Tuesday, 29 April 2014

The runway shouldn’t come as a surprise.

During our briefing for my second cross country adventure I was feeling mildly confident. The planning had come a lot easier. I seemed to know and understand which number went in each box and why. I still made the odd mistake but they became evident very quickly. This is a good sign, you catch mistakes by constantly asking yourself “does this make sense, do those numbers look right?”

When you have a tail wind, you expect that your calculated heading isn’t going to change much but if your ground speed isn’t larger than your airspeed , well then you know you’ve messed up on the old whizz wheel somewhere.

Bob furthered bolstered my confidence, this time not by the questions he asked, but by the ones he didn’t. The night before he’d asked a few questions about the route that I’d planned and presumably had plotted a similar one onto his chart. He briefly glanced at my meticulously filled in planning charts and just asked “so what heading do we need for this leg? What are your check points?”

I imagine that he was just doing a quick mental comparison of what he’d worked out and when he’d found them to be close enough didn’t feel the need for further explanation.

Whew, stage one passed!

We then spoke a little about the airports.

First stop Waterloo, this is a controlled airport. Bob was satisfied that I’d got all the frequencies I needed to hand and knew roughly what the plan was. As a controlled airport we went over the fact that basically they can clear you into any part of the circuit.

One down, one to go. “What can you tell me about the runway at Tillsonburg?” Bob asked me.

I glance down at the diagram I’ve printed off. “Hmm, well I assume we are going for the tarmac and not the grass, ok it appears to be about a third narrower than I’m used to, for a start.”

“So what does that mean?” he probed.

“Well, it means that this isn’t the time for me to be having centre line issues, “I quipped.

“aaaaand, “ I drawled out, buying myself some thinking time, “it’s going to mess up my visual on approach.” I close my eyes trying to imagine the mental picture of a narrow runway and what it’ll look like on final. “I’m going to think that I’m higher than I am.” I conclude.

Bob agreed, warning me to watch out for this and not to drag it in too low. I nodded and vowed that I would keep a sharp watch out for this.

Unfortunately it would seem that my best intentions went straight out the window. Now I’ve had landing issues before, and I’ve unashamedly blogged about them. 

I’ve had flat landings, bouncy landings, landings every which where but the centre line and finally landings where I just couldn’t get the plane to come out of the sky. But I’ve never experienced an unexpected landing before.

Which is exactly what happened here at Tillsonburg. I’d scraped together a passable circuit and was happily about to set up for the final part of the landing,


Screech, screech screech.


That is the sound of the runway being somewhere other than where I expected it to be.

I honestly wasn’t prepared for the landing to be happening so… soon.

Despite Bob’s careful preparation and briefing, the landing came as a complete and utter surprise.

Not so good.

Bob, bless him tried to be tactful during the debrief where he described it as “a bit of a flat landing, without much in the way of a flare or hold off”

I was a little more brutal, “Bob, there wasn’t a landing. I flew the plane into the runway!”

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