To see the culmination of my achievements, click the following link to view an airborne video and interview!
The day of days. The PPL Skills test. I was so nervous. I wanted so much to do it correctly, and well, that I made myself even more scared. The waiting proved the scariest bit. The weather was not really conducive to the test, and after much debate, David just said, "Come on then, let's do it." So I had no chance to make excuses now. He needed to go to Sibson (Damn! Landing elsewhere was not part of the test!) However, I did exactly as he asked and we headed off to Sibson. David tried to put me at ease because I was gripping onto Mack for dear life. He insisted I flew only with one hand and so it transpired that he forced me to relax. We made an approach to Sibson which was not ideal, so I went around and landed with success the second time. The we delivered a box to the maintenance guys, David had some words with them, and off we went. My diversion was to Rugby! I was pleased. The clouds were low, the visibility was poor, at least I would be able to see Rugby! I told David the time we would get there and what my heading would be. I pointed out landmarks to him and he pointed out some to me, through the gloom. To perform the manoeuvres, which were part of the skills test, we had to climb up to 3500 feet. It was like a white blanket. I did my stalls, and my descending and ascending turns with little reference to a horizon, so used instinct and instruments!
After all the things that Donald had done with me, David went through the same things and I was glad I was doing this so close to my mock test. We headed back to Cranfield. I did a normal and then flapless landing and for the final circuit, David asked me to show him a performance landing. 'I will get you off at Bravo!" I said to him. "If you do that I will be impressed." I did, and the rest is history.
I PASSED! I have my wings at last! I hope you enjoyed my Pilot's log, which documented my journey to success. I have not stopped though, I intend to do an IMC rating and maybe even move on from there we will see!
Here it was, the mock test! Donald took me out in Mack and put me thorugh my paces. He was a bit worried that I had not physically done a diversion before, so hey ho! Let's do one right here! I had to find a small grass airstrip (which proved a little pesky) called Main Hall Farm. After a little panic I sort of found it, after a fly around, and after that Donald asked me to divert to Pitsford, another grass airstrip! However, at leats this one was near Pitsford Water, somewhatfafmiliar to me now! As we cruised in the sky, I sensed I had forgotten my wind correction factor, but put it right after a little nudge from Donald. I was taking all his tips on board. After we had successfully located Pitsford airstrip, and in great time too, we then moved onto stalling and steep turns. Then Donald treated me to some aerobatics, and even let me try and aileron roll! It was very exciting! Made me relax too, and forget about the impending test! The other thing Donald found lacking in my previous knowledge was that I had never been taught a high glide onto the airfield. So he helped me through it, after successful normal and flapless landings. After the flight he gave me lots more tips and tricks, and I thought it is now or never.
The intention today was to do a revision test of what would be required for my flight test. Majci dared to take me out in the most appalling weather, and although we could not do any proper VFR navigation, we flew on instruments, and tried to land at Sibson, but the visibility was dire, and Sibson Radio advised us that landing would not be a great idea. Even Majci thought it was not the best idea in the world, so we headed back, and used the instrument approach system, despite the fact that the PA28 G-AVWU we flew in, had a wandering direction indicator, which did not help us at all! However, I enjoyed it very much and it was all good experience for my next challenge of an IMC rating.
To celebrate my success the previous day, and to tip over the required solo navigation hours, I performed a neat little triangle taking in the delights of Silverstone racetrack and Conington, and back to Cranfield in my old friend Mack. I really enjoyed that trip, and felt more confident by the minute.
Hooray! As you can see from three flights I finally managed to successfully comlete the qualifying cross country trip (even though Gamston tried to put me off with a 15 knot crosswind). I was going to go, whatever happened this time! All was well, has a great landing at Conington, and although I could sense the crosswind, I followed Donald's (Wun WIng Lo) Instructions, and landed reasonably proficiently. Then, all I had to do was refuel and get back home to Cranfield. Mack the Blac took me safely everywhere. Love that plane!
Another attemt to do the solo qualifying cross country. I was already thinking after checking the weather the route would be unsafe. I arrived at the school, Donald phoned Gamston, and they predicted more thunderstorms. Conington even told Donald that landing there would be unwise. Donald told me to have a try at it anyway. So I did. Off I flew with Mack and despite the extreme crosswind, landed at Conington. However, they advised me against going to Gamston, as an update of the weather predicted heavy thunderstorms. I could even see cloud closing in to the north. So I had planned an alternative, and flew from Conington to Towcester racetrack and then back to Cranfield.
I think after that week at work, I was exhausted, but had a good night's sleep with all the intention of doing that pesky cross country trip! That elusive creature was not to be caught today either! We debated in the school about whether I should even do a short navigational trip as the visibility was poor, and there were thunderstorm warnings in place. I had already checked Gamston, and their weather was extremely poor. So a 'solo' navigation with strong supervision was the order of the day. I went out in my favourite Mack, found Towcester racetrack, Grafham Water and returned to Stewartby, all timed almost to perfection, and felt very happy with my efforts! Thanks boys, (particularly Ian) for all your help!
