Ab Initio 32: “Word of the day”

In which I endeavour to land the same way two attempts running with mixed success.

A sunny afternoon, blue skies and a light wind, which had swung 180 degrees since morning like a weather textbook brought to life–we’re a coastal airfield, complete with sea breezes.

In any case the new direction was nicely down 22 and, aside from a few thermally bumps (which seemed to please the buzzards at any rate, I’d seen three on the way to the airfield and hoped they’d keep their distance!), the weather couldn’t have been better. Well, almost. The pre take off temperature in the cabin could have been more comfortable! Poor pale Brit that I am, the heat was tending towards oppressive and I was keen to get going and get a bit of airflow through the cabin vents.

For the practice Laurie asked for a short field take off so after a quick recap of what that entailed off we went. I rather like short field takeoffs, something about the initial power-against-brakes does silly things to my sense of anticipation. It certainly produces a more sprightly than normal acceleration and we were soon off the ground and climbing.

The circuit height at Pembrey had been altered since the last time I flew and of course I blithely levelled off at the old 800′ only to have to get back into a climb to go up to 1000′

Nevertheless, once up there I did a slightly better job of keeping to it than during the previous lesson.

First approach and first fluff as I got far too low and slow. Drats. Not the best of starts.

Second was better but set up the pattern for the day with too high a flare and as a result something of a thump onto the ground. Third was better though far from perfect (“on the centreline would have been nice”) but the fourth was a balloon followed by a thump. Fifth was okay, but sixth… You can see the theme developing here.

On the plus side I wasn’t hurtling in and bouncing back up into the air again! I’ll take thumps over almighty bounces any day and the speed was a bit closer to correct, though I let it get slowish rather too often.

The other complaint was about my repeatedly landing left of centre, a side effect of misjudging the turn to final. I don’t seem to know how that bit goes without a howling crosswind to blow me into the right spot! I turned early or late or early again and spent the rest of final swerving back and forth trying to regain the centreline. Messy.

I also found I was letting my concentration linger too long at a time on one element or another. I’d be watching the descent on base so carefully I’d forget to check the runway and approach for other traffic, or I’d be carefully getting the trim right so the aeroplane wouldn’t wander during my pre-landing checks, and forget the downwind radio call. On one particular climbout I was so involved in getting the pitch and airspeed just so, that we were heading out over the beach before I realised I should have turned 300′ ago!

“We’re not going to Lundy after all then?” Laurie commented, as I sheepishly turned crosswind already almost at circuit height.

The final niggle of the day was a longstanding one, of not fully closing the throttle once in the flare and floating for ages. I think that last comes down to confidence–my head knows that we’re not going to plummet the minute the throttle closed, but my right hand seems to have trouble believing it and keeps hanging on to that last inch.

The final landing was a reasonable one and the word of the day “consistency” or the need for some more of it at any rate! Never one to beat about the bush this was summed up by my instructor as, “Some of those were pretty good–and some were crap.”

We agreed that what was needed was more frequent sessions–the bits that were proving tricky were bits that really needed regular practise to get the knack of. The new plan is therefore half hours weekly, rather than an hour twice a month, which weather and other things so often stretch out to an hour every three or four weeks.

So back down there next week and we’ll see how we go. Enough of the landings today were decent enough to convince me I can do it… Sometimes!

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