Archive for the ‘Currency Check’ Category

Another currency check, after a long break!

September 21, 2019

After my last flight, I’d made a number of attempts to fly to keep within the Club’s 60 day currency rules. I predictably dropped out of currency, and then had to cancel a couple of Currency Check flights due to weather or not feeling fit to fly. I finally managed to find a day when aircraft and Instructor availability, weather and my health all meant that I could actually go flying!

I’d never flown with DJ before, but chatted to him via What’s App in the days leading up to the flight to plan what we needed to do. One helpful part of the timing was that I was now in the second year of my Class Rating, so if this flight could be of an hour or more duration, then it would count as the required training flight for my Class Rating Revalidation by Experience requirements.

The day before the flight some pilots had some issues getting the aircraft started, but when I arrived at Kemble on the morning of our flight I was just in time to see DJ heading off for the flight before mine without any problems. They were running a little late, so I settled myself in the Club to prepare myself for the flight, reading over the Warrior’s checklist again a few times to refresh my memory. Fortunately, DJ and his previous student returned after cutting their flight short, so I wasn’t too late in heading out myself.

We had a quick brief over what we needed to cover, before heading out to the aircraft. I gave AF a quick once over before getting in and getting settled ready for the flight. I completed all the pre-start items from the checklist, then as we had been warned, the starter seemed reluctant to turn the engine over initially. However, keeping the key in the ‘start’ position for a few seconds soon had the starter turning the prop, and the engine started fairly soon after.

Kemble were operating on 08 today, so this meant a taxy along the grass down to the North Apron for checks. Once the checks were completed, I made my first slip of the day, announcing “Checks complete, Hotel site” (Hotel site is where our aircraft are parked!). The FISO picked me up on my error and corrected me, before clearing me initially to the hold, then to line up. I backtracked a little before lining up and commencing the takeoff roll.

Takeoff and climbout were normal, and I set course to the South to head to Lyneham as we’d planned. We climbed up to 3000 feet, but I failed to level out and trim correctly, meaning we ended up are 3200 feet for a while. DJ took control and put the aircraft well out of trim, then gave control back to me to have me re-trim. This time I did a better job, and the altitude stabilised at 3000 feet correctly.

I initially carried out a gentle turn to the left, followed by one to the right, increasing the angle of back towards 30 or 45 degrees at DJ’s prompting. During both of these turns my height keeping was almost spot on, showing how important it is to have the aircraft correctly trimmed for level flight!

As we came out of the turn, DJ pulled the throttle to idle, announcing ‘simulated engine failure’. I was a little slow getting us down to best glide speed, meaning we lost height unnecessarily initially. I was also a little hesitant in choosing a field, including incorrectly verbalising the wind direction (although in my head I knew that we had to turn 180 degrees to face in to wind). DJ gave me some useful advice, that in the absence of an obvious candidate off to the right, I should just pick a field in view to my left, as this would make it easier to maintain sight of the field while positioning to land in it.

The field I had chosen had a line running across it perpendicular to the landing direction, which I initially assumed was just a path. As we got lower it became clear that this was in fact a wall or ditch, so I quickly shifted to a field just to the right of my initial choice. As I lined up for my Final approach, I was (predictably!) high, and when DJ asked what I was going to do I told him I would side-slip, and then carried out this manoeuvre (which allows rapid height loss without much of a gain in airspeed).

DJ allowed be to descend to around 300 feet AGL, before announcing he was happy and telling me to Go Around. I climbed away, correctly remembering to initially retract 1 stage of flap (which generates a lot of drag) before waiting for a positive rate of climb to be indicated and then retracting the remaining flaps in stages. I oriented myself with Kemble, before calling the FISO for airfield information to carry out some circuits.

There were another couple of aircraft joining at around the same time as us, and we spotted one of them off to the right ahead of us. The other had announced on a 5 mile Final, so I made a note to keep an eye out for him as we carried out our Overhead Join and Deadside Descent. We slotted in nicely behind the aircraft ahead of us, and carried on around the circuit, carrying out the before landing checks on the Downwind leg.

I turned Base and Final for the first approach, seeing the aircraft ahead of us clear the runway as we were on Short Final. My speed keeping was generally good, and I brought us in for a slightly firm landing. As I applied power and retracted flaps, I told DJ that it could have been better, and his response was “There was nothing wrong with that, but lets see if you can do better next time!”.

As we climbed away, DJ thought he spotted a drone operating below us to our right, and kept an eye out for it during this circuit. We continued round the circuit, this time extending Downwind slightly to allow the aircraft who had earlier reported a 5 mile Final to land in front of us. He must have been significantly further than 5 miles away for it to have taken him that long to land! Once the runway was clear, the second landing was much better, leading to a slight chirrup from the tyres as I brought us down to a very gentle touchdown. Very satisfying!

As we climbed away, DJ again spotted the drone, and reported this to the FISO. While not really affecting our flight, I’m pretty sure the drone rules prevent the flying of drones this close to an airfield. The final circuit was routine, and my last landing of the day was again a satisfyingly gentle touchdown!

We taxyed back to the parking area, and refuelled the aircraft before putting it back into its space in readiness for the next flight. On the way back to the Club DJ gave me a debrief, and was very complimentary about my flying. He called particular attention to my good situational awareness and radio work, so it was nice to be given a pat on the back!

Track flown

Track flown

Flight profile

Flight profile

So after a 6 month break, I was finally current again. While it’s sometimes frustrating to get be in the position of needing a Currency Check flight, I generally enjoy the opportunity to fly with an Instructor, and often come away with something new from each of these flights. DJ was a pleasure to fly with, and it was nice to be complimented on my flying! Now I need to try to maintain currency for a bit longer this time!

Total flight time today: 1:00
Total flight time to date: 341:10

Surprise surprise, a currency check!

March 17, 2019

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.



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

Currency check (again!)

February 10, 2018

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



Flying out to visit a Nimrod

February 4, 2017

Last year had ended rather like it had begun, with a complete lack of flying. Since my last flight in mid-October, I’d had a couple of tries to fly that had sadly been scuppered by weather and the usual Winter cold.

As a result, some 3 and a half months later, I was itching to get back into the cockpit again, but requiring a Club Currency check in order to do so. As ever, Kev was my first choice to conduct this, and we managed to arrange a suitable day to go flying. While considering a possible destination (where possible, I’d much rather a currency check involve some ‘real’ flying, rather than just the usual box-ticking exercise) Kev mentioned that another Club member had also requested to accompany us, as he was in need of a Currency Check too.

Graham is involved in the Nimrod Preservation Group at Coventry, and suggested that we could go there and he would show us around the Nimrod. This quickly expanded into a full-on Club flyout, with three aircraft and 6 people planning to attend. The Arrow also was coming up on a required service, so Kev arranged for it to be hangared at Brize for the week, so that he could work on it in relative comfort rather than trying to find somewhere at Kemble to do it.

So, the plan was finalised; three aircraft would head to Coventry, we would have lunch in the DC6 diner, look around the Nimrod, then fly on to Brize. The Arrow would be dropped off there, and everyone would then return to Kemble in the remaining two aircraft. A planned pub night a couple of days before the flight cemented the plan, with a third pilot also requiring a Currency check before he could fly the Club’s Warrior to Coventry. Jon would meet Kev at Kemble around 9:30, to carry out a Currency Check in G-EDGI. Graham and I would then join Kev in the Arrow so he could carry out Currency Checks for both of us, while JP flew the Cherokee to Coventry, and Jon was joined by Ray in G-EDGI.

Sadly the weather threw a small spanner in the works on the morning of the flight. Sub-zero overnight temperatures meant that all the aircraft had a light coating of ice on the wings, and sadly the wrong type of de-icing fluid had been ordered (a preventative coating rather than a fluid that would clear the ice off the wings). As such, Jon’s Currency Check flight departed around 10:00, while the remaining pilots ensured that the ice was cleared from the Arrow and Cherokee.

Once Jon returned, we all boarded our respective aircraft, and made ready to depart. I was flying the leg to Coventry in the Arrow, with Kev alongside and Graham in the rear. I planned to carry out at least two circuits at Kemble, before departing to Coventry via Chedworth, Moreton in Marsh and Gaydon disused airfields. This was the first flight of the day for the Arrow, but it started first turn of the key, and after some work attempting to clear all the insides of the windows to de-mist them, we taxyed towards Alpha 1 for the power checks. The cold temperatures meant we had to wait quite a long time for the engine to warm up sufficiently, so in the meantime Kev had me go over the pre-departure brief, and we also discussed what the plan would be should there be any engine issues during takeoff or immediately after.

The engine now sufficiently warm, I carried out the power checks (Kev double checking I understood why we exercise the Variable Pitch Propeller during these checks), and then the pre-departure checks before moving up to the hold in readiness to depart. Another aircraft was just turning Base as we were cleared onto the runway to depart, and after a last minute check that everyone was Ok, I lined up and applied power to begin the takeoff roll.

The takeoff roll and rotation were all normal, and I was pleased that my application of rudder during rotation was almost spot on, meaning no wing rocking or yawing as we transitioned from ground roll to flight. Once there was no usable runway remaining, I dabbed the brakes and raised the gear, checking that the greens were extinguished, followed soon after by the ‘in transit’ light going out. We turned Crosswind, then Downwind, levelling off at circuit height and making the ‘Downwind’ radio call.

The before landing checks were completed normally, the gear coming down correctly. At the appropriate point I turned ‘Base’, checking we were within flap limit, before lowering 2 stages of flap and beginning our descent. I overshot the turn to Final by a small amount, but easily got us back on track, making the ‘Final’ call after carrying out the ‘Reds, Blues, Greens, Flaps’ Final checks, and remembering to report ‘Gear Down’ to the FISO also. The approach to the runway was stable, and my first landing in over three months was very smooth. It’s always good to know you can still remember how to land an aircraft after such a long break!

