Surprise surprise, a currency check!

Despite trying to maintain currency over the Winter, yet again I found myself in need of a currency check to start off my year’s flying. I’d had one attempt to fly in mid-January with Catrin spoiled due to some pretty rubbish weather, which meant I went outside of the Club’s 60 day currency rule.

Managed to arrange a flight with Kev to get everything reset, and booked a two hour slot in the Arrow. I did consider bringing Catrin along for the ride, but decided against it given the nature of things we’d have to be doing. Perhaps I’ll show her some stalls and a PFL sometime when I know we can just stop if she’s not really enjoying it.

I spent the evening before the flight familiarising myself with the Arrow’s checklist, making a point of going over the emergency drills so that they were fresh in my mind. I wanted to be as well prepared as possible for the flight the next day, mindful of the kinds of things Kev was likely to throw at me!

The Arrow was booked for a flight before us, but I arrived at Kemble in good time to meet up with Kev. As expected, the aircraft was flying, so Kev and I chatted about what we’d be convering in the upcoming flight. The winds were strong and gusty today, but fortunately almost straight down Kemble’s runway 26, so I wasn’t too concerned about the conditions.

While chatting both our ears perked up as the transceiver in the Club sprang to life with the words ‘gear emergency’. We listened in and realised it was the Arrow coming back without indication that the gear was correctly down and locked.

The pilot landed without issue, and after a brief conversation it was clear that he’d turned the panel lights on, which has the side effect of dimming the gear indicator lights to the point where they’re nearly invisible on a bright day. I’ve had Kev generate this ‘failure’ for me on a number of previous flights, so it would almost certainly have been the first thing I’d have tried! A quick scan of the emergency checklist showed that one of the two emergency drills for a gear failure mentions this, but the other doesn’t.

We filled the Arrow with fuel (to avoid the need to refuel after the flight) and I carried out a quick walkaround while Kev went to get his gear. One of the Club’s Warriors was heading out on a flight, but had real difficulty getting the engine started. Eventually they gave up with a flat battery. Kev joined me in the Arrow, and we began the pre-start procedure.

On powering on the 430 for the call for start (something we’re asked to do at Kemble due to our parking spaces being out of sight of the Tower) it became clear that there was an issue with the database. Kev did some troubleshooting and found that it was reporting a data card error, so the Nav database wasn’t present. As we were only planning a local flight this wasn’t too much of an issue for us, so we elected to continue.

Unusually we were only cleared to A3 initially, Kev telling me that this was because the airliner parking area on the way to A1 was actually quite crowded. I completed the power checks on the D-Site apron to avoid inconveniencing anyone, and then headed up to A3 once ready. We had to wait for an aircraft to land, and then for another to backtrack from the intersection and depart.

Once it was our turn, we were cleared to line up on the runway, and then depart. The aircraft ahead was still climbing out, so I waited a short while before beginning my takeoff roll. Rotation and takeoff were normal, and I dabbed the brakes and raised the gear as we climbed out. We departed to the South towards Lyneham to carry out the initial air-work. There was a fair amount of cloud around, and we tried to climb on top of it. We got as high as about 5500 feet before giving up and getting on with what we had to cover!

First exercise was stalls, something that I don’t really practice very often. The first clean stall went well, but I needed two goes at the Base to Final turn, due to raising gear and flaps without correctly checking for a positive rate of climb. Although we were at flying speed, we still had a small rate of descent when I began raising the gear and flaps. If I’d done this in a real landing situation, then I could easily have sunk onto the runway with the gear raised.

Next was the stall in Final Approach configuration, and again although the first attempt was Ok, I needed to second attempt just to nail the procedure correctly (this time I’d started raising flaps before retracting the gear – it’s generally better to raise the gear first as this generates so much drag).

Kev suggested we carry out an orbit over my house, so we headed up towards Swindon, descending to to around 2500 feet on the way. Kev suggested I carry out an ’emergency’ descent, which entails dropping gear and flaps, and spiralling steeply with low airspeed to rapidly lose height. I followed the familiar landmarks to our house, carrying out an orbit and pointing out Catrin’s school to Kev (always very easy to spot from the air).

We headed back towards Kemble for some circuits, Kev asking me not to call them just yet (something which should have given me a clue as to what was about to happen next!). Unsurprisingly, Kev announced ‘simulated engine failure’ and pulled the throttle back to idle.

