PPL Theory Exam, License and Aerobatics!

Although the blog posts have been a little slow, a fair bit has been happening over the past little while.  The current update on where I’m at with my Private Pilots License, is that I’m already thinking about what I’m going to do after it is complete!

Actually what has happened and what is left to be done is this…

  • PPL Theory Exam – Complete (and passed)
  • Navigation Training – Complete
  • Still doing laps of the Training Area with Friends & Family – Over Achieved!
  • PPL Theory Knowledge Deficiency Verbal Check – Not Complete
  • FROL – Flight Radio Operators License – Not Complete
  • English Proficiency Exam – Not Complete
  • Private Pilots Pre-License Check Flight – Not Complete
  • Private Pilots License Flight – Not Complete

Navigation training actually finished back on the 3rd December (2011), however I wasn’t able to progress any further until the PPL theory was done.  As I had been totally unstructured, slack and generally dis-interested in the theory, I wasn’t really doing much study.  A bit of token study here and there, but it was all about the flying and Navigation.  The reality of the study situation is, it is a full time, hard yakka activity.

What I should have done was study hard from the start and I mean from the point when I completed my GFPT theory exam.  There is nothing stopping you continuing straight on.  In fact it would have been the absolute right thing to do.  The reason being is that the PPL theory exam includes all of the human factors, aerodynamics and calculations learnt for GFPT.  If you leave it for a long period like me, then you have to re-study it for the PPL exam.

My tips to those wanting to do their PPL license and prepare, all I would do is this:

  • CASA Visual Flight Rules Guide – find a copy as you can take it into the exam, it is the VFR pilot bible
  • Bob Tait BAK (Basic Aeronautical Knowledge)
  • Bob Tait PPL
  • C.A.A.P. for Night VFR – the reason is that there were three questions on Threat and Error Management that were just not covered in any of the above.  Section 8 covers these.
  • Know the sections of the AIP – which you may need in the exam (generally covered in the Visual Flight Rules Guide)
  • Know the sections of the ERSA – which you will also need in the exam

Then, do a couple of practice exams.

  • The questions in the back of the Bob Tait PPL Theory book (I think these are taken from those released by CASA as examples)
  • CASA Example PPL questions – many of these are in the exam that I got
  • ATC (Aviation Theory Centre) Practice Exams – buy these from your friendly Pilot shop.  Some of these questions were in the exam too, word for word

There are some questions that you just can’t directly prepare for, which you have to apply some common sense.  For example, “If you were to fly over Cumulus Clouds, would it be:  1. Bumpy, 2. Smooth, 3. Heavy Turbulence”.  Also, you need to be able to recognise Co-efficient of Lift.  Anyway it is a huge relief to have this done, the rest is paperwork and of course kick-ass flying.

Anyway, what has me very interested at the moment is aerobatics!  It has always been my intention to head back and get my Aerobatics rating in the Robins 2160.  They are a couple of nice planes and I’ve enjoying going up in them a few times.  I know I’d look forward to taking friends up.  Anyway, when I mentioned at the new school that this was my intent.  They mentioned that before I did that, have a look at the CT-4 they have on cross hire.  I ignored this suggestion for quite some time, however after it was mentioned the last time, I thought I’d look into it.

Lets just say that I’m glad I did.  Do you know what a CT-4 is?  Well I’m going to tell you. It is the aircraft that is used for military training by the RAAF and RNZAF.  Actually the RAAF sold all of theirs, to both private buyers and BAE systems.  BAE systems bought a bunch and do the initial training / screening for the RAAF now.  The long and short of it though, if you want to be an Air Force fighter pilot in Australia or New Zealand, you will be starting in a CT-4.  In fact the Kiwi’s still use the CT-4 as the aircraft of their “Red Checkers” aerobatics display team.  Have a gander at this video…

Everything I read and watched about the CT-4 has left me impressed.  My lingering concern was that I’d do the flight training in the CT-4, but once that was done, I wouldn’t be able to use it to go solo or take friends up.  As I haven’t been able to get much info on the CT-4, I put a call into the owner.  He was a good bloke and spoke very highly of both of the instructors he allows to train in the aircraft.  Both of whom I know too and would be happy with either of them.  However he did answer my question, yes it would be ok to use after a check ride 🙂

So I guess I better get this PPL thing done then and then think about aerobatics.  There’s a lot going on at the moment, so I guess I’ll have to look towards the later part of January to get the PPL completed.  I do owe a special somebody an aero flight, so I have incentive and a date.  Lets just say they maybe in for some fun when they visit late February 🙂  Will anybody else be game?

