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Family flying

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.

Categories
Flight training

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.

Categories
Flight training

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…..

Categories
Aviation Medical Flight training

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]

Categories
Flight training

Attitude Flying – Lesson 2

So its been a bit of a bad time for flying of late. What with the persistent winter inversion and ongoing IMC at Lanseria and then someone apparently broke an engine mount on one of the Avidyne equipped SR20s. Which prompted the flying school to pull all the Avidyne SR20s off the line and inspect the engine mounts. This is an advantage of having the maintenance facility for the aircraft on site. The engineers know the flight instructors and won’t send them off into the wild blue yonder in dodgy aircraft. Bad news for me was that I had a lesson cancelled. Better safe….

But there’s always another day. And that was Thursday. Lots of work to do in the plane. On the plus side – my NFlightCam GoPro ATC Cable arrived on Monday so was able to use that. Now if I’d actually managed to plug it in correctly I’d have ATC audio. But I didn’t. Next time..

But back to Thursday. Got to fly the lovely ZS-JAB complete with her  faux USAF markings..
image

Actually, I wonder if this isn’t one of the Cirruses used by the USAF for ab-initio training and then sold on? Apparently these SR20’s are some of the highest time Cirruses in the world.

First hurdle was that I managed to flood the engine. #facepalm. Fixed that. Instructor says, “OK, you can do some of the radio calls.”

So I belt out the first contact. She looks at me sideways and says… “Are you sure you aren’t a pilot already?” Then I have to confess the hours of online Flight Simulation and virtual ATC I’ve been doing for years and years. At least that’s one thing I don’t have to worry about.

So.

ROUTE:-  FALA – Magalies GFA – FALA

AIRCRAFT:- Cirrus SR-20 ZS-JAB

Hours:- 1.4

Goals: – Exercises 6-10

Taxiing is coming right!! It’s less like a runaway shopping cart and more like an aero plane. I’ll get on top of that free castoring nosewheel yet!

Takeoff was OK-ish – overdid the right rudder and really struggled to find centerline again on the roll but liftoff was good – was able to find Vy easily at 95kts. It was very bumpy en route to the GFA and pretty hazy making heading holding difficult. Turning left over Hartebeespoort dam we flew UNDER a vulture. Which was really cool. (Better to fly under than into…).

On to Straight and Level – same speeds, different attitude. Climbs, descents, turns. I’m starting to get the feel of the plane and looking OUT is definitely an improvement on staring at the panel. Turns are going to take some work. Left turns are okay – the spinner traces the horizon nicely at 30deg of bank. Right turns are harder because I see mostly sky and while the spinner may well be tracing the horizon, I can’t see it. But after (quite) a lot of turns they were getting easier.

Back into FALA airspace and I was back on the radio – not making an a*se of myself at least. I’m starting to recognize the landmarks around the airport which will help. I know where the turn point onto final approach to 07 is. My approach and round out  was “very good” (according to instructor) but the landing… Well let’s just say that if you hear the instructor saying “don’t fight me” as you’re about to touch down it’s probably not a good thing.  Apparently I was trying to bank the plane left in ground effect. On debriefing it would appear that as I flared my wrist was externally rotating which was twisting the stick to the left – leading to bank. I’m going to have to concentrate very hard on that.

Here is some audio free GoPro footage from the lesson.

Next lesson 19 July…..