Ab Initio 33: “Circuits and Thumps”

In which I rediscover crosswind landings with decidedly unmixed lack of success.

Another sunny day, the heat haze shimmered off the runway in spite of a brisk breeze which didn’t seem to be able to make up its mind whether it wanted to be a crosswind or not.

This was the first of my blitz on half hour weekly lessons and I was early so I drank a leisurely coffee before wandering out to the aeroplane to take my time over the checks.

The pre-flight brief consisted primarily of discussing the effect the absence of an instructor in the right hand seat would have on the performance (of the aircraft, not the likely to be gibbering student that is!)

Pembrey had managed to find itself without fuel today, so several of the aeroplanes were ferrying back and forth to Swansea for fill ups. We followed one of them out to the hold and did our checks with me trying not to think too hard about the ‘s’ word!

Once he was safely off we lined up, put on the power and got airborne ourselves. As we climbed out Keith pointed out a reminder of a few likely fields should the engine ever give up the ghost. ‘Turn left’ seemed to be the best plan. There are one or two to the right, but power lines lurk there. And once you’re over the trees?

“Amen.”

Predictably, given the heat, those trees were turning out their usually dose of turbulence and there was a fair bit rolling off the hill downwind as well so it was not the smoothest of rides.

Nevertheless it was a gorgeous day and I felt perfectly happy and relaxed as we made our way around the circuit. The approach was decent right the way down until a hearty gust from the right had us over the grass instead of the tarmac. A hasty swerve back onto the centre line and a rather disorganised flare.

Too high. Thump. Bounce. Thump again.

Not enough runway left now so brakes and backtrack.

Bloody dreadful.

I was thoroughly glad that the club exodus to variously, the PFA rally and the fuel pumps at Swansea meant there were no other witnesses to that one and I very much wished I’d had the presence of mind to knock it on the head and go around.

Back up in the circuit and through the turbulent parts without any major dramas I regathered my wits. Crosswinds! I’d been spoiled lately, been lucky with the wind since getting back down Pembrey. First time in ages I’d been confronted with crosswind landings, after spending months at one time with nothing else.

Second attempt also showed up how long it’s been as I let too much drift develop once rounding out and touched down with an uncomfortable sideways lurch. Another ouch.

Wing down, wing down!

By the end of the half hour I did keep it rather more on centre for a marginally more graceful arrival but the wind was clearly not planning on cooperating for any firsts today so it was back to the coffee and booking diary.

Must make sure I’m on time next week–we’re fitted in before the Red Arrows arrival!

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