Ab Initio 34: “Concentrate!”

In which I, for a change of pace, bound around the circuit in the opposite direction to usual, watch some far superior flying to my own, and remember why I ended up doing this in the first place.

Another hot one. I was down for a half hour at 1 ‘clock today, which had surprised me as it was the day of Kidwelly carnival-cum-airshow which had typically meant very early closing for the school in the past. This year though the flying didn’t start until mid afternoon with the Notam declaring a TRA from 1325Z, which left a good hour after my lesson. (But made me boggle in alarm at the near thing until I realised that it was Zulu whereas me and the booking diary were thinking in local!)

My sister was bringing Der Family up with her to the carnival and we decided to go to the airfield first and eat there. The newly open café needed to be sampled after all!

I have been doing my level best to make sure my little nephew is suitably indoctrinated early on, and at the age of not quite two, he does a rather good aeroplane impersonation–arms out and a good “nnneeeooowwwmmm”. I was also quite impressed with his mimicry of the cough-sputter-brroom of starting propellers once he’d watched a few.

My breakfast though, was rather broken by his insistence on pulling me over to the fence for every single take off and landing so he could stand on it to watch. Every landing was accompanied by an insistent and vigorous pointing back at the sky and shouting “up”. He was apparently not impressed with aeroplanes staying on the ground.

I also hope that his “Uh Oh” in response to my sister informing him “Aunty Leia’s going to fly now,” was coincidental! Though as he’d seen at least one of my previous attempts, maybe not.

The café was busy both with a couple of visitors and locals, and had found extra work as the park-and-ride location for the carnival, many having decided to see what they could of the display from here rather than face the crowds in town. A band had been recruited from somewhere and were setting up a keyboard and other bits, while the flying club broke out the deckchairs and sun umbrellas. I hoped not to provide too much ‘pre-match’ entertainment for these various spectators!

The windsock was decidedly limp, but what little breeze there was favoured 04. Hadn’t used that one since last winter and I thought dark thoughts about that ruddy go-kart fence as I checked over the aeroplane and started to quietly broil under the Perspex.

My backtrack out to line up was less than neat. I was rather too easily distracted by the sudden unannounced arrival of a whizzbang fast helicopter in military high conspicuity black and yellow, who came blatting past. Hard to tell from our perspective on the runway whether he was over the water or over the beach–which equates to in or out of the ATZ, but he was ever so close to it if he was outside.

I do wonder if he was listening even though he wasn’t talking, as he did induce a rather a high level of tooth gnashing from the chap doing air/ground. A lot of people were still up flying as it was a good hour and a half before the TRA came into effect.

Bit of a shame really as the RAF do Kidwelly largely as a goodwill exercise for the locals, because they put up with the bombing range the rest of the time. Putting the wind up the staff at the local airfield isn’t too endearing when you’re trying to keep the natives sweet!

In any case, we kept well to the right on our climbout and turned early away from Kidwelly while Mr Whizzbang Helicopter landed on the rugby field.

It really had been a long time since I’d used 04 I realised, and the first circuit or two were decidedly wonky. I assume that judging a circuit with the ‘cribs’ of local landmarks is something that comes with practice. I always seem to turn too soon left to my own devices.

We were well too high on the first approach and required a hefty sideslip from Laurie, to get us back to a sensible position and save a time-gobbling go-around.

“Come on, concentrate!”

Whether it was the heat, or the awareness of the time deadline, or the knowledge that there were other people on the ground waiting for me to be somewhere else, or that the joking remark about too many people watching had been more in earnest than I’d thought myself, concentration was not my strong point today.

I wobbled and wavered about, consistently too high and kept drifting in on base — staring at the runway instead of looking where I was going! Kicked self. Did same thing next time around. Kicked self again. I hadn’t made that mistake in ages. How silly is it to be able to land (more or less) okay in one direction and not in the other?

On the plus side I was so busy trying to sort all that lot out that I didn’t so much as glance at that fence.

I did also manage to admire the view out towards Gower and then in the other direction towards Laugharne–one thing that is wonderful about this direction is the view. I’d forgotten that too. Maybe not my best day’s flying ever but that view’s worth any amount of struggling and cursing and sweating. One of these days I’m going to be looking at all by myself.

The final landing wasn’t too bad. Still have a bit of a tendency to flare too abruptly and jerkily, not evenly enough. We’ll start settling, then sink a bit quicker and I’ll pull too hard, we’ll go up, lose all the rest of the speed at once and go bump. Not too elegant.

I paid up, and headed across to the showground where I spent the rest of the day enjoying watching far more expert flying! I hope the airfield did get a good view–we were treated to the Red Arrows, solo Hawk and Tornado Displays, and one of the BBMF’s gorgeous Spitfires.

I sat on the grass while my nephew shouted “Up” at all of them and my sister helpfully kicked me in the kidneys if she thought I wasn’t looking in the most exciting direction.

It was an odd thing. Last time I’d been here watching this, I hadn’t been very far into learning, just enough to feel pleased with myself for being able to interpret the day’s TAF and optimistically assure everyone that the rain you be clearing later. It had done too! The time before that I hadn’t even started yet. I was just starting to thing “Hmmm aeroplanes. Nice,” while assuming that of course it was something that only other people could afford. It wasn’t until about two months after that first one that I got myself a trial flight and lost myself to this wonderful, frustrating, fantastic, maddening, brilliant, infuriating, delightful flying stuff!

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