Categories
Sport Flying

President’s Trophy Air Race

Previously known as the Governer General’s Air Race, the State President’s Air Race and now the President’s Trophy, this event is one of the oldest air races in the world. It has gone through a number of iterations and alterations over the years but has run, more or less uninterrupted, for almost 75years.

As a prestigious event in the South African flying calendar, the race has always been on my radar, but this is the first year that I’ve been eligible to take part as there is a requirement for a minimum of 250h PIC time from competing pilots. Last year’s race was cancelled due to COVID and thus we found ourselves in the sleepy Eastern Mpumalanga town of Ermelo on Thursday morning.

Categories
Uncategorized

Game lodging

Despite having had the aeroplane for some years now, we have not, until now, used it to actually go on holiday. Our April holiday plans were extensively disrupted by the different (and constantly changing) kids’ term dates. My son also insisted on going to his residential community service camp (who are we to stand in the way of community service?), and this meant that a family holiday was out of the question. And thusly it was decided that the two of us would head away for a couple of nights in the Madikwe Game Reserve.

Getting there

Madikwe is only about 250km in a straight line from our house but by road it’s closer to 300km and can take up to 4 hours. With two airstrips in the park it seemed like the ideal opportunity to fly there.

Categories
Cross Country flying

Back to Cape Town

About 2 and a bit years ago I took myself and my new(to me) Sling down to Cape Town. This was the last time I had been able to do a big cross country flight so I was quite pleased when the opportunity presented itself for another tax deductible flying trip to the Mother City.

The process of planning for such a flight (680nm) isn’t difficult – the main issue would be whether or not the weather would be conducive – fortunately late Feb/early March are good times to fly with the risk of thunderstorms having lowered and before the winter cold fronts start rolling in. With the full price commercial (easily refundable) tickets booked as backups, I was still pleased to see the weather looking clear for the flight down. The only wrinkle was the wind. Which was blowing. Like crazy.

DateAircraftRouteFlight TimeTotal Time
20 Feb 2021ZU-IBMFAGM(Rand) – FATP(New Tempe) – Morningstar7.3260.6

The forecast called for the wind at FL85 to be 30kts on the nose and just getting worse above that, so I decided to flight plan at FL65 which is a LOT lower than I would like to fly. We (I was able to return a favor and give one of the chaps in the JLPC a lift down to Cape Town) decided to make an early start so we could fuel at Bloemfontein New Tempe (FATP) and still get in before it got too late.

Categories
circuits flying Night rating

The Night Life – Nov 2020

I was very keen to get my night rating. So keen, in fact that I went straight from my PPL into night training. There was a lot to be said for the night rating – extra hours of sim time, extra instrument time, and the joy of flying at night where it is generally smooth and calm.

Once I got the rating though, there was no need to fly at night, and moving the aircraft to Baragwanath effectively put paid to any desire to fly at night due to the inability of the locals to stop stealing the runway lights – no night facilities were available at all. One of the driving factors for moving to Rand airport was that there were good night flying facilities. I was still reticent to become current at night again – mostly I was somewhat worried about getting into trouble.

Categories
flying

After the rains

For the last 2 weeks the weather has not been conducive to flying. A tropical cyclone passed to the north of us and it seems to have set up a pattern where tons of warm moist air is being driven down from the ICTZ, bringing with it bouts of torrential rain and the odd embedded thunderstorm.

Definitely not weather for flying. Two flying events have been cancelled or postponed – one a fun navigation rally and the other a speed rally. The speed rally is now scheduled to take place next weekend and lots of us are anxiously scanning the long term forecasts to see what the likelihood of it actually happening is. 

Categories
Flight training flying Sport Flying

Learning to land?

There are only three tricks to a perfect landing. Unfortunately, nobody knows what they are. It was in pursuit of these that I found myself 500ft over the threshold of Runway 36 at Brakpan Airfield (FABB), power off, flaps down and in an aggressive sideslip. Too low… damn it… 100ft up, still 1000ft short of the zero line, flaps up… nose up a little… not too much, she’s going to stall… better now.. hold it, hold it…. here’s the line, let her land (Windscreen fills with sky).. good – now full power, flaps 1 and off again.. Over the radio…“ZU-IBM, that was a +2, well done!”

Categories
Family flying

Near misses and breakfasts

It’s been quite a long time since all 4 of us flew anywhere. Mostly this has been because of scheduling issues and the requirement that flying be limited to essential crew only (good grief – every single post seems to start with a COVID lockdown reference).

Groblersdal flying club hosted their annual breakfast flyin on Saturday so we decided to take a look. Initially it was going to only be my son and I but my daughter expressed interest and then my wife developed FOMO and suddenly the plane was full.