Another Bank Holiday, and another aborted attempt to do the cross country. I knew work would be a nightmare the next week so I was hoping I could nail the qualifier. Again, the crosswind was 12 knots variable, which was right on the button of the indicated crosswind limit for the Cessna 152. Donald thought more crosswind practice would be good, so I eagerly agreed, and off we flew in a new aeroplane, G-BMVB. We flew out of 03 runway and did six take offs and landings. Donald was pleased with my progress, and thought I handled the crosswind quite well. So I must be doing something right! I liked the new plane, it was all refurbished inside, but Mack was still my favourite!
Tried again the next day to do something on my own, but the crosswind was far too strong to allow a student to go out alone. Ian suggested some crosswind landing practice so I agreed and we had great fun in Mack the Blac for 45 minutes, doing five take offs and landings, while Mick chatted to all the boys in Cranfield. Ian was very kind and commented upon my improvement since he had flown with me previously. I thanked him, as it is always good to have some praise!
Mick had undergone a hernia operation on the 20th April, and I had been off work (again) to look after him, but he was getting better now, and we booked into Flitwick Manor for a couple of days for a change of scenery for him. He watched the Royal Wedding on the TV while I went with the intention of doing the cross country. The clouds and poor visibility put a stop to that idea, and I thought, well I have to do something now I am here! So Majci took me for a real treat to do some instrument flying in the twin engined plane! A PA 44 G-BRUX, beautiful! So much power! I had a briefing from Donald about instrument flying and then we took to the air for half an hour. I really enjoyed it, through the clouds, totally blind, just relying on the panel of instrument in front of me (and Majci!) I was buzzing when we got back, and was determined to do my IMC rating after the PPL.
Looks a lot doesn't it? I had still not done the solo cross country qualifier on my own. I wanted to land at Gamston with someone before that, so Ed Brown took me for the cross country flight, and we flew to Conington first, landed, then over to Sibson, landed and refueled. Then off we went for the long stretch to Gamston, and landed there. Gamston was really nice, quiet, and there was a very pleasant restaurant there, where I knew Mick would enjoy if he was to come there one day. I felt more confident now, after seeing the lie of the land, and where to go to book in. We then returned to Cranfield and I picked up lots of good tips from Ed, which gave me the confidence to want to do this qualifier on my own.
Donald kindly was brave enough to take me up for circuits in Mack. I did three circuits with him, and he was happy that I was fine. Then I did another set of four circuits, each landing was a slitherer! So my landing misdemeanour was forgotten! Hooray!
Decided to do a small navigation exercise on my own, taking in Conington, Harrington disused airfield, and flying through Sywell's aerodrome traffic zone (ATZ), to have some experience with the radio. I went in G-BOZR, as Mack's radio had burnt out. So I was not allowed to use that one. G-BOZR only had one radio as well, and Michael was keen to ensure I knew the emergency radio failure procedure. I showed him my checklist, which I had written out myself, in case of difficulty. I set off, and was happy to see all my headings and timings being vindicated, and was absolutely delighted when I found Harrington! All the excitement must have got to me as I came overhead Sywell, talking my way through the ATZ, and feeling quite happy with the way the exercise had gone! We were using 03 runway, and I headed to Woburn to rejoin, and Cranfield invited me to do a straight in approach. I wheeled round, as I had just passed the runway, and came in a bit too fast, there was a bit of crosswind, and bounced a couple of times on landing. It was a bit horrible, but I survived as did the aeroplane! However, I knew I would be in trouble! After everyone had enjoyed themselves at my expense, despite being sympathetic, Niazi suggested some landings next time with someone then alone, which I was quite cool with.
Yes, I know this is a long gap! However, those of you who have been following my music files will see the infamous 'Armadillo Attack' CD, which was named in honour of my freak accident. It was not an armadillo that attacked me, but some sort of big creature in the dark. Mick and I were due to go on holiday to India on 23rd February, but the last day I had at work, disaster struck, and I was knocked off my bicycle at three in the morning on the way to work, by a creature still not positively identified. (It was Christian's bizarre thought that it was a malicious armadillo!). I was badly injured, suffering broken ribs, and a surgical emphysaema not to mention numerous cuts and bruises. At first, Bedford hospital sent me home, erroneously, and I did try to carry on packing for the holiday, but by the evening I had deteriorated, and when Mick took me back to accident and emergency, they admitted me to hospital immediately. So, I had an enforced layoff and we missed our holiday to India.
So I was back at Cranfield, and back flying in Mac the Blac and Ian took me out, we flew to Sibson, then Conington and back to Cranfield landing at the different airfields, which was educational. It was good to be back! Back to work too!
Hurrah! Mack the BLAC is back! It was soooooooooooo good to see him again! It was also good to see Christian again! He had ignored my emails, and I wondered what had happened to him. It transpired that he had been unable to email because of his workload, and the previous week, he had been told he was surplus to requirements. We waited outside until Ian tuned up and let us in. Disaster ensued when there were no tea bags, NOR any milk! Christian to the rescue! He volunteered to head off for some supplies! Let's get our priorities right! Outside was a new acquisition, a twin engine plane, blue and white livery, and I have to say, was a sight to behold! He looked gorgeous! Michael, who had arrived by then, Ian and myself, had to get a closer look at this vision of loveliness. Michael, being such a gentleman, allowed me to sit in the front seat with Ian. It had all the modern equipment, and GPS and looked good enough to eat! Christian came to have a look after his rescue mission. We came back into the warm and tea was finally made!
