Yes, it's all a bit boy-scoutish but I got my PPL wings back and I am feeling very pleased about it. The endeavour has, however, pretty much excluded paying attention to anything else.
The weather was atrocious yesterday but I saw an opportunity to get the paperwork done and pick my instructor's brains with no good reason for him to escape. No other fool would be up there. I was right. The place was virtually deserted. We spent an hour or so reviewing the work I had done surrounding the calculating take-off and landing distances, calculating the load sheet, re-learning emergency procedures, etc etc. Around 11 am we were about to give up on the weather when a faint lightening of the skies to the north produced a glimmer of hope. The visibility progressively cleared and the cloud base was high enough for the exercises I still had to complete; a precautionary landing and a forced landing.
So the hanger doors were pulled back and Foxtrot Golf Uniform wheeled out. I am sentimental about FGU because it is the aircraft I took my first lesson in way back in 1986.
We started with shortfield take off which involves sitting on the brakes with the engine at full power, letting it go and rotating (lifting off) at only 50 kts to climb steeply at 54. This manoeuvre is to allow a take-off in a short run and clearance of any impediments ahead. It's a very nose-high attitude.
It was much bumpier than early in the week but that's good. You know you are flying. We tracked up the coast low level and picked a field to simulate a precautionary landing. Was a time that you could go down to very low heights in a low flying area south of the Otaki river but with the advent of complaining lifestyle-blockers that is no longer possible. So it's a bit unsatisfactory but you demonstrate that your judgement is such that you can put it down in said field if the need arises (exceedingly bad weather and visibility). This is done with power which I actually find harder than without because you have to fly around in a bad weather configuration - 10 degrees of flap at 70 kts. Trickier to control. But it went OK. And good thing it did because the sky to the west was starting to look somewhat blue-black and threatening.
So we headed south and climbed up to 3,000ft above the airfield with the intention of doing the forced landing directly below. The wind aloft had picked up considerably. The instructor has a GPS and can measure our progress over ground. He pulled the power and it is my job to get us on the ground safely. I turned unto wind and trimmed for a glide of 60 knots. But we weren't descending very fast. In fact the wind was is so strong that we were almost flying backwards. (That is technically possible because the plane flies relative to the body of air - think the guy who recently crossed the Tasman who some days lost ground).
Instructor suggests, perhaps you will need a faster glide speed. This is very counter-intuitive when making a forced landing because you are all the time trying to conserve height and give yourself time to do a number of things as well as THINK.
So I pushed the nose down turning towards my downwind point and started losing height very rapidly. This combined with a great deal of drift meant I missed the 1500ft point and aimed for 1,000ft. I wasn't worried. To be honest my aim is always to judge instinctively. Although it was all happening a little faster than usual I got through the power restoration checks, the Mayday call, the passenger briefing, the shutdown checks and the radio calls for local traffic. I rounded on to finals where I wanted to be, lowered the last degrees of flaps before shutting down the electrics (simulation) and landed better than at any of my previous efforts. We immediately applied full power to go around, took off again to do one more circuit, this time with a flapless landing (learned in case of electrical failure). By now the wind was really switching and the last landing had a strong crosswind component. More good practice. You come in crabbed and then straighten out just before landing. I was slightly too fast because it was flapless but again I felt well in control, flared at the right moment and landed reasonably gently. And that was it.
We taxied back and then I did the stupidest thing. Turned off the engine using the ignition. A no-no. The engine is always shut down by starving it of fuel; over-leaning the mixture. What got into my head, I don't know. Momentarily I behaved as though I was in a car. Have never done this before in nearly 300 hours of flying.
But I was forgiven. I guess I had satisfied the instructor that I was safe, if not prone to the odd blond moment (like when I suggested the alternator belt was driving the prop???).
So now I can fly to my hearts content, and take passengers. The only constraining factor is money. There's always a catch.
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