Earth Angels!

Hey all,

We have thought a lot about trying to get involved in volunteering, as it is something we have gained immense joy from in the past.

After reading about the outfit in a recent magazine (Australian Flying, from memory) I decided to look into this worthy organisation. After reading the background information and stories on their website, we agreed this is something we want to be involved in.

Now, I don’t have my ticket just yet, but one way I could get involved and get my foot in the door so to speak is by volunteering as an “Earth Angel”… Simply put, the pilots volunteer their time and aeroplane (fees and fuel are reimbursed), but once the person gets to the airport, they still need volunteers to pick them up and take them to or from the hospital or whatever.

Anyway, I’m proud to say that we have decided to be involved in no matter how small a way, and I am sure that one day when I am fortunate enough to be able to fly (and have the requirements met), we will be able to give back by flying some missions to be a blessing to those in need.

Check it out on


Hangin’ with the CFI….

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been lucky enough to be assigned to the CFI himself for the remainder of my training.  While I feel like I have gotten very good training from his predecessors, in the end the only way I will make progress is by having someone who is more available to me.

It also helps that his philosophy is to train me to the highest possible standard – although I am only going for my recreational (Sport) licence, and eventually PPL, he is bent on training me to a CPL (commercial) standard.

What this means, among other things, is un-learning some habits I have already picked up, and putting more of a polish on every aspect of the flight.   Whether I will reach CPL standard is debatable, but I notice that the overall standard of everything I do has been raised a notch… I almost feel a certain amount of … professional pride… when I get a radio call right, or my approach looks really good.

It also makes it glaringly obvious to me when I am flying to a lower standard.  But I think because these things stand out so much, it helps make it very clear what I need to work on.  I like the way this guy works!!

Today I had a 1230 lesson, more circuits to try and tighten those up a little.   It was a pretty hot, breezy day, and we had about an 8-knot direct crosswind.  Oh goodie, in addition to trying to clean up my circuits, I had to deal with crosswinds for the first time in a couple of months.

I got through my checks fairly quickly, and even spotted the “mystery maintenance item” that Brett wanted to see if I would find (right main tyre getting worn).  My radio calls are getting better, and dare I say I feel like I am “speaking the lingo” to some extent – meaning I am starting to understand what it is I am telling or asking the tower, and what the responses mean.  It has been getting easier the last couple of months, but at first I was just parroting the stuff to be honest 😛

Dealing with the left crosswind meant a lot of left wing into the wind with the control column, while keeping right rudder in check to prevent drift.   As we reach the speed to rotate, the wings slowly get levelled and we have lift-off!   The tiny little Jabiru really weathercocks into the wind, so its a bit of work keeping it on the centreline – you DON’T want to cross over into 11C – the active runway!

Brett being a fairly light bloke, we get up to flap-raising altitude (300 ft) and crosswind turning altitude (500 ft) ridiculously quick.  The tailwind from what was a left hand wind, on a right hand circuit, gets us to the point of turning downwind (parallel to the runway, opposite direction) even quicker.  Before all that, don’t forget to kill the fuel pump, strobe light, and taxi lights!

Emphasis has been on proper Height, Spacing, Heading and Speed so this is what we work on for downwind, after the turn at 1000 feet and levelling off.  I have just about enough time to do my downwind radio call and checks (brakes, fuel pump, temps/pressures, light switches, hatches/harnesses) and it is already time to pull power, add carby heat, and turn onto base to set up for hopefully a good final approach.

As for final up to landing, well… let’s just say I still need a bit of work.  I think I am happy with my glide path to the aim point and maintaining speed, but I had a devil of a time keeping it lined up in the crosswind, and there were a few areas of rough air that made the ol’ pucker valve pulse like a strobe.

Of course, it is reassuring to see Brett out of the corner of my eye just sitting there calmly and talking as though this were no more than a parallel parking lesson at a driving school.

As the workload increases and I get out of my comfort zone, I do tend to forget some things such as removing carby heat or cleaning up flaps, so the rule now is he keeps track and if I forget it 6 times, I owe him a 6-pack.  I think he only counted 3, but he was being generous.

We also touched on flapless landings and a simulated glide approach as an intro to an upcoming lesson (emergencies in the circuit).  I still feel pretty good about gliding, but those flapless landings are going to take some getting used to.  Because the approach and everything else is faster, there is more tendency to float and a higher likelihood of ballooning.

So… that’s where we stand… after a thorough debrief, and some more tips to refine the landings, Brett says he feels like I am at solo standard on takeoffs, crosswind, downwind and base legs of the circuit.  We need to work on the turn to final and the lining up and landing portions.  He says my landings are “safe”, meaning no one would be injured, but certainly not up to a standard I would be proud of.

So… another 1.2 in the logbook, a few more pucker-bites in the seat foam, and still progressing according to plan!

