Circuits? What are they?

As detailed in previous posts, I was getting dangerously close to the 43 day currency limit imposed by Lyneham Flying Club on its members. Basically, if I didn’t fly today, my next flight would have to be with an instructor or currency check pilot. So, I had a 4 hour slot booked, and the weather looked to be excellent!

I headed out to Lyneham, and made it about half a mile from our house when the phone rang. It was the pilot who had the aircraft booked prior to me. He’d failed to get it started, and it now had a flat battery! That seemed to put paid to that!

Resigned to going out of currency, I returned home and logged in to the booking system to cancel my flight. I then noticed that the pilot flying the other aircraft was due to return at 14:30. I hatched a plan to do a few circuits at Lyneham when he returned, with a view to just resetting my currency and also my 90 day ‘passenger carrying’ requirements into the bargain.

Headed out to the airfield early, and checked with ATC to find out when Graeme expected to returned. He’d said he was likely to be back by 14:00, so I sat in the club waiting. 14:00 came and went, so I gave ATC a quick call, and at this point they didn’t think he’d even left Bembridge yet. If this was the case, then he was unlikely to return to Lyneham before about 15:30, which would give me next to no time to get into the air and back down before night fell. Also, the visibility was obviously deteriorating, so I feared that even if he did return conditions might be too bad to even go up for some circuit practice.

Luckily, ATC phoned me at just after 14:30, letting me know that Graeme was now back on frequency and was rejoining to land. He landed soon after, and I headed straight out to the aircraft to let him know I wanted to get turned around quickly. He refuelled, putting in slightly more fuel than we normally would (so that I could fly and then not have to worry about refuelling once I got back) and I headed back in to the club and booked out.

He was just pushing the aircraft back into its space as I returned, so I did a quick walk around before getting on board. As this was the first time I’d flown for about 6 weeks, I was extra careful with my pre flight checks, and once ready called ATC for start clearance. As on previous occasions they were having trouble with the Ground frequency, but I eventually got my start clearance. The engine started relatively easily (if it hadn’t started, it would have been a perfect end to a frustrating day!) and I taxyed out. Power checks went fine, and the departure clearance I received was nice and simple, as all I was doing was remaining in the circuit.

Once out at the hold I switched to Tower, and announed I was ready for departure. Headed out onto the brightly lit runway and began the take off run. The cold air and lack of passengers gave an excellent climb performance, and the turn to crosswind came up quickly. I levelled off and turned downwind, carrying out the downwind checks after announcing my position. All too soon it was time to turn base, and I configured the aircraft for the approach (reduce power to about 1350 RPM, two stages of flap, forward pressure on the yoke until the speed dropped to about 75 knots and re-trim) before calling ‘Final’.

The turn to final was uneventful, there was little wind and I was nicely aligned with the centreline. Final stage of flap, and continue the approach. As I crossed the threshold, reduce power, let the speed drop down to 65 and prepare for the flare. What little wind there was blew pretty much straight down the runway, so little crosswind correction was required. Flare, keep pulling back trying to stop the aircraft touching down, before a gentle touchdown on the mains, slightly to the right of centreline. Not bad after 6 weeks off!

I’d forgotten just how busy the circuit was, there barely seemed time for a breath between the turns, checks and radio calls, but I was relishing being back in the air after such a long break. Visibility was pretty awful (I certainly wouldn’t have considered a cross country flight in these conditions) but the runway lights meant the runway was always clearly visible, and being in controlled airspace meant there was less chance of encountering any unexpected traffic.

I completed 6 circuits, with each one being slightly tidier than the last. For the last few landings there was noticeable turbulence at about 300 feet AGL, so I was tending to keep the airspeed some 5 knots or so higher than normal until I passed through this. It tended to clear before I got down to about 200 feet, so it never really caused me any concerns.

About the only ‘problem’ I had was forgetting to remove carb heat at 200 feet on one of the approaches. This wasn’t too much of an issue, as I was checking it before applying power on each ‘roll’ anyway, so I spotted it before the next takeoff. Given the layoff I’d had, I was relatively pleased that I wasn’t forgetting much!

The last landing was perhaps the best of the lot, and gentle braking gave me plenty of time to turn off at the 18 loop. I taxyed off the runway, completed the after landing checks and then returned to the club’s parking area. The worst drama on the flight was trying to push the aircraft back into its parking space. Just as it became slightly uphill was at the exact point where the ground under my feet was slippiest! Still, I managed it in the end, covered the aircraft and headed back to the club to complete the paperwork and pay.

 

GPS Track of the Flight

GPS Track of the Flight

 

 

I’m a pilot again!

Total flight time today: 0:40
Total flight time to date: 83:00

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