Ridin’ in the back






The view from seat 1B in the Cirrus SR22T

Date Aircraft Route Flight Time Total Hours
14 April 2018 SR22T FALA – FARG – FALA 0 – Ride along 57.6

Ongoing maintenance issues with the flying school aircraft mean I’m grounded for the moment. Fortunately my flying buddy Ari came to the rescue this weekend. He owns an SR22T and was kind enough to let me tag along on his flight on Saturday.

 

Saturday dawned CAVOK at my house but wouldn’t you know it, was Marginal VFR by the time we had refuelled. Plan was to fly to Rustenburg(FARG), land, swap pilots and then head back. Fortunately we were able to depart VFR. I can report that the SR22 (G5)is very comfortable in the back. Sadly I was forced to use the Bose A20 ANR headset which was laid on. (Life is really tough..) Sheesh. They make a HUGE difference.

 

It is very different in the back. It’s great to be able to observe the procedures and flows from a non flying perspective. Ari is very methodical and correct – nice to see and confidence inspiring. They use the full checklist on the Perspective avionic system – usual procedure for the flight school is to do everything from memory and then run the pre-takeoff checklist prior to calling “ready in the bay”. I think I may well revert to using the full checklist in future – sealing up those potential Swiss cheese holes.

 

Marginal visibility over Harties

I’m always impressed by the performance of the SR22T compared with the SR20. Of course this is obvious at the elevated field where our 20’s are probably well short of rated 200hp whereas the turbo is still doing 310hp. It makes a big difference. As we climbed through the fog layer which was about 200ft thick the visibility improved greatly and we cruised out toward Rustenburg between the layers. Technically VMC but I wouldn’t have been happy flying on a solo nav in these conditions. Some (very impressive) slow flying followed – to hold the plane at 69kts for 5min is no mean feat – at 68 the stall warning goes…

 

We landed at Rustenburg (FARG) where they seemed quite excited to have us – they were obviously having some kind of event – but we were landing, changing pilots and leaving again – after we’d back taxiied along the runway stopping to remove dead birds along the way. Quite strangely these didn’t seem to be due to aircraft strikes as the carcasses all seemed reasonably intact.

 

Cirrus. From the Cirrus. #inception

 
Backtracking runway 16 FARG

At Lanseria our fears of deteriorating visibility had come to fruition. “Alpha Romeo India, the field is IMC, please state your intentions…” A large bank of low cloud/fog had settled over the base and final sector.. Now this is where having a little bit of savvy helps. The controller is not allowed to offer Special VFR but you can ask for it. Which we did. Special VFR allows one to enter the TMA under visual flight rules when the field is IMC as a result of poor visibility, provided you remain clear of cloud and with the ground in sight at all times. Which we did and in no time we were stuffing the aeroplane back into the hangar (which does involve moving another plane out of the way first)

 

Marginal

A great morning’s flying coming out of what looked like a very marginal day. As they say, the hardest part is coming to the airport and NOT flying. It’s much better when you can actually fly. No hours for the logbook this week but a great experience


Cross Country – and a new Province




Morning sunshine
 

Date Aircraft Route Flight Time Total Hours
8 April 2018 ZS-CTP SR20 FALA – GAV – FAPY – FAPS – FALA 1.9 (Dual) 57.6

 

Back in the Saddle
We’ve just come back from 17 nights away. It was great. Apart from the whole “not flying” thing. So I was a little apprehensive about this flight. I don’t think I’m at the “it’s like riding a bicycle” stage. I made sure to get to the field early – I find it focuses me if I give myself a good hour to get the plane preflighted, cameras set up, controls cleaned (yes – I’m that guy who wipes down the controls before flying) and into the correct headspace for flying.