Posted in Aerobatics, Flight Test, GFPT, Pilot License, Theory | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Christmas Eve NOTAM from Air Services

Air Services have issue a NOTAM (Notice to Airman) for Christmas Eve.

You can find the general details here.

Happy Christmas and safe flying 🙂

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Appearance in AVIATOR Magazine December 2011 Edition

AVIATOR Magazine December 2011 Edition

Last night I received a text message from Adam, my old instructor, “Hey buddy, whats with our ugly faces in AVIATOR magazine?”.  It was a good question, but at first I was slightly taken back by being branded ugly!  I was under the impression that the hours in front of the mirror each day were taking care of that :p

Once I got over my vanity, it got me wondering.  I’d have to head to the newsagent in the morning and suss out this claim.  So at the Cloisters newsagent, the last copy of the mag was on the shelf.  Initially examining the front cover, it certainly wasn’t Adam and I flying the Eurocopter.  Working with BHPB, there is the odd occasion that we have to don the orange tops, but that wasn’t us…

Ugly Mugs

It was on page 4 that I could see what prompted Adam’s text message and what would appear to be founded ugly claims.  One of the pictures I’d posted on this blog had found its way into the magazine, accompanied by a short news article on Qantas.  At first the association was overly clear, but the final tag line was “So prospective pilots should get their heads down, gear up and keep concentrating on those theory lessons”.

Never were there more appropriate words for me right now.  However, there was only one person who I could think of who could make something like this happen, Chuck from Air Australia (the original, not the recent wanna be airline)!  Anyway a few texts today confirmed it Chuck to be the culprit.  Cheers mate, but why did Adam’s and my first spread had to share the page with a dunny!  Kind of appropriate possibly…

Posted in Jandakot, Theory | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Navigation Lesson 3 (take 2)

On the ground in Cunderdin

Navigation Lesson 3 was my first flight since the transfer to JFC.  Coming away from that lesson there was considerable feedback which I needed to seriously look at (its a common theme, right Mav).  That lesson, and this one (15/10), were now some time ago and my over sleeping today and insomnia tonight provides the perfect opportunity to catchup on a blog post or two.

Having taken on board the feedback from Wilson after Nav 3, I felt much more prepared, more familiar with the newer aircraft and far more relaxed.  Knowing that the reward for a good flight would be my first Nav solo, the incentive to do well was there.  The plan was to fly largely the same route as last time, Jandakot, Armadale, Victors 66, Clackline, Cunderdin, Corrigin, Beverley, Byford and back to Jandakot.  From Cunderdin we’d not actually go to Quairading, but divert at low level to Beverley.

Straight up, the biggest improvement was my flight planning.  It seems to be considerably faster, from 4 hours down to about 2 :-p well so it seemed.  Then the pre-flight of the aircraft was also quicker.  The 13 drain points didn’t seem so bad this time and there was actually some fuel left in the tanks after I was finished.  See, the later model Cessna’s have 5 drain points per wing, then 1 underneath the engine cowling for each tank feed, followed by one for the fuel injection.

Departure, controlled airspace and the route to Cunderdin were all much easier a second time.  I felt much more relaxed and largely enjoyed the trip up.  On arrival at Cunderdin, we joined and did circuits.  The traffic this time was considerably higher at the airfield, with no less than 7 gliders operating, the glider tow plane and numerous other General Aviation folks buzzing around.  There were also regular Instrument Rating Folks flying through.

We did 4 touch and goes and practiced non-controlled airfield procedures.  There were a few gliders in the air and we had to share the circuit with 2 that were coming back to land and the tow plane launching another glider.  From Cunderdin, Wilson had me track towards Corrigin, from there he pulled the power and we did a Practice Forced Landing.  It was at this point I was feeling rather seedy, as the warm air was making the flight a little on the bumpy side, combined with the stress of navigation and the PFL.  Wilson’s concern escalated when I asked if he had a sick bag handy, on the chance my lunch decided it wasn’t staying down.  Given he had the IFR hood out, we discussed landing and taking a short break.  On that we decided to back track to Cunderdin and land for a rest.

On the ground at Cunderdin, we parked off the runway near the gliders and wandered over to meet the strange folk that fly these aircraft.  The first impression was not of the strategy pilots that lurk in the shadows of the old caravan, but the damn flies!  They were everywhere!  It seemed they would find their way to every part of your exposed body and annoy the b-jesus out of you!  There may be logic to why the strange glider folk hid in the depths of their old caravan.

The first thing you notice about the glider pilots is that they seemed quite normal.  I thought this strange, given they like to fly planes without motors.  However I was to learn in a little while, that these folks are like your every James Bond types, had little secrets…  Anyway we were offered drinks and good conversation.  It wasn’t long before I was feeling considerably better and had a good look around at the gliders.

