Archive for the ‘Club Check’ Category

Variable Pitch Prop and Retractable Gear Sign Off

September 19, 2011

Had already had one attempt to complete the Arrow signoff cancelled due to poor weather at Kemble, so was hoping that leaving early from work this time would do the trick. Although the TAFs weren’t particularly promising (Brize showing BKN18 with tempo BKN12) in reality we only needed to do a bit of General Handling work, followed by a couple of circuits to prove I could land the Arrow and continue the good work from the first flight.

On the drive home I saw another light aircraft operating near Membury, and was optimistic as a result of this. However I arrived at Kemble in the midst of a particularly miserable shower of drizzle, with poor visibility and low cloud over the airfield. Roger arrived soon after me and seemed resigned to us having to give it a miss today.

However he announced he was happy to wait if I was so we headed out to the aircraft tosee what the weather looked like. As we got there Dave arrived back in G-ELUE so I headed over for a chat. He said that conditions actually weren’t as bad as they appeared from the ground, with generally a 1800 foot cloudbase and lots of clear areas, despite the odd shower. This coupled with a visibly clearer sky out to the West gave us a bit of hope so we decided to hang around and give it a go.

As the skies began to clear we uncovered the aircraft and I carried out the A check. Had a bit of a struggle checking the oil, the previous pilot having overtightened the dipstick such that I couldn’t even open it. With a bit of experienced jiggling from Roger he managed to get it open, and everything looked set to go. We had to dip the tanks to double check, but with about 25 gallons we easily had a good 2 hours or so, and weren’t expecting to need anywhere near this.

The Tower had closed by this time, so I made Traffic calls as we started up and taxyed out, following another Archer. Power checks were all completed normally on the D Site Apron and we headed out to the runway. Full power showed good RPM and the governor operating correctly, so I continued the takeoff run, rotating at 85 mph and getting airborne.

Made a slight boob by failing to correctly dab the brakes when raising the gear (in order to reduce the gyroscopic effects of the rotating wheels adding extra loads to the undercarriage as it raises) and Roger picked up on this quickly. Climbed away at 100 mph and headed to the North for clearer skies. Initially skirted through some low cloud (Roger explaining how to keep low enough to be able to see the horizon, which should prevent clipping the lower edges of the clouds) before being able to climb up to 3000 feet in clear blue sky. At this point Roger took control so that I could reach into the back for my sunglasses!

Once established in cruise configuration, Roger had me reconfigure for best endurance, which basically reduces the speed down to just above the stall speed in order to achieve the longest possible time in the air should this ever become necessary on a real flight. Once he was happy I recovered back to normal cruise, and Roger pointed out the traffic queuing on the A417 heading North up to the roundabout near Birdlip. Roger then had me descend to below the cloudbase, before heading back to the airfield.

I made a point once we were level again to check the indicated airspeed in cruise configuration. For some reason in my first flight I’d convinced myself that the aircraft was only cruising at around 120 MPH, when the book suggested more like 150 MPH was more likely. My double checking on this flight showed the book to be correct and my memory to be at fault, with us achieving somewhere around 145 MPH with the MAP and RPM set slightly below ‘optimum’ cruise settings.

Roger suggested I use the NDB on the field to do this, then quickly spotted a problem with my ADF tracking technique. I turned until the needle pointed to the nose of the aircraft, which caused me to overshoot somewhat as the needle continued to turn once I’d recovered to straight flight. Roger explained I should note the difference between the ADF heading and the aircraft’s actual heading, then make an appropriate correction before allowing the needle to settle.

We were arriving at Kemble from the North, making a Right Base join for 26 the preferred option. Announced this to Kemble Traffic, then set about slowing us down to circuit speed. Allowed the aircraft to descend a little while doing this, but soon got back up to more normal circuit height. Completed the pre-landing checks as we approached the base leg, correctly lowering the undercarriage and setting the prop to full fine and the mixture to full rich.

