Hot toddy anyone? Jon Down's tranquil shot of the distillery on Islay back in September
In this issue:
Shaw's Report - our Chairman Ian's take on the past year for Cheshire Flyers
Club Night Report and Achievements
Jon Down describes a tough decision which foxed him for a while
CAA safety guidance on returning to flying after a period of abstinence (........from flying!)
The LAIT report from Gordon Verity
Clued Up - GA Update December 2020 - Winter flying - why not?
John Bradbury explains the rules on revalidating your microlight ratings.
Ken Watt on being stung into action to take on new challenges.
It’s the final SHAW’s Report of the year giving Sharon the Christmas holidays to create more ingenious ways of cajoling me into producing next year’s Shaw's reports on time. Equally however I’ve got the holidays to dream up more excuses for not…
This closing report is always a good time to reflect on how the year has gone and as a club what we’ve done right and what could we have done better?
And what a weird year we’ve had! On the whole however, given this damned corona-climate and against all odds, we’ve had a pretty active and successful 12 months.
Despite my initial reservations the zoom club nights appear to work really well, they keep us communicating, just as club night at the Wheaty did. However, they also permit many members to join in the fun who would otherwise be unable due to distance or timing, as well as widening the net for our guest speakers to participate.
Could this be the future? I would hate to lose the interaction of face-to- face club nights, but online does tick a lot of boxes. Maybe the future includes a combination of both?
Flying-wise the year has been equally successful. When the opportunities arose, we collectively took to the skies with some great ‘almost socially distanced’ club trips including Sandown, coastal tours, as well as our fabulous Anglesey outing.
These have all been faithfully documented by our magnificent newsletter which is creatively, diligently and skilfully published by Sharon. Not forgetting of course, the dozens of wonderful articles written by ‘Cheshire Flyers’.
Is this the best flying club in the world? – Probably! It certainly refreshes the parts other flying clubs cannot reach…
Before I sign off for 2020, don’t forget to join in the fun with our ‘Christmas Club Night Zoom Bash’ on 21st December. We’ve got Rob Hughes along from the BMAA for a chat, a bonkers quiz, home- made cocktails, our coveted club awards to dish out, as well as some bizarre video footage.
See you all on the 21st…
Club Night Report - 16.11.20
"I was spellbound; I'm speechless... what a 'bonkers, epic trip - inspirational". Ian summed up his own impressions of Eddie McCallum's incredible achievement flying his CT microlight from his home base at Athey's Moor to Oshkosh and back, via Greenland and Canada.
All of the members who logged into the zoom club night were treated to Eddie McCallum's matter of fact description of his momentous journey to Oshkosh. Eddie showed some stunning and, quite literally, awe-inspiring, images of the cloudscapes, seas, rivers and mountains that he overflew on his trip to the USA and back. Eddie was beset on the way out by poor weather, worse visibility and the challenges of flying long distances over sea and inhospitable terrain, all of which he overcame with admirable presence of mind. He had to press on to Iceland, for example, being unable to land at his planned original lunch stop in the Faroes due to cloud obscuring the airfield. Out of everything he experienced while on trip, Eddie said he enjoyed meeting friendly and super-helpful people along his journey most of all.
In answer to one of the many questions he was asked after his presentation he said the worst part of the journey was the interminable leg over northern Canada which was mostly trees and water, nowhere to land at all. If he went down on the ice pack he would have the prospect of polar bears as well as very cold water to contend with; in Canada it could be grizzly bears or wolves. We all laughed to hear that Eddie took some bangers (the firework variety) that he purchased in Newcastle, in case he needed to scare off any carnivorous plane spotters.
Of course Ian asked about the survival suit which Eddie swore by. His was a drysuit designed for survival in the coldest seas for some hours. Eddie would not fly over water without one. He even used it to swim in a fjord when he lost a bet on a football game's outcome while on the trip.
Thank you very much to Eddie for taking the time to sort out some photos and tell us the tale of his Oshkosh Odyssey. It is truly remarkable to make all of that distance in a microlight. Those of you that missed the talk can read a bit about the trip in Microlight Flying December 2014, where you can see some of the stunning images that Eddie showed us during his presentation.
Eddie is planning a trip to Scandinavia next year with some flying mates and extends an invitation to any Cheshire Flyers that "would like to tag along". This trip will be in his CT2K; but he also plans to fly his 2 stroke Quantum to Orkney at some point in the year, if anyone is interested in joining on that trip. He will send the provisional itinerary when it is planned. Let me know if you want Eddie's contact details.
Comfortable Crossing (of the Atlantic)
Kevin Edmunds made us all wish we had a private jet to fly, complete with a case of Bollinger. Rapidly putting together an interesting set of slides, with only a couple of hours notice of being asked, to describe his Atlantic crossing experience as a comparison to Eddie's, Kevin was full of genuine admiration for Eddie's accomplishment - which he described as a feat requiring considerable courage.
