Ab Initio 15: “Oh for some tidy weather”

In which I bounce around the circuit some more, wondering whether someone just made up a direction for the so-say “prevailing” wind which doesn’t seem to prevail very often at all.

Spitting rain gusted into my face as I headed for the railway station and I had to admit to being somewhat sceptical of the usual “Not great but it’s okay” weather verdict from Derek who lives closer to the airfield than me or Laurie.

It did clear somewhat as the train trundled westwards but was still pretty blowy and there were plenty of unfriendly looking dark clouds about. I squinted out of the train windows at the windsock as we passed the airfield. At least 30 degrees off 22. Another lesson in a crosswind. I’m going to forget what the runway looks like head on I’m spending so much time crabbing towards it lately.

On top of that weather and instructor vacations had meant it was almost a month since I’d flown last and I fully expected to be all over the sky again.

In actual fact I discovered I was less rusty than I’d expected, the main annoyance being the return of a particular bad habit, that of ‘chasing’ the instruments. Instead of picking a pitch and holding it until the airspeed settled down, I was constantly adjusting it trying to put that needle on the 70 knot mark. Because the ASI takes a little while to catch up with what you’re actually doing, this just resulted in me oscillating my way along a very wobbly descent.

Laurie’s clipboard appeared in front of the instruments again–a rather more hair-raising demonstration at 800′ on base than it had been at altitude, but effective. When he took it away again we were dead on 70 knots and just a little low which was easily fixed with a dab more power.

Some occasional showers of rain failed to interrupt us as the worse of it passed south of the airfield and the visibility remained surprisingly good for such a gloomy day. We were bounced about quite and bit by gusts however and a comparatively strong headwind meant that as a change from my normally too-high approaches I was descending too soon. The result of which was having to struggle in on the arse end of the drag curve, shoving more and more power on to stop us ending up on the grass short of the runway. It was not what you might call graceful and there were one or two times I was more than half convinced we really were going to end up in the field.

The crossed controls for takeoff were also still proving a challenge. I found that I often still had a bootfull of left rudder when we left the ground, resulting in an untidy swerve away from the centre line before I sorted it all out and got us properly aligned and crabbing into the wind.

On the upside, the rest of the circuit was more or less fine bar a slight tendency to overbank in the turns still. The radio calls and checks were pretty automatic now, and I was finding it easier both to relax and to maintain concentration in spite of the less than helpful weather conditions. Also slowly getting better at keeping it in trim.

The conclusion was that what I really needed was a few lessons of consistently tidy weather to work out the remaining hiccoughs. Here’s hoping.

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