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By Anon
Think I know already the cause of what happened here - but worth writing down as a reminder more to myself than anything else of not to try too much too soon.

Recently started flying a new plane from a new field, both PA28s, but used to fly a standard 180 from a A/G strip, and the new one is a glass cockpit 180 from a full ATC field very busy with training. This was to be my first flight solo in the new plane after my initial familiarisation flight in mid-October - the lockdown had put a delay on this or I would have made sure to consolodate it all much sooner.

Weather looked good for a local flight, had contemplated going somewhere else but due to the amount of new things I would be faced with and the time since I last flew I elected to stick to an hour of local flying to dust off the cobwebs rather than take anything else on. It was a little windy across the runway, possibly 8-10 knots across, but I was fairly comfortable with that all things considered, wasn't exactly a tight runway to get into so I could allow myself a little leeway on speed on approach.

Perhaps the first indication that it wasn't quite going to be simple was when I read my chart wrong and read back the taxi clearance incorrectly, but after a quick correction from ATC I had that all sorted, and was kicking myself that I'd got that wrong, I'd read the chart as if I was on the other side of the hangar to the side I was actually on. Other than that though, nothing else eventful in the departure, and off I trotted to go and have a bimble around.

Now clearly after a four week lockdown and it being the first real nice weather day since that had ended I wasn't the only person who had the idea to go flying, as it seemed the world and his wife were in the skies based on the traffic I could hear on the radio (although only saw three or four - one with the aid of a traffic display that I wouldn't have seen otherwise that was as it happened the only one that came reasonably close to us - big thums up for EC :thumleft: ). With this in mind, I was well aware that it was going to be a busy rejoin, I was at least aware of a couple of students, an exam shooting the ILS for the reciprocal runway, and another insrument flight in the hold shortly to be commencing an approach. I took the decision to hold off a bit longer to call for rejoin, just to try and make sure that the exam traffic at least was out of the way given they were going the opposite direction to everyone else.

So with that time duly given, I called for rejoin and was asked to report 5 miles. No problem, route to the south back towards the airfield and call at 5 miles. The response "G-CD number 5, make one right hand orbit". Now I had started to descend towards circuit height, so it was a little more bumpy than it had been at 2500ft+, and that 8-10 knot crosswind at the surface was more like 25 knots at the height I was at, so my orbit was perhaps more of an oval than a circle, but all things considered that was ok. Surprisingly having been number 5, it was only one orbit and I was passed to the tower to join.

This is where things started to become a lot. Called the tower for join and got the response "G-CD join and report left hand downwind, runway XX". The circuit for this runway is normally right hand, so immediately I knew I was going to be unfamiliar with this circuit, but I was visual with the field and now at circuit height, so was able to join and report downwind. "G-CD report ready for left base". I was also aware that this stage that not far from the ATZ boundary was the edge of some Class D that I didn't want to get too near to, and that having been asked to only report ready for base there was a chance that my journey to the runway from here may not be without delay.

Sure enough, once I had completed the downwind leg I reported ready for base, and the response came back "G-CD make one right hand orbit, report complete". Even lower now than the last orbit, so the bumps are a little more pronounced, and I still have that 20-25 knot wind blowing me away from the airfield. Nevertheless I entered into the right hand orbit, which seemed to be going ok, until it was nearly complete. As I began to come into the last quarter of the orbit, I started looking over my right shoulder to get back visual with the runway. Now I'm sure you may have twigged where this is going, I could not for the life of me see this huge, mile long piece of tarmac, in front of me, even though I knew exactly where it was, and I had been visual with it all through the downwind leg. Now what made it slightly more worrying for me was that I knew exactly where the runway was (or at least where it should be), this plane has a G600, showing the runway, a GNS530, showing the runway, and a GNS430, also showing the runway. I also had SkyDemon on my tablet, showing the runway. All these were in agreement that the runway was right there, I knew where to look, but I just could not see it.

After what was probably only 5-10 seconds of mild panic but felt like several minutes, contemplating whether to just climb back into the overhead (aware there was something in the hold, and possibly others joining, but at the same time knowing I was at the end of the downwind leg of a very busy airport, with the boundary to some Class D less than 1.5 miles from me, and still moving at 80-90 knots), I spotted the runway, rather closer than I had been looking, reported ready for base, and was told to follow the Seneca and report final.

Everything from there again went without issue, and I was actually quite proud of the landing I pulled off given the crosswind, but by that point I was more relieved that I had managed to "refind" the airfield.

Whilst I am very aware that this was most likely a case of me just being unfamiliar with too many things, new plane, new airfield, different circuit direction, very busy, I haven't been able to get it out of my head for several days now - why couldn't I spot the airfield all of a sudden? It had been there when I started the orbit, why wasn't it there again when I finished it? Upon completing the orbit and not seeing the airfield, should I have just canned that approach and climbed back up to try again?

Looking forward to getting back up soonish to get another flight in to allay the doubts I have from last time, but since until today we've just had fog fog fog... :roll:
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By Artschool
I completed my night rating recently. During the solo circuit consolidation after turning downwind to base I looked back and could not see the lit runway. at first I actually assumed that the lights had failed or been switched off!

I continued the turn and low and behold it suddenly jumped back into view! same thing as you, was only for a few seconds but it certainly makes you think :mrgreen:
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By skydriller
I think the thing that took the longest time to learn when I learnt to fly was that if you cant see the town/airfield/feature when you think you should be able to...its probably right under the nose... :mrgreen:

Regards, SD..
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By leiafee
skydriller wrote:I think the thing that took the longest time to learn when I learnt to fly was that if you cant see the town/airfield/feature when you think you should be able to...its probably right under the nose... :mrgreen:

I’ve had this often enough to be a pattern to. If I can’t find something now, first step is look nearer to me!
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By PeteSpencer
skydriller wrote:I think the thing that took the longest time to learn when I learnt to fly was that if you cant see the town/airfield/feature when you think you should be able to...its probably right under the nose... :mrgreen:

Regards, SD..

This is the classic wheeze for finding Fenland........................... :roll:
By cotterpot
This is the classic wheeze for finding Fenland...........................

Particularly since the scrapyard and NDB were removed :D

Although the newly painted runway numbers were very noticeable earlier in the year :thumleft:
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