A new flight - Sunday 21 Aug 2005

Fast forward to yesterday NZ time. I took up WAM for the first time in a month. Took one of the part time instructors Dave up with me for some circuits. He suggested getting away from the airport to a nice seaside town called Raglan, which is about 15 minutes flight time west of Hamilton. Raglan has a wide grass airstrip just on the outskirts of town but since it is surrounded by low hills the approach was interesting to say the least. The trip out went fairly uneventfully, I did a standard overhead join OK but got too close to the runway on the downwind so ended up way high on finals. We bounced a couple of times so Dave told me to make this one a full stop and backtrack, which I did.

Operating from an uncontrolled strip is sort of intense because you need to keep your eyes and ears out for other planes. Since we were on the general aviation frequency for the upper North Island, I could hear other aircraft reporting overhead airfields located over 300km away, and needless to say it was filled with idle chitchat as well. One thing I am thankful about learning to fly in controlled airspace is that you learn radio discipline right off the bat. A lot of weekend pilots who go up from uncontrolled fields don't seem to realise that the radio is not as private as they might think.

The next circuit went quite well, I got the approach much better, and then I figured out the reason behind something I had wondered about for a long time. When you are doing a touch and go, the correct procedure is to land, open the throttle and raise the flaps, in that order. I was raising the flaps before going to full power. Dave calmly explained in his mild mannered drawl that if you do that on a strip like this you'll run out of runway real fast. Point taken and lesson learned.

One more for luck and then it was time to return to Hamilton.
Because there has not been much rain (in fact, its been one of the dryest winters I can remember) the air was quite hazy (something which is very uncommon in New Zealand). Dave pointed out a CTC Katana passing to our right which I hadn't seen on the way back. Must remember to do a better lookout.

Cloud was closing in and the air pressure at Hamilton had dropped 2 hPa since we left. Was cleared into a lefthand downwind for Grass 36 and heard one of the clubs other aircraft EOQ (a 152) in the righthand circuit for the tarmac 36. We were both ordered to make a short approach as there was an incoming ATR on a 10 mile final. My problem was that I was doing about 120 knots IAS in the downwind and couldn't slow down fast enough. I decided to sacrifice speed for height as you would in an engine failure -bzzzt, wrong move. We ended up 200 feet above the circuit height by the time I got below Vfe so I lowered all the flaps, lowered the nose and banked sharply onto a rather close base leg (but thats part of short approach so I guess I did OK - Dave said nothing). We were coming down at about 80 knots so I just let her lose altitude as we came around to line up. We turned onto finals at 500AGL but we were still way to close to the runway. By this time Greg and his student in EOQ were instructed to go around but I let WAM come down at 70 knots on final until the "picture" started to gain some semblance of normalcy. I then set a nose attitude for 60 knots and we finally started to slow down, but we were still descending quite fast. I chose to round out a bit early to help wash off the airspeed but it didn't help. We bounced gently and then settled on the mains. I saw us going past the first taxiway so I didn't brake until I saw the second one coming up. As we taxied clear, Dave said "nice glide approach Euan". One look at his face was enough to know he was being glib. I did so many things wrong, yet we made it back to terra firma in one piece and didn't bend the plane so I'll take that landing as a good one. It was also nice to hear the ATR pilot ask where we were and to have the tower instruct him that we were down and clear as he was on short final.

I'm still on tenderhooks waiting for my examination result to come through for my flight navigation written test. If I pass I'll get one more circuit lesson in so the Club will trust me to take a plane up on my own again before I dive into the nav exercises. From reading other blogs, they sound like a lot of fun as well as hard work! I can't wait.