Well just over a year since I got my Pilot’s Licence and I’ve only flown 7 hours in the Katana DA-20 C1. I’ve done one set of circuits, one flight out over the Isle of White and Portsmouth with the rest out over Kent. I’m now in the second year of my licence and have to do a minimum of 12 hours this year. So to kick things off, today, I have booked to fly the PA-28, something I meant to do a while ago.
The weather today is high pressure so some early fog, light winds, with some cloud at 2800ft but fine for flying. First stage was the walk-around checks, I couldn’t find some things so had to ask the instructor, but soon had the external checks completed.
Then it was into the aircraft – it felt enormous and complex compared to the Katana I’ve been flying. The controls are much heavier, the instrument panel is more complex – especially the navigation systems and radio telephony. I still wasn’t sure how they worked despite the instructor taking me through them. Then it was on to internal checks and start-up. Engine was easy to start but the whole aircraft felt completely different, the layout was different, the controls were different and I joked with the Instructor – was he really going to let me fly this thing? He said yes and to get on with it.
Radio call to Redhill ATC then taxi to holding point G1 for Runway 08R. The aircraft steers differently and felt like a “lumbering beast” compared to the Katana. However I soon got the hang of taxiing it and after a few minutes it even seem easier than the Katana, especially on the rough ground. Then it was on to power checks and call ATC for clearance to line up. Approval was given followed by the take-off clearance, so I lined up and got ready to go.
I open the throttle and the aircraft started to move – now somewhat nervous. The aircraft didn’t swing left (like the Katana) and more or less carried on a straight line with speed slowly increasing as it lumbered across the ground. At 50Kts it was rotate and hold until take-off speed of 70Kts. Again the aircraft accelerated slowly and took a while to get to 80 Kts – the climb speed. Soon at 500ft, raise the flaps and the aircraft started to perform better so I climbed to 1400ft and set a heading for the departure point at Godstone South. Then it was on to Bough Beech reservoir, turn over Tunbridge Wells and on to Bewl Water to get well outside the Gatwick zones. By know I was getting the hang of it (apart from the navigation and radio systems) and the controls seemed really heavy and slow to respond. By now I was thinking this was a good thing as the Katana is sensitive to control movements and can be a bit jumpy. My left arm was getting a bit sore so time to sort out the trimmer properly. At Bewl Water, it was steep turns at 45 degrees left and then right. I managed them OK considering I’d never flown this aircraft before. Then it was on to a climb to 3500ft followed by a spiral descent and a simulated engine failure – all OK so far and the instructor seemed happy.
Then it was back to Redhill and a downwind re-join for circuits on Runway 08R. Circuit was fine once I could see through the haze and got my position correct then it was onto base leg, descent and final for a touch and go. I was somewhat nervous but the aircraft seemed OK as long as it was trimmed correctly. Approach was fine and I even managed a reasonable landing and take-off. Then it was another circuit this time with a flapless approach. This time the speeds are higher (80Kts approach 70 kts landing) and the nose attitude is higher. Again a reasonable approach and a touch and go. Climb out was different as no take-off flaps this time. Then it was a short field approach and landing – again all OK.
As we taxied back to the hanger, the Instructor said he was going to sign me off to fly it. Really? I was a bit surprised but then again I had managed to fly it and control it without any drama.
Well – it certainly is a different aircraft. The controls are much heavier - which is not a bad thing, it responds slower – again not a bad thing and it just feels so much heavier and bigger – which it is. Still not sure I understand the navigation and Radio systems but I can make them work. I’ll take it on a solo flight next time to get a bit more familiar with it.
Aircraft – PA28 161 Piper Warrior II, flying time 1hr 20 mins
On the apron at Redhill
Instrument Panel – radios and navigation equipment on the right