Currency check (again!)

As what has definitely been my strangest year of flying continued, I again found myself getting close to running out of my 60 day currency. I’d sadly had to abandon plans to finally cross the Channel with David due a dodgy stomach, and also had to cancel a planned ‘solo’ flight with Catrin due to weather. So yet again I was faced with another currency check (my 5th of the year!) in order to get back into flying.

After completing the majority of his CRI course the week before, Kev kindly agreed to fly with me at the weekend. We hatched a plan in discussions with David to fly somewhere for lunch, meeting up with David there as he flew from Gloucester in his shareoplane. Again, the weather wasn’t playing ball, and a poor forecast meant that this plan simply wasn’t feasible. About the best we could hope to do was to fly some circuits in the Arrow in order to get my currency reset.

The weather on the day was far from ideal, with relatively low cloud forecast and, more worryingly, strong gusting winds for the majority of the day. We eventually opted to meet up at Kemble, having a chat over lunch in AV8 while we waited and hoped for an improvement in the wind conditions. I started glumly at Kemble’s unofficial weather site, as it showed winds as high as 30 knots, gusting to 45 knots at times!

The wind did show signs of abating early in the afternoon, with wind speeds as ‘low’ as 20 knots starting to be displayed on a regular basis. We paid a quick visit to Kemble’s Ops department for a chat with them, before finally deciding to head back to the Club and prepare for a session of circuits. One minor plus point was that despite the winds being strong, they were almost directly aligned with the runway.

We uncovered the aircraft and carried out the ‘A’ check, before heading into the Club to complete the necessary paperwork. Once all our gear was in the aircraft and we were settled, I called for start an a ‘wind check’ again receiving an encouraging response from the FISO. The engine was a little reluctant to start, Kev advising me to give it an extra ‘prime’ using the fuel pump doing the trick. We taxyed to the D site apron for our power checks, positioning the aircraft into wind to carry them out. Kev suggested a slight modification to the manner in which I exercise the prop, checking it at a position in the middle of the range to ensure the governor was working correctly.

The strength of the wind was highlighted when carrying out the pre-departure ‘controls full and free movement’ check with the aircraft positioned directly into wind, as the attitude of the aircraft changed noticeably when moving the elevators. We announced ready and taxyed towards the hold at Alpha 3, helpfully hearing G-VICC announce its Downwind leg. I took my time taxying, as I felt that watching G-VICC’s approach and landing would give us useful information as to the conditions in the air and close to the ground.

G-VICC’s landing looked relatively stable, without too much evidence of low level turbulence during the latter part of the landing. This gave me a little more confidence that the flight could be carried out safely despite the fairly challenging conditions. Once G-VICC passed us the FISO cleared us onto the runway, and we were soon accelerating down the runway on a much shorter than normal take off roll!

As we rotated and became airborne, there didn’t appear to be too much difficulty in maintaining stable flight, and as we climbed away I retracted the gear and double checked that the flaps were retracted. I turned Crosswind and took care to apply a suitable correction for the strong wind off to our right, before becoming established on Downwind and carrying out the pre-landing checks. The strong tailwind meant the Downwind leg was over much quicker than normal, and I set us up for the descent on Base leg.

I turned Base a little late, allowing the wind to push us a little further towards Kemble than normal. I made my ‘Final’ call in the usual place, doing my best to maintain the centreline. I had already announced to Kev that I was planning to land slightly long to avoid the turbulence normally encountered when passing the hangars off to the right near the start of the runway. Kev had me nominate a new aiming point (second of the shorter white markings on the runway) and I did my best to land as close as possible to it.

The wind conditions became a little more difficult in the latter part of the approach, but I was pleasantly surprised at the fact that they weren’t causing me too many problems. The roundout and holdoff went pretty well, and I brought us in for a very gentle landing, much better than I had expected given my lack of currency and the conditions. Once under control on the runway I applied full power again, and soon rotated and took the air, this time deciding to leave the gear down to reduce the workload on the Downwind leg.

