Flying with the Family – 1 and 2..

Date of FlightAircraftRouteTime(hrs)Total(hrs)
30 June 2018ZS-JAB (SR20)FALA(Lanseria, Johannesburg) - FALA1.178.4

How do you make having a pilot license feel real? Fly with those who are most precious to you. For just over a year now I’ve been disappearing off to the airport for protracted periods of time and bringing nothing back other than stories of where I’ve flown, or how bad or good the conditions were or which exam I passed. I think it’s been a little hard on the family to be contributing (by managing without me at the house) but not getting any significant return.

Concentration

So it was that after gaining my PPL (ok, long before even) there was significant interest from the family in going flying with me. There was much discussion, argument even about who would be first. “But Mike,” I hear you say, “You trained in a four seat aeroplane! Why can’t you take your wife AND two kids?”

Ah. And therein the rub. Most 4 seat aircraft are only nominally 4 seat aircraft on the South African highveld plateau. My home airfield has an altitude of 4500ft. ISA temperature for 4500ft is 6degrees Celsius. Only in the very depths of winter, when a cold front is passing, does the daytime temperature even approximate 6deg. So we’re by definition hot and high which degrades takeoff performance of normally aspirated aircraft – especially those with only 200hp on tap. Given that the flight school almost universally runs the aircraft with full/nearly full tanks, we are almost always payload limited in the SR20. The 22, on the other hand, with 310hp… not so much. (Which is why the only SR20s in South Africa are the 5 owned by the flight school. All the others are SR22s)

So, it would be that my wife and daughter would be first to fly with me. I hummed and hah’d about the routing. I wanted to do the city tour but decided to stick with what I know and simply cruise up and down in the flying training area. This turned out to be a very good call – as I was SO nervous that additional navigational demands would have seriously impacted my ability to fly safely. It gets real very quickly when your family is on the aircraft.

So how did it go? It was….. OK. The flying was good, the GF was quiet and I even threw in a steep turn to make sure everyone was awake. I gave the lecture (pre departure) on not talking while I’m on the radio and to let me know if they see any other aircraft – my daughter saw lots – I want her as my copilot – I’ll call her “Eagle Eye” from now on. The only downside was that it was pretty bumpy with the wind from the south rising up over the ridges and causing a little bit of turbulence. Landing was within spec (I thought it was pretty poor but the passengers thought it was ok) and just like that… I’d taken my first passengers for a plane ride.

30/6

More importantly, they both say they’ll fly with me again. This is the best part – because what is the use of the PPL if you aren’t going to use it to take people places? My little girl did get a headache which I put down to an uncomfortable headset (loaner) and possibly also being in the back seat without a cushion – note to self – remember the cushion next time.

J 

My wife seemed surprised at how methodically I did my preflight and that I kept checking and double checking everything – I like to think I’m very cautious – this is what I normally do! I believe that I inspired confidence in her.

 

Date of FlightAircraftRouteTime(hrs)Total(hrs)
7 July 2018ZS-CCT (SR20)FALA(Lanseria, Johannesburg) - FARG(Full stop) - FALA1.581.1

The second flight en famille was this last weekend – I took my mother-in-law and my son up. This would be a lot less pressured as I’d broken the back of my nervousness to carry passengers. I wanted to do some short field work so I took them out to my usual hunting ground Rustenberg(FARG) for a landing – it also gave them a chance to change seats – my MIL did the right seat out and my son back.

7/7

So FARG was extremely busy. I’ve never seen it like that before. When I called 10nm out there were 3 aircraft already in the pattern (one orbiting to drop parachutists) and 2 others inbound – which is a lot for an uncontrolled airfield. We’ve been suffering under a heavy high pressure system for a few days now – the QNH was 1038mmHg (30.65in) and I forgot to set to local until well into the descent which left me a little lower than I wanted to be for the overhead join but fortunately I was at the front of the queue and was able to recover on the downwind leg. Schoolboy errors..