Here are a few photos…

The scene, our ride, the tow plane and a glider readying to leave

James Bond's glider has a secret motor

High tech glider cockpit. Solar powered with moving map.

The James Bond glider is quite something.  From the cockpit the motor can be deployed, started and operated.  It is capable of taking off under its own power and of course sustaining flight one airborne, even when the thermals finish up.  That day was the actual hand over of this aircraft to its new owner who paid a cool $150k for it (reduced from the $250k new price tag).  The original owner was on hand to tell us about his achievement of having the Australian record for the longest (by time) solo flight in a  glider in this particular aircraft, exceeding 8 hours.  Pretty impressive given the motor was only used on that occasion to take-off.

Overall, both Wilson and I were glad we stopped in Cunderdin and met these fine folk.  They were extremely accommodating, even offering to take us up for a ride in the glider.  We were also offered to head back up and get endorsed for the Tow Plane.  This will be an offer that I might have to take up once my PPL is done.  I can see a Sunday of flying up to Cunderdin, getting a good few hours towing the gliders up, then flying home late arvo.  Would be a good day!

After leaving Cunderdin, it was low level to Beverley and then home to Jandakot.  On the way back we did some instrument flight and another PFL.  Overall it was fun and I learnt a lot!   Apparently Wilson was also in a good mood, he ok’d for me to do my first Nav solo the next day 🙂  Woo Hoo!

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Gold Coast Scenic Flight

Surfers Paradise (Gold Coast) from the air

Last week I had the opportunity to travel to the Gold Coast for a conference. It meant travelling on Sunday arvo to arrive in time for the Monday afternoon sessions. After flying to Brisbane from Perth, I hired a car and drove to my hotel at Surfers. The flight over on Qantas was good, it was another 4 hours to spend studying for the PPL exam. The focus at the moment is on Navigation. When I catch up on my blog entries for the three Nav flights I haven’t shared, you’ll know why.

On waking up early on Monday, I checked out the conference schedule, and my first session wasn’t till 2pm. So that left time for a beach run and a good few hours of work (in peace!). By about 9:30, I was being distracted by the odd plane flying past and the occasional whine of the Jet Ranger helicopters ferrying the tourists past. It didn’t take long for my browser to be requesting Google for the nearest airport and flight schools. There were two listings for Coolangatta Airport. I figured that if on the remote chance I could get an hour with one of the flight schools before the conference started, I’d go for it. The first I called Australian Wings Academy and was put straight through to the CFI, Nathan. He was a friendly guy and after some deliberation said he could get me a Cessna 172R and an instructor who could show me about. We discussed a route and it was locked in!!!

On leaving Surfers, it was a good 40 minutes drive to Coolangatta Airport. The traffic on the Gold Coast was surprisingly heavy, not helped by significant preparation being put in place for the schoolies event due to be kicking off later in the week. On arrival at Air Wings Academy, the friendly receptionist took me in to meet Nathan, the CFI. We chatted for about 15 minutes and worked out he’d done his IFR training at Jandakot Flight Centre. He also had worked at Air Australia for a while as well. It is a small world this flying caper! After all that was done, Nathan introduced me to Cameron, who was to be the instructor who would accompany me.

The plane use on my Gold Coast flight

Cameron had already pre-flighted and submitted our flight plan.  He was pretty much being a gentleman to even fit me in, let alone let me rock up and just fly. See Air Wings Academy has the contract to train the Air Asia pilots. Cameron had to leave a couple of  students to work on their theory so he could accommodate my flight. Coolangatta Airport is a Class C International Airport. This means, it has considerable jet traffic and is fully controlled like Perth Airport.  Sweet!

Tiger Airways landing at Coolangatta

We got the first sight of this being an International Airport when a Tiger Airways Airbus landed as we taxied out.  There was also JetStart Airbus who we could hear getting permission to pushback as we approached the runway.  As we taxied out we stopped short of the runway and did our run ups.  See there were no run up bays here.  On making our ready call, we were given immediate clearance to take-off and told a hill in front of us was our aim point on lift-off.  In Class C airspace, the tower give far more instructions, which actually makes life pretty easy.  As we approach the hill in front of us, we were given our permission to turn out over the water for our 500 foot flight north along the shore of the Gold Coast.  After about 4 minutes of us being in the air, the JetStar Airbus was given clearance to take-off, and no doubt climbed well above us while we maintained our low level altitude along the coast.

