We are now a group of three!
I’d been over the strip last weekend as well but weather meant just grabbing a quick flit in between the showers. This Saturday was earmarked for familiarisation of myself and the other new member with the aircraft. The advise on which from one of my regular instructions was “fly with someone familiar with the aircraft – call me when you want checking out!”
The covers were frozen solid (hangar is planned…) and lots of people turned up carrying nice warm batteries from their cars! My investment in unflattering, thermal undies was well repaid!
Nick was racking up the hours and probably freezing solid as the two newbies to the aircraft alternated between flying, coffee, flying, soup, flying, chitchat, flying through the day.
Taxying is straightforward once you’re used to how low to the ground you’re sitting, but needs bearing in mind that there’s only brakes on the pilot’s side and the aircraft is very nose light in the absence of thrust from the engine…
We performed a weaving piroutteing wander across the strip and I practising getting the wing good and close to the hedge for lining up.
Takeoff with a stage of flaps (yes, flaps – possibly slight overkill on a micro I now…) was similarly simple apart from my tendency to diverge off to the right – I’d paid and unfortunately little amount of attention beforehand to which way the prop rotates in this engine config! Stick held slightly back through the early part of the roll then a bit of a nudge brings her off the ground and eagerly climbing at 55mph. A certain amount of bobbing the nose up and down to maintain 55 ensued as I searched for visual references in the absence of very much nose out the front…
Getting the flaps aware required a rather disconcerting amount of force at a slightly tricky angle for a weedy girly who’s all elbows and has tiny hands! It’s a weird bungee-cord-sprung lever up in the roof. -I struggled with that on several flights, though sitting on the ground and doing it helped figure out the angle the force is required at – needs a bit of a forward nudge to free it first. But pulling something above and behind your head forward and down and then sliding it back again – with airloads on it – was not the easiest thing in the world. Either I’ve not got the angle right yet or I need to do some pull ups (or possibly grow larger hands…) 😉 We’ll see!
The peculiarities of the device have not gone unnoticed however and the POH includes the observation that “Be aware that it is relatively easy to strike your passengers in the face when operating the flap lever.”
We spent some time doing turns, including some steep one, which the aircraft does absolutely beautifully! Think I’ve got the references down okay for that now.
Did some practise approaches into a variety of fields to get used to the descent and slow speed handling but the X’Air is really such a docile little thing it’s hard to go far wrong.
Engine handling is the main thing to be aware of – coolant temp needs to be within limits and tends to hover around the low end more often as far as I can tell. Needs a bit of power on in the descent to keep it from dropping off the minimum marker. EGT gauge likewise needs watches with too high temps needing an increase in power (which does feel a bit contrary, but is to do with the mixture and the fact the only tool you have for richening it it opening the throttle!)
I’m learning loads about little two stroke at any rate!
Need to do some landings still, and the best place for practicing that is not the strip so postponed for another day.
Then it was someone else turn and I retired to the cabin to warm up and be briefed on the coffee kitty and strip Christmas party and start matching some names to faces and aircraft of the regulars.
The atmosphere at the strip really is just outstanding. Always someone interesting to chat to, kettle always on, and so much positivity. In a time where prices and regulation and woe is everywhere, all the talk was of how lucky we are in the location, the weather (today anyway!), and what adventures or fettling people were planning next or had just done.
The process of going for a flit seems just so much simpler too. A 15 minute wait by someone waiting for a travelling companion to arrive was enough to offer another visitor a spin round and at the end of the day, with the sun on the horizon Nick smiled at Rhubarb parked outside the cabin and said, “Well I have to start the engine again anyway to go down to park… Shall we have another ten minutes…?”
There’s only one answer to that of course!
So off we launched again into the twilight sky, Nick flying this time and Rhubarb adoring the cold air and in a very sprightly mood, climbing and diving and turning above the twinkling streetlights which made even the industrial sprawl of the work at Baglan and Port Talbot look pretty.
Three people makes the putting away easier too of course, and as I wiped the bugs from the windshield and discovered mud on the top of the tail (how!) I couldn’t stop smiling.
Smitten with that little machine I am. Smitten entirely!