Non-controlled airport procedures – In Practice

Adam and Jane join me for an early morning flight

With a few weeks now passed from the original post, the plan then was to head down to Murray Field and do some circuit practice.  The usual challenge that I’m finding of late is that there were no instructors available to come and do the practice.  So instead, I took Jane and Adam out for a fun flight around the training area.  Adam was over visiting from the UK and it was the first time in about 8 years that he has stepped inside a small plane.  As a big boy pilot these days, his usual ride is a 767 which he flies around Europe and across the Atlantic.

To make it a little more fun, BigKev agreed (kicking and screaming, yeah right) to come flying too.  The plan, to fly around the training area and basically enjoy the morning.  Meeting BigKev out on the tarmac, SJT was behaving badly and the call was that they’d be packing up.  As we departed downwind, I heard SJT getting a clear for take-off front he tower.  So they were coming after all, problem resolved apparently.

VH-SJT set over the awesome Perth hills

When out at Serpentine, we finally got the call they had us visual and were slowly pulling us in.  Minutes later they pulled to our right then left.  Tracking down towards Mandurah we enjoyed a small show to our rear, before SJT pulled off and up with an awesome display of her underbelly.  We continued our track down over Mandurah and then up along the coast.  BigKev and Trav left us and did a boat yard arrival, while we headed to Forrestdale Lake.

Arriving from Forrestdale lake, we joined the training runway and did a few touch and go’s.  Well worth the practice when it presents itself.  Another fun morning, sure beats CTAF procedures…

However, those pesky non-controlled procedures still needed to be done.  This weekend just gone, Tommy took me out and we did some non-controlled procedure practice.  We headed out from Jandakot towards Serpentine airfield.  We arrived overhead and sussed out the correct runway.  Having reviewed the ERSA entry we descended and joined the circuit.  My radio calls were a bit on the “non optimised” variety, but Tommy said they had everything that was needed.  After a go-around there, we headed to the next non-controlled airfield nearby.

The track was to Murray Field, some 10 minutes further south near Mandurah.  Same again, we arrived overhead and then descended to join the circuit there.  This time, the runway selected didn’t have the typical left hand circuit.  When using certain runways at Murray Field, there is a requirement for a right hand circuit.  We obeyed and did a missed approach there.  After this, we departed Murray Field and headed back to Serpentine.  This time we decided on a different runway and joined accordingly.  Again, a missed approach and then it was back to Jandakot.

In summary, the flying component of the non-controlled procedures I’m feeling really comfortable with.  The details I’d found and included in my last post on this topic turned out to be most helpful when put in practice.  The area which I do need to work on a little more, is getting more efficient with the radio calls.  I think it’s time for a cheat sheet to keep on my desk at work for regular revision…

Posted in Circuits, Formation, Jandakot, Pilot License | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Navigation Flying Lesson #2 – Beyond the basics

Jandakot Airport at Sunrise The absolute best thing about being up early in the morning, is that you get to enjoy the sunrise.  The morning of my second nav flight was certainly no exception.  I was excited, there appeared to be no wind and the sky looked like there were all but a few clouds, maybe just enough to add to the sunrise.  How that all changed!

It was 7am and it was straight to work on my navigation plan.  Adam had texted me the details of the flight the day before.  It included a Jandakot to Armadale departure.  From there we’d climb out and track straight down to Narrogin.  On arrival at Narrogin we’d determine the right runway and do some circuits.  Then, we’d depart to the North to Beverley, then a left turn to Mount Dale, Byford and then into Jandakot.  I may have taken the opportunity the night before to draw all the tracks on the VTC, VNC, WAC and the ERC Low.  To add to that, details were written out of the ERSA and CAG on my flightplan.

E6B flight computer, flight plan and maps ready to go

It took a good hour to get everything in order.  Unfortunately the printer wasn’t working, so I couldn’t print the weather or the submitted Air Services flight plan.  So took the liberty this time to use the NAIPS iPad application and saved them electronically.  Tempted as I was, I did at this point put the iPad away and did the flight planning by hand.  Being more efficient with the E6B flight computer this time around, meant it didn’t take too long.  With all the paperwork done, maps ready, it was time to ready the plane.

