17th March 2013 - It's been well over 12 weeks since my last flight, why? Due to some technical engine problems with my aircraft, it was decided that it would be grounded until the problem was resolved... Of course!
Many weeks ago, I booked Sunday the 17th to go flying in hope that the problems would be resolved by then, and by Thursday of that week I was certain that I wouldn't get flying, the problem wasn't fixed. That Sunday, around noon, I found out, well, I would be flying, music to my ears!
It was around 2:40pm when I arrived at the club after a lengthy break both excited and anxious as to what the weather was planning for me, it was a day for all seasons in one, so I was crossing my fingers in hope that it would be good enough to get up flying.
I proceeded to enter the club, with my father, and met my instructor, Paul, who would be taking me up this time around, he explained that there was a cloud base of about 2,000ft so it might not allow up to have a go at stalling, but aside from that, he made me aware that this would be a mainly recapping lesson to get me back into the swing of things, so to round everything up, this lesson would involve:
Climbing, descending, turning while climbing, turning while descending, flying at a set altitude, then to finish of a first go at stalling.
I headed out to the aircraft and carried out all my checklists, both external and internal, and made sure everything was fine and ready to go, Paul joined me shortly after I had completed my checks, and I asked him about the fuel levels in the aircraft as they seemed slightly low, but he said that we would be okay, there's a few hours of flying until there's no fuel, other than at, everything else was no concern and we were all set to go.
Quick call to Newtownards radio and we were taxing to the 22 hold, again ran through our checklists to make sure everyone was set for takeoff, lined up runway 22, throttle to full - and takeoff.
I picked a climbing speed of 70knots and climbed the aircraft to 1500ft while making a standard rate turn out of the circuit to the south-west, Paul handled the radios with Belfast City and I continued to fly towards Grey Abby whilst carrying out essential FREDA check, which stands for: Fuel, Radios, Engine, Direction, Altitude. Basically you're looking to make sure everything is what it should it be and that there is no problems with the instruments.
I then climbed the aircraft to 2000ft, and Paul explained that we would do some exercises which would involve a full recap of turning, climbing, descending, etc. '"I have control", said Paul and he set the aircraft out of trim, descending, wrong RPM and I had to fix it, after doing do, he ran through another few exercises very similar to the last one, but instead of descending, perhaps it would be climbing, or turning for example. I really enjoy these types of things, they're really fun to do, and very helpful for your training. Paul then told me that he will do a stall just so I can see what it so like for my next lesson, "Is your harness on tight?", he said, then he lowered the airspeed, and raised the nose to maintain altitude... And we had entered a stall, the right wing dipped as well, but within a matter of seconds, we had recovered - interesting experience, felt like I had butterflies in my head!
Paul got me to head back towards Newtownards while he was making a few radio calls to a controller at Belfast City Airport, I couldn't really make out what they were saying to each other, but shortly after the radio call ended, Paul asked me if I wanted a quick tour of the city, I thought he meant Newtownards, but he actually meant Belfast (to my amazement!) I turned the aircraft to fly towards Comber, just South of Belfast, I could begin to make out some landmarks such as Cavehill, Harland and Wolff and even Belfast City Airport, I descended to 1200ft and flew right over the Airport, Paul then said that we were going to do a touch and go on runway 04 at BHD - really shocked, but full of excitement, I entered the circuit via the overhead, and began to descend to about 900ft, right over the harbour of Belfast, amazing views of the city, seriously, nothing like anything I'd ever seen before, Paul took control to line up with runway 04 and got us down to about 200ft, I joined back in and we controlled the aircraft to the ground, perfect landing, and straight back off again into the sky at a climbing speed of about 65knots this time, done the circuit of BHD and headed back towards Newtownards.
Will never forget that moment, and debatably, I'm one of the youngest to have landed an aircraft at Belfast, if not, the youngest!
We passed Comber on our way back to Ards, and it wasn't long before we were joining the circuit to land on runway 22 at Newtownards, it wasn't long before we were on finals and shortly after we had touched down - then vacated the runway to the left to make way for another aircraft coming in to land, I taxied back to the apron and parked up for the aircraft to be refuelled for its last flight of the day.
This was a flight that will stay with me - forever