As you can see, there were two flights this day. I managed to get into trouble with the control tower again, (such is life), when we returned with Christian from a fantastic flight where I learnt all about steep turns, and VOR. I loved it, and we did two landings, one flapless, and one glide, both of which were almost 'slitherers'! Sadly despite my brilliant taxiing outbound following the 'yellow brick road', I gave too much respect to a Tomahawk coming the other way on our return, slightly confused also because I thought we should both turn right on the taxi way, and ho hum, we ended up in a ditch! The nose wheel dived into huge gravel, and got stuck! The tower advised us to check the propeller, but it was fine, it was just the nosewheel in a ditch, and it was all my fault for being so polite! Poor Christian, I felt for him so much, something always happened when when he flew with me! It was never boring! He did shout to stop me, but it was too late. It took us some while to push it out of the ditch, I rearranged the gravel to look as if we had not been there! But too late, we were in trouble! Such a great flight too!
As an antidote, we decided to fly again and do spinning. I thought this a great idea! So I rang Mick to tell him I would be having another flight, he was busy watching Manchester United v. Manchester City in the Derby game of the day, and he was happy for me to go on and fly again! Great! So we did. Spinning: 'like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel, never ending or beginning, on an ever spinning wheel, like a snowball down a mountain, like a carnival balloon, like a carousel that's turning, running rings around the moon, like a clock whose hands are sweeping, past the minutes on its face, and the world is like an apple, whirling silently in space, like the circles that you find, in the windmills of your mind'. (words by Alan Bergman, Michael Legrand, and Marilyn Bergman). I make no apologies for this entry, it was my Dad's favourite song, may he rest in peace. I have to say I enjoyed spinning far too much! It was brilliant! On our return, there was a question about the weather, a hail shower was blighting Cranfield. We took the bull by the horns and landed anyway, and my how we laughed! Taxiing was safe this time!
No Mack the Blac again, so it was G-BOFL once more. I have to say, I did not think we would fly today, as the wind was ferocious! However, Michael deemed it was OK to go, so I just did as I was told. Niazi thought we should wait for David before we set off, but Michael said he had made an operational decision, and we would fly. I was happy, at least we got to take off despite the tricky conditions. It was good experience and I really enjoyed the ride in the turbulence, and thought I managed to deal with the conditions reasonably well. We did some low level flying as the cloud was so low, and spent some time getting a feel of what the wind was doing to our progress in the air and over the ground. We came into land, and a huge downdraft hit the plane, Michael insisted on taking over, I tried to wrestle the controls from him, but he politely told me he felt it was his responsibility! After we had landed, Michael was pleased that I had experienced such windy conditions, as he felt many pilots go through to their licence without such knowledge.
I had planned to do my navigation exam if we were unable to fly, so I decided to do it anyway as I felt geared up for it. I became worried when Donald asked in amazement had I already finished it, as I came out with my filled in answer sheet, (he thought I had set a world record) but my worries were unfounded and I passed the Navigation exam with only two questions wrong! Hurrah! (and one of the ones I got wrong was because I did not read it properly and was rushing it! Six down one to go!
Where was Mack the Blac? In for a service at Sibson, how disappointing! So, I had to take G-BOFL, but he did me proud! Michael suggested a little navigation, with a view to sending me on my first solo navigation! Gosh! I am coming along now! We planned a triangle from Cranfield to Roade, then from there to Grafham Water, and back to Stewartby for a rejoin. We flew from runway 030, and had a really great trip despite the fact that the clouds were very low, and the visibility was poor. The times were adhered to, and the headings, and we were finished in one hour ten minutes. Michael suggested I do the same navigation alone, or do some circuits or a smaller navigation trip. I said I would have a cup of tea and think about it! Finances decided it for me in the end, and I plumped for a shorter navigation trip. I had plenty of advice from Donald, Michael, and Niazi. The weather was deteriorating and Michael was concerned about the situation and said I did not have to do it today if I did not want to. But I had made up my mind, it was only a short trip, and I thought I could manage it! I planned it properly, checking my headings, leaving nothing to chance! I was confident I could do this, with a lot of excitement thrown in, and heaps of adrenalin!
As I took off, the clouds seemed really low, and the grey day seemed to be closing in. I could barely see the windmills, from which I had designated my staring point. Ho hum! Did I make the right decision? Ah! There they are! Those pesky windmills! OK! I am fine now. Off I set towards Northampton, heading for a roundabout near the M1 motorway as my turning point. All went well, my timing was accurate, as was my heading, and I turned back upon my self to head towards Woburn for a rejoin. I knew there would be trouble ahead, the clouds seemed to envelop me, as I descended to 1,400 feet, I thought to myself, take me home Foxtrot Mike! I announced my presence at Woburn, the ATC told me to stay local. Local? Local as in here? Or just near here? I felt foolish to ask the question so I had a little sortie to see if I could find the runway for a straight in approach. I cheekily asked the ATC if I could make a straight in approach. The clouds were closing in, and it was quite murky. There was a hesitation, but they allowed me to run in! Good! I was here, I could see 030 and I was thinking of my finances again! I landed with another 'slitherer!' Excellent! I did not get lost and was back safe and sound! What more could you ask from a first solo navigation trip? Michael was going out again, and was in a plane about to taxi off, and asked me if I was back already and I said yes. He put his thumbs up and set off, waving me goodbye! The ATC were displeased and called Niazi and I got a telling off from them. Ooops! Donald told me not to worry about it. I will know what to do next time!
