Dead Mag & Air Law Pass

Bittersweet. This is how I’d describe my specially arranged Friday morning flying session. I’d specially organized this to get some flying in when (a) the wind isn’t howling across the runway as it is wont to do in Jhb in August and September and (b) it isn’t so hot..

 

But the best laid plans of mice and men…. it was a beautiful morning. Preflight was fun as the morning rush of BizJets, KingAirs, and the Scheduled 737s took to the air – always interesting to see how they differ in initial climb performance – the B200s and C90s not so stellar compared to the B350s, and the BizJets, well…. they all look pretty smart on climbout.

 

We started up ZS-JAB and let her warm up as we did the pre-run up checks and watched the stream of departing traffic. But when runup time came… There was an alarming decrease in revs and a very rough engine on the right magneto only, no drop on the left – uh oh, this plane had a dead magneto. Well, there was no way we were going flying in her this day. So we taxied back to the ramp dejectedly, and checked her into the Hangar. Where, of course, they couldn’t replicate the problem.  Another student flew her an hour later – no problems whatsoever. So that was a bit weird. But I’m happy we stayed on the ground.

 

As someone pointed out to me – it’s better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air than in the air wishing you were on the ground…. And learning to deal with disappointment of cancelled flights is part of the game – good training for when I’m the one making the call on whether we go or don’t go…

 

This enforced grounding meant that I could exercise the privileges allowed me by my newly minted SPL(A) – writing exams…. due to all the delays in getting medical and SPL sorted out, I’ve been studying hard for Air Law which I need to have passed to go solo. I was booked to do the exam on Friday – so I set off to give it a crack. Which I did. and I passed – 97%! I cannot recommend the PPL mock exams from Swales highly enough – a lot of what I expected and had seen before came up – but even if it hadn’t I would have been ok – because I really put a LOT of effort into the Air Law studying. I know stuff that I will no doubt never use – but it ended up being a LOT more interesting than I thought.

 

All in all, a good week. Air Law done, SPL(A) obtained, no flying but hey, I can fly any time… Like tomorrow for instance….. (weather permitting)

That’s better..

I’m still in the pattern. But things are looking up. Yesterday’s flight was MUCH better than last week’s. Weather for a start was much improved – winds light and variable instead of 12 gusting 15kts. It’s amazing how much easier it is to concentrate on the roundout etc without being blown off the side of the runway.

 

The air was smoother too which made handling the plane in the pattern just that little bit easier. We did 8 landings with a runway change from 25 to 07 in the middle of those – much less traffic than last week too and to be honest I’m feeling a lot happier in the plane.

 

I’m making peace with the fact that it’s probably going to take 20hours for me to solo. I read a great article by John Bishop in this month’s Pland&Pilot about how flying simply doesn’t come naturally to all of us. I read this shortly after last week’s below par performance and it struck a chord.  The thing for me is that in my head, I was going to be the ‘natural pilot’ who doesn’t struggle. I have the hundreds of hours on flight simulator, lots of online flying time and a good understanding of flight. But the aeroplane isn’t a flight simulator, and I’m realizing now how bad the modeling is in flight simulator. You can’t model control forces easily in FS but what I’m finding the most frustrating is how poorly p-factor and torque are modeled. Full power in the SR20 requires FULL right rudder application on the ground. In FS, the slightest application of rudder sends you off into the weeds – so my right foot is lazy in the real plane. In flight, the merest increase in pressure on the rudder is sufficient in the real aeroplane. In FS, you need to hoof the rudder in a bit more. The net result is that I’m not the sh*t hot pilot I imagined I’d be.

 

This realization has been good for me. I always said I wanted to be safe and not to rush and get the license with the lowest possible number of hours.  I’m only flying once a week. I think I’m doing ok. And the best part is that I still get to look out the side window occasionally and think to myself “heck. I’m actually flying this aeroplane!” And that’s a wonderful feeling.  The other wonderful feeling is when the instructor turns off the PFD and tells me to look outside, I do a turn and roll out on heading, on altitude and at the correct speed. Attitude flying. I’m getting there.

Tailwinds…..

Silly admin stuff

The amount of time spent doing flying related stuff that isn’t directly related to the flight on the day is actually getting silly.

 

To get access to the flight school requires a permit. Now you can acquire a day permit for the princely sum of R10 but this requires someone to walk/drive over from the flight school to the gate and pick you up. This sometimes means having to wait for ages for them to come through, and always requires a trip to the permit office where they now know my name. So ideally one needs a permanent permit. Which requires a couple of logical things like a copy of ID, police clearance, form from flight school etc. It also requires attendance at an Aviation Safety Course.

 

This is what took 4 hours of my time this morning. I’d love to say it was fascinating and useful information but to be honest there was nothing there which wouldn’t have been obvious to even the most dimwitted, and due to the scope of attendees – from baggage handlers, to PPL students to airside workers the scope was so broad that there was no time to delve into any of the modules. Coupled with an exam which was nothing more than a formality I’d say it was a waste of time. Surely everyone knows that you don’t walk behind or in front of a running jet/prop engine? Or am I giving people too much credit?