One of the many waterways on the Gold Coast

The first thing you notice, is that the scenery is not flat, brown and boring, rather it is green, mountainous and interesting.  This was pretty much the theme for much of the flight.  Our route was to take us the full length of the Gold Coast to Southport, then North West for about 10 miles before to overfly DreamWorld, then South West out into the fantastic mountains!  We’d have to remain at 500ft till Southport.  However, before we hit SouthPort, the size of the buildings at Surfers Paradise becomes more real.  They tower well above our 500ft.  Once at Southport, we finally climbed above 500ft.  As we did, the scenery finally started opening up in front of us and more amazing waterways.  Cameron gave me a run down of the islandswith amazing looking houses.  He simply referred to them as the “Haves” and the “Have nots”.  The “Have nots” in opinion still looked to have plenty even on their canal frontages.

After overflying DreamWorld, we headed out towards the amazing looking Hinterlands.  The hills seemed to quickly rise towards us, but we had to wait till clearing the altitude boundaries.  At this point we climbed to about 4500 feet.  The first thing that dawns on you is that their is nowhere to conduct a forced landing.  So instead for the next 30 odd minutes you focused more on enjoying the scenery and listening closely to the hum of the Lycoming power plant out in front.  We flew a track through the Hinterland that had us flying between peaks and around the highest mountain in the area.  It was just awesome!

Gold Coast Hinterland scenery

Once rounding the mountain, there was a naturally valley between the hills that we did a cruise descent to Murwillumbah, whereby we’d levelled off at 1500 feet.  Cameron didn’t mention it to me before, but he jumped not he radio to Coolangatta Arrivals and requested airways clearance, followed by a surprise.  He requested clearance for a 500 foot run along the Tweed River.  Obligingly the tower granted his request and said to report at Point Danger (what a cool reporting point name).

“Right, this is a big treat”, he said, “we don’t often do this, we only show our students this amazing little secret if they have done really well.”  So cool, my first flight with them 🙂  he continued, “The rule is, you need to desend now to 500 feet and stay directly above the water.  You can’t overfly the houses at this height, so you need to stay centred on the water.”  We joined the river about 3 miles before Murwillumbah over the Green Hills caravan park.  I tackled the first bend in the middle of town with a 30 degree angle of bank turn.  My smile was huge and it felt pretty easy peasy.  Cameron commented that the turn was good, but that was only a warm up!

He was right, the turns really started to tighten at the town of Tumbulgum.  This was probably the second most difficult.  It required a right 60 degree turn, full power and a wrestle with the yoke to make the turn and maintain our 500 feet.  Pulling out of the turn was almost as aggressive as the entry, with boot fulls or opposite rudder to balance the turn exit.  There was another tight turn a few more miles up the river, however there were no houses, so not as bigger challenge.  Then it approached!

What was to be our last big turn meant flying directly towards a hill which towered well above us.  It was covered in trees and as we approached, the effect of the wind coming over the hill was very apparent.  All Cameron said was, “this is the fun bit!”  He was right, it required a 60 degree turn, with the hill no more than 50 metres in front and air waves creating significant turbulence.  Lets just say it was bloody awesome!!!  In the hours earlier, I’d never have thought I’d be practicing 60 degree angle of bank turns at 500 feet flying directly at a hill!  Mint!

After this excitement, it was pretty must straight forward along the river till the tower identified us at Point Danger, nearing the end of the Tweed River.  We were requested to join right base.  It was at this stage that for the first time, “caution wake turbulence” actually made me think.  As we were turning base a jet was touching down in front.  With our low altitude, it meant those spinning vortexes would have been looming above us.  Cameron said that it is real for them every flight, but said he hadn’t experienced anything severe to date.

We setup for approach and landing, doing all our usual checks.  There was a pretty solid cross wind of around 16 knots.  Cameron warned me that there was quite severe wind sheer earlier.  The approach was fun, I crabbed it in, but you are met with waves that make you lift and sink in a continuous motion.  Nearing touch down, I setup for the cross wind and flaired, letting the plane take her time to find the ground.  There was significant float given we’d used only 10 degrees of flap.  The one thing that came obvious during the flair, was that we were a little higher.  I mentioned it to Cameron and he said that was quite common.  The reason being that the runway is considerably wider that your typically general aviation runway and it creates a bit of a visual illusion.  It didn’t matter, I maintained the cross wind technique and we touched down lightly on our right wheel before bringing the other wheels down.  Cameron made comment that the landing was a lot better than he expected, sweet!

Cameron, your a legend!

