Time for an “Australian Plane Adventure”

Work in progress "plane adventure"I’ve been dreaming about the possibility of flying around Australia for as long as I can recently remember. The excitement has been building for a while and by no means has it let up! Continuously researching and leveraging an incredible set of resources has led to a list of “must see places” as long as my arm. I’ve learnt so much about our incredible country in the process and that has just fueled the fire even more! Then when the dream has become shared with another adventurer and now 4, it just gets even more exciting and real.

The challenge however lay in translating such a dream into reality. Amidst the dreams though there were many times of reality too. Questions like, what plane, where from, where to get fuel, what places can really fit, where to stay, who’d come, how long, what time of year and how much will this trip really cost! Needless to say, but I’d be away from my kids for a while too, how would that work for us all. With so many questions, time just seems to get away and decisions weren’t happening. However in the last few weeks, it has all lined up and it is go!

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The plane for our trip, Cessna 182T G1000

The plane! Our final choice of transport is a Cessna 182T equipped with G1000 avionics. The good folks of Melbourne Flight Training have helped make this part real. It is very exciting to know we have an aircraft and great the support. I can’t say enough about these guys. The choice of aircraft has been an adventure in itself and I’ll share that journey in another post.

The date! Will it be this year or next has been the question. Well it is going to be this year and we’ll be setting off on the 8th September from Melbourne’s Morrabin Airport. It is the best time of year to balance of weather across the approximate route. It also fits nicely before the school holidays and my little princesses birthday.

The people! An adventure is nothing without sharing it with others. The crew is going to be Renee, Jennifer and Lindsay. It is this mob that has been a great motivation and constant source of can-do outlook and excitement. Without them, this trip simply wouldn’t be happening. Thanks guys!

So with a few key parts all falling into place, time to plan the rest!

So to the blog. The goal of the blog will be to keep a record of our plane adventure for us to look back on. However we hope it will also be a resource for others to use if they also choose to take on such an adventure. Between now and finishing the trip, the plan will be to keep short and regular updates flowing.  Particularly pointing to the many great resources that are available to plan such a trip.  So subscribe away and get updates as we go ☺

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Mooney Mooney Mooney

The awesome Mooney

The awesome timeless Mooney M20J

The ABBA classic of almost the same name is timeless and fun.  Today was however not about music, but about flying a timeless and fun plane, a Mooney M20J.  The Mooney is rather timeless, it hasn’t really change much since the early versions and even the latest and greatest are still have that very distinctive look.

Ever since BigKev had taken me out formation flying in the Mooney, I’ve have the desire to get in and learn to fly it myself.  Today that day came!  At the start of the Easter break, I’d set myself the goal of getting type rated in the Mooney.  Just had to fit it around a week away in Dunsborough, a bunch of fishing,  some wake boarding and then learning to move again with post wake board muscle piss-weakness.  Anyway I’d been looking forward to this opportunity for some 3 years, finally seeing what the mystic and scary stories were all about.

Having arrived home from holiday, unpacking and grabbing a beer, it was finally time to get out the Mooney Pilot Operating Handbook and studying the some 176 pages along with the other 3 attachments I’d been emailed.  With the engineering & performance questionarre at hand, it made for a good 4 hours of  study.  If the Mooney was half as good as the performance numbers, it would be awesome to fly!  Checking out a few vids on Youtube to break up the reading, just got me more excited.  There is such a huge and dedicated following of Mooney fans who seem to post a great number of videos, which was excellent!

A few things that were interesting about what I found on the Mooney online, is that they have a bit of a reputation as being difficult to land, particularly if your speeds are not on the money.  Reading the Mooney Safety Program handbook talks of the Mooney Trilogy.  It starts with a bounce, followed by application of engine power to go around, not enough right rudder and the aircraft heads left to the scene of the accident.  At least reading all of these things has me in the frame of mind, if the approach is not spot on, go around.  Oh and have a pile of right boot ready for the rudder.

I arrived a little early to Jandakot for the first check flight, that way I’d have time to go and have a look over the aircraft.  Try and get at least a little familiar with the cockpit layout.  The dash was 1970’s finest, VH-AKF is a 1978 model and it looked it.  Everything needed was there though, even the oldest looking radio and autopilot I’ve ever seen.

Instructor Ben was soon ready to go.  He took me through the pre-flight checks and quickly followed by a snuggle into the tight cockpit.  It was actually quite comfortable as it turned out, more so that it would have been in the back seats.  Once into the checklist it was more about further familiarisation but pretty routine.  The one big difference I did not was the pedals.  As a Cessna regular, you can’t get away with just resting your heals on the floor.  Not so with the Mooney, it is more suited to a ballerina, you’ve kind of got to point your toes onto the base of the pedals.  To be honest though, it was pretty easy to adjust, didn’t really give it another thought. Or maybe it was just my dance prowess *cough bull#@&t *

Running up and safety checks were just like being back in the Cardinal and Diamond, with the CSU checks added to the checklist.  The Mooney is quite a sweet sounding machine too, I was super excited and ready to roll.  It was at this exact moment that the  worst radio broadcast you can hear as you are readying to take-off.  “Jandakot Terminal Information India, Expect Instrument Approach, Runways are wet…”.  Looking out the window they weren’t wet yet, but the heavy rain cloud was about to change that.  Ben and I looked at the weather radar and felt it was just a shower and no too much behind it.  So we made the call to go.

“Jandakot Tower Mooney Alpha Kilo Foxtel Ready 06 Left for Yangebup departure”.  The tower asked if we had information India which we confirmed and with that you could almost hear them, “Ok crazy people, Clear for takeoff”.  The takeoff roll was not disimilar to other CSUs, a little more right pedal and she climbed easily.  At about 100 feet you could see why the runways were about to be wet, the windscreen started taking rain drops.  The tower gave us an unusual right turn into the circuits runway as we departed to the south.  What a great little machine!

