Progress check.

Yesterday’s weather passed through leaving a great looking day. The forecast was for bad weather to come in later in the day, so I was keen to get going relatively promptly.

Sadly that wasn’t to be. Firstly Alpha Fox had a problem with the fin beacon being knocked off during a previous flight (it was hanging from its wiring where the mounting faring had been broken). So, a change of plan and we’d take JP as it had returned early from the previous flight.

Indi was running a little late, and turned up with yet another ‘passenger’ in tow! Another fellow student who’d been flying for years off and on, but hadn’t really progressed much.

The plan for today was originally to combine a Nav progress check with a landaway at Wellesbourne. However, given the poor weather forecast I thought it best to drop the landaway part and just plan a basic NavEx.

Planned the flight from the Northleach Roundabout, to Tewkesbury. From there to the Southam Cement Works VRP (routing overhead Wellesbourne) and then back to Brize Norton. The route from Southam to Brize flew directly over a gliding site, so I routed via Gaydon to avoid this.

This was to be a progress check flight, aimed at ascertaining how far I’d got with my Nav and identifying any weak areas to work on during future flights.

Headed out to the hold after the pre flight checks (with our passenger watching the arrival of one heavy, followed soon by the departure of another), and then lined up ready for the off. Quick check of Ts and Ps and the DI and Compass and we were rolling. The Cherokee didn’t climb as well as the Warrior (to be expected due to its shorter wing span and less powerful engine) but we made the turn at 500 feet and headed towards Burford.

From there we climbed as usual to the altitude for the leg and headed out to the Northleach Roundabout, or starting point for the Nav.

Set course at Northleach, took the start time and estimated the ETA. The first checkpoint was just before we clipped the edge of Cheltenham, with the town of Southam off to the right hand side. It was obvious before we reached Cheltenham that we were left of track so I steered right to try to rejoin our track.

From there we flew virtually overhead the racecourse, and then on to Tewkesbury. Tewkesbury was easy to spot as it has the M5 running right through the middle of it, and my turning point was the junction of the M5 for the town. Never really spotted it properly, so turned as we were overhead the town, perhaps a minute or two earlier than predicted. This probably meant the wind was slightly less than forecast.

Turned for the next leg, letting Gloucester know I was turning. They asked me to report at Evesham, which was coincidentally one of the checkpoints on the next leg. Reported at Evesham and informed them we were switching to Wellesbourne in preparation for passing through their overhead.

Approaching Evesham it was obvious we were again left of track (reinforcing the suggestion that the wind was less than forecast) so used SCA to get back on track. Informed Wellesbourne we would be passing through their overhead, and soon spotted the distinctive buildings on the airfield, with Stratford on Avon to the West of the field.

On this leg our passenger was doing a good job of spotting traffic for us. What was weak on this flight for me was my lookout scan. I had a tendancy to focus inside the cockpit during FREDA checks for example (something I was doing more frequently after identifying this in a previous flight).

Also at around this point I noticed that Indi had written ‘Fuel Pump’ on her paper, and I had neglected to turn this off at the top of the climb. Whoops.

Having identified Wellesbourne, I now steered towards it rather than following the planned heading, and reported in the overhead. Continued on to the Southam Cement works (which is a VRP for Coventry).

Along this leg Indi asked me where the controlled airspace was. I knew the Birmingham zone was off to our left, but hadn’t thought through just how close we were. About 5 miles off our track the floor drops from 3500 to 1500. I should really have realised this during the pre flight planning and made sure I was well clear (in reality we were, but this was more a fluke than by design).

I had written down the frequencies for Coventry ATIS and Approach, as the flight guide show these as a means of determining if the Shenington gliding field was active or not. However I hadn’t really considered that I should talk to them anyway, as I was quite close to their field (indeed I would be crossing over one of their VRPs!).

Indi prompted me with a ‘Who are we going to talk to next?’ and I realised that obviously I should be talking to Coventry. Informed Wellesbourne I was switching, and switched over to Coventry Approach.

We reached the VRP a little later than expected (again probably due to the lighter than forecast wind). Then Indi asked if I wanted to try a PFL. I agreed, and Indi cut the power, announcing ‘Simulated Engine Failure’.