 

Look, I’m not for a minute saying that Aviation Security and safety is not a big deal. It is. But I’m not sure this is the best way to get that message across – I do not feel any more empowered re saferty or security than I did this morning. On the plus side, I can now put a big tick in the column that says “AVSEC course”. Additionally, holders of pilot licenses do not have to repeat the course every 2 years. Which is a relief. (Unless of course I haven’t managed to go solo within the next 2 years….)

Some days you’re the bug..

It had to happen sooner or later. I had to have a bad day flying. Now don’t get me wrong, a bad day in the aeroplane is still better than a good day at work (or something like that), but my last lesson was a real struggle.

In fact, it has been a bit of a difficult/frustrating week. The ongoing issue with my medical was finally resolved this week. I missed the aeromed panel in July becasue a document they needed wasn’t with them 7 working days prior to the panel meeting, so I was deferred over to the August meeting. Which was held on the 15th. Now the communication from the CAA was along the lines of “you will receive written confirmation of the results of the panel within 7 working days.”

By the 9th working day following the meeting I was getting a little twitchy. on the 10th day I emailed the panel member I’ve been communicating with. No reply. On the 11th day, the reply I’ve been waiting for – you have been cleared to fly! I was supposed to receive “shortly” a formal confirmation and the certificate, so I waited and waited. 2 days later, no letter, no certificate, so I phone the responsible person – “oh yes, we’re just waiting for the panel to fax the documents”. Fax? in 2017? #facepalm. Anyhow to cut a long story short, I have in my grubby hands the required medical clearance.

Before my lesson on Friday I thought I’d pop into the CAA to apply for a student pilot license which one needs before one can write any exams or go solo. I’ve been assured that this process usually takes 3 working days. Imagine my horror when they say it will be ready in, you guessed it, 7 working days. Hurry up and wait. Le sigh. At any rate, we are making progress, albeit slow progress toward me being in a state of being legally allowed to go solo.

Hurdles to be overcome before going solo?

  1. Get SPL
  2. Write and pass Air Law for the PPL exam (requires 1 above first)
  3. Land the plane properly – and thus the reason for me feeing like the bug and not the windshield…

Friday’s lesson was TOUGH. Having a look at the METAR may give some insight as to why this should have been the case…

FALA 011300Z 21012KT 160V230 CAVOK 25/M07 Q1022 NOSIG

Let’s break this down – 01 Sept, 1300Z (1500Local) – Wind 210deg 12kts variable between 160 and 230deg, 25deg celsius. Which doesn’t sound so bad except when you realise that the runway heading is 245 deg – which gives us wind ranging from 25deg from the left to full 90deg from the left at 12kts. Add to this the uphill runway (FALA gains 100ft across the length of the runway) and the high levels of traffic and the stage wasn’t set for a great afternoon of flying. We flew ZS-ZIP which I’ve maligned before as being a bit of a dog, but to be honest, I’m starting to get a bit of a soft spot for her. She’s very docile in the pattern, perhaps not the most athletic of the planes but very useable and forgiving – which is just as well.

Every plane I’ve flown on flight sim, and every aircraft I’ve read about flying as a GA aircraft would have one believe that it is important to flare the aircraft before touchdown. Not so the Cirrus. The Cirrus requires you to fly it onto the runway – i.e descend under power, fly into ground effect then reduce power to allow her to gently descend onto the runway.  I’m REALLY struggling with this. as the power goes and the airplane slows you need to pull back on the yoke gently to settle her in. I’m a tugger. I cannot get that smooth pull down, and on the odd occasion when I do, I don’t get the power off so she won’t land. we had a number of somewhat positive touchdowns.

In my defense the wind was swirling around and we had almost full crosswind at times but I cannot help feeling frustrated, especially when my approaches are really pretty good – despite never getting the same length of final due to ATC/ traffic restrictions – we flew a lot of very short final approaches. My one consolation was when the instructor offered to do a landing just to refresh my technique. As she flew over the threshold she muttered “No wonder you’re battling, it’s horrible”.

So we need to find some respite from the wind. It IS the windiest time of the year in Jhb at the moment, but I’m going to try and carve out a morning slot this week to try and get the landings sorted so we can carry on with the circuit emergencies – we’ve only done no flap and 50% flap emergency landings – no engine failure on downwind, no EFATO drills. While I want to believe I’m not impatient to go solo, there is a little part of me that wants to get it done. But really, I’m in no rush….

Below is a video from an earlier circuit session, also in ZIPpy but under much better conditions – with a greaser at the end for good measure. Take it as read that the flying was MUCH worse last time….

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ru1cl_zXXs&w=560&h=315]