 

To be honest, I almost cancelled the flight due to tiredness. We spent two days driving home, didn’t sleep well on the overnight and had an iffy night before this flight – but I felt I was ok to fly with an instructor. I wouldn’t have flown solo though. Bad call? I’m not sure – I did think about it a lot.As it turned out, it was good to be early. The plane had been left in a bit of a mess which always annoys me (some people treat hire and fly like rental cars), and there was a snag with the plane. One of the lower engine cowling screws was missing. On the Cirrus these are spring loaded screws. And this one was missing. Now, I’m unclear as to how they can come loose unless they’re loose before flight. So whoever preflighted the plane last didn’t check the screws. I wasn’t prepared to fly the plane with a missing cowling screw but fortunately we were able to cannibalise one of the flight school aircraft having an MPI for the screw and we were able to head out.

 

Sunrise FALA 8-4-2018

Sunrise over the freight apron

 

Amazingly… I can still fly. Being away for ages and thinking a lot about the little things about flying seems to have helped. I wanted to concentrate on getting decent airspeed before climbing (I tend to pitch early after liftoff leading to airspeed hovering around flap retraction speed) and secondly, getting trimming the plane right. Why such emphasis on trimming? I know this is a core skill but having your hand on the stick can hide a lot of trimming errors – and I discovered to my horror (jk) that I need my left hand to write on the knee board. This requires me to release the stick. And then it goes pear shaped. And I’m not going to use the autopilot simply so I can write. (OK, I should use the AP but this is as good an excuse as I can think of to improve my flying).

 

8/4/2018

Our Route vs Plan – From Cloudahoy

 

Lanseria – Parys
I’d forgotten how great it is to fly in the morning. Smooth air, good vis, no pesky Cb’s. Our route took us south over the north western suburbs of Johannesburg and over sprawling Soweto heading for the Grasmere(GAV) VOR – which is allegedly easy to see being in an open field and all – but we flew directly over it and I couldn’t see it. A little bit to the left and a few miles of flying later we crossed the Vaal River which marks the boundary of Gauteng Province and the Free State Province. Our destination? Parys Airfield, which, in the past was a popular $100 hamburger/breakfast spot but of late seems to have fallen into some neglect – the runway is no longer pristine. It’s short, and this is exacerbated by the invasion of dirt and grass onto the touchdown area – I planted CTP firmly down just after the grass patch, fire walled the throttle and pulled back to keep the nosewheel light –  great short/soft field practice – we don’t have to do grass field landings for our PPL..Parys is located in a geological feature called the Vredefort Dome – which is the largest verified impact crater on the planet. It is also one of those towns that seems to become popular for the Sunday jaunt crowd – lots of antiquey places restaurants and general hipness. Pretty interesting. Also pretty challenging – as you can see from the map image above, there is high ground north and west of the field so good climb management is required.

 

Parys – Potchefstroom(FAPS)
This was my second attempt to get to Potchefstroom – the previous attempt resulted in a diversion back to Lanseria due to come pretty aggressive looking storms which developed rapidly.  It’s a short hop to Potch from Parys – about 25nm so we’d just got to top of climb when it was time to descend. Another shortish runway but in much better condition – we did our overhead/unmanned join (which always requires some head scratching because unlike our American friends, we don’t enter the downwind on the 45. We fly overhead 1000ft above the pattern, turn and descend on the “dead” side of the field, turn across the upwind segment and enter the downwind (obviously making sure there is no traffic on departure). The advantages of this is we don’t bomb into the circuit and are able to see the runway while descending so we know who is departing or not. The disadvantage is that it can be confusing as to which way to turn especially since there is often a non standard pattern in force. And it takes longer.

As it turns out is was academic as there was NO other traffic. At all. In fact we didn’t see any aircraft on the trip at all until we arrived back in the Lanseria TMA.

 

Potch – Lanseria
Long(ish) leg this. But my headings were good, the trim was coming right and we were able to enjoy just being in the air. There is not much out there. Lots of fields, a few mindumps, mineheads and a meatbombing (parachute) area.

