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Keeping an eye on the wind sock

By Wayne Elliott

I have the same passion for flying as when I started and it’s a feeling that is probably getting stronger as I get more confident with how I’m handling things.

I’m not looking too far into the future because I know I’ll get there eventually. I’m approaching it from a one-step-at-a-time point of view and constantly learning something new.

Being more comfortable at the controls is a great feeling but, having said that, you still get circumstances that throw you a curve ball.

It’s a case of getting comfortable with an aspect of flying and then something will happen in training that throws you out a little bit and brings you back to reality. But you cope with it, regroup, say ‘well that’s happened’ and get back on track again. The key to this is that what has happened stays in the back of your mind.

I’m probably averaging a lesson once a week and I’m approaching a stage where, if I pass this level I’m at, I’ll be able to fly solo in a limited radius from where I take off. I’m still a student pilot and have to be with my instructor Hugh Brownlee but he doesn’t have to be in the plane.

At the next level, Hugh will need to be at the aerodrome but he will give a set of instructions and I can fly off on my own, carry out the drills, fly back, land and then sit down and have a debrief about what I’ve done. And Hugh has a tendency to spring a theory exam on you.

At the moment the sessions are broken up between flying and debriefing and there is always something new to learn.

What I’ve been doing lately is learning to take off and land while allowing for a cross wind and this involves major adjustments in what you are doing in flying the plane, particularly on landing.

You come in with the plane pointing into the wind and might have to adjust by pushing down right or left rudders for a slight or significant change in wind. It means that sometimes you have to come in a little bit sideways. It’s the same for taking off.
The reason for all of this is that, for example, you might take off from Horsham where the weather could be fine and head to Mt Gambier where, because it’s closer to the coast, you might have a big cross wind. Yet you still have to land and you need to know how to do it.

Depending on the destination, the weather could change dramatically and it’s necessary to cope with changes. It’s about knowing what to do and practicing so you can understand how things can change and what to do to compensate.
On one occasion at Warracknabeal the other day I was doing a session on my own and I was coming in to land for the final time. But I noticed the wind sock at the aerodrome had changed direction slightly.

On two previous landings I had landed into a head wind but it had changed and now there was a slight cross wind.

It was interesting because a flight circuit only takes about seven minutes but the weather had changed in that time and I needed to be able to cope with it. That’s how quick conditions can change.

I had to abort one landing. I came in, got out of position and thought ‘this is ugly’ so I pushed the throttle in and went around again.

You have to know when you’re right to land and when you need to stop and think to yourself ‘this isn’t right so you better try again’.

What I had learnt had given me an understanding of what I needed to do.
It’s just purely knowing if you are okay to carry out what you’re attempting to do. In that instance, I came around and on my final approach had the plane pointed into the wind but got too far out of direction. I was down about 150 feet and out of position to put it on the centre of the runway and said to myself ‘this isn’t going to happen’. And it was no problem.

The feeling of growing confidence is great and getting to the next level will involve manoevres such as practicing left and right-hand turns at various altitudes and might even involve stalling the aeroplane. It could be a number of things and will depend on what Hugh instructs me do in the training-drill area.

But, getting back to dealing with cross-wind. It can be a bit challenging, depending on the strength of the wind and the angle to the runway. It presents a fair challenge I can assure you, particularly on the take off which is potentially more dangerous than landing.

But really, it’s all quite exciting.

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