Things I have flown #1 – the Piper PA28

18 Nov

My first time at the controls of an aeroplane were during a flight in G-BOOF, a Piper PA28-181 on the 22nd June 2001. My log book shows us out at 1200 and back at 1242, flying from Blackbushe (EGLK) in Surrey and with James Maxwell as pilot in command (PIC).

G-BOOF Aug 2001

Oscar Foxtrot on the stand at Blackbushe

As I have said in the introduction to Things I have Flown I had been calling in at Blackbushe to watch the action and have lunch for a while before making the decision to go and see one of the two flying schools. I chose Euroflyers (European Flyers) and turned up the next week for this flight.

The local area for stooging about and practising was up around junction 13 of the M4 near the services at Chieveley, and area I knew well from the ground and, after the normal checks, we took off towards the West with James handling the controls and me lightly following through and turned right a bit. At around 1500 feet James told me that I had control and I flew as a pilot for the first time.

The iconic Cold War site of Aldermaston has overflight restrictions, so we skirted that and headed along with the twin landmarks of Didcot power station (as seen in the original Christopher Reeve Superman movie) off the nose to the right and the former Greenham Common airbase off the nose to port.

Over the local area I practised a few turns and climbs and all too soon it was time to come home. It was a pleasant day in weather turns with just a few scattered clouds and navigation was easy. James told me what heading to take and I flew us back to junction 10 of the M4 before turning South and descending to around 1500 feet. I made the final right turn back towards Blackbushe and James resumed control to bring us in, again with me following through. Once off the runway I took over again to taxi us back to our hardstanding.

In the office we completed my first log book entry and I had made a start. We flew Oscar Foxtrot together again later that day, 1420 to 1506 my log book tells me and I went home with 1.4 hours in my log and having worked on exercises 4 and 4.2 of the PPL course.

James and I flew Oscar Fox again the following week, 29th June, but this was a day of poor weather. We had completed pre-flight checks and the briefing for exercise 6.1 and were waiting for signs of the 1000 foot ceiling to lift. A guy came in from Hurn (Bournemouth) and told us that it was clear to around 3000 feet from a couple of miles West so we fired up, checked systems and departed. James handed me control at 500 feet while he switched to the local flight information service (FIS), but we hit a burst of rain at 700 feet and I had a moment or two of blind flying practice before he was able to resume. We could not find clear air and elected to abort, turning right and right again to a reciprocal course. Through a brief clearing of the cloud we saw the faithful junction 10 on the M4 and turned onto 180.

Flying at 1000 feet in pouring rain was an interesting experience for a newcomer. James was calm and talked to me about high ground ahead of us if we ventured too far South, but a glimpse of water below could only mean Camberley lakes and so we turned onto a Westerly course and began to descend. We came out of cloud at about 500 feet and with the runway in sight. Just a slight adjustment lined us up and we were down safely. My log shows 0925 to 0950 for that flight.

Oscar Fox took us up again on the 10th August and I have 1348 to 1500 in my log for 1.2 hours on exercises 6.2, 7 and 8. One recollection of this flight is that there were two Oscar Foxtrots operating that day and we had to ask Farnborough FIS if full call signs could be used.

My next appointment was for the 12th September 2001, but certain events of the previous day curtailed all flying and it was on the 19th that James and I next flew, this time in G-BNNZ, a Piper PA28-161, and the difference in engine was very noticeable. We flew from 1318 to 1424 running through exercises 10a and 9. After we had debriefed and completed the paperwork I booked again for the 5th October, but when I arrived that day the office was locked and a notice on the door informed all and sundry that the company had gone into liquidation.

James arrived and, with his colleague instructor, we all trooped over to CabAir, they looking for jobs and me looking for flying. The story will resume with tales of Flying Grumman AA5s in the next episode.

That concludes my time on PA28s as, as yet, I’ve not flown another one., but I hope to add to my 4.1 hours on the type at some point. I like them. The single door may be a bit of a pain, but, of the four aircraft types that I have flown so far, they are my favourite of the general aviation variety.

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