Cold n low

I went on a quick trip around the circuit to maintain my currency in the Pa28.  I noted that it had been 83 days since I had last flown an Archer and 57 days since I had last flown at all.  The weather was damp but light winds and excellent visibility. After a preflight which included checking the flight surfaces for ice (they were wet but no ice had formed) I got the engine started in UFS second attempt.  UFS is rather notorious for not liking cold days when it comes to engine starts, but 30+ year old machines can be temperamental and aircraft are no exception.

The ATIS had a current temperature of 3 degrees C, a dew point of 2 degrees C and an air pressure reading of 1033mb.  Compared with the ISA standard (15 degrees C and 1013mb) that's 12 degrees and 20mb better than ISA, so the magic density altitude formula yields -2020ft.  In real terms, the aircraft was going to perform well above average as it had a surplus of cool dense air for the engine and wings to work with.

First circuit was a bit loose, but expected since I haven't flown for a while.  What was interesting was that the conditions were so benign I was able to determine precisely where I was going wrong, in this case, improper attitude control on final. 

Second circuit I decided to try a glide approach, which actually went well.  I picked my landing spot, held it against my reference point on the wing, and flew the approach.  I overflew the centreline of the runway a little more than I would have liked, but I made my touchdown spot with a comfortable energy margin to spare.

Third circuit was a normal one due to fellow club member and blogger Barry coming up in WAM for some circuits.  Due to the implementation of a Traffic Management system at Hamilton airport, its rare for two club planes to be in the circuit together just doing circuits, but here we were.  My memory of this landing was that I concentrated on flying a decent base and final leg and to be on speed and on centre line at what would be the decision point in a precision approach (I hadn't intended to fly a precision approach so I don't want to call it that).  It was probably the best landing of the day, but not the one I am most proud of.

That would be the 4th landing, as I slipped in a second glide approach.  This time energy was a little tighter, I delayed deploying flap till the last moment then dumped them all, the extra lift carrying the plane over the numbers and down onto my designated touchdown point.  There's something to be said for manual flaps.

I had decided during the 4th circuit to do a 5th as there was another club aircraft joining the circuit from the east and I wanted to have all 3 of us together in the circuit if only for a minute or so.  As luck would have it I was first in the sequence so chose to land on 18R (the shorter runway) to keep 18L free for Barry.  I attempted to slow down enough to I could take the echo taxiway but a lack of headwind made that unrealistic so I ended up cruising down the runway to take delta instead.

It was good to finally get some air time after weather, work and life and all conspired against me.


Rodney said…
Nicely done! What is this traffic management system you refer to? Is this just to limit the number of light aircraft in the circuit at one time, or more than that? Cheers,

Flyinkiwi said…
Hi Rodney, yes you have pretty much hit the nail on the head. Airways have decided to limit the number of aircraft in the NZHN circuit to 4, so there are that many slots you must book to get circuit time. WAC has 1 dedicated to it, CTC have the other 3, but we generally horse trade for them when we need more and they are really good about it. Sometimes ATC will let you get away without a booking if the circuit is quiet, ala early in the morning because CTC generally don't fly till after 9am.
Rodney said…
OK. We are generally only allowed two light aircraft in the circuit in Wellington, although with 1 training organisation here, that's quite manageable. I remember how at Ardmore we had 7 or 8 in the circuit at times (and I was only my first set of solo circuits!). All uncontrolled. Fun times!