The join and descent went relatively well, but the flare and roundout produced one of my (recently fairly normal) rather hard landings. Roger again identified the problem in my technique: I was reducing power to idle as we crossed the threshold, then rounding out which caused the aircraft to run out of energy and meet the ground with a bit of a bump. Roger explained it was better to round out and fly level with power still applied, then remove the power to allow the aircraft to settle on the runway.

The second circuit and landing were better, I remembered to dab the brakes as we took off, and the landing was  smoother but still a little firm, with the nose wheel lowering with more of a bump than I’d like. We were now flying circuits at around 800 feet as the cloud started to lower again.

On the third circuit Roger had me carry out a flapless approach, which went well and culminated in a low level Go Around. For the fourth circuit, Roger suggested I try a grass landing. Again the circuit went well, and I was nicely set up for the approach to the grass runway before Roger decided I should again Go Around at low level due to birds on the runway. He had my fly along the runway at 100 feet or so in order to try to clear them.

We now carried out a low level ‘bad weather’ circuit, staying close in to the airfield and remaining at about 500 feet AGL. There were still a few birds on the grass as we approached, but this time we completed the landing, ending the sortie with a nice smooth touchdown followed by a gently lowering of the nosewheel. Almost perfect!

I carried out the after landing checks (spotting a slight oversight – throttle friction isn’t removed until the close down checklist) while Roger taxyed us back to parking. There was a slight ‘whoops’ moment for him as we slowed to enter our parking space, when Roger forgot that there were no toe brakes on his side! As a result we overshot our space by a foot or so, meaning we had to get some exercise when putting the aircraft to bed to push it back slightly so that it was in the correct space for the tie downs.

Roger and I chatted as we covered the aircraft and we then headed back to his car for him to update my log book, adding the sign off required for Variable Pitch Prop and Retractable Gear. I was now cleared for solo hire in the Arrow!

Just before leaving we were going over some of the events of the flight, and Roger asked how many grass landings I had. While I can’t remember exactly, it can’t me much more than 5 or 6, so Roger suggested that perhaps a session of circuits on Kemble’s grass runway might be a good idea to get me more used to ‘strip’ landings. I also told Roger of my desire to do some landings from the right seat, in case I’m ever flying with somebody else and they might need any assistance with landing in (perhaps) a tricky crosswind or the like.

This was a pretty enjoyable flight. It was the first time in a while I’d ‘used’ my IMC rating to fly above the clouds (possibly the most normal use of the rating) and it was good to see that sometimes conditions that appear very difficult on the ground can actually be a little misleading. While I doubt I’ll be launching off into the murk with abandon as a result, I might be more inclined to at least take off ‘for a look’ in future.

Hopefully my first Solo flight in the Arrow will come this weekend!

Total flight time today: 0:50
Total flight time to date: 165:55

Arrow Checkout Part 1

September 10, 2011

I’d been trying for some time to get a checkout in the Club’s new Arrow. With its retractable gear and variable pitch prop, it required ‘differences’ training and a log-book signoff before I can fly it. There is only really one Club Instructor handling conversions on to it, and synchronising our schedules, aircraft availability (the day before my first attempt at flying it, the gear failed to fully lock down when the Instructor was flying a test flight) and weather proved to be particularly difficult! I finally managed to line up all the dots and get a flight in her today.

The weather in the morning was far from ideal, but the forecast showed that the low cloud and drizzle should clear. The only issue was a forecast for relatively high winds, so we arranged to meet at Kemble and see how things looked.

I’d had a full brief on the changes on one of my earlier aborted attempts to fly, so had a quick ‘refresher’ with Roger along with a brief on what we would need to cover on the conversion flights. The hope was that we could cover it all in a couple of flights and get my signed off to fly the aircraft ‘solo’ after that.

Once in the aircraft, there was some initial fumbling over an unfamiliar checklist (not least the start procedure which calls for mixture at idle when cranking the engine, before advancing to full rich when it fires). Roger had warned me that the rudders were a little stiff on the ground, so I left the taxy checks until we reached the ‘D Site’ apron where power checks are carried out (the taxyway between Alpha 2 and Alpha 1 was closed again – although the FISO didn’t seem to realise this!).

