Experimenting in Soft Focus

The haze had been lifting steadily all day and I headed out to the airfield, hopeful of getting off the ground at least.

The wind was lighter than it had been in a while although favouring the less-than-favourite runway 10.

I dawdled over the checks in the strangely warm sunshine, every so often casting a glance out towards the Bryn to check the visibility.  Not really going places weather I decided.  I’d made a plan to fly to Aberporth but decided going anywhere unfamiliar was probably unwise.

I called in on the r/t to announce I was going for a local instead and taxyed out.

I took off and headed west.  In spite of the sunshine the haze hadn’t lifted much, and after a while I gave up trying to climb above it and settled down at around 5000′.

I fiddled with the nav radio for a few minutes, practising picking up a position from Brecon and Strumble VORs.

I wandered idly along the coast, gazing down at the soft focus shoreline below.  Pretty.

I’d been waiting a little while for a day I could get high enough for me to feel secure in ‘having a play’ and getting really familiar with leaning the mixture, something which seems to be skirted over very quickly in training and not often used.  Probably because it was rare enough to get high enough for it to make much difference according to one of the schools of thought which hold that “thou shalt not lean below X altitude”.

Reading around since then, I discovered a ton of counter opinions advising leaning at every available opportunity and lamenting the common ‘fear of the big red knob’.

I had played a bit with it on a previous flight but been mildly alarmed by the speed with which the power appeared to drop off if I was a bit too keen.

Today, a good long way up I decided I could afford to be a bit bolder!

I’d reassured myself from the POH that I would be well below 75% power at this height and normal RPM setting and so would have to try very hard indeed to hurt the engine with my experimenting.

I was also surprised, after all the complicated argument on Da Internet about the subject, that the instructions in the POH amounted to the very simple “Pull the lever back until the engine runs rough, then push it back in until it runs smooth again.” (paraphrased)

Well that seems achievable.  It was that initial running rough that made me jump and flinch and hurriedly give up fiddling and go back to full rich the first time I played with this. 

This time was more successful.  The lever didn’t need to be pushed very far back in at all in order to restore smooth running – my alarmed shoving it all the way back was obviously overkill and I now happily burbled along with the mixture lever well back and the engine apparently perfectly happy.  That wasn’t so scary…

Actually I must confess it was probably more daunting that it should be and I spent most of the rest of the flight with my ears super-tuned for any change in engine noise, and my eyes flicking to the oil temperature.

I’m sure that’s only familiarity and confidence though.  I’m a convert and feel rather abashed at not having been doing this leaning business a sight longer.

I landed and happily put the aeroplane to bed for the night to the accompaniment of the sound of someone matter of factly thumping their Yak to check for loose objects before flying.

I strolled back across the common listening to, and occasionally glimpsing the same machine flying aerobatics somewhere up in the silvery haze.

Nice.

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