The Auster

Chapter Four:

Whilst I was doing the PPL course, I was still gliding at Andreas too. In October 2006, the aircraft used for aerotow by the gliding club, a 1945 Auster J1 Autocrat, was in need of new owners. G-AHAU is more or less essential to soaring flight from Andreas so losing her was not really an option. To that end, a group of gliding club members, including myself were able to purchase the Auster. I bought an aeroplane share before I had a licence to fly it!

G-AHAU has been modified to use a Lycoming O-320 engine delivering 160hp and as a result is much more suitable for her working life as a tug. It also provides a significant improvement in climb performance.

Unlike most common light aircraft with three wheels in a tricycle layout, the Auster has a little wheel at the back, and more crucially this puts the main wheels forward of the centre of gravity. In the air this doesn’t make any difference to the handling, but takeoff, landing and ground handling are all different. In order to fly a tailwheel aeroplane, I needed to get a tailwheel endorsement.

However, in the Summer of 2007 just two months after I got my license, the Auster was involved in a ground collision taxying that required the engine crankshaft to be replaced, a new propeller and a new engine mount frame. This is the point Catherine thought the trial flying lesson four years previously was maybe a mistake.

I remained in current flying practice on the C172 and PA38 at Manx Flyers, but did about 1/3rd of the flying I had intended. I was able to start the IMC Rating too but only managed about 4 hours before the IMC instructor moved on to another school. Our summer holidays in 2007 and 2008 involved flying too, with a trip from Kissimmee to Cedar Key in the Garmin 1000 equipped Cessna 172, N7815D and a flight round Barbados in another 172 8P-JOY.

G-AHAU returned home in February 2009 having moved to an LAA Permit to Fly, and I completed my tailwheel rating at Shobdon, Herefordshire flying the Citabria G-AYXU with James Peplow. (Writeup) The rest of 2009 was spent getting comfortable with the Auster. I was able to take her on a couple of small trips too. The first time landing at a different airfield, and in our case a different country, in your own aeroplane makes the whole thing worthwhile.

  • Landing with the Blanik in the background
  • Landing after her first aerotow in 19 months
  • 2000ft Overhead the field with the "Boggles" the Blanik (G-DCVA) in tow
  • The new tyres don't quite fit on the hangar trolley, so she's outside for Saturday night
  • Taxying In with new tyres and disc brakes clearly visible
  • Alpha Uniform overhead Andreas after traveling back from Spanhoe

On the gliding front the next target was the Silver badge, requiring a flight of 5 hours, a flight where a 1000m height gain is made, and a flight of over 50km. In 2008 I visited Deeside Gliding Club at Aboyne in Aberdeenshire and was able to do the 5h flight in the SZD Puchacz, callsign FWE. (Writeup)  In 2009 I returned to Aboyne to do the height gain in the SZD Junior, callsign HCW. I was also able to complete the Cross Country Endorsement leaving the door open for the distance flight in 2010. Unfortunately the weather didn’t quite play the game that time, but it was a great trip in the Auster. (Writeup)  I also got to fly a proper high performance, glass fibre, retractable undercarriage glider, the ASW19. Not cutting edge by any stretch, but a whole different world compared to my little wooden Swallow.