 

Somewhere over the West Rand
 

Much of nothing. Pretty nothing. But not much

 

Arriving into Lanseria from the west is a little fiddly. There are two TMAs to avoid – the first is the OR Tambo International Airport TMA (FAOR) which has it’s lower limit at 7600ft. I guess the TMA is equivalent to what they’d call class Bravo airspace in the US. So we had to be at 7500 well before that. The Lanseria TMA (Class B)lies under the FAOR Class B at 6500ft which means highest is 6400ft. Which leaves about 400-600ft clearance over a ridge – which feels tight.  It doesn’t help that the ridge is bristling with aerials and towers. Fortunately there is an area where the terrain is a little lower which we headed for.

 

Surprise……
On short finals, my instructor asked the tower for a touch and go. Eh? We were supposed to be landing. So I knew something would happen – I was waiting for the EFATO scenario. No. Glide to final from downwind? No. Flap failure? Check. OK. What was that approach speed with flaps up again? I’ll admit, the base leg was a little hot and high. The reason for this became obvious when I realised I was still flying the full flap power setting. Easily corrected and managed to put down my best flapless landing to date. Bad thing? It was on one wheel. Good thing? It wasn’t the nosewheel. I blame a slight crosswind, but the tail was never in danger.Another 1.9h in the logbook. And now I’m signed off for my first solo Nav. Excited? Most definitely. Progress. It’s a good thing.

 

Looking skyward (or not Flying enough…)

There is a joke that you can tell who the pilot at a gathering is because he’ll either tell you or he’ll look up at every single passing aircraft. I’m in the latter category. I don’t tell random people I’m learning to fly because the follow up questions usually relate to how much it costs followed by how many hours I have and then I have to explain why I don’t yet have my PPL despite having almost 60 hours in my logbook.

But I am the guy who looks skyward at even the merest hint of a passing aircraft. I’ve done this for as long as I can remember but it seems more significant now because I’ve hit a bit of a speed bump in my training. It’s a twofold problem – firstly the NAVEX work needs longer sessions and secondly we’ve been cursed blessed with a LOT of afternoon thundershowers in what would normally be the end of summer. These have been accompanied by quite a lot of atmospheric moisture which has resulted in poor visibility in the mornings too! Of course, NAVEX work is closer to what I’d be doing with my PPL – so this is the reality of summer flying on the high plateau of South Africa. It’s still frustrating…

Back to the looking skyward. We’re on vacation in the Eastern Cape, in a little town/hamlet called Kasouga. It lies slap bang in the middle of the Port Alfred General Flying Area, FAD192. Ordinarily one would expect that the GF of a small country town would be quieter than a troupe of mimes, but not this one. There is a constant stream of Cherokee’s from the local flying school which is a residential cadet-to-airline school. The thing that I find curious is that we are 5nm from the airfield which essentially lies in the middle of the GF, yet the vast majority of the aircraft are flying straight over and don’t appear to be doing manoeuvres at all. At Lanseria we’re in the midst of manoeuvres the moment we enter the GFA – but I guess it IS 10nm from the airfield. It’s entirely possible that the Cherokee 140’s they’re using are simply too anemic to be at safe manoeuvring height by the time they get to us. It is sea level but it’s warm and some of the horses may have escaped from those engines by this stage. Still, it is quite fun to listen to the engine note and predict without looking what they’re doing – this afternoon I heard one throttle up as he turned and I thought to myself, yep, steep turns – and it was. Fancy as our Cirrus 20’s are, I’d still rather be doing steep turns in a wheezy 140 than on the ground.

Occasionally there are more interesting aircraft to gaze at – yesterday a C-130 was circling off the coast – there is something really stately about a C-130 riding those characteristic Allison exhaust plumes. Sometimes we’re really lucky and some of the guys at Port Alfred fly their classic aircraft up and down the coast – we usually see a Tiger Moth and there is a Stearman at the field too which I’ve seen once or twice through the years. I’m told there is an L-39 based at FAPA too so hoping to catch a glimpse of that at some point.

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Although, to be honest, the view on the ground isn’t half bad either! There is something special about this coastline – miles of unspoilt beaches mercifully unsullied by legions of visitors (we have probably the only vehicle in the village with upcountry plates). The kids love the beaches and lagoons and even our 12 going on 17y old son is able to lose his teenage angst in the sea and building sandcastles with his sister.

