Annual Club Competitions Day 1

As per usual, we had some tricky weather to contend with. The wind was swinging between 330 and 290 degrees magnetic but was steady at around 12 knots. Fortunately when it came to my turn to compete in the Senior Landings the wind was closer to 290 degrees which lessened the crosswind component tremendously. I did a quick check over of JGP and climbed in, and sitting in the right seat was none other that head instructor Roger! After exclaiming inwardly I set about getting JGP started and Roger said we wouldn't need a runup since JGP had been flown less than an hour earlier. I did a shortened pre take off check and we were cleared onto Grass 25 left and as I lined up Roger said go and I got us going. The ride once airborne was a little bumpy but not nearly as bad as I had feared after watching other competitors. At circuit height the ride was surprisingly smooth.

I went through the landing checks and got us slowed up. The forecast 2000 foot wind was 340 degrees magnetic at 40 knots! I adjusted our heading to make sure we tracked in a reasonably square circuit but I did mess up the turn to finals. After lining up I made sure I was trimmed for 70 knots and looked for the landing area the ground judges had marked out. Having so much headwind meant my ground speed was such that it took what seemed like an age for JGP to crawl towards the runway. I've said it before and I'll touch on it again, the threshold to Grass 25L and 25R can be a "region of moderate to severe turbulence in westerly conditions". Today was no different. On the first approach we hit an area of sink and I had to apply full power to arrest it. Roger commented that I'd get full marks for using the throttle. Needless to say we probably would not have made the runway if I hadn't used all of it!

What was interesting was the wind characteristics and how they changed radically on final approach. I started the finals leg with the nose pointing right to maintain track, but as we got lower I found I could swing the nose onto centerline with almost no sideways drift.

I crossed the marker boards a little low for my liking and gave the engine a tiniest smidgen of power to aid our ground effect then as we floated over the landing grid I cut the power and we touched down (later I was to find I scored 40/50 so it wasn't too bad).

I applied full throttle and went to raise the flaps when Roger in that calm voice of his told me to get the plane back into the air and then worry about the flaps. JGP being a 172M doesn't have a flap position lever, instead it has a raise/lower toggle switch which is a real pain in the butt when you are doing touch and goes. Fortunately the power and prop combination means it will climb away easily at full throttle (even with the carb heat on - as I was to realise I'd forgotten to turn it off before we landed!) so I feel better about doing this from now on.

My second turn to finals was better than my first, but the approach despite not getting as much sink I didn't control my airspeed nearly as well. I was anticipating a similar sink rate and when it didn't happen I had to act to stop getting too high. I ended up flying through the grid somewhat but I was told I still landed in the 40 zone so my aggregate ground score wasn't too bad. I think my air judge score would be OK but not fantastic. Chris had kindly filmed my approaches but they don't look nearly as good from the ground as they do ifrom the air so I probably won't put them up.

I had to leave the Aero Club early before I could compete in the Senior Circuits but next weekend will see me compete in my favourite competitions, the bombing and life raft dropping. I just hope the weather is kinder to us on Saturday.


Evan said…
The same sinking over the threshold of 25L saved my bacon on my second forced landing approach. I got a bit high and was thinking that I'd blown my chance, when all of a sudden the bottom dropped out (and I couldn't apply power without getting a DQ). Dropping the nose got me back some airspeed and when I got it all back together on the other side of the sinking feeling, I was dead on slope and turned it into a 40 point FLWOP.
Sometimes you just get lucky.
Euan Kilgour said…
Apply power? Call it a belated engine warm Evan. :)