Variable Pitch Prop and Retractable Gear Sign Off

Had already had one attempt to complete the Arrow signoff cancelled due to poor weather at Kemble, so was hoping that leaving early from work this time would do the trick. Although the TAFs weren’t particularly promising (Brize showing BKN18 with tempo BKN12) in reality we only needed to do a bit of General Handling work, followed by a couple of circuits to prove I could land the Arrow and continue the good work from the first flight.

On the drive home I saw another light aircraft operating near Membury, and was optimistic as a result of this. However I arrived at Kemble in the midst of a particularly miserable shower of drizzle, with poor visibility and low cloud over the airfield. Roger arrived soon after me and seemed resigned to us having to give it a miss today.

However he announced he was happy to wait if I was so we headed out to the aircraft tosee what the weather looked like. As we got there Dave arrived back in G-ELUE so I headed over for a chat. He said that conditions actually weren’t as bad as they appeared from the ground, with generally a 1800 foot cloudbase and lots of clear areas, despite the odd shower. This coupled with a visibly clearer sky out to the West gave us a bit of hope so we decided to hang around and give it a go.

As the skies began to clear we uncovered the aircraft and I carried out the A check. Had a bit of a struggle checking the oil, the previous pilot having overtightened the dipstick such that I couldn’t even open it. With a bit of experienced jiggling from Roger he managed to get it open, and everything looked set to go. We had to dip the tanks to double check, but with about 25 gallons we easily had a good 2 hours or so, and weren’t expecting to need anywhere near this.

The Tower had closed by this time, so I made Traffic calls as we started up and taxyed out, following another Archer. Power checks were all completed normally on the D Site Apron and we headed out to the runway. Full power showed good RPM and the governor operating correctly, so I continued the takeoff run, rotating at 85 mph and getting airborne.

Made a slight boob by failing to correctly dab the brakes when raising the gear (in order to reduce the gyroscopic effects of the rotating wheels adding extra loads to the undercarriage as it raises) and Roger picked up on this quickly. Climbed away at 100 mph and headed to the North for clearer skies. Initially skirted through some low cloud (Roger explaining how to keep low enough to be able to see the horizon, which should prevent clipping the lower edges of the clouds) before being able to climb up to 3000 feet in clear blue sky. At this point Roger took control so that I could reach into the back for my sunglasses!

Once established in cruise configuration, Roger had me reconfigure for best endurance, which basically reduces the speed down to just above the stall speed in order to achieve the longest possible time in the air should this ever become necessary on a real flight. Once he was happy I recovered back to normal cruise, and Roger pointed out the traffic queuing on the A417 heading North up to the roundabout near Birdlip. Roger then had me descend to below the cloudbase, before heading back to the airfield.

I made a point once we were level again to check the indicated airspeed in cruise configuration. For some reason in my first flight I’d convinced myself that the aircraft was only cruising at around 120 MPH, when the book suggested more like 150 MPH was more likely. My double checking on this flight showed the book to be correct and my memory to be at fault, with us achieving somewhere around 145 MPH with the MAP and RPM set slightly below ‘optimum’ cruise settings.

Roger suggested I use the NDB on the field to do this, then quickly spotted a problem with my ADF tracking technique. I turned until the needle pointed to the nose of the aircraft, which caused me to overshoot somewhat as the needle continued to turn once I’d recovered to straight flight. Roger explained I should note the difference between the ADF heading and the aircraft’s actual heading, then make an appropriate correction before allowing the needle to settle.

We were arriving at Kemble from the North, making a Right Base join for 26 the preferred option. Announced this to Kemble Traffic, then set about slowing us down to circuit speed. Allowed the aircraft to descend a little while doing this, but soon got back up to more normal circuit height. Completed the pre-landing checks as we approached the base leg, correctly lowering the undercarriage and setting the prop to full fine and the mixture to full rich.

The join and descent went relatively well, but the flare and roundout produced one of my (recently fairly normal) rather hard landings. Roger again identified the problem in my technique: I was reducing power to idle as we crossed the threshold, then rounding out which caused the aircraft to run out of energy and meet the ground with a bit of a bump. Roger explained it was better to round out and fly level with power still applied, then remove the power to allow the aircraft to settle on the runway.

The second circuit and landing were better, I remembered to dab the brakes as we took off, and the landing was  smoother but still a little firm, with the nose wheel lowering with more of a bump than I’d like. We were now flying circuits at around 800 feet as the cloud started to lower again.

On the third circuit Roger had me carry out a flapless approach, which went well and culminated in a low level Go Around. For the fourth circuit, Roger suggested I try a grass landing. Again the circuit went well, and I was nicely set up for the approach to the grass runway before Roger decided I should again Go Around at low level due to birds on the runway. He had my fly along the runway at 100 feet or so in order to try to clear them.

We now carried out a low level ‘bad weather’ circuit, staying close in to the airfield and remaining at about 500 feet AGL. There were still a few birds on the grass as we approached, but this time we completed the landing, ending the sortie with a nice smooth touchdown followed by a gently lowering of the nosewheel. Almost perfect!

I carried out the after landing checks (spotting a slight oversight – throttle friction isn’t removed until the close down checklist) while Roger taxyed us back to parking. There was a slight ‘whoops’ moment for him as we slowed to enter our parking space, when Roger forgot that there were no toe brakes on his side! As a result we overshot our space by a foot or so, meaning we had to get some exercise when putting the aircraft to bed to push it back slightly so that it was in the correct space for the tie downs.

Roger and I chatted as we covered the aircraft and we then headed back to his car for him to update my log book, adding the sign off required for Variable Pitch Prop and Retractable Gear. I was now cleared for solo hire in the Arrow!

Just before leaving we were going over some of the events of the flight, and Roger asked how many grass landings I had. While I can’t remember exactly, it can’t me much more than 5 or 6, so Roger suggested that perhaps a session of circuits on Kemble’s grass runway might be a good idea to get me more used to ‘strip’ landings. I also told Roger of my desire to do some landings from the right seat, in case I’m ever flying with somebody else and they might need any assistance with landing in (perhaps) a tricky crosswind or the like.

This was a pretty enjoyable flight. It was the first time in a while I’d ‘used’ my IMC rating to fly above the clouds (possibly the most normal use of the rating) and it was good to see that sometimes conditions that appear very difficult on the ground can actually be a little misleading. While I doubt I’ll be launching off into the murk with abandon as a result, I might be more inclined to at least take off ‘for a look’ in future.

Hopefully my first Solo flight in the Arrow will come this weekend!

Total flight time today: 0:50
Total flight time to date: 165:55

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One Response to “Variable Pitch Prop and Retractable Gear Sign Off”

  1. Arrow weather complications « Andy’s Blog Says:

    […] Andy’s Blog Poker, flight and anything else that comes to mind. « Variable Pitch Prop and Retractable Gear Sign Off […]

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