I established us at best glide speed, and then set about looking for a suitable landing site. Fortunately Kev had chosen a very helpful spot, as I noticed what looked like a disused airfield just ahead of us and to the right (which later turned out to be Blakehill Farm). I turned Downwind in readiness for an approach to this field.

Next step was to carry out the touch drills to simulate attempting to diagnose the reason for the engine failure. I generally do these using a left-to-right flow, starting out which checking the position of the fuel selector, changing mags, checking throttle and mixture, turning on the fuel pump, and selecting alt-air.

Once it was clear attempts to troubleshoot had failed, I made a simulated Mayday call, and then realised that I’d managed to lose site of my landing site. Fortunately I was able to locate it again pretty quickly (it was an enormous airfield shaped field!) and continued the approach. Unusually for me, I’d judged my approach almost perfectly, gradually extending flaps and gear once it became clear I had made the field. At around 500 feet Kev had me Go Around, and we climbed away before heading back towards Kemble.

We signed on with Kemble, and they had a couple of other aircraft operating in the area. One aircraft was just taking off from a touch and go as we joined Overhead and started our Deadside Descent, and another aircraft reported descending as we turned Crosswind. He had us in sight, and we could also still see the aircraft ahead of us, which allowed us to slot in quite nicely.

The first circuit was just a ‘standard’ one, and my first landing of the day was pretty good considering I hadn’t flown since the beginning of December. Kev asked me to fly the second circuit ‘flapless’, so I extended Downwind further than I usually would (and indeed, further than I really needed to given the strong headwind on Final), and again brought us in for a nicely controlled landing.

On climbout from the second circuit, Kev pulled the throttle to idle to practice an EFATO (Engine Failure After Take Off). This is a particularly dangerous portion of the flight to have an engine failure, so it’s important to have the procedure down without having to think about it too much. As you’re climbing away at best rate of climb, it’s vital to immediately lower the nose as soon as there’s a problem, otherwise the airspeed can rapidly decay resulting in a stall.

From then, you have little time to do anything other than pick a field, get the gear down and get the aircraft on the ground as best you can. Kev was happy with my choice of field and response to the initial failure, so we climbed away for our final circuit. We discussed briefly what we should do, and as I don’t often practice flapless approaches I decided to carry out another one of these.

As we neared the end of our Downwind leg, another aircraft called Downwind also, so I changed my mind and instead decided to try to make a landing as short as possible, to see if we could make the first turn off towards our parking area and not cause the aircraft behind to have to Go Around. As we turned Base and Final, another aircraft was on the approach ahead of us, and this time he was landing to a full stop rather than a touch and go.

As a result, when I made my ‘Final, Gear Down’ call, the runway was still occupied. The FISO informed us of this, and I made the quick decision to convert this to a ‘long’ landing, allowing us to roll out to the intersection and clear the runway (assuming the other aircraft had vacated before we had to Go Around ourselves).

We flew along the runway at around 50 feet until the FISO informed us the runway was clear and gave us the ‘Land Your Discretion’ call.  I brought us in to land, and regrettably the final landing was a little firmer than I would have liked. I kept our speed up, asking the FISO if we could continue and vacate onto Charlie to allow the aircraft behind us to continue. This was granted, and in my eagerness to vacate I mistook the old disused taxyway opposite D1 for the Charlie taxyway, and almost missed the turn off!

We trundled around the Charlie taxyway, arriving at the crossing point just as another aircraft landed. We were cleared to cross, and then taxyed back to the parking area. After closing down, we pushed the Arrow back into its parking space and put the cover back on, before heading back to the office for a quick debrief.

Kev was generally complimentary about my flying today, which was nice given the long break between flights. He went over some of the minor points regarding stalls that had caused me slight problems, and I told him I was probably going to dig out my initial flying training book to go over the stall procedures again to get them fresher in my mind for the future.

GPS Log

GPS Log

I’d really enjoyed today’s flight. As ever Kev had given me a thorough workout, although rather miraculously the gear had operated perfectly throughout the entire flight! Hopefully now I can get 2019’s flying going properly, and try to keep current if at all possible.

Total flight time today: 1:10
Total flight time to date: 337:20

One Response to “Surprise surprise, a currency check!”

  1. 2019 Summary | Andy's Blog Says:

    […] flights (including two currency checks and a return to […]

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