The landing was (as should be at a shortish field) positive and we taxied onto the apron for the seat swap. As I’m taxiing out to 16, the paradrop guy announces he’s commenced his meat bombing run – so I ask him how many jumpers – 8 or 9 he replies…. OK. Then I ask where they are because I can’t see them from the hold short position and his response is to say “Don’t worry, you’re well away from them – just go you’ll be ok.”

Hmm. Didn’t seem like the best advice but after checking again to see they were not on the upwind and as I was departing straight out I decided to go for it. Didn’t see them at all. I even looked back after takeoff and didn’t see them. Oh well. I’d have been much happier to have eyes on but since the drop pilot didn’t even know how many jumpers he had, it seems like it wouldn’t have been that helpful to have seen some. I’d be interested to know what the procedures are at other fields where skydiving occurs. To me the safest approach would be to halt all ops until the divers are all recovered onto the field but I’m not that keen on sitting there with the Hobbs running while people drift down 4000ft under canopies.

But back to Lanseria we went only to find that every man and his dog was, in fact flying today. We were 4th inbound to the left downwind with a B737 on long final and 2 on the right downwind – Orbits, orbits for everyone! But the best part (after having to fly a 7mile final) was that the wind was blowing directly down the runway. I think this is only the second time in my flying career and we made an absolute greaser. Top tip – when flying with your mother in law, make every landing a greaser. Another 1,5h in the logbook and cross country time to boot.

Untitled

I want to do my PPL(Instrument) so I need to log the cross country hours. Also starting the night rating so doing some sim hours too. The best part is that on reflection I don’t remember having to work too hard to fly the plane this time. Maybe I’m getting that feel – finally.

First post PPL Flight – Circuits at Lanseria





22 June 2018

Using the PPL for the first time

Date of FlightAircraftRouteTime(hrs)Total(hrs)
22 June 2018ZS-JAB (SR20)FALA(Lanseria, Johannesburg) - FALA1.077.4

There is something about flying yourself for the first time with a freshly minted PPL certificate. No instructor to sign you out. Nobody double checking the tanks and the oil to make sure that you’ve put the caps back properly. It’s weird. But in a good way. I decided that I wanted to practice my landings and circuits mainly to keep current and proficient. Well. This was a lesson to me. This was going to be one of the worst flights I’ve ever done. 5 circuits. 2 reasonable landings. 2 balked landings (one from a PIO which got very scary very quickly – fortunately I remembered Thomas Turner’s One-Bounce-Rule and quickly got on the power and was away). The second balked landing was the scary one. I had a big bounce and wasn’t about to try my luck again – Full throttle but she just wouldn’t climb – so I ended up floating about 50ft above the runway for a while until airpseed built – in retrospect I should have triued to recover the landing with a bit less power to level off and give it another go – it’s a 10,000ft runway so there is almost always a chance to correct the landing – although this feels like cheating becasue not all runways are 10,000ft long!

 

So I left the field somewhat demoralised but have thought about it a lot and played through the scenarios in my head. I know what was wrong (poor airspeed control) and this is fixable – and to be honest the conditions were lousy – significant turbulence and variable winds on the final approach made nailing the airpseed somewhat tricky. Next week is another week – and it’ll be the first flight with my wife and daughter.  



Solo Navigation Exercise 1






Solo Nav Number 1 – FALA – FAVV – FARG – FALA

Date of FlightAircraftRouteTime(hrs)Total(hrs)
28 April 2018ZS-JAB (SR20)FALA(Lanseria, Johannesburg) - FAVV(Vereeniging) - FARG(Rustenburg) - FALA1.961.1

Look. Flying an airplane is fantastic. Flying an airplane solo on the other hand? Absolutely amazing.

It’s great to be flying solo again. But scary too. Almost everyone I know who has learned to fly tells me they got lost on their solo navs. I’m sure this is why we only go to airports we’ve been to with instructors.

Today’s routing is south from Lanseria, over the northwest suburbs of Johannesburg (I can see my house from here!), over Soweto and Orlando and out to the Vaal Triangle for a touch and go at Vereeniging airport (FAVV), then north west over the Grasmere (GAV) VOR and thereafter to Rustenburg(FARG) for another touch and go and then back through the Magaliesberg General Flying area to Lanseria – about 130nm total.

