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I'm Single!


Blanik packed and ready to go homeIt's been a long while since my flying has given me a sleepless night, but tonight has been one. I'm not really sure why, but sometimes you play things over and over in your head to try and understand and well, here I am, typing away well before sunrise.

The day started off well enough. The Twin was given some high speed testing by one of the instructors after a tow to 3000 ft. This was to ensure that the wing, that was damaged during last year's mishap, did not depart company with the rest of the aircraft under high G loadings. Thankfully, it didn't.

After more than a seven month break I was the lucky first person to take a dual flight in the "new" Twin with tug towing us from 16L into a slight cross-wind. In the mean time I have been flying the Blanik, both dual and solo, and to say those first five minutes after we released felt weird is an understatement. I felt like a fish out of water as the whole feel of the aircraft is very very different to the Blanik. The most noticeable being the heavier controls and the delayed response, especially on the roll axis.

We found some nice lift and I practiced some thermally where I was really sweating just to keep a decent and controlled bank. After about 10 minutes the instructor announces that if I get the landing right he will be happy if I solo on the club's Single Astir. No stress! The landing went off well enough into the 45˚ gusting cross wind, but to be honest I didn't feel entirely comfortable.

So now what to do, must I wait in a long queue for another check ride the Twin or brave the Single? I eventually decided that opportunities like this are very rare at FAUH and off I went to fetch the Single.

So now I'm in the plane and the tug is taking up slack and I'm noting to myself that this is only my 7th ever aero-tow and 3rd time I have even sat in this aeroplane. I of course have, on these previous two occasions, well acquainted myself with the plane's cockpit and its performance limits.
The ground run was a bit of a mess. The Single has a tail skid and the main wheel was pumped a little too hard and all this caused me to constantly bang my head on the inside of the canopy upsetting my concentrating for those first 10m or so. Once I was airborne all went well and I released at 2500 ft and set about exploring the aeroplane and getting used to its attitude, which was like somewhere around my toe tips - very unusual for me.

After a few failed attempts at finding lift and trying to figure out what the hell that electronic vario was trying to say, I practiced a few stalls and steep turns and headed back towards the airfield. The glider runway was occupied with the Twin about to be towed and I radio ground to find out the progress of the launch, "Taking up slack" I'm told. So I tried to time my landing for that runway, having the power runway as my alternate. As I got closer it became painfully obvious that no slack was being taken up and I immediately diverted for the power runway using a very modified "circuit".

Lambada Air-towThe "circuit" went off well enough and I arrived just were I planed, but after that it was a huge mess. I discovered around about then just how sensitive the elevator was on the Single and on the flare I ballooned seriously. So I closed the brakes to settle things out, but when I opened them again, to about half, the plane just dropped and the nose went up again. So I closed the brakes a little and landed rather hard and too much off centre. The grass grabbed the wing a few metres into the ground run and next I'm heading off into the long grass and bushes.

I rather sheepishly walked the wing back to the launch point for the inevitable uit kak. My wonderful display was witnessed by all including three instructors. So anyway, later (much later) during the uit kak I was told just how bad my circuit was and how this lead to my poor landing. The thing is that though I never flew a proper circuit, I did have things very under control and it was the elevator that caught me out; reopening the brakes didn't help much either.

So what now? Later I ask this to the instructor and he says that there is really not much he can show me with a dual flight and that if I want, I can try again. Of course I need to get back on the horse, but this time I'm really nervous. The take off goes much better and I release at 1000ft to head straight into the circuit. The problem is that both the tug and I want the same runway. This was a hangar flight and generally we like to use the right-hand runway and to land deep, hence saving some walking time.

It feels like forever that the tug takes to land and all this time my circuit is fast not becoming a circuit anymore. I orbit twice on downwind and twice on base and eventually the tug is clear of the runway. During this process I lost some height and the wind pushed me back further than I expected. So I gun for the runway at speed and when I'm ready I slow down, pop the brakes and do a great landing, though just not deep enough. The instructor comes on the radio and says he's very happy with the landing and I, of course, feel extremely relieved.

Another expensive day at the airfield with three aero-tows, but well worth it as I now have two flights in the Single behind me.