The winter has been grim and long. Runways are waterlogged. Wheels are coated in thick mud. The wind has been so icy even a heater doesn’t take away the chill. When the snow stopped, the rain started. Even hardened pilots have been struggling to get in the air.
For a new pilot, a long hard winter is even more daunting. It doesn’t really feel like riding a bicycle where you jump in and it all comes flooding back to you. It’s more like going to gym – you need to train yourself back to the level you were at, but you can only do that by getting back in the air.
‘Air Law states that if you haven’t been up for three months, you need to first do three circuits on your own before taking a passenger up with you,’ reminds Greg Burns, examiner and instructor. ‘That’s basically if you haven’t flown December, January and February. Mark my words, that’s when accidents happen.
‘I remember getting back up after a break, and I swung round to do a turn that I had done hundreds of times before. No one else would have noticed it, but I did. I suddenly felt, ‘Oops, that didn’t go quite as I intended.’ So I pulled the bar back and took it a little slower. Ten minutes later, I was fine, but I did need that ten minutes.’
Choose a suitable day to go up for the first time, and recognise that you aren’t at the level you were at when you last flew.
Go through your checks rigorously, making sure you have familiarised yourself fully with the plane and the safety procedures. This is the time to be diligent.
If possible, go for a check flight with the airfield instructor, just to blast the cobwebs away. If you can’t do that, go up with another pilot you trust and don’t venture too far or be too ambitious at first. Take it slowly. Make sure any airfield you are heading to is open and fully functioning.