Long overdue part 3
The previous day I had raced around to Sydney Aviators and arranged to hire HVX, an Arrow II, bumping into an old instructor of mine who is now a First Officer with Jetstar. He gave me some much needed encouragement.
I went around to Schofields to await the ATOs return. As usual they were running late, which only heightened my anxiety as the weak Autumn sunlight was draining into the west. Eventually they returned and I had around an hour to demonstrate to the ATO that I could, actually, land an aeroplane.
Taxied out again, lined up and took off. The aeroplane looked and sounded great, a real throaty thump from the Lycoming 360 and three bladed prop, but for some reason it was not an enthusiatic climber. Never mind, round we go and line up on final. The controller was in a chatty mood and gave witty quips to everyone on the frequency but neglected to give us a landing clearance. Go around and he promises to give us a landing next time. I thank him for his diligence. The aeroplane felt good, the control forces light but it felt sluggish and just a bit sloppy.
Final again and cleared to land. Holding speed very precisely, round out, reduce power, flare and then the aeroplane fell out of the sky, touching down with a pronounced firmness, which is a very kind description.
OK, I thought, that's just a warm up, but it was puzzling nevertheless. The ATO requested a flapless landing but otherwise kept a close and stoic countenance. Same again with 5 knots added and a very similar result. Almost a belly flop in the flare. I couldn't understand what was going on and I honestly thought I had lost the ability to land an aeroplane. Time to give up, chuck it in, tear up my licence and take up gardening.
"You know that airspeed indicator is calibrated in miles per hour," the ATO remarked, casual like. I examined the dial and noticed there were two scales, large miles per hour around the outside and tiny knots on the inner scale. No, I was not aware of that, nor did anyone see fit to mention it to me and this was also the first ASI I had seen so marked. The aeroplane, or should I say airplane, is an American import with an American style ASI. Speed is life and the difference between statute and nautical miles makes a big difference, at least to me.
Now with 15% more speed the Arrow was a lot more sprightly and well behaved, transformed, it bolted into the sky, the controls felt positive and firm. Round we went, holding good speeds and precisely lined up, even if I do say so myself. I put everything I had into this circuit, it was as good as I've ever done and I was rewarded with the sweetest, straightest, softest squeaker of a touchdown I can remember.
"That's more like it," the ATO commented. I felt exuberant, all the stress and anxiety lifted off and wafted away behind us. "Take us back," he said, "I'm happy with that."
Round again and a short field landing, pulling up and exiting within 400M of the threshold.
I finally had my commercial licence, but my day wasn't over. I dropped the ATO off at the clubhouse and taxied back to drop off the aircraft. Unfortunately my way was barred with a crowd of red and blue flashing lights. A jet had reported difficulties and declared an emergency, closing the aerodrome and attracting a gaggle of fire engines, police and ambulance vehicles. Eventually the jet made an uneventful landing, reporting their throttles had frozen, the crew electing to shut down a good engine in flight so they could descend. The single engine landing had looked no different to any other. I taxied back in the dark and handed the aircraft over, relieved, exhausted and went home for a dinner of baked beans and eggs on toast cooked by my congratulatory wife.