We taxied in and we packed the aircraft away.  The experience was awesome and if you ever find yourself on the Gold Coast, look up Cameron or Nathan at Air Wings Academy.  Request this exact flight plan and have a blast!  Big thanks to both of these guys and the fantastically big smile they left me with for the rest of the week!  On reflection after, I wished I’d done two things.  Firstly, recorded the GPS track.  Secondly, had my GoPro strapped firmly to my head.  It would have been awesome to watch!  So the only thing I can now truly recommend now is to go and do it yourself.  If you want somebody to go with you, I’d fall over myself to do it again!!!

Posted in Crosswind, Pilot License, Travels | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Tweet Tweet

The time has come, I’m finally going to give Twitter a go. Its become obvious that the best way to keep in touch with what’s happening is to subscribe to the many twitter feeds of people, news agencies and companies who have content or views on what interests me.

The other angle is that I am getting further and further behind on writing blog posts, at least 4 flights behind. I still want to do them for all the reasons I originally decided, but in the mean time, I figure that Twitter provides me with a way of keeping track of what’ I’ve done. Then later I can come back and blog it up.

From an Aviation point of view, there are some damn fine Twitter feeds too, everything from big corporations, to NASA, right through to an Air Hostie who has become the golden girl of the news agencies! There is some funny stuff! Anyway, the tweets now show on the side of the blog page or you can “follow” as the alternative.

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Study study study

Becoming a Private Pilot is not all just fun and flying with your head in the clouds. It is also about learning, observing and thinking ahead. It is those 4 things that are a big focus for me right now, study time! If I am to be completely honest, its not through choice that they are my single focus right now.

The reason why they are a priority, is because the fun and flying has been significantly restricted of late due to weather and the Commonwealth Heads of Governance Meeting (CHOGM) held in Perth a few weeks back. At the moment I’m up to Navigation Flight #4 (controlled airspace and Perth missed approach) which will be promptly followed by Navigation Flight #5 (controlled airspace solo). These two flights have been cancelled week after week. Damn those Cumulonimbus clouds!

Actually during CHOGM, the kids and I stopped in at Jandakot to pickup a new VTC. However, everything was pretty much closed down, other than the sweet looking police chopper swooping in. Given that damn chopper pretty much had been buzzing overhead 24 x 7 driving everybody I know nuts, we thought it was worth a look. We drove up and caught sight of the aircraft as it was just powering down its turbines. Once everything came to rest, the flight crew got out. I’m sure in paranoia mode, one of the flight crew wandered over to the fence and asked, “Um is there anything I can help you with?”. Just looking, saw you come in. Turns out he was a top bloke. He asked the kids if they wanted some stickers and promptly delivered a colouring in pack and stickers to two smiling young faces. Minutes later, their dad had talked their way in for a closer look We got a quick look before the crew had to turn the chopper around and head back to keep an eye on things.

Anyway back on topic, lets go over those few earlier points again, learning, observing and thinking ahead…


The day I passed my GFPT written test, I bought the Bob Tait “Private Pilot License” VFR [Day] Study Guide. Accompanied by the Aviation Theory Centre Navigation book and a set of practice exams. Sweet, all set!

Well the books had a little time to gather dust as I set my sights on my GFPT flying test and the subsequent joy flights with passengers 🙂 Then it was onto Nav training. All the while my books gathered more dust. It wasn’t till after swapping to JFC that it finally occurred to me, get studying! Since however, it seems my workload has doubled and there are another 10 balls in the air! I’m well known for not taking on a mountain and keeping it simple, not!

Well the study is in full swing now, when I can fit it in at least. It is practically every other day putting a few hours into reading a topic, then reading it again and doing the exercises. Apart from Air Law, the topic that has bored my silly is meteorology. For some reason I struggled to get into it. As a result, its retention in my little brain has been on the lacking side of things. It’s now been 4 times through the chapters covering it!


The penny dropped about a week ago. I was down at Hourglass park in Rockingham watching the planes buzz overhead. My focus should have been a little more on the little hard white ball which the opposition were attempting to hit my way. Luckily our pitcher (baseball) was on the money and not too many balls were being hit. It gave me time to notice the wind direction, the broken Cumulus clouds, some towering and changing right in from of me. Beyond them, there were Alto Stratus looking blocking out most the remaining blue.

Lets just say it got me thinking. Back in the dug out, I pulled out my iPhone, fired up the “Oz Weather” and went straight for the synoptic chart. There it was, the low pressure system! The NAIPS app confirmed the higher level winds were perfectly aligned with isogonals, with the ground level winds about 2/3’s slowed and veered (to the right). I had an “ah ha” moment…

Wow, I guess I must have taken some of this weather thing in 🙂 I enjoyed the moment, and believe me it was only a moment. “Oy! Brett, your turn to bat, hurry up!”…

He has since been heard explaining the cloud types, expected conditions and “oh, thats Verga”, blah blah blah… You get the story!