Turning Final on our first circuit

Turning Final on our first circuit

A quick check of the Ts and Ps, and I retracted the flaps, applied full power and made ready for the next circuit. As we turned Crosswind, Kev mentioned that I had used quite a high power setting during the first circuit, meaning we would have had quite a speed differential to any aircraft ahead of us in the circuit. In hindsight, I suspect this was actually a distraction technique, as while I carried out the before landing checks, the gear lock indication lights all failed to illuminate. I spotted this immediately, and told Kev that I would normally leave the circuit at this point, climb to a safer altitude before attempting to diagnose the issue.

He suggested that on this flight I just carry out the basic checks first, and luckily I remembered that a common cause for the gear lights not illuminating is having the panel lights turned on. A quick check of the rotary switch for these lights showed that they had magically become switched on! I turned them off, and was immediately rewarded with three green lights, so we carried on with the circuit.

This distraction had caused me to fly a slightly wider Downwind leg than normal. It wasn’t too bad though, and in reality if I’d encountered a similar issue with the gear during a circuit, I would just have left the circuit and climbed, so this wouldn’t have been a real issue. We turned Base and configured for the descent, again carrying out the final checks on Final, coming in for a second smooth landing of the day. As we accelerated down the runway I double checked that Kev was happy for us to depart to Coventry now. He announced that he was, and I continued the takeoff roll, rotating as normal before climbing away and raising the gear.

This time the gear didn’t retract, so I told Kev we would leave the circuit as planned, get up to a safe height and established on the first leg out of Kemble, before running the checklists to try to resolve the issue. Climbing up to 3500 feet, Kev suggested we level off at 2000 feet and try the obvious checks, and this time a quick check of the circuit breakers showed that one of them had popped out. I reset this, and immediately the gear started to raise, the three green lights going out a few seconds before the ‘in transit’ light also went out.

I continued the climb up to 3500 feet, setting the next course as we reached Chedworth. We signed on with Brize, receiving a Basic Service for this leg. On this leg we had a bit of a discussion as to whether the Semicircular Rule for cruising altitude applied to VFR flight below the Transition Level. I must check up on this, as I always try to fly at these levels where possible.

We had discussed in the run up to this flight whether to request an instrument approach in to Coventry. Checking the NOTAMs before the flight, I found that their ILS was out of action due to work on the airfield. Kev still suggested we at least brief the approach and configure the 430 for the approach, even though we were going to join and land visually. This wasn’t something I had actually done before using the 430, so Kev’s IR kicked in, and he showed me how the approach would be briefed using the approach plates, and then how to configure the 430 to actually carry out the approach. Hopefully I can get my IR(R) renewed in the near future, and start to put some of this into practice on future flights.

We signed off with Brize as we approached Coventry, and I used the OBS feature of the 430 to plot a Northerly approach to the airfield from Gaydon. As we approached Gaydon, I began to descend to 2000 feet to get below the initial shelf of Birmingham’s Controlled Airspace. The Controller at Coventry advised us to expect a Left Base join via Draycote Water, with one ahead of us. As I headed towards the easily visible lake, Kev spotted the aircraft ahead of us, that turned out to be Jon in G-EDGI.

As we continued the approach, I started to monitor the ILS indications that we had configured earlier, and saw the localiser needle coming in as expected. I allowed myself to get slightly distracted by this, and ended up too low on the approach, causing Kev to give me a gentle reminder to watch my height. We were now established on Final, so I concentrated my attention out of the cockpit for the rest of the landing. My third landing of the day was again very smooth, and as we rolled out we heard G-EDGI asking to park on the grass near the Nimrod. The grass parking area was too wet to use today, but we were helpfully allowed to park on the hard standing right in front of the Nimrod.

Landing at Coventry

Landing at Coventry

After being marshalled in to place, we shut down and met up with the others, being the last aircraft to arrive. After taking the opportunity to get a few photographs, we walked over to the DC6 diner for lunch. Sadly, they were fully booked, but were able to offer us takeaway food, which we planned to take to the Nimrod to eat there. While waiting for our food to arrive, we had a look around the cockpit of the DC6. In future we must remember to book a table there if we’re planning to visit at the weekend!

Parked up at Coventry

Parked up at Coventry

Once the food arrived, we walked back over to the Nimrod, and set about polishing off the food. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, hopefully next time we can do so in the DC6 itself! Once we’d eaten, Graham gave us a guided tour of the Nimrod, explaining how it would have been operated on a real mission. Typically they would be dispatched over water for several hours, looking for submarines. They had the ability to refuel in flight, and Graham explained how sonar buoys would be dropped, and their results monitored from on the aircraft. It was interesting to see examples of the displays the sonar operators would have been watching, as they looked very familiar from my days at AudioSoft when the company provided software for training Navy sonar operators. Interestingly, two of the windows towards the front of the aircraft could be opened in flight, enabling photographs to be taken. I’ve not sure I’d have been too keen to have stuck my head out when operating just a few hundred feet above water with 2 of the 4 engines turned off!

Familiar looking Sonar traces

Familiar looking Sonar traces

The fleet viewed from the Nimrod cockpit

The fleet viewed from the Nimrod cockpit

The gang with the Nimrod

The gang with the Nimrod

After a very enlightening tour, we made our way back to our aircraft to plan the remainder of the day’s flying. It was decided that I would fly with JP in the Cherokee, as he was keen to attempt an ILS approach into Brize. We all boarded our respective aircraft, and JP was first to be ready to leave. While he set about getting the engine started, I made sure I had all the appropriate plates available for the flight. First was the taxy diagram for Coventry, then the various approach plates for Brize.

We received our taxy clearance, and I helped JP orient himself with where we were on the airfield, and how to make our way to the hold that we’d been cleared to. As we approached the hold, I made sure he was aware that we would be given a departure clearance from ATC, that would need to be copied down and read back. I also made sure I was ready to copy down any clearances, so that I could be as much help as possible on the flight. At the hold, we were issued a departure clearance as expected, then cleared to backtrack. JP was unsure how far to go, so I made a quick calculation of the length of runway from the intersection, and we backtracked far enough to give us plenty of room to depart safely.

Departing Coventry

Departing Coventry

We were cleared to depart, and JP made the last checks before opening up the throttle and we headed down the runway. We rotated with plenty of runway to spare, before climbing to 1400 feet to remain below Birmingham’s controlled airspace. We then turned on to the appropriate heading to depart to the South East, climbing to around 3000 feet once clear of the lowest portion of airspace. Using SkyDemon I gave JP an approximate track to steer to head us towards Burford, while we listened to Brize’s ATIS, with me copying down the details. We then made contact with Brize on their Zone frequency initially to request vectors to the ILS for runway 25.

The Controller asked us to call him back on the Brize Director frequency, and once in communication with him there he gave us a course to steer to approach Brize. I dug out the appropriate plate, going through a quick brief of the approach with JP to give him an idea of what to expect. As we continued on towards Brize, I came to realise how much I’d forgotten about how busy the radio can become once on an approach. I did my best to help JP as much as possible, copying down information the Controller was giving us and occasionally answering radio calls that had come in while JP was busy with other tasks. The Controller confused JP a little by asking him to report ‘cockpit checks complete’, and although we were still quite some way from Brize at this point, I realised that he wanted the before landing checklist to be carried out, and for us to let him know once these were complete.

As we approached Brize’s airspace, the Controller asked if we could accept vectors onto a 6.5nm Final. JP accepted this, and on studying the plate I realised why the Controller had made a point of establishing this with us. 6.5nm is essentially the glideslope intercept distance, so JP would be quite busy at this point, trying to capture the localiser at the same time as monitoring the glideslope to begin the descent.

As we neared the extended centreline, I told JP that we were currently on a 90 degree intercept to the approach path, and would likely be given a turn to intercept the localiser at around 30 degrees before being asked to report established. This turned out to be correct, and as the Controller gave us the turn, JP began to monitor the localiser. I had warned him to make the turn onto runway track as soon as he saw the needle begin to move, knowing how easy it was to overshoot the localiser. Sadly my warnings turned out to be founded, as JP initially flew a little way through the localiser, before turning back to capture it correctly.

The glideslope was now coming in, and while JP concentrated on the approach, I kept a good lookout for other aircraft. We heard both of the other Lyneham Flying Club aircraft on frequency as we switched to Tower, with G-EDGI joining on a Left Base behind us, and the Arrow being asked to extend Downwind. We later learned that they had extended so far that they asked to return via vectors to the ILS also!

JP managed the approach well, and brought us in for a nice landing on Brize’s long runway. Fortunately for us, the Controller knew where we were going, and asked us to vacate left before passing us over to Ground for the taxy to the hangar where Kev was planning to service the Arrow. After we were marshalled into our parking space, we were soon joined by Jon in G-EDGI. As we disembarked, the Arrow taxyed past us, and we walked up to the hangar to help push it back into place.

The Arrow safely parked up at Brize

The Arrow safely parked up at Brize

Some negotiation of seating arrangements took place in order to ensure that the 3 lightest people were in the Cherokee due to its more limited payload. I joined Kev and Jon in G-EDGI, while the others headed back to the Cherokee for the flight back to Kemble. We positioned ourselves at the hold for the power checks, before being cleared to depart. Kev was manning the radio, and requested a direct route from Brize to Kemble at 1400 feet, rather than following the usual VFR departure procedures via either Burford or Fairford.

Preparing to depart Brize in turn

Preparing to depart Brize in turn

We were cleared to depart, and the runway track put us on a direct track straight to Kemble. We climbed to around 1400 feet, and after passing Fairford detoured slightly to the North to avoid overflying South Cerney in case there were any parachuting operations that day. We signed off with Brize, and on contacting Kemble found them to be fairly busy. We were asked to join Overhead, but after some discussion decided to join on the Deadside, as we would be unlikely to be able climb from our current altitude to an appropriate altitude for the Overhead Join.

Deadside Join at Kemble

Deadside Join at Kemble

As we joined Crosswind, we heard JP on frequency requesting a Left Base join. We slotted in to the circuit just ahead of an aircraft that had just taken off, and Jon flew a nice approach and landing on runway 26. The radio was pretty busy, so I hadn’t been able to suggest landing long to avoid inconveniencing anyone behind us. However, Jon requested a backtrack, and as we turned we saw JP in the Cherokee climbing away to go around.