Turning downwind at the top of our climb, the Mooney quickly picked up a pile of speed and was already punching past 120 knots.  Time to wind it back a little from climb settings and get a hang of this thing.  We headed out to the south of Cockburn Sound ready to go through the aircraft handling exercises.  Stalls, turns, rapid descents, manual gear drops and of course a PFL.  I was expecting the Mooney to sink like a brick, but to my surprise it was not bad.  That was of course until we dropped the gear.  Ben was happy with my handling results, so we headed back to Jandakot.

Luckily the weather had passed and was hanging to the east of the field.  We got clearance in and headed for the circuits runway.  I was getting that awesome excitement building again, I was hanging to see how much of a handful the Mooney was for landing.  The first touch and go was not bad, the yoke is pretty heavy, but the Cardinal was not really any lighter.  I managed to hold the nose wheel off a little longer than I’d expected.  With a an adjustment to flaps and bit of a squirm on the wet runway, we were back airborne again.

Circuit after circuit we racked up around 7 landings.  We did 3 glides (with and without gear) and made it in each time.  The gear down glide was interesting, it reminds you to fly your circuits tight, you don’t want to be too far away.  It made for a tight base to final turn no more than 100 feet off the deck, but it was one of the smoothest landings of the set.  Sweet, I love this thing.  I’d have stayed all arvo, but Ben said I’d done enough to convince him we were done.

While tying down the plane, the big smiling face of BigKev came out to say g’day.  He’d come down to see how I’d gone and welcome me to the world of Mooney’s.  Was awesome and was great to share the moment with a friend who’s helped feed my excitement for flying!  Back inside, Ben said I wouldn’t need any further prep with him, he’d give me the ok to now fly with a Grade 1 instructor for final sign off (insurance requirement at RACWA).  However he also broke the news a multi choice exam would also be required before the final check flight.  Yeha, not!

Back the next morning and another review of the POH, the flight liason officer handed me the test.  44 questions and a good hour later, it was finally done with a pass.  So roll on next Saturday, Grade 1 review here we come 🙂  Can’t wait to fly the Mooney again!

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Flying and Still Loving It!

Showing a Adam, a 767 pilot, attitudes he should never try in his ride

Showing Adam, a 767/757/737 pilot, attitudes he should never try in his rides (your laugh is awesome as ever buddy, nya! nya! nya!)

Those who know me would probably agree with this statement…

“If it is worth doing, it’s worth overdoing!

That pretty much sums up the last 6 months or so of flying.  Hello blog, it’s been a while. So thought a brief snapshot of what’s been going on was probably in order!  So on opening my logbook and page turning the last 6 months, I’m slightly a taken back when I realise is covers 4 pages!  Ok, I use double spacing, but that is still nuts!  Ok, now that I’m slightly over the shock and already re-living a good part of it.  There are a few, “oh that’s right moments going on”.

This year was all about getting my aerobatics rating, which ended up taking a month.  So a bit more has been going on.  Here is a bit of summary of the last 6 months flying 🙂

  • Finished aerobatics and very regularly take willing friends and family flying
  • CSU & Retract endorsement.  For the non aviation geeks, that means Constant Speed Propellor (ok still not making sense I’m sure) and Retractable undercarriage rating
  • Garmin G1000 glass cockpit and GFC700 autopilot training
  • Cessna C177 Cardinal type rating
  • Robin 2160 type rating
  • Diamond DA40 type rating
  • Cessna C172SP G1000 and GFC700 autopilot check flight
  • Joined the awesome Curtin Flying Club
  • Gliding lessons
  • Trips to Jurien Bay, Rottnest, Busselton, Cunderdin and Northam (an unplanned but awesome diversion)

Here are some pictures and the odd video or two of a few of the trips.  I’ll get motivated and share some of the experiences, if as much for myself to keep that personal record of what adventures that have been had.  Of course, there are a few more on the cards too, lots of study at the moment for the IREX exam, but that is another story…

Anyway, here are just a few of the Adventures in pictures and videos 🙂

Mooney Formation to Busso

Mooney formation to Busselton for Breakfast with BigKev and Stuart

The awesome Diamond DA40 at Thunderbird Aero

The awesome Diamond DA40 which is beautiful to fly

Diamond DA40-G1000

Diamond DA40 and Garmin G1000 glass cockpit ratings

Awesome sunset

Awesome sunset after aerobatics

Being out faced in a 5g pull-up into a loop

The battle of the facial expressions pulling into a 5g loop.  Renee 1 : Brett 0

Aerobatics with my crazy Aunty!

Aerobatics with my crazy Aunty! More more more she says (easily out lasting the now dizzy pilot)

The joy of gliding at Cunderdin

The joy of gliding at Cunderdin

Agnes, our gliding tow plane!

Agnes, the glider tow plane!

The gorgeous VH-KXW G1000 C172 from Curtin Flying Club

The gorgeous VH-KXW G1000 C172 from Curtin Flying Club, our ride to Cunderdin

Finally to finish off, a fun quick video from the weekend of a Perth city flight and tame aeros with Justin from work…

Posted in Aerobatics, Formation, Gliding, Jandakot, Navigation, Pilot License, Robin 2160 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Introduction to Aerobatics

Joy, Air Australia's legendary aero instructor

Joy, Air Australia’s legendary aero instructor is 77 years young

Joy has a legendary status at Jandakot.  Everybody who I’ve spoken to about learning aerobatics all recommend learning from Joy.  So that is exactly what is happening.  Having passed the Private Pilots License test a week earlier, the present to self was to start learning how to fly aerobatics.  The first lesson was awesome!

We got a hurry on, given it was quite late in the arvo.  We’d have an hour before Jandakot tower closed and the chance to do some circuits was running out quickly.  The objective of today was more about getting my type rating in the Robin 2160 (aka. Alpha 160).  That involved doing some turns, stalls, a practice forced landing and circuits.  While out in the training area, Joy also demo’d some aeros.

The Robin was fun to fly, although not exactly an Extra 300.  With the Robin, you have to work pretty hard on the aero’s and really manage the aircraft energy.  This is the first low wing aircraft I’ve flown, so there are a few differences.  Apart from the great visibility,  the aircraft isn’t quite as forgiving as a Cessna.  It does have a huge tail, so kicking the plane about in the cross wind was pretty easy.