Southbound FALA—FAVV 28 May 2018

CAVOK prevailed fortunately and the early morning provided smooth conditions which was a pleasant change from the bumpy air I’m used to. (Note to self – take wife and kids flying in the morning).

Lanseria to Vereeniging was very much an uneventful leg – was expecting more traffic at FAVV but there was one aircraft that had landed and was taxiing clear as I did my overhead join – approach was from the south where there are quite a lot of power lines quite close to the field so short field technique is required.

Vereeniging to Rustenburg – it’s a long way. And there is NO traffic. At all. Rustenburg is starting to feel like a second home at the moment so the challenge was to land before the mid touchdown zone which is somewhat disconcerting as this requires aiming AT the clearway short of the field. Still lots of dead plovers on the runway – the one good thing about the south to north approach is that the large smokestack nearby is to the southeast of the field – and the climb out is to the northeast..

Quickly through the GF and back to Lanseria. 1.9 on the Hobbs and my first solo nav under my belt. Did I get lost? Nope. Could one get lost? Sure. My instructor is pretty rigorous on continually looking at the map and knowing where you are, even before you get to the waypoints which I agree is probably the safest way to do things. 1 Nav down. 2 to go.



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.

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.

Stall Spin Checkout and Dual Check

Lesson 6

Date:- 4 August 2017

Aircraft: – ZS-JAB

Route: – FALA – Magalies GFA – FALA

METAR: –METAR FALA 041300Z 14004KT 040V170 9999 SCT035 20/M00 Q1024 NOSIG

Hours:- 1.3

Total Hours:- 9.7

 

Well it’s fair to say that I have had mixed feelings about this flight. It’s a bit of a rite of passage in my mind. After every 10h prior to going solo we have to have a “dual check” where the head flight instructor flies with the student to make sure he/she is progressing well and to check up on the quality of instruction his instructors are providing.

Since I’ve done all the upper airwork exercises it was also an opportunity to do a “stall/spin signout” which is required (for good reason)prior to starting work in the traffic pattern. A lot of people kill themselves by stalling or spinning at low altitude in the circuit, particularly on the base-final turn and stall recognition and prompt recovery are thus important to have a good handle on.

It’s difficult flying with a new instructor – especially one you haven’t met before. But he seems like a decent sort and is very enthusiastic about doing things the right way. In fact, I thought my existing instructor was very “by the book”. This chap was even more so – but in a very good way. So we did things a little differently – the hard part for me was that I felt like I was having an exam and he was very much in the mode of instructing. In fact, he did all the radio work despite the fact that my regular instructor told him I’m quite capable – but it was nice to concentrate on the flying.

As it turned out it was just as well he was doing the radio work – but more on that later. Because taxiway A4 is closed at FALA at the moment for repair and resurfacing we are doing intersection takeoffs and the run up bay for 07 is unavailable – so we did our run ups on the apron and taxi’d out to toward A3. (Along the green line). As it turns out we could have done our run up short of A3 because wouldn’t you know it but 3 737’s all pushed from the apron simultaneously and we had to wait for them. Which would have been fine except one of the 737 crews managed (between the 2 of them) to forget the well NOTAM’d closure of A4 and they taxied merrily off toward the A4 end of 07. One imagines a few red faces when they had to do a U-turn in the runup bay and come back. While all of this was going on we just waited and waited and waited on the taxiway.

Fortunately TWR was on board and while the second 737 was backtracking to the departure end of 07 we were given clearance to do an expedited departure and turn out from the A3 intersection.

image

Rest of the flight was essentially uneventful. The instructor was pretty good value because he had some different ideas about doing things (all of which seemed valid) – he even tried to cure my “looking inside-itis” by turning off the PFD (there are backup instruments) and I was quite chuffed to do a full turn and not be more than 100ft off initial altitude. Stalls were fine except as promised, this particular aeroplane definitely drops a wing at the stall break which caught me a little by surprise.

4 aug

A couple of (not so good) full flap stalls followed by one decent one and it was back to FALA for another landing – mine this time and really not too much drama at all. I feel like I’m getting the feel of the aeroplane.