Short Final at Kemble

Short Final at Kemble

We taxyed back to parking, hearing the frequency getting busier and busier. At one point the FISO had to stress his request to another aircraft to ‘Standby’. As we made ready to refuel G-EDGI, we thought we saw JP go around again, and when he finally landed and joined us, we found out that there had even been a runway incursion, with another pilot failing to stop at the hold as instructed, and crossing the runway while another aircraft took off over him. Fortunately the runway at Kemble is sufficiently long that the departing aircraft was already well in the air before reaching the crossing point. Once all the aircraft were refuelled and parked up, we headed in to the Club to complete the paperwork and pay our respective bills.

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Leg 1 profile

Leg 1 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 3 profile

Leg 3 profile

It was great to be back in the air again after such a long break, and even more satisfying to have taken part in such a great day’s flying. Although I’d only flown one leg myself, I’d at least reset all of my currencies and also had a thoroughly enjoyable day’s flying, coupled with the interesting tour of the Nimrod at Coventry. The next goal for me is to renew my IR(R), which I’ll hopefully do in the next month or two.

Total flight time today: 1:00
Total flight time to date: 307:25

Currency check, but with some real flying

February 28, 2016

A particularly busy January and February meant I didn’t have much opportunity to fly, and sadly the one attempt I made had to be cancelled due to the onset of a head cold on the morning of the planned flight. As such, I hadn’t flown since November and yet again that meant the need for another Club currency check. Unusually though, I was even out of my 90 day passenger carrying currency requirement, meaning that the flight would have to be with an Instructor rather than just a pilot authorised to carry out Club Currency checks.

Fortunately, Kev (the Arrow’s owner) had recently gained his CRI rating, meaning that he was entitled to carry out the check. I always enjoy flying with Kev, and while his tendency to push you when carrying out Currency checks really makes you work hard (and this trait showed no sign of abating during this days flying!) you always finish a days flying with him feeling like you’ve pushed your personal envelope a little further than before.

I didn’t want this to be just a regular local currency check with a bit of general handling thrown in, so we planned to visit Henstridge (a new airfield for me). This is a fairly short flight from Kemble, so I also opted to drop in to Dunkeswell (always a favourite destination of mine).

The weather conditions on the day before the flight couldn’t have been more perfect, and the forecast on the evening before suggested we should be in for a good day’s flying also. As usual, I completed the majority of my planning the night before, leaving me to print out plogs, mark out the chart and give Henstridge a call before heading off to the airfield.

I carried out the ‘A’ check on the Arrow while waiting for Kev to arrive, and met in him the Club with his young daughter Bronnan (about the same age as Catrin, and also a fairly seasoned flyer!). We checked through the planning I had done before completing the final paperwork and heading out to the aircraft.

With Bronnan safely secured in the back, the ‘Crew’ isolation button on the audio panel was put to good use as we carried out the pre-flight checks. We negotiated some circuits with the FISO, before being given our taxy clearance via the Charlie taxyway to the hold for runway 08. We waited for a short while for the engine to warm up before completing the power checks (watching a student in a Helicopter practising hover-taxying on the grass ahead and to our right), before heading to the hold and reporting that we were ready.

Before takeoff checks

Before takeoff checks

I had decided to carry out a couple of circuits before departing Kemble to ensure I could still remember how to land, and also so that I could reset my 90 day passenger currency in the first flight of the day. We backtracked a little before taking off on 08 just after a Helicopter took off to the right with a student on a solo flight. As I climbed out I heard the FISO report our position to another aircraft, adding ‘the aircraft on upwind will be departing to the South’. I reminded him that we were actually remaining in the circuit, leading to an amusing response that he knew that, but was obviously having trouble reading his own writing!

I mis-identified one of the ‘avoid’ areas on Kemble’s noise abatement circuit, meaning that the Downwind leg was flown a lot wider than it should have been. The pre-landing checks were completed on this leg without difficulty, and I turned Base a little later than normal (perhaps confused a little by the fact that I was wider out than I should have been).

A rather wide Right Base for 08!

A rather wide Right Base for 08!

I over-corrected for the Crosswind to the left when lining up on Final, meaning I had to make a slight correction to the left to get us aligned properly. The remainder of the approach went well, but we started to experience a little turbulence down around 50-100 feet above the ground. It took me a little while to get this sorted out, and I brought us in for a nice gentle first landing of the day.

On the next circuit I decided to leave the gear down, and made a much better job of positioning the Downwind leg at the correct distance from the runway. I got slightly distracted carrying out the pre-landing checks, allowing myself to drift closer in to the runway on the remainder of the Downwind leg, but corrected this once I noticed. This distraction meant I had neglected to make the correct ‘Downwind’ call, so actually called when I was turning Base.

Again the crosswind from the left threw me a little, requiring a further correction after turning Final to get correctly aligned with the runway. The second landing was a little firmer than the first, but certainly perfectly acceptable. As we climbed out from the third takeoff of the day I informed the FISO that we would be departing to the South, and set course for Lyneham.

We climbed to 3000 feet, setting the aircraft up at 24/24 as usual in the cruise. Once established on the leg from Lyneham to Frome Kev suggested I dig out the power tables in the checklist to check a few things. At 3000 feet, this showed that we were achieving 75% power at 24″ manifold pressure and 2400 RPM. Kev suggested I try the equivalent power setting with 2300 RPM, which just required a slightly higher (24.6″) manifold pressure setting. This gave us the same airspeed, but had a double benefit of slightly reducing the noise level in the cockpit, and also reducing the cost of the flight (as we pay based on tacho hours, which are directly related to the engine RPM setting).

It took us a little while to positively identify Keevil as we passed, and I maintained heading and altitude fairly well on this leg. We were listening to Bristol Radar, but didn’t really feel the need to check in with them, so just set their listening squawk onto the transponder. The heading given by SkyDemon was obviously a little off (probably due to a slightly difference between the forecast and actual wind) and we were a couple of miles to the right of Frome as we approached.

I set up a ‘direct to’ Henstridge on the 430 from our current position, and turned on to the next leg to position for our approach to Henstridge. Their website includes detailed instructions on the noise sensitive areas around them, and the best approach to their runway 07 from our current position was to make a Crosswind join. Their noise abatement diagrams helpfully indicate some useful landmarks for doing this (a couple of lakes to the North East of the airfield) and we started to look for these after checking in with them on the radio.

We initially spotted two lakes ahead, and mis-identified the airfield using these as a reference. As we continued the actual position of the airfield became must clearer, and we passed by two other lakes a lot closer in to the airfield. I did my best to follow the noise abatement procedure, but think I may have failed to fly the correct offset on the Final leg. The landing was again good, and we taxyed towards the Club buildings and parked up.

Turning Final at Henstridge

Turning Final at Henstridge

Over a hearty lunch we discussed the flying so far. Kev picked up on a few of the mistakes I’d made, most of which I put down to the long lay-off without any flying. One thing I’d meant to do in the days leading up to the flight was to read over the checklist for the aircraft, to try to get some of the regular routines back into my head. It was noticeable to me that I hadn’t done this, because I was forgetting things that should have been almost second nature. Hopefully I can get back into some regular flying and this will be less of an issue in future.

Once we’d all finished our lunch, I arranged to take advantage of the competitive fuel prices, taxying the aircraft over to the other side of the field to the bowser. The staff at the airfield couldn’t have been more helpful, driving me back over to the office to pay for the fuel, before driving the three of us back over to the aircraft ready to depart. Kev and Bronnen had taken the opportunity to go and watch the Motocross riders doing their stuff on the track adjacent to the airfield, and apparently Bronnen had shown quite an interest!

Some flying of a different kind!

Some flying of a different kind!

It was good to visit an airfield as friendly and welcoming as Henstridge. While the facilities there could perhaps do with a bit of work, the staff couldn’t have been more accommodating to us. The lunch in the cafe was freshly prepared and tasty, and one of the people manning the office even took time to take me outside and point out the two particularly noise sensitive areas after I asked for some advice on our routing after we departed. It’s certainly an airfield I’ll add to my list of destinations for future flights.

We all got back into the aircraft after I carried out a quick walkaround (including take fuel samples) and after a couple of tries the engine started and I carried out the power checks where we were parked. We then taxyed towards the runway, backtracking to the threshold after we’d checked the approach and Downwind legs were clear of other traffic. The runway at Henstridge is slightly short (about 750m) so I decided to use the flaps for takeoff. This got us airborne with plenty of runway to spare, and I retracted the gear and flaps in stages as we climbed out. I turned to depart to the South, taking care to remain inside the noise sensitive areas.

We climbed up to around 2500 feet, and set course to the South to try to find the Cerne Abbas Giant. I’d set Cerne Abbas as a turning point in SkyDemon, and as we approached we descended to around 2000 feet and began searching. Kev thought that the giant was to the South of the village, so we concentrated our search on that area, carrying out a number of orbits, and even headed down towards Dorchester to be able to pick up the road that led from there back to the village.

Sadly, despite our searching we were unable to spot it, so after a few minutes I put a ‘Direct to’ Dunkeswell in to the 430, and followed it to our next destination. On returning home I looked at our track log on Google Earth, finding that the Giant is actually slightly North of the village, and we’d passed very close by without spotting it!

Failing to spot the Cerne Abbas Giant!

Failing to spot the Cerne Abbas Giant!

Enroute to Dunkeswell

Enroute to Dunkeswell

I’d tuned to the Dunkeswell frequency just after leaving Henstridge, and we’d been hearing their transmissions clearly despite still being some 30nm from the field. They (unsurprisingly) seemed fairly busy, but as we approached things seemed to quieten down a little. Upottery was easy to spot slightly to the right of our track, and Dunkeswell soon came into view. They were operating on runway 04, which meant that a Right Base join was very easy from the direction we were approaching from. Again, the approach was relatively easy, and the landing nice and gentle. The parking area looked quite busy, so I asked the Radio operator for some advice as to where to park, before slotting in just in front of the Skydiving aircraft.

The office was busier than I’d ever seen it on previous visits, and we paid the landing fee before heading in to the restaurant for a snack and a drink. Their Sunday carvery was also proving popular, but luckily we were able to grab a table to allow us to enjoy our drink and cake in comfort. We watched the Skydive aircraft take off, but due to where we were sitting we couldn’t easily see any of the skydivers as they came back to earth.

Suitably fed and watered, we headed back to the aircraft and manhandled it into a suitable position for us to depart. Engine start was easy, but as we were taxying the rudder pedals felt slightly heavy during turns. The Arrow tends to have heavy steering, so it’s possible I had just forgotten how it feels. Kev tried a few turns and didn’t notice any real problem. We carried out our power checks on the cross runway, before waiting for another aircraft to complete a touch and go.

We backtracked to the threshold, hearing another aircraft announce they were departing from their present position. I had noticed a Chipmunk behind us on the cross runway, and wondered if he was planning to depart from the intersection (I’ve had an aircraft do this before on a visit to Dunkeswell). It transpired that it was actually a helicopter departing, we spotted him getting airborne as we turned into position at the runway threshold.

Once he was clear, I began the takeoff roll, getting airborne and setting course for a virtually straight out departure, raising the gear as normal during the climbout. As we reached our cruise altitude of around 3000 feet, I set the aircraft up for the cruise and noticed that we seemed to be going significantly slower than usual (indicating around 120 mph instead of a more normal 150 mph). Kev quizzed me as to why this might be, and I double checked that the flaps were up, all the power settings were correct, and that we were flying in balance.

It took me a long while to notice that the gear lights were still illuminated, and at first I thought I’d neglected to raise the gear. When trying to move the lever to the up position, I realised that it was already there, and then the penny dropped that Kev had probably pulled the gear circuit breaker at some point before we departed! At Kev’s prompting, I dug out the checklist and run through the drills, spotting the popped circuit breaker, but left it there at Kev’s request to complete the remainder of the checklist. Kev and I discussed our various options should this have happened for real, and I decided we would either return to Dunkeswell, or carry on to Kemble (depending on how much fuel was onboard). Our fuel burn and airspeed on the flight (should we choose to continue) would obviously be affected (airspeed being particularly relevant if we were on a flight plan, we would need to ensure ATC were aware of the change).

Still smiling despite all he'd thrown at me!

Still smiling despite all he’d thrown at me!

Once we’d worked through everything, Kev reset the circuit breaker and we raised the gear, the airspeed soon returning to a more normal cruise. We signed on with Bristol to request a Basic Service and Zone Transit between Cheddar and the Clifton Suspension Bridge. The Controller took quite a while to respond to our ‘pass your message’ response, and as I feared he came back to tell us he was not able to grant our requested routing and altitude. I was prepared to switch to our plan B (routing back via Frome and Lyneham) before he said that he could grant us clearance at 4000 feet, as long as we remained at least 1nm West of the airfield.

I gladly accepted this change to our route, and he instructed us to route via Cheddar, East Nailsea and then the Suspension Bridge at 4000 feet. We climbed up to our assigned level, and continued on to the Cheddar Reservoir. I switched back to the paper chart to get a rough feel for the headings we’d need to fly to follow the new routing, before setting course and then updating the route in SkyDemon with the new turn at East Nailsea. While doing this I allowed our height to wander somewhat, and Kev (correctly) picked me up on this as we were now in Controlled Airspace and as such required to follow the Clearance we had been given.

We got a good view of Bristol Airport as we passed, hearing the Controller pass instructions to an inbound Easyjet aircraft. Kev spotted him off in the distance to our left, but sadly he was well behind us so we weren’t able to get any good photographs. As we reached East Nailsea, I changed course to head for the Clifton Suspension Bridge, and Kev and I discussed our options should the engine fail while we were over the city of Bristol. Off to our right we had some fairly large open areas, and we also had the option of the disused airfield at Filton as we travelled further North. We got a good view of the Concorde on the ground there as we passed by, before turning again at Clifton to set course direct for Kemble.

Passing just West of Bristol Airport

Passing just West of Bristol Airport

Passing Filton, Concorde visible in the centre just below the runway

Passing Filton, Concorde visible in the centre just below the runway

As we approached the Zone boundary, I requested a frequency change from the Controller as we were now just 15nm from Kemble. This was approved, and I thanked him for his help in granting us the transit. We switched frequency to Kemble, and tried to spot the airfield in the distance. At about 12nm from Kemble I made ready to make contact with them, but Kev still had another trick up his sleeve! He reached over to the power lever, reducing power to idle announcing ‘simulated engine failure’.

We’d discussed this before the flight, so the procedure was fairly fresh in my mind. The first priority is to get the aircraft trimmed correctly to maintain best glide speed (around 100 mph) and then find an appropriate location for a forced landing. While trimming the aircraft, Kev made our initial contact with Kemble, and I spotted what looked like a good field off to our left. I managed to pick up on him announcing our current position as ‘overhead Badminton’. When he suggested I check off to the right of the aircraft, I dipped the right wing and spotted the airfield at Badminton neatly off to our right. This seemed an obvious choice as a location for us to attempt to land!

I turned towards Badminton, selected an appropriate location for our 1000 feet aiming point and then ran through the restart touch drills. I find these work easiest by using a ‘flow’ pattern, moving from left to right in the cockpit. This involves checking fuel (changing tanks), magnetos (checking both, then checking the individual mags in turn), before exercising throttle, prop, mixture, and turning on the fuel pump. Once these drills were completed, I simulated a Mayday call, and continued setting up to land.

As I turned at our 1000 feet aiming point, I felt I was probably slightly high (an issue that cropped up frequently during my training!). I started to lower the flaps, and dropped the landing gear to assist in the descent. Kev had been busy again, and the gear failed to lower, and this was perhaps my biggest slip of the day as I immediately mentally committed myself to a gear up forced landing. It was only when Kev prompted that there may be another way to lower the gear that I remembered the manual lowering mechanism. I operated this, and started to side-slip in order to increase the rate of the descent without a corresponding increase in our airspeed. As we passed around 300 feet Kev announced “Yep, we’d get in there, go around” and I applied full power, max RPM and began the go around.

I correctly raised the flaps in stages as we climbed away, but again missed an important step, which Kev highlighted by asking if we were planning to return to Kemble by road! I immediately caught his meaning, and raised the landing gear as well. Kemble was now easily visible in the difference, but I made a point of locating some other landmarks in order to ensure I wasn’t mistaking Aston Down as I had on a previous flight.  The FISO had suggested either an Overhead or Right Base join, so we set up to join Right Base and began a descent towards the airfield.

The circuit was quiet, so I slotted us in on Right Base and continued the approach. At least one thing that I can claim not to have forgotten is how to land the Arrow, as I pulled off another good landing at the end of the day, deliberately landing long so as to avoid a long taxy to the far end of the airfield. We taxyed back to Lyneham’s parking area and Kev pushed the aircraft back into its parking space while I made sure Bronnan was Ok and started packing up all the gear.

Parked up safely after a great day's flying

Parked up safely after a great day’s flying

We headed back in to the Club to settle the paperwork and carry out a final debrief. Kev went over all the issues he’d picked up on, and I resolved to spend some time with the aircraft’s checklist to try to get the various procedures back into my head to try to avoid making the same silly slips again. It’s very easy to forget important steps when they’ve not been used for several months. Hopefully I can try to get back to some more regular flying again, and make things come more naturally in future.

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Leg 1 profile

Leg 1 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 3 profile

Leg 3 profile

This turned out to be my latest ever first flight of the calendar year. Previously I’d only ever made it into February once without flying (last year) and a combination of circumstances meant that I’d almost made it to March this year! Today’s flight was very enjoyable though, and definitely much more interesting than just a ‘regular’ Currency check flight. Kev is a very knowledgeable and experienced pilot, and being an aircraft engineer he also has a lot of knowledge regarding aircraft systems that he can pass on. He’s definitely not scared of throwing in a few simulated snags during the course of a flight, and while it might be nice to have a ‘simple’ Currency check, the opportunity to practise emergency drills in the air is definitely one worth taking. Hopefully this can be my first flight of many this year, and I can take advantage of the fact that the flying fund is looking healthy due to my recent lack of flying!

Total flight time today: 2:45
Total flight time to date: 284:25

Currency check (again!)

November 15, 2015

As what has definitely been my strangest year of flying continued, I again found myself getting close to running out of my 60 day currency. I’d sadly had to abandon plans to finally cross the Channel with David due a dodgy stomach, and also had to cancel a planned ‘solo’ flight with Catrin due to weather. So yet again I was faced with another currency check (my 5th of the year!) in order to get back into flying.

After completing the majority of his CRI course the week before, Kev kindly agreed to fly with me at the weekend. We hatched a plan in discussions with David to fly somewhere for lunch, meeting up with David there as he flew from Gloucester in his shareoplane. Again, the weather wasn’t playing ball, and a poor forecast meant that this plan simply wasn’t feasible. About the best we could hope to do was to fly some circuits in the Arrow in order to get my currency reset.

The weather on the day was far from ideal, with relatively low cloud forecast and, more worryingly, strong gusting winds for the majority of the day. We eventually opted to meet up at Kemble, having a chat over lunch in AV8 while we waited and hoped for an improvement in the wind conditions. I started glumly at Kemble’s unofficial weather site, as it showed winds as high as 30 knots, gusting to 45 knots at times!

The wind did show signs of abating early in the afternoon, with wind speeds as ‘low’ as 20 knots starting to be displayed on a regular basis. We paid a quick visit to Kemble’s Ops department for a chat with them, before finally deciding to head back to the Club and prepare for a session of circuits. One minor plus point was that despite the winds being strong, they were almost directly aligned with the runway.