While doing all this, the reason for my carrying out the power checks in the wrong place on the last flight became clear. I’d left the Golf taxyway to the left of where I should have, so when I turned right it meant I was indeed blocking the ‘correct’ exit from the taxyway.

Once all checks were complete and we lined up, I held the aircraft on the brakes as I applied full power do demonstrate the RPM governor working correctly. However, the aircraft was raring to go, and began to creep forwards, so Roger told me to just let the brakes off, and we accelerated down the runway. Was careful to remember that the ASI reads in MPH in this aircraft (as opposed to knots as I’m used to) and rotated at around 85 MPH. The crosswind was obvious as we began to climb, requiring a significant crab angle to maintain the runway centreline.

Once airborne and with no usable runway ahead I dabbed the toe brakes before raising the gear. It is soon obvious that the gear mechanism is working correctly, as you can feel the nose wheel retraction through the pedals. Once at a safe height, the RPM was brought back to 2600, and the mixture set to get a fuel flow indication of 13 PSI.

We headed out to the West from Kemble, switching to Bristol once we were clear. There was some fluffing of the initial call to Bristol, as the Controller surprised me a little. Usually, after a ‘Bristol Radar, G-AZWS request Basic Service’ initial call, the response would be ‘Pass your message’. However, on this occasion the Controller replied ‘Basic Service you have, pass your message’. I then passed all my details again, before (un-necessarily) again asking for a Basic Service.

We carried out some basic handling once the aircraft was configured for cruise (level off, allow it to accelerate up to about 120 MPH, reduce power to 24″ MAP, RPM to 2400, set mixture to get maximum exhaust gas temperature) followed by some climbing and descending. When climbing, the first thing to do is increase mixture, set 2600 RPM and then apply power to climb. The reverse is true when levelling off or descending – reduce power, set 2400 RPM then lean for the correct mixture.

We carried out some stall drills, with gear both retracted and extended. The only real thing to remember when recovering is to ensure that all three levers are pushed fully forward (assuming the stall occurred in a cruise configuration with mixture and RPM both pulled back). The stalls were relatively docile (it’s still a PA-28 after all) and the recovery wasn’t really an issue.

After this, we carried out some simulated circuits. Initially starting at 5500 feet, carry out downwind checks (including slowing, lowering the gear, setting RPM) then descend on ‘base’ and final. As we approached 4500 feet Roger called for a ‘Go Around’ which involved basically pushing all three levers forward, establishing the aircraft in the climb before raising the gear and finally the flaps.

I’d obviously been expecting a simulated gear failure at some point in the flight, but Roger fooled me slightly by pulling the Circuit Breaker for the gear pump during the circuit, meaning that it didn’t retract correctly on the Go Around. I failed to notice this, and once we were correctly climbing he asked me to level off and then ‘check you gear indication again’. All three greens were still lit, and this is a clear indication of me seeing what I expected to see, rather than seeing the actual indication on the gear lights.

Roger asked me what I’d do should this ever happen (the gear fail to retract on takeoff). I decided initially that I’d probably attempt to land immediately, but Roger said that if recycling the gear got it to retract correctly he’d probably continue. The aircraft could easily be flown with the gear down with probably a decrease in speed and an increase in fuel consumption, so if this occurred when away from base it would still give the option of returning to base in this condition.

We then demonstrated the difference in glide performance with the prop in full fine and full coarse pitch. I’d incorrectly assumed that we’d get better glide performance with the pitch in its full fine setting, but this was a useful demonstration that in actual fact pulling it back to full coarse will give a slightly better glide performance.

The last thing to do was to go through the ‘Emergency’ section of the checklist should the gear fail to extend. Roger has gone through a number of iterations of the checklist since his initial flight, and this section is now very comprehensive. The first thing to be aware of (as in all aircraft emergencies) is to make maintaining control of the aircraft the first priority. If the gear fails on the downwind leg, first of all get out of the circuit and get some height, even considering engaging the autopilot to remove some of the workload.