Kevin explained that he preferred to fly over to the US at 43,000 feet AMSL, where the sun always shined; and there was a particular set of coordinates for the location which Kevin had worked out was exactly halfway – known as 30 degrees West - where he always felt a small thrill of fear. It was the point in his flight where he had calculated that if the aircraft had any problem there would be no salvation; 90 minutes flying time to the nearest airport anywhere. However, Kevin was comforted by the essential mod in his cockpit that would always provide the solution to any malfunction – the red PANIC button. That made him feel he was in control.
Kevin also marvelled at the way in which Eddie managed to find some fantastic food on his journey whereas Kevin led us to believe that he tended to have to hole up in a hotel with dubious catering as a stopover on his visits.
It was an entertaining look at a different aviation sector so thanks very much too, to Kevin for his contribution to the club night.
Congratulations to several of Captain Braders' students at Cheshire Microlight Centre who recently passed their Radio Telephony examinations with Kevin Edmunds.
Christmas Club Night coming up... 21.12.20
Our guest speaker is Chairman of the BMAA - Rob Hughes. As Ian said - "Of all of the flying clubs in the UK, Rob has chosen the Cheshire Flyers to spend Christmas with". In reality we have Geoff Hill to thank for the suggestion and the persuasion. We look forward to what Rob has to say.
Don't forget that the Club Awards will also be presented virtually so make sure you attend in case you are a winning recipient.
We will have a fun quiz put together by Nick Buckley, Garry Roberts and John Skelley - so that should be a laugh. Plus we have Nick's rendition of Freddie Mercury to look forward to.
As if all that wasn't enough, Ian has a cunning plan to give us some cocktail recipes so that we can have fancy drinks alongside us for the club festive occasion.
Be sure not to miss logging in. And remember that yahoo mail will have stopped by then so you need to opt in to the club email list to receive the emailed link from John B. Link follows (you need to hit the button to show 'yes' before you submit):
Down unearths his Fox
Jon Down explains how he made his latest aircraft purchasing decision
How do you choose between a Foxbat and a Eurofox?
What a privileged dilemma to be in!
How fortunate we are to live in the 21st Century, with the luxury of being able to climb into your own private aircraft and take off into the skies. Leonardo would have so envied us.
'Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward. For there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”
Leonardo Da Vinci
My own personal journey started almost 20 years ago with a chance tandem flight in a paraglider and, from the moment I left the ground, I was hooked. In no time at all I was learning to paraglide and paramotor, following which I embarked on my PPL. In just a couple of years I had gained my IMC, night and twin tickets and was taking every opportunity I had to get into the air.
Owning my own aircraft was my dream, and it wasn’t long before I’d bought myself a share in a Skyranger. At this stage in my flying career, many of my fellow Cessna and PA28 pilots couldn’t understand why I was “downgrading” to a Skyranger, but I never felt it was a lesser form of flying. In fact, mastering the skills required to fly a microlight seemed harder, as the aircraft was so light, manoeuvrable and responsive unlike the lumbering GA aircraft I had been used to. These are the reasons that microlights are so much more fun to fly.
The years went by until, out of curiosity, I tried a share in a Flight Design CTSW. The speed, comfort and touring ability of a CT are extraordinary, and I would definitely recommend having a go in one if you get a chance. One word of caution though, the landing skills required are considerable and these aircraft are not for the inexperienced. Being precise with your speeds is essential.
STOL – Short Take-Off and Landing
So, what could I fly after the CT? I fancied looking for something with more of a STOL capability as I’m fortunate to live on a farm. The fantasy of having my own wings at home and taking off and landing in my own fields became my quest. Off I went in search of the perfect STOL flying machine at the BMAA and LAA rallies. With so many shapes and colours to choose from, where do you start?
A Google search for STOL aircraft narrowed it down to half a dozen or so available in the UK. Some of the aircraft that tempted me were the Zenair CH750, the Kitfox, the Savannah Classic, and of course the Eurofox. After much deliberation and some good selling skills from the representatives on the stand, I signed on the dotted line, handed over my money and bought a Eurofox tail wheel kit.
A year later I was up up and away; it wasn’t long before I embarked on a journey across Europe to Slovakia. What an experience, and what a plane to fly.
The reputation of the Eurofox is certainly high, and the performance I was promised was always achieved. Comfort, speed, reliability and looks make it very desirable, and I was being noticed everywhere I went. People would come over to my reliable red tail dragger and take photos, ask questions and ask to feel the quality of the finish. If you’ve never looked closely at a Eurofox, I urge you examine one if you’re thinking of changing aircraft.
Here are 10 of the features of the Eurofox 912iS Tail wheel I really like:
1. Great carrying capacity - my LAA version had a max take off weight of 560kg, which allowed for plenty of luggage, fuel and company on long trips.