We uncovered the aircraft and carried out the ‘A’ check, before heading into the Club to complete the necessary paperwork. Once all our gear was in the aircraft and we were settled, I called for start an a ‘wind check’ again receiving an encouraging response from the FISO. The engine was a little reluctant to start, Kev advising me to give it an extra ‘prime’ using the fuel pump doing the trick. We taxyed to the D site apron for our power checks, positioning the aircraft into wind to carry them out. Kev suggested a slight modification to the manner in which I exercise the prop, checking it at a position in the middle of the range to ensure the governor was working correctly.

The strength of the wind was highlighted when carrying out the pre-departure ‘controls full and free movement’ check with the aircraft positioned directly into wind, as the attitude of the aircraft changed noticeably when moving the elevators. We announced ready and taxyed towards the hold at Alpha 3, helpfully hearing G-VICC announce its Downwind leg. I took my time taxying, as I felt that watching G-VICC’s approach and landing would give us useful information as to the conditions in the air and close to the ground.

G-VICC’s landing looked relatively stable, without too much evidence of low level turbulence during the latter part of the landing. This gave me a little more confidence that the flight could be carried out safely despite the fairly challenging conditions. Once G-VICC passed us the FISO cleared us onto the runway, and we were soon accelerating down the runway on a much shorter than normal take off roll!

As we rotated and became airborne, there didn’t appear to be too much difficulty in maintaining stable flight, and as we climbed away I retracted the gear and double checked that the flaps were retracted. I turned Crosswind and took care to apply a suitable correction for the strong wind off to our right, before becoming established on Downwind and carrying out the pre-landing checks. The strong tailwind meant the Downwind leg was over much quicker than normal, and I set us up for the descent on Base leg.

I turned Base a little late, allowing the wind to push us a little further towards Kemble than normal. I made my ‘Final’ call in the usual place, doing my best to maintain the centreline. I had already announced to Kev that I was planning to land slightly long to avoid the turbulence normally encountered when passing the hangars off to the right near the start of the runway. Kev had me nominate a new aiming point (second of the shorter white markings on the runway) and I did my best to land as close as possible to it.

The wind conditions became a little more difficult in the latter part of the approach, but I was pleasantly surprised at the fact that they weren’t causing me too many problems. The roundout and holdoff went pretty well, and I brought us in for a very gentle landing, much better than I had expected given my lack of currency and the conditions. Once under control on the runway I applied full power again, and soon rotated and took the air, this time deciding to leave the gear down to reduce the workload on the Downwind leg.

Carrying out the pre-landing checks again, I immediately spotted that the gear lights weren’t illuminated. Prior experience of the ‘gotchas’ Kev likes to throw in, I immediately checked the panel lights, finding that they had ‘mysteriously’ turned themselves on (a side effect of which is to dim the landing gear indicators such that they appear to be unlit in daylight). I clicked the panel lights off, ensuring that I then received a correct ‘three greens’ indication, before continuing with the checks.

I flew a much better profile on Base leg this time, and again had the aircraft under control on Final. There were initially some problems communicating with the Tower, as I transmitted a number of times and received no response. I double checked all the settings on the 430 and audio panel, including breaking the squelch to ensure that the volume hadn’t got turned down. The 430 was correctly indicating that it was transmitting as I keyed the push to talk, but we were receiving no response. Kev suggested I try the other box, and switching to the second radio re-established communications.

I allowed the speed to decay a little further than before during the roundout, causing the stall warner to sound as I was holding off the runway. Normally this would signify good speed control during this phase, but in the strong and potentially gusting wind conditions it’s usually a good idea to use a little extra airspeed on the approach to allow for a sudden change in the wind.

I corrected nicely though, adding some power and leaving it on during the final portion of the landing, again bringing us in for a nice gentle touchdown. On climbout Kev suggested that I try the first radio again on Downwind, and this time all seemed to work correctly. The third circuit was flown with little to report, and culminated in yet another smooth landing. I negotiated with the Tower to enable the next circuit to be a ‘bad weather’ circuit, and continued the approach.

A ‘bad weather’ circuit simulates arriving in poor conditions, perhaps with a low cloudbase and poor visibility. The idea is to keep visual contact with the runway at all times, flying lower than normal and closer to the runway in order to ensure this. This is achieved by making a single constant turn from the runway heading to the close in Downwind leg. I also dropped two stages of flap on Downwind in order to be able to slow things down on this shorter than normal leg, before commencing another constant turn from Downwind to align ourselves with the runway again.

For the 4th time I brought us in for another smooth landing, and as we climbed away I checked that Kev was happy, and we decided that this would be our final circuit. As we turned Base on this leg I heard an audible ‘click’, and again had difficulties reporting ‘Final’ and receiving a response from the Tower. Confident that Kev was again trying to test me, this time I simply switched to COM2 and continued the Approach. I questioned Kev to try and find out what he had done, but (probably using techniques learned on his CRI course) he said I should continue to fly the aircraft and that we would debrief on the ground.

The final landing of the day continued the trend of smooth landings, and we backtracked before taking taxyway Alpha back to the Club’s parking area at Hotel site. We refuelled the aircraft and covered it, before heading back to the Club to complete the post-flight paperwork. After a quick trip back to the aircraft to make a note of the tacho reading, I caught up with Kev and we had a chat over the flight in the Club.

Kev said that I had flown well, and I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised at how well the flight had gone despite the somewhat challenging conditions. I thought I had dealt with Kev’s little ‘gotchas’ fairly well, and he explained that the 430 actually is powered via two circuit breakers. The first powers the GPS functions and the unit’s display, while the second provides powers to the radios in the unit. That explained how the GPS seemed to be operating perfectly normally, but without the ability to actually transmit or receive.

Kev also said that he had actually been trying to trigger a Go Around (which would have been required if I had not been able to receive a suitable response to my ‘Final’ call). Something I had meant to suggest to him before the flight was that he should feel free to call for a Go Around at any time during an approach (as they are always worth practising to ensure that the procedure can be carried out without difficulty should it be needed ‘for real’). Maybe when he has his CRI rating next time we fly he’ll be more likely to throw this at me!

Track flown

Track flown

Flight profile

Flight profile

I was relieved to have been able to reset my currencies again, and hopefully in the last 6 weeks or so of the year I can make a couple more flights to round off the year in a more positive fashion. I was pleased at how well the flight had gone, particularly given the challenging conditions. Five currency checks in a single year is more than enough though, so hopefully I can avoid any more in the near future!

Total flight time today: 0:40
Total flight time to date: 280:35


Another currency check, and a minor technical hitch

September 12, 2015

After regaining Club and passenger currency on my last flight with Roger, I was keen to add my Arrow currency to that list. A late cancellation meant that the Arrow was free this weekend, and Kev (the Arrow’s owner) was also available to fly with me. While Kev is not an Instructor, he is authorised by the Club to carry out currency checks on pilots, as long as they are legal to carry passengers.

Initially I planned a relatively simple local Nav via Lyneham and the Severn Bridges, but when I met Kev on the morning of the flight he suggested trying to spot a couple of grass strips in the area too (Bowldown and Chavenage). This seemed like a good way to practice some visual Nav skills (something that I tend to neglect when flying with SkyDemon in my lap!), so Kev made a note of their approximate location on the chart and we headed off to Kemble.

The Arrow had recently had a few niggly technical issues notified, which Kev was keen to sort out before we flew. I helped Kev (i.e. passed him tools and helped remove the cowling!) change the injectors on the aircraft (also giving me my first real view of the Arrow’s engine) and we then got the aircraft ready for flight before heading in to the Club to complete the pre-flight paperwork.

I was supposed to be the Duty Member that day, but as mine was the only flight planned I persuaded Luned to provide the ‘flight watch’ duties for our flight. We completed the pre-flight paperwork and walked out to the aircraft. As we approached, Kev had me tell him what sort of things I’d be doing during various emergency drills (gear failure, smoke in the cockpit, engine failure etc.), and this turned out to be remarkably prescient on his part!

We boarded the aircraft, got ourselves settled in and then started up the engine after receiving start clearance from the FISO. Taxy and power checks were all straightforward, and the airfield was quiet as we reported ready at Alpha 1. We were cleared straight on to the runway, and then to depart as we were lined up.

The wind was relatively strong and gusty, but fortunately pretty much straight down the runway, so the take off roll and rotation were relatively easy. I remembered to dab the brakes before retracting the gear, and then we turned South to head towards Lyneham which I’d planned as the start of the route.

As we passed through around 1200 feet Kev said, ‘Can you smell fuel?’. Once he’d mentioned it, I became aware of a very slight smell of fuel, and we briefly discussed what to do. Given that we’d just changed the injectors, we both agreed it was prudent to abort the flight, and return to investigate. I notified the FISO that we had a ‘smell of fuel in the cockpit’, and that we were returning. After a quick look over my shoulder to confirm our exact position, I decided to join Left Base, and set about positioning the aircraft appropriately, running through the before landing checks as I did so.

Due to being higher than normal, I positioned us on a fairly wide left base for Kemble’s runway 26. Looking at the GPS track, it looks like I didn’t fully appreciate my location, as this put us pretty much overhead Oaksey at around circuit height. This obviously wasn’t a great idea, but in reality I was keeping a good lookout all around us, and Oaksey’s circuit is to the South of the airfield anyway.

The smell of fuel had all but disappeared as we continued towards the airfield, perhaps due to the fact that we were now on a much lower power setting. I neglected to take account of the Southerly component of the strong wind, meaning I went slightly through the extended centreline when turning Final, but this was easily corrected and I brought us in for a relatively firm landing.

I requested taxy back to our parking area, and the FISO asked us if we needed any assistance. As there was no longer a smell of fumes or any indication of fire or other issue, I declined this and we backtracked and taxyed back towards Hotel site. As we turned onto the Alpha taxyway I noticed the airfield’s fire engine on the runway, and they followed us as we taxyed to park and shutdown. It was nice to know that should we have had an issue, they would have been quickly on hand should we have needed them.

The fire service waited as we removed the cowling and Kev checked for any evidence of a fuel leak around the engine. Finding nothing, we then carried out an engine run with the cowling off in order to see if the leak was only apparent when the fuel was under pressure. Again, this didn’t show anything obvious. As there was obviously no imminent danger of a fuel spillage, we thanked the fire crew for coming to our assistance, and they headed back.

