Currency check (again!)

As was customary, my flying year ended with being unable to maintain currency, so 2018 was destined to start off with yet another currency check. I’d made one attempt to fly with Kev, planning a trip up to RAF Waddington. However, the weather on the day caused me to bottle out, despite Kev’s urging that it would actually be fine once we cleared the relatively localised poor weather around Kemble. I decided that discretion was the better part of valour, only to later see Kev’s photos of a glorious flight once he’d got clear of the local weather!

A second attempt wasn’t looking good on the days leading up to the flight, with forecast conditions even worse than the previous attempt. This time I vowed to persevere however, and arrived at Kemble to be met with some pretty gloomy looking weather.

Gloomy conditions pre-flight

Gloomy conditions pre-flight

Kev said he would be happy to sign me off as long as we could complete a few circuits, so I prepared the aircraft and waited for him to arrive. We filled the aircraft before departing, then once the ‘A’ check was complete I called the Tower to book out for some circuits. Understandably the chap who answered the phone seemed surprised at our request, but we were given permission and set about getting the Arrow started.

Taxy and before departure checks were all normal, and as usual Kev had me carry out a thorough pre-departure brief before we announced we were ready to depart. At this point Kev asked me to put in a ‘direct to’ Kemble into the 430, presumably as a bit of a test to ensure I knew how to do it.

We took to the runway, and I applied full power to begin the takeoff roll. The rotation was normal, and as we climbed out I dabbed the brakes before raising the gear. We started to enter cloud at around 600 feet above the airfield, so I informed the tower we could be carrying out a bad weather circuit and descended to keep us below the cloud. After checking that we were within flap limiting speed, I lowered two stages of flap as is normal procedure for a bad weather circuit. Kev suggested at this point that lowering the gear first was probably a better idea, as it would have the side effect of also slowing the aircraft down in readiness for extending the flaps.

We had a brief discussion about whether to continue the plan, and Kev said that he was happy to do so. The circuit went relatively well, although I perhaps kept us a little tighter in than I should have on the Downwind leg, causing me to overshoot Final a little due to the tailwind on Base Leg. Disappointingly I missed out on the ‘Reds, Blues, Greens’ Final check, which Kev picked me up on later. Happily though, I did pull off a very nice landing with the Crosswind near the limit, which I was quite pleased with!

The second circuit was a little better, and this time I made a much better job of us getting us aligned on Final. Kev reminded me about the ‘Reds, Blues, Greens’ check, and I carried this out, noticing that the Landing Gear lights weren’t illuminated. While it was likely that Kev had just induced a failure at this point, I took the sensible decision to initiate a Go Around, applying full power, retracting the first stage of flaps immediately, and then cleaning up the later stages of flap as we were established in the climb. I did however neglect to raise the landing gear, which while not a critical error did mean that our climb rate wasn’t as good as it would normally have been.

As we were climbing away, I checked the obvious reason for the gear indication failure (turning off the panel lights that had amazingly turned themselves on somehow!) and then after Kev prompted me I raised the gear.  The third circuit was again flown well, Kev picking me up on some missing items on the Before Landing checklist. The second landing of the day was also good though, which was another pleasant surprise!

As we climbed away, I retracted the gear as usual, turning Crosswind and then again lowering the gear prior to dropping the flaps for the bad weather circuit as Kev had previously suggested. This time the gear failed to lower, and I carried out the immediate checks from memory (panel lights off, circuit breakers), finding that the gear circuit breaker had popped.

Rather than just reset it, Kev asked that we clear the circuit to troubleshoot the issue fully, but suggested I not mention the gear issue to the guys in the Tower (as it was only a simulated failure, so there was no reason to trigger any Emergency response). As we left the circuit, Kev took control while I ran through the Gear Extension Failure checklist. Kev had me carry out the full checklist for practice, including using the alternative extension mechanism to lower the gear once we reached that point in the checklist.

Once the gear was back down, Kev asked me to rejoin the circuit, and I reset the ‘direct to’ in the 430 to give me a line to follow. I then set about heading back to Kemble, turning us through 180 degrees before spotting the airfield ahead of me. I somehow managed to confuse myself as to our location, as I ended up positioning us North of the field, and announcing that I was now on a Downwind for 26.

Part way through this, Kev asked me what our heading was. On checking both the DI and the compass, I found that it was more like 260 rather than the expected 080. At first I assumed that Kev had somehow managed to trigger the compass into an incorrect reading (which in hindsight would have been very difficult to do!). A further look at the 430 then showed me what my mistake had actually been, and that we were in fact in the wrong position! I let the Tower know that we were actually North of the runway, and told them we would rejoin Crosswind, before again heading to the wrong end of the runway for a Crosswind join!

I finally got things all sorted in my head, and we continued around for a further circuit. Again this was flown quite well, leading to another good landing in the tricky crosswind (although this one was a little firmer than I perhaps would have preferred).

Kev told me he was happy, and that we could make this the final circuit. The 4th landing of the day was again pleasingly gentle, and I requested a backtrack back to our parking area. Unsurprisingly we were still the only aircraft operating, so we taxyed back and shut down, before pushing the aircraft back into the parking area and putting the cover back on.

Flight Log

Flight Log

Once all the paperwork was complete, we collected Kev’s family before heading to the Thames Head for a thorough debrief over lunch and a beer! I managed to work out how I had managed to confuse myself when rejoining the circuit. As we left the circuit, I had assumed we were heading South, and then once rectifying the gear issue and turning around, I assumed that we would be reversing that course, heading North to join the Downwind leg at the ‘left’ hand end of the runway, before turning right. When I actually ended up with the end of the runway to my left, I assumed I’d managed to fly to the Northern side of the airfield near the 08 threshold, when in fact I was slightly South of the airfield near the 26 threshold. In trying to put myself back ‘South’ of the airfield, I actually put us to the North!

At any point during this I could easily have confirmed my position either via a quick glance at the 430, or the tablet on my kneeboard running SkyDemon. Additionally from the air it is generally obvious which side of the airfield is the ‘North’ side (it has the Tower on it for a start!) and which is the South. It was a useful reminder that it can be quite easy to lose situational awareness when the brain starts to get overloaded. A gear failure and some challenging conditions (flying circuits at 500 – 600 feet!) certainly added to my workload, and had done enough to cause me to lose track of the big picture.

On the whole though, this had been a good day’s flying. As ever, a Currency Check with Kev was no walk in the park, but it was a very useful learning exercise in the poor conditions. Now, time to get some real flying done in 2018!

Total flight time today: 0:45
Total flight time to date: 319:20



3 Responses to “Currency check (again!)”

  1. Touring Wales | Andy's Blog Says:

    […] far this year I had only managed a couple of short flights, predominately flying circuits in order to regain or retain currency. This certainly […]

  2. Class Rating Revalidation | Andy's Blog Says:

    […] needed to tick off the final box, which was to have flown for an hour with an Instructor. My recent currency check with Kev sadly didn’t fully meet the requirement being only a 45 minute flight, so I needed […]

  3. 2018 Summary | Andy's Blog Says:

    […] flights (including one currency check, 3 locals for currency a flight to fulfill the requirements for Class Rating Renewal, a tour of […]

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