2. Fast and economical – my 912iS was able to comfortably cruise at around 95kts at 4600 rpm and a fuel burn of around 12 litres ph. It had a fuel capacity of 86 litres and a range of around 5 or 6 hours, well beyond my bladder!
3. Good STOL performance – if you look on various websites and at the POH, you’ll find figures quoted of Take-off Ground Roll at MAUW - 139 Metres and Landing Ground Roll at MAUW - 130 Metres. These figures are really impressive, but with my limited skills, I was never really able to match these. I’m not sure why, but I always found I needed more runway than I expected. I found the Eurofox loves to float! However, if you talk to other Eurofox pilots in the Cheshire Flyers you’ll find many of them can take off and land in the quoted distances.
4. Excellent glide ratio – the glide is 9:1, which gives you comfort when flying over water. It did however give me some issues on landing when I had to adjust my approach on finals with a sideslip.
5. Spacious comfy cockpit – the width is 44”, which even for two fatties is plenty of room. The seats are really comfortable, so on long journeys I never got sore.
6. Excellent climb – quoted figures at MAUW are 816 ft/min. In my experience, I never found it to be as good as this, but again this was perhaps down to my lack of skill.
7. Moderate cross wind limits – these are stated as 15 kts, but with practice you can probably do better than this. With a tail wheel and cross wind, there is always the risk of a ground loop.
8. Low stall speed – the Vso (stall speed flaps down) and Vs (stall speed flaps up) are 30 kts and 37 kts. In my experience these figures are a bit generous, and I was finding the controls mushy when flying at an airspeed several kts higher than these.
9. Reduced hangarage costs – the Eurofox has an incredibly quick and easy wing fold, and for me this saved a handy few quid. By folding the wings before pushing her back into the hangar, the storage footprint was halved, and consequently my monthly parking fees.
10. Outstanding finish – the quality of the paintwork on the wings, fuselage and undercarriage are exceptional, and with the Ferrari red colour, and vintage shape, the Eurofox tail wheel is a photographer’s dream.
The only thing I didn’t like about the Eurofox tailwheel is how it once bit me hard with an expensive ground loop. I guess I was at the 200-hour stage where you think you’ve mastered the beast, and therefore, maybe, I had become a little too confident and relaxed.
After that experience, with reluctance, I decided to move on to another aircraft. I made the incredibly hard decision to sell my Eurofox and buy an aeroplane with a wheel at the front. Indeed, some of the Cheshire Flyer pilots regard a nose wheel aircraft as being a proper aeroplane. I did consider a nose wheel Eurofox, but on a whim I preferred to look around for alternatives.
The amazing Aeroprakt A22LS Foxbat Supersport 600
My encounter with the Foxbat was more by chance than by planning. Trawling through the columns of Afors and UKGA, I stumbled across an advert for a second-hand Foxbat not too far from home. A few phone calls later and I was sitting in a smart, white, aircraft lined up on runway 29 at Otherton. With the pre-flight checks complete, it was full throttle and off we set.
I have to say I was so impressed with the performance of this aircraft. Powered by the Rotax 912S engine, it took no more than 50 metres before we were climbing away at an incredible rate. The runway is a mere 210 metres long, yet we were already at 300’ by the end of the strip. The circuit was tight yet totally controlled, and in no time we were on short final and landing, in just 50m! Ridiculous I thought, as the winds weren’t that strong either. The following 3 circuits proved that the STOL performance of the Foxbat I had experienced was no fluke.
A local flight with Ray Everitt to demonstrate the cruise performance convinced me that this was the aircraft for me. We shook hands, and another deal was done.
Here are 10 of the features of the Foxbat A22LS I love:
1. Incredible STOL performance – the POH states Take off/Landing run of 100m (328 ft), with the aircraft getting airborne before other aircraft airspeed indicators starts to tick over. If you need convincing of its take off performance, take a look at this short video. https://youtu.be/NvOm3JELt54
2. Outstanding climb performance - The climb performance data of the A22LS in ISA conditions at MSL and maximum take-off weight are: Best angle of climb speed Vx 49 kts; Best rate of climb Vy 54 kts. Maximum rate of climb at Vx and Vy 650 fpm.
3. Very spacious – the cabin is actually wider than the Eurofox, so no risk of being cramped with two people on board.
4. 360 Visibility – you really do get panoramic views from the cockpit.
5. Stability - being a high wing aircraft, it is naturally stable. This is especially noticeably when flying slowly.
6. Variable cruising performance - you can happily cruise anywhere between 35kts and 95kts. That’s quite a range!
7. Long distance aircraft – with a fuel capacity of 110 litres of usable fuel, you can go anywhere within reason without having to stop to top up.
8. 600kg – with 40kg more capacity than the Eurofox, you can either afford to put on a few pounds over Christmas or carry a few extra snacks when out on a jolly.
9. Big wheels for rough ground – whilst I haven’t fitted the tundra tyres yet, I do have the larger wheels which enable me to taxi, take off and land on most surfaces, even if the field isn’t in perfect condition.