Yes, I am addicted. Two flights today, both in Mack the Blac. The weather was not good, and Michael thought we might not be able to do anything, let alone circuits. As it happened, the circuit was open, so we did four take offs and landings, together, one of which was a flapless approach, and then he turned me loose to go solo again! Hooray! So off I went and did four circuits, one of which was a go around, which I had not done before, so I had to ask the Cranfield ATC what to do! (How embarrassing!) But they were lovely about it, and told me to get back to circuit height at 800 feet and then just carry on. So I did. As I missed one landing, and time was getting on, I just did three take offs and landings, and I am so glad I finished on the last one, as it was a 'slitherer!'
Back again in Mack the Blac, Christian had recovered from his virus , which kept him away the week before, but Michael had already organised that I would do some navigation. I was already plotting my route when Christian arrived. The wind was rather lively, and it proved a troublesome feature, because we aborted the rest of the journey after one leg of the navigation. We made it to the junction of the M1 and M6, quite accurately I thought, despite the wind, but Michael was worried about the finance as he thought it would take far too long to get back after completing the other legs of the journey. So we did more practiced forced landings and also I did two landings, both of which were satisfactory, and I think Michael was impressed. The second landing was after a glide approach as well! Because of the wind, it almost stopped us in our tracks, and Michael's guidance about when to pull the power out proved miraculous! Mick had made it back to Cafe Pacific and was waiting for me when he had finished his feast!
I did not know whether to tell Michael about my solo flight. I knew he had wanted to send me solo, as he was my first instructor. However, his reaction was one of delight, and he was very pleased for me. So as an antidote to my success he took me out and we did nearly two hours of practising forced landings. I feel I change my mind about which field I am going in much to much, but if the worst came to the worst and the engine really did fail, I feel confident I would be able to do something about it now! Thanks to Michael who gave me lots of hints and tips, he gave me a lot of things to think about and learn. He also gave me a taste of instrument flying, in the cloud trusting my instruments! Quite spooky!
Yes! I know! Four flights! Guess what? Two of them were my solo flights! I was so proud to have been able to reach this milestone. I went out with Donald, in Mack the Blac, and he did a few take offs and landings with me, then sent me up on my own. It was exhilarating, and my landing was good. I even got a congratulations from the Tower! When I landed Niazi was waiting for me to congratulate me, and everyone was very generous. David was more matter of fact and told me I should go and do a few more after a break. So, this time I took my old favourite G-BOFM and I did as he said. I am glad I did, because it gave me more confidence and also Niazi had told me G-BOFM was going for good in the next few days. It was fitting and poignant that I should solo in the first craft I flew. Donald took me up again for three take offs and landings, and then off I went and did three more on my own. I felt quite confident by then, and I was really getting a feel for when to flare and the feel of the aircraft floating across the runway, and finally sinking. To my delight I even received a certificate, which was an unexpected pleasure.
Happy New Year to you all! The snows prevented any flying all this time. I took a trip down to Cranfield to see what was going on, but the Cranfield Tower was closed, so we would not be able to do circuits (damn!) Instead we had a little navigation adventure with Rob. This was my first flight with him, and we plotted a route from Olney (where he lives) to Long Buckby, via Owndle and back to Cranfield. It was good practice for navigation as I needed to get in the swing of this area of expertise. We went in Mack the Blac (G-BLAC) as I had already nicknamed him! I have to say he struggled to get up to cruising speed, but despite his reluctance, we had a good trip and all went well, the timings were good, and even better, when I landed at Cranfield, Rob was impressed with my landing and called it a 'greaser'. I forgot what he had said and told David the next day it was a 'slitherer' and he laughed his head off!
I thought this might be my day! Michael sent me off to do a few practice runs with Christian, with a view to taking me out afterwards and maybe turning me loose on my own, for a solo flight! I did four take offs and landings in a new Cessna G-BLAC, which was considered to be an Aerobat. It had strange seat belts, that took me ages to fix up! However, we had to defrost it first, as the conditions were very icy. Christian, Michael and myself all went at it with brooms, hot water and a pretty useless de-icer! Eventually we managed to produce a passable version of a defrosted plane, so off we went. My first landing was I thought quite good, and Christian was pleased with it. We also did some engine failure after take off practice, and I did a flapless approach and also a glide approach, so felt quite good about it all.
We came back in for a little break, then I went out again for my next session. I was strapped in, awaiting Michael, when he came and told me they had closed the airstrip. I did wonder, as I saw the snowflakes drifting down but I thought we might have got away with it. I did not get away it, and neither did anyone else. The snow came down with a vengeance, and would shut the airfield all over the Christmas period. So I envisaged that I would have to go back to the drawing board when I eventually flew again.
