Thanks to a combination of bad weather and the trip away for FOSSCamp, UDS and AllHand, it’s been six weeks since I last got a chance to fly! Last time we’d covered a second session of stalling and recovery, and the next exercises to cover were the all-important circuits: taking off, flying around the field and landing again.
Even despite the weather cancellations before the trip, I knew it’d be at least four weeks gap, so I’d taken the day off and booked two separate lessons either side of lunch. The idea being that we’d use the first lesson for revision, going over all the other exercises to make sure that I could still remember how to fly — and then use the second lesson to start in the circuit, since I’d be learning something new … landing!
Most people seem to assume that summer is the best time to learn to fly as the weather is better, but today was one of those days that proved the opposite. Although the temperature was around freezing point, the skies were clear and the wind calm.
First hour went nice and smoothly; we covered taking off, climbing, descending, turning (including while climbing and descending) and some practice of stalling and recovery. It was reassuring to know that I hadn’t forgotten anything in the long gap between lessons, and still had the feel of the plane.
The weather had put on a special treat for us; for much of the day, fog was clinging to the ground and hills, with many fields still frosted over. From the air it looked extremely pretty, if a little eerie.
After lunch at the airfield’s cafe it was time for the second lesson, circuits! We’d already covered the ground briefing for this in one of the cancelled lesson slots before, so we were ready to go straight up. Another student had flown the plane over lunch, so only a relatively short transit check was needed; checking the fuel levels and other important bits.
John was to fly the circuit first, and talk his way through it as I followed through. A circuit, for those not flying, is: take off; climb and make the first 90° turn onto the crosswind leg; level out at 1,000ft and make the second turn onto the downwind leg (parallel to the runway); call the tower and perform checks for landing; make the third turn onto the base leg and begin the descent before making the final turn onto final and landing.
We were on runway 36, so the traditional left-handed circuit was the order of the day. Wellesbourne switches between left and right depending on the runway direction so as not to overfly Wellesbourne village itself. It’s not a truly rectangular circuit either since there’s three noise-sensitive villages we have to avoid on our way around.
Over lunch, a Kittyhawk had landed at the airfield and was ready to leave slightly before we were; treating us to one of the pleasures of flying from a purely GA airfield. The FISO informed the departing Kittyhawk that the circuit was clear and asked whether he would like to perform a low-level fly past (normally pilots have to beg the FISO or ATCO to show off, and get told no). So as we lined up on the runway, we were treated to a short air display from the warbird, flying past the tower, climbing into a loop and performing a bombing run on the airfield on the way back before heading home.
Entertainment over, work time. John flew the first circuit, then handed me control after landing for a touch-and-go (taking off again without stopping) and it was my turn. I flew six circuits in total, one straight after the other. At first we were the only ones in the circuit, but by the end we were in a queue of three planes all heading down at once. In fact, on one of the goes round, John decided to use it as an opportunity to perform a go-around (aborting the landing).
I think I got something wrong on each of the circuits. My first landing was somewhat rough, having flared too early and been rather too high most of the way down. The next I turned onto final too late and spent most of the time trying to line up with the runway again; in fact, I did this a few times — and turned too early at least once too. By the last landing, I’d got the turn just right, and kept the descent perfect as well; lined up with the runway and at the right height and speed all the way down. Just a slight shame I ruined it with a slightly untidy flare and by bouncing the plane on the touchdown.
On the whole, I was really happy and so was my instructor. I’d been in control the entire time, and had been correctly using the power and attitude to control the approach. None of the landings may have been perfect, but I have plenty more hours of circuits to go yet — dozens of hours in fact — to get that bit right.
P/UT Hours Today 1:50, Total 10:50