New year, new ... nothing

It's been a long winter of little to no flying, so everything has got a lot worse in the interim. But the gloomy period is over, weather's getting consistently better, and I've made a breakthrough in training on the circuit.

Four months of no flying was never going to improve my skills, so coming back to circuits this month, my flying has got worse in every way. Even flying straight and level was a real effort at first. But I'm now three lessons into the new season, and gradually I've remembered how to do it. I've only been flying circuits, mostly in order to practise landing, and there have been a few firsts already.

The slightly embarrassing achievement is managing to make an air traffic controller laugh. I made a downwind call, "G-IZ, downwind for touch-and-go runway 23 grass... correction, 05 grass. Err, that last was G-EI." If you haven't forgotten everything from last year too, you'll recall that 23 grass and 05 grass are the same runway, but named differently according to which direction you use, usually the one into wind. You should also recall that the Group's two aircraft are G-AHIZ and G-AOEI.
There was a definite chuckle in the controller's voice as she instructed, "G-EI, report final," which the instructor insisted in pointing out to me in the debriefing... and in Group after the debriefing... and the following week.

Another one which I shouldn't really be proud of was my first go-around. On final approach, the wind came in under the visor of my helmet, so my eyes were watering somewhat and I lost track of my landmark on the horizon (the one you use to line up on the runway). The approach was good up to then, so I was definitely somewhere near the runway threshold, but I no longer had much idea of where I was in relation to it. I could still judge my height, but when the time came to flare, I wasn't decisive enough with the controls, and we bounced quite severely. Not being able to see the runway and having a bounce was just too much "nope" for me, so I called out "Going around" on the intercom, firewalled the throttle, and kept it level until we got back up to speed on the climb-out.
I heard my instructor say, "Well done," presumably for knowing when to quit, and asked him about it in the debrief. He said it was a good decision, but also told me how I could have corrected that bouncy landing: by adding a little power and staying level, before cutting it again to flare.

The third one is the real achievement. Last week I made the first landing I was actually happy with, despite a moderate crosswind. The approach was ropey at first: I was very low, and I wasn't quite sure if I was in line with the runway. It's hard to judge, because with a crosswind you have to approach with the aircraft at an angle to the runway, pointing into wind to stop it blowing you off course, and then straighten up at the last moment. I added some power to get me to the runway threshold, and reached flare height right above the numbers. I straightened up and levelled the wings to hold off the runway, pulling the stick back progressively to arrest the descent. This time, I must have got the height to start the flare, and the rate of pulling up, just right, because we gently sank onto the grass and touched down on three points. I didn't rest on my laurels, though: I had to keep us pointed along the runway during the landing roll, and then turn around to backtrack to the runway threshold again.
At this time of year, the sun stays quite low in the sky, so it can be hard to see where you're going. This is my friend Chris refuelling EI, but you wouldn't know it from the photo.
All in all, it's been a very disappointing winter, but at least I'm making progress again now. Hopefully I'll be off on my first solo flight soon!

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