I gave David a painting (one you can see on my paintings site) called Moonlight Flight. He was very pleased with it and when I popped in on the 27th December, it was already adoring the wall! I was very humbled to see it. Because I could not fly, I did my Flight Performance and Planning exam, and was successful in passing! So five down, two to go.
I had not flown with Michael for some while so I was hoping he could see some progress in my landings. We took to the sky in G-BOFL and did eight take offs and landings. Michael said I was getting better and had no doubt I could and it safely on my own, but he wanted to go from 90% success rate to 98% success rate so he could be sure I would be totally at ease when I flew solo. So, perhaps it will soon be time for my first solo flight. Watch this space!
Yes, a strange afternoon time, and a weekday! I really wanted to get some more circuits in, and so after doing some final Christmas shopping in Bedford, I turned up at Cranfield on the off chance and Majci took me up in G-BOFL (my favourite craft was away having maintenance performed) to do some six circuits. It was challenging in so much as the sun was very low in the sky, and we used runway 21 which headed right into the setting sun. However, I thought I was doing not too badly, and Majci was very helpful, and tried to get me to stop looking at the air speed indicator and to feel for the speed instead (he also told me to relax more!). Trouble is, I just want to do it correctly and I want the boys at the school to be proud of me.
After my flight, I did the Aircraft General examination and got 94% pass, so I was rather happy with myself!
This was an exciting day. The first time the aircraft were covered in snow, and ice, and we had to defrost the plane before we set off. It was also my first excursion using navigation techniques. Christian had run through the theory with me the day before as we could not fly due to the weather. So, we made up for it by a trip to Sibson near Peterborough, which was my first flight planning effort. It took a great deal of effort to move the snow, with brooms and deicer! Finally, Christian and I were happy that there was no icing to compromise us and we set off. We went via Lutterworth towards the North west and then headed east to Sibson airfield, which Niazi has bought outright, so no landing fees. Hooray! Everything was going to plan, timings were good, half way points reached successfully, then we could not find the airfield! I did not know what to expect, but when we did spot it, it became clear that it was not the type of runway I had expected! It was covered in snow, and it was a field!
So here goes! First landing on grass! We came down with a bit of a bump but I was quite pleased with the landing. We stopped for a quick drink, refuelled the plane (my lovely G-BOFM) and then headed back to Cranfield. I also did a performance take off from the grass strip, and it was like holding a thoroughbred racehorse just before he jumps from the stalls. Very exciting. We had to rush a bit because we had taken so much time defrosting the craft, and I still had to cook Sunday dinner! Major trauma! We did make it back, and dinner was only a hour late! I had enjoyed my first sortie in the navigation world!
I really enjoyed doing circuits today with Christian. He has given me a lot of confidence and I am trying desperately to land in a sensible manner! We did eight take offs and landings, and some were not bad at all. We were doing the runway 03 circuits in G-BOFM. Christian also demonstrated an engine failure after take off and how to recover, and also a flapless landing. There is always something to learn.
Well, dear reader, this is sounding a bit boring now isn't it? I promise I won't keep going on about old stuff too much. Did some stalling and two take offs and landings with Michael in G-BOFL today. I feel happy with stalling now, and I just have to learn to whack that throttle quicker to lose less height during the manoeuvre. However, it was good to revisit the sky high antics.
Well, poor Christian had to suffer my circuits again,he insisted he was not bored, but I felt as if I might be boring him! We used runway 03 today which made a change from 21 and so I learnt another circuit, which was right handed instead of left handed. It felt so different going this way round! Christian explained afterwards that on the downwind leg, every time I turned into it I managed to gain 100 feet, so he tried to encourage me to cut that out! The circuit was to be flown at 800 feet all the way round! OK, so I am not perfect yet, but I am trying very hard, and Christian felt I was really progressing well. He said my approaches were really good, the radio calls were good, and holding the speed into finals was great. He said he was particularly pleased that I did hold the aircraft attitude when I reduced power, then lowered the nose after the speed dropped, before trimming it for the descent. We had a lot of fun up there and I was happy in my favourite craft G-BOFM!
Yes, I know! Looks weird doesn't it? But we had a radio failure! What we thought was a real one! We could hear no tower messages as we set off for our circuits. So the first attempt we had was aborted in G-BOFM. Donald came out to find out the problem. It was a small switch which had managed to flip itself into an incorrect position! By the time we found this out, I had already checked over G-BOFL and we set off for seven more take off and landings. The first one I did was hopeless, as I still had a big problem with flaring to early, which caused the aircraft to dump us onto the ground unceremoniously. Michael had to wrestle the controls from me, but we were safe! Then I improved as we went along, but still had a bit of difficulty judging the flare. The reason was it seemed as if we were going to crash, we seemed so close to the ground, but Michael kept telling me I had to descend to quite near the runway before rounding out. This would take some time! It was Christian's Birthday weekend, and he was not there at Cranfield that weekend.
Mick decided not to come with me today, and when I arrived early Michael was already there. He told me there was a slight problem, and I was prepared to be disappointed. However, the difficulty was that there were very few instructors and Michael had been delayed in an attempt to collect a plane from elsewhere. I said I would be happy to fly with someone else. As Michael and I discussed the radio calls, and had a practice at them, in walked Christian Archer. We all looked up and greeted him with joy, as it meant another instructor was available. N one had expected him, so he was a bonus. Michael suggested I fly with him. Now, Christian was not a stranger, we had met him when I was still in my cast an unable to fly, and the weather had been bad. No one was flying that particular day and we had huge conversations with him. That same day we also met Helene, who was kind enough to offer me her PPL Confuser book next time she saw me, which she duly did today!
