Current again

After dropping out of currency before Christmas, I’d been trying to find time to get a currency check in with an Instructor so that I could be up and flying again. Finally managed to grab a brief 1 hour 30 minute slot, and arranged with Mike to do a currency check and combine it with the required one hour flight with an Instructor in preparation for the revalidation of my Class Rating in June.

The weather the day before was decidedly unflyable, and the TAFs didn’t hold out much hope for improvement, so I went to bed expecting to be cancelling the flight in the morning. As it happened, the morning was a little misty, but this mist soon lifted leaving clear blue skies and perfect flying weather. The only downside was that the calm wind conditions meant that unless things changed I wouldn’t also be able to get the new ‘crosswind’ signoff required by Lyneham.

I arrived at the Club in good time as usual, to find the aircraft just taxying in. I thought this would be a good result, meaning I’d have more time than I’d previously thought. However, it turned out that this was the aircraft returning from its first flight of the day (mine was the 3rd!) and the pilot for the 2nd flight was waiting in the club. Fortunately he wasn’t going far, and promised to try to get back in good time for my booking.

Mike arrived and we discussed what we wanted to cover in the flight. I wanted to at least get the currency check done, and ideally 3 landings so that I could ‘reset’ my passenger carrying requirement (to carry passengers I have to have completed 3 take off and landings in the last 90 days). Mike arranged for us to head over to Colerne for some circuits while I booked us out in preparation for the aircraft returning. Once the circuits were out of the way we would then do some general handling to cover the ‘revalidation’ flight requirements.

Luckily the aircraft arrived back a mere 5 minutes late, so we still had the best part of an hour and a half to carry out the 1 hour flight in.

Mike and I headed out to the aircraft as soon as it had parked up, and Mike refuelled it while I carried out a quick transit check. Once this was done, we loaded up and I began preparations for the flight. This was slightly complicated by having to use a new version of the checklist that has been recently issued, so things were a bit slower than usual as a result of this and the fact that I hadn’t flown for over 2 months.

We were soon taxying out towards the runway, and completing the power checks at the usual place (it was unusual to have to remember to allow an Instructor to check their brakes during the taxy checks!). These were completed normally, and we were given clearance out onto the runway.

After a normal takeoff, Mike pointed out that I was climbing with the aircraft slightly out of balance (some right rudder is required when the engine is at full power) so I tidied this up and we headed out to Colerne. As we passed Chippenham I asked for a frequency change, and we started talking to Colerne. They gave us a straight in approach to their runway 25, and I lined us up for this.

They’d asked us to report ‘2 miles’ and Mike had to correct my gross under-estimation of the distance to the field (we were about 5 miles out when I estimated we were 2!). I reported this, and began the descent. After a (rather late) pre-landing checklist, I continued to descend, and it wasn’t until we got down to about 600 feet that Mike piped up ‘Oh, this is going to be flapless is it?’

Whoops. Just goes to show how much you can forget after a relatively brief period without flying!

I cranked in two stages of flap, and got our airspeed stabilised. As we approached the runway we were cleared to land, and I got the final stage of flap in. The first landing was far from great. I allowed the airspeed to decay a bit more than I should, which meant we ran out of energy in the flare and plonked down on the runway rather more heavily than I would have liked.

Carb heat off, flaps away, full power and we were heading down the runway. Mike confirmed with the Controller the type of circuits they wanted (when their circuit is active, Colerne prefer Oval circuits. It was quiet today though, so we stuck with rectangular ones). The first circuit went Ok, but I started the landing checks before calling ‘Downwind’ which Mike picked me up on. Another ‘Oops’.

The second approach and landing were much better, but still not what I would like to think of as my usual standard! We went around for a third attempt, and this time all the elements came together and I made a much more gentle touchdown. Even though I’d initially forgotten how to land, it soon came back luckily!

We informed the Controller that we were clearing to the North, and headed out to clearer airspace for the general handling section. We initially headed North to try to get clear of the bank of cloud above us, but it soon became clear that this stretched further than it initially appeared. As it was I climbed up to just over 3000 feet in preparation for some stalls.

My first HASELL checks in a while were carried out (Height, Airframe, Safety / Security, Engine, Location, Lookout) and we tried a clean stall at idle power. I thought it went Ok, but Mike said I should be a bit more positive in getting the nose down, and also to take care to keep us in balance as we climbed out (again!). Second stall was in approach configuration with 2 stages of flap and ‘descent’ power set (about 1500 RPM). Again, this went Ok, so we turned back to the North for some steep turns.

These were always a bit hit and miss for me, and the first one we did to the left was Ok, but just Ok. Mike had me do another to the right and this went much better. He commented that everyone had a ‘better side’ for these, but I thought that it was just that it was my second one. He told me to have another go to the left, and this one went much better too.

The last item we’d briefed was a PFL (practice forced landing). This simulates an engine failure, where we have to pick a suitable field to land in and glide down towards it. Mike pulled the power, and I began to look for a field. He had to remind me to first of all get the correct airspeed set for ‘Best Glide’. Once this was done, I picked a field, and started flying a ‘circuit’ around it. I ended up too close in at the end of the Downwind leg, which meant I would never get the 180 degree turn in (stalling into the ground because of a vain attempt to make an impossible turn is a frequent occurrence in accident reports).

I made the decision to change to a field slightly further away, and began an approach to this. This was better, but I ended up high as we approached it (a regular theme in my training) and we climbed away for another go.

This one went much better, and I was well set up for the chosen field as we got down low. Mike announced he was happy, and we climbed away.

All that was left now was for us to head back to Lyneham. As we departed the wind had picked up to around 8 or 10 knots, so I hoped to be able to land on the ‘wrong’ runway (18) to get the crosswind landing in. Sadly that runway was being used to fly model aircraft, so we were forced to approach for the into wind runway 24.

All was quiet at Lyneham as we joined, and I took us in for another nice landing, gently braking to allow us to make the turn for the 18 loop. We taxyed back to the Club, and headed inside for a debrief.

Mike was generally happy. He reminded me of the couple of things that we’d discussed during the flight, and also mentioned a slight issue with my radio work. It’s accepted that the initial call on a frequency is generally very brief, with the Controller then asking you to pass full details once you are ready. I hadn’t realised, but today I was launching into the full ‘Pass your message’ response in my initial call. This is relatively bad form, as at this point it’s perfectly possible for the Controller to be on the phone, so all you end up doing is clogging up the airwaves twice as you have to repeat everything. I’ve never had any issue with this in the past, so hopefully it was just another thing that had been forgotten in my longer than normal layoff.

Generally a good flight, and a useful reminder as to why the Club has currency rules in the first place. My flying was dramatically worse at the start of the flight due to the amount of time I’d had since the last flight. Hopefully that won’t happen again!

The track

The track

Total flight time today: 1:05
Total flight time to date: 105:45

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