Kev then had an idea to check inside the cockpit, as the fuel pipes go to both a fuel pressure and fuel flow gauge on the instrument panel. Using my phone as a torch, he looked up under the instrument panel and finally spotted the cause of the issue. The pipe going into the fuel flow gauge was noticeably wet, and when he retrieved a spanner it was clear that this was not fully tightened. He tightened it correctly, and we again tested the system to see if there was any apparent leak remaining, which thankfully there wasn’t.

Happy that he had found the cause of the problem, Kev suggested we continue the flight, and I was happy to do this. We pushed the aircraft back a few feet to enable us to turn it round easily, and then got ourselves settled back in. Before starting up we took the time to review the ‘fumes in cockpit’ drill we’d talked about earlier, as Kev mentioned that I’d forgotten to do this when we actually had an indication of fumes! Fortunately we’d already covered most of the actions required (which basically amounts to closing off any heater vents, and opening up fresh air vents). The heater was off anyway, and I had already opened the floor level vent on my side before taking off as it was a warm day. Kev opened his once he was aware of the fuel smell, but I should also have opened the DV window on my side.

I was a little nervous that the engine may prove difficult to start due to flooding due to the amount of fuel we’d been pumping through it looking for leaks, but it actually started relatively easily. We repeated the taxy and power checks as per the previous flight, and again took to the runway and departed without any problems. We were both checking for any signs of fuel odour during the climb, but none was present so we continued the flight happy in the knowledge that the problem appeared to have been resolved.

We’d already decided that we wouldn’t complete the planned Nav flight, simply flying over Hullavington (where both of us would be attending the Emergency Services Show the next day) and then try to find the two grass strips Kev had suggested earlier that morning. Hullavington is always easy to find, and I set course for the field expecting to find preparations for the show to be in full swing. In fact there didn’t seem to be much happening at all, so it was impressive that they’d managed to get everything ready in time for when we visited the show the next day!

Overhead Hullavington

Overhead Hullavington

We carried out a clockwise orbit of the airfield after checking that there was no sign of any glider activity, converting the turn to a steeper one to enable Kev to get some photos of the site. We then dug out the chart and tried to determine the best way to find the two grass strips at Bowldown and Chavenage. Both were close to the main road running out of Tetbury, so we identified the town and headed towards it, before turning towards the crossroads that was a good landmark to look for the first.

After a bit of hunting, I spotted the first strip (Bowldown) off to our left. It looked to have two good length strips (SkyDemon later showed that they were 550m and 750m) with one leading towards some buildings that probably included a hangar. After a quick loop around, we headed back towards Tetbury to locate the other strip.

This one proved somewhat easier to spot, and as we passed to the North Kev announced ‘Oh no, it looks like the engine has failed!’, pulling back the throttle to idle as he did so. I was a little slow in getting the aircraft down to its best glide speed (which in the Arrow is significantly below the cruising speed, unlike the Warrior!) and made a somewhat poor attempt at running through the restart checks.

I didn’t bother to look for a field to land in, as I knew that I had a decent grass strip off to our right. Kev announced ‘The strip is just passing behind the right wing’ as we passed, which I should have recognised as a fairly blatant hint that he thought I was heading too far away from it! I turned back to position for the into wind runway, and it soon became clear that I was probably going to end up a little short. It’s always important to remember when carrying out a PFL that there are a number of way to lose excess height, but no way to regain it!

We decided then to return to Kemble, so I quickly entered a ‘direct to’ into the 430 to orient myself, and with that and the ADF needle turned the aircraft onto approximately the correct heading. I announced our position to the FISO, and headed for the long runway I had spotted on approximately the right heading. There was another aircraft approaching from the North to join overhead for 26, so I also positioned myself with the runway off to my left to set up for an Overhead join.

Kev asked whether Kemble were now on 08, which again I should have realised was a pretty blatant hint! I corrected him, and set about positioning for the join, but as I continued I had a nagging doubt that the runway I’d spotted wasn’t Kemble after all, which soon became confirmed as I looked over to our right to spot the real Kemble! I had made the mistake of orienting on Aston Down (which is apparently quite common, but not a mistake I’ve made before!), leading to Kev’s questioning of my positioning.

Correcting the mistake was simple, I just turned right and crossed over the 08 threshold at 2000 feet AAL, before turning left to cross the threshold of 26 and begin my descent. We spotted the other joining aircraft well below us, it appeared he actually joined Crosswind rather than Overhead. We followed him around the circuit. He was well clear of the runway by the time we turned Final, and the wind was noticeably gusty as we continued. Kev questioned my use of full flap, which was a valid point given the gusty conditions. I retracted the final stage of flap at about 400 feet, before bringing us down for a nice gentle landing.

I requested a backtrack and taxy, which was granted, and there was a little confusion as we were warned to hold before exiting the runway due to opposite direction traffic. This turned out to be someone on the Golf grass taxyway, and the FISO later changed his mind and asked them to hold, as we would otherwise have been stuck on the runway waiting for them. We taxyed back and refuelled, before pushing the aircraft back into its parking space. Kev laid out the aircraft cover on the ground to dry as we headed in to the Club to settle the paperwork. We then returned to cover the aircraft before heading to the local pub for some lunch and a debrief!

First flight track

First flight track


First flight profile

First flight profile


Second flight track

Second flight track


Second flight profile

Second flight profile

It was good to fly with Kev again. He’s extremely knowledgeable and a pleasure to fly with, with the added benefit of still being unafraid to point out any problems in my flying. Hopefully our next flight can be something a little more interesting, although I could probably do without any further technical issues during flight!

Total flight time today: 1:00
Total flight time to date: 276:05

A dearth of flying, and a clearer view!

August 2, 2015

Recently I’d been noticing that my eyesight was no longer as good as it once was, and with my Class 2 Medical Renewal looming I decided that I should do something about it! A visit to a local optician confirmed my suspicions, showing that while still meeting the requirements for driving without glasses, I no longer met the stricter requirements of the Class 2 Medical.

My near vision required almost no correction, meaning that I only strictly needed glasses for long distance vision. However, removing glasses during flight to read (for example) a chart and then having to replace them would obviously not be feasible. The optician advised that the correction I needed was such that varifocals would be a good option for me. She did warn however that these can take some getting used to, and some people find that they can’t get on with them and have to revert to traditional bifocals.

Initially I decided to only buy a single pair to ensure that I wouldn’t have to replace two pairs should I not be able to get used to varifocals. After wearing these for a couple of weeks without any ill effects, I then ordered a further pair, this time prescription sunglasses. In the meantime, my Class 2 renewal was passed without any issue, but my AME confirmed my recollection that I would now always need to carry a second pair of glasses when flying, in case anything happened to the pair I was wearing.

All of this (and a busy social schedule!) meant that I went almost 2 months without flying at all. I was a little concerned that the glasses might affect my ability to land, due to the fact that peripheral vision with varifocals can be affected. As such I tried to schedule a flight with an Instructor alongside in order to have an experienced pilot who would be able to take control should the need arise.

Sadly weather and scheduling meant that we were unable to fly before my Club 60 day currency also expired, so this flight was to be a full-on currency check rather than just a quick flight with an Instructor along to ensure that I could still land while wearing the new glasses. Ideally I’d have liked to make the flight in the Club’s Arrow, so that I could refresh all of my currencies in a single flight. Sadly the Arrow was down for maintenance, so instead we flew in G-BPAF, an aircraft familiar to me from my PPL training at RAF Brize Norton.

Before the flight I made to sure brief Roger on the additional things I wanted to cover above and beyond a regular currency check. As I now had both pairs of glasses, I wanted to attempt some landings wearing each pair. I also wanted to ensure that I could clearly see everything I needed to in the cockpit, so briefed Roger that I may ask him to take control at some point during the flight just so that I could be ‘heads in’ for a little while ensuring I could read all the instruments, radio displays and also plog etc. without having to worry about controlling the aircraft at the same time. Also I warned Roger that he may need to take control during the latter phases of the landing, and that I wouldn’t take offence if he felt the need to do this!

I had carried out the A check while Roger finished off some of the work he was doing on the Arrow, and as we settled ourselves into the cockpit I took a little extra time to check that I could see and interpret all the relevant instruments and avionics before starting up the engine. Kemble were using runway 08 today, so we taxyed down the grass past the Tower to carry out the checks on the North Apron. Once these were all completed, we took to the runway and departed, heading initially to the South for the General Handling exercises.

The weather was clear, with little cloud to affect the flight, and we headed towards RAF Lyneham to use it as a reference point for some of the manoeuvres. Stalls and steep turns were all carried out without any difficulty, and I was having no issues with my vision either inside or outside the cockpit. Roger suggested I try some instrument flight (which I hadn’t considered) and I had him take control briefly while I found my foldaway hood in my flight bag. We carried out some turns, climbs and descents under the hood, and these also all went well.

The PFL practice gave me an obvious choice of ‘Lyneham’ as my landing ‘field’, but out of habit I lined myself up for runway 26, despite the Southerly surface wind obviously favouring 18. At Roger’s suggestion I repositioned for this, and he announced he was happy at around 700 feet AGL, and I climbed away and set course to rejoin at Kemble. I had Roger take control briefly so I could double check I could clearly read the PLOG and chart on my knee, and operate SkyDemon with the tablet mounted in my knee-board. Again, these checks all showed that my glasses were working well.

As we signed on with the FISO, it was clear that the strong Southerly wind would make the circuits interesting! There was another student in the circuit as we approached, and I carried out a standard Overhead Join to slot in behind him for the circuits.

The first landing was far from pretty, primarily due to my lack of recent flying and the tricky wind conditions. I rounded out at the correct height, but had a little difficulty in completing the flare and holdoff correctly, leading to a relatively firm arrival. We flew a couple of further circuits using my regular glasses, and all of the landings were acceptable but hardly among my best!

I had Roger take control on the next circuit to enable me to switch to my prescription sunglasses, and completed the flight wearing these. Again, all of the issues I had with the landing were down to the conditions and my rustiness, sadly nothing I could blame on the new glasses!