I now have the option of scheduling some lessons during the week – might actually try that so I am not reliant so much on the weekends.

Till next time – more right rudder!!

Moving right along…

Bright and early Saturday morning, showed up for a 7am lesson with the CFI who is looking after my training now that my normal instructor has gone into self-imposed exile for awhile to concentrate on family, ATPLs, work, life, etc.

As far as the syllabus goes, I should be up to Engine Failures in the Circuit and Engine Failure After Takeoff but we decided to do circuits. One step forward, one step back. Thing about switching instructors, is there is always a certain amount of repetition as they want to assess for themselves where you are and where they think you need work. Would be nice if that didn’t equal money out of my pocket, but its understandable.

The irony here is that, at least for me, when flying with a new instructor, every opportunity to make a mistake or misinterpret something asserts itself and the need for reviewing circuits becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The extra mental workload of having a new person with a different way of doing things just makes everything that much more difficult.

As an example: previous instructor preferred a much lower nose attitude on takeoff, and gentler banks on the climbing turn. Right away, the CFI wants a slightly higher attitude, different reference points, etc. Suddenly my mental template over the whole process has shifted and each task I previously took as automatic suddenly had to be thought through and processed against that new overlay. A bit like driving stick shift for the first time after being used to automatic.

I think this may be a good thing. It is important, particularly in circuits, to be able to deal with unforeseen circumstances. So the point here is NOT that the new instructor threw me off my game, but that I have added one more data point – one more distraction in the circuit that I know how to deal with. Next time, I will have thought this all over and I will be ready with the new attitudes, angles, speeds, order of operations, etc.

I feel like I am going to be ready to solo maybe within the next 3 lessons or so, which is both terrifying and exciting! I have nearly completed the syllabus, and have almost 16 hours in. As I’ve said before, only repetition and frequency are going to make a difference here, otherwise I will have the same 1 hour, 25 times (as opposed to 25 hours) and no way could I consider going solo.

I wish I could afford to just take a couple of weeks off and do an uninterrupted stretch of training. But, I think things are moving along and hoping that now I am with the CFI, and its his only job (not a weekend side gig), that there must be some light at the end of the tunnel!

Great lesson – stalls and practice forced landings!

October 27, 2012 (still catching up on previous stuff)

Well seems like things are finally starting to line up a bit. My instructor has finally started to get a handle on my training records and progress, so I can start to see a pattern in where I have been and where I am heading. My previous instructor wasn’t much for writing things down, and always seemed to be in a hurry.

But, onward and upward, as they say…

I got the first 2 hour slot for the day, and it was a beautiful morning, maybe 15 degrees and not a cloud in the sky, very little wind. Preflighted the little Jabiru, got my ATIS and went through all the calls and checks a little quicker than normal – I think I am starting to get the hang of all this! Just like driving, there is not only the mechanical act of manipulating the vehicle through the desired path, but also the 1,000,001 other little things that compete for your attention – and it is this more than the mechanics of it which take so much time to absorb. If all i had to do was sit in the sky and steer, it would be easy! But no, there are heights, speeds, and angles to be maintained, a wealth of information coming from the instruments and radio to be considered, my own thoughts to be filtered through, the instructor’s voice…. so on and so on…

Anyway, it was just too nice a day to be stuck in circuits, and there is so much more of the syllabus to get through, we decided we would go out and do engine failure/forced landings and stalls. Finally, stalls! I have been trying to get the stalls lesson in for probably 6 months, and its been one comedy-of-errors after another.

So out we went, up to 4500′ once we were out of the CTL area. First, my instructor demonstrated: HASELL checks, power off, raiiiiiiiise the nose, controls get sloppy, speed goes wayyyy down, and – wait for it – we’re in the stall. Then the recovery – lower the nose, build up speed and level off. Lost a few hundred feet. Second time around, he repeated, but this time with a full power recovery. Same basic thing, but this time I don’t think we lost more than 50 feet. Next up, my turn and it really went off without a hitch. Completely anti-climactic and a non-issue, considering the buildup over the last 6 months anticipating…

After this, and probably due to the steep bank angles, the right fuel tank showed empty – I am guessing gravity moved it over to the other one. Although we still had plenty of fuel for the task, we took the opportunity to add a practical element to the lesson and diverted to Camden for fuel.

There I got to taxi to the bowser and swipe the card and fill’er up. Another Mystery Unveiled.

After a quick turnaround, back to the training area and a quick en route recap of the Engine Failure/Forced Landing briefing. Then, as with the stalls, first a demonstration followed by My Turn.