On returning to Jandakot, I did some circuits to get familiar with this aircraft.  The landings weren’t too bad and I was given the clear to fly it solo.  Although it will be several months before I can take passengers up for aero flights, it will still be fun to take them up in this aircraft due to the visibility.

Anyway, the next aero lesson is this coming Saturday.  The plan is to work through the following (in no particular order):

  • Barrell Roll
  • The Loop
  • The Wing Over
  • The Aileron Roll
  • The Stall Turn
  • The Spin and Spiral Dive
  • The Flick (Snap) Roll

As we go, the plan is to build them into a sequence for final endorsement.  Ye ha!

After the flight while chatting with Joy, Joy mentioned that as a child their family used to have a rural photo calendar they would sit around and look at the photos.  Joy remembers the calendar was published by the Birkbeck’s Model Dairy.  Joy asked if they were any relation.  Indeed they are, it was owned and operated by my Grand Father and his family located in Cottesloe.  Joy looked back on those moments with fond memories.  It was great that Joy shared those memories and then told me she was proud to be teaching a descendant aerobatics.  Thanks Joy, I’m looking forward to learning from a legend who has such passion for flying 🙂

Posted in Aerobatics, Robin 2160 | 1 Comment

Private Pilot License Flight Test

I had exactly 1 week after my pre-license to get my Private Pilots License flight test done before I had to return to work.  Time to make it happen…

It was a Thursday and all that was needed was some paperwork and the CFI to give me a date.  By Monday I hadn’t heard and was starting to get a little frustrated, surely with my procrastination over, I wasn’t going to be scuttled by somebody else’s.  A few txt message later, I got a late call Monday night and the news that there was no opportunity to do the test this week.  The CFI had a full schedule.  However 30 minutes later he rang back and said he’d found another examiner who could do my test.  Did I want Wednesday or Thursday?

It was now Tuesday night and I didn’t get a reply.  Wednesday morning I got the call.  Your booked in for Friday, should be a good day.  However, you need to urgently do your English Language Proficiency test, but we can’t fit you in.  I rang the Royal Aero Club of WA and they came to the rescue.  John, one of the CFIs ran me through the test.  A really great bloke too.

Thankfully Thursday wasn’t the day, I was as sick as hell.  My neck and head were exploding, while still wrestling flu symptoms.  Friday came though and I felt infinitely better.  Stepping out side at 6:00am, I was greeted with this big beautiful day that was smiling at me.  This was it, I knew it was perfect day.

Pre-flight on VH-VMHI was down at Jandakot by 7am, a good 2 hours before the examiner arrived.  It was a good idea, plenty of time to pre-flight VH-VMH, re-check my maps and submit my flight plan.  I drank a stack of sports drinks and relaxed, the total opposite of my Pre-License a week earlier.  On the dot of 9am, Colin arrived and was straight into it.  The first hour was all about theory, knowledge deficiency, privileges and limitations.  That all went well, the prep-work paid off.

From there it was out to the plane with a few more questions.  I actually had a smile and decided that the best way to tackle the test, was to go out with the attitude I was going to have fun.  That was going to be the case Pass or Fail.

The flight itself went great.  The route was Jandakot, Armadale, Canning Dam, Victor 66, Northam, air work there, Beverly and Narrogin.  Northam was fun, we did a full stop landing.  Interestingly through my entire navigation training, I’d only done a full stop landing once outside Jandakot and that was at Cunderdin when I wasn’t feeling well.  The examiner was checking ground CTAF procedures as well.

On the route to Narrogin, we did stalls, steep turns and instrument flight.  Interestingly during instrument flight, Colin had me do steep turns.  I hadn’t done it before and it was a huge amount of fun.  Normally under the hood, you only do a rate 1 turn, somewhere around 15 degrees.  This was a great exercise and it really highlights the physical sensations you feel are not consistent with what the instruments are telling you.

Passing Brooklands, just north of York, we were diverted to the west as a group of meat bombers were being launched (aka. parachutists).  A diversion offered by ATC was not something I’d expected either.  It worked well and after that we tracked to Narrogin.  From Narrogin, my route to Jandakot was changed with another diversion.  It went to plan and we flew back out over Kwinana and in via Boat Yard.  The arrival was great too, we were given a straight in approach to runway 12, Sweet!

I got my first indication of the result after landing.  Colin said, “You fly to a good standard.”  Not a man of many words, but it was all I needed to hear.

Back at JFC, I packed away as Colin had disappeared inside.  When I walked in, there were a bunch of expectant faces wanting to know.  I said that I had no clue and went and joined Colin for the debrief.  He asked me how I felt and how I thought the test went.  My reply, “I had a great time, learnt a few new things and felt confident that I could safely pilot a plane.”  His reply brought the biggest smile.  “Well so do I, congratulations and well done, you have passed your PPL!”   Woo Hoo 🙂  He also commented that I should continue to do my Commercial Pilots License as he felt the standard would have passed that test today.  I was beaming 🙂

Congrats from my examiner Colin after passing the PPL testWith that, I finally have my license!  An epic “journey” and one that I own so much thanks to so many people.  Air Australia, JFC, their proprietors, my instructors Adam and Wilson, the other instructors and of course, the biggest thanks to my family and friends who helped me along the way.  Lots of great moments shared with a bunch of awesome people 🙂  Wooooo hoooo!!!!!

Posted in Flight Test, Navigation, Pilot License, Theory | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Overcoming Procrastination

Ok, so from time to time there are a few things I procrastinate with.  But I’m only going to go into one such procrastination, finishing my Private Pilots License.

In Febuary 2012 I was ready for my final flight test to get my PPL.  Theory tests, flight training and pre-license tests were all done.  However with the stars not being aligned, I never did the final flight test.  With 3 weeks off work and nothing planned except relaxing and playing with the kids, I’m getting my shit together, slowly.

