It is a year since I passed my initial flight test for my PPL. According to South African air law, after one year, you need to revalidate your PPL (and thereafter every two years). This is done via a ground briefing/exam and a flight test.
In the year since I got my PPL I have flown about 70 hours, 11 of that as dual instruction for my night rating and 5 odd hours in the sim. The rest, apart from a few jaunts in the SR20 with family, has been in my Sling 4 ZU-IBM. There have been a lot of local flights – practicing stuff, keeping current and proficient, and the odd long trip – most memorable being the flight to Cape Town and back in November last year, with a few family day trips thrown in here and there.
I’m beginning to feel very comfortable in the Sling – it truly is an amazing aircraft to fly – responsive, capable and comfortable. There is nothing better than cruising along with only 1 finger on the stick and basically only having to think and the plane goes where you want. My landings are becoming more consistent (note, not necessarily better, just more consistent) and I’m gaining confidence in going to the smaller airfields that the club breakfast runs sometimes visit.
I am not so complacent as to think I had the renewal flight test waxed though – I did a fair amount of practicing in the weeks before – lots of stalls, steep turns and precautionary landing drills. I’m keenly aware that these are perishable skills which many folks don’t keep because they only fly from point A to point B.
I was due to meet the examiner at Tedderfield on Saturday at 10am – so imagine my reaction when I got into the plane at Baragwanath, turned the starter key… and nothing happened. A flat battery was not the ideal start to a flight test day. I had no battery charger in the hangar (yes, I know – this is a problem which has now been fixed), so I thought I’d simply hook the battery up to the SUV and jump start the plane.
After about 2 seconds of consideration I realised this was not the best of ideas so decided rather to chargethe airplane battery from the car, disconnect and thentry to start. This brilliant plan was foiled by the realisation I could not fit the cables into the cowling without removing said cowling. So, having removed the cowling, hooked up the battery, started the car I then meandered off to grab a coffee and look for the radial engined Aircraft I’d heard landing 10 minutes before
30minutes later (sorry trees) – I disconnected the car, put the cowling back on, moved the car away and voila – enough juice to get the engine going! It’s a quick hop to Tedderfield which was in a benign mood (no crosswind), and I was able to meet up with the examiner.
We went through the usual patter – logbook check, endorsements check, license check. Then the oral portion which I was expecting to be a bit theoretical but basically involved METAR/TAF interpretation and a discussion on where to find weather info. Then it was off to the plane.
The weird thing about flying in your own aircraft with an examiner is that everything you do feels like it is for show – even although it is what I do on every flight. We set off for the general flying area – did stalls clean and dirty (a complete non event – I’m always amazed by how there is absolutely no pre stall buffet) which were within spec, and a couple of steep turns.
Then I was asked to do a forced lob which was interesting because I was able to fly a long downwind leg, then panicked because I thought I wouldn’t make the chosen field – I have new respect for the gliding capacity of the Sling. Whereas the Cirrus drops like a brick, the Sling is much more docile. Next was a precautionary – also fairly straightforward despite a less than ideal choice of field with an advertising billboard on one side and a row of trees on the other…
After recovering from the precautionary search, we headed to Panorama airfield to do some circuits. Nothing quite like doing circuits at a grass field when you have never landed on grass – fortunately grass was in short supply and it was mostly gravel… Three circuits including an unexpected engine failure on climbout and on downwind and we were done.
Now I only have to make certified copies of most of my logbook and cast it into the ether for the CAA to look at and reissue my license.
The best part of the day? When the instructor/examiner says at the end of the test – “I knew as we lifted off on the first takeoff that you’d pass”
I am lucky to have both had an excellent primary instructor and a mentor who encourages practice and not simply point-to-point flying.