Remind Me Again What To Do

Summertime, when the living is (allegedly, anyway) easy. My summertime was made a little easier by getting a bonus in my pay cheque. I’d been looking at microlight training rates for a while as a possible route back into flying, so this seemed an ideal opportunity…

An exchange of e-mails and a couple of phone calls later, I found myself sat outside a portakabin at Deanland airfield, watching a Thruster T600 taxi back in with my (soon to be) instructor, Keith and another student.

Once the T600 had been put to bed, we had a chat over a cup of coffee, exploring my flying experience to date and recapping on basic things like primary and secondary effects of controls. Keith then talked me through some of the relevant facts and figures relating to the Ikarus C42 that we were about to go and play with.
Briefing and coffe done, we walked out to the aircraft and I had my first opportunity to look at it close up. I’d read through the C42 POH and checklists the evening before, so I knew pretty much what to expect. After completing the walk round check, I settled into the left hand seat and had a look round the instruments, switches and indicators in the cockpit.

Deanland is an entirely uncontrolled airfield, so after startup Keith announced to whoever was listening our intention to taxi for the runway 24 hold. He pointed out the taxiway in the grass and the area at the end of the field where we’d be doing our power checks and with a grin said, “Your aircraft, off you go” – gulp!

The C42 only needs a trickle of power to get it rolling and I managed to get us down to the end of the airfield without damaging anything and without running the prop into the long grass. Power checks were as per any other SEP, T’s & P’s, 3500 RPM, left mag, right mag, back to idle to make sure it still runs smoothly. A 360 degree turn to the left allowed for a quick visual check around the circuit, including a peek up final approach. Pre-takeoff was also the familiar stuff and we were ready to roll in no time. I pushed the little throttle stick fully forward and we fair shot off down the runway, bumping and bouncing over the grass. I found that I didn’t need a huge amount of rudder to keep her straight despite the impressive acceleration. The nosewheel came up very quickly and the main wheels somewhere round about the 55 knots mark if I remember correctly.

We settled into a 60kt climb, leaving the circuit with a turn to the left and levelling off at about 1600 feet. I ran through the basics again, climb, descent, turing climb, turning descent, full power climb, cruise climb, descent with flaps and power, ditto with power at idle. I was really pleased to find that it all came back to me quite quickly – after 10 minutes it felt like I’d never been away. Even Keith commented that I wasn’t flying like someone who’d not touched the controls for over 5 years.

Keith took the controls back and demonstrated some steeper turns and the approach to a stall with the power off. That was very gentle, with only a very slight buffet as the ASI wound down and culminating in nothing more dramatic than a gentle nod of the nose downwards. We then looked around for a suitable field for a PFL. I wasn’t 100% sure of what I was doing at this point, but I followed Keiths directions and we were soon aiming in a generally groundward direction with 1 stage of flaps set. It all seemed to go as planned, but as we approached the field we’d selected, I noticed it had a wide, deep depression covering 2 thirds of its width. If we’d been putting down for real, I’d probably not be sitting here typing this…I forgot to ask Keith about that on the day, must bring it up with him next time.

I put some power back on and we did a few minutes of operations at low level, which was great fun. Next, Keith suggested we have a trundle off in the general direction of Brighton. Using the TV mast at the top of the hill as an easy landmark, I pointed us out to sea to take us directly over the marina, keeping a wary eye out for any traffic coming from or going to Shoreham, as the marina is a very prominent VRP. I did a slow orbit to the right to see if I could see our house, but I couldn’t really make it out.

We carried on inland and turned right to pass to the north of Newhaven and Seaford, then down a little valley back to the coast. A left turn then took us along to Beachy Head, turning back inland just after passing the lighthouse. Keith made another call to announce our position (I was glad he knew where we were in relation to the airfield!) and that we were going to join the circuit on a left base for 24. I descended to just over 1,000 feet and looked out for the turning point for our downwind leg, which was a small wooded area with an equally small body of water in front of it. Said landmark duly appeared and I turned onto downwind. The landmarks for the base leg turn were harder to spot this time, Keith asked me to fly a course which bisected the right hand third of a wooded area ahead, making sure to keep a large white building on my right, descending to 800 feet and sticking 1 stage of flaps in as I went. So far, so good…

Everything went to pot on final approach. I was way too high and way too fast, so the power had to come right back to get the aiming point back in the allotted place in the windscreen. The grass runway with the lump in the middle looked totally wrong – the only thing I had to compare it with was the over 1,000m length of Shorehams hard runway. I persevered with the approach, having to add a little burp of power as we came over the fence. The throttle was moved smoothly back to idle speed as we approached the ground, but I started to flare the aircraft much too early and Keith had to take over in order to get us on the ground in a manner that gave the aeroplane a sporting chance of still being usable afterwards. Let’s just say we got value for money from our £3 landing fee, the ensuing bounces in fact mean that we got 4 for the price of 1!

After that,just taxi back to somewhere suitable in front of the portakabin and shut down. First lesson in the C42 complete and a success even if I do say so myself, albeit a qualified success – still lots that I need to learn!