Over the last year since then, I’ve kept current with about 12 hours of solo time in the training area, mainly taking friends for rides and doing occasional circuits.  So just before Christmas, I did a Navigation refresher flight.  Its purpose was to do a “gap” analysis of my flying in relation to testing standards.  Surprisingly, the navigation flying went spot on.  My instructor threw in 2 diversions to try and stump the luck we’d had so far.  Even those went well.

Back on the ground at Jandakot, we got into the theory.  This is where we hit the problems.  The “gap” was quite wide, with a good bit of rust thrown in.  So, the next few weeks were spent refreshing.  It included the PPL training book, the flight school training book, the VFR Day Guide from CASA and also the numerous hand-outs I was given.  Taking the time to refresh my knowledge on these was a super valuable exercise.  In fact there were a bunch of new things I picked up on the way.

So, last week, I booked in and did my pre-license ground test and navigation flight.  The ground components went a lot better, still a few areas that needed to be polished up, but the instructor reckoned I’d pass.  The flight planning seemed to go ok too, just took me a lot longer than I remember.  Then there was the flight…

The Area forecast said the cloud was low, the wind was strong, terminal forecasts said the ground level wind was variable and strong.  All in all, crappo conditions.  The route was Jandakot, Armadale, Narrogin, Beverley, Clackline, Victor 66 and back to Jandakot.  Pretty simple with exception to the Armadale to Narrogin leg due to it being a long leg and nothing super simple to help.  I had a few tricks up my sleeve, such as radials from the Pingelly NDB marked out and the frequency of a local radio station to put into the NDB.  My planned altitude was 5500 feet, to give good navigation perspective.

That is when it all didn’t want to go my way.  See, we took off from Jandakot, climbed to Armadale, no traffic (of course, the weather was shit, nobody else in their right mind would be up) and I started to turn to my heading.  Hmmm I don’t recall Narrogin being 281 degrees from Armadale.  That would put us out near Rotto.  So it appears a mistake on my flight plan put me under further undue pressure from the get-go.  The track was right, just the heading was wrong.  So a quick approximation on a heading from the track would at least get me going in the right direction form which I could do a 1 in 60 once I got a fix.

The next problem was the clouds.  By the time we approached 2500 feet, it was evident that I wasn’t getting any higher.  That meant, we’d be skimming along clear of the clouds with a very limited perspective to navigate.  From here, all the “mountains” marked on the maps look roughly the same.  So it was a few cross roads, a powerline and the rocky outcrops that helped here.  My instructor wasn’t really helping, he kept asking, are you sure you are on the right track.  Shouldn’t there be  a road and and powerline intersection somwhere here then?  It turned out that he was reading the map wrong, phew…

As we tracked, I tuned in Pingelly NDB and did a few approximations on the radial of where I was.  We seemed roughly on track, maybe slightly to the left.  At my second 10 minute marker I managed to pick the Michibin Hill tower and Wandering, putting us almost exactly on track.  Thank, well, you know what.  However my joy was short lived.  With the positive fix I was given a diversion, this time to Pingelly.  However my “NDB” magically stopped working, “Your NDB is no longer working”.  So rather than approximate with an immediate turn, I decided to circle the tower briefly in order to give myself some time to plan the diversion.  This paid off, I got an accurate track, heading time, distance and flew it pretty accurately.  From Pingelly it was stright up Great Southern Highway to Beverley, that is of course until the engine failed.

Instructors have a habit of pulling the throttle on you and making you do practice forced landings.  My plane turned out to be quite unreliable, it had two engine failures in cruise and one taking off from Beverley a little later.  Thankfully the restart procedure worked at the magic 500 foot above ground level and we were away again 🙂

Tracking to Beverley, the sky cleared a little, giving us the opportunity to climb to 4500 feet.  With this opportunity, the instructor decided we’d do steep turns, stalls, descending steep turns and a few others.  This was fun, but left me feeling a little air sick.  With the head down time doing the diversions, the frickin bumpy conditions, I was feeling a little worse for ware and looked forward tracking on.  I could see Beverley and tracked straight to the airfield.

Not surprisingly we had the field to ourselves.  Overflying, the wind was showing 100% crosswind with a full wind sock.  There was some movement, which indicated we were best for runway 16.  We descended and joined the circuit.  It wasn’t pleasant even at 100 feet.  Turning final, we had a 40 degree pitch towards the wind, it was howling.  Getting lower and over the threshold one could only describe it as, crap!  It was gusty, the wind was rolling over the trees and I had full left rudder trying to get straight.

Touchdown was brief as a gust of wind lifted us up again.  We did resettle, but in the gap between the trees where the old runway cuts through, we copped the full tilt of the wind, a big sideways movement on the runway.  By this stage, I’d pulled the flaps in, had the windward wing pinned to the ground and was powering back up to rotate speed.  Lifting off, we cleared the trees and our little 172 struggled back into the air.  It was at this point that that pesky engine decided to “fail” again, yep the instructor pulled the power to simulate an upwind failure…

The next circuit I was asked to come in flapless.  I knew this would be challenging in these conditions, more so when on final I noticed the windsock showing we had some downwind.  It wasn’t good, in these conditions we floated and by the time I got to about 40% down the runway, I decided to go around.  My instructor was well relieved with this decision too.  He’d seen enough and the clouds were really coming in, well metaphorically speaking.

At 500 feet, I was handed the instrument simulation visor and told to put it on.  Great, instrument flying time, right when I was ready to burry my head into a sick bag.  My instructor was extremely sympathetic too, he handed me a sick bag and gave me my instructions.  We tracked out of Beverley on a series of courses, altitude changes and lots of turns.  He eventually took the controls and informed me to bury my head while he put the plane into some unusual attitudes.  First was a climbing stall, the second a 140 knot spiral dive.  Joy, my stomach was not exactly feeling happy with this situation.  A few more directions under the hood, then I was finally given a reprieve.

From here it was super simple, Clackline NBD, then Victor 66 through Perth controlled airspace.  The only thing that was going to make it hard, the weather.  The weather from the coast was closing in.  Perth Radar advised we’d be lucky for 3000 feet through Victor 66.  We were lucky, we were just clear of the clouds and finally made our descent into Six South.


