Pages of this blog

Monday, 24 February 2014

Belated Valentine's Flight

After the cancellation of my first flight lesson this year, I enjoyed a lesson on January 12th. The next lesson I had planned for February 5th fell through because of rain, wind, and low clouds. The next one, Feb. 11th, was "blown away" by way too much wind. So, statistically, my flight planned for Valentines Day should go through, right?

Meteorologists see in the above picture a warm front approaching from, say, overhead Paris, a high pressure area over northern Italy, and a steeply low pressure area just south of Ireland. The two pressure systems make for a lot of wind (especially over Great Brittain, but also over the Netherlands. This also makes the warm front move in rather rapidly, which in turn causes a lot of convection, which results in rain...
The picture is the forecast for mid-day Valentines Day, as predicted at 7pm the evening before. So although the warm front is predicted to progress quickly, it's still over France at mid-day, and my flight is planned at 14:00, so the meteorological situation should allow for a one-hour flight, and then soon deteriorate...
On Valentine's morning, the warm front seemed to be in even a bit more of a hurry than predicted. The associated bad weather was now expected to arrive in Lelystad at 15:00 already. After a quick phone call with my instructor, we decided that I would leave work as soon as possible (at around 12:00), so I could already start to pre-flight the aircraft, and he would follow some half hour later. That way, we could take off at 13:30, and since we would stay near the airport, we'd come in as the weather would come down (or after one hour, whichever comes first).
While I was doing the pre-flight, my instructor had received the latest weather update from his meteo connection at Schiphol airport. The warm front had moved north even faster than previously predicted, and probably would hit Lelystad at around the time he would be able to get there. So then and there we decided to cancel again. My success ratio has now dropped to one-out-of-four, while I had assumed a one-in-two ratio for this season.
Oh well; I got to meet my airplane for Valentine's Day, and got to practice pre-flight, including Weight & Balance, and collecting and reading NOTAMs.

I anxiously followed the weather forecasts over the next couple of days, because my next booking was set for the 19th. And that Wednesday promised to be the best day of the week, in terms of flying weather (mainly because it was the day with the least amount of wind). The booking was from 15:00 'til 17:00, so this time we could wait for the mid-day weather update, before deciding if we would head out to Lelystad. But already during the morning, the "good to go" was cast :); my Valentine's flight would be a couple of days late, but finally there!
My instructor had booked the plane with another student the hour before my lesson. When I arrived, they were just departing.
Based on their Weight and balance, and the amount of fuel I estimated them to burn, I pre-filed mine. A look at the NOTAMs revealed that one TRA was active in the neighborhood that day, due to flying with unmanned aerial vehicles, controled by wire, up to 948 ft. Probably a test day for NLR, I would guess. Anyway: stay well above 1000ft, and we don't get caught in the cable. Als EHR3, including all stacks up to FL175, is active during weekdays, due to gun firing. So that's a something to avoid alltogether, and by a margin! After a cup of coffee, the other men returned already, so I could do my walk-around, and place my camera. On the moving part of the canopee, this time, so I can maybe see my control inputs a bit better. At least for so far as my rudder input is concerned.
We finally get to fly again!!!

I am supposed to be able to perform all tasks up to driving up to the runway, so Piet (my instructor) basically only sits back, and monitors all my actions. Providing some distractions at certain semi-critical moments.
Take off was mine too, this time, with his hand and feet monitoring my movements. I knew I had to give right rudder when I open up the throttle, but I had no idea how much exactly. So swagging about like a drunken duck, I lifted off. Climbout at the correct speed, retract flaps at 500ft, adjust pitch, level off at 700ft, trim, and after Piet's call saying we are leaving the circuit, a climbing RH turn to the north, while staying east of the highway, level off at 1400ft. Pfew, a little getting used to everything again ... there's a lot coming at you in this short bit of time!

A little later, a climb through to 2000ft, followed by a cruise descend (carb. heat on, throttle back; simple :) ) to 1600 again. "Turns to a specific heading" were up next. For that to work, you not only have to make neat turn entries and exits, but also timing them becomes an issue, while your instructor distracts you with chit-chat and funny remarks. The the same again, but at a slower speed. And straight-and-level, even slower. We are now at Vs+10, well in the "region of reverse control". A funny thing to experience that flying slower requires more thrust.
I did all that well enough to go try an approach to the airfield. "You go fly to Biddinghuizen", Piet said. You have to know where Biddinghuizen is, and wehere you are yourself... "West side of Biddinghuizen?" I replied, because there is a glider field to the south of Biddinghuizen, which you will overfly after passing Biddinghuizen around the east side. Alwys a risk, a glider field. Those guys and girls climb steep and quickly, when winch-launched. And then there is of course the winch cable; also not a pleasant mid-air encounter. And flying over a populated area is also not prefered. Those Biddinghuizen people have enough on their minds, with those expansion plans of Lelystad Airport över their heads". They don't need me to add to that ;)

The circuit is busy. Entering over mandatory reporting point Bravo, we fly a little slower, becaus a DA-20 just joined the entrance in front of us. We need to create some separation. There are in total 4 planes in the circuit area, and this time I did see them all :). We went for some touch-and-goes. So land, rool out a little, flaps to tak-off position, carb-heat off, full trottle and full rpm, and it's time to pull the stick already. Vr of 55 kts is nothing, before you know it you are airborn again! First landing ws reasonable, with a lot of help from Piet, second landing was slightly better, with less help, and the last landing was the best. Especially being lined up with the runway, and on a more or less steady glideslope went much better than the previous ones. In the end it was quite a boink when we landed, but for a first-time unassisted landing not too bad, if I say so myself.

Pretty satisfied. Enough room for improvement, but for a flight so early in the course, and after having not flown in over a month, not a bad job! I for one am pretty pleased with my flying today, and so was Piet. Not let's hope I can keep that up.
I have booked my next lesson for next Sunday already...

Here's a GPS plot of my flight today:

No comments:

Post a Comment