Annual Club Comps 2-3 Sept 2006

Well, this year saw me compete with the high time PPLs and fresh faced Commercial students who had more hours but hadn't been flying as long as I. I have no illusions of making it through to the regionals again (although I found out with astonishment that quite a few pilots have never made it that far yet I did on my second ever Annual comp).

My first for this year was competing in the Liferaft dropping competition. I entered the defective preflight, the senior bombing, senior circuits and senior landing competitions all of which I have done before. The Airways Competition, in which I had triumphed last year, was sadly no longer available to me now that I'm a PPL.

First up, the circuits. Well its difficult to maintain your circuit height when you are forced into special VFR in order to complete it (I actually flew into cloud which in hindsight was a big big no no but air-judge Paul didn't seem phased and I instinctively switched to instruments until we came out the other side). I had to lose an awful lot of height to get under the rest of the cloud which had neatly stacked itself up on the south eastern side of the airport but Paul said he wouldn't mark me down for it. Actually I flew OK, I didn't get decent points for the grid landing but overall I flew OK. Paul said in the debrief that I needed to verbalise my pre turn scanning, because although I know I performed it and I'm sure he saw me do it, I had to actually tell the judge what I was doing or it didn't count, so I lost a lot of points for failure to perform lookouts.

Next was the bombing. I completely forgot about my tactics last year and got low on a couple of occasions which is bad. In the bombing competition being high is not as bad as being low, and I got pretty close to the disqualifying height of 250 feet. I'm fairly sure my bombs landed nowhere near the target so I think my competitors are safe from me getting close to the top three there. Ahh yes, I got told to perform a dumbell turn and land on the other direction (because there was no wind when I did the competition) and I got high on final and floated down the runway to the point where air-judge Dave told me to go around so I did. I think that was the closest to a carrier landing I have ever done, as I applied full power as soon as our mains touched the ground. It certainly felt like a carrier go around except we were going about 25% of the speed a navy plane would be going.

Liferaft dropping. Well at last, something that Susan could participate with me, as its actually a two person competition. You fly a 172 with the pilots door removed at 500 feet AGL (an experience in itself, now I know how helicopter pilots feel) with a person in the back whose job it is to push the liferaft out the door at the right time in order to land it in the grid. It was something neither of us had done before but I thought we did pretty well considering the circumstances. Susan did not have a great time in the back and she admitted she probably wouldn't do it again but at least she gutsed it out bravely the first time round.

Landings, it was a wierd combination of good approach bad landing and terrible approach good landing. Again, not my best flying but it was fun.

Defective preflight, well, after being told later that the plane they had used was in fact airworthy I found it hard to believe the plane was flyable. And that was after all the 'defects' added by the instructors had been rectified. Mental note here, never do a preflight when you are dying to go to the bathroom. You will always miss something.

All in all a great couple of days, and now the wait begins as we'll find out who won each event at the Annual Club dinner in October.