Low clouds

Tracking into Jandakot my instructor took a few pics.  These give some perspective of the cloud and visibility, crappola!  It was also very turbulent, making the comfort factors somewhat less than fun. The reality of the situation was though, We had about 3 miles left to run and I was getting excited to getting on the ground.  There was nobody else in front of us, so we came in and had a great landing.  Was a good way to cap off the flight 🙂

After we were packed away, my instructor gave me the news.  “Congrats mate, I’ll let the CFI know you are ready for your test”.  With that, my smile set in, my test was going to happen, it was time!






Posted in Flight Test, Navigation, Pilot License | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Flying around Australia

Flying around our great big island we call Australia is something that I’d love to do.  So, like many, I’ve done it in commercial airliners, but that is not what I mean.  I want to pack a few loved ones into the back of a single or twin general aviation aircraft and fly around the country.

There are a few things that need to be sorted first, like finally doing my flight exam to finally get my Private Pilots License (PPL).  For that I now have a plan to get back in the left seat and get it done.  With the help of the CFI at Jandakot Flight Centre, that shouldn’t be too far away (there is a little bit of practicing and studying to do to get back to standard).

Anyway, while doing some googling to find some inspiration for the hours of study ahead, I found a great video from Monika Petrillo.  It is called Flyabout Movie covering Monika’s adventure of circumnavigating Australia.  After watching the trailer, I went and ordered a copy.  It arrived just 5 days later from the US.  Tonight I sat and watched it with my mum.  It is a great tale of Monika’s experience on the adventure including incredible scenery, experiences and self discovery.  Definitely worth a watch!

Right, a bit of inspiration now back to the books!

Posted in Navigation, Pilot License, Travels | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

City Orbits and Wake Turbulence

How so much can be lost in a month!  It was now four weeks to the day after my first navigation solo flight.  There had been a lot going on and but the main culprit had been the shite weather.  We’d have nice big storms on the weekends, and then the weekdays would be fine.  The weather just has no consideration for those of us who have to work office hours and only had weekends off (apologies to those who work weekends too).  Then to top it off the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) was scheduled and the only decent weekend was gone.  As a result Victa Mike Hotel had been sitting on the central apron at Jandakot longing my touch.

The morning came and the navigation flight I’d been waiting for had finally come.  The weather gods decided that Victa Mike Hotel and I could be re-united at long last.  The lines I’d drawn on my maps weeks before we still there waiting too.  This time I could adourn them with wind compensating tracks, 10 minute markers and a bunch of scribbles that give me inflight clues.  The reason I was so excited about this flight was that it involved two highlights.  Firstly, we would be doing a “Victa 65” (ok, that is code for doing orbits around the Perth CBD in controlled airspace) and second, if Perth Air Traffic Control (ATC) was willing, we would perform a missed approach into Perth International Airport.

The pre-flight planning was fun.  Our planned track today was to depart via Fremantle, up the coast to Cottesloe, commence Victa 65 in towards the city, perform a few orbits of the CBD, then out to Herdsman Lake, City Beach, back down to South Beach (PowerHouse), overfly Jandakot for Armadale, track to Quairading and land, then Cunderdin, Northam, Perth Airport for a missed approach, Scarborough Beach, back down the coast and into Jandakot.  The flight plan spanned 2 pages as I’d included the alternative route from Northam in-case we didn’t get our missed approach into Perth.

“Perth Clearance Cessna 172 Victa Mike Hotel on the ground at Jandakot, request squawk code and frequency”

“Victa Mike Hotel Perth Clearance squawk 0433 contact Perth Centre on 135.25 for clearance”

“Jandakot Ground Cessna 172 Victa Mike Hotel Central Apron for a Fremantle Departure Information Bravo Request Taxi”

“Victa Mike Hotel Jandakot Ground taxi holding point delta hold short runway 24 right time 34”

“Taxi holding point delta runway 24 right”

With the formalities out of the way, we did our run-ups and reported ready at runway 24 right.  Despite Jandakot being the busiest airport in the country, based on the number of aircraft movements, we never seem to have to wait more than one preceding aircraft.  Today was no exception, a Royal Flying Doctor PC-12 lined up at Charlie blasted past and climbed out to the west.  We were given immediate clearance and got ourselves airborne.  This was only my second flight at the controls departing Jandakot via Fremantle.  The last time had been when Adam and I had gone to Rottnest in India Golf X-Ray for Cross Wind circuits.  Admittedly I’d been a passenger on a few previous occasions when out formatting with the JATA mob.

As we climbed out over Murdoch Uni and approach our waypoint at Fremantle Golf course, I requested clearance for our city orbit.  “Perth Centre Cessna 172 Victa Mike Hotel approaching Fremantle Golf Course one thousand five hundred feet, request traffic and clearance”

“Victa Mike Hotel Perth Centre identified there is traffic at 500 feet northbound over Cottesloe contact Perth Approach on one two three decimal six for clearance”

“Contact Perth Approach for Clearnance Victa Mike Hotel”

Without boring with lots more radio calls, we requested clearance from Perth Approach but were told to standby.  The problem with that doing this for the first time is that you are at Cottesloe in less than 3 minutes and then your left to either track north up the coast, or perform an orbit out over Cottesloe and be in the vicinity of other traffic.  Luckily today we’d just crossed Pepermint Grover when our clearance for Victa 65 arrived.  Woo too!

I handed Wilson my camera before we took off so I could get a few nice photos of the city and the waterways leading up to her.  It was rather enjoyable and our cleared level was 1500 feet.  The view was fantastic and knew that this route would be a must do when taking passengers for joy rides.  On the ground at Burswood, a chopper was given clearance to take off for city orbits as well.  Seconds after his clearance, we were requested to climb to 2000 feet so we could maintain separation.

Approaching the Narrows, I requested 2 anti-clockwise orbits so we could enjoy the views while here.  We got the ok and thoroughly enjoyed the view. The city looks great from up here, but when your overhead the east or west ends that you realise how small Perth really is.  After the second orbit we tracked out to the coast over City Beach.  Having being a passenger flying down the coast a few times, I knew what to expect, but there seemed to be something that little more special when your doing it yourself.