Once the aircraft is in a ‘safe’ configuration, working through the checklist is a relatively simple matter. The aircraft has an ’emergency’ gear extension mechanism that basically releases hydraulic pressure in the system, allowing the gear to drop under gravity and lock. Should the fail to lock then yawing the aircraft using the rudder (should the mains not lock) or pitching the aircraft up and down (for the nose gear) should cause everything to lock down.

If an indication problem is suspected, then a flyby of the tower (possibly parallel and then head on) should be considered to allow them to inspect the gear to see if it fails to lock down. Additionally, the indicator bulbs can be swapped to see if a single bulb has failed. Finally, if the panel lights are on, the brightness of the gear indicators is significantly reduced (something we demonstrated on the ground) and that’s always worth checking!

Should the worst come to the worst then a gear up landing should be attempted on a hard runway if possible, landing with flaps up in a level attitude. If possible, the engine should be stopped and secured on Final, and the prop motored to get it horizontal to reduce damage. Also, you could consider asking for a runway to be foamed should this be possible.

We recovered back to Kemble for a PFL. Roger had me do this using the ‘military’ method, positioning for ‘High Key’ (2500 feet over the landing area) and ‘Low Key’ (1500 feet in a position suitable to enable the remainder of the circuit to land). It had been a while since I’d done a PFL (Roger said it was obvious!) and I was also relatively unfamiliar with these terms, so Roger talked me through the procedure a bit more than perhaps he should have had to.

In general it all went well, but there was now a significant crosswind which I failed to correctly correct for. As a result I was blown through the centreline and (as ever!) ended up a little high. When we got down to a few hundred feet Roger called for a go around, and we set up for another circuit.

For some reason I flew this a lot closer in to the airfield than I normally would. This meant that again I was blown through the centreline as my downwind leg wasn’t far enough away from the runway to carry out a 180 degree turn with the wind blowing me towards the runway at 30 knots or so! Roger again had me Go Around, and we began to discuss the options should the crosswind prove too great for us to land at Kemble.

My first choice was Gloucester, as I know it has 3 runways so one was likely to be almost into wind. Roger suggested Colerne also, but we’d already ascertained that they weren’t flying today. Roger finally suggested Oaksey, whose main runway is 24 rather than 26 at Kemble. This change in direction would probably give us a small enough crosswind component to be able to land successfully.

In the end we decided that Roger would attempt a landing at Kemble (he’s probably done one or two more landings than I have!), and if he was unable to then we could divert elsewhere. I flew the majority of the circuit (this time allowing a lot more room on the downwind leg) and we also stayed a little high to try to avoid the worst of the turbulence over the threshold. On Final Roger took control and took us down to a decent landing despite the tricky conditions. I guess all that practice really does pay off!

Due to the increased crosswind we decided against any further flights today. We refuelled and covered the aircraft before heading back in for a debrief. Roger said he was generally happy with the way I’d managed all the systems, and thought that a single further flight with me doing things without him prompting should be enough to allow him to sign me off for solo flight in the aircraft. All we need to do now is line up all those dots again!

The Flight's Track

The Flight's Track

Vertical Profile

Vertical Profile

Total flight time today: 1:10
Total flight time to date: 165:05

Crosswind sign off

July 4, 2010

Following an accident on landing late last year, the Club instigated a policy of requiring all pilots to undergo a crosswind sign-off before being authorised to fly in crosswinds greater than 7 knots. This limit was deferred until the end of June 2010, and I now needed to get signed off for this.

I’d booked an aircraft last weekend to do this, but the wind ended up virtually dead calm on that day so the flight was cancelled. Had another attempt this weekend, and the forecast was looking good with the wind 15G25 about 40 degrees off the Lyneham crosswind runway.

As it happened, the wind was actually more like 17 or 18 knots about 20 degrees off the main runway, so 40 degrees off the crosswind runway, putting us potentially outside the demonstrated crosswind capability for a Warrior is we used the crosswind runway.