10. Large access to rear storage – in my Foxbat I have a large side door in the fuselage, allowing me full access to the rear storage area. No problems with carrying larger items.
What’s the conclusion over which I prefer?
Overall, I think I can honestly say that I love both these aircraft. Neither of them has any terrible vices, both have superb handling in the air and give you a feeling of comfort, reliability, excitement and fun. In my limited experience with it so far, the Foxbat is my preferred aircraft as I’ve always found it better in the climb, more stable during slow flight, with a better STOL capability and, being a nose wheel, it won’t bite me with a ground loop.
Having said that, I have flown alongside my old aircraft several times with its new owner, and he is delighted with his purchase. It’s also worth saying that my old Eurofox does have the edge on fuel economy (it has the more efficient 912iS engine) and is perhaps slightly faster (wing profile is very different to the Foxbat).
Where next? I do have my eyes on an Aeroprakt A32 Vixen, which flies even faster, and slower, than the Foxbat. For now, I think I’m just going to enjoy a few years in my dream flying machine, the A22LS Foxbat.
If you’re so inclined, here are a few good links to videos which show what these aircraft can do;
· Australian STOL Championships 2019 - https://youtu.be/yJAo_bLKPd8
· Why the Foxbat is so Damn good (Irish Flyer) - https://youtu.be/wOvA_W6pLhM
· Eurofox Spin Test - https://youtu.be/JifpxUFgJa4
· Eurofox Tailwheel Flight Review | PlaneOldBen Vlog - https://youtu.be/aQRja3L_1mQ
· Mustering Cattle - Outback Australia Fun! - https://youtu.be/w0fs5LoNvzQ
· A22 Foxbat - Australian Conditions - https://youtu.be/NUUb-kd37Sg
· Folding the EuroFOX wings - https://youtu.be/iI06NH4DPGA
CAA put out a safety leaflet after the first lockdown that may still have relevance for returning to flying once again after the second period of 'no-flying'. Below is a copy of the text from CAP1950 Landing Issues.
Getting back in the air after the poor winter weather followed by the lockdown has resulted in a bit of a bumpy start for some people returning to flying - around 70% of the GA unit’s Occurrence Reports covering May and June have involved some sort of landing difficulty.
While a few incidents have been airworthiness-related — problems lowering the landing gear or it collapsing — most have been down to pilot error, although right now ‘rustiness’ is probably a fairer way to put it. The most common problem, some 50% of the reports, has been loss of control during or just after touchdown, and there have also been several landings in the undershoot…
The approach and landing can be one of the most tricky flight phases, yet perhaps surprisingly some pilots actually do relatively few of them even if they fly regularly because they prefer to focus on cross-country flights, so for some that’s perhaps only one or two take-offs and landings per trip.
Nobody wants to be patronising and tell pilots how to approach and land, most are way beyond that kind of advice, but with the higher than usual number of incidents this year it’s worth remembering that the skills involved are, to use a turn of phrase, highly perishable both physically, such as muscle memory and reacting on the controls quickly and appropriately, and cognitive, making judgements and anticipating what might/will happen next.
What all this boils down to is that after a long lay-off (for any reason) it takes time to get the eye, hands and brain ‘back in’ — and if you don’t believe it, there’s also been a recent spate of runway incursions – with several down to rusty pilots rushing to get airborne.…
The ideal, fairly obviously, if you’re feeling a bit rusty after a long-ish lay-off is to do a quick circuit session with an instructor. Bad habits tend to creep in if techniques and skills are mis-remembered or mis-applied and 30 minutes circuit-bashing with someone watching and advising really is money well spent.
If you don’t want to do that, have think about planning a handling and circuit session in the familiar surroundings of home base before heading off into the blue to another airfield with the increased workload and pressures that can bring — potentially different weather conditions, circuits, runway directions, traffic and procedures.
So perhaps choose a straightforward day rather than one when the met or wind conditions are a bit iffy — particularly if it’s a crosswind — to give yourself the best opportunity to ease back in and fly with less pressure.
While it’s tempting to ‘just get on with it’, have a think before starting up about the ‘what-ifs’ and how to handle them. How, for instance, would you tackle being ‘cut up’ on the approach, or a bounce on landing (if in doubt go-around and save the nose leg…), suppose a crosswind starts a ground loop (especially in taildraggers), what about windshear, all the usual things that can occur and, of course, not forgetting to rehearse the pre-landing checks and radio calls, it all makes life easier.
Essentially, the aim is to remind yourself of the necessary actions and responses both physical and mental should something unexpected happen, plus self-briefing potential eventualities every trip keeps it fresh in the mind.
In the air it’s worth starting by practising general handling at height (give yourself 3,000ft to play with) and incorporating some other upper air work that’s relevant to landing such as slow flight, stalls and recoveries in different configurations to remind yourself of the indications that you are approaching the edge of the envelope — and what to do if you do get there.
