Date: 14/7/2007

Time: 14:45 - 15:45 (PUT) & 16:30 - 17:00

Aircraft: Ikarus C42 - G-CEAN

Exercise: Ex 16b

Today's exercise is operation at minimum level. The object of this is to simulate that the weather has closed in and that you have to fly close to the ground to avoid the cloud cover and make your way back home or to an alternative airfield.

After the briefing and DI we are off on 26 and head off up to the North. When we have passed Hannington we decide that the weather has closed and that it is time to head back. We drop down to about 500 feet above ground level; it is a bit windy today and at this low altitude there is a fair amount of turbulence - I think that I am getting a little better at controlling this out. We also slow right down and put the first stage of flap in. Height control is important and you need to visually judge the 500 feet.

The low altitude then also gives you much less distance that you can glide if you get an engine failure. You need to be constantly looking for a potential safe landing site and fly from each available field to field as best as you can, even if it means an indirect course. However, you also need to keep an eye out for identifiable features so that you can navigate back to the airfield, so we followed a railway line and then the A34 southbound.

We try going to the west of Whitchurch (pretending we can't see much), but find a lack of potential emergency landing sites, so then we backtrack and try towards the east. Actually I don't have to pretend, because occasionally Steve puts a map across my face, so I can't see a thing as if we have strayed into cloud. I then have to descend using just my feeling to get below the (simulated) cloudbase. This may not be totally realistic, because in he real situation at least I would be able to see the planes limited instruments, such as the ASI and altimeter. Even so, without full instruments (and knowledge of their use) the average time to lose control in cloud is 45 seconds and 117 to death.

Eventually we decide that it has (theoretically) got so bad that we need to do a 'precautionary landing'. We/I find a suitable site of what looks like a deserted bit of farm road (tarmacked too) and we mark out a left hand circuit around this. We then do another pass lower at 250 feet to get a better look at the site. This would have been followed by an even lower observation pass and then a landing, but we abandoned it at this point to avoid upsetting the locals.

Finally we head back to the airfield, still at low altitude to the south of Mitcheldever Station and call a 'bad weather join' where we approach at 500 feet into the reduced size bad weather circuit. I make a reasonable landing.

Steve has impressed on me the stress that is involved in bad weather flying. I always thought that I liked the idea of 'hedge hopping', but now after lots of brainwashing of height=safety, I'm not so sure. Even though it wasn't bad weather (low cloud), I certainly have felt the stresses involved.

Finished off with a shortened second stint of a few circuits, as I much need the practice. Final one was bad, with a bounce that I needed to use power to turn it into a bit of a low hop to recover from. I think that I ought to do at least some circuits every two weeks, at my current experience level.

I think that all the boxes are ticked now as far as lessons are concerned. But I do need an awful lot of revision, before my GST (general skills test).

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