Carrying out the pre-landing checks again, I immediately spotted that the gear lights weren’t illuminated. Prior experience of the ‘gotchas’ Kev likes to throw in, I immediately checked the panel lights, finding that they had ‘mysteriously’ turned themselves on (a side effect of which is to dim the landing gear indicators such that they appear to be unlit in daylight). I clicked the panel lights off, ensuring that I then received a correct ‘three greens’ indication, before continuing with the checks.

I flew a much better profile on Base leg this time, and again had the aircraft under control on Final. There were initially some problems communicating with the Tower, as I transmitted a number of times and received no response. I double checked all the settings on the 430 and audio panel, including breaking the squelch to ensure that the volume hadn’t got turned down. The 430 was correctly indicating that it was transmitting as I keyed the push to talk, but we were receiving no response. Kev suggested I try the other box, and switching to the second radio re-established communications.

I allowed the speed to decay a little further than before during the roundout, causing the stall warner to sound as I was holding off the runway. Normally this would signify good speed control during this phase, but in the strong and potentially gusting wind conditions it’s usually a good idea to use a little extra airspeed on the approach to allow for a sudden change in the wind.

I corrected nicely though, adding some power and leaving it on during the final portion of the landing, again bringing us in for a nice gentle touchdown. On climbout Kev suggested that I try the first radio again on Downwind, and this time all seemed to work correctly. The third circuit was flown with little to report, and culminated in yet another smooth landing. I negotiated with the Tower to enable the next circuit to be a ‘bad weather’ circuit, and continued the approach.

A ‘bad weather’ circuit simulates arriving in poor conditions, perhaps with a low cloudbase and poor visibility. The idea is to keep visual contact with the runway at all times, flying lower than normal and closer to the runway in order to ensure this. This is achieved by making a single constant turn from the runway heading to the close in Downwind leg. I also dropped two stages of flap on Downwind in order to be able to slow things down on this shorter than normal leg, before commencing another constant turn from Downwind to align ourselves with the runway again.

For the 4th time I brought us in for another smooth landing, and as we climbed away I checked that Kev was happy, and we decided that this would be our final circuit. As we turned Base on this leg I heard an audible ‘click’, and again had difficulties reporting ‘Final’ and receiving a response from the Tower. Confident that Kev was again trying to test me, this time I simply switched to COM2 and continued the Approach. I questioned Kev to try and find out what he had done, but (probably using techniques learned on his CRI course) he said I should continue to fly the aircraft and that we would debrief on the ground.

The final landing of the day continued the trend of smooth landings, and we backtracked before taking taxyway Alpha back to the Club’s parking area at Hotel site. We refuelled the aircraft and covered it, before heading back to the Club to complete the post-flight paperwork. After a quick trip back to the aircraft to make a note of the tacho reading, I caught up with Kev and we had a chat over the flight in the Club.

Kev said that I had flown well, and I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised at how well the flight had gone despite the somewhat challenging conditions. I thought I had dealt with Kev’s little ‘gotchas’ fairly well, and he explained that the 430 actually is powered via two circuit breakers. The first powers the GPS functions and the unit’s display, while the second provides powers to the radios in the unit. That explained how the GPS seemed to be operating perfectly normally, but without the ability to actually transmit or receive.

Kev also said that he had actually been trying to trigger a Go Around (which would have been required if I had not been able to receive a suitable response to my ‘Final’ call). Something I had meant to suggest to him before the flight was that he should feel free to call for a Go Around at any time during an approach (as they are always worth practising to ensure that the procedure can be carried out without difficulty should it be needed ‘for real’). Maybe when he has his CRI rating next time we fly he’ll be more likely to throw this at me!

Track flown

Track flown

Flight profile

Flight profile

I was relieved to have been able to reset my currencies again, and hopefully in the last 6 weeks or so of the year I can make a couple more flights to round off the year in a more positive fashion. I was pleased at how well the flight had gone, particularly given the challenging conditions. Five currency checks in a single year is more than enough though, so hopefully I can avoid any more in the near future!

Total flight time today: 0:40
Total flight time to date: 280:35


2 Responses to “Currency check (again!)”

  1. Tech aircraft, a local and an enthusiastic passenger | Andy's Blog Says:

    […] Poker, flight and anything else that comes to mind. « Currency check (again!) […]

  2. 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 Catrin’s school […]

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