VH-IGY 1978 Cessna 172N C172

VH-IGY our plane for the nav flight

Todays plane was again VH-IGY.  It is a Cessna 172N with a 180hp engine upgrade.  The benefit this particular plane brings to navigation is that it has an electronic Directional Gyro (DG), which never goes out of sync with the compass.  It also has a digital readout, so you can hold a near exact direction.  Its navigation TAS is 115 knots, which is about 10 knots better than a standard 160 hp machine.  In fact, this aircraft and VH-BEZ can often pull a good 130 knots in cruise with the balls to the wall.  Not bad for a C172, however I’m certainly looking forward to getting my Mooney rating, coz the 160 knots they can pull will make getting from a to b a lot quicker.

With everything done, we made our taxi calls and headed out to runway 06 right.  There was the usual delay with this runway as the planes in the circuit seemed to keep coming.  No sooner had we noted the time down and set the transponder, we got our line up call.  It was quickly followed by “clear for take-off” as the Aero Club C152 peeled off the runway ahead of us.  With a right turn, it was 115 degrees towards Armadale.  This was to be the first time that I’d leave the limited Jandakot airspace to the east while at the controls.  Ye ha!

Again, noting our time over Armadale we steered towards Narrogin and commenced our climb towards the 3500 foot limit in this control area.  However both were short lived.  It would be while before we reached our targeted altitude and we had to steer off our track to dodge the huge clouds.  The cloud cover resembled broken clouds, rather than the scattered clouds indicated in the forecast.  It kept us to around 2500 feet as well as needed to track well to the north of our intended track.  While literally off course even at the start, I kept sight of one of the major roads out into the hills which I was able to also identify on the map.

Making the call to Perth Radar, we requested flight following.  This is the process of Perth Radar identifying you from your transponder and informing you of other traffic.  They identified us at 7 miles east of Armadale and let us know there was no other traffic.  At this stage we continued to skirt around the clouds while keeping the best visual reference on key features we could.  This continued for a good 15 minutes, so it meant we were well off our intended track.  As the clouds started clearing, we’d decided we were now well clear of the 3500 foot control area, so we climbed out to our cruise altitude of 5500.  The pressure of getting back on track was on.

Being able to take a positive fix on town and road intersection, I did a one in sixty calculation.  We’d calculated we were about 3 miles off our course, so using the simple maths, I calculated our new heading.  Taking the opportunity, I was also able to re-calculate our accurate ground speed and work out the ETA to Narrogin.  Keeping on the new heading, the focus was on the CLEAROFS.  By the time we’d gotten through those and were satisfied we were on track, we’d just passed the 10 mile distance from Narrogin.  I put in the radio call to announce our pending arrival.  It all happens pretty quick from here.

Decending down to 2100 feet, amazingly our new track had us arrived directly overhead the airfield.  We found another Cessna 172 and a Crop Duster buzzing about the Narrogin airfield.  We worked through the intentions with the other Cessna, which happened to be a young lady with her instructor doing touch and go’s.  They were doing circuits on runway 10.  We overflew and descended on the non-live side of the runway (the side opposite the circuit direction) crossed midfield and then followed the other Cessna.  As we followed them around, we got ready to come in for landing.

When turning base and then final I was finding that we were getting close to the runway and that we’d have little chance of making it in, other than a dive bomb.  At around 150 feet above the runway I decided to go-around.  It was at that time I had a good look at the wind-sock and realised that we were actually trying to land with a tail wind, rather than a head wind.  What was this other plane doing!  They were actually departing, so we left it at that.  We turned cross-wind and then downwind.  At that time we turned back across the runway to switch the circuit direction for the same runway, but in the opposite direction.  Now lined up for runway 28, it was all good and we made a serious of touch and go’s.

