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Jim’s Final Blog

Day 17 – Thursday 24 August

What a day! It was both good, sad, exciting, scary and eventful for everyone. So much to say and so few words to use so I’ll stop wasting them.

Today is Caroline’s last day as she has to go to work tomorrow. That being said, she flew circuits, did take-offs and landings. Considering that a week ago she was struggling with straight and level flying, today was a massive achievement and her grin was spectacularly wide when she landed the final time. Ian was with me and we could see that she was particularly happy today. That was both the good and sad, I was sad that she was missing a day and will miss her. She may not realise it but she has been a touchstone for me these last three weeks. Tonight will be my first real night alone.

Ian Revell visited today with his rather nice Cessna (first one I’ve ever seen up close) and watched Caroline doing her circuits and touch-and-go’s. We had a chat over a coffee and, once Caroline and John were down, we all headed to lunch together. I’ve finally found a pilot who enjoyed his Air Law exam!! It was good seeing Ian again and I got to look after the FSDP Bear, named (get ready for this) Charles LindBEARg – I wonder who thought that up (Lou?).

Later in the afternoon we had another go at the circuits. Back in WN, the climbs were a lot more gradual and I kept urging the plane on as if it were a horse. It made no difference, WN was like a stubborn mule and did what it wanted. We did eventually get to 1000 ft but I think it was more by luck! Fortunately, being used to flying in WN, I didn’t make any new call signs up today, so that was a good thing. John gave me the latitude to make my own calls, do the checks and make the turns when I thought they should be done, correcting me and giving me guidance when required. I tried to utilise everything he had taught me, getting the picture right and trying to line the aircraft for a good landing. I think my landings were (overall) better than my previous two days apart from one….

I think it was our fourth or fifth landing (actually, touch-and-go), so we were down and I push the power to maximum for another take-off. When you put max power on the PA28 you need to give it a little right rudder to compensate for the torque. Unfortunately, I gave it a lot of right rudder and we started veering to the right. John took control and got us on the centre line again for the take-off. It shook me, that mistake and I didn’t recover until the final landing. I kept wondering what would have happened if John hadn’t been there. I know we all make mistakes but it doesn’t do your confidence any good. I recovered and we did our final landing of the day.

All in all (minus the right-veering incident) it was a good day. My landings are getting there (albeit slowly) and I’m getting to grips with the circuit. It was another good day. Tomorrow is my final day and I’ll be sad to go but, as they say, all good things come to an end. John, Anna and myself went out for a meal on me as a thank you for putting up with me. At least it gives my wife a short break!

Day 18 – Friday 25 August – Final Day


It’s hard to believe that the three weeks are done and I’ll have to say goodbye to Turweston (for a little while, at least) and my trusted leader, John. I won’t miss the dad jokes, though. I got in early, sans Caroline (which was a bit strange) and ‘first paraded’ the aircraft (I’m not allowed to call it a ‘plane’ as it has nothing to do with woodwork – maybe it’s an RAF thing). This would be my last day with WN and when I see it again, it should have a new engine and better performance. So, I gave her a good once over, cleaned the windscreen (or whatever you call it on a plane) and put a little air in the tyres.

When John arrived, he asked me if I still wanted to go to Old Warden airfield and I said I was. We set off pretty early, my first morning flight of the whole course and headed across to Biggleswade. I could see Chicksands (Depot Int Corps) from the air and it was hard to believe I was teaching there some twenty odd years ago (now I feel old!). I got to land on a narrow, grass runway which was fun as I could barely see it until we were right on top of it. Once down, we parked up and went out to the café. I’ve noticed a trend with this flying malarkey; it’s fly to somewhere they sell food and eat. It’s a miracle that all pilots aren’t overweight. That being said, John made short work of his ‘brunch’ whilst he treated me to a coffee. After food, we had a look around the museum and gardens. It’s a lovely place and well worth the visit.

Outside there was a Swordfish that looked as if it were about to take off so we waited to see (and hear) that start up. It took a while but it was an impressive machine considering its age. Huge, too. Once that had departed, we got back to WN, did the usual and set off back to Turweston. However, whilst en route, John asked if I wanted to go to Wells. I (naturally) said ‘of course’, it was more flying experience for me and another runway to experience. Wells (in Stratford-upon-Avon – Billy Waggledagger country) wasn’t the best landing I’ve ever made and we only stopped for a quick brew. The weather was overcast with promise of rain and storms later.

Not too long after, we were on our way back to Turweston and joining the circuit for our finals to land. This bit, I knew. John barely said a word and I took the aircraft around and down for a perfect landing. John was amazed and congratulated my mastery profusely. Not really, I bang the damned thing down and both our teeth rattled! At least we landed – kinda. Shutting down, reality kicked in and I knew that I’d be off soon and would return as a visitor. I thanked John for his patience and excellent instruction. I’m going to miss his humour and can only hope my next instructor will be half as good.

Unfortunately the adventure wasn’t over. When I got back to the hotel, my key wouldn’t work. I went to reception and they had packed my room up and prepared it for another guest. My kit was in the office. I phoned John and we got it sorted. For some reason, a mix up was made and I got ‘moved out’ so I booked another night and moved myself back in. A little faffing around but no big deal. It was now, as I pack my bags ready to move out for real tomorrow, that I’ve become sad at leaving. Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to getting home and taking a break but I will miss this place. That doesn’t mean that I’ll stop flying, though. I’ve now gotten the bug and want my licence, hopefully by the time of the next RIAT but we’ll see.

It’s been a hell of a rollercoaster and I feel better for it.

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