On that first circuit you don’t have to land or roll off for another — practice establishing a good stable approach and getting the approach/landing ‘picture’ right again, then perhaps do a go-around so that you can really focus on the set-up. Once you’ve nailed that, do a roller, but do remember to pre-brief the take-off actions and contingencies for it.
This year there have also been some forced landing incidents and while no-one wants to have to make one, brushing-up on eventualities such as engine failures and PFLs isn’t a bad idea; when was the last time you did one?
As we said earlier, this short piece isn’t intended as an exhaustive ‘How to Approach/Land’ article, it’s simply some reminders and suggestions aimed at helping to making landings go as smoothly as you’d like them to.
And finally, remember that it’s not just down to you — the circuit is the airspace with the greatest mid-air collision risk and others might make mistakes (we’re all human, after all), so lookout, think and fly defensively, and try to be ready for the unexpected.
The LAIT Report
Gordon Verity on the findings of the Local Airspace Infringements Team
On the 9th November Steve Dancaster and I attended the Zoom meeting of the North West LAIT. Since the previous meeting in July, the following numbers of infringements had taken place:
Nationally: June – 59, July – 130 and August – 85.
Locally: Liverpool - 1,
Barton ATZ - 4,
Hawarden RMZ was running at 2/3 per month
Manchester had 14, one of which was an aircraft flying into Hawksview.
We have been tasked with publishing a circuit diagram and approach information for Hawksview.
Please can any visiting pilots to Hawksview (which is strictly PPR only) contact Manchester Radar on 118.580 to obtain a zone entry, when intending to land on Runway 26.
Manchester (MAN) movements were down to 110/day from a norm of 500/day.
The CAA advised that 10-15% of infringements were caused by pilots not understanding the Notams regarding deactivation of controlled airspace.
We were asked to continue to encourage all pilots to use the Skywise app and make use of the excellent Airspace & Safety Initiative website which contains lots of useful information along with the recently published infringement hotspots data.
Taking note of the advice that we pilots should consider subscribing to Skywise alerts, one of the most recent has provided a link to an excellent issue of Clued Up, on winter flying, especially following Lockdown 2.0. John Bradbury pointed this out to me and suggested it might go into CF. I have extracted the text but not the pictures (sorry) to make it instantly readable on your tablet/mobile without scrolling round the pdf.
GA Update December 2020
WINTER – AND WHY NOT?
This year hasn’t been the greatest for flying — true there was some great summer weather, but Lockdown 1.0 meant a fair old break for many, then getting current again and then along came Lockdown 2.0…
While the Spring flying pause ended in relatively benign spring/summer weather, conditions now are anything but though that shouldn’t be a bar to flying — winter can have some beautiful days with fabulous views and flights. The flip side, of course, is wind, rain, poor visibility, fading daylight, cold, ice and snow, so here are a few things to think about to help get back into, and enjoy, some winter flying.
GETTING GOING AGAIN
Staying current for the changeable and sometimes challenging autumn/winter conditions hasn’t been easy, so first off here’s a question — just how current am I for this particular day; have I really got the experience/skills for it? The shrewd advice is to raise personal minimums – or be more restrictive – than the legal minimums initially, and decide on the day taking into account currency, competency and the conditions.
And here’s another thought; one of the problems with flying being chopped around as it has been this year is how ready you are for ‘in the unlikely event’… when for example was the last time you practised (or thought about the vital actions for) an EFATO, a PFL or, for that matter, a low-level circuit for when the cloud isn’t as high as expected? A 500ft circuit in marginal conditions can be a high workload experience.
Obviously, if you have any doubts you can always nip up with an instructor for a quick refresher flight or simply discuss the day and its challenges with them. Most of us also have more experienced/competent friends who’ll be only too happy to share their knowledge, and that’s especially true if you’re in a group or shared aircraft.
So you’re good to go for the day, but is the weather — really? You’ll know the old saying ‘expect the weather to be about 30% worse than forecast’, it might be something of an old joke, but there’s also quite some truth to it.
A quick check early in the day might say yes it’s okay, but conditions can be so mobile at this time it’s vital to track how they might have changed (and might still be evolving) during the time before takeoff, and interpreting how that might affect the whole flight — especially if you’ve had to wait for overnight hoar frost or ice to melt from the wings, or for radiation fog to burn off, shortening the daylight hours.
Talking of ice, there can’t be many who don’t know that it needs to be removed before flight, but be wary, too, of leaving wings, control surfaces and hinges still wet because the freezing level during these months comes down to, or often below, normal GA flying altitudes and wet wings above the freezing level is one of the most dangerous places for light aircraft to be without de-icing equipment.
The same is true for flying through moisture above the freezing level, however light or ‘see-through’ any precipitation might be — don’t, if you can possibly avoid it. The smaller the droplets, the more likely they are to be supercooled, just waiting for something to freeze onto extremely rapidly, and cold aircraft are rather good at becoming over-sized hailstones… Checking the freezing level is pretty easy with a number of sources and, handily, the low-level synoptic forecast Metform 215 has a column for the day’s freezing level.