There is a good lesson in this.  Firstly, that you should not necessarily trust that other aircraft have got the circuit direction right.  When we overflew we should have taken better note of the windsock.  The windsock was moving around a fair bit, but we should have noticed the problem.  Also, there were other signals we had overlooked.  Runway 10 was on a similar track that we had coming to Narrogin and we had a tailwind.  The other, the was smoke we’d seen nearby, it was also indicating we were wrong…

Tracking the map to Beverley

From Narrogin we departed to a north’ish direction towards Beverley.  By this time the clouds had thinned and the track was pretty easy to navigate.  Once about 8 miles out of Narrogin, there was a road which pretty much ran straight to Beverley.  It was a case of tracking it all the way.  Sweet I thought.  It was at this point that Adam pulled the power and it was time for a Practice Forced Landing (PFL).  It went pretty well as there was a stack of really good locations to set down.  At about 500 feet(ish) we went around and I commenced re-tracking to Beverley.

As we approach Beverley, the next curve ball was thrown.  Adam announces that there is a weather issue over mount dale (pretend) and we’ll have to do a diversion.  The new route was to track from Beverly to Serpentine.  Adam runs me through the diversion process, which of course I had forgot within about 5 seconds.  I’m sure there is an acronym for that too, but it is all a bit vague already…

The first thing is to hand draw the track onto the map we need to fly.  Then as we fly over turning waypoint, note the time and turn onto the estimated heading.  Now on our heading we work out our cruising altitude.  We take into account whether we need an odd thousand or even thousand level, the clouds, airspace and terrain.  Having calculated the track and altitude, we started our climb up 1000 feet.  Once that was sorted, I ran through my CLEAROFS.  With those done and while trying to spot reference points, I began more accurately calculating the flight heading.

No sooner had we aligned to our new heading, those pesky clouds came into play again and we had to literaly dive bomb underneath.  This added to the heading issue because to get beneath them, we had to change our heading considerably to slot into a gap between clouds.  With that out of the way and the CLEAROFS mostly done, it was the “Orientate” step that presented the next challenge.  Finding where you are seems to be a challenge at times.  We were still off the boundaries of the more detailed VTC map.  The VNC had only major roads and a few other features.  Luckily in this case there were silos and another airfield.  Sweet, a positive fix and now it was time for a 1 in 60 to get back on track.

From here on in, the dead reckoning approach to navigation came into play.  We could make out a few “mountains” and in the distance the coast.  Between us and the coast was our destination, with Serpentine dam in the middle.  It was of course the point near Serpentine dam that it occurred to me that I had exactly 50 minutes till my softball game started!  With this, it became a mission to get the flight over with and on my way.

From Serpentine Dam we decided that a detour directly into Forrestdale Lake into Jandakot was the quickest route back.  The extra 20 minutes to fly overhead Serpentine airfield was out the window.  Doing a normal Six South arrival, runway 30 was in use.  We hoped for a straight in approach, but instead were given a join upwind instruction.  This became a slight challenge as there was an Tiger Moth taking off and another aircraft joining downwind from the opposite direction, with a helicopter also arriving just below circuit height.  We solved that with an early turn cross wind and did a reasonable crosswind landing.  The good thing here is that it is a 2 minute taxi back to the Southern Apron.

Taxing back in, we covered a few things for improvement, luckily all of which were not too big a deal.  The first item was non-controlled procedures, the other was about maintaining height when doing the map work and logging.  The navigation he thought was pretty good, which I was relieved about.  Below is the GPS track of the flight, which gives a good indication of the navigation correctness (the funny hook track near Pingelly was a Practice Forced Landing).

GPS flight track visualisation from Navigation Lesson #2

What I didn’t realise about this flight, is that it is probably one of the last with Adam.  Unless there is a reason to go back and revise something, it is pretty much over to grade 1 instructors from here.  Thanks buddy for getting me this far and all the best with your flying career (ps. love ya new Lightspeeds)…

Adam and I just midway through Nav #2


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Non-controlled airport procedures

Overlying Bellburn Airport Purnululu National Park (Bungle Bungles)

One of the dimensions of flying which I have found to be a little confusing are the procedures at non-controlled aerodromes / airports.  Having had all my training to date at a towered airport, the procedures are easy  and you are really spoon fed the entire time.  Even at Jandakot, one of the busiest airport in the country, the circuit procedures and radio calls are quite easy.  At the end of my second navigation lesson on the weekend just gone, my instructor basically said my non-controlled airport procedures “need improvement” (ie. they sucked!)

So 0f course, its now time to blame everything else other than oