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.

DateAircraftRouteFlight TimeTotal Time
26 September2020ZU-IBMFAGM(Rand) – FAGL(Groblersdal) – Rand2.6220

After being beaten up by turbulence last week we wanted to make an early start but it was still 7h35 when I taxied onto 29 at Rand. Takeoff was uneventful – given the full load I decided to go against engine preservation advice and run her all the way up to 5800RPM at 39inches – of course we easily made it off in the first 1/3 of the runway – I’ve always said with a Sling, you worry about takeoff performance, but are always off in less than half the runway space. Have I mentioned I love my aircraft?

The visibility played along for a change and we had great views of the centre of johannesburg as we climbed to our allotted 6300 ft (initial climbs out of FAGM are to 6300 and the incoming traffic is at 6500). Unfortunately we were about to have what has to date been my closest to a mid-air collision. The aircraft in question had announced they were over a landmark to the south of 29/11 and had been cleared for a left downwind for 29 – imagine my horror when I rolled out of my crosswind turn to find myself shockingly close to an RV7 which was in fact closer to 6250ft than 6500 ft and was most definitely not on the left downwind – he’d obviously called the landmark very early and then decided he heard right downwind. I was able to take quick evasive action and while everyone got a fright I think only I saw how close he was. On the video footage it seems very close. Scary stuff. There is definitely a lesson there about being even more vigilant although I suspect he was approaching almost directly toward us and we would have been up-sun of him and impossible to see.

Obligatory wing photo of a lot of nothing

Near misses notwithstanding the flight up to Groblersdal was quite pleasant. We decided to do the Pinedene transition again having enjoyed it on a previous flight. This time was even better because once we entered the CTR Waterkloof tower gave us clearance direct to destination which meant we got to do a shortcut across their airspace and were able to fly quite close to the airforce base and in proximity to the centre of Pretoria which never happens.

Thing 2 not cooperating

Groblersdal lies about 115nm north east of Johannesburg at the beginning of the lowveld escarpment – at 3500ft it is a lot lower than we’re used to and certainly is a lot warmer than Johannesburg. The approach is quite pretty as it lies in a valley with a large amount of surrounding agriculture. We arrived at about 8h30 – well after festivities had started (they apparently started arrivals at 07h00 – these rural types get up early) and were probably the 40th aircraft (give or take) to pitch up.

Almost fully laden, the Sling can be a little bit of a handful to land especially if you come in a little fast – the C.G goes backwards quite a lot with cabin loading and the tail wants to go down which can result in ballooning and the odd bounce – As Roger said, I got good value from my landing fee – 3 for the price of one. I do need to spend some time doing proficiency flying again – my landings have deteriorated somewhat in general.

Atlas Kudu ZS-WZO (ex military aircraft – many have been converted to PT-6 turbines and are given the moniker “Atlas Angel’ and are used as jump ships

Safely parked we were able to wander the flight line and see who and what had come for breakfast. Like all good South African fly-ins, the RV’s were over represented. We counted 3 -8’s, 2 -7A’s and a few -10’s. 6 Gyros flew in from Kitty Hawk and there were a couple of KitFox Bushplanes. A pretty good turnout indeed.

Dorkier Do-27 ZS-LLU

Breakfasts can be a little hit-and-miss at these events but the Boerewors rolls on offer were delicious and being able to sit at a table under a tree in close proximity to the runway was very pleasant.

Breakfast under the trees
The kids

The flying crowd are generally a friendly bunch and there were a number of fellow rally competitors there so we chatted a bit longer than we planned to and were later than we’d wanted when time came to leave – which put us back in the turbulence again – this time with 2 rear seat pax, I couldn’t find an altitude that was comfortable and still under the Johannesburg controlled airspace so we had to ride it out.

I believe that turbulence is worse in the back seat of our aircraft – fortunately, I hope never to be in a position to verify the accuracy of that statement. IBM is certainly light in the wing-loading stakes so turbulence can be an issue – it seems particularly bad this year – our windy season has lasted longer than it usually does and the early summer heat + wind stirs the air up terribly. I feel terrible when a passenger feels queasy but there generally is not much that can be done other than reassurance and the most direct routing possible..

We arrived overhead Rand airport with a 30kt 45degree crosswind at pattern altitude which is always fun – flying the downind leg 50degrees off heading and still tracking the downwind is overrated. I also know intuitively that the downwind turn isn’t dangerous but it always feels very uncomfortable – I’m sure it is the the sensation of movement and the strange visual ground track which causes people to overbank and get into trouble.

Another great day’s flying and another 2.6 in the logbook – it’s starting to look like the second half of the year will make up for the first in terms of hours flown.

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