I was worried at the beginning of the week if I was going to be able to get either of my lessons this week, as it didn’t look promising – however, this morning the cloud base was reported at 4500 feet with no significant wind, so things were looking good.
I had a slightly eventful trip to the airport – I was dropping my car in for MOT & service on the way, so I popped my bike in the car and then cycled from the garage to the airport. Unfortunately just before arriving at the airport I managed to fall off (I’ve not done that in years – I think the problem is I’ve had a new chain put on and it slips occasionally and it caught me out) – luckily I wasn’t hurt and the bike survived!
Once there we went through the brief – the two crucial things being the Standard Stall Recovery (SSR – basically push the nose forward and apply full power, once unstalled climb out), and making sure I was happy on the HASELL checks, which must be done before practising stalling etc, these are:
Height – must be sufficient to recover by 3000 feet AGL (above ground level)
Airframe – make sure the flaps are set up correctly
Engine – check Ts & Ps are OK, and mixture is fully rich
Security – make sure harnesses are properly secure, and there are no loose articles in the cockpit
Location – must be clear of Active airfields, Built-up areas, Controlled airspace and Cloud
Lookout – we need to do a 360 degree or a pair of 180 degree turns to check there are no other aircraft in the vicinity
I was then sent out to check the aircraft (G-HERC) – no major issues here, other than the landing light still wasn’t working, but this is only needed if flying at night anyway.
I did the takeoff again – fortunately I had a chance to get myself properly lined up as we had to wait for a vehicle to clear the runway – I was a little late in rotating, but nothing disastrous – the climb out was fine (I managed to keep it at 80 knots rather than my normal failure of being a little slow).
We switched over to the approach frequency, and were warned about a hot air balloon in a particular area, fortunately we weren’t heading in that direction anyway so didn’t have to worry about that (it wouldn’t be at the sort of height we were heading to anyway).
Once we got to the area we would be using we did the HASELL checks, and then the instructor demonstrated a stall to me – there wasn’t quite as violent a nose drop as I expected. Next was my turn – despite having read other accounts, I still wasn’t prepared for quite how hard I had to pull back to actually make it stall (this is quite reassuring!). The actual recovery was OK, I did push the nose a bit too far forward, and failed to apply right rudder to compensate for the slipstream effect of full power (this was going to be a recurring mistake!), but in general I recovered without excessive loss of height.
We then practised stalls in various different configurations (with/without flaps and with/without power), and a stall with a wing drop (where one wing drops significantly more than the other thus rolling the aircraft, and you have to resist the temptation to try to correct with the ailerons until you are unstalled).
Next was recovering at the incipient stage (i.e. before it’s actually stalled) – basically when the stall warner starts sounding carry out SSR – this was practised in the various configurations and all seemed OK.
I took us back to the airport, and under direction from the instructor performed an overhead join to get in to the circuit. As a preview of the next lesson (which will be starting to do circuits) I was told what to do and (with the instructors hands on the controls just in case) effectively did the landing. It wasn’t exactly the best landing I’ve experienced (we touched down rather hard and technically a little bit short of the aim point), but they say any landing you can walk away from is a good one, so all in all I’m quite happy with it (there’ll be lots more opportunities to practice in the next however many lessons!).
All in all I was very happy with the lesson – it was a good experience and I think I did OK with everything. I’ve got another one booked for Friday weather permitting, which will be starting on circuits – I’ve been warned that a perfectly normal reaction is likely to be a bit of a mental overload and be left wondering if I’ll ever be able to do this by myself, so we’ll see how it goes!