Ab Initio 55: “Revising Above the Clouds”

In which I revisit general handling and admire the view in the process.

A decidedly dark and gloomy day followed a gloriously sunny Saturday. I had clearly picked the wrong day to go flying!

The whole day had been booked for my qualifying cross country but a glance at the cloudbase and the fact we couldn’t even see the windfarm on the other side of estuary meant that was obviously no-go.

Instead we decided to go up and do some general handling revision as due to the various weather rearrangings my test would now be following hot on the heels of the QXC.

Keith was flying with me today, and we took off on 22 and climbed out over Carmarthen bay, heading for a nice large gap in the clouds, conveniently located nearby. On the way up we practised climbing turns, with Keith giving me various headings to turn to.

We climbed up to 5000, until we were above the layer of cloud.

“Always a sunny day up here,” Keith said, smiling, as we levelled off.

I grinned. I think I’ll have to go out and get an IMC rating just for this view. Miles of white, rolling cloud underneath, like snowfields. Sunshine and blue skies and wispy cirrus bits overhead. Gorgeous.

Steep turns were next on the agenda, and these took a few goes to get looking halfway decent. Either I wasn’t banking enough, or keeping enough back pressure, or adding enough power or all three!

And as for rolling out on the right heading! Everything happened so much faster I was missing it by 20 and 30 degrees half the time.

A bit of practice and they were looking better. I think a lot of it down to confidence that I’m not going to pull something right off. It feels so different from the ‘normal’ medium level turns.

Fun though!

Next we revisited stalls, and these were much less hair-raising than I recalled from the first time around. No repeat of my Stuka impersonations. I think that’s maybe because I’ve gained more of a feel for what are normal control forces in the Tomahawk and now actually know the difference between “let the nose go down” and “shove the nose down in a panic”…

We did maybe half a dozen with various combinations of flaps and turns and power, and they weren’t too messy, except for a tendency to forget to set the carb heat back to cold afterwards.

By now the ‘hole’ we’d come up through had widened and shifted and we could see Pembrey again from our position somewhere 5000′ over the edge of Gower.

“Do you think we could make Pembrey from here if we had an engine failure?” Keith asked.

I eyed the distance and hazarded, “I think so.”

So we did.
5000′ gave bags of time to go through the checks and simulate a mayday call and I turned onto a base leg at 1000′ and feeling most impressed, continued down final. Would have landed a bit deep but with ample room, but as we wanted to squeeze another circuit in, Keith called to go-around at about 50 foot and we finished off with a low level bad weather circuit.

We flew it slowly with one stage of flap down and close to the field at 500′.

Things look very different from that height, especially after spending most of the lesson at ten times that, and I felt as if I was in someone’s back garden!

My turn to final was less than neat and we ended up rather too fast resulting in an exceedingly messy bouncy arrival–a particular detail of my previous landings I’d have just as soon not revisited!

Still it had been an interesting session.

I duly rebooked my QXC for next payday (and the following weekend or two as well in case of weather!), and my r/t practical for a weekday evening.

Things are start to wind up!

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