You know what’s coming next.... carb icing. Yes, it’s not specifically a winter issue, but conditions now can make it even more likely. Take this scenario; you’re taxying over grass soon after the sun starts to warm the airfield a little, there’s a heavy dew (or melted frost) so the wheels and propeller(s) throw minute droplets of water around. With this moisture-laden air at engine-intake height you can work out the rest, so don’t rush the take-off and give the engine a burst of carb heat when lined up to check no ice has formed.
In the air deal with it in the traditional way, with extra hot air applications near cloud or on lower power settings; if you fly with a carburettor and aren’t sure of the ‘traditional way, have a look at Safety Sense leaflet, Number 14, ‘Piston Engine Icing’.
Apart from ice and rain, perhaps one of the biggest winter nuisances is wind. Suppose it’s forecast (including gusts) to be near the aircraft’s (or your personal) crosswind limit and likely to increase? You might want to think twice before going or, if landing, perhaps ask for another runway if there’s a more suitable more into-wind one; a few years ago a pilot didn’t like the crosswind on the main runway and asked for a shorter but more into-wind one, which he was given and the landing went just fine; the following aircraft accepted the main runway and promptly wiped off its gear…
While we’re on the subject, another good reason for thinking about different runways for landing (and even take-off in some circumstances) is visibility and glare, particularly on the approach and flare late in the day. With the sun around 15 degrees above the horizon right now and setting in the predominant westerly runway direction, glare can be a swine just at the wrong moment, so if conditions (and the airfield) permit it, a different runway orientation or even landing down-sun can be a good consideration.
Talking of low sun and visibility issues, here’s another thought, especially if you don’t have a moving map; plan routes so that any nav features are ‘down sun’ making them much more visible. Likewise, you can plan to arrive at your destination ‘up sun’ which makes seeing both it, and aircraft in and around the circuit, much more straightforward.
FLIGHTS AND PLANNING
While everyone’s careful about ensuring there’s enough in the tanks to keep things turning up front, this time of year makes that decision much more critical. Suppose, for example, the destination weather is unexpectedly socked in, is there a comfortable amount to reach any alternate airfields or even to return home? Or maybe the flight turns out to be much longer than expected thanks to strong headwinds, will there be enough?
One of the many good things about the colder days is that aircraft performance is inevitably enhanced (good for carrying more fuel…) but ground conditions can be variable, especially if flying to and from grass strips, short strips and sloping ones. So a check of the performance data and weight and balance is even more essential, as is checking take-off and landing distances for the day’s conditions; it’s a bit obvious, but as many hedges and field boundaries will attest, tricky winds, wet runways, mud, slush and wet snow can seriously lengthen the take-off or landing run.
So, the weather looks nice, you’re fine for the day, the aircraft’s good, the airfield(s) are okay (give someone at the destination a call if you can, it’s a far better way to find out about conditions than simply using the internet), but is the upcoming flight really going to meet expectations? You only have to look at each year’s accident stats to realise that’s not always the case — ‘The pilot suddenly found himself in cloud over high ground…’, it occurs too frequently.
With that in mind, it’s worth thinking not only about the en route conditions just now, but what are they likely to be? Have a think too about the effects weather, and any diversion, might have on en route airspace; just because it’s winter when things are generally quieter there might well be a Notam somewhere that you really should know about…There was a case not so long ago when an unfortunate pilot was doing the right thing, talking to ATC and had a clearance, but while avoiding some bad weather he inadvertently bust another piece of airspace — it happens.
Some quiet time with your electronic aids and charts looking at the route, and the route to any alternatives due to weather, is all part of Threat & Error Management and gives you a chance to recognise any potential hazards (high ground, obstructions, poor visibility, etc) and have a contingency plan — as a wise man once said, ‘good decision-making in flight starts with a solid brief on the ground’.
While weather is a good part of ‘Threat’ at any time but especially so right now, how about the Error bit? That’s where friends come in; if we’re honest we all make mistakes, a wrong digit here, a plus rather than a minus there, the cat walked across the keyboard while you were loading data — you know the sort of thing — it never hurts to get someone to sense-check your plans (and the data that’s been input); perhaps the nearby instructor or simply the experienced, competent friend over a cup of tea beforehand; how many times have you thought, ‘how did I miss that? Think of them as your ‘gross error check’ — have I missed something critical or so obvious, weather, fuel, route, that my eyes glazed right over it?
‘Thinking it through’ is one of the most important aspects of flight planning, and most know the old flying saying, ‘If in doubt, don’t do it…’.
And, as we said earlier, there’s some great flying to be had over the autumn and winter, but above all, and it hardly needs saying in these shorter, potentially tricky days, don’t fall for press-on-itis, there’s no shame in turning back, asking for help or even making a precautionary landing somewhere if things get really sticky.
