Ab Initio 59: “Another Spot of Revision”

In which I brush up on everything I can think of to brush up on, and start thinking up ways to avoid thinking of test day!

Payday had come and gone and I was now eager to get the last fence jumped. Unfortunately the usual examiner at Pembrey, Keith, had done too much of my training take me for the test, so I needed to get a booking with the ‘next airfield over’, Haverfordwest.

This proved easier said than done, and in the meantime I was anxious about getting rusty so booked another revision session to keep my hand in.

Sunday arrived with the weather not really having made its mind up about what is was going to do. Thunderstorms were threatened in the TAFs but Swansea had nothing but a bit of drizzle and Pembrey was positively balmy, in spite of a rather murky haze.

I was flying with Laurie today and we had a quick chat about the things I wanted to cover. I had a pretty clear idea of the things I wanted to brush up on. One was refreshing my memory on VOR tracking and position fixing, especially as the Haverfordwest-based Tomahawk G-BNHG has a slightly different instrument fit to the one I’d done all the radio-nav stuff in so far.

I also wanted to do some steep turns, as I’m not that great at them and tend to lose height, PFLs because the more practise the better in that department! I also wanted to look at flapless landings as, while I felt reasonably confident that I remembered it, I knew I hadn’t practised it in a while.

There was hardly any wind today, and in the warm, humid air I reminded myself we were likely to use rather more runway than usual.

Once away and into a steady climb we headed out towards Ammanford and launched straight into the my ‘to-do’ list as Laurie asked me to find what radial we were on from the Brecon VOR.

I glanced down at my chart for the frequency, which handily turned out to be already tuned in.

“How do you know it’s Brecon?” Laurie asked.

“That’s what it says the frequency is,” was not the right answer and I squinted at the row of switches to find the one which would give me the ident then squinted at my frequency chart which had the Morse down the side.

Happy that it was in fact Brecon and it was up and running I twiddled the OBS knob. My aim was to get the needle centred with the FROM flag showing but all I managed for the first few minutes was to overshoot wildly in first one direction then the other.

Eventually I managed it.

“273” Laurie read off. “And what are we on from Strumble?”

Checked the frequency, listen for the dits and dahs, overshot just the once this time and finally got it centred on (or about!) 120.

Good enough.

“Right, now take me to Brecon on the 270 radial,” was the next instruction.

This required a bit of thought as it’s the sort of thing I always had to draw myself a picture off when doing the exams!

After a few moments frowning I decided that I wanted 090 TO set. With this done the needle leapt across to the right hand side of the dial. I turned to intercept the radial and started tracking along it. With almost no wind this was reasonably easy.

“Okay, keeping that needle centred, and at this altitude show me maximum speed.”

I slid the throttle forward and the nose down and trimmed rather frantically as the aeroplane tried to climb. Keeping an anxious eye on the RPM redline, we made a less-than-earth-shattering 95 knots for several minutes before it was all change and Laurie requested slow flight at 65 knots.

Power back, nose up, more trimming and a very busy few minutes.

People who don’t fly always look at you oddly when you try to explain that flying slowly is actually trickier than flying fast, but after a few minutes I’d lost well over 100′ and was a good twenty degrees off track. I gently turned back and climbed back to the instructed 4000′

A few more minutes and I had managed to get things a bit more stable, just in time for the next instruction.

“We’ve got a very high nose attitude at this speed, what can we do to get a lower one.”

“Uh, add some flap,” I offered.

“Okay, let’s have first stage of flap then.”

I lowered the first stage of flap, brought the nose down a bit and checked the trim again. A few more minutes of this then it was back to normal cruise and turn for the west again before we really did end up going all the way to BCN.

For steep turns we headed back to the familiar landmark of the Loughor estuary. My first attempt was absolutely dismal. As Laurie put it, “the aeroplane got away” from me.

Second attempt was better but not much, third one Laurie demonstrated himself.

We cranked around, for what seemed like a very long time while he repeated. “Now look at where the horizon is.”

I tried to commit the picture to memory, as Laurie handed over control and instructed me to keep it going.

“Pull pull pull pull pull!”

An improvement on the last one at least. I was going to dream about flying in circles tonight.

“Right, ‘HG,” I thought, firmly. “Let’s have an understanding as to who is flying who here.”

With a determination that the aeroplane was not getting away this time, the last one, in the other direction went much better. As I rolled out we skipped in the air, like a jetski bounding off its own wake. Which was more or less exactly what it was.

Since we were up high anyway we did a couple of stalls, first power off clean, which went reasonably well, then in an approach configuration, turning, which was a bit of a mess as it took me ages to get the thing to stall at all. Maybe ‘HG was sulking at my hamfisted turns and had decided not to play. All became clear when Laurie pointed out, that I’d been banking more instead of pulling more which was not the desired effect at all!

Once more with me doing it right then we went off to look for a likely field out on Gower for a PFL.

We flew around a bit then Laurie shut the throttle with an, “Oh dear.”

I fumbled through the trim and the checks, amazed at how instant confusion set in even when I knew this was what we were going to do!

“Where you are going?”

I pointed. “That long one with the pointy one next to it.”

“That darker green field there?”

“Yes.”

“The one with the cows in the corner?”

Bother.

How had I missed them?

Still, it was the biggest field around and facing the right way for the wind which was something. The prognosis was that we would probably have survived but the hedge at the end might not have.

Climbed away back to 1500’ for the run back to Pembrey, where we joined on right base for my attempt at a flapless landing, which was happily uneventful. To my surprise I realised afterwards I hadn’t even glanced at that fence which had so often occupied my attention on final for 04.

Maybe I was still thinking about those cows!

I was happy with the day and while the steep turns are still likely to cause the most anxiety I’m reasonably hopeful of being able to produce one or two which are at least passable.

Test now booked for midweek, complete with day off work for the purpose. As I type I’m surprisingly free of nerves. I’m sure that’ll change!

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