Thank You For Flying Air Mellow

Yesterday I was able to put another core aviation goal behind me – I finally got to take my sister up for her first flight in a light plane! She’s always been a bit more reserved when it comes to risk-taking, so this was a huge step for her. I am lucky I was able to get her to agree to go up with me…

Last year we gave her a Red Balloon gift card, that’s the outfit that you can buy all kinds of adventure experiences through – she could have gone hang gliding, or hot air ballooning, or a day at the track in a V8… or even a spa day or that kinda thing… so I was really impressed when she rang up the folks in Camden and booked a joy flight in their Chipmunk warbird. She had a great time, but the aerobatics was all a bit much for her and she ended up sick and a little terrified of the whole thing. So I had my work cut out for me.

Anyway, I pulled a fast one and for her birthday this year I promised her an hour scenic flight with me as PIC. How could she refuse?? I just had to make sure I picked the right day and that I was extra on top of things, because I knew there’d probably only be this one chance to get it right and make it good for her.

We scheduled it for the Saturday the 7th, and after a week of really crappy wet weather, imagine my joy when I woke up at 545 am and the weather was just gorgeous and looked like it was going to be great all day! She came by and we drove down to YWOL, with the traditional greasy Macca’s stop on the way to get my blood sugar appropriately satisfied.

Anyway, flying-wise it was pretty much the same as every other trip up and down the coast near YWOL – for me – but it is always special to me to experience it for the first time through someone else’s eyes. Takeoff was perfect, tiny bit¬†lumpy as we came up to the level of the escarpments, but I warned her about that, and all the turns were nice and slow and gentle, a little bit bumpy here n there, but over all very nice and just couldn’t have asked for a better, more picturesque day. I was told by a mate in the marine rescue that the whales are out in force now, but we didn’t see any.

She did a good job with her task as “flight photographer” and “plane spotter” – kept her busy and engaged. She spotted the Stearman before I did even! ūüôā

Landing was nice and smooth though a bit off centreline. Taxied back to parking, and by this time she is just so full of joy and pride, and I think she felt like she conquered her fears. She said now she will not hesitate to go back up, and her cage is “unrattled” haha. Another item off my bucket list!!

Coupla piccies of the day…

Image

windy day…

Image

cruisin…

Image

even the industrial filth has a certain beauty from the air…

Another Milestone!

Yesterday was another gorgeous day with not a cloud in the sky and minimal winds – great day to drive down to Wollongong and get some more solo flying in!

As of last trip, my total solo hours were 2.7. ¬†The rules state that you must have a dual session with an instructor after each 3 consecutive hours. ¬†2.7 is close enough, so the first thing was to hop in for a couple of circuits with Bruce. ¬†This is a good thing, as you can tend to forget things if you haven’t flown for a couple of weeks. ¬†I think it also helps build your confidence back up before you take to the skies alone again.

So, we did 2 circuits, one just normal and the last one Bruce simulated an engine failure right after take-off.  Since there was plenty of runway remaining, the drill is just to pop the nose down to the glide attitude and land the plane on what is left of the runway, then vacate and taxi back to start over.  Once that was done and he was satisfied, I went back up.

I needed about 2.3 hours to get to the required 5, but this is alot to do in one go. So I broke it up into chunks Рabout 3/4 of an hour just doing circuits, trying to nail the landings and other elements of a good circuit.  Once I see brain fade coming in, I land and come in for a break.

After a half hour or so, I had rested and processed sufficiently and decided to go back up and hit the gorgeous training area.  This is the coastal stretch between Port Kembla and Kiama, and is a visual overload for anyone who loves the ocean and coastal scenery in general.

From my last experience, I knew that I needed to really concentrate on just keeping it Straight and Level (lesson one haha) and more practice on my left turns. ¬†Since I knew going in that these needed work, I was able to anticipate issues before they occurred, and kept myself at 2500 feet (ok +/- a little bit if I decided to just sight-see for a minute). ¬†But – buzzing up and down 20 or so miles of even the most beautiful rugged coastline can get a bit monotonous after awhile and again I decided to pull it in before I started just tuning it out – I am not doing this just to “tick boxes” and go through the motions… I have my day job for that hahah ūüėČ

In fact, one of the driving reasons for heading back to the field was that I was getting very low on fuel. ¬†Although I practice engine failures whenever possible, and I am always thinking “where can I land if it goes pear-shaped?” I don’t want to experience a real one – especially if its preventable!

So, brought her down, rested and drank some more water, fueled up and headed back out. ¬†At this time I only needed another .3 hours and, time being money, decided to just do a few circuits to knock it out – besides, the brain was really overloaded this time so best to stick with the familiar…

And that’s it for this weekend, another milestone complete – 5 hours as Pilot In Command towards my Certificate. ¬†This week I’ll contact Brett and we’ll go over What’s Next – in preparation for (hopefully) my Flight Test!

Plenty to go after this (arguably a lifetime) but feeling pretty good about my progress. ¬†There is a real chance I might have my certificate with passenger and cross country ratings by the end of the year! ¬†After that, I will want to parley this into a PPL rating to increase my options of what I can fly and where, but for now this feels an awful lot like “Living The Dream”

First Area Solo!