We completed 5 landings in total, with my performance gradually getting better as time went on. Roger announced he was happy to sign me off as ‘current’ again, agreeing with me that the problems I was having could not be blamed on the new eyewear!

We taxyed back and refuelled the aircraft before pushing it back to its parking space and putting the cover back on. As usual, Roger gave me a thorough debrief, picking me up on a few things from the flight. As the flight was a total of 1 hour 10 minutes, it also meant that I had satisfied the requirement to complete a flight with an Instructor of at least an hour, meaning that when my Class Rating needed to be renewed next May that this was one less detail I would have to worry about.





It’s always nice to fly with Roger, while flying he’s generally supportive and helpful, while still picking up on important details that he covers during the debrief. Hopefully now I’m current again I can get back into some regular flying!

Total flight time today: 1:10
Total flight time to date: 275:05

Arrow currency check and a new airfield in the logbook

April 5, 2015

After a limited amount of flying so far this year, I decided it would be a good idea to refresh my currency in Lyneham’s Arrow, in order to give me another option in terms of aircraft availability. Although the aircraft’s owner Kev isn’t an Instructor, he is authorised by the Club to carry out Currency Check flights, as long as the pilot is ‘passenger current’ (having carried out 3 take-offs and landings in the last 90 days).

I managed to arrange a day we were both free, and in the days leading up to the flight we discussed various options. I was keen to try to do something more than just the usual requirements for a Currency check, and we agreed on a 3 leg trip to Hinton in the Hedges and Wellesbourne, with me flying all three legs. In order to spice things up, Kev also suggested that I make the flight up to Hinton without using the SkyDemon ‘crutch’, relying on good old map and compass and dead-reckoning.

I planned the flight to Hinton via the grass strip at Upper Harford, and spent a little time the night before looking at the area in Google Maps’ satellite view, to get a feel for what to expect on the flight. After carrying out the final planning on the morning of the flight, I headed off to Kemble to meet Kev.

The weather wasn’t perfect, but was definitely flyable. There was a broken cloudbase around 2500 feet or so, and the forecast suggested this might occasionally drop lower. I carried out the pre-flight paperwork in the Club before Kev joined me. He hadn’t realised that I had arrived, so had already carried out the ‘A’ check for me in readiness for the flight. I filled him in on the proposed route, and we headed out to the aircraft.

Once we were settled, I set about working through the checklist, noting a few new entries since I had last flown the aircraft. The engine started on the second attempt, and we were cleared to the North apron for our checks, using the Golf (grass) taxyway to get there. We picked our way around some of the more uneven ground, before waiting a short while on the North apron for the engine to warm up. The power checks were all completed normally, and we took our turn onto the runway and departed.

We made a left turn out, and initially levelled out at around 1500 feet in order to remain below the cloud layer. It looked fairly broken though, so we took the decision to climb through and above it, eventually settling on a cruising level around 4000 feet. This put us generally between the broken layer below us and a more solid layer a couple of thousand feet above us.

Once over Cirencester I made a note of the time, and our expected time over Upper Harford. Although we were above a layer of cloud, it was sufficiently broken below us to continue navigating visually, so I set the appropriate heading and continued on the leg.

We signed on with Brize, initially being refused a Traffic Service due to their workload, but being granted an upgrade to Traffic as other aircraft left the frequency. I thought I’d correctly identified Upper Harford as our turning point based on my previous research, but looking at the track log it appears that I actually mis-identified the road that it is near, and turned a couple of miles before I should have.

Brize continued to offer us information on other Traffic in the area, but none of it was a real factor for us. Most people were operating below the cloud layer, and hence were a couple of thousand feet below us. We flew for a short period in hard IMC, which was a useful reminder of how important it is to trust the instruments when flying in cloud. A couple of times I found myself attempting to fly level based on what I could see out of the window, but on checking the instruments found that I had allowed a slight bank angle to develop due to the incorrect information being generated by my eyes and inner ear.

Kev asked about when I planned to make my descent, and in fairness I really didn’t have much of an idea how to calculate this. He explained the method usually used and we picked our descent point, as well as checking when we needed to sign on with Hinton. As we neared Hinton we signed off with Brize, and made an initial call to Hinton to get airfield information. As expected, we received no response, but did hear other pilots on frequency.

As we crossed the M40, the conditions were noticeably hazy, making it difficult to spot the airfield. Mindful of the fact that they were parachuting today, I decided to turn back towards the M40 to orient myself properly, to ensure I didn’t accidentally blunder into the overhead. As we headed back to the M40 Kev spotted another aircraft passing quite close below us. We carried out an orbit over the M40 to get our bearings before heading towards the airfield again.

Almost as soon as we had done this, we heard the parachute aircraft announce that all jumpers had left the aircraft. To ensure we kept clear of them, we again turned back to the M40 and orbited a few times to give them sufficient time to complete their descent and get back on the ground. We headed towards the airfield again, and slotted in on a Right Base join for 06, behind the parachute aircraft. I didn’t realise that he would have to backtrack, and as such didn’t have sufficient spacing to allow him to clear the runway. I commenced a Go Around (and announced as such on the radio), only to have him respond ‘Or we could pull off to the side for you’. I decided that it was safer to continue the Go Around, and Kev briefly transmitted ‘Nah, we need the hours!’.

I flew a relatively untidy circuit, neglecting to sufficiently correct for wind on the Downwind leg. However, the final approach and landing were completed well, leading to a ‘Nicely done’ from Kev. It was good that even after several months I could still remember how to land the Arrow!

We parked up alongside some other aircraft, and walked in to have lunch in amongst all the other people at the parachute centre. Despite the conditions, they seemed very busy, with the next load ready to board almost as soon as the parachute aircraft had returned from its previous drop.

Antonov Biplane parked at Hinton

Antonov Biplane parked at Hinton

Kev had suggested I track the Daventry VOR on the leg up to Wellesbourne, so I briefly outlined the route I’d planned as we headed back to the aircraft. I left a donation towards the landing fee after chatting briefly to the people manning the ‘Tower’, and we got settled back in the aircraft for the short flight to Wellesbourne.

Parked up at Hinton

Parked up at Hinton

The engine started easily, and we taxyed towards the runway to carry out our power checks. I set up both VORs to track Daventry, realising a little late that the indicator connected to the Garmin 430 was still in ‘GPS’ mode, so switched it over to use the VOR instead. I also loaded a ‘direct to’ route for Wellesbourne into the 430 as a backup, enabling me to quickly re-apply this later once we were on the leg from DTY to Wellesbourne.

As we were ready, the parachute aircraft appeared on a Base leg join, so we waited until he had landed and rolled past us before backtracking to the threshold and waiting for him to backtrack and clear the runway. Once he was clear, I began the takeoff roll, and Kev then suggested that a flaps takeoff might be wise given the relatively short (700m) runway. I applied two stages of flap as we accelerated, then rotated and took off, doing my best to avoid the local villages as I climbed out and flew an abbreviated circuit to depart to the West.

We climbed out on the Downwind leg, through a layer of cloud before centring the VOR needle and tracking the VOR towards Daventry. As on previous flights, the DME didn’t work very well, but we used the GPS to monitor our distance to the VOR. As we got to within about 5nm, I turned to the North West, to intercept the appropriate outbound track for Wellesbourne.

Between layers of cloud en-route to the DTY VOR

Between layers of cloud en-route to the DTY VOR

As we became established on the outbound track, the skies cleared somewhat, giving us a good view of the ground on this leg. As a result, I mentally dropped out of ‘Instrument Flight’ mode, and as a result the tracking of the VOR went a bit awry for the remainder of the leg. We signed on with Wellesbourne, and for a change they had an empty circuit! As a result we opted for a Crosswind join for 36 LH.

I misidentified the disused airfield at Chipping Warden as Gaydon, and as we passed the huge disused runway at Gaydon a minute or two later it was clear that I shouldn’t have made the mistake! Wellesbourne soon came into view, and I oriented us to join appropriately, dropping the gear on the Crosswind leg and carrying out the pre-landing checks. I was careful to follow the noise abatement circuit, which calls for quite an extended Downwind leg.

We turned Base and then Final, and I carried out the final ‘Reds, Blues, 3 Greens, Flaps’ check out loud as usual, this time finishing with a ‘hang on, not three greens!’. Kev was pleased I had spotted it, and turned off the external Nav lights (when the Nav lights are on, the internal gear lights are dimmed considerably, making them appear to be out in daylight). Afterwards I checked when he had done this, concerned that I had missed it after dropping the gear initially, but he confirmed that he’d done it while I was looking out during Base Leg.

I’m not sure if it was this slight distraction or the wider than normal circuit, but I ended up slightly high on Final, and then slightly fast as I lowered the nose to lose height. As a result I touched down a little quicker than I should have, leading to a small bounce. I applied a little power and raised the nose to cushion the second touchdown, and we rolled out a little further than would otherwise have been necessary. The FISO gave us parking instructions, and after parking and shutting down I went to pay the landing fee while Kev bought the refreshments in the cafe.

While chatting over our drinks, Kev suggested that we change the plan for the final leg of the day, and return to Kemble low level, following the Fosse Way all the way back to Cirencester. We carried out a quick re-plan on the wing, estimating distances and times to 3 or 4 checkpoints on the return leg, as well as deciding what heights we should fly at in order to remain clear of the rising ground at various points on our route.

Startup, checks and departure were all normal, and we followed the noise abatement procedure (30 degree right turn immediately after takeoff) and then turned right to depart, taking care not to fly over the town of Wellesbourne. I initially climbed to a few hundred feet above our planned height, before Kev admonished me with a ‘Careful, we’ll be showing up on Iraqi radar soon!’. We picked up the Fosse Way, and Kev used his watch to check our time estimations as we continued South. It was clear that the tailwind was a little higher than forecast (and our estimated distances a little off) but we hit most of our waypoints within a minute or two of our expected time.

What better place to be on Easter Sunday?

What better place to be on Easter Sunday?