Mike initially had us do a couple of circuits on the main runway. Although there wasn’t much of a crosswind on this runway, the conditions were still quite tricky. I handled the circuits pretty well, although on the first didn’t really correct for wind sufficiently on the base leg so drifted away from the runway a fair bit.

As we reported downwind for the final circuit, the wind was given as 240 at 17 knots. This put us within crosswind limits for the crosswind runway, so as we turned base we got another wind check to make sure, then asked for permission to reposition for a landing on the crosswind runway (18). This was granted, so for the final circuit we headed for a crosswind landing quite close to the demonstrated crosswind limits for the aircraft.

This was my first ever landing on runway 18 I think, and the fact that it doesn’t have a displaced threshold meant I was initially slightly high. I soon sorted this out though, and there was a very pronounced crab angle required to maintain the centreline on final.

As we reached the roundout, I kicked off the crab and got us lined up relatively nicely. However the wind was varying a little, so I was having to make continual corrections with both rudder and aileron to maintain the centreline.  As we touched down I had a slight crab to the right, and was drifting slightly to the left. However the touchdown was well in control and Mike appeared happy.

The flight's track

The flight's track

So, I’m now signed off for crosswinds!

Total flight time today: 0:30
Total flight time to date: 129:55


Checked out again!

August 25, 2008

Lyneham also have a Slingsby Firefly in their fleet, an aerobatic two seater that is rented out at £70 per tacho hour. It seemed silly not to get checked out in it!

The original plan was to fly this evening at around 17:30, but Matt arrived back from his weekend away earlier than he originally expected, so we took advantage of a window in the weather and headed down to Lyneham at 16:00.

Spent quite a while with Matt beforehand going through the various speeds for the aircraft, and then him showing me around the cockpit of the Firefly. It’s quite a bit different to anything I’ve flown before, not least because it has a stick instead of a yoke! It was obvious that some hand juggling would be required during flight, as the throttle is to the left, but the flaps, fuel pump and carb heat are all to the right. This turned out to be interesting!

Pre flight was all normal (if a little different) and power checks at the hold went well. I’m still trying to get to grips with the slightly different R/T at Lyneham, but hopefully that’ll come with a bit more practice. We headed out to the runway, with takeoff flap set, applied full power and began to roll.

The Slingsby’s take off roll isn’t exactly spritely, but once it’s ready to take off it’s hard to keep it on the ground. However, after rotation you have to be careful not to get the nose too high, allowing speed to rise to 65 knots for the initial climb out, before increasing to 70 knots and raising the flaps. This took a little getting used to, and on most takeoffs I had the stall warner bleating occasionally (shades of the Grob there!).

We headed out of the Zone, and climbed up to 4000 feet to get above the cloud layer to do some stalls. This gave me plenty of time to get used to the feel of the Firefly in the climb. We then prepared for the stall, carrying out a couple of clearing turns, again giving me more chance to get used to the aircraft.

I was expecting the stall to be a little more work given that the Firefly is aerobatic. However, it’s very like a Warrior in some respects. The stall warner sounds quite early, and then there’s a good period of buffeting before the stall proper occurs. Even this is relatively benign, easily controller by lowering the nose and applying full throttle (something that was difficult as it involved reaching over to the right to turn off carb heat). I was half expecting at least a wing drop, but in reality it was quite easily controlled. We then repeated the stall in the base leg configuration, and even this was easily controllable.

We followed this with some steep turns, which went relatively well. It took a little while in each one to get the nose attitude correct, but if I had a bit more practice then I’m sure I’d soon get used to it.

Matt then demonstrated a wingover, my first ever aerobatic manoeuvre! I’d always ‘promised’ myself that I wouldn’t get involved in aerobatics, as given my previous experiences with the Westfield (‘standard’ road car, the ‘odd’ track day, upgrading to a ‘track’ car followed by full on Sprinting!) I really didn’t want to start down that path so early in my flying careeer! As it happened I had little idea of what was going on. Matt was talking me through it but to be honest it all passed in a bit of a blur!