So I’m officially signed off for stall recovery/spin avoidance and the next step is into the circuit for a couple of hours. Solo should be soon but I suspect it will be delayed due to a SNAFU with my medical – we were a day or two late in submitting documents (which have to be in 7 working days prior to the medical panel meeting – upshot is that my case wasn’t presented so will only be reviewed on 15 August. With formal decision only being communicated 7 working days thereafter.

In the meantime however, I’m getting stuck into Air Law which trust me is a fate worse than death. On the plus side, my Crazed Pilot audio recording cable arrived and it actually works. So hopefully now my post flight reviews of gopro footage will be more useful. I also found a good place to position the GoPro to get a good overview of panel and horizon – at ear level just forward of my head on the pilot side door window. Some more footage below….

 

 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2TDtc7W9uM]

#notflying (on Purpose) – Stalling and Guineafowl

So it seems stalling isn’t such a big issue after all.

alternate textSexy little Gen 5 SR22T ZS-BET

Yeah, that’s not quite right is it? Stalling is a big issue and should be avoided at all costs. Except when you try to do it deliberately. When you’re learning to fly. I was fairly anxious about this lesson but as it turns out, my anxiety was misplaced.

Lesson 4

Aircraft: – ZS-BOR (my favourite)

Route:- FALA – GFA – FALA 

METAR:- FALA 191300Z 05004KT 310V120 CAVOK 21/M04 Q1028 NOSIG

Hours:-  1.6

Total Hours:- 7.0

What an awesome flight this was. The ubiquitous Lanseria haze was still making itself known so horizons were iffy at best and almost impossible (when flying into the sun) at other times.  I’m not sure if this aircraft (BOR) is a better behaved one than the previous day’s one (ZIP) but straight and level was MUCH easier to achieve, and the turns were a LOT prettier than yesterday’s. A bit of decent altitude and then it was time for the HASELL checks –

  • Height(>2000ft AGL),
  • Aircraft (configured for maneuver)
  • Safety
  • Security(everything strapped down/put away – no anvils in the back seat!)
  • Engine Full rich, boost on, indicators in green
  • LookOut
  • Landing strip for emergency landing.

I keep forgetting the mnemonic so included it here for my own edification.

Then clean stalls – this is a great demonstration of the delay in the pressure instruments – on the AHI it looks like we’re nose level but the nose is down… pull back, pull back, pull back some more and a hefty (surprisingly so) amount of LEFT rudder and then stall warning (and then to the break after a few imminents) – buffet is definitely there but not exaggerated – and she drops the nose but provided no sloppy flying (ailerons level…) no wing drop at all… It gets VERY, VERY quiet in the cockpit as the slipstream decreases. Stalls in the landing config very different – there is a significantly lower pitch angle and again she stalls beautifully – no wobbly wing drops or anything like that.

I’m led to believe that a spin CAN be induced but it requires dedicated action on the part of the pilot.. Not going to be that guy.

So what about the guineafowl? As we were coming back to Lanseria for joining it was obvious that the circuit and approaches were very busy – 3 aircraft including us coming from the GFA, a heli inbound and at least one 737 on an RNAV approach. So we’re listening out and then we hear someone going around. And then another plane goes around. Then they have to close the runway to get someone to chase the bloody guineafowl away and in the meantime we get told to extend our downwind, there are at least 2 aircraft doing orbits and 2 737’s holding for takeoff. We get base clearance but get told to keep the speed up so we chuck out 50% flaps and aim for 105, turn final and then race along in level flight to the descent point, start descent, stick out remaining flaps at 700ft AGL and make a reasonably brisk approach but bang on profile, 80 over the fence, 75 over the numbers and out of the corner of my eye I see the instructor take her hand off the stick – it’s my landing. And it’s not too shabby. And we still have to keep the power up to get the heck off the runway before we become a nose ornament on one of those Mango 737s waiting for us to land. Good fun…. (did I mention I made my first unassisted landing?)

Next time it’s power on and accelerated stalls – can’t wait.