Once we got to Powerhouse, we called to Jandakot tower and requested transit to Armadale.  What this means is if your cleared, you fly overhead Jandakot and track to Armadale.  If you don’t get it, you do a right turn and track outside of Jandakot airspace to Armadale.  Today the cards were falling our way and the tower gave us clearance.  Soon enough we’d passed Jandakot and reached Armadale.  Here we climbed to 3500 feet and got the traffic report.  All clear.  It was pretty much at this point it all went south!

The leg from Armadale to Beverly seems to be my Achilles heal, every time I fly it I seem to struggle to find Beverly.  Today was no exception.  In the end I had only tracked about 5 miles south when it came into view.  By this stage I’d missed my 10 mile inbound call to let them know I’d be tracking overhead (or thereabouts).  Looking ahead I spotted 2 gliders flying some sort of formation directly towards us.  We held our level and they passed one above and one below at less than about 100 metres to our left.  It was a bit of a wake up and my enjoyment of the flight took a steep dive.  From Beverley I changed my track towards Corrigin.

Within a few minutes, Wilson made his usual, “I’m not sure where your going, but it isn’t Corrigin”.  I’d come to dislike this statement as it regularly threw me from my plan.  I could see the salt lakes off to my right and a few features to my left, but I didn’t really think I was that far off.  The same statement happened a few more times on subsequent flights and now I’m not entirely convinced he was right.

Today however I kept my track, the salt lakes and the NDB at Cunderdin gave me a cross section in which to roughly determine where my destination would be.  At my next 10 minute marker I was able to make out the runway, it was about 15 degrees to the left of my current track.  Turning towards Corrigin Wilson asked me to make a straight in approach.  This is where I really got thrown.  I tracked straight at the runway over the township, leaving my decent till I felt I was on profile.  The big screw up was that I had my runway number wrong and subsequently would have had any traffic thinking I was coming in from the other direction.  Secondly the approach was fast and felt wrong.  If I’d had my complete wits about me, I’d have realised that I had a tail wind and the approach I was making was going to be downwind landing.

It was only on late finals that I realised we were downwind and that I’d screwed the runway number. Wilson wanted me to continue the approach and do a touch and go regardless.  We did it and climbed back up to circuit height.  This was the second time I’d tried a downwind touch and go.  It isn’t really a fun thing, your ground speed is quick and climb rate after touching down is very slow.  After turning downwind for the runway, I crossed mid-field cross wind and joined downwind for the other runway.  How nice is it to be on approach correctly and with the right runway.  For this reason alone, I don’t like straight in approaches when you can’t ascertain the wind in advance of your arrival, I’m a lot happier arriving overhead.

We finished the approach and completed a normal touch and go.  On downwind, Wilson gave me my next challenge.  Ok, I want you to divert low level to Clackline, and by the way, your ADF (Automatic Direction Finder) is broken.  Also, as your ADF isn’t working, I want you to find the NDB towers at Clackline.  If I wasn’t already thrown enough today, this was the icing on the cake.  I started by attempting to draw a track free hand to Clackline on the map.  With that we got an approximation of the direction.  After calculating the minimum altitude, I began tracking approximately towards Clackline.  My departure call to Corrigin and the subsequent diversion call to Melbourne Centre  were somewhat shite!

The positive thing about this track is that the huge hill next to York stands out for miles.  It gives you a long distance reference point.  From it I approximated a reference point half way to Northam, which would put us on track for Clackline.  Northam soon enough came into view and the roads between York and Northam provided a positive fix.  Wilson kept up the distractions and doubt of my track.  When I was sure and he knew it, he pulled the throttle and gave me a PFL.  Finding a farmhouse and nice big paddock, we flew down nice and close before going around.  That had me off track, so it was back to finding another fix.  Luckily Great Eastern Highway and an intersection came into view, so that gave the fix I needed. As luck would have it, those two towers of the Clackline NDB appeared right on our nose, sweet!

Wilson focused on my crappy radio calls at this point and told me to track for the Perth missed approach.  Despite nailing Clackline, I was still pretty thrown after my rather stressful previous few legs.  I radioed to Perth Centre to request clearance for Perth approach.  Totally expecting the response of it not being available, I was re-issued my earlier squawk code and give my track.  I was ready to argue the point if they’d not given it, despite that not being good form.  I keep hearing stories of student pilots not being given the opportunity by ATC to fly into Perth.  Us pesky VFR pilots are second citizens when it comes to class C airspace.

So the lovely Irish accent of the lady on Perth Approach vectored us in for runway 21.  We were given a slightly wider track to allow a Boeing 737-800 to land on runway 24 ahead of us.  Slowly I got over the stresses and started to enjoy the Perth approach.  We watch the 737 come in and land and continued our approach.  We were told not to descent below 500 feet and that we should make a right turn before crossing the runway threshold.  Our departure waypoint was given as Observation City.  The approach was fun.  We had the VOR / ILS tuned in so we could track our descent and make sure we were bang on.  The PAPI lights alongside the runway also confirmed our approach profile.

Soon enough, we turned right and tracked towards Observation City.  I was rather excited, as it was another opportunity to enjoy the sites as we passed the city and flew down the coast.  I was thinking that there were no more tricky navigation legs left and I was home and hosed.  Well Wilson had other ideas.  He took control and asked me to put on the visor, apparently the only thing I would be seeing for the rest of the flight were the instruments.

The rest of the flight involved starting at the Attitude indicator and the surrounding instruments.  It was all good, practice with instrument flight is a worth it.  Wilson kept me under the hood till we were pretty much at Adventure World tracking into Jandakot.  From there, the hood was off and we joined for a long awaited landing on runway 24 right.


