Return of the dreaded local

After a late start to my flying in 2017 with the trip to Coventry, I was again on the verge of requiring a further currency check after another break from flying. Keen to put an end to this, and remove the need for yet another currency check, I booked the Arrow for a flight on an upcoming Sunday afternoon. An invite to a birthday party for Catrin on the Saturday meant that I could also try to get some flying in, and I booked an afternoon slot due to the Arrow already being booked in the morning.

Given that I only had the aircraft for 3 or 4 hours, I decided to concentrate on regaining all my currencies, with a view to heading off on a longer trip on the Sunday. Leading up to the flight, the weather forecast seemed a little unpredictable for the Saturday, with more settled conditions promised on the Sunday. I planned to carry out two circuits, before departing Kemble for a short local.

On the day of the flight, the forecast still suggested periods of showers and relatively low cloud. Sam phoned me in the morning asking if it was Ok for him to extend his booking by an hour or so, which I happily agreed to. As I headed to the airfield after completing my planning, the conditions seemed to suggest that I should be able to make a flight of some sort. On the way to Kemble I passed through some small localised showers, all the while with an eye on the cloud conditions in the skies above me. Although there was plenty of cloud around, it seemed well scattered, meaning I should easily be able to avoid it on any flight I chose to make.

I arrived at Kemble to find the Arrow airborne as expected, so completed the pre-flight paperwork, before sitting in the office listening in on the R/T to get plenty of warning for when the Arrow would return. Sadly Sam’s return was delayed even further than he had anticipated, and on hearing him arrive on frequency I headed out to the parking area and got ready to refuel the aircraft for a quick turnaround.

As the Arrow returned, I waited for it to be shutdown and secured, before setting about refuelling the aircraft. David (Sam’s instructor) warned me that they’d had a few problems with the P1 push-to-talk switch during the flight, but I opted to see how things seemed during the R/T on the ground, with a view to abandoning the flight should I have too much trouble. I at least knew that I could plug my headset into the connections on the other side, and continue using the PTT on the other yoke if necessary.

Once the aircraft was refuelled, I carried out a walkaround check, leaving sufficient time for the fuel to ‘settle’ before finishing with a fuel sample from all 3 of the aircraft’s fuel drains. Satisfied that there was no sign of contaminants in the fuel, I got myself settled and made ready to start the engine. During the initial radio calls I had no problems with the push-to-talk, and after being cleared taxyed to A1 for my power checks. The engine was still warm from the previous flight, so these were carried out without any need to wait.

Once cleared onto the runway, I made a last check of the engine instruments, before applying full power and beginning the takeoff roll. Rotation speed soon arrived, and I gently pulled back on the control column, applying right rudder as I did so to resist the aircraft’s tendency to turn as it left the ground. Climbing away, I maintained runway track, dabbing the brakes and retracting the gear once there was insufficient runway ahead to make a landing.

I had the circuit all to myself, and flew two nice circuits, each culminating in a nice gentle landing. It was nice to know that despite another near two month break, I could still remember how to fly! During the second circuit, the PTT switch started to cause trouble, but I was prepared for this, and executed my plan to plug into the P2 headset connectors, and use the PTT on the other control column.

I was a little slow raising the gear on my final circuit, but quickly noticed my mistake. I’d informed the FISO that I would be departing to the West, and as I climbed away I turned left, climbing to 3500 feet and setting course for the Severn Bridges. Although there was some cloud around, it was well above my current level, so I felt happy continuing the flight.

I changed frequency to Bristol Radar, setting the appropriate listening squawk, as I initially intended not to bother calling them for the short period I planned to be in their area. As I approached the Severn however, I heard other traffic on frequency approaching at a similar height, so re-set the squawk to 7000 and called Bristol for a Basic Service. He passed details of the other traffic to me, and despite keeping a good lookout for them, I never made visual contact. In order to reduce any risk of a problem, I climbed further to 4000 feet.

Approaching the River Severn

Approaching the River Severn

On reaching the Severn, I informed the Controller I was turning North, and was soon forced to descend to 3000 feet to pass under a rather threatening looking cloud. I encountered some light rain whilst under this cloud, but visibility remained good at all times. On passing Cinderford, I signed off with the Bristol Controller, and made contact with Gloucester in preparation for passing through their overhead.

Mixed conditions, and a pretty rainbow

Mixed conditions, and a pretty rainbow

Gloucester seemed quite quiet, with a single commercial inbound requesting a visual approach. I received a Basic Service, and was asked to report when overhead Gloucester. Initially I had a little trouble picking out the airfield, not helped by the fact that the compass appeared to be giving some strange readings. I’d been keeping the DI in sync, and this initially led me to fly an incorrect heading as I turned East towards Gloucester. A quick check of SkyDemon showed that it was in fact the compass that appeared incorrect, so I adjusted my track accordingly, then set the DI to the approximate track I was flying according to SkyDemon.

Threatening looking weather

Threatening looking weather

Gloucester soon appeared beneath the left wing, so I informed the Controller and set course for Chedworth. Again the compass / DI caused me some issues, but SkyDemon soon got those sorted out. As I approached Chedworth I switched frequency back to Kemble, making contact on the otherwise quiet frequency. Fortunately I quickly realised that I was in fact lining up on Aston Down, so reoriented myself and continued to the correct airfield!

The FISO warned me of reported glider traffic to the North of Kemble, and I initially planned to join Overhead as usual, so descended to 2000 feet on Kemble’s QFE. As the frequency was so quiet though, I asked the FISO if there was anything to affect a direct Left Base join, and on hearing he had no traffic to affect this, I descended further to 1000 feet, and set up to join Left Base. I took care to avoid the surrounding villages at this low level, and again came in for a nice gentle third landing of the day.

My backtrack to Alpha was approved, and I passed an autogyro trying to diagnose a technical problem on the D-Site apron. Sadly as I returned to our parking area, I heard him announce that they were unable to resolve the problem, and were turning to their parking area. I carried out the before shutdown checks, shut down the engine, and pushed the aircraft back to parking and put the covers back on.

Autogyro with a technical issue

Autogyro with a technical issue

I headed back to the Club to complete the final paperwork, then had a bit of a panic as I realised my phone was missing. Fortunately a few trips back and forth (and a phone call to Luned to get her to keep ringing it!) enabled me to locate it down between the passenger seat and the cockpit wall!

Track flown

Track flown

Flight profile

Flight profile

Despite some concerns about the weather forecast, I’d had a really enjoyable short flight today. All of my currencies were again reset, so hopefully I can now move on to make some more regular flights. Sadly, the two technical issues I had encountered meant I wasn’t confident in taking the aircraft on a longer trip the next day, so I informed Kev of the two problems, and cancelled my booking. Hopefully the write up of the next flight will be a bit more interesting!

Total flight time today: 1:05
Total flight time to date: 308:30

 

 

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