Class Rating Revalidation

Having completed the required number of hours to revalidate my Class Rating by ‘experience’ in my last flight, I now 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 to either fly another 15 minutes with Kev, or a full hour with another Instructor.

With the announcement of the date for the Lyneham Flying Club AGM, I thought I could kill two birds with one stone by carrying out the Instructor flight during the day, then attending the AGM in the evening. After a bit of discussion with Kev, he agreed to carry out the flight that day, and with work onside too, the weather also played ball allowing the flight to go ahead.

My ideal plan was to fly a decent length trip, perhaps flying an Instrument Approach or two with Kev alongside to try to get some practice in readiness for renewing my IMC rating. Sadly Kev was unable to commit to a full day’s flying due to childcare constraints, so we settled for a trip to Wellesbourne, returning via Gloucester for fuel and to fly my first RNAV approach there.

I’d anticipated being a little late to Kemble due to having to get Catrin ready and off to school, but the planning was relatively straightforward, and I set off for Kemble after informing Kev I was slightly ahead of schedule. On the journey to the airfield it was obvious that conditions were still a little misty, but given the temperature and presence of a light wind I was confident that the mist would clear and allow us to carry out the flight.

Kev was already at the aircraft, checking out the landing gear after having heard some unusual noises on his last flight. All was well, and we headed into the Club to brief the days flying and wait for the poor visibility to improve. This took some time, and it was after 11am before we walked out to the aircraft to get ready for the flight. As usual, pre-flight checks were normal (with the exception of a missing fuel tester, so I borrowed one from one of the other aircraft!).

Another Club aircraft was parked near the pumps getting ready to go, and as we completed the checks he started up and taxyed out. My call for start seemed to catch the FISO unawares, and I had to repeat most of my message. The engine took a couple of goes to start (requiring a bit of extra priming with the fuel pump) and once cleared we began the taxy to A1 via Alpha in order to depart on 26. As we taxyed to the hold the other aircraft passed some weather information via the FISO, confirming that conditions were now much improved in the air.

We talked briefly about the NOTAM regarding parachuting at Little Rissington, including some discussion regarding the large ‘cone’ of airspace that was notified.  This didn’t come into effect until around lunchtime, but I was happy that our route would be OK given that we were planning to talk to Brize on the way. Power checks complete, on reporting ‘Ready’ we were immediately cleared to depart. Take off was normal, and after a dab of the brakes I raised the gear, vocalising the ‘after take off’ checklist as we climbed out (essentially, gear up, flaps up). We turned Crosswind and then Downwind, and I told Kev I planned to climb out on the Downwind leg. He suggested that we actually set course from overhead the airfield, as there was nobody else around. I informed the FISO of this, and set the correct heading once overhead.

We climbed to 3500 feed as planned, heading for the first turning point at Chedworth. Once clear of the ATZ, I signed off with Kemble and switched frequencies to Brize. My height keeping was a little poor, and as I looked out for Chedworth I allowed our height to creep up to 4000 feet. It took a little while to spot Chedworth, but once we did I set course for the next leg to the disused airfield at Moreton-in-Marsh, and made ready to contact Brize. The frequency became a little busy, meaning I couldn’t contact them for a few minutes. I signed on with them, receiving a Basic Service and setting their QNH (on leaving Kemble I’d set the Cotswold pressure after hearing the FISO pass it to another aircraft).

For some reason, we weren’t issued a squawk until we approached Moreton-in-Marsh, and I spotted this a mile or two off to our left and set course for Wellesbourne. Wellesbourne sits under a shelf of the Birmingham CTA, so I began a descent to 2500 feet to keep below this and be ready for the Overhead Join at Wellesbourne. I notified the Brize Controller of this, and then requested a frequency change to Wellesbourne.

Once on their frequency, we were passed the airfield information, finding out that they were using runway 18 with a right hand circuit. Using the DI and Heading Bug I tried to visualise the join, before telling Kev my plans. Wellesbourne were nice and quiet for a change (well, it was a Tuesday after all!) and we had the sky virtually to ourselves as we approached. I carried out a tight Deadside Descent, keeping inside the village of Wellesbourne to minimise any nuisance. The circuit was flown nicely, and I carried out the Before Landing checklist on the Downwind leg as usual.