At one point I followed the wrong road as it forked, and a quick check showing our heading approaching West showed we were definitely following the wrong one. We headed South again to pick up the Fosse Way at the Northleach Roundabout, before following the road the rest of the way to Cirencester.

We then signed in with Kemble, and as it appeared to be quite busy I decided that it would be safer to carry out a full Overhead Join. This required us to gain some 1500 feet or so in order to be at the correct height! Once Overhead, I carried out a Deadside descent, dropping the gear as we turned Crosswind to help get our speed down. We followed another aircraft around the circuit, and he completed his Touch and Go as we turned Final, leaving the runway clear for us.

We had another aircraft behind us, so I did my best to keep speed up a little, and deliberately landed long to avoid tying up the runway for too long as we taxyed down to the far end of the runway. At Kemble, there is a noticeable change in elevation along the runway, and I don’t think I’ve ever attempted to land on the ‘rising’ part of 08 before. As a result, I think I lost the picture slightly in the roundout and flare, leading to a slightly messy and flat touchdown. Prompted by the FISO I kept the speed up to vacate onto the Alpha taxyway before taxying back to the Club.

I helped Kev refuel, park and cover the aircraft, and we headed in to the Club to complete the final paperwork and settle my bill for the flight. I’ve also now renewed my membership at Lyneham for a further year, so I need to make sure I make use of it, particularly in keeping current in the Arrow and using it for more flights in the coming year. Once all the details were completed, Kev and I retired to a pub for a thorough debrief!

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Leg 1 profile

Leg 1 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 3 profile

Leg 3 profile

My recent flying seems to be filled with regular currency check flights. It was good in this instance to do something a little out of the ordinary, and we had crammed in quite a few things during the three flights today. Kev is an experienced pilot with a CPL and Multi-IR rating, and it’s always useful to have someone like that alongside to offer little hints during a flight. Hopefully we can fly together again in the future, and continue to extend my comfort zone in various areas on future flights. Also, it would be nice if I could avoid the requirement for any currency checks in the near future!

Total flight time today: 2:00
Total flight time to date: 263:20

Yet another currency check

February 8, 2015

It had been a long time since my last flight with Charlie, and as a result I was out of pretty much all of my currency requirements, including 90 day passenger carrying. December is always a pretty busy month for us, so it was unsurprising that I hadn’t managed to fly. However, I made several attempts to fly in January, that were all thwarted by either weather or a particularly drawn out cold.

I arranged a flight with Dave in one of Freedom’s Warriors in order to regain all my currencies, and then invited Charlie along to share another flight with me. Leading up to the day of the flight, things didn’t look particularly promising, with the Brize TAF forecasting BKN20 TEMPO BKN10 for most of the day, even up to and including the 2100 TAF of the previous day!

As such I wasn’t feeling particularly optimistic when I woke up on the morning of the flight, but a quick check of the weather forecasts now showed a completely different picture! I carried out all my usual pre-flight planning at home, before driving to Kemble in near-perfect flying conditions. There was an occasional bit of fog still lingering, but the skies were clear with almost no cloud to be seen.

I arrived at Kemble to see Dave starting to get the aircraft out of the hangar, making a quick check of the fuel level in G-SNUZ before climbing up to the cockpit to start the ‘A’ check. Dave seemed surprised at this, commenting to the person on the phone that I was jumping into their aircraft! I made a quick check on Flight Schedule Pro and realised he was correct, I had actually booked G-ELUE for my flights today!

I helped Dave move SNUZ over to the other side of the taxyway, and then get G-ELUE out of the hangar. I carried out the pre-flight as normal, then waited a little while after it had been refuelled to double check the fuel in the tanks was Ok. We both climbed in and got ourselves comfortable, and Dave outlined what he wanted to cover on the flight. I mentioned that I needed 3 landings in order to regain passenger currency (in actual fact I think I probably only really needed 2, but there was no harm in doing all 3).

I had some trouble starting the engine, and Dave helped me get it going, having a few difficulties himself. After making the initial call to Kemble I found they were helpfully using 08 today, meaning only a short taxy was required to the North apron for power checks. As I normally do, I leaned the engine back for the taxy to prevent plug fouling, but obviously was a bit too agressive as the engine spluttered and died as I reduced power to idle to turn on to the North apron. This led to a short period of embarrassment as we coasted to a halt and had to notify the FISO that we had a small problem, while Dave attempted to restart the engine.

Dave said that generally there was no real reason to lean on the ground in their aircraft, so that’s something I’ll need to bear in mind for future flights. On the North apron we ran the engine at slightly higher than normal RPM to try to warm the oil up, before carrying out the power checks and making ready to depart.

We were cleared straight on to the runway, and after a short backtrack I applied full power and began the takeoff roll. My first takeoff in some 10 weeks was relatively routine, and we headed South out of the circuit, climbing up to 2000 feet initially.

Once clear to the South and at an appropriate height, I carried out a standard HASELL check (Height, Airframe, Safety / Security, Engine, Lookout, Location) before beginning the stalling portion of the flight. I carried out a clean stall initially, which went Ok, but Dave commented that I could perhaps be a little more aggressive when pulling back to induce a more pronounced stall.

We then moved on to the stall in the Base to Final configuration (two stages of flap, low power and descending). My first attempt at this wasn’t great, as I tried to pick up the descending wing with aileron before having reached flying speed again. This is a definite no-no, as trying to pick up a stalled wing can actually induced a more pronounced stall of that wing, potentially leading to the aircraft entering a spin.

We had another go, and this one was much better. Next we tried a stall in the Final Approach configuration (similar to the previous one but with wings level and full flap) and again I made a small mistake in not removing the third stage of flap (which just adds drag) immediately after reducing back pressure and applying full power. Dave also picked me up on the ‘patter’ I was giving, in that I was announcing ‘full power, release back pressure’, when in actual fact these should be done in the opposite order. I think in reality I was releasing back pressure first, but I was just saying things the wrong way round.

I surprised myself by getting a little flustered at this point, and on my next attempt I raised one stage of flap before even applying full power! Dave told me to take a little time to settle myself, and demonstrated the correct procedure to me before giving me another go. It just goes to show how easy it is for relatively simple things to be forgotten after a long lay-off (and this wasn’t to be my last mistake of that nature either!).

Finally we carried out a stall that I hadn’t experienced before, one simulating an excessive rotation in the go-around configuration. Here, all you can do is get the nose down as quickly as possible to un-stall the wings, as you already have full power applied.

The last general handling manoeuvre we covered was a steep turn. Dave allowed me to choose the direction, so I opted for a turn to the left, and managed to carry out a fairly decent one. Dave reminded me to look at the attitude outside when trying to maintain level, and when I did this it did make a difference to my ability to maintain a constant height.

Once back at altitude, Dave set up a simulated problem, notifying me that my engine was running very rough, and wouldn’t develop any more than about 1600 RPM. My initial reaction was to look for Kemble, but this seemed a little far away, so I chose to head for Oaksey Park instead. On the way there, Dave mentioned that even though the engine was still running, I should still trim for best glide speed, as this would minimise the height loss (a good thing to remember should something similar ever happen).

I set us up nicely on an approach into Oaksey, and Dave announced he was happy and that I could climb away. We climbed back up to altitude, and Dave asked me to carry out a practice PAN call, simulating getting lost, and asking for our position and a steer back to Kemble. For some reason I had a complete mental blank as to what the emergency frequency is, and dialled in 123.4 by mistake. Dave stopped me transmitting on this frequency before I made an idiot of myself on the radio, and asked me what the correct emergency frequency was. my mental block continued, and I was unable to remember the frequency!

Dave gave me a deserved ticking off, and told me the correct frequency (121.5, of course!). I dialled this in, and listened out to ensure that no real emergency was in progress. Once it was obvious that the frequency was clear, I made my initial call of “London Centre, G-ELUE request practice PAN’. I received the response to proceed, and made the full practice PAN call, asking for a position fix and steer to Kemble as requested. There was a period of silence as the Controller triangulated our position based on our transmission, and came back with a position that was perhaps a mile or two out, which isn’t bad considering they weren’t using radar to derive it!

We headed back to Kemble, and I carried out an Overhead Join into the circuit. We were sharing the circuit with a solo student, but we had good spacing between us meaning that there was little chance of any conflict. The first circuit went well, and the landing was very smooth, leading to some praise from Dave. I made the mistake of telling him that it was a little longer than I would have liked, so he told me to make the next one a performance landing, trying to stop by the first windsock!

As we went round the circuit he gave me some tips on how to achieve this, telling me that the distance to the windsock from the threshold was something in the order of 150 to 200 metres! Again the circuit went well, and I set us up for a low and slow approach, with the intention to touch down right at the threshold, and immediately brake down to a walking pace before going around.

Again the touch down was fairly gentle, and with some relatively firm braking I brought us down to walking space well before the windsock, somewhat to my surprise! Dave announce he was happy, and as we accelerated away he took control of the radio, negotiating with the FISO for us to carry out a bad weather circuit to land, simulating arriving back with a low 500 foot cloudbase.

I’d carried out this manouevre on my IMC rating renewal flight with Roger, so was happy with the procedure and confident I could carry it out. The FISO pointed out the position of the student to us, and we hoped to be able to keep inside him on our tight, low and slow circuit. As we neared the end of the downwind leg, it became clear that if we did cut inside we were likely to affect him if we turned inside, so we decided to continue further on Downwind than would be normal for a bad weather circuit, before following him down Final.

The last landing of the flight was also very smooth, and we cleared the runway and taxyed back to park in front of Freedom’s hangar, seeing Charlie waiting patiently for us. After closing down, Dave gave me a good debrief on my errors during the flight, particularly about forgetting the emergency frequency! I resolved to ensure this was always written down somewhere on my kneeboard for future flights, and also to make sure it was committed to memory correctly!

Track flown

Track flown

Flight profile

Flight profile

In general, a fairly good flight. There’d had been a few things I had to be picked up on and reminded of, but at lease I was now current again, and ready to get 2015’s flying started for real!

Total flight time today: 0:55
Total flight time to date: 258:15