The point I’m trying to make, find a way to relate those boring things you don’t quite think you ever wanted to know and find a way to apply it and make it practical. In the case of meteorology for me, it was about Observing, observing the weather…

Thinking Ahead

This is the most important point! Start studying for your PPL exam the day you complete your GFPT, in fact start earlier. I have left it way too late! That is most evident in the subject areas which I don’t naturally have an interest. For me it was meteorology! It didn’t capture my interest.

The bad weather and CHOGM have been a god send from one perspective. It has given me more time to study. The reality is that once the next two navs are done and the one after, it is PPL flying test time! The theory test has to be done first.

At this time of your PPL adventure, you should be 100% focused on applying your developing navigation skills. Trust me you don’t need the distraction of theory going on at the same time!i

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Navigation Flying Lesson 3

The transition to Jandakot Flight Centre (JFC) has meant my flight training has picked up in pace massively.  Lets just say this the last few weeks have been pretty intense.  With the challenges at work being at an all time high, its the limited weekend time that we’ve squeezed in three nav’s so far.  I’ll covered each nav separately as they all have their own story (of course).

Sunday the 9th October was my first game of baseball for the season.  It was also the day of my first Nav flight with JFC.  Finishing our baseball game up (20-3), it was 100 mile an hour down to Jandakot to get the required pre-flight preparation completed.  Being the first Nav at a new school and it also being 2 months since the last Nav flight, I was expecting to be rusty.  … and rusty I was!

The signs of rust started from the minute I sat down with the flight planning form.  It looked somewhat different from what I have been using, but you could tell that somebody has packed a lot of effort into it.  It has the usual items, but the weight and balance, aircraft limits, aircraft/runway performance calcs and more.  In the end it took an absolute age to complete the full form, do my maps and submit my flight plan.

Wilson didn’t say too much about my excessive flight planning time, just a subtle, “Far out, you’ll need to get faster at that”.  It was the first of a long list of feedback for the day…

The next bit of feedback was, “You’ll need to get more familiar with the checklist for VH-VMH”.  Again feedback that we were probably on the “too slow side as well”.  In practice, the 20 year newer C172 has considerable more functions even though on the surface not much is different.  On startup, the big 360 cubic inch fuel injected 4 banger is quite impressive.  In V8 petrol head terms, that’s just shy of 6 litres!

Typically nav 3 is all about entering controlled airspace, using Nav aids, more non-controlled airport procedures and then a diversion.  In addition, there is an element of instrument flying, stalls, practice forced landings (PFLs) and generally anything else your instructor throws at you.  See, after this nav, it is typically the first solo nav and your instructor wants to be sure your going to come back.

Being signed out solo after this flight was always going to be a tall ask.  I’d have probably needed to walk on water to give the new flight school and instructor the confidence to sign me out solo first up.  It didn’t matter anyway.  See, Wilson was actually the instructor who signed me out for my first ever solo at Air Australia.  I remember the first check ride with him.  It resulted in nearly two pages of notes and several more lessons to address them.  This one was no different…

Today though, the notes were not about ballooning the landings or other early stage mistakes.  The notes listed diversion procedures, too much head down time, getting directions right, 1 in 60 practice, faster flight planning, non-controlled aerodrome procedures, fuel logging, radio calls and more.  The last few days of cramming the basic nav skills hadn’t been as successful as I’d thought.  Nothing beats good old practical experience!

The flight route itself was as follows:

Jandakot (YPJT) -> Armadale (ARE) -> Victor 66 (Canning Dam (CDM), Helena Reservoir (HRR), The Lakes (TLKS)) -> Clackline (CKL) -> Cunderdin (YCUN) -> Corrigin (YCIG) -> Beverly (YBEV) -> Serpentine (YSEP) -> Jandakot.

In practice though we diverted from Cunderdin to Beverly and then Beverly to Jandakot via Six South.  The flight went something like this…

With the controlled airspace requirements, we had to radio to Perth Centre Delivery while on the ground at Jandakot and request an allocated squalk code.  This was all good and we put it into the transponder before take-off.  After that we took off on runway 12 and headed straight to Armadale.  At first I was slightly confused as to where I was flying, because Armadale looks quite spreadout.  With that resolved, it was nothing unusual.

Towards Armadale we commenced our climb out.  Our target was 3500 feet.  It was at this point Wilson introduced the FMQDC check.  Frequency, Mixture, QNH, Direction and Compass (aligned).  He said these are the quick first things to get sorted, then the rest of the CLEAROFFs are easy when the time comes.  In practice the FMQDC is pretty good and setups you up well.

