Yet another currency check

It had been a long time since my last flight with Charlie, and as a result I was out of pretty much all of my currency requirements, including 90 day passenger carrying. December is always a pretty busy month for us, so it was unsurprising that I hadn’t managed to fly. However, I made several attempts to fly in January, that were all thwarted by either weather or a particularly drawn out cold.

I arranged a flight with Dave in one of Freedom’s Warriors in order to regain all my currencies, and then invited Charlie along to share another flight with me. Leading up to the day of the flight, things didn’t look particularly promising, with the Brize TAF forecasting BKN20 TEMPO BKN10 for most of the day, even up to and including the 2100 TAF of the previous day!

As such I wasn’t feeling particularly optimistic when I woke up on the morning of the flight, but a quick check of the weather forecasts now showed a completely different picture! I carried out all my usual pre-flight planning at home, before driving to Kemble in near-perfect flying conditions. There was an occasional bit of fog still lingering, but the skies were clear with almost no cloud to be seen.

I arrived at Kemble to see Dave starting to get the aircraft out of the hangar, making a quick check of the fuel level in G-SNUZ before climbing up to the cockpit to start the ‘A’ check. Dave seemed surprised at this, commenting to the person on the phone that I was jumping into their aircraft! I made a quick check on Flight Schedule Pro and realised he was correct, I had actually booked G-ELUE for my flights today!

I helped Dave move SNUZ over to the other side of the taxyway, and then get G-ELUE out of the hangar. I carried out the pre-flight as normal, then waited a little while after it had been refuelled to double check the fuel in the tanks was Ok. We both climbed in and got ourselves comfortable, and Dave outlined what he wanted to cover on the flight. I mentioned that I needed 3 landings in order to regain passenger currency (in actual fact I think I probably only really needed 2, but there was no harm in doing all 3).

I had some trouble starting the engine, and Dave helped me get it going, having a few difficulties himself. After making the initial call to Kemble I found they were helpfully using 08 today, meaning only a short taxy was required to the North apron for power checks. As I normally do, I leaned the engine back for the taxy to prevent plug fouling, but obviously was a bit too agressive as the engine spluttered and died as I reduced power to idle to turn on to the North apron. This led to a short period of embarrassment as we coasted to a halt and had to notify the FISO that we had a small problem, while Dave attempted to restart the engine.

Dave said that generally there was no real reason to lean on the ground in their aircraft, so that’s something I’ll need to bear in mind for future flights. On the North apron we ran the engine at slightly higher than normal RPM to try to warm the oil up, before carrying out the power checks and making ready to depart.

We were cleared straight on to the runway, and after a short backtrack I applied full power and began the takeoff roll. My first takeoff in some 10 weeks was relatively routine, and we headed South out of the circuit, climbing up to 2000 feet initially.

Once clear to the South and at an appropriate height, I carried out a standard HASELL check (Height, Airframe, Safety / Security, Engine, Lookout, Location) before beginning the stalling portion of the flight. I carried out a clean stall initially, which went Ok, but Dave commented that I could perhaps be a little more aggressive when pulling back to induce a more pronounced stall.

We then moved on to the stall in the Base to Final configuration (two stages of flap, low power and descending). My first attempt at this wasn’t great, as I tried to pick up the descending wing with aileron before having reached flying speed again. This is a definite no-no, as trying to pick up a stalled wing can actually induced a more pronounced stall of that wing, potentially leading to the aircraft entering a spin.

We had another go, and this one was much better. Next we tried a stall in the Final Approach configuration (similar to the previous one but with wings level and full flap) and again I made a small mistake in not removing the third stage of flap (which just adds drag) immediately after reducing back pressure and applying full power. Dave also picked me up on the ‘patter’ I was giving, in that I was announcing ‘full power, release back pressure’, when in actual fact these should be done in the opposite order. I think in reality I was releasing back pressure first, but I was just saying things the wrong way round.

I surprised myself by getting a little flustered at this point, and on my next attempt I raised one stage of flap before even applying full power! Dave told me to take a little time to settle myself, and demonstrated the correct procedure to me before giving me another go. It just goes to show how easy it is for relatively simple things to be forgotten after a long lay-off (and this wasn’t to be my last mistake of that nature either!).

Finally we carried out a stall that I hadn’t experienced before, one simulating an excessive rotation in the go-around configuration. Here, all you can do is get the nose down as quickly as possible to un-stall the wings, as you already have full power applied.

The last general handling manoeuvre we covered was a steep turn. Dave allowed me to choose the direction, so I opted for a turn to the left, and managed to carry out a fairly decent one. Dave reminded me to look at the attitude outside when trying to maintain level, and when I did this it did make a difference to my ability to maintain a constant height.

Once back at altitude, Dave set up a simulated problem, notifying me that my engine was running very rough, and wouldn’t develop any more than about 1600 RPM. My initial reaction was to look for Kemble, but this seemed a little far away, so I chose to head for Oaksey Park instead. On the way there, Dave mentioned that even though the engine was still running, I should still trim for best glide speed, as this would minimise the height loss (a good thing to remember should something similar ever happen).