Image

Well this is a month for firsts, doesn’t seem long ago I posted about my first solo and on Saturday April 13, I did my first Area Solo! First did an hour of circuits just to warm up since it had been a couple weeks, then after a break, I finally cut the cord and called a crosswind departure into the training area for another glorious hour of toodling around between Kembla and Kiama (from Wollongong).

Bruce mentioned before I went up after the break that the air was nice and smooth at around 3000 feet, so I headed there.  I think it changed a little during that time and was actually a bit choppy, so I found a nice little pocket around 2750 feet and just tried to keep it steady.

Here are some pictures, I snapped a few quick ones with my phone since it was nice and smooth for the most part:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/k0adhlct4wiqvxp/qw_XokeSgk#/

A couple of things I noticed after all this time in the circuits, it is bloody hard to hold straight and level for a long time!! In the circuit, I guess you only have to hold it for 2-3 minutes, but boy can it wander when you are just buzzing around!

Also – after 1.5 years of mostly right-hand circuits, my left turns need some work! Skid ball was all the way to the right, I guess I was carrying too much tension when giving it left rudder into the turn since I hadn’t had to think about those for over a year!

Anyway, a good solid morning of challenging myself and lots to think about between now and next weekend! Only a couple hours left solo for the required 5, exciting stuff! In fact will have to do a dual first come to think of it…

How was everyone else’s day??

First Solo!!!

“Remember, thou art mortal… Remember, thou art mortal…”

It is said that the Generals and Consuls of Rome, having returned from battle victorious, in their Triumphal Procession through the city, would actually have someone employed to whisper this phrase over and over in their ears. ¬†One can only imagine how overwhelming to the senses such an event would have been, essentially focused on one individual and his accomplishments. ¬†A prudent reminder that regardless of how invincible one might feel, you’re only ever a stab in the dark away from disaster. ¬†I believe the Emperors after Gaius Julius Caesar largely abandoned this practice…

Before I continue with a metaphor that probably won’t withstand a lot of scrutiny, let me just say that on 9:30am on Saturday, March 30th, I probably could have used someone like that. ¬†This was the day, after many months of anticipation and occasional setback, that I first Took To The Wing by myself – my First Solo Flight!

The previous few attempts over the past month or so were hampered by weather, and my almost diabolical ability to arrive for my lesson at the exact moment the winds/turbulence/thermals would reach a point beyond what would be prudent for a First Solo flight.  No sense freaking me out worse than necessary!

So this time, in conjunction with the 4-day Easter weekend and a much-needed getaway with Rebecca, I rocked up at 8am for the first flight of the day. ¬†This turned out to be just the ticket, and after doing the daily inspection and preflight, Bruce and I went up for a few circuits around just to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything important.

(As a side note – my CFI Brett put me in touch with Bruce down at Fly Illawara at Wollongong Regional Airport so that I could go down there and try to rack up some solo hours without the extra time/expense of a Navs lesson from Bankstown)

3 quick circuits and nothing major bent and we called a Full Stop. ¬†Bruce said “I’m outta here” and I dropped him off on the taxiway before taxiing back to enter runway 34 and make personal history.

Right away, something unrehearsed happened, as there was a huge ambulance helicopter sitting at the junction of several taxiways, and right in my path. ¬† He didn’t look like going anywhere, so I just made a wide berth and got around him and continued on across runway 26/08.

Like the long walk out the lobby after a job interview, I slowly trundled my way to the threshold of 34, made my radio call, and acted as Pilot In Command for the first time.

Equal parts exhilarating and terrifying, and accompanied by my non-stop critical inner dialogue, this was certainly every bit as adrenaline-pumping as I had imagined it might be.  Even now as I type this, much of it is a blur.

I’ll try not to crap on too much, so that non-aviation interested readers won’t tune out (any more than normal) but the most noticeable thing was the aircraft performance was transformed! ¬†I had a reasonably light load of fuel and with the instructor gone, this thing just shot out of the blocks like a Stripe-Assed Ape! ¬†I am pretty sure I was close to 1000′ before I reached the end of the runway!

Anyway, I just did circuits, which are an established traffic pattern around the airport, so nothing really new or exciting there.  But with the enhanced performance everything happened much quicker.  I think that my training in Bankstown put me in good stead for some of the busier parts of the workload such as the radio calls etc.  The final approach slope was a bit higher and steeper as well, and the float down the runway longer until I worked out how to account for the lighter weight there as well.

So I did this for a little over 3/4 hour until I got to the point where I recognised the brain fade kicking in and went ahead and called for a full stop so I could come back down to earth and let this sink in for awhile. ¬†Bruce was nice enough to welcome me back to terra firma with a radio call congratulating me on my first solo ūüôā

I would also like to add my thanks here to Bruce Robbins at Fly Illawara, for working with me essentially as an unknown temporary “transfer” from another school, and spending the time necessary to make sure I was at the standard and got me familiar with the Wollongong airport. ¬†I won’t post his number or info here, but please send me a note if you would like to contact Bruce.

So there you have it, .8 hours in the logbook as Pilot in Command, 4.2 to go as a minimum for my certificate, and an experience I can never repeat – First Solo!

Astute readers will note that I played it safe and avoided the Ides of March ūüėČ