So we took to the sky in G-BOFM and we practiced all manner of stalls. Incipient stalls, full stalls, turning stalls, slow flight stalls, and I really enjoyed the time with him. Suddenly we thought we had radio failure and Christian told me we would have to head back and I would have to circle the aerodrome. Drama in the sky. We did get the radio going again but still had to make a top secret emergency landing!
We went out again to do circuits at 12.55pm. The break was good and I was refreshed. We did seven take off and landings and Christian let me actually land the plane on my own! I was so excited I just couldn't hide it! I was also doing the radio calls with Christian prompting me when I got stuck and he helped me think of ways to remember all my pre-landing checks, which I was finding hard to do. There were lots of little things he added to my armory of knowledge that stuck in my brain, and I think he enjoyed going out with me too! We did have quite a few laughs I must admit! As we came in for the final landing proper, a beautiful rainbow appeared over Stewartby. Christian was very complimentary and gave me a lot of confidence. The only problem I had really was flaring too early. He felt otherwise, it was very good considering the number of hours I had flown. I agreed that I would love to go out with him again, and so it was that I booked with Michael the next week and then Christian the next Sunday.
Long time no fly. The operation on my hand was a success but I am still in a cast to protect the soft tissues, and I knew that things would be difficult. I felt rusty, but Michael was patient as he saw my predicament, and helped me turn the engine on for the plane. We flew in G-BOZR, and I have to say because of my hand, I found the safety belts, the seat difficult to adjust. We did some practice with things I had done in the previous lesson which seemed a long time ago. Climbing, descending, turning, setting off in different headings and finally into the circuit and landing. Landing was very difficult, trying to adjust power and hold the yoke with my casted hand! We landed with interjection from Michael!
I did take the opportunity in my enforced layoff to do two of the exams I would require for my licence, both of which I passed with over 90%! I was so happy, the exams in question were Aviation Law and Human Factors and Performance. Two exams down, five to go! Phew!
Here we are, the last flight before my operation on Monday. I am looking forward to my flying lesson, but not so much to my my operation. My instructor Michael and I took to the sky again after I had performed the on ground checks. We were back in my favourite craft G-OBFM, and I began to get a more automatic feel to the tasks I had to perform. I was told off by Cranfield control for shouting the messages, so I said "Golf Foxtrot Mike Ready for departure," very quietly! Michael and I had some good laughs about taxiing when we had a few difficulties getting the plane to move along the ground in the way we wanted. He took the controls and said he would show me something and laughed when he admitted something was not quite right, and the difficulty I was having was not my fault, phew! We trundled away from holding point F1 and onto Runway 03. I had the honour of taking the controls for take off, and even though it was not perfect, I was getting the hang of it a little more now.
On our training flight we consolidated what I had done the previous week, with straight and level flight (as always) turning, climbing and descending turns and we also did some stalling and recovery. I said to Michael, how I recall he showed me stalling on our very first trip and how difficult it is to explain to someone the feeling of total loss on control as the aircraft plummets downwards through the sky. Thankfully, with my clever instructor, we recover from the situation, in a clam and dignified way.
Then it was time for some practice circuits, I was also expected to be tracking on a selected heading with accuracy. I feel quite comfortable banking at 30 degrees and not losing or gaining height, but I confess to straying off the correct heading a little. However, our few practice circuits went reasonably well, and what a strange feeling it was to nearly land but not quite and then pull smartly away again up into the sky. The weather was good for us, the sky only had a few clouds. Michael showed me some cloud games to play when I eventually become proficient, but having said that I never felt totally comfortable in the cloud, just in case something large was coming in the opposite direction. I try my best to get things right, but I know I am still giving Michael some headaches. However, he did say I was coming along very well, and it would not be long before I would be able to do my first solo flight. HELP! Having said that, I did make a reasonable attempt at landing this time, even though Michael did all the peripheral knob pulling and such like. He did stress to me that landing was the most difficult thing to do. Unbelievably, as we taxied back to our parking space Michael even told me off for going to fast. That must have meant I was more confident with taxiing. I felt reasonably pleased with what we had achieved this time, and despite my hand having to be in a cast for the next six weeks, I was not going to let that stop me booking another lesson in three weeks time. Let us hope I can pull it off. I purchased the next two books to give me some reading material during my enforced layout. Niazi suggested I do some of the exams, I thought whoa, easy does it, not yet! The exam 'Aviation Law' was mentioned, and I froze, knowing I had not even begun to read that section as it looked so boring. I guess I will ultimately have to do it! Ho hum.