We then headed back to the field to try a PFL from the overhead. It’s been a while since I did a PFL all the way to a landing, but with a bit of coaching from Matt I managed a pretty good approach to a landing (slightly long, of course I was a bit high!). The conversion between a landing and a takeoff involves quite a bit of hand juggling. The landing is carried out with the right hand on the stick, and the left hand on the throttle. Once you’re landed you then have to switch to left hand on the stick, and use the right hand to raise flaps from ‘full’ to ‘takeoff’. Then you switch the right hand back to the stick, and use the left hand to apply full throttle! Good job I learned to juggle a few years back!

The next circuit was for a flapless landing, and we were joined in the circuit by one of the club’s Warriors. A lot of the circuit was spent trying to regain contact with the other aircraft, as it kept ‘disappearing’ into the clutter caused by the cloud and ground features. The second approach and landing went pretty well, despite this being my first flapless landing since I was in the circuit during my training!

The next circuit culminated in a standard landing, and Matt announced he was happy, and we would make the next one a full stop. This one I landed a little long, and that meant I had to brake fairly hard to make the ‘180 loop’, the turnoff from the runway we usually use to get back to the club. On the whole my landings were pretty good, but on a few of them I tended to close the throttle a little early. Because of the way the Firefly handles it’s very easy to lose a lot of airspeed when closing the throttle, so it needs to be almost ‘flown in to the ground’, with the throttle being closed when just a few feet above the ground.

On the whole another pretty enjoyable flight. I’m not sure given the layout of the Firefly whether Luned will get on with it (it’s even more of a Westfield than the Grob is) so we may reserve this aircraft for me taking friends flying. At least with a Warrior the entry and exit are made a little more ‘lady-like’ with the step up to the wing!

So, now that’s 3 types in my log book! All I need now is my pass for Lyneham and I should be able to get back on track.

Total flight time today: 0:50
Total flight time to date: 74:55

Getting checked out again.

August 19, 2008

I’ve recently joined the Flying Club at RAF Lyneham, but couldn’t fly their aircraft until I had a check flight with one of their Instructors or Club Check pilots. I’d tried to do this on Saturday but was foiled by the weather, so had a second attempt planned for this evening.

Had been in contact with Matt Lane a number of times during the day as the weather didn’t look great, and even as I drove from Newbury over to Lyneham I passed through a number of very heavy showers on the way. However by the time I arrived at Lyneham the clouds had broken and it was actually quite a nice day! Who said the British weather was unpredictable?

Matt met me in the car park outside the entrance as I don’t yet have my pass for Lyneham, and then we headed into the Flying Club. Matt gave be a quick brief on the ground layout at Lyneham and the typical taxy routes we would be given for the various runways. I then checked the aircraft out while he booked us out and got the bowser ready to refuel us (as the last person to fly had left one tank almost dry!). As I settled myself into the cockpit and got myself familiarised with the slightly different radio fit, Matt dragged the aircraft over to the bowser and topped off the tanks.

Once ready, I called for start clearance (something we don’t do at Brize) and then taxy clearance after that. All we were getting back from the ground frequency was carrier wave at this point, but eventually the Ground controller managed to switch radios (presumably) and tell us to taxy and go straight to the Tower frequency. Matt explained the route to take, and gave me a few tips regarding the taxy checks so as not to use as much real estate on the ground. Handy.

We headed out to the ‘180 loop’ for the power checks, then did the pre-takeoff checks and headed up to the hold. We were quickly given clearance to line up, and as we lines up were given our takeoff clearance. Departure procedures at Lyneham aren’t as fixed as at Brize, we just had to turn North as we reached 500 feet and the only other restriction was to stay out of the IFR approaches (if we were heading to the East or West for example).

We climbed up to about 3500 feet so that we could do some stalls, and at this point I was glad to have Matt alongside, because I’d forgotten my sunglasses (doh!) and the visibility was pretty poor into sun. Once we reached Malmesbury we turned to the South and things were much better! Did a full clean stall (no dramas, Matt commented on how he was glad to see I wasn’t diving towards the ground as the stall came!) and then a PFL (conveniently overhead Charlton Park!) before heading back to Lyneham.

