I had been promising myself a trial flight in a microlight and so this week looking at the weather, I thought to myself that Sunday seemed to be a great day to check it out. I had been once before but many years ago. Anyway, off I trotted to Medway Microlites based at Stoke Airfield on the Isle of Grain. They are a friendly bunch and Chris the CFI there was to take me for an hours orientation (Trial Flight).
I arrived at 10:30 and after signing up for a days membership donned my overalls and headed out to our chariot. As you can see from the pictures it was a beautiful morning and the grass had recently been cut so although it wasn't yet warm you could still smell summer just around the corner.
When we got to the trike Chris explained the basic parts. As I am a PPL (A) he obviously skipped some of the obvious points and soon I was sitting in the elevated position at the back with helmet on and headphones ready to go. By the way I have to say the headphones were excellent!
Chris talked me though the cockpit and all the do's and don'ts and soon we were on our way trundling down the runway. With a positive jerk of the bar we were airborne and I was impressed with the rate of climb which was 1000 ft per minute. We were soon crossing the River Medway and heading to Gillingham at 3100 feet. I noticed the air blowing around my feet was making my ankles and lower shin/calf feet really quite cold. The rest of me was suitably warm though (note for next time wear boots). Crossing the river lots of boats were out and it was great to see.
We headed over to a small airstrip (Farthing Corner) and also saw the Detling VOR before Chris asked me to have a go. At first I found it unusual as you can't see anything with the instructors crash helmet in front of you and with no view of the horizon or VSi wasn't sure if I was flying level.
Everything is in reverse to normal flying of course and so I found myself pulling the bar back slightly which means lowering the angle of attack temporarily and in my case increasing speed from 65mph to 70mph. Chris is very good and told me what I was doing. After a while relaxing it became more natural and started to make more sense. It is a very stable machine. It 'wants' to fly. After a few twists and turns we headed back to the marshes at the Isle of Grain. I wanted to go there to get a birds eye view as it was something I had not properly seen before.
Chris knows a hell of a lot of local history and gave me the complete run down of the area. He was like a proper tour guide and made it all very interesting.
Once over the marshes I had another go and then Chris took the reins for a fly along the sea wall. This is a long sea wall set against a great peaceful backdrop. Apparently this is a lesson the students do a couple of times during their course. They have to follow the contours. It is quite thrilling and again Chris flies you along while giving a total history and current affairs guide at the same time.
After exchanging waves with a few ramblers and a brief low flying exhibition (to look at what a group of people were doing on the beach) we headed home. Coming back to the circuit Chris explained that there was no dead side as such (meaning the circuit was always on the river side) and the join was along the length of the runway turning (kind of) crosswind we rounded the circuit. Chris made me position onto Final where he took over.
He talked me through the decent and it panned out exactly as he said it would with turbulence kicking in at exactly 300ft. Stoke is 10ft above see level. It looked like at this point you have to be ready up your game as the wind can knock you around a bit and being so close to the ground you have to act quickly. Needless to say we landed safely with what felt like a fast landing. However that was no doubt due to the proximity of the ground. We backtracked along the runway and closed down.
As a complete novice the thing that strikes you the most about the airfield is the proximity of the railway track and electric pilons. The former not being too much of a concern but the latter somewhat! On my way back to the car I took some snaps and you can see what I mean. When I spoke to the nice lady paying my money she said they didn't notice them anymore. I can imagine what she meant but as a newbie they certainly dominate the area.
As I was leaving, the airfield was filling up and Chris had another 3 trial flights to do. I didn't mention earlier but this lovely microlight was a Pegasus GT which is 100HP. Quite tasty in a scrap I suppose. I am going to think about doing this again actually, it was a lot of fun. You feel like you are flying (at one, intimate with the machine) and I can imagine doing this for the pure exhilaration of that.
Who knows .. could be my next challenge... we shall see ;-)
It was a great day today.