Hey rockers and aviators!
After I received my license in November 2016, and as soon as there was a day with decent weather I decided to get out flying again. It has been almost two months since my skills test, and I felt I needed some practice to stay in the rhythm. I asked my colleague Dan, an occasional glider pilot (he thinks flying with engines is cheating!) to come along and so we both drove to Wellesbourne early Sunday morning.
Dan was happy with a short local flight around the area due to family duties in the afternoon, so no PPR or navigation planning was required. I just started a 30-day trial of the SkyDemon software which I wanted to try out by using the GPS function during flight, which was limited to 30 minutes per session, and so I was happy with short flights too.
EASA regulations require a private pilot to take-off and land an aeroplane as pilot in command (PIC) at least three times within the previous 90 days before taking any passengers. My last flight as PIC was a while ago and I didn’t land three times, so I decided to fly a few circuits to get current and become familiar with the aircraft (I hired our new G-FIGA, a C152). There was a bit of a crosswind from the right, which made things more challenging… I actually considered to cancel the whole thing for a few minutes, but then I reminded me to not stay in my comfort zone too long and I taxied to holding point alpha for runway 18.
The first circuit was all within limits, I adjusted for the crosswind on the downwind leg, my approach was on target and stable. The landing was not as smooth as they can be, but ok. The second circuit was nicely executed and the landing was comfortable. On the third circuit I allowed G-FIGA to gain some altitude before or during base leg, so my approach was a bit too high but nothing that couldn’t be fixed on final. Another acceptable landing, and taxi back to parking to pick up my first ever passenger.
It is a good idea to have a checklist-style page for the passenger briefing in your flight bag.
I did not have one.
The result was a briefing that felt more like a waste of time than a confidently presented set of informative items. It’s a non-smoking flight. Right. This is how the doors and seat-belts work. Oh and yes, this is where you can find the fire extinguisher in the unlikely event of a cabin fire. Dan was my first passenger, and I had to search for each item in my head. At least I remembered the procedures in case of a forced landing. I’m glad that Dan was a glider pilot himself, so I felt more confident that he’d know what to do and when, but in the future, I wouldn’t want to rely on that. After what felt like an eternity looking for passenger brief items in my memory, we were all good to go!
I received the airfield information and started taxiing towards holding point alpha again, doing all necessary taxi checklist items.
Taking off from runway 18 was quite straightforward, the crosswinds have weakened a bit. I took on a south-westerly direction towards the Cotswolds, flying into the wind.
I levelled off at around 2300ft to stay well away from the clouds, and did a FREDA check.
It was now time to let the passenger have his flying experience, so I handed the controls over to Dan. Time to relax. I was quite familiar with the surrounding area since I had the majority of my training here, so I could lean back and enjoy the view.
I decided to simply fly a wide clockwise circle around Bredon Hill in Worcestershire and arrive back in Wellesbourne via Stratford upon Avon. Time to check out SkyDemon! I’ve opened the app and simply observed SkyDemon’s features regarding GPS-flying. The app showed me restricted and danger zones on both a top-view and vertical map, which seemed really helpful. It didn’t stop me from cutting the edge of a gas-venting site though, d’oh! No more such occurrences during the flight though.
Some low-level clouds appeared on the western side of Bredon Hill. Reason enough to go and investigate! Flying over those few fluffs we had to do a left-turn to avoid the laser site and ‘high intensity radio transmission area’ at Pershore. After flying westwards towards the Malvern Hills we decided to have a look at Worcester before returning back to Wellesbourne.
On the way back we enjoyed the tailwind and gained ground speeds of around 135 knots. Soon Stratford was in sight, and therefore time to call Wellesbourne for a rejoin.
Runway 18 was still the active runway with a right-hand circuit direction, as expected, and we were planning for an overhead join. In an overhead join, the pilot overflies the airfield at the downwind end of the runway at 2000ft agl (above ground level), start a descent to 1000ft and turn in the circuit direction on the dead side, before joining the downwind leg of the circuit. The descent can be quite steep depending on the wind and other factors, so I can imagine this to be able to raise a passenger’s blood pressure, but Dan was hard to impress.
Turning base, I found the airplane wouldn’t want to descend quick enough, so on turn to final we were still 900ft above ground. Being so high practically means gliding all the way down, but the crosswind from south-west required some power nonetheless.
Back on the glide slope, checking the indicated airspeed while maintaining a crab into the crosswind we landed safely on runway 18 and soon taxied off the runway back to parking.
No flight ever goes without mistakes, and mistakes I made a few on my first flight after receiving my license.
First of all, I acquired all my NOTAM’s and weather briefings from SkyDemon. This is not necessarily a mistake at all, but since I was using the trial version it might have been wiser to get the official NOTAM briefing and print it out.
Second, I really need to practise those passenger briefings. As pilot-in-command I’m responsible for the safety of my passengers, and giving them all required information to stay safe during a flight and in the case of an emergency should be a must-have requirement before any flight.
Third, despite using GPS software like SkyDemon and actually paying a lot of attention to its in-flight features, I still managed to cut the edge of that gas-venting site. It was not inherently dangerous or anything, but the fact that I realised that later and not when it happened was a good example of lack of situational awareness. Study the charts thoroughly!
Fourth: practise those damn landings! Even though it was a safe and successful landing, it was not up to my personal standards. Dan has enjoyed the landing (especially the fact that we were too high on approach, like gliders), but I felt it was not smooth enough. Time to go out for a few more circuits as soon as the weather permits!
All in all it wasn’t a bad flight at all. Dan and I really enjoyed it, and having a passenger instead of a nagging flight instructor (no offence, Jerry) was very enjoyable!
I made a few minor mistakes, as expected for a novice pilot, but far from any serious mistakes. I started this blog to write them down and learn from my own mistakes, and hopefully someday someone might learn from my mistakes reading this blog as well.
I haven’t flown since this day thanks to the infamous British weather, but I can’t wait to get back into the cockpit soon.
Until then – keep on rockin’!
Flying Time: 1:25h
Total Time: 1:25h