Ab Initio 45: “Time to Spare – Go By Air”

In which I circle overhead and around and down some more, forget something daft, and appreciate a pretty end to the day.

Showery, broken cloud today, but almost no wind so it looked pretty good. I arrived at the railway station to a bit of a wait as moments earlier one of the aeroplanes had gone unserviceable. The pilot had noticed doing the engine run up that the carb heat knob didn’t make any difference. Investigation revealed that the cable connecting the control in the cockpit to the actual doohickey in the engine had broken.

Naturally, sod’s law, being what it is it was the aeroplane I was due to fly. Rats. It would be an hour and almost 16:00 before the other aeroplane got back.

Fortunately I’m at a reasonably good stage of the training to be hanging about as there was plenty of briefing on joins, radio calls, and navigation to occupy the time. Carl showed me how to plan an imaginary trip to Gloucester and discussed the sort of things to look out for on the chart like high ground, controlled airspace, other airfields, danger areas etc.

Speaking of danger areas, it came as quite a surprise that the MOD range to the west of us at Pendine (D117 on the chart) was actually active. Most unusual at a weekend, they only usually play with things that go boom during the week.

With all this going on and only half an hour before dark it was going to be a dual exercise and hastily replanned to head east instead of west!

We turned on the radio to listen for the returning Tomahawk.

“Come in HotelUniform–your time is up!” someone joked.

The sun was touching the trees and turning the clouds around it golden by the time we taxyed out.

“Pretty,” I couldn’t help saying, out loud.

We took off on 04. In the still air we used an awful lot more runway than usual, something which still catches me by surprise.

The first ‘doh’ of the day came as we were climbing away when it suddenly became apparent that I’d missed (looking back at my checklist now) no less than four prompts to align the direction indicator, with the result that the compass was now showing 040 while the DI blithely read something in the region of 065.

Carl spotted it when he glanced at the DI while asking me to tell Pembrey which direction we were going off in (supposedly east). Instantly he mentioned it, the vivid memory of not doing it hit me. Direct result of rushing through the checks to make the most of the remaining light. I am a muppet!

“Sort it out once you finish climbing,” Carl advised, and I turned gently onto east using the magnetic compass instead. We went a few miles, and then turned back.

Overhead join for a touch and go on 04. Right hand circuits on 04 so over the top of the liveside still at 2000, over the numbers then a descent on the deadside to cross the upwind end at circuit height. Worked out nicely.

The approach was a bit on the high side, I landed a bit deep, and we floated for ages, ending in me deciding to backtrack, fearing an attempt at a touch and go would put us off the end of the runway. Rats again. I thought I had the speed right that time!

My dented ego was somewhat restored by Carl saying he thought there’d been a bit of a tailwind and suggesting we just turn around and use 22 instead. As we were the only aircraft flying and the wind was almost nonexistent anyway, we advised air/ground that’s what we were doing, and took off again without further ado.

Chance to practise a join for the other runway in any case! Circuits at Pembrey are all done to the east of the field to avoid Kidwelly, so 04 is right hand and 22, which we were now using, is left hand.

We head out over Burry Port, but couldn’t quite get to 1000′ due to the cloud so settled for 1500′ and turned back. Closer to the field the cloud cleared and we climbed up to 2000′ feet only to descend back down again a minute or two later! All in the name of practise.

The clouds were now an absolutely wonderful collection of shades of lilac and indigo in last of the light and I was grinning broadly as we circled down to join the circuit and land.

How many people got to see that sunset from that angle? Even with unserviceable aeroplanes and unsociable danger areas, how lucky am I to be able to do this?

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