Here are my observations on this – I was quite astonished that even with the engine at idle, there is no sudden feeling of “dropping out of the sky”, and no panic-inducing sensation to prevent me from remembering my first action, which is set it at 70kts for glide. Once I got in the rhythm of putting the nose where I needed it to maintain 70, I was able to do my initial checks (CFM) and look around the area and see the patch of land he wanted me to shoot for, glide to it, do my restart checks, etc. We went through this about 3 or 4 times, and each time I would have made the field had it been a real event.

Where I had trouble, however, was remembering the passenger briefing and mayday calls. Given time i was able to recall them, but in the heat of the moment, my brain was simply too full, and those were the things that had to give. No worries though, Aviate, Navigate, Communicate – 2 outta 3 ain’t bad 🙂 I am pretty sure with practice I will get the bulk of it down in muscle memory and have capacity in reserve for the finer points.

All up, did 2.1 hours and I have almost 15 out of the required 20. Since I have not yet soloed, there is no way that I will get it done in the 20, but that is just a minimum and it isn’t a race. If I had time and money to just knock it all out in a month, perhaps I could have. But this way, I have had experience training during all 4 seasons and various temperatures and wind conditions.

As a nice bonus, my instructor told me that this was the best flying I have ever done. I had to confess that I thought this might be due to spending a few hours on Microsoft Flight Sim X!  He laughed and said that he also uses that for practice.

Next up, engine failure in the circuit and after takeoff!

Flight Sim X To the Rescue!

So last month I had a long-planned and much-anticipated lesson cancel on me. Weather was perfect and everything else seemed to be in alignment, but never mind…. Anyway, I have been much lamenting the fact that my lessons are always so broadly spaced – think I am averaging less than 1 per month, over the last year or so and it has been a real struggle even when I do get a lesson in to retain the info. I spend a good portion of the time recapping the last one.

This time, I decided to wipe an old laptop and I found a copy of Flight Sim X for $15 at JB Hi -Fi. That and a decent joy-stick (Logitech Attack 3?) with lots of buttons to assign, and I was in business.

I went through most of the “Flying Lessons” and “Missions” over the space of the last few weeks, and also did a fair amount of “Free Flying” where I can pick an airplane along with a departure and destination. I actually was able to use my VTC to get from Bankstown to Wollongong after just a couple of tries, and even got there within a couple minutes of my estimate.

I find that because you can’t get the view in your peripheral vision, it is very easy to overshoot the runway turning on final, which makes it not helpful for that part of it, but I find lining up fairly easy in real-life anyway.

So – the verdict? Well, no it isn’t 100% true-to-life, and there are some irritating limitations that keep it from being completely realistic. BUT. It really keeps you in the head-space, helps practice moving in 3-dimensional airspace using your controls (i disable auto-yaw and have assigned a couple of buttons for rudder), and most importantly gives great mental practice at having the right thoughts at the right times, coupled with the control inputs – like building muscle memory in the mind.

I have been able to use it to spot some deficiencies in my own process and smooth them out – for example when I had an engine go out, I completely froze on what to do!! This showed me that is exactly what would have happened in real life. So I practiced that a bit and now it is more or less automatic. As a bonus, I had my lesson this weekend where we did engine failures and practice forced landings, and guess what – it didn’t feel like the first time!! In fact, my instructor said i achieved certificate standard first time out!

All in all, probably the most powerful money I have spent in terms of bang for the buck. I also find that it is helpful after a lesson in going over things you just learned (in absence of being able to do several lessons in a week)

Thanks, Flight Sim X!

Scenic Flight in Tassie

Went to Tassie recently and took a really lovely scenic flight around the Freycinet peninsula in a C172. Great steep crosswind landing onto the dirt strip as well, really gets the blood pumping. Pilot looked to me to be about 12 years old, but I guess that happens more and more these days….…?action=view&current=IMG_0091_zps27c6bbb5.mp4

If you are ever in Tasmania, be sure and look them up!

Freycinet Air

1st Entry

Hi there… welcome to my first entry into the Blogosphere.   I wanted a good place to log my progress, thoughts, pictures, etc as I work towards my RAAus certificate. As of now, I have about 15.5 hours in, mostly in a Jabiru j170, and trying to work towards first solo. Lots of anxiety building up to that, I’ll be glad when its behind me. In a way, that will be when I will know for sure that “I Can Do This”.

Short to mid-term, I want to get my RAAus certificate with PAX, XC, and maybe tailwheel, low performance, and controlled area endo’s, then buy a cheapy to build up hours in while i work towards converting to PPL. Or a decent 2-seater that I can lease back to a school.

Eventually, when I have a few hundred hours up I’d like to convert to CPL so I could maybe do some sightseeing tours, or run packages or such. Who knows….

Oh, and “more right rudder”?  That would be the advice given to me, in varying degrees of urgency by THREE (and counting) flight instructors!  Maybe one day it will stick 🙂

Anyway, watch this space….