As I turned us onto Final, it was clear that there was a fairly significant crosswind from the right, evidenced by the amount of crab I had to maintain to keep aligned with the runway. I completed the ‘Final’ checks (Reds, Blues, Greens, Flaps) and approaching the runway, I applied rudder correction to kick off the crab. As I started to roundout to arrest our descent, a gust of wind abruptly picked up the right wing, forcing us off to the left hand side of the runway. At this height and on a relatively short runway, I made the quick decision to Go Around, announcing to Kev that I wasn’t happy.

I applied full power, raising the nose to climb away and raised the landing gear. I then retracted the flaps in stages, checking at each stage that we were still established in the climb. Mindful of Wellesbourne’s noise abatement circuit, I proceed quite a long way Upwind before turning Crosswind and then Downwind (we later found a diagram indicating that we could in fact have made an early Crosswind turn during the Go Around). Again established on Downwind, I worked through the Before Landing checklist, and on reaching the ‘Gear’ item, noticed that the gear lights weren’t illuminated. I assumed that Kev had somehow failed one of the systems, and asked him if he wanted me to clear the circuit to troubleshoot the issue.

Kev said something along the lines of ‘Nothing to do with me!’ and I then quickly realised that the gear lights weren’t illuminated because I had in fact raised the gear during the Go Around! I moved the gear lever downwards (inexplicably just pushing the lever down for some reason, rather than pulling it out from the panel and then down as you should) and the gear lowered and all lights were illuminated as expected. This time I decided to make the approach with two stages of flaps due to the Crosswind, and again established us on Final with a fairly significant crab angle.

As we approached the runway, I again kicked off the crab, and this time there was no turbulence to throw off the landing. I brought us in for a slightly firm landing, with a small amount of crab just as we touched down. We vacated the runway onto the Crosswind runway, then carried out the After Landing checklist on the taxyway. We parked opposite the Tower on the grass, then headed in to pay the landing fee. Once done, we moved into the cafe for my usual sausage sandwich for lunch, eating outside in the pleasant weather.

Parked up at Wellesbourne

Parked up at Wellesbourne

Once we’d finished our lunch, I headed back out to the aircraft while Kev popped in to one of the local Flying Schools where he’d done some training in the past. Time was getting on sadly, which meant we would be unable to land at Gloucester. However, Kev did agree to talking me through an RNAV approach (my first ever!) and we re-briefed the basics of this in the aircraft before starting the engine.

We headed to the threshold of runway 18, carrying out our power checks opposite the Vulcan that is parked on the airfield. As we took to the runway to depart, another aircraft was turning in the overhead. The takeoff run was routine, and as we climbed out we both briefly lost sight of the other aircraft. Knowing that he was heading to the South East, I made a turn to the South West to keep well clear of him.

We signed off with Wellesbourne, then Kev helped me configure the 430 for the planned approach, loading it into our active flight plan. We were expecting to route via LAPKU (the weighpoint that starts the procedure to the North East of Gloucester), so loaded in this variant. We then listened to the ATIS to confirm the runway in use (at present Gloucester were using runway 22 due to the prevailing wind conditions). Mindful that the approach was to runway 27, I made the initial call to Gloucester, requesting a Basic Service and an RNAV approach to runway 27. We were quickly granted clearance to join the approach at LAPKU, and asked to report there.

We activated the approach in the 450, and it gave me an initial track to get to LAPKU. On this leg I began a slow descent to get us down to 2500 feet, the initial height for the approach. At this point I asked Kev if he was happy for me to go ‘eyes in’, and handle the lookout for me, which he agreed. I then concentrated on getting back into a good instrument scan, monitoring our progress on the leg towards LAPKU.

As we approached LAPKU, the 430 warned us in advance of the track for the next leg (175°) and then informed us when to begin the turn in order to intercept the appropriate track. I informed the Controller that we were at LAPKU, and he instructed us to continue, this time reporting at the next fix on the approach, NIRMO.

