and it didn’t take long to find out how different it was!

In a Warrior, when you apply flap, the nose has the tendency to pitch up, so you have to use forward pressure on the yoke to maintain the correct attitude and allow the speed to settle. In a Cherokee, the tendancy is for the nose to pitch down when the flaps are lowered, which took me a little while to spot and correct appropriately!

This did distract me however, and I ended up sailing straight through the extended centreline of the runway. Knowing how much of a problem it can be trying to make too tight a turn from base to final, I made a usual gentle turn, turning through more than 90 degrees to get back onto the centreline.

I was also high, but the handy feature of the Cherokee tending to ‘sink’ more meant that the excess height was easily lost. If I’d been anywhere other than Brize I probably would have gone around at this point, but knowing I had something like 4km of runway to get the approach sorted meant that there was plenty of time.

Was slightly long when I eventually flared, and Indy had advised me to leave a bit of power on when I did to counteract the more pronounced sink of the Cherokee, and I was applying my usual corrections just before landing when I heard a satisfying double ‘squeak’ as both mains touched down one after the other for my best landing in a long time! Maybe I should stick with the Cherokee from now on!

So, today’s flight had helped me get my confidence back again, and we think we’ve identified how I went wrong yesterday, so I can use this knowledge in the future to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Indy says she’s happy for me to head out for another solo navigation exercise next time, so I’ll get the Ledbury – Worcester – Wellesbourne flight planned ready for next weekend, and hope that the weather hold out.

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

Total flight time to date: Dual 27:50 – Solo 6:30
Take-offs to date: 87 – Landings to date: 82

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