I woke up to see clear blue skies and the sun shining, so this morning’s lesson looked to be promising – I then looked at the METAR and TAF and realised that it was going to be a pretty much 90 degree crosswind, which was less encouraging!
Once I got to the aero club, it seemed to be fairly stable at 7 knots from around 320 degrees (the main Cambridge runways are orientated at 230 and 050 degrees, so the wind was at exactly 90 degrees). After a bit of a delay for refuelling, and a quick discussion between ourselves and ATC as to which direction runway to use (eventually we settled on 23), it was off to the hold, get the various checks done, and then off we went.
With a crosswind you have to hold aileron into wind during the takeoff roll – this avoids the problem where the into wind wing starts to produce more lift than the out of wind one, and thus causes uneven loadings on the main wheels so the aircraft won’t travel straight along the ground. While I remembered this for the first takeoff, I did forget a few times for some of the touch and gos (at least until I started wondering why we were drifting when I was steering straight!).
After the first circuit, ATC asked us if we wanted to reposition for 05 as the wind had moved round to about 340 degrees, which we decided to do. On 05 there is a right hand circuit (i.e. all the turns in the circuit are made to the right, and the downwind leg is to the right of the runway), versus the more normal left hand circuit on 23 (the direction is reversed to keep the circuit away from Cambridge city, both to avoid noise complaints and as there are more options should an engine failure occur when not over the city). I changed on to this by making a 180 degree turn at the end of the crosswind leg of the 23 left hand circuit, such that I ended up on the base leg of the 05 right hand circuit.
I hadn’t used 05 very often, which meant I didn’t have any easy to use landmarks for knowing when to turn, and also being a right hand circuit judging the turning point from base to final is more difficult as the perspective is different. Other than occasionally turning a little bit too far on to crosswind or downwind, or not quite far enough I seemed to manage however.
Most of the circuit was OK (with a crosswind you just have to remember to point the aircraft into the wind to try and maintain the same ground track), but the approaches were quite hard work. I managed a few reasonable touchdowns, with a few go arounds when I wasn’t happy (mostly due to balloons probably caused by flareing too early). For some reason on the last couple of circuits I ended up very high – I think I either must have been closer in to the runway (thus giving me a much shorter base leg), or was turning earlier from downwind, so shortening the final approach. With some guidance from the instructor I did manage to get it back under control (the important thing is to try and maintain the correct airspeed, not do the instinctive thing of trying to put the nose down and point at the runway as I seemed to be trying at first).
The final landing, while on two wheels, wasn’t on the correct two wheels (I’m pretty sure I touched down with the right hand main wheel and the nose gear!), but fortunately it wasn’t too bad. We had a quick debrief afterwards – the instructor thought I’d handle the crosswind approaches quite well, and that the main issue I’d had was that I was quite often flareing too soon – I suspect the reason for this is twofold – firstly because I’d been having to concentrate harder on ensuring I ended up on the centre line, and secondly as I’m not used to using 05, and so some of the subtle visual clues that my brain had been using to work out how high I was were gone.
I’ve got 3 more lessons booked next week, and hopefully I’ll get some nice straight along the runway weather conditions so I can do some more solo (while I had filled out the pre-flight paperwork in case, I wasn’t really expecting to do so today, and after the first couple of circuits I’d decided that even if the instructor offered me the chance I’d have said no!).