I hadn’t realised that Lyneham is on top of a very obvious plateau, which actually means you can’t see the runways (or couldn’t today) from about 1500 ft QNH. However, the ‘field’ is fairly obvious once you know what to look for (and the NDB helps!).

We switched back to the Tower frequency, and joined right base for runway 24. A fairly normal approach and landing for a touch and go (only slight hitch was me applying power before getting the flaps away) and we took off for a circuit. The engine ‘failed’ again, and Matt showed me the good options for a landing should it happen for real (must remember to turn left!). I continued on the circuit, ending up a little wide (I was heading for 1000 feet before turning downwind) and carried out another normal approach and landing. Good to know I can still land at least!

Taxyed back as Matt did the after landing checks, and we put the aircraft to bed and headed back into the club.

I clarified a few other things with Matt before I left, paid the bill (a mere £37.50!) and came home. I might get checked out in the Firefly too, as that’s only £70 an hour, although it is just a two seater.

So, now we just need to see what availability is like at weekends. I’ve been keeping an eye on it, and it appears that weekends tend to get booked up perhaps 2 weeks in advance, so that shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

Total flight time today: 0:35
Total flight time to date: 72:15

Another type, and another victim

August 15, 2008

Brize have recently sold their Cherokee, and both Warriors are away at maintenance at the moment, so we’ve been without an aircraft for several weeks now. Lynne managed to get a Grob 115A in as a temporary stopgap, and I needed to get checked out in this before I could fly it. As luck would have it, a break in the weather coincided with the opportunity for an afternoon off, so I arranged to go and be checked out on a Friday afternoon.

Spoke to old friend James too, who was at a bit of a loose end this weekend, so we arranged for him to meet me at Brize, and we’d go for a flight together after I’d had my check flight.

Arrived early at Brize, and hung around in the club listening to another pilot being checked out on the Grob before me. His flight seemed to over-run by ages, so it was almost 4 O’Clock by the time I walked out to the aircraft (I was supposed to fly at around 2 O’Clock). Spent a little time familiarising myself with the unfamiliar cockpit and checked the aircraft out before Geoff (a CRI at the club) came out to join me. I’d been warned previously that I would need to be a lot more active on the pedals during the landing, which I assumed to mean that it needed a lot of rudder input during the approach.

However, I think this is actually because the linkage between the pedals and the nose wheel steering isn’t ‘rigid’ like it is in the Warrior. As a result, the aircraft has a tendancy to ‘wander’ slightly while taxying, which has to be controlled much more using the pedals.

Geoff also warned me about the stall warner often coming on a bit prematurely, and as we climbed out after takeoff I saw what he meant. Even climbing at a good 75 knots or so the stall warner still sounded once or twice, about 20 knots above the stall speed!

We left the circuit and tried a few steep turns initially. I found these a lot easier in the Grob for some reason, and if anything had a tendency to gain height in them rather than lose it. A couple of stalls followed, which were virtually unnoticeable (although that could have been because Geoff had me recover on the stall warner rather than waiting for a full stall). Made a bit of a mess of the PFLs though, but after a couple of tried got back into the swing of them. I made a mental note that I should be doing these on a more regular basis during my own flights just to ensure I’m fully up to speed.

We returned to the circuit and made a normal join, before coming in for the first landing. The approach went well, and the actual landing wasn’t too bad for the first one on a new type, until the landing roll began! This was where the steering problems surfaced with the aircraft heading off to the left of the runway as soon as the nose wheel touched. Fighting to get it back the centreline, the effect became more pronounced as I increased power to takeoff again. Lesson learned there, and a good job it was done on a massive runway like they have at Brize!

The subsequent landings were all much better, with the last two among the best I’ve ever done. Knowing to expect the steering issues made it a lot easier to counter them on the later landings.