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In 10 days I’ll hopefully be back in the big smoke, rested and raring to go. I’ve got a cross country booked in my favourite G3 SR20 (ZS-CCT) on the day after we return – route is all plotted and planned and all I need to enter are the winds aloft from the forecast the evening before and hopefully the weather will play along.

We usually hit the coast for 2 weeks at this time of year and every year we comment on how winter arrived while we were away when we return. Winter for us is actually the best flying time – reasonably stable air, lower temperatures giving us more reasonable DA and most importantly… no Cb’s to look out for.

All thing being equal I should get this Nav done, then a dual check Nav and then I’ll be onto Solo Nav. I can see the end! It’s funny because I always said it didn’t matter how long it took because I’d still be flying – but it will be great to get that brown book that says PPL on the front.

Stimulating simulating and 50h in the logbook

Time is flying. And flying is time.

I’ve spent three weeks doing basic instrument flying in the simulator. I thought I would hate it. Really. What could you possibly enjoy about playing a hyped up computer game?

“I can do that at home right?”

“How hard could it be?”

“It’s not real flying”

“will I remember how to land the aeroplane again?”

“Tell me again why I have to know how to fly on instruments?”

I was…. WRONG. The simulator is really good. OK, it isn’t a full motion sim. But it is a LOT more immersive and believable than I would have guessed. My flight school has 2 simulators. The first is a Cirrus sim – can be set either as an SR20 or an SR22. The second is a hybrid sim – steam gauge, traditional style NAV/COM/ADF and a basic AP – it can simulate either a PA28(Piper Archer or Cherokee type with or without retractable gear) or a Seneca twin. I’ve done an hour on the Cirrus sim and 2.3 on the PA28R version of the sim.

One of the biggest killers of pilots is inadvertent flight into IMC. I forget the actual number but on average it takes very few seconds to lose your spatial awareness and spiral out of the clouds out of control. Or fly into a granite cloud. And while most of the CFIT(Controlled Flight into Terrain) incidents seem worryingly obvious when reading accident reports, people are still crashing into mountains with monotonous regularity. As one wag put it… “there are no new ways to crash aeroplanes” So it does make at least SOME sense to have some inkling of what the instruments are telling you.

The sims run X-plane (sadly only version 9) on a bank of computers. Both have very realistic cockpit setups – the cirrus sim faithfully replicates the Cirrus cabin while the PA28 sim has a full panel mockup with screens behind – so the “steam gauges” are actually on a computer screen. Still – its pretty realistic, although I simply refuse to believe that a PA28 is so responsive (read over-responsive and dynamically unstable) in pitch. However it is what it is and once used to the millimetre movements required it is pretty easy to fly.

Which is just as well – because there are no visual cues here. Cloud bases in the sim seem glued to about 300′ AGL. (Coincidence? I think not) The nett result is that as you’re doing after takeoff checks, cleaning up the aircraft you fly straight into hard IMC. (And then crash and burn – according to the instructors this is quite common) It seems my misspent youth flying PC flight sims has paid off again – I’m quite comfortable on the instruments – I even have a reasonable scan going which is helpful. Of course, there is no movement, no movement induced illusions and I’m certain in real life it is MUCH harder. There is no pause button in real life either.

The hardest part for me is maintaining level flight while fiddling with the instruments. Leaning over to hit a stopwatch, adjusting the HSI, setting the autopilot – all can be associated with a degree of departure from level flight. Task saturation came very quickly on my first session but less rapidly on the second and third.

And actually…. It’s a LOT of fun. We’ve done radial intercepts in and outbound, ADF direct to and ‘radial’ intercepts, timed turns, GPS intercepts, ILS approaches and VOR approaches. Today my instructor failed every instrument simultaneously except the VSI. Then she failed everything except the HSI and Turn coordinator. And we didn’t crash!

