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Mike's flexwing training blog

Mike Calvert

Staff member
I had initially signed up just for an 'Experience' flight, but when I discussed this with the instructor and explained that as long as I could fit in aircraft (I am TALL) and I actually enjoyed the experience as much as I thought I would, we agreed to split the 2 hour Flight Experience into two 1 hour lessons.

Flight 1 - Ex 1 - Flying in the back seat, experience microlight flying for the first time - amazing! After flying for a while I took control from the back seat, with my instructor (Graeme) covering the throttle, and from that point on I flew until we were almost landing. To say it was a relief to hand control back was an understatement!

My First light - please excuse the bagpipe music, seemed relevant for a flight in Scotland..

Flight 2 - Ex 2,3 & 4 - Flying in the front seat from now on, and I just about squeeze my long legs in, but I fit and can steer, manage brakes and foot throttle, so off we go. As I'm in the front seat I get my first attempt at taxying, Graeme uses the hand throttle for takeoff and landing, but after landing I'm responsible for braking. This was a very gentle introduction to a host of things - the checklists for a start, radio calls, air rules, especially before takeoff, but also covered all through the flight. I lucked out with the weather and has some perfect clouds to fly around.
I committed fully to the training at this point. I joined the club, got my pilots logbook, ordered a FlyCom helmet and put in an order for a made to measure Oozee flight suit- that was August and at the time of starting this blog that made to measure suit still hasn't arrived, and we're at the tail end of November now... blasted covid!!

First microlight lesson, complete with dodgy music..

Flight 3 - Ex 5 & 6 - my taxying still sucks, gradually training my brain to steer with my feet and not the bar at the end of a flight is entertaining, but as Graeme points out, I'll be taxying on every lesson, so this is something I will be getting a heap of practice with! Main point is of course, besides other traffic (important!), be aware of the wind direction, and don't do the novice error of concentrating on the steering and forget the upwind wing is about to be picked up and flip you over unless you angle the wing properly!

Flight 4 - Ex 7 - Another really fun lesson, nothing terribly challenging about this, although everything is incrementally settling in, from the checklists through to the muscle memory for flight control.

Flight 5 - Ex 7, 8 & 9A - turns, timing the rolling out of turns, turning to aim to a feature, turning to a compass bearing, which can be entertaining trying to do mental arithmetic while also flying.

Flight 6 - Ex 7, 9B - The stuff I learnt from the previous lessons now starts getting combined - power and attitude - up to now it's all about power = climb/descend ; attitude(or trim) = speed ; now we're into 'performance climbs', climbing turns, descending turns etc - this is the "are you dizzy yet" lesson where you rarely seem to fly straight and level. Not complaining though, this is flying and I love it!

"are you dizzy yet?"

Flight 7 - Ex 10A & 10B - Stalls - I reckon this may have been my favourite lesson up to this point - plenty of height, and demystified stalls, the recovery, and it certainly made for some interesting sensations as the wing stalled, but no dramas because it recovers so easily.
We covered HASELL checks before this lesson, but they were more rigorously enforced for this one.

Stalls and recovery

Flight 8 - Ex 6, 7, 8, 9A, 9B & 10B - This was a familiarization flight in what was to become my syndicate aircraft - a P&M GT450 - main thing here was how the GT450 wing responded to inputs compared to the QuikR I had been flying up until now. We did lots of exercises, including some practice approaches to a random field, and then a proper approach to the airfield, and on that final approach Graeme had to act as a steering buffer to stop me over controlling the wing - it responds much faster than the QuikR wing and I was flying it like the QuikR....


Flight 9 - Ex 9B & 12 - we revised 9B, the 30 degree climbing and descending turns, and then it was time to start circuits. At my airfield, the circuit height is 500ft and the overhead join is at 1,500ft. We can also have left or right hand circuits, as deadside is always to the north of the airfield, regardless of wind direction. Something changed here though - up until now, I'd had a horrible feeling of 'ground rush' as we landed, probably because a) I was looking down at the ground, and b) I KNEW I couldn't handle the plane at this point (OK, believed I couldn't) - but now, with lots of approaches under my belt, and Graeme's quiet instruction and encouragement, suddenly it clicked and not only was I not terrified, I was starting to enjoy it!