Headed back in to the club, and decided that our original plan of a trip to Sywell wouldn’t be wise given the late hour (it was about 17:30 by now), so we decided to head over to Enstone for fuel and then just do a bit of a ‘local’ flight up to Wellesbourne and back with James.

Booked out and walked out to the aircraft with James, giving him a bit of a brief as to what he needed to do and what to expect on his first flight in a light aircraft. We got settled in and headed out to the hold. After being given our clearance (direct to Enstone rather than having to go via Burford) and take off clearance we headed out onto the runway. The takeoff went well, but again the stall warner gave a warning bleat despite the airspeed being up above 70 knots again.

We headed directly to Enstone, which for once I had no trouble spotting. James was sitting a fair bit lower than me so couldn’t spot it over the nose, so I headed left slightly to give him a view of the field out of the right hand side of the cockpit. Joined overhead into what sounded like a busy circuit, and heard someone else calling that they were about to turn base. This became an ‘orbiting on base’ call, so I also orbited on the downwind leg, keeping a good look out to ensure I could see the aircraft ahead of me in the circuit.

I watched one aircraft land, and then someone else must have cut in, because the aircraft on base announced he was orbiting again! It was just like being at Brize again!

Eventually we all landed in turn, and my landing was perhaps the worst I’ve ever made. We bounced slightly two or three times, and this distracted me enough to end up heading off to the left and off the runway. I was on the verge of applying the power and going around when I got the steering under control and we rolled out. Taxyed to the South side of the field to get fuel. Had some problems pushing the aircraft around as we didn’t have the tow bar for it, but Paul from the club at Enstone gave us a bit of a helping hand!

Made ready to leave, being followed to the hold by a nice looking biplane, that we allowed to pass behind us while I waited to do the power checks. These done we headed out to the runway and took off, heading towards Wellesbourne.

I hadn’t planned this flight, but the trip to Wellesbourne is one I’d done several times, and I dialled in the 355 radial on the VOR at Honiley as a backup to my visual navigation. As it happened we didn’t need it, despite being slightly distracted by Gaydon which can look quite a lot like Wellesbourne from the distance. It soon became obvious that it wasn’t, and I later spotted Wellesbourne and was able to head straight forward.

Despite it being late, there were a number of aircraft in the circuit and landing at Wellesbourne, so we made blind ‘traffic’ calls to keep everyone appraised of our position. Once overhead we turned South back towards Brize (dialling in 175 on the VOR as a bit of a helping hand) and I handed control over to James.

Initially he was navigating using the compass, which confused him slightly due to the fact that it turns ‘the wrong way’ in comparison to what you might normally expect. When I pointed out the DI to him he began to do a bit better, but still tended to weave along a little. It’s surprising that the things I also found difficult early on in my training now seem so simple, I guess it just shows how far to progress during the training and how you conveniently forget how poor you were initially!

We were now talking to Brize, and they offered us a direct arrival. However I declined and we went via Burford (as I’m more familiar with doing this), and after we passed Shipton I used to throttle to bring us down to 1000 feet before we reached Burford. Made the usual joining calls, and had James follow the A40 to join the circuit. I offered him the chance to try a landing (slightly tongue in cheek) but he politely declined, so I took control back and turned us onto the base leg.

Again the approach was good, but the landing wasn’t much to write home about. We landed slightly crabbed, but a lot more smoothly than we had at Enstone. I also had a lot better directional control once we touched down, so at least I was improving!

Taxyed back to the Flying Club parking area and James helped me push the aircraft back into the hangar (a lot easier than the Warrior as it’s both lighter and has a shorter wing span) and we walked back to the club. James said he’d enjoyed the flight, and I apologised for putting him through the awful landings!

On the whole I enjoyed flying the Grob. The 115 HP engine meant that the climb and cruise performance wasn’t great, but the handling characteristics were quite nice on the whole, and the view from the cockpit was very good. Sadly it was a little expensive, being charge based on logged time, as opposed to tacho as the Brize aircraft generally are. Will have to see if I fly it again (hopefully I’ll be checked out at Lyneham too soon).

Total flight time today: 2:20
Total flight time to date: 71:40