We continued towards NIRMO, and again the 430 warned us of the turn to the next track (265°). However, this time it didn’t seem to actually instruct me when to turn, which meant that I slightly overshot the correct track. After turning at NIRMO and informing the Controller, he then asked us to report at the Final Approach Fix (catchily named ‘BJ27F’!) and I concentrated on getting us back onto the correct track while descending to 2000 feet for this leg.

On reaching the FAF, I informed the Controller, and lowered the gear to initiate the descent. The Controller handed us over to the Tower frequency, and I concentrated on maintaining an appropriate rate of descent (approximately 750 feet per minute) and tracking the needle on the CDI. The Tower Controller informed us that we were number 2 to another aircraft landing on runway 22, and passed our Missed Approach instructions (climb straight ahead before a left turn back to Kemble) and we continued the approach. In general, I think I did a relatively decent job maintaining the appropriate track and rate of descent (not least because it’s not far of 18 months since I last flew on instruments!) and we levelled off at the Minimum Descent Altitude (600 feet).

On looking out at this point, the runway was ahead and just off to our left, so we would easily have been able to land from this position. I got slightly distracted and allowed our altitude to reduce to more like 500 feet (which would have been a failure on an IMC rating test), and as we crossed the runway threshold (the Missed Approach Point) I applied full power and began to climb away, raising the gear once we were established in the climb.

I entered a ‘direct to’ into the 430 to take us back to Kemble, and then made a climbing left turn to put us on the appropriate track. Once on the correct heading, I realised that this would take us virtually directly over Aston Down, so we doglegged to the left to avoid it. Kev spotted some gliders on the ground, so we turned on the landing light to make ourselves more visible, and both kept a good lookout for any other gliders that may be operating in the area.

Kemble were still operating on runway 26, and I informed the FISO that we would join Overhead. This led to us effectively having to fly past the airfield, before turning back to overfly the threshold of runway 26 at 2000 feet QFE, before descending on the Deadside as normal. There was a Cirrus operating in the circuit (flown by another Club member apparently!) and we slotted into the circuit with good spacing between us and them.

The circuit was routine, with the other aircraft reporting Downwind as I turned Base. I told Kev I planned to land slightly long to avoid the turbulence that’s often generated near the threshold, and given that we had another aircraft behind us I would expect to roll out on the runway before using the taxyways to get back to our parking area. This time I made a much better job of the landing, bringing us to a nice gentle touchdown.

Surprisingly, the FISO cleared us to backtrack, and it seemed he’d misunderstood the position of the other aircraft as it reported it was turning Base as we headed back down the runway. I did my best to keep the speed up to avoid them having to Go Around, and we vacated onto Alpha in good time for them to continue their approach to land. We taxyed back to the parking area, noticing that another aircraft was making ready to start up as we approached.

I positioned the Arrow so that we could be easily pushed back out of the way, and Kev jumped out to push us back onto a taxyway to allow the other aircraft to pass. We then manhandled the Arrow up to the bowser, and refuelled before pushing it back to its parking spot.

Once we’d recovered all our gear, we headed back to the Club and Kev signed my logbook and Class Rating to revalidate my license for a further two years. He picked me up on a couple of minor things regarding my flying, but in general we were both happy with the way things had gone. He headed back home to collect his kids, giving me some homework to do while waiting for the AGM – completing a hypothetical flight plan to fly to Cherbourg!

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Leg 1 profile

Leg 1 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 2 profile

Approach overlaid on Approach Plate

Approach overlaid on Approach Plate

I was pleased to have completed virtually everything we’d planned during the flight, not least getting my first introduction to flying an RNAV approach using the 430. Kev had shown me a few useful features of the unit during the flying, so I think I need to dig out the manual and have a quick read over it to make sure I’m up to speed. The RNAV approach into Gloucester was relatively straightforward to fly, so I think I need to make my next goal getting my IMC rating renewed with Roger so that I can start putting these things into practice for real!

I was also pleased with my decision to Go Around at Wellesbourne. Although I probably could have rescued the situation, in general its often a better idea just to throw the whole thing away and have another go. Low level Go Arounds are always a useful thing to practice anyway!

Total flight time today: 1:30
Total flight time to date: 325:55


One Response to “Class Rating Revalidation”

  1. 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 Wales, one Charity Flight, and my first ever Solo flight with […]

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