Flight 10 - Ex 12 - Ah, more circuits, I've heard plenty of moans, but I like the intensity of the circuit! It's so busy, a very short circuit, things happen quick fire, and then you land, or go-around, and do it again.
There was the slight tendency to steer the plane to the right as I rounded out... once we realised it was me and not the wind, we paid more attention to it and I stopped doing it.
Add to that, that pushing on the brake (left foot) tends to see the plane steer right - again, something to be aware of,

Circuits - on Runway 29

Flight 11 - Ex 12 - Paid more attention to getting the overhead join correct this time, and back into circuits - this time on the 'tight' runway 11 that has no direct approach because of noise abatement rules, so the approach is a descending right hand turn - apparently one that scares the hell out of visiting pilots, but that just shows the value of a good instructor - with Graeme's coaching and reassurance I really enjoyed this.

Circuits - on Runway 11

And that brings us up to date - last two booked lessons were cancelled due to bad weather.

The last two weekends I've been back at the airfield, not to fly, but to do some maintenance on the GT450, and to fit camera mounting points, so I'm hoping future videos will be a lot better as since moving onto the GT450 I've only had footage from a head camera.

I've now got camera mounting points on :
1. Right wing - temporary, should have a formal mod approved mount with power sorted soon.
2. Forward upright spar (apologies if that's not the correct terminology!) - just above the screen.
3. On the handlebar off to the side - can rotate 360 degrees on a sprung swivel that's got a really solid movement so won't turn in the wind
4. Still got the head camera, mounted on the side of the helmet

Fingers crossed that the weather plays ball for my next lesson booked for 6 days time....
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When turning onto a compass heading, I was taught to look at the compass and estimate a target feature for the turn. E.G if I need to turn from a heading 030 to 120, the feature will be exactly to my right.
It's much easier to turn to a feature than chase the compass!

Mike Calvert

Staff member
Spot on Peter, chasing the compass is a mistake - I was taught exactly the same as you - it's more the mental arithmetic of working out roughly what angle to look to, if you see what I mean?

My notes (Magnetic Heading for Dumbies? :ROFLMAO: )

Magnetic Heading :
Turn Left - numbers go down
Turn Right - numbers go up

Current heading 030 , asked to turn to 150 - that's plus 120, want numbers to go up, so look to right, estimate a bit past 90 degrees, pick a feature, aim for that

Current heading 240, asked to turn to 140 - that's minus 100, want numbers to go down, so look left, just over 90 degrees, pick a feature, aim for that

Passing through 000 or 360, same, but think of sweep of clock hand

Current heading 010, asked to turn to 240 - that's minus 130, want numbers to go down, so look to left, estimate a good chunk past 90 degrees, pick a feature, aim for that

Mike Calvert

Staff member
Yay! 3 weeks since last lesson, but a windless and sunny morning today, even if a little on the cool side!

Arrived at the airfield just before 8am, took me a good half hour to extricate the plane from the hangar, but it certainly warmed me up.

Joy of joys, while I was getting briefed on exercise 13 the bosses arrived with a nice big package - my made to measure O-zee Exeat suit has finally arrived - Oh my it is comfy and really cozy :cool::):cool:


Mixed fortunes with the landings in the lesson - still working on getting the timings of the round out and hold off just right...

Favorite take off was doing a Short Field take off -two decent sized guys and half a tank of fuel and reviewing the video and a quick guestimate using the map and knowing that Runway 029 is 300m of concrete I'd estimate no more than 90 metres from stationary to airborne :) Gotta love the GT450!


Mike Calvert

Staff member
Due to some rather murky conditions this morning, my instructor's 2-hour flight experience customer postponed, so I got another lesson :)

It was indeed murky, we were doing well to even get the 500 ft circuit height, but I got plenty of circuits in :)


On the plus side, my take off's, circuits, radio calls, checks etc etc are all spot on :cool:

On the down side, my landings still suck :( Roundout and hold off - timing, how far, and how fast to move the bar - just hasn't clicked yet :mad: Ain't giving up though! Weather permitting I'm back on Friday for more fun :cool:


Cross Country Pilot
You're doing great. It's a really tight circuit.

I got sent from Perth to East Fortune for one of my solo XC flights as a student. I remember before I got ready to take off the instructor said to remember "to turn onto base leg in the circuit when you are beside the Vulcan bomber, oh and to remember it's a 500ft circuit rather than the 1000ft one at Perth" He didn't mention making sure there wasn't a bus going round the roundabout at the end of the runway as I was staring at the tiny strip of runway ahead.

