I had a rough night Saturday night because my 19 month old son was up wailing his head off for a good part of it, but once calm had descended on the house once more, wild horses were not going to stop me getting myself over to Southend airport for a midday trial lesson in basic aerobatics. Tired and slightly heavy headed I arrived 45 minutes early in the excitement.
I had booked my session with the Southend Flying Club which is situated on the west side of Southend Airport. A friendly bunch they are, and I (like many before me I'm certain) was extended a warm welcome. It was the first time I had been there. Obviously I had flown over it on my Skills Test (eventually ... as I was told to stand by for quite some time) and obviously I had talked to Southend Radar. I think since about the time they had EasyJet start operating from it. I remember their ATZ was temporarily extended out touching the one at Rochester. It's quite a big place and people were there in abundance getting ready for their holidays. It seemed quite surreal really, especially when I arrived seeing people pulling suitcases. I would be using the same taxiway as them!
When I arrived I met Pete who was to be my excellent instructor for my lesson and he immediately made me feel at ease. A complete professional. Off we went into a briefing room for a chat about the lesson and a good briefing as to what we would be covering. It was good that I was familiar with a C-152 as that saved a lot of explanation I'm sure. I was to take off, get us out to our designated 'play area' (actually D138 - a danger area but inactive for the day) and he would start the session. Pete was to to prompt me on the radio calls.
Once all the internal checks were complete I requested the tower for a taxi clearance which was immediately granted. We were to be on Runway 24 and QNH was 1015. It was a gorgeous day for flying with a scattering of cumulus clouds at about 3,500 feet. See photos - lovely eh! I held off my taxi and waited for an EasyJet airliner which had just vacated to pass us on the taxi way, one of the crew (right hand seat of the cockpit) smiled and gave us a wave which we returned with a smile. Pete informed me he had trained many of the crew here at Southend.
Off I went on the taxi, (probably the longest I have done) and in no time at all I was at holding point Alpha 1 performing my power checks. One of the Mags (Magnitos) seemed fouled up as the mag test resulted in about a 400 rpm drop so with brakes applied I ran the engine up to about 2,300 RPM and held it there for about 15 seconds. This seemed to clear it and so after completing a final visual check of the approach path, runway and departure path advised the tower I was ready for departure. I was given clearance to line up runway 24. The drop bars were not illuminated and so I proceeded to position myself on this mammoth runway. No flaps needed today! Once clearance was granted for takeoff I proceeded down the runway rotating smoothly at about 60 knots and climbing to about 400 feet before I had reached the end of it! Upon rotation the aircraft wanted to weathercock into the crosswind from the right but I corrected this with aileron and held her nicely on the 240 degree heading. Pete complimented me on a nice take-off! I was given an instruction to turn left at 600 feet and climb up to 2000 feet and head over to Danger Area 138 . Here we would use the coast line as our positional line while performing our aerobatics. We were transferred from the Tower to the Radar service obtaining a basic service in the process and climbed to 3000 feet in preparation for our activities.
Pete performed the first inside loop (once termed a 'loop the loop') which was (as he predicted) rather a blur to me. I remember being hit by the positive G in the stomach. The feeling drifting over the top, (neck craned waiting for the horizon to appear right side up) is pretty awesome. One more loop completed (this time with me feathering the controls) and it was my turn. Back up to 3000 feet I put her into a 2100 rpm dive and watched for the 115 Knots Airspeed. Once there and wings leveled I pulled back on the yoke to bring the nose right up, applying full power and over we went. Just past the top I retracted the throttle and kept the yoke tight into my stomach. As we came back round the horizon reappeared and I leveled her off nicely. Pete seemed very pleased with how it went and so we did another one. It was fantastic that’s all I can say. It is certainly easier on the stomach when you do it yourself as opposed to being a passenger. I guess this is because you are concentrating on something. After this Pete did a couple of aileron rolls and and stall turn and it was time to head back. Switching from radar back to tower I joined on base and turned onto Final at about 5 miles. The tower asked to be contacted with 2 miles to go which I did and then proceeded to land well. We had a shorter taxi back to the club which is situated at the west end of the airport whereby I parked up and shut down. Pete complimented me on some good flying and off we went.
I felt elated and quite light headed at the end of it all. I'm not sure how some people attempt this with absolutely no experience in a light airplane. That must be quite stomach churning. Pete says its about 50:50 people who make it through ok and there is no telling who it is going to be.
Anyway, would I like to do this again? Absolutely. I really loved it and I think I would like to carry on every now and again to do a lesson with a great instructor like Pete. It doesn't have to end in a rating, its still knowledge and it's challenging and therefore it is all good experience. Definitely a day to remember for the rest of my life.
12/05/13 C152 G-BGAF EGMC EGMC 11:40 12:25 0:45 Loops, Rolls, Stall Turns
HOURS = 46:35 DUAL + 15:50 SOLO