Ab Initio 36: ” Moment of Muppetry”

In which I get some more “on me own!” time, and commit a couple of thoroughly dozy mistakes which happily fail to bend anything.

Having missed last week’s lesson through bucketing downpours, I managed to squeeze in a half hour booking the following, almost fully booked, Saturday.

The weather did not start out much more promising, but by the afternoon when I phoned to check, it was looked doable, if not brilliant. Low cloud had kept the school on the ground all morning and the flight before mine (two young lads on a trial flight), had been the first one which had escaped being cancelled.

The first circuit was pronounced acceptable, with a few caveats–a warning to keep an eye on the weather and fly a tighter circuit up the valley instead of along the hill if needed. The cloudbase is generally higher there. This instruction came with an emphatic, “Don’t what ever you do go into cloud!”

Then Keith had me pull across to the intersection to let him out. Happily free of the numbing alarm which had greeted this instruction last time, I did so, and in my haste to be off I suspect nearly flattened him with the propwash!

This time I refrained from talking to myself in the climbout and eagerly looked around instead. Behind me, inland, the weather did look a bit on the black side, but it was clear of the circuit and even over the high ground the cloudbase seemed fine. It would have taken a lot more than a bit of damp weather to wipe the grin off my face.

Back on the runway, Laurie and another student were taking off, to do some circuit flying as well, and I kept a wary eye on his backtrack as I approached the end of the downwind leg. I wondered whether I should extend a bit. In fact I paid rather too much attention to what he was doing and left my checks rather late.

In any case, I didn’t extend very much and he was off well before I turned final. I landed reasonably with plenty of runway remaining, straightened up as bit, as I was somewhat left of centre again, and applied full power.

Quick glance at the ASI showed I was very nearly at 60 knots already and a few moments later I was back in the air. But something didn’t feel quite right. Normally I need to trim forwards a bit after a touch and go–this time I was holding back pressure to keep the nose at its usual attitude. And I definitely was not climbing with the same sprightly speed as the first go.

Starting to feel the twinges of concern, I glanced at the tacho, which was showing full power, and reached uncertainly for the trimmer, even though I knew it didn’t feel right to need back trim now. As I reached for it, my hand hit (literally) upon the problem. The flap lever. When climbing, this is not generally in a position to bump my hand against en route from throttle to trimmer. But there it was–pointing resolutely up at the roof.

I’d gone and taken off with the bloody things still full down, hadn’t I?

Not entirely certain whether to berate myself for an idiot or grin with relief that there was nothing horribly wrong with the aeroplane, I put them away and tried to compose myself.

Fortunately the flaps on the Tomahawk are rather weedy and the incident was embarrassing rather than dangerous. Not the point of course, as plenty of types would have got me into bigger trouble (or into the race track via the fence). I don’t believe I’ll be making that particular mistake again. I did not like the feeling one bit!

With that minor drama out of the way my attention returned to my other point of concern–the other Tomahawk in the circuit. There was nothing especially wrong with our separation but it was the first time I’d shared the circuit without a second pair of eyes as lookout and, again, I found myself becoming a bit too distracted by what that other aeroplane was up to.

The landing was what I think is generally referred to as ‘uneventful’, though I was a bit irritated at myself for yet again being off centre and my parking definitely needs work.

There was more mickey-taking than bollocking over the flap fiasco, though I did discover someone had tried to call me on the radio to remind me. I’d utterly failed to hear or register that.

Why did I do it? Part of the advantage of going to the airfield by train is ample time to reflect on these kind of things on the way back. I do think it was simply a case of rushing and not thinking through properly what I was doing. The transition from landing to accelerating again in a touch and go tends to seem a little hectic at the best of times, never mind the added brain frazzle of it being the first time you’ve done it on your own. Logically, with hindsight, the extra acceleration with the flaps up would probably have more than compensated for the extra runway used slowing down while checking I’d retracted them before applying power.

More haste–less speed!

I’ve got a whole hour booked next time so will hopefully get a few more T&Gs in to fix those sort of details a bit more thoroughly.


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