So, consider the threats of winter flying properly, manage them, and enjoy it.
There’s more good in-depth advice on winter flying in Safety Sense Leaflet No.3, Winter Flying and Safety Sense leaflet, Number 14, ‘Piston Engine Icing’. For more thoughts about getting back in the air again and Threat & Error Management have a listen to the Safety Advice and Tips for Pilots returning to GA flying post COVID-19 podcast.
Link to document to see the illustrations: Clued Up
Revalidating Ratings in Restrictive Times
John Bradbury clarifies the mystery
With a combination of lockdown and winter weather, it’s proving difficult for many members to gain sufficient flying hours and/or time with an instructor in order to revalidate a rating. I would like to clarify the options available for those in this predicament. Before I do, please understand this is related to UK PPL and NPPL holders with a Microlight rating having 24 months validity and the requirement for an hour with an instructor; other licences/ratings may carry the same criteria but I can’t vouch for that.
Insufficient time with an instructor (if applicable):
If your rating is due to expire, there are two options available.
1) When expired, wait until you can/want to fly and revalidate by a GST.
2) Prior to expiry, have your rating renewed and endorsed single seat aircraft only.
Option 2 means what it says: you can only fly aircraft with one seat and not a two-place aircraft solo, which I suspect will keep most of you grounded. However, when you become able to complete an hour with an instructor, there is no requirement for a GST and your rating can be reissued without the restriction.
Insufficient PIC hours:
If you have the required time with an instructor but are short on PIC hours, the CAA has issued a concession, see ORS4 1418 . You will note from page 2 table 1 (copied below) that the concessions are very small; they allow fewer hours but require more take-offs/landings and, in some cases, additional instructor time.
It should be noted that ORS4 1418 gives no concession for not having at least an hour with an instructor. It should also be noted that all ratings must be revalidated before expiry to avoid the need for a GST.
Is there a tale in that Sting?
Ken Watt on the difficult decision over breaking up with his beloved CHHJ
The words popped into my inbox and grabbed my attention; they were from the editor of the best aviation mag in the UK, (see what I did there?). They also had a delectable literary twist to them. And, just maybe there was a tale which others may like to read; we’ll see.
What follows is a ramble through the confused perturbations of an avid aviator considering replacing a perfectly good aeroplane. Why? I hear you think.
I guess most aviators follow a similar route; we hanker after being free like a bird from a very early point in our life’s journey. Then, sometime later, we get a sniff of flying. We’re hooked. Just like the other addicts we want more and more.
For me, first flying amounted to running down a hill with a hang-glider in tow; such elation from being only 10 feet above the ground! Those 10-20 feet and 15-30 seconds gave days and days of excited reminiscence. However, it was not enough air time in the end, for this particular addict anyway, so a hang-glider with a motor seemed like the perfect solution to end all the waiting on hillsides, and satisfy the aviation habit slowly forming. Which of course it did, initially. That Blade 462 gave me such freedom in the sky; the sort of freedom I’d been dreaming of; remembering well the conversations I had with my fellow flyers about how lucky we were to just up and fly around the castle we walked up as kids, see it from the vantage point of a buzzard, then land the flying machine on a specific blade of grass. We had made it. We were pilots. What else could anyone want?
Well, I’m human, and I wanted more. I wanted to go further, higher, faster, and I wanted a bit more comfort; ‘time’s winged chariot’ was charging through my life. The flex-wing was superb in the summer, but too harsh for me to enjoy in the winter, and an addict needs a regular fix, a fix less dependent on the weather. So, I built a beautiful flying machine with all mod cons.
A Eurofox with a heater. She also came with dual watch radio, Mode S transponder, endurance of 5 bladders, low cost hangarage, easy cockpit access for young and old, with visibility as close to a flex-wing as you can get in a 3 axis. And to me she was, and still is, beautiful. With delightful manners, unquestioning obedience, and an undercarriage to die for; she made even my landings look good. She’s taken me on great flying trips in the UK and across 5 nations of the EU in style and comfort. She does it on 12 litres an hour. Now why would anybody in their right mind consider breaking up with such a perfectly suited partner?
I’m human, and I wanted more. I did the deed. I’ve let her go; and being very frank I am not at all sure about it.
About a year ago I started getting itchy feet. I began surveying the options. Light aviation is going through some interesting times; manufacturers in the EU have produced very attractive flying machines. Some squeeze into the UK microlight definition of 450 kg, some don’t. The days of 450kg being numbered means the field is opening up and some of the slightly heavier machines only available on an SSEA rating will come into the microlight category; muddy waters or what? That 600kg microlight definition has already been adopted by some Europeans (e.g. Germany) and the manufacturers are bringing out new models which sensibly take advantage of the change. In any case the muddy water made me consider carefully what I actually wanted. Now I wanted a whole airframe rescue system. When I built my aircraft, I decided against that on the basis that microlights were basically gliders and could be put down in a field without damaging the occupants in most instances, destroying the plane never mattered. I was almost 10 years younger then and things like airborne incapacitation hadn't entered my head; now it had, a BRS was on the list. I couldn't retrofit a BRS to my existing beloved; if that were possible, I may not be writing this.