Keep the updates coming.
...On the plus side, my take off's, circuits, radio calls, checks etc etc are all spot on :cool:

On the down side, my landings still suck :( Roundout and hold off - timing, how far, and how fast to move the bar - just hasn't clicked yet :mad: Ain't giving up though! Weather permitting I'm back on Friday for more fun :cool:
Well done on progress thus far.

On the landings, when I was still instructing I was having difficulty getting on of my students to 'click' with the landings and I asked a very experienced instructor if there was something extra or diifferent I could do to help - he said, not really just practice and practice until one day it happens. After that it's about becoming more consistent in varying conditions.

I'd say to my students that you have to believe you can land but can only truly believe that when you actually can land, it's an enigma. There are lots of ways the process of landing (or in old-speak 'alighting') can be described, but in many ways it's an art that requires an instinctive feel which can only be acquired by assisted practice. It might be worth asking your instructor to give a 'reminder' demonstration every so often.

Good luck - it will click one day.

Mike Calvert

Staff member
Thanks both (y)

Renmure - yes, it's quite scary going over that bit of road, especially on a powered approach with that lower angle of approach :ROFLMAO: Do count your blessings though that it wasn't an easterly blowing and you'd have had the fun of 011, which even newly qualified pilots here sometimes struggle with despite training here! Anyway, 029 is more normal for the prevailing winds which at least gives a more conventional approach :)

MadamBreakneck - yeah, I think it will be practice, practice, practice - I *think* I'm slightly too slow in the roundout (because on my earlier attempts I was too fast..) then the transition into the hold off has to be 'exponential' rather than linear and again I'm not quite fast enough there. Too fast sometimes though and the nose starts to rise.. at the risk of over thinking, I think I *slighltly* pull back (a little!) but should probably just pause and let the decaying airspeed allow the nose to lower a little...

Then there's the 'check back' on landing, to stop a hop, and once or twice I've not got that timed right either.
It's frustrating, and my instructor isn't sure if it's just a case of be patient, keep at it, and it'll click, or is there something else he can do - He's been doing a demo of some form on each lesson, and we're on the 5th go now.

It's all about trying not to land, I understand that, but somehow I don't get the timing right of the roundout and hold-off.... so near and yet so far! :mad: Still, I'm an optimist, and this is no hardship in so far as I'm enjoying it despite the landing frustrations, and still love the thrill of leaping up into the air on take off every time :):):)
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When you "get it" you'll find that a really good landing is one of the most satifying things in flying, well it is for me anyway. Meantime as somebody who has been stuck on the ground all summer I look forward to reading your exploits, if with a certain amount of envy.


Cross Country Pilot
For some people the task of arriving at ground level then stopping neatly is intuitive, for others it's not.

Brain-power can be used to help decide what to do - which should really be being employed for other purposes - but that's what the instructor is there for.

[Smug mode]
Learning to ride a unicycle is similar except there's absolutely no way your brain can do the calculations and direct your muscles fast enough to stay afloat.

You just have to start between two ware-house racks a yard apart and get yourself to the end of them. After about two months of half an hour per day after work, you do get to the other end without having to touch the racks. The racks were your instructor. By that time it's those same body systems that you use for walking (and playing badminton) that do the unicycling work, and your brain can get on with looking for other threats and problems.
[/Smug mode]

For goodness sake even walking accurately through a supermarket is an amazing skill; we can walk so well only because we spent so much time trying.

Mike Calvert

Staff member
I got sent from Perth to East Fortune for one of my solo XC flights as a student. I remember before I got ready to take off the instructor said to remember "to turn onto base leg in the circuit when you are beside the Vulcan bomber, oh and to remember it's a 500ft circuit rather than the 1000ft one at Perth" He didn't mention making sure there wasn't a bus going round the roundabout at the end of the runway as I was staring at the tiny strip of runway ahead.
Hopefully this will bring some memories of that approach to 029 :cool:

That's footage from Saturday's lesson with nice clear cold blue skies, still working on footage from Sunday's flight...


Cross Country Pilot
Yup, that looks familiar. :D
I learned a really good lesson about gravity at EF one day. I'd filled up with fuel at Perth intending to fly over solo but then agreed to take a passenger whose weight meant that we were, lets say, just legal. After rounding out we still landed like a cannon ball dropped from a balloon. At least with longer runways you have the luxury of playing with the power to hold off a bit.