The first thing I thought as I climbed into the front cockpit of FBV that evening was ‘this is it, so I had better not stuff it up!’
After Joe helped me out with my control checks, I proceeded with my checklist, steadily thinking things through. At the back of my mind was the image of a broken tailplane following an accidental ground loop, and various other things such like. As I had a final glance at the windsock, all I could think was ‘this is it, this is it’.
The ground roll and aerotow were good. The people on the ground said it looked ‘really good’, or something like that. But in fact I was one or two feet to the left, which did not bother me too much, as the light crosswind meant that nothing would be ‘perfect’. After pulling off at 2000′ and thanking the tug pilot, it all went quiet and calm. I think if the people on the ground had squinted enough, they would have been able to see the massive silly grin that I had ear to ear.
After about a minute or so of floating about, I decided to try a calibrated stall. so I slowly brought the stick back, through 45 knots, 40, 35, at 33 knots I could feel that I was just on the edge of the stall, So I kept pulling the stick back. When it hit the stop I was stalling at a leisurely 32 knots! After a smooth turn to the right I managed to find a small 1 knot thermal that lasted for a couple of minutes.
As I worked my way down through 1000 feet QFE, I was remembering everything that I had ever been told about the circuit, and managed to set myself up quite well, starting a turn onto downwind leg at 800 feet above the fishing ponds. I kept this up, and tried to keep between 40 and 50 knots at the correct distance from the club for my altitude. As I was still at 600 feet where I would usually start a 45 degree leg, I decided to miss it out. This also gave me a longer base leg, that would give me more time to trim for my airspeed and pop open the brakes if I was too high, which I did. I started that nice lazy turn onto a short final for the south west run. Half airbrake seemed right, so that I would round out over my reference point. I flew it at 55-60 knots all the way down to roundout, which Robin described as ‘textbook’, so it must have been good!
Thanks to Robin who took many pictures and a couple of videos too!