I set us up nicely on an approach into Oaksey, and Dave announced he was happy and that I could climb away. We climbed back up to altitude, and Dave asked me to carry out a practice PAN call, simulating getting lost, and asking for our position and a steer back to Kemble. For some reason I had a complete mental blank as to what the emergency frequency is, and dialled in 123.4 by mistake. Dave stopped me transmitting on this frequency before I made an idiot of myself on the radio, and asked me what the correct emergency frequency was. my mental block continued, and I was unable to remember the frequency!

Dave gave me a deserved ticking off, and told me the correct frequency (121.5, of course!). I dialled this in, and listened out to ensure that no real emergency was in progress. Once it was obvious that the frequency was clear, I made my initial call of “London Centre, G-ELUE request practice PAN’. I received the response to proceed, and made the full practice PAN call, asking for a position fix and steer to Kemble as requested. There was a period of silence as the Controller triangulated our position based on our transmission, and came back with a position that was perhaps a mile or two out, which isn’t bad considering they weren’t using radar to derive it!

We headed back to Kemble, and I carried out an Overhead Join into the circuit. We were sharing the circuit with a solo student, but we had good spacing between us meaning that there was little chance of any conflict. The first circuit went well, and the landing was very smooth, leading to some praise from Dave. I made the mistake of telling him that it was a little longer than I would have liked, so he told me to make the next one a performance landing, trying to stop by the first windsock!

As we went round the circuit he gave me some tips on how to achieve this, telling me that the distance to the windsock from the threshold was something in the order of 150 to 200 metres! Again the circuit went well, and I set us up for a low and slow approach, with the intention to touch down right at the threshold, and immediately brake down to a walking pace before going around.

Again the touch down was fairly gentle, and with some relatively firm braking I brought us down to walking space well before the windsock, somewhat to my surprise! Dave announce he was happy, and as we accelerated away he took control of the radio, negotiating with the FISO for us to carry out a bad weather circuit to land, simulating arriving back with a low 500 foot cloudbase.

I’d carried out this manouevre on my IMC rating renewal flight with Roger, so was happy with the procedure and confident I could carry it out. The FISO pointed out the position of the student to us, and we hoped to be able to keep inside him on our tight, low and slow circuit. As we neared the end of the downwind leg, it became clear that if we did cut inside we were likely to affect him if we turned inside, so we decided to continue further on Downwind than would be normal for a bad weather circuit, before following him down Final.

The last landing of the flight was also very smooth, and we cleared the runway and taxyed back to park in front of Freedom’s hangar, seeing Charlie waiting patiently for us. After closing down, Dave gave me a good debrief on my errors during the flight, particularly about forgetting the emergency frequency! I resolved to ensure this was always written down somewhere on my kneeboard for future flights, and also to make sure it was committed to memory correctly!

Track flown

Track flown

Flight profile

Flight profile

In general, a fairly good flight. There’d had been a few things I had to be picked up on and reminded of, but at lease I was now current again, and ready to get 2015’s flying started for real!

Total flight time today: 0:55
Total flight time to date: 258:15

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4 Responses to “Yet another currency check”

  1. Back to Sywell | Andy's Blog Says:

    […] Poker, flight and anything else that comes to mind. « Yet another currency check […]

  2. Gone Around Says:

    A comprehensive check flight but as per the Warrior checklist the first action to take when experiencing engine roughness is to select carb air to hot.

    The most important action to take when recovering from loss of control/stalling is to select full power and break the stall simultaneously. Lifting flap early could have an unpleasant effect near the ground and is a bad habit to get into with low powered light a/c. Lifting flap increases the stalling speed as well as changing Cl to the extent that the a/c may sink, remember below the best glide speed the a/c is on the wrong side of the drag curve and a decrease in speed results in an increase in drag

    I always teach stalling/loss of control recovery action to include a recovery to a go around with a brief level pause for acceleration before lifting flap.

    There is no need to “get the nose down as quickly as possible with a departure or go around stall” indeed that type of action may push you back into the ground. As in any stalled condition all you need to do is break the stall= move the control column forward(never say release back pressure) sufficiently to enable the loss of control to be reverted and this will also contribute to the main objective of efficient recovery which is TO RECOVER WITH THE MINIMUM HEIGHT LOSS.

    If you do enough stalling practice in an aircraft you can feel when the wing and controls are stalled and in the same way you can then feel how much CC movement you need to make the a/c unstall and silence the stall warner. Over controlling in pitch(both up and down) is a common fault caused by unsympathetically flying the a/c, learn to feel the a/c as well as fly it!

    • Andy Hawkins Says:

      Good points, and comprehensively put. While I sometimes dip into technique on my blog, it’s certainly not intended to be passing on instructional information. I was just trying to highlight in this instance how easy it is to forget some very basic things after a period without flying.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

  3. 2015 Summary | Andy's Blog Says:

    […] flights (including a total of 5 currency checks!, 1 solo local and a flight offered as a raffle prize to raise funds for […]

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