So, I trimmed for glide, and started looking for a suitable field. The one I chose was probably Ok, but I picked one that would be a directly crosswind landing, rather than into wind as is more appropriate. Did the ‘touch drills’ for restarting the engine, then made the ‘Mayday’ call (over the intercom rather the radio!) and carried out a brief to our passenger as I would (hopefully!) do in a real emergency.

The approach to the field was (as usual) way to high, and it’s unlikely we’d have made it in successfully. This is something I really need to have a proper session on I think, because I need to get this sorted properly.

As we were climbing away, Indi then announced ‘Engine failure after take off’, again pulling the power. This time I picked a good field, and the approach was much better (I guess because there’s a lot less time to get it wrong!). I definitely would have made it into this one.

We headed back to the cement works so use it as the starting point for the final leg back to Brize. This is always a difficult area for Nav, because there aren’t many good landmarks to use on the way. I ended up using the gliding field at Shenington, which should have been a couple of miles off our left hand side.

We used Gaydon as a turning point to route around the gliding field (otherwise we’d have flown straight over it) and as we reached Gaydon there was another aircraft off to the left of us on a converging track, slightly below us. I climbed a couple of hundred feet, but soon realised that the aircraft was going to pass right below the nose and I would lose sight of it, so decided to orbit before it became a problem.

Resumed back on course at Gaydon, and looked out for the gliding field off to our left. This appeared right where it should have been, and we carried on the leg.  I later identified Chipping Norton (pretty easy to spot because of the mill) and then the railway that leads past our finishing point, an un-named town just South of a distinctive bend in the railway, which is Shipton-under-Wychwood.

Today I could easily identify Burford in the distance, and Brize slightly off to the left. Descended to 1000 feet QFE, and reported that we were at Burford with the field in site before being handed over to the tower.

Tower asked us to join right base, with one heavy on an 8 mile final. This traffic was easy to spot, and I didn’t think we’d get in before it, so I told the Tower that we’d orbit North of the field. After two or three orbits to allow a good 5 minutes of spacing (for wake turbulence) we resumed our approach, and I carried out the downwind checks.

Turned final (which is actually base at Brize!) and called in, then being cleared to land. This was only my second flight in the Cherokee, so I was particularly careful of the approach speeds and mindful of the tendency to sink more than the Warrior. What I forgot about was that the Cherokee tends to pitch down when you extend flaps (the Warrior pitches up) which caught me a little by surprise!

The approach was good, nicely on centreline (although there was little crosswind so that wasn’t too difficult!) and as I flared I remembered the extra sink and left on a small amount of power. Drifted slightly to the right of the centreline, but as I began to correct this there was a gentle ‘squeak’ as the mains touched down, followed shortly by the nose gear.

Indi was nicely appreciative of the landing, and I even got a ‘That was a great landing!’ from the back. That’s 2 for 2 in the Cherokee now, perhaps I should stick to it!

Tewkesbury, Southam VRP and Gaydon

Taxyed back in, and shut down, refuelling the aircraft and putting it back in the hangar.

While debriefing with Indi, she told me that our passenger hadn’t realised that our PFL was only a practice! She was a little shocked when she heard the ‘Mayday’ call over the intercom (it obviously wasn’t transmitted) but apparently I was so calm giving the brief to her that it put her mind at rest! She was certainly pleased when we applied power again to climb away!

The only things Indi really commented on were the lookout (something I recognise I’m sometimes not very good at) and the fact that I’d left the fuel pump on. I’ll try to make more of an effort in the next flight to get the lookout sorted. Oh, and she mentioned the ‘QXC’ word too. Gulp.

Next flight was supposed to be just Shrivenham, Princess Risborough (flying through the Benson MATZ) then Towcester and Chipping Norton. However, we’ve modified this to go via the Compton VOR (so that I can do some VOR tracking) and then from Princess Risborough we’re going to ‘divert’ to Wycombe air park for a landaway. Should be fun!

Total flight time today: Dual 1:35 – Solo – 0:00
Take-offs: 1 – Landings: 1

Total flight time to date: Dual 34:25 – Solo 7:50
Take-offs to date: 94 – Landings to date: 89

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