I’ve spent some time messing around on my X-plane sim at home doing pure instrument stuff – and I’ve discovered that you can download an instructor station for the iPad – going to spend some more time working with failed systems. <2h to go in the sim then it’s time for Navigation briefings and the cross country flights. It’s getting close.

Also, I noticed that today’s sim session took me to 50hours total time.

Progress?

Feels like ages since I managed to sit down and write a post.

So. Where are we in this journey? Well, I’m excited to report that I have made significant progress this month after 3weeks of not flying. The first two flights were not stellar – on the first we were hounded by a localized Cb cell which looked like it was going to park itself right over the field so we bailed and came back early – still it was an intro to the routing to and from the General Flying area which in the congested airspace of Johannesburg is a little fiddly. On the second we had surface temperatures of 33 Celsius and one of the older aircraft – a few of whose horses had escaped over the years. Let’s just say it was interesting. DA on the ground was 7740ft (off a 4520′ elevation field) and we could not climb over 7500′ so we were understandably a little twitchy about high angle of attack flying..

Which brings me to what we are doing in my PPL training at the moment. I have escaped the circuit after taking 17h of circuits to solo and then completing 3h solo in the circuit. Now we are back to the general flying area and doing steep turns (45deg), revising stalls and also doing diversions, forced landings and precautionary landings. This is all in preparation for the next milestone in training which is going solo again but to the general flying area this time.

Solo GF requires a good understanding of the airspace structure and the routing to and from the airfield. It is necessary to report Zone outbound from the CTA, then transit the Johannesburg Special Rules West airspace and from there into the general flying area (which has it’s own frequency). At the same time there are a number of prohibited areas which must be avoided and a shelf on the TMA (the yellow shaded area) from 6500-7400′ which is very easy to bust.

Fortunately the general flying area extends from the ground to FL100 so there is a lot of space once there – although it too can be quite crowded and some folks are, how shall we put it, a little deficient in their position reports. This means eyes on stalks all the time.

We usually start with some stalling revision – clean and dirty and all the way to the break (because if you’re not going to actually stall the aircraft what is the point of calling it stall practice?), then some steep turns which I was somewhat disappointed to find that we only have to turn at 45deg and not 60deg (60deg turns are required for the Commercial Rating) and thereafter the forced and precautionary landings. I’m finding the steep turns a little bit difficult – it seems to be quite difficult to feel the nose slipping and there is a lot more back pressure required on the stick than I was expecting. The books all say that you need to be looking around during the turns but I’m finding that I end up looking up and in the turn direction more than anywhere else – this may be a function of the G forces which I’m not accustomed to…

The forced landings are fairly routine – much like the EFATO scenario but with a LOT more time to plan and usually many more options in terms of potential landing sites. The gliding characteristics of the SR20 are not unlike those of a small brick but if anything I’m finding that I’m arriving high and having to do S-turns and/or slips to reduce altitude sufficiently to be able to make a rational approach. Of course, from these altitudes (2500-3000ft AGL), were we to have a real engine failure the correct approach would be to deploy the CAPS and ride down under the chute.

The precautionary landings too are quite fun – once you have the procedure down – but the workload is quite high especially on a high end afternoon with LOTS of turbulence and rotors from the nearby hills – it’s easy to forget a step – high level 800ft at right angles to field, 500ft low level inspection on the upwind parallel to the field, back up to 800ft for downwind checks, pax briefing and radio calls then simulated shutdown once on base to final turn and all followed by a go-around at about 200ft AGL.

When I’m solo in the GF doing the practice for all this we aren’t supposed to descend below 500ft AGL at any point so the high level is done at 1200 AGL, low level at 800 and go-around at 600 – it’s more the procedure than anything else that needs practice as it is impossible to practice landing into a maize field ….

I’ve also managed to pick up a few more exams in the interim – left now with only one – Human Factors and performance (which should be a breeze given the basic level of physiology required). Then it’s time to finish the solo GF time (5h), navigation and cross country exercises and then time for the PPL test – it’s looking like late March at the moment – but we’ll take it one day and one nm at a time..