On climb from Armadale, you can clearly see Mount Dale in the distance.  We headed in that general direction and knew we’d easily find Canning Dam, the start of our Victor 66 route.  Perth Centre handed us off to Perth Departures and we received our Victor 66 clearance.  Turning on track at Canning Dam, we flew towards Helena Reservoir.  It was at this point I knew there was something wrong with the headings I’d written down.  Off to my right about 16 degrees was my next waypoint.  Wilson spotted it too.  He quickly worked out that I’d done my wind corrections back to front…

That is a rather bad mistake.  At least knowing the mistake meant that I could correct my flight tracks.  From Helena Reservoir the next way point was “The Lakes”.  The corrected tracks were spot on.  On approach to the end of our Victor 66 route, Perth Departures warned us of an oncoming aircraft.  We were both at our correct altitudes and he passed safely below us.   From here it was on to the Clackline NDB (Non-directional Beacon)  We spotted the towers in a paddock and then turned towards Cunderdin.  The flight to Cunderdin is simple as you literally follow the highway.

At Cunderdin we were met with several other aircraft doing IFR flights and a handful of gliders.  We joined the circuit and did a few touch and go’s.  These were my first landings with Wilson since he helped me sort my ballooned landings out 6 months earlier.  He commented that they were very much like his.  I took that as a compliment given I’ve heard him talk them up before 😉

On leaving Cunderdin Wilson called a diversion to Beverly.  Having done only one two months earlier, my revision hadn’t been so good.  The mental blank kicked in.  I got my heading approximated to Beverly and turned that way.  However my altitude and distance calcs were a little on the “very disorganized side of things”.  Wilson let me go without saying anything.  It became very obvious that I was well off track and re-calced using my protractor.  Covering good ground, I was missing nav points quickly.

To top it off, I could clearly see a big hill to my right, but was struggling to find it on the map.  In the end I got it.  The realisation was that I had now covered 15 miles and was about 5 miles off track.  My 1 in 60 meant a big left turn of 40 degrees to hit Beverly.  Within a few minutes of the 40 degree direction adjustment, Beverly came into sight directly off our nose.  Phew!

From Beverly it was directly back to Jandakot.  The flight was ok but the feedback was extensive.  It meant that I’d have a big week of revision to give Wilson the confidence to let me go solo after the next flight.  Overall I was impressed with the aircraft.  It is really well appointed, the avionics are great and it flies beautifully.  Wilson was good too and the feedback was really constructive.  I knew if I got all that nailed, the next flight would be much better than this and it was…

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A Change of Scenery

August 20 was the date of Navigation #2 and the weeks keep ticking past without successfully undertaking the important Navigation #3.  Nav 3 is a test flight to see if the student is ready to go solo, that is head out beyond the safe boundary of the Jandakot training area alone.  Sunday just gone was our next attempt at a scheduled flight.  This time it was cancelled due to poor weather, NO!!!!  After weeks of trying to line up grade 2 or higher instructor, it is a disappointing blow.  That frustration increased when the book said the next opportunity for a grade 2 was early November, no other options were available.

My frustration was distracted when BigKev saw my car and dropped in to say g’day.  He looked equally “frustrated”, evidenced by the debriefing he gave of his mornings conversation down at the aero club.  There was simply no choice, we had to take to the sky.  Today however we were going to be limited to circuits with the 1500 foot cloud base, but who cares, it was still flying 🙂

In the circuit downwind, ducking under the clouds

We readied VH-IGY and we headed out to runway 06 right.  India Golf Yankee clear for take-off.  We joined the now empty circuit and marvelled at the impressive climb and performance of this steroid enhanced Cessna 172.  Even with such a low air pressure over the field, she still popped regularly above 1000 ft per minute.  It meant the circuits were relatively quick.  With the imminent storm and particularly low cloud, it felt like we had a duck a few times to keep our heads out of the clouds.

In the words of this pilot, the landings were, “pretty average”.  It provided BigKev all the material he needed to suitably to pay me back for all the opportunities he had taken to critique BigKev’s own landings.  At one stage BigKev said “Thats not too bad, any landing you walk away from is a good landing”.  I had to remind him that the saying didn’t quite have ring, when the landing was a touch-and-go and we were now again airborne :-p

On finals for Runway 06 Right at Jandakot

On the third circuit after being cleared for a touch and go, it was soon recalled and I we were advised we were to make a full stop landing.  Not happy!  On late finals, the tower gave us the option for a touch and go.  Sweet, we took it and went for another circuit.  It was on this circuit however we were given the option of only a full stop and we landed.  At least the newest member of the Air Traffic Control team at Jandakot granted the use of 06 left to save our taxi time after landing.