It was a huge relief to be on the ground and out of the plane.  After a good 3.6 hours in the air and a fair bit of pressure, my head was hurting.  It was a bit of a realisation of how much work I needed to do to get on top of the navigation, emergency procedures and radio calls.  After my head had cleared though, I remembered the fun bits.  The city orbits and Perth approach.  At this point I also convinced myself to try and string the next set of flights closer together so to perfect the navigation techniques and get straight into the flight test.

Good in principle, but not so in practice as time would tell.  A few curve balls, including the PPL theory exam would soon disrupt that…

Posted in Circuits, Jandakot, Navigation, Pilot License | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

First Solo Navigation Flight: How strong winds nearly claimed a victim

There are a few highlights which every student pilot experiences on their journey to become a licensed private pilot.  The First Solo is huge, the Area Solo is amazing and of course the first Navigation Solo!  This is the one where you are given permission to leave the safety of the airfield training area and venture into the unknown, alone!  The day had come for me, but its wasn’t all smooth flying by any stretch, the strong turbulent winds attempted to claimed a victum, not once but several times!

The day started out that bit different from every other training flight.  The excitement was there, but it was also accompanied by a strong feeling of apprehension.  Having read the area forecast before heading off, it disclosed what I would be up against.  It said there would be medium turbulence below 3000 feet and strong gusting winds in the afternoon. I could already tell the conditions weren’t going to be that fantastic, but having had such a long road to getting to this point, I was determined to get on with it.

My instructor was a little late, but that didn’t matter today.  He had already used all of his influence on how the day was going to turn out, through the lessons and training he’d given me over the previous little while.  Today it was all in my hands.  To get things started, I printed off the latest forecasts and got myself deep into the pre-flight planning. Having prepared the charts the previous night, I was left only to apply the weather conditions and submit the flight plan.

The route for this flight was fairly straight forward.  It was:

  • Jandakot (YPJT)
  • Armadale (ARE)
  • Boddington (BODD)
  • Bunbury (YBUN) – 40 minutes of circuits
  • Boat Yard (BOAT)
  • Jandakot (YPJT)

Preparing the plane was as per the usual routine.  Full tanks of fuel and everything look pretty straight.  Then came the hitch.  The oil level was on the minimum at 6 quarts and there was not a single bottle of oil anywhere in the hangar.  Only mineral oil used during the run in of new engines.  On advice from the maintenance engineers they cleared using the mineral oil.  The plane had only 4 hours left before it’s 100 hourly maintenance, which would see the oil being changed anyway.

Wilson arrived and checkoff the Maintenance Release and gave me the pre-requisite pep talk.  I don’t know if really any of it sunk in, I was pretty focused on the task at hand.  By the time he’d finished, I’d pretty much visualised every stage of the flight, the radio calls and even how I was going to join the Bunbury circuit.  Finally before I headed off, Wilson insisted I install the Google Altitude application on my iPad.  That was it could continually broadcast my position and let him track how I was going.  That done, it was time to go.

After firing up, the Jandkot ATIS reminded me about the weather conditions.  Medium turbulence in the circuit and cross winds at 12 knots.  At this point I was feeling rather nervous, but also feeling confident that I’d do ok.  I wanted to navigate accurately to Boddington and fly the route as planned.  However at the end of the day, if I was to get lost, all I would have to do it turn west, fly back to the coast and then track home to the north from there.

As I taxied out I could fee the nervousness rising.  It was annoying me because my head felt ok.  So I decided to take my time in the run-up bay and do a longer than normal safety brief.  Here I talked myself through every second of the flight, radio frequencies, radio calls, headings, everything until I was well outside of controlled airspace and on the way to Boddington.  Minutes later I found myself at 60 knots, straightening the ailerons and pulling back on the yoke, we were away…

The next 6 minutes were to be the first of two major moments in the flight.  After turning right towards Armadale and climbing to 1000 feet for the Jandakot departure, the turbulence was very evident.  It was probably similar to driving across a bumpy paddock at 100kmh in a car, not much fun.  Crossing out of Jandakot airspace and about to commence the climb out over Armadale a more than medium turbulent pocket of air gave me a right jolt.  Hitting my head on the roof was the outcome, leaving me feeling more pressure.  It did cross my mind at this point to turn South and return to Jandakot via Forrestdale Lake.  Although feeling a lot like a vodka martini, I went with it and got on with the job at hand, navigating to Boddington.

“Perth Centre, Cessna 172 Victa Mike Hotel is at Armadale two thousand three hundred feet on climb to five thousand five hundred tracking to Boddington, request traffic and flight following”.

“Victa Mike Hotel, Perth Centre Identified, traffic is three miles to your one o’clock at two thousand five hundred, appears to be on decent to the west, flight following approved”.

“Thanks, Victa Mike Hotel”

I’m sure he was thinking this muppet doesn’t need flight following, there is no other traffic.  It was actually part of my plan to get myself a positive fix as I exited the boundary of Perth Radar.  “Victa Mike Hotel, Perth Centre, you are leaving my control area, there is no other traffic, frequency change approved, identification terminated”.

“Perth Centre, Victa Mike Hotel, thank you, request DME from Perth”.

“Victa Mike Hotel, Perth Centre, you are on heading one four niner degrees at thirty four miles, identification terminated”.

Sweet, a positive fix and it had me pretty much exactly on my planned track.  This was a little trick I’d learnt from listening to radio comms between Perth Centre and an air survey aircraft operating just north of Perth in the week before this flight.  I’d pre-drawn not only the Armadale to Boddington track, but also the Perth track so I could validate the position without having to rule it inflight.  Within minutes anyway, the huge Boddington mine came into view and I had visual on Boddington township.  Also by this point at 5500 feet, the turbulence was all but gone.

With Boddington ending up being no problem, it was now Bunbury.  I was pretty sure this leg would be pretty straight forward too as there are a significant number of huge features long the way.  Just little things like a dam, a mine, huge power lines and of course the coast visible in the distance.  This leg was very relaxing and a good time to practice the various navigation skills, such as dead reckoning, 1 in 60’s and how I’d perform a lost procedure.

