Ab Initio 21: “Interesting shapes”

In which I practise some more unusual circuits and in particular discover myself to be a miserable shot when trying to hit the runway from a glide.

Much to my amazement Saturday dawned calm and sunny. I was beginning to think I was tempting fate with the weather. It had been unusually generous. I’d like to think I was owed a couple of calm days but instead I’m doubtless overdue for some downpours and gales.

In any case I was going to make the most of it while it lasted.

The dry weather had brought more than the usual number of people out flying and I watched a fully loaded Cessna 172 land as I walked out to check out the Tomahawk. Absorbed in my walkaround I didn’t see what happened next but was interrupted by a polite, “Umm could you give us a hand…?”

“Dry” it emerged hadn’t really reached as far as the grass yet and the poor little Cessna was well and truly mired in the mud. The unfortunate pilot had seen the flying school aeroplanes parked on the grass and tried to do the same only to discover he was somewhat heavier and in a much boggier spot.

Six of us set to, heaving and pulling trying to shift it. No mean feat–trying to go forwards just dug the nosewheel in further and trying to go backwards made the tail rock dangerously close to hitting the ground.

Eventually by a combination of shoving and pulling with one person braced lifting the tail we got it free.

Minor drama of day dealt with, I returned to my walkaround and was soon ready to go.

For a bit of a change and practice Laurie decided we’d start with a short field take off. I find these rather good fun–stand on the brakes while bringing in full power, take off a bit slower than usual with first stage of flap and a steep (by Tomahawk standards) climb away. Good stuff, though I didn’t have quite enough brake on and was creeping a bit down the runway.

It was right hand circuits today and the Error du Jour was pulling too hard in the flare and going straight back up again. The fact I was consistently too fast on the approach didn’t help either, and nor did the fact that every time I fly right hand circuits on 04 and turn downwind too soon and end up too close in with not a lot of time for my descent.

There was plenty of bouncing and ballooning but nothing too catastrophic or that practice won’t cure (I hope).

We practised some flapless approaches which, as I spent a lot of early circuit lessons forgetting entirely that I even had flaps, was rather familiar already!

Next up was glide approaches and these were a lot trickier.

“I’ll put it somewhere where you should be able to get in from,” said Laurie, taking control.

I didn’t… Well–I wouldn’t have for real anyway. As it was I had to put some power back on if I didn’t want to end up in the racetrack.

The next one was better, we reached the runway anyway but it was a decidedly wobbly oddly shaped route we took there.

Haven’t got the knack yet of judging when to turn in to reach the runway in a glide. But then I remember having the same problem, not having the first clue when to start turning to final either. Not all that many lessons ago either, and that came with practice. This will too. I’m told it’s easier in the other direction, when there’s no need to peer past someone else’s head to see the runway.

An hour later, after goodness knows how many landings we came down again. (As far as the bill was concerned they stopped counting at six, to my unending gratitude and relief)

Tighter speed control on base and final, and being a bit smoother in the flare were the areas needing more practice Laurie concluded, confirming my own assessment.

Next round would have to wait until post-payday however. Hopefully I wouldn’t forget too much in the meantime. Three weeks has never seemed so long.


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