This weekend gone I flew for the first time since 2nd December. I fully expected to be rusty, and indeed I was, but the interesting thing was where the rust had stuck. I found myself blathering nonsense on the r/t, my circuits were anything but rectangular and I’d lost all sense of what I could call hand-foot coordination – I slipped and skidded all over the sky for the first few turns.
To my mild surprise the bit I was most concerned about – the actual landings — weren’t too bad, in the sense that the touchdowns were relatively gentle, and bar one which was flat and fast, comfortably on the mains.
The touch and goes however were downright ugly. The rustiness of that rudder coordination had me swerving most ungracefully across the runway when I opened the throttle for the ‘go’ bit. I can’t remember the last time I had to consciously think about applying rudder as I accelerated down the runway.
I’d planned to do some circuits and then push off to the local area to do some general handling and imaginary emergencies but Swansea was the busiest I’d seen it in a long time — everyone apparently having the same idea of grabbing the one sunny day in weeks. I scuttled off after one touch and go when I found myself joined by the fifth aeroplane in the circuit.
I headed north, vaguely following the Loughor, and did a few medium turns to try and remind myself what those pedals down by my feet were supposed to do.
With the ball staying more respectably in the centre I decided on some slow flight next – always good for getting the concentration make in shape. I dawdled along at 65 knots feeling as though I was barely moving, in spite of my urgent efforts on the controls to maintain some semblance of a constant heading and altitude.
As the Loughor started to dwindle below me, from estuary to river to stream, I sped up again and climbed. Since I was doing slow stuff I may as well do a stall or two as well. I looked around in interest at the odd clouds which seemed to be forming and large circle around a chunk of west Wales. I ran through the HASELL checks – with the occasional pause — I’m bad at acronyms and was rusty of what stood for what there too.
These I hadn’t forgotten apparently, and they went satisfyingly well. Also found it oddly reassuring – one of my bad habits is a tendency to let the airspeed creep up on final because I’m worrying about being too slow. Always nice to have it demonstrated just how much warning you get before it honest and truly stalls.
I’d wanted to do some steep turns too but in spite of the sunshine the horizon was hazy and I didn’t feel it would be helpful, so left that for another day.
PFLs next and I was glad I’d decided to practise as the first one was atrocious. In spite of losing tons of height while I floundered through the checks I would have overshot the field hopelessly. I was surprised at how long it took me to get through thee checks and how quickly my brain turned to mush when actually flying – I’d been regularly reciting them to make sure I remembered them.
PFLs are something I think I’ll try have to make a habit of practicing more regularly even in the absence of weeks of bad weather as a spur.
I headed back to the airfield, hoping the ATZ had calmed down a bit. It had, but sadly the tidiness of my circuits and touch and goes had not improved. Something else to practice a bit more often I think. I think that’s not only due to the lay-off for weather, but to not having doing circuits every other week any more as I was when training. Need to throw in one or two a bit more often I think.
In all I was reasonably satisfied I’d managed to scrape at least the worst of the rust off and it felt fantastic to be up in the air again!