A group of Cheshire Flyers were attacked on the last flyout by some nasty weather which blundered in from the west earlier than forecast. An extra 20 knots or so would have had me out of its grip half an hour earlier. So, I was in the market for an extra 20 knots but that additional speed could not be at the expense of landing distance, since some of the best airfields to visit do not necessarily have the longest strips. The nasty weather also made me grateful that I’d fitted an artificial horizon instrument (Dynon D6) to my aircraft; there were brief moments when I was immensely glad that I had. Glass screens with their wealth of available information seem to me to be a useful addition to the pilot’s armoury.
The new aircraft couldn't be too loud or I would not be able to stay at my home airfield, therefore Continental or Lycoming engines were not an option. No to an RV then, except a very expensive (in money and time) RV14. I really wanted a high wing aircraft so I could get in when I’m older and knackered, and so could my old and knackered friends – that limited the options quite a bit. The high wing I thought would also be more stable because of the “pendulum effect”, but I could be wrong on that. I do know that I like looking down on the world when I’m flying to remind me of the special privileges that I have; I can look up from my back garden. The best view from a high wing is downwards, whereas the best view from a low wing is upwards. The high wing also wins out when you’re landing next to (or in!) crop. The problem is that the extra 20 knots is often stolen by the wing struts. The bottom line became pretty obvious; I had to compromise. I started browsing the net for sleek new aircraft. I spent hours, days, possibly weeks, looking. Kids don’t get bored in sweet shops though. Eventually I boiled it down to a few compromises which I put into a spreadsheet and tabulated parameters including empty weight, all up weight, cruise speed, top speed, stall speed, take off distance, landing distance and cost, for comparisons.
It seems that all new aircraft of the type I was salivating over were £100k plus; some with a bigger plus than others, but all really quite expensive. The aircraft which seemed to fit the bill best was the TL Sirius. Bob Scott has a new one and kindly took me flying in it for the day. It’s a lovely aeroplane, faster and larger than mine and good looking too; 600kg MTOW but quite a high empty weight so the payload is smaller. It is also eye-wateringly expensive by the time you factor in the instrumentation, the avionics, and the build. A really great aircraft but worth considerably more than double my own? I wasn’t sure. Then there was the Europa Elite; I’d been on the mailing list for a while and was duly excited when eventually the specs and price list were published. The Europa has a good pedigree and it certainly has the extra knots. It’s also a UK manufacturer, currently a rare breed. But, alas, again the final price when all the necessary is factored in is way north of £100k. The TL Sting S4 had all the style and speed you could want, and I was erring in that direction, so I asked the agent if they had a demonstrator. I wasn’t convinced of the book figures for landing distance. I was treated to a demo by David Durran at Otherton airfield. This was a really good-looking aircraft too, but were the published numbers to be believed? It comfortably did the top speed of 120knots and it landed at Otherton (450m), so yes, the numbers could be achieved. Then I received the quote and, as before, my total costs would be way above what I considered reasonable. It seems Brexit and covid have done no favours to the price of foreign manufactured aircraft. All this window shopping was disturbing my peace of mind. Also, each time I landed back at base in my lovely lady and washed off the insects and mud, she stood gleaming and I really couldn’t understand why I was looking elsewhere.
TL Sting’s UK agent helpfully rang me and said one of his existing customers was selling his Sting S4. It had all the bells and whistles: twin Dynon screens, BRS, Rotax 912iS sport, VP prop, heater, a very wide opening canopy for old folks, and a price tag of about half the new cost. I bought it.
Maybe I’ve made a mistake; that extra speed is at the expense of extra weight. The low wing design may mean less stability. There have been some crashes with bad consequences on this variant. The support I’ve had from Eurofox UK has been way beyond my expectations; will I get the same from TL? All this taken into account, I’m still not sure. Time will tell, I guess.
I will have to now use both brain cells again when I’m flying. I have new tasks to learn with the glass cockpit and injected engine. One thing for sure it will be different. Fresh and new.
I’m human, I wanted more; but maybe I just wanted different. Anyway, I’m really looking forward to the next flying season. Changing your aircraft, even for the wrong reasons, spices up the flying.
DATES FOR YOUR DIARY
21st December: Cheshire Flyers Christmas Club Night
TOUR DATES 2021
- PUT THEM IN YOUR DIARY.
FAF 2021 dates:
OTHER FLY-IN/FLY AROUND DATES 2021 - that Cheshire Flyers might attend
Popham 2021 - May 1- ??
Spamfield 2021 - May 29-31
Fly UK 2021 - Jun 18-27
Guernsey Aero Club - 10-12 Sept (provisional)