Initially I had booked this lesson for two hours, but the weather conditions were such that it would have been impossible to carry this through, the cloud was very low at 1000 feet and so the climbing, descending and turning we should have done would have to be tailored to the limitation in height we could achieve that day. In addition, Michael appeared to have a full day teaching unexpected other pupils, due to a paucity in staff at the school. We talked in the briefing room about the curtailed length of lesson and that we would have to see how much we could perform in the air. I was sent out to do the initial preflight checks on G-BOZR, another different aircraft. When I checked in the wings for fuel, I could see fuel there but was unaware that it should have been totally full to the brim. On the gauges in the instrument panel, it appeared one tank was half full, and the other slightly on the low side. Michael told me later I should have alerted him that the wing amount was not quite brimful of fuel. Each step was a learning curve. I felt a bit rushed that day, and I think Michael appeared rushed too, due to his extra duties, which were unexpected following my lesson. We pressed on, very quickly and I was allowed to make the call to the control tower prior to the taxiing. I even managed to say Golf Bravo Oscar Zulu Romeo ready for departure. (Michael pointed out politely that at this point I needed have only said Golf Zulu Romeo!) In such a short space of time I had already picked up so many snippets of information, that I would have been oblivious to. My efforts at taxiing the aircraft were much improved even doing a tight turn before reaching the holding point. Michael told me we would have to take off on the fly, and he set off at a deadly pace towards the runway. I hoped I would be able to taxi at such speed one day. As we careered towards the runway Michael told me to take over, and I confess I was caught on the hop as I imagined he would do this as he sped round the corner to face the gloriously tempting black tarmac route to the sky.
I grabbed at the controls, almost forgetting to use the rudder, but we took off quietly and smoothly (well I imagined so, Michael may have thought differently!) and in no time we were rising to a 1000 feet, and clouds were indeed the order of the day. Despite the conditions, we did quite a bit of banking at 30 degrees, and I even managed a 360 degree turn over Stewartby, which was very exciting. We did some climbing, and descending, but were restricted by the height we could reach that day. It was all great practice and I felt much more knowledgable, despite the fact I still made errors in the order in which things should be carried out. I kicked myself a couple of times, because I did know what I should have done, but the excitement made me rush to the next step too quickly. We practiced the straight and level flight, and also did some directional changes, using the direction indicator, during banking. I did not forget the rudder to keep that pesky balance ball in the middle of it's little spirit level.
Because we only had an hour in the air, it appeared to me that no sooner had we taken off than we were calling to the control tower to join the landing circuit. I was beginning to understand the procedures a little more now, and Michael let me do the approach again pointing out the lights of the left hand side of the runway, and how they should stay white and not red. It they were all red, don't land, he told me! We had a crosswind and he told me to fly into it, I asked him if that what was referred to as 'crabbing' and he told me that indeed it was. I felt pleased I recalled something from my reading
I feel it is impossible to describe that sensation of the runway coming towards you at what seems like high speed, and the feeling that there is no way in the world you are going to make it without crashing, but as Michael took over for the last few feet of descent, we touched down as if on a feather bed. It was quite remarkable, even Michael admitted that was the softest landing he thought he had ever performed! We laughed, and decided we made a great team, pilot and co-pilot!
The funniest thing about getting out of the craft is that because I have to push the seat so far forward, I struggle to get my right leg out at the end, on account of my stiff and wrecked right knee. I always hope Michael cannot see me struggling with my weathered limb! He probably has noticed but is too polite to say.
Mick greeted me with tales of chips, even though he did not intend to have anything! I was advised to buy the next book in the series, the Aviation Law and Meteorology, Volume 2 of the training set. I had progressed! I was very happy.
Well, I had a letter from the hospital saying that my imminent hand operation was more imminent than I had thought. It was due on 20th September. Woe is me! This would curtail my training in the sky. I quickly booked a lesson for this day and two days before my operation. This time I was allowed to take my checklist and go out alone to check the aircraft, G-OBFL. Michael told me to come back if I was not sure of anything. I asked him lots of questions, but checked and sampled the fuel alone, the tyres, the flaps, the hinges of the ailerons, and the fuselage, checked the oil, and tried to remember all the other little details too. This time we were going to do straight and level flight in a more serious manner. I also had a go at taxiing the aircraft. Believe me! It is harder than it looks, as it is all done by your feet, using the rudder. You also need to really press hard to shift it one one or another. I had to have the seat as far forward as possible and I also need a cushion to sit on so I can see out of the cockpit. Sad isn't it? I did my best but had to go quite slowly. Another aircraft was facing us as we approached the holding point on the runway. We turned to face the wind and did the preflight checks. Everything is checking this and that. Safety is most important in the air.
In addition to the straight and level flight we also looked at the secondary effects of the controls on the aircraft. This time I actually got to take off as well. I could not believe it when Michael asked me to put on full power and take the aircraft into the sky. What an absolute thrill. I was speechless as we ascended majestically into the air. Now Michael was expecting me to obey his instructions and follow them as best I could, with obvious prompting from him still! I paid close attention to his words and did my best to follow what he asked of me. I used the throttle on my own this time, and the carburettor heat control. Things were beginning to add up now, and I was feeling more like a trainee pilot. We even talked about heading and direction. I did the approach to the airfield at 800 feet and Michael allowed me to almost touchdown. I will master this I thought to myself!
Mick greeted us on the ground, and our usual stint in the Cafe Pacific was enjoyed. This is the life! Now all the family knew I was flying, Mum of course was worried, but I feel I am in more danger going to work near Brixton, London, than up in the air over Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire. I try to reassure them anyway.
