Learning a new aircraft – the Robin HR200/100S

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Rescued from a complete washout

The Bank Holiday weekend had been pretty much of a washout. I’d planned my first foreign trip (to Le Touquet) and also another shorter trip with passengers – both had to be cancelled. Unusually, on the following Saturday I had a further full weekend day free to go flying! I thought I’d plan a longer trip and was hoping to reschedule the postponed Le Touquet trip. Sadly, the PA28’s were already booked up – club members are making the most of the weather and the remaining time available at Lyneham.

However the club had recently made available a new aircraft intended for use by PPLs on such longer daytrips and overnight stops – it’s much less likely to be used for training because its different from the rest of the fleet. This is a 2 seater Robin HR200/100 which has a reasonable range of >500 miles and a cruising speed of 100 knots+. The downside is the relatively low powered engine means slower climb rates and perhaps a longer takeoff run. The lower fuel consumption (22 litres/hour) translates to a lower hourly rental cost too.

Differences training required

Since the Robin was free the following Saturday, I booked it up. But before I could use it, I’d need to be signed off with differences training by an instructor. With a close eye on the forecast and rain radar, I could see that it would brighten up early on Monday evening and arranged to meet Dave, the instructor, who would give me a short introduction.

I turned up at Lyneham at 6pm to find the weather still closed in, but it quickly lifted and we were in the air before 7. I’d flown a Robin before, the larger DR400, for my night qualification training at Gloucester. Some aspects of this two seater seemed familiar – the sliding canopy makes it easier to get in and out, as well as giving an excellent view all around. The wings are of quite a different shape to a PA28 Warrior, and have 2 stages of electric flap. While the main instrument dials all seem familiar, the position and type of switches for fuel pump, carb heat, throttle etc. were all different. Perhaps the biggest change is the stick, rather than a yoke for directional control.

Nav kit is VFR only

Dave explained the instruments and controls and we walked through the checklist.. Frankly, the navigation kit is pretty basic – there is a VOR but no ADF, DME or ILS. It’s very much a VFR flying machine which will limit the kind of weather its used in. An Aware GPS will be fitted soon, probably in the next few days, together with upgrading the transponder to Mode C.

Fun to fly though

However it was fun to fly once in the air. We practiced stalls, which were quite hard to achieve – you really have to work at it with the stick fully back before it will stall – making it a benign aircraft to fly. I tried a PFL but overshot – I was reasonably well lined up but too high. Dave then demonstrated full sideslip which I repeated. He also showed me a wingover (after a HASELL check of course) which I also tried. It’s really quite a fun airplane to fly.

We finished off with 3 touch and goes – my first one was a bit too high in the flare, second one was pretty much OK but my third was again high. The “picture” of the runway is different during the landing phase compared to a Warrior, so will need a bit of practice and getting used to.

Landing distance seems to be quite short – perhaps 300metres, but the takeoff roll due to the lower powered 108hp engine wasn’t quite as good. I’ll need to read the Pilot’s Operating Handbook to work this out. Other research suggests this aircraft was kept on a grass strip of 500m for some time, so in theory it should be OK for this.

Writing it up

I offered to write up a few notes for other club members highlighting the differences. It’s often easier to do this when on the receiving end rather than as an instructor. This is just a couple of pages and can also be downloaded here: Robin_200_Differences_06-Jun-11.

Looking forward to having some fun on it on Saturday. I think it will be good for “hour building” (or as I prefer to call it, gaining experience and proficiency), but I would have preferred it to have a better Nav fit so I could take advantage of my IMC rating when I complete it.

I’m now one of the few club members signed off to fly the Robin and look forward to getting to know it over the summer.

[Update: The Robin failed it’s annual check due to corrosion and was withdrawn from the fleet during 2012]

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