Soft field for real.

There I was... Driving from Gatwick Airport down to Bognor along the A29 in the VW Polo on final approach to Pulborough in West Sussex when I spotted a Cessna 150 with black smoke trailing from it. "Rich mixture - carb heat hot" I thought, "must be practicing forced landings, but I wouldn't do that around here, the fields are wet clay!". Whoops... I've got to keep my eyes on the road!

Over the hump back bridge across the river Arun and we were on the flood plain, and there on my left after the solitary cottage sat a Cessna 150 in the mud... Back into the entrance and hop over the farm gate and I walked over to the aeroplane and introduced myself to its hapless pilot.

The engine checked out fine, even giving a healthy 2450 Static RPM, it turned out that the student pilot on his qualifying cross country had not cleared the carb' ice prior to takeoff from Thruxton. At Thruxton, the dewy grass provided plenty of moisture to ice the carburettor. If you don't clear this ice before takeoff it won't go away, in fact it will get worse and choke the engine (rich mixture - black smoke).

The police arrived in their BO 105 helicopter from Shoreham so I made sure they landed well clear of the Cessna so that they would not blow it over. They took a few notes, told Dunsfold (Radar Service) all was well, and then left.

"G - AYRO, this is one of John Heaton's aeroplanes" I said, the student was shocked that I knew the boss (he couldn't have picked a better time and place to force land). So we went down the road to a telephone box and called John...

The field was short, and very very soft, so I gave my car keys to Marco (Dutch Aviator, who I'd picked up at Gatport Airwick) and asked him to take the student to Goodwood, if I managed to takeoff.

For my first try I selected ten degrees flap, checked the carb' heat, and applied full power as I lined up on my takeoff track into a light wind. At my GO/NO GO decision point I read 35 KIAS and I still had not managed to get the nosewheel out of the mud to get a good angle of attack. I closed the throttle and taxyed back while I thought about it.

Ten degrees of flap increases the drag, moves the centre of lift rearwards (more weight on the nosewheel), and increases the angle of attack on the tailplane/elevator increasing the drag further... So for my second try I left the flaps up.

At the decision point I had 45 KIAS this time, and the nosewheel was clear of the ground, could I fly? Yes! So I reached down and selected the flaps down for 3 seconds (around 10) and the aeroplane rose into the air easily.

The mud was washed off the aeroplane by the time the Polo arrived at Goodwood. I flew back to Thruxton with the student. I had to give Marco a quick cockpit brief on the Fuji FA200 so that he could come and pick me up.