After almost two months of terrible weather and planning problems, I finally got back on board for my first flight carrying my official ultralight license.
Date: 28 feb 2021, 15:00 (UTC)
Route: EBZH - Schulensmeer - EBZH
- METAR EBBL 281455Z AUTO 05011KT 9999 NCD 11/04 Q1034 BLU=
Type: Local navigation
Flight time: 00:35
Since december, weather has been lousy. In January there was rain, a lot of rain. So much rain our grass strip was soaked.
Then a cold-wave hit the soaked field, making matters even worse.
The last two weeks were much better. Weather got warm and the ground had a chance to dry up. However, then a stiff southern wind made it not advisable for me to fly the ultralight.
A southern wind is a cross-wind, so it flows perpendicular to the runway. But additionally the wind comes in over the city of Hasselt and some buildings and trees. This makes is very turbulent air.
More experienced pilots were able to fly, but not me.
Luckily, weather doesn't stay the same for long in Belgium. And the last few days we have been enjoying some high pressure with sunshine, moderate 10 °C temperatures and a stiff but east-north-easterly wind.
And FINALLY I got the chance to fly again. In the mean time, I have received my official ultralight license.
I cooked up a plan to do a short navigation flight when the field didn't allow touch-and-go's.
Touch-and-go's were fine now, but instead I opted for a navigation flight. The main challenges this flight:
- Almost two months of not flying will require me to be extra cautious
- It's a great day on the weekend, many gliders are out
I arrived a little early at the field and spent some time getting a field of how busy the field was, while listening to the radio. Just to get an idea how the gliders are dealing with the busy traffic.
Gliders are circling near or above the airfield a lot, they use a different smaller circuit, they are towed or winched into the air. Sometimes they circle with two or three at a time in the same thermal (upwards flowing air).
There were also some visitors, one with an "Extra 300" doing some fancy take-offs. One JMB doing a low-pass.
This was surely the part that made me the most nervous.
Eventually, I got up to the holding point for my run-up. While there, a glider was coming in to land and asked if he could land at the right side of the runway. The right side for gliders is the runway normally used by the motorized aircaft.
The field commander asked me if I was ready to depart. But I wasn't, so I responded I would "hold" for the landing aircraft while I did my run-up.
Note that the field commander is not an ATC (Air Traffic Controller). Our field is uncontrolled, so nobody tells you what to do. All communication is for the purpose of "situational awareness".
Take-Off and Navigation
After that, I announced my line-up on the runway and didn't hear anyone panic, so that was good.
I then did my final check (compass, flaps, fuel, engine green) and departed.
I could see several aircraft in front of me, but if you can see them you can avoid them. My biggest fear is not seeing an aircraft that I should see.
All the aircraft of the club have a "FLARM" installed. It's a system that can tell you if other aicraft equipped with a FLARM are in your neigherhood. Luckily I have only heard it when on or close to the runway. When parked gliders trigger the alert.
I turned "cross wind" and then downwind to leave the area to the west.
I passed Schulensmeer at the time I intended, flew south a little bit and then returned to Hasselt.
Visibility wasn't great, there was a lot of dust so especially when heading towards the sun this limited what you could see. Luckily all the landmarks I needed were easy to spot (thanks IKEA). So navigation was easy.
Along the way, I also spotted some car racing at the Circuit of Zolder. Which is cool to see. But mostly I was trying to spot other traffic in the air. Especially on a busy day that stresses me out a bit.
Now came the time to join the circuit and land.
I announced my intentions in advance. My location and that I was inbound "from the south". Then when I was overhead the airfield and that I intended to join the circuit for runway 09.
When I was in final, the glider tower was ready to tow someone in the air. The airfield commander adviced them to hold until I landed. Which was nice.
I landed with mostly head-wind but a bit of cross-wind. But the wind was quite stiff again (probably more than 10 kts). So it was a little turbulent on final. This made it a bit tricky to nicely keep my approach speed of 100 km/h.
Eventually, I landed but the landing wasn't great (not terrible). I topped off a little to fast so I got a little too high. But eventually came in soft, a little too soft even.
What happened was my throttle wasn't 100% idle. It sometimes slips back a little bit and with the ultralight you don't need much power to get some lift. Pulling it full idle quickly got it well on the ground though. To top of the shoddy landing I veered a little to the left as I hadn't used enough right rudder.
So next time, hopefully on a calmer week-day I will do some more circuits.
I may also put the throttle friction a bit higher to avoid it from leaving the idle position too easily.
What to watch for
- Always 100% idle on landing
- Weekends are busy
- Two months hiatus makes you lose some of the routine
00:24 minutes of flying time: € 59,50