Taxi’ing in, I wouldn’t realise it yet, but that was probably the last time I’d fly VH-IGY, well at least till my PPL is finished anyway.  See my frustration returned in the days after that flight as the challenge to get an instructor wasn’t resolved.  It was with that, that I took it into my own hands to resolve the instructor issue.  It sadly means heading to another flight school for the remainder of my PPL.  With a pass up and down the strip at Jandakot, I found what I was looking for.

At this point I want to say a huge thanks to Adam, Chuck and the great team at Air Australia.  I’m pretty sure if I was starting out again, Air Australia would certainly be where I’d head again.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ll be back there after my PPL to get my aerobatics rating.

However for the next few months, Jandakot Flight Centre (JFC) will be where I’m heading to finish my PPL.  With several instructors available to work with me, we’ve got a good few bookings over the coming weeks.  So a target PPL completion timeframe of late November is quite possible.

VH-NMN and VH-VMH - 1997 Cessna 172R C172

On Saturday just gone I had my orientation at JFC and was impressed with the rigour and attention to detail.  There are comprehensive checklists for everything, a big focus on safety and the a good collection of aircraft.  The two aircraft which will see me to the end of my PPL with be VH-NMN and VH-VMH.  They are both Cessna 172R with 180hp engines. We had a good look around the fleet, a heap of single engine and twin engine aircraft.  The big daddy being the King Air B200 turboprop.

VH-NMN instrument panel

The two Cessnas were manufactured in 1997 and the cockpits are identical. Every single button between the two aircraft is exactly the same.  During the orientation we sat in the cockpit for a good while going over every button and how everything worked.  This included the impressive avionics stack.  Apart from 2 com radios, there is a GPS (Bendix King 89B), an autopilot, ADF, VOR and transponder.  Being different from what I’ve been using, we covered the lot.  The GPS however is going to take some time. I’ve downloaded the user manual and the free computer based simulator to try practice with.  The good thing is that by the time my PPL is done, I’ll also receive endorsement for using the GPS to assist with Navigation, an unexpected bonus.

For now though, the frustration has passed and I’m getting super excited about completing my PPL again.  There is just one challenge with this navigation thing, how do I do it again, it’s been 2 months…

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Mooney Formation with 4 Planes

Mooney Formation - 4 planes

Mooney Diamond Formation over Cockburn Sound

One thing about voice messages is that when you get a few and they’ve bank up, it takes for ever to listen to them all, worse still, you have to go through them in order of when they were received.  Having missed a call from BigKev, the message said it was number 12 in the list.  It had to wait…

It was now Saturday morning and I had built the courage to tackle the now 15 voice messages.  Finally at number 12, BigKev’s message “5 Mooneys, formation practice, wheels up at 4 Saturday arvo, front seat for you”.  Now feeling slightly bad that my procrastination to check the messages meant I had not returned this or a number of calls already.  Straight onto the phone to BigKev, the seat was confirmed.  Although I’d heard the message wrong and it was instead Sunday arvo.  Sweet!

Having flown my Non-Circuit practice flight earlier on the Sunday morning, I’d arrived at Jandakot a little early.  The goal was to get some good photos today, so dusting off my Canon 70-200m IS-F 2.8 lens and the 40D.  Standing outside I worked on getting a few practice shots in.  BigKev brought along his sweet 7D with a wide lens.

By the time we had briefed, we were down to 4 planes.  It was BigKev, Rohan, Andrew and Jake as the four pilots.  The plan was to depart via Freo Golf Course, up the coast to City Beach, then out over the ocean for some 15 to 30 degree turns.  BigKev was formation leader, the others in a diamond behind.  We went through a number of turns before changing positions and leads.  On the way in, we held back and snapped a few shots.

All round, great fun and once again thanks BigKev!

4 plane (Mooney) formation practice with Perth in the background

Mooney Formation - Echelon Left with Perth city in the background

Mooney Formation - 4 planes

Pilots view (BigKev) from Echelon Right

Mooney Formation - turn

Strong concentration of Andrew Eldridge in VH-JXC

Mooney Formation - 4 planes

Rohan keeps VH-SJT nice and tight in #2

Mooney Formation - 4 planes (well two of them)

Jake keeps VH-DJU tight with his formation partner inbound to Jandakot

Mooney formation flight track (187.5km, avg speed 182.9 km/h max speed 258.7 km/h)


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