Time does indeed fly and with it being two years from I got my NPPL(microlight) licence it was time for a re-validation flight. This isn’t a test, but rather seen as an opportunity for you as a pilot to sit with an instructor, for at least an hour and have them go through whatever you wish to brush up on.
For me there were a few things on the agenda:
- Unusual Attitudes
- Fan stops (PFLs) in and out of the circuit
- Side slips on approach
But before I carry on with the flight, lets look at the purpose of check flights.
They will also ensure you haven’t picked up any bad or dangerous habits and will correct these if need be. A really useful exercise in my opinion
When you have an NPPL the licence is actually for life, you will always have it, no matter how much you fly or don’t, what expires are the ratings. These are:
- Simple Single Engine Aircraft (SSEA)
- Self Launching Motor Glider (SLMG)
Each is valid for 2 years, upon which you will need to sit with an instructor for at least an hour, their job is to ensure you have reached the minimum flight time to maintain the rating, for microlight the minimum required is:
Over the two year period:
- at least 12 hours flight time including 8 hours PIC
- at least 12 take-offs and landings
The last year:
- within the 12 months preceding the expiry date of the rating, have flown as pilot at least 6 hours flight time.
The other job the instructor has is to cover anything you want, it’s very much an opportunity for you, the pilot, to brush up on things you feel you could do better or maybe aren’t too keen on trying on your own. They will also ensure you haven’t picked up any bad or dangerous habits and will correct these if need be. A really useful exercise in my opinion.
So, onto the flight. I did it with the instructor I did my entire NPPL(M) with, the legendary Ken Crompton of Northern Ireland Microlights who is based two hangars up from me at the Ulster Flying Club. If you’re based in Northern Ireland and want to take up flying, he should be your first port of call!
So it started with steep turns. I do try to do all these maneuvers on my own, Ken recommended every third flight or so try to fit a few in to keep you well versed in them. But they can always be improved. So after a HASELL (Height, Airframe, Security, Engine, Location, Lookout) check I entered a steep (60 degree) turn to the right, it ended up being a slight spiral dive, losing about 100ft, not my finest. My issue there being not enough back pressure on the stick.
Onto the left, and it was much better, I always know I’ve done a decent one when I hit my own wake and that’s exactly what happened here! Once you near the 360 you will feel a buffet as your wake batters the aircraft!
Onto stalls then, I had actually done these a few hours previously in all configurations. But with Ken beside me I knew he’d tell me if I was doing anything wrong, the stall is such a critical stage of flight, a wrong aileron wiggle or rudder the wrong way can have dire consequences, esp if you’re low.
The Jabiru doesn’t really stall in the classic sense where you have a definitive “break” and the nose drops once the tail stops flying. It just flutters down, nose high and level at about 2-400ft per minute. I wonder if this is to do with the vortex generators we have fitted to the wing and underside the tail plane. I’m sure this would help somewhat, but having not flown a Jab at stall without these I wouldn’t know. Let me know in the comments if this is standard Jabiru behavior!
So with stick back in the clean configuration and being careful to only use rudder for minor corrections, we reached the mushy stall, full power and nose down it was recovered. Easy Peasy!
Onto a few other configurations and a few different recovery types, power, no power (nose down and enter best glide speed) and it was done!
Onto my favorite, and the maneuver I’m least comfortable with on my own, unusual attitudes. This simulates the aircraft quickly ending up in a position outside of normal straight and level, perhaps you get hit by heavy wake turbulence or a strong thermal and you end up in a spiral dive or rapidly climbing, you need to know how to get the aircraft safely out of these situations.
There are 4 types of unusual attitudes you cover:
- Nose High wings level
- Nose Low wings level
- Nose High in a turn
- Nose Low in a turn (spiral dive)
Ken likes to get the plane in all sorts of random shapes before letting go of the controls and shouting “recover”, I think it pleases him somewhat! Luckily I hadn’t forgotten my training and was presented with a near vertical spiral dive. I am always careful to ensure wings are fully level before pulling out of the dive, however, Ken said once you’re past 30 degrees or below of bank you can pull up (not too hard so you don’t leave the wings behind of course). In that one I near hit VNE, prob because of the slight delay as I leveled the wings before pulling out of the dive.
Then it was nose high, at which point you get the nose below horizon ASAP after hitting full power. If you don’t do this, then you end up in the Stall, which you want to avoid really!
Ken was happy with these so we moved onto forced landings.
Again, this is something I would practice fairly regularly, but I managed to royally mess it up! So Ken pulled the power and we were right beside Kirkistown race track, perfect I’ll go in there. So I setup for a constant aspect downwind leg, only, it was upwind (doh). I misread the wind turbines (always use more than one) and even with that, I knew it was a north easterly wind, I should have done a gross error check to make sure it made sense. So, on I went, onto base, did my FISM checks (Fuel, Ignition, Security, Mayday) and realised I was far too high and not going to make it. Around we went, blast! Lesson here, don’t rely on a single turbine, some point into wind, some way. Think about the winds for the day and where they SHOULD be and also check other sources, flags, smoke, water etc.
I did another a bit later and it was much better, got the wind direction right and there was an amazing long narrow field (>500 metres), perfect for landing!
I setup an approach and as the Jab glides so well I put on both flap stages to reduce height and control the approach. As soon as I was happy we were going to reach I removed a stage of flaps to extend the glide. In this configuration I use the flaps as a break and this worked perfectly. I had remembered Ken mentioned doing this when discussing PFLs previously, worked a treat!
After this we headed back for an overhead join and forced landing in the circuit. The Jabiru makes this a breeze, it glides so well, from downwind you can nearly do a complete circuit, I of course aimed for the centre of the runway, cut the downwind leg short and applied flaps, again, mixing between stage 2 and 1 depending on the approach profile. Once happy I could make the middle of the runway I then brought my touchdown point forward using flaps. If you’re in a plane without flaps you can side slip of course, I find the Jab to be a bit too slippy and side slipping doesn’t really do too much to increase descent rate!
Despite my initial nerves of sitting with the instructor for the first time in a few years, I settled into the flight very quickly and just flew as I usually do! Luckily I hadn’t picked up too many bad habits which was great (i’m so self critical of my flying) and I found it extremely beneficial. I was a bit annoyed at misreading the wind and over shooting the first PFL, but that’s what practice is for, and who better to practice with and take advise from than an instructor!
As I was too busy flying I don’t have any video or pics from the flight, but my next article will be littered with amazing photos as the flight directly after this was around the stunning East and North coasts of Northern Ireland. Keep your eyes peeled for that one!