#NotFlying

“Hi, my name is Mike and I’m addicted to flying. It’s been 20 days since I last flew….”

Good grief. 20 days. I’m not sure I can remember what those big flat things sticking out of the side of the aeroplane are anymore. The Flight school has been closed from 22 dec to 2 Jan and because a lot o my colleagues have been away I haven’t had time to do any flying.

I’ve managed to escape from the circuit having completed 3 hours of solo circuits and now it’s back to the general flying area for some steep turns, forced and precautionary landings. Which was supposed to happen yesterday but the weather gods discerned my plans and blessed us with a day of 1500ft broken cloud. Which followed a week of CAVOK. But such is life. Fortunately I’ve been able to use the time to catch up on some exams – picked up Airplane Tech and General and Met over the break – 3 left – Nav, Flight planning and Human factors.

I’ve enjoyed playing with ye olde whizz wheel while studying for the Nav – it’s really quite an amazing piece of kit – yes, you could use a CX2 or an iPhone app but it doesn’t have the appeal of twirling that circular slide rule and trying to remember which factor of 10 you should be using.

The nice thing about being post circuit solo is getting to fly the G1000 G3 SR20 as opposed to the G2 Avidyne 20’s. So a new challenge. In a newer aircraft (which has A/C – a blessing on the 30C + days we are having)

Hoping for better weather tomorrow….

Clear skies!

Solo at last!

108 Landings. One hundred and Eight. This is how long it takes to teach an old dog new tricks. I flew(yeah, I know) through the upper air work – stall spin checkout done at 10h. But I’ve been in the circuit for the last 3months and 17hours trying to get the simple landing right.

Weirdly, the abnormal landings have been relatively easy. The 50% flap landing is a breeze – managing to nail that almost every time. The flaps up landing is downright scary in the Cirrus because it requires a a spurt of power JUST before touchdown to level the nose and that 90kts over the threshold feels VERY fast. Recovery onto the runway with simulated failure after rotation – easy. Glide from downwind to full flap recovery – easy. But the run of the mill 100% standard flap landings have been a disaster. Why, I’m not sure – the ongoing issue is me pulling back too early and too aggressively and cutting power at the same time so invariably either ballooning or being perfectly placed for the landing 3ft above where I should be with the resultant *positive* touchdown.

But suddenly it came right. I did another 100 or so landings in the flight simulator trying to get that coordination of reducing power gradually and gently pulling back and it has come right. So right that after 9 trips around the circuit, my instructor suggested I drop him off at the tower and have a trip around the circuit on my own. The weather was playing ball with a variable 7-8knot wind mostly form the left so I thought about this for about 3milliseconds and agreed.

The first thing you notice is that when you’re one-up in the SR20 is that she’ll actually roll forwards at 1000rpm without requiring 1500RPM to break free. Which is nice. My goPro’s died in the run up bay but amazingly my checklist and run ups were up to scratch. (Although the cockpit seemed at LOT warmer than it was – suffice it to say I was drenched in sweat with jus the slightest of tremors) As though by magic, the circuit was empty (just as well as there was some guy who was aggravating ATC no end by not complying with any instructions) – even the scheduled 737’s seemed to be miraculously absent. I taxied onto Runway 07 – in between some lapwings who seemed miraculously unconcerned by the 70″ rotating prop passing meters from them – seriously, what dumbass bird sits (not standing but sitting) ON the piano keys? (They only moved when I flew over them on short final).

Then the words I’d been waiting for, “Juliet Alpha Bravo, runway 07, cleared Takeoff, report right downwind 5500ft, good luck sir!” (I love FALA ATC – they are really nice guys considering the scale and variety of traffic they deal with). Full throttle, temp and pressures in the green, good fuel flow and off I went. 70kts comes quickly with one on board , rotate and the climbout was only marginally brisker than I was used to. (Insert brief moment of panic After takeoff checks at 400ft, clear left, ahead and right and crosswind turn, GO. 155deg, landmark sighted, clear left, clear ahead, clear right and GO for downwind turn.