Here we are again! I had to get a lesson in before the visit, so I could surprise people with my new found hobby! Mick and I kept it quiet from almost everyone, and his secret trips to the Cafe Pacific were also very hush hush! This time it is serious. I have been looking forward to this lesson, as I have been reading the flying training book I bought after my first lesson. During the briefing with Michael, I told him I had been studying. He was pleased with my enthusiasm. Today, we were going to learn the effect of the controls of the aircraft more thoroughly, and also look at some of the instrumentation. It was beginning to seem very real, no more a dream now. We took ourselves off to the Cessna G-BOFM it was the same plane we had used in the trial lesson. The checks were made thoroughly, and this time I had read all the requirements and it began to make more sense. Michael showed me all the details of the checklist, and laughed when I sniffed the fuel a bit to eagerly. I desperately tried to recall all the points, but I must admit I found it a little difficult to assimilate everything, even on this second occasion.
I was allowed to start the engine this time. This was much more hands on, and I knew I would enjoy it even more. We went through the aircraft familiarization, the controls once more, taxiing, and a little straight and level flying, although I confess Michael did most of the demonstration, and I just copied off him. This time we managed an hour and fifteen minutes because I was enjoying it so much. However, it was a bit gusty in the air that day, and the buffeting we experienced was more than the previous time. This served to make me think more about the controls and the attitude of the aircraft on the horizon, which was an all important thing! I did have my hands on the throttle occasionally, but Michael did most of the throttle control for me so I could concentrate on the straight and level direction we flew in. It seemed to be over far to soon, and Michael allowed me to do the approach again, albeit with him at the throttle and the flaps, and all the fidly bits! I tried to take it all in, but it was difficult for me. So much to learn, and I intended to enjoy every minute.
Back on the ground, I was told that some people had even cancelled that day because of the wind and poor weather, so if I had enjoyed it I had done well! Mick highlighted the joys of the Cafe Pacific to me, so we returned there for a celebration drink. I was very excited, and wishes I could do it all again very soon. We booked again for four weeks hence, but events overtook us, and we were back two weeks later following the Visit, the grand name given to my Birthday Party by Mick. All my relatives come down by bus driven by my brother Eddy, and soon they would know I was a trainee pilot! I had to join the flying club, and bought a check list and a knee board, Michael said the headphones would be a good Christmas present.
My first flying trial lesson, he we were at Cranfield Flying school, where we were greeted warmly by the staff. Mick had bought this experience for me as a birthday gift. He fully expected me to be hooked after the lesson, and of course I was. The co-owner Niazi warned me that I would be taking the controls. I said "Somebody stop me!". Then I was briefed by a wonderful man called Michael, who at present is my trainer. In the briefing he described to me the main controls of the aircraft I would be flying that day. He demonstrated this on a toy plane, on which there was a control column. This control column moved various parts on the demonstration plane, the flaps, the ailerons, and the rudder. Michael briefly described what happened when you moved each part, and then off we went, fully kitted out in a high viz jacket! Michael went through all the pre flight checks that were necessary to ensure the plane was safe to take off the ground. I won't go through them all because they are endless! Believe me!
Then the real fun began, when we were strapped in and I sat myself in the pilot's seat of Cessna 152 G-OBFM, hands on the control yoke. Douglas Bader beware! We taxied to the holding point on the runway, I tried to take in all the things Michael was doing. It was a hard job to do this. There seemed to be so many checks and re-checks, of course safety is paramount! Finally we were faced with the beautiful runway and we attacked it with power. It was quite amazing to find ourselves airborne in a very short space of time. I was so used to trundling down large runways in great big jet engined commercial planes that this seemed quite spooky! Rising above Cranfield, we left the hustle and bustle of the world behind us, and Michael demonstrated the controls to me. We went towards Wootton were we live. Before we reached the area, Michael had already let me take the controls. I was totally awestruck. It was a fascinating adventure, one I knew I would have to repeat! Unfortunately, the memory card in my camera was one I used for odd shots to link into my computer with and so there was hardly any memory in it at all. However, all was not lost and I did manage to take a picture of Wootton from the air. The towers of Stewartby rose in the distance, and when we managed to head in the right direction past Stewartby, It was with great excitement that I saw our bungalow in all it's 'L' shaped glory quite clearly from the air. Michael also showed me stalling and a side slip high up in the air, which was better than any fairground ride! Up into the heavens and straight back down again, losing height rapidly, and yet you could barely feel it. That was quite something.
Well, how wonderful was that? I felt I learnt a lot, and it was very exciting when Michael unbalanced the aircraft and made me put it straight again. I really felt the bug biting hard. It was all over too soon, and Michael let me take the controls on the approach. That is something else. The first time to spot the runway coming towards you at what seems like lightning pace, as you power your way back to base. I was slightly worried he expected me to land the aircraft, but, phew! He took the controls!
Nevertheless, this gave me the buzz, and I knew I wanted to train as a pilot. So here I go. Upon our return Mick was waiting and he looked pleased with himself having discovered Cafe Pacific where they did a full English breakfast. He insisted he would partake of this wonderful feast next time we came!