While descending into Bunbury, the airfield was pretty easy to locate.  Having flown in as a passenger with the JATA mob (they sound like a gang) and once with my instructor, I’ve learnt to locate it.  Listening in on the CTAF (airport) frequency, there were two other aircraft already in the circuit.  Sweet, its runway 07 and I’m going to join the circuit downwind, rather than an overhead join.  I slotted in nicely behind the two existing aircraft, put in my downwind call and did the landing checks.  Sweet!  As for the flying bit, there was some turbulence and a gusty wind from the right.

The Bunbury airport traffic was fairly dynamic.  In the 40 minutes I remained in the circuit, there were 9 other aircraft which either arrived, departed or transited through.  While flying the circuits in non-controlled aerodromes, you learn 10 times more than you ever could on paper or in the classroom.  Everything I’d read, practiced was cemented during this short period.  It became more second nature and I was focusing more on the flying and spatial awareness, rather than having to worry about what was the next radio call.  The only thing that was a little bit of a challenge was a Mooney which joined the circuit from the South.  He joined with a mid-field crosswind join and turned onto the downwind leg.  He did it right as I’d just made my downwind call, meaning he pushed in and left me literally chopping his tail.  He was very apologetic and offered to do a right orbit to get out of the way.  It was fine, I just slowed down and let his higher performance aircraft pull away.  On landing he very quickly exited the runway and once again said thanks.  Although I was a bit pissed with him at first, he redeemed himself pretty quickly.  Damn Mooney pilots!

With 7 or 8 touch and go’s done, it was time to navigate back towards Perth.  “Bunbury traffic Cessna 172 Victa Mike Hotel is airborne runway 07, will be turning left and tracking North to Jandakot at four thousand five hundred feet Bunbury”.  With that, it was a left turn onto cross-wind and out of Bunbury.  Once about 10 miles out, I put in another departure call to alert any other transiting traffic know I would be joining them.  Although not required, I figured that there was a high number of other planes through the area and I wanted to let them all know where I was.  With no replies or other traffic calls, it was happy days on the way North, well that was at least what I thought…

The turbulence was not easing as I climbed higher.  Even at 4500 feet it was like driving across that bumpy paddock yet again.  The respite was the simplicity of navigating along the coast.  It was a good view and absolutely straight forward.  At my first ten minute marker near Myalup, I was well short, approximately 5 miles.  I put it down to the climb, however the second ten minute marker for Preston Beach came up and I was going to be a good four minutes shy of my revised estimate.  With a quick re-calc on the flight computer, the headwind was around 10 knots stronger than predicted.  I revised my remaining ETAs right through to Jandkot, making the leg nearly fifteen minutes longer than original planned!

The turbulence continued so I decided once again to just ignore it and this time enjoy the views.  It was pretty hazy, but the visibility was still great and the views awesome.  I was impressed with some of the houses nestled in the dunes along the coast past Lake Clifton.   With the ridiculously strong headwind, the leg from Bunbury to Jandakot was going to take 71 minutes, which is completely nuts.  Even those super cool Mooney dudes would have taken an hour.  While nearing the southern end of the Peel Inlet, I tuned in to the Jandakot ATIS to get the arrival information.  In some ways I wish I didn’t, the 22 knots maximum cross-wind got my attention pretty quickly.

From that point, the anxiety rose.  It reminded me of a conversation I overheard earlier in the day, where the owner of “VH-NMN” was spruking his skill of landing the identical Cessna to this in 40 knots of cross wind.  VMH is demonstrated in 12 knots of cross-wind, but I’ve done 16 knots at Rottnest in a 152.  I was having to convince myself it would be all good and that I could always go around and try again if needed.  At Mandurah I contacted Perth Centre to ask about traffic.  He said there wasn’t any.  Great, nobody else is stupid enough to be up at the moment.  However minutes later one of the familiar kiwi accents of the Air Australia aero pilots came across with the usual, “we’ll be conducting aerobatics between 3000 and 5000 feet…”.  Ok, there is somebody else, cool.

By the time I got to Rockingham, the joy flight passenger must have had the sick bag handy and they were heading back in.  Perth Centre advised us both of the proximity and I followed him in.  At 1500 feet at boat yard the turbulence was at least as strong when I’d departed a few hours earlier.  I just followed the Robin in front and we joined base for runway 24 left.  He went in and made the landing look pretty easy, it was now my turn.

I remember being very busy on the controls on approach.  It wasn’t your typical cross wind landing where you’d crab in and then side slip to the runway.  The wind was really gusting, it was turbulent and all that meant you had to be extra active on the controls.  You’d lean into the wind and find that a big gust would kick you over, or it would ease and you’d fall into it.  With about 2 miles left to run and well established on finals, I was feeling a bit more confident.  It was just a case of try and crab, compensate and on late finals side slip and compensate.  In the flare, we side slipped down and put the left wheel firmly on the ground before bringing the others firmly down as well.  The relief was grand!

From there it was a simple taxi in and the joy of competing my first Navigation Solo was building.  The turbulent winds and strong cross-winds actually added to the excitement once down.  I really enjoyed the sense of accomplishment with the added challenges.  At that point I was so looking forward to having my license all done and doing this with friends and family!  Although this was now many months back, it is all still so vivid in my memory.  Something I don’t think I’ll forget for a damn long time.  Then again, I’ve always got the video, the photos and blog to remind me 🙂

Posted in Circuits, Crosswind, Jandakot, map, Navigation, Pilot License, Solo | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

New Perth International Airport Plane Viewing Area

Having just left the airport, I searched google on my phone to see if the new viewing area was opened.  Turns out it is.  The area is half way between the domestic and international terminals on the new link road.  You can find it on this map.

I was expecting to turn up and see a line of SLR toting Plane Spotters, but instead there was a mix of folks enjoying the close view of the planes rocketing past.  Yes, there were a few plane spotters with their jolly big lenses.  Chatting to a few, they said that some of the photos and video of they have captured is awesome, particularly from A380 and 747s departing.  Anyway, the best way to see what its like is with this quick video of Virgin 1485 taking off to Broome and a few pics of the area.  Worth while dropping in for a look if you driving past!

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