My Instructor has been going through my training plan and identified a few areas I need to get signed off. These are steep turns (already done some of this), low level navigation and short field take off and landings. He also wanted me to practice diversions (planning a new route while flying) and practice forced landings.
The weather today was poor with some low cloud and rain showers – some of which were heavy. The weather this afternoon was set to deteriorate further so we needed to get a move on. Earlier that week a pupil had experienced a “prop strike” which is where the propeller hits the ground so Redhill ATC were routing via the taxiways rather than shortcuts across the grass to prevent damage to aircraft – so departures were taking longer. I also needed to refuel the aircraft.
Anyway, got to Runway 24L and was cleared for take off and departure via Godstone. This was my first “short field take off” where you hold the aircraft on the brakes at the edge of the runway, open the throttle to maximum, then release the brakes and climb out at 65kts. This is used on short runways or where you need to take off quickly. All uneventful, climbed out and turned downwind for Godstone. I hadn’t planned a specific route, but general plan was to fly to Bough Beech and turn following a radial from Biggin Hill VOR for Bewl Water and go on from there. The cloud was low so had to fly at about 1400ft and the passing rain showers reduced visibility by quite a lot. As we approached Bewl Water we could see another aircraft heading there as well. The low cloud meant we were at the same height so when the Instructor told me to plan a route to Mayfield, he took control of the aircraft while I was doing this to ensure we didn’t have a collision risk. Even so, when I looked up when we were over Bewl Water we were a lot closer to the other aircraft than I would have liked. Still by now I’d sorted out my route to Mayfield and set the heading. I’d got my calculations slightly wrong and ended up about 10 degrees to the east of Mayfield but worked out what I’d done, corrected my course and soon was overhead the waypoint. From there, the Instructor asked me to plan a route to Paddock Wood. By know the visibility was so bad I could hardly see where I was never mind where I was going. So calculated a heading, worked out the timing and wind correction angle and set off. This one I got right as I ended up over Paddock Wood bang on target. I couldn’t see Paddock Wood until I was nearly on top of it, so no cheating this time by simply flying to the waypoint.
We could see the sky over Maidstone was a bit clearer so set off in that direction. There I was able to climb to 2500ft so could practice steep turns. The Instructor demonstrated a 60 degree turn – which generates 2G force so my arms felt like lead. It’s a weird turn as it feels like the aircraft is going to slip sideways into the ground. Then it was my turn but I only needed to do a 45 degree angle of bank. That was steep enough and I managed it OK.
Then it was plan a route back to Redhill. First step was work out where I was then work out a route back. Set a course for Bough Beech which I could then see in the distance. Approaching Bough Beech, descend to 1400ft and head for Redhill. There were heavy showers in the area but thankfully they didn’t get in the way. Over Godstone South, I was cleared for a direct approach to Runway 26. As I was practicing a “short field landing” (opposite of a short field take off) the idea was to approach at 60kts, land on Runway numbers and brake firmly to stop as soon as possible. As it happened I overshot a bit but I did stop fairly quickly which meant I had to taxi to the exit point which was Runway 36 as the grass taxiways were out of use Then it was over to the hanger, shut down and de-brief.
Instructor was reasonably happy with my performance and signed me off on the exercises. I certainly got the low level navigation done as the low cloud and rain meant there was no choice. Also the poor visibility meant I had to plan the diversions correctly otherwise I stood a chance of getting lost. We didn’t do the practice forced landings due to the bad weather.
Next time it’s a refresher and then a solo flight to Manston. I will be a while until I fly again as I don’t have any free weekends for a while.