5500ft early on right downwind (with two up we only make circuit height at mid runway), power to 60%, level off. Before I could report downwind TWR comes on “Juliet Alpha Bravo, right base your discretion, report final approach number 1, no traffic to affect”. Downwind checks, flaps 50, HOLD THE NOSE, fight the balloon, fight the secondary balloon and trim… Grab phone, take selfie (remember the flat goPros), dump phone, find base leg landmark. Clear left, clear ahead, clear right, 100kts, 50% flaps, 30deg turn… NOW!

Rollout on 335deg. Throttle to 30%, check under 100kts, flaps full, pitch for 90kts. Look for extended centerline, approach segment clear, finals clear, start gentle turn to final. Roll out on runway heading at 500ft AGL. 4 reds. Oh sh*t. Power in, pitching for 85, the 4 reds become 3 and then 2 reds and 2 white.

“Juliet Alpha Bravo, final approach 07”

“Juliet Alpha Bravo, runway 07, clear to land”

“07, clear to land, Juliet Alpha Bravo”

Too much throttle, pull back a bit, nail 77kts over the fence. Those bloody lapwings are still there! Get lost you bloody birds. Which they did. Exactly as I flew over them…

Throttle gently to 10%, fly into ground effect, hefty boot of left rudder for the crosswind correction, cruise down runway 3ft above, cut throttle and doesn’t she just settle magnificently onto the runway like the docile little beauty she is.

“Juliet Alpha Bravo, nicely done sir, left alpha three, ground clears you Alpha, Sierra to the helipad for instructor pickup”

<a data-flickr-embed=”true” href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikeblackburn/38020952864/in/dateposted/” title=”Post solo 28 Nov 2017″><img src=”https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4561/38020952864_1a4ee3fcd3_b.jpg” width=”1024″ height=”768″ alt=”Post solo 28 Nov 2017″></a>//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

And thus am I now solo. And I forgot to enter my 0.5h solo PIC time as PIC time in my logbook. Le Sigh. I’m now endorsed for solo flight in the circuit at Lanseria Airport. I am warned that often the circuits go a little pear shaped after first solo and it may take time to get back again – but nothing can take away from the experience of going solo for the first time.

Why do I fly?

I’ve been sitting on this one for a while now. I wanted to write it in response to Fly Like you Mean Its post “Why do We Fly”, but I’ve been really busy doing talks for congresses and sorting out the various things needed to keep the house up and running…

If there’s one thing that my merry band of 4 (or is it 3) readers really need it is the story of how I ended up learning to fly. To be honest, it was always going to happen at some point. For as long as I can remember I was that kid who was mad about everything aviation related. My father used to take us to the airport (Johannesburg International which at that point was called Jan Smuts Airport and has gone through a number of name changes since) and we used to stand and watch the planes from the open (Shock, horror) observation deck.

I vividly remember the Pan Am and South African Airways 747SPs there, and once going especially to see Concorde passing through. We went to air shows at Rand airport (FAGM) and Grand Central (FAGG), I had posters and pictures of aeroplanes and for as long as I can remember i was playing on flight simulators. I could identify just about every commercial aircraft, airliner and military jet based on a quick glance. Have you seen the video clip of the child on the Etihad flight deck who knows where all the buttons are and what they do? I was like that kid.

Come time to choose a career I was told by an educational/vocational psychologist that I would be bored doing flying (I still harbor a bit of a grudge against that guy) – I didn’t qualify to go to the AirForce due to being short sighted, so I ended up doing Medicine and Anaesthesiology – which I love to bits – but the bug never stopped biting.

I went through a phase where I almost bit the bullet and started flying but for some reason I got scared – I visualized dying in an aircraft and the impact that would have on my family – but that was also at a time when I suffered from depression so I suspect that logic wasn’t terribly good… when I turned 40 my friends bought me a “discovery flight”. It took almost a year to use it – and then I was hooked. The rest is history.