Categories
flying General

Turbulent times

It seems that I am going to log a decent month’s worth of flying in September. We are making the most of the lack of restrictions and enjoying the freedom of being able to travel anywhere we want.

DateAircraftRouteFlight TimeTotal Time
19 September2020ZU-IBMFAGM(Rand) – FASY(Baragwanath) – Florence Guest Farm – FAGM2.7220

We’ve been meaning to go to the Florence Guest Farm at Chrissiesmeer for some time now – the last few times we’ve tried we have been unable due to low clouds. The Eastern part of the highveld plateau in South Africa is plagued by morning mist almost throughout the year due to adiabatic cooling of moist air flowing in from the Indian Ocean.

However, on this instance we were to be blessed with fantastic weather. Roger and I are both in the same hangar so we set off more or less together to Baragwanath to pick up Matthew in the Mooney. Once the usual suspects were reunited we set off East for Chrissiesmeer. We’ve figured out the timing pretty well now – if I leave first then Matthew in the Mooney 5-10min later and then Roger in the Arrow 10 minutes later, we will all arrive at more or less the same time.

Somewhere around Heidelberg

It was actually a beautiful morning for flying – so smooth in fact that my 14y old was delegated poling duties and he did a pretty good job – the difficulties of VFR in the morning haze notwithstanding. He is going to want to learn to fly so he might as well get some stick time and the advantage of doing it from the right seat is that there is less ability to rely on the instruments for attitude.

Relaxed at the controls – note the light grip!

With ATC helpfully providing separation info between the three of us we made it to Chrissiesmeer in good time. The hamlet is known as the Okavango of South Africa which I think is pushing it a little, but there certainly are a large number of lakes in the area, and it is very pretty from the air. I suspect in summer it is even prettier as the winter landscape can be somewhat drab.

Layer of pollution from Secunda’s Sasol oil-from-coal plant. Yuk.

I was last to land having flown a very long downwind to give the others time to backtrack on the grass runway. These rural airstrips in South Africa almost always seem to have large eucalyptus trees on the undershoot which are always good for focusing your attention on glide path discipline – no dragging it in here…

The runway is well kept but in all honesty, its really pretty bumpy and the left side is quite unkempt. Backtracking, we parked up next to the other two aircraft and set off in search of breakfast.

Despite arranging for breakfast to be available the staff were somewhat nonplussed at our arrival but they quickly whipped up a reasonable egg and bacon breakfast while we had a look around. The venue is marketed as a wedding type place with some overnight accommodation – it looks like a great spot for the quick overnight escape from the city and we’ll put it on the list of potential destinations for this sort of trip.

With the obvious exception of the actual flying the best part of these breakfast runs is sitting around and chatting while eating breakfast. After breakfast I was able to fly the drone a bit (after making sure there was no traffic in the area!) and then we set off home. There was some discussion about heading to the EAA Taildraggers flyin at FAWA but since we’re all blessed with nosewheels we decided to give it a miss and head straight back to Rand.

Later that afternoon the first thunderstorms of the season struck but at midday when we were flying back we were very aware of the convective activity – this was easily the worst turbulence since my flight back from Cape Town – we couldn’t find a comfortable level and had one or two of those ‘bang your head on the ceiling and dislodge your headset type moments’. It’s always entertaining when ATC asks why you’re 200ft above your planned cruise level when you’re at idle throttle, 7degrees nose down with a 900fpm climb rate.

We landed at Rand about 10minutes before the first storm rolled through (from the other direction) and stuffed the plane into the hangar. Summer is definitely on it’s way and flying needs to start happening earlier!

Categories
flying Sport Flying

Racing again

After a successful navigation rally held some weeks ago the groundwork was laid for the resumption of Speed Rally flying. The season has been completely disrupted by the COVID pandemic with the second and third races being cancelled. There was much excitement when it seemed that we could continue with two further events this year.

And such it was that Steve and I found ourselves heading east on Friday afternoon to Secunda. Getting out to Rand Airport is a lot less of a schlep on a Friday afternoon than Baragwanath and the hangar attendant had pulled IBM to the front of the hangar so we were good to go – traffic levels at the airport are quite high and we were number 3 or 4 to depart for the short 70nm trip to Secunda (FASC).

Categories
Uncategorized

Annual done and a new home

As much as May is a flying administration month with medicals and license renewals (did I mention it took 9 weeks to get my license renewal back from submission to collection?), August/September is annual time.

Last year I had a big shock in that I had to pony up for the 5yearly rubber hose replacement, so I was hoping for a less significant annual inspection this time round. Annual time is funny, because it forces one to take a look at the hourly cost of ownership of the aircraft for the previous year – and this obviously depends on the number of hours flown. So the denominator this year is much lower than last year because of the lockdown. Last annual year I flew 65hours. This year, 44…