So why do I fly now? It is actually the hardest thing I’ve done for a long time. The physical coordination required has me working really hard – i know it will be better in the furniture but for the moment I’m reveling in the challenge of co-ordinated flight. When I’m in that seat with my left hand on the sidestick and my right hand on the throttle, nothing else matters. It’s great escapism. It is great for focus. Inattention and loss of focus is punished by the aircraft and is immediately obvious. I love this challenge.

You’d think that given my day job, I would like a hobby that DOESN’T require full time attention… but this is different attention. And that effort and attention is rewarded when I turn my head to the side, see the wing moving as we ride the pockets and bumps in the air, and realise… I am flying this plane. I’m actually flying after all these years.

And THAT is why I fly.

Clear skies and tailwinds.

Being photographed by others while flying

I was pleasantly surprised while browsing through the “Seen at FALA” Aviation photography forum to see a shot of the aircraft I usually fly (ZS-BOR) against some pretty impressive cumulonimbus clouds. I was even more surprised to see it had been taken when I was flying the plane – i.e a photo of a plane being flown by me. (Probably not a big deal to most, but a first for me)

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This photo was taken by Omer Mees (check out his Flickr here) 

This is on the upwind leg of the circuit out of 07 at Lanseria (FALA) He was kind enough to send me high res versions of these photos. It appears as though we were very close to the clouds but in fact were miles away – this being merely foreshortening resulting from the telephoto lens.

I hope this isn’t the last time someone shoots us flying!

 

Progress?

Update: – I’m still in the circuit. I’m still not solo. I’m still ok with that.

I had a break from flying for 2 and a half weeks – mostly due to the combination of both my instructor and me being away (but not coinciding). So I was expecting a terrible flight on Friday. And…. I was wrong.

From the get go – I was comfortable, relaxed and the flying was, well… OK. Not stellar, but not terrible and very definitely safe and to standard. We did 9 circuits and 10 landings.

2 of those landings were 50% flap, 1 with flaps up and one was a simulated engine failure after rotation with adequate runway ahead (which bizarrely, was my best landing of the day). I joked that the instructor should just pull the power over the threshold on every landing and I’d be ok….

We did another EFATO with no runway and managed that OK apart from being distracted so much by the Fault check that I lost about 15kts (should be at 90kts for the SR20 best glide) – so less than ideal but still would have made the field I chose – had a hairy time on the go-around from the option because there was a helicopter that wasn’t supposed to be there – we got to wave at the farmer too….

I’m SLOWLY getting the three phases of the landing right – my approaches are still good – it feels natural to adjust power for rate and pitch for speed and for the most part I’m over the threshold at the height and airspeed I want to be at. Roundout is ok too and I’m able to fly along the runway in ground effect (and for the first time I actually could feel when entering ground effect).

The issue is still in the holding off phase – as power comes off I need to be pulling back gently and it still is a bit jerky – but it is definitely getting there. I need to concentrate on the end of the runway more on the roundout though – I tend to find myself peering over the nose – which isn’t conducive to good attitude flying.

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In other news I picked up another exam this week – Principles of Flight. I took the books with on holiday and had every intention of cranking out both Principles and Met while away but only managed to finish Principles. Spent Monday through thursday doing past papers on the Principles and then rushed off on Thursday to do the exam. To be honest, the exam was a bit of a joke – I do them online in a monitored room – 25 multiple choice questions, 30min to complete.

It took me 3m15s. Why? Because they seem to ask the same questions over and over again. So all that is required is to carefully read the question to make sure you aren’t being tricked – and then to select the answer. Got 24/25 right. Apparently there are people who struggle to pass these exams. Go figure. Of course, pride comes before a fall etc so I’m still going to put max effort into the next one which I think will be the R/T theory because it’s similar to Air Law in many respects.

On Friday next week I have another dual check which means that I’m close to 20h (19 to be precise) – I’m hoping that goes well and I get signed off – so we should be solo by month end. Or whenever I’m ready. Whatever, I’m cool…..

IMG_1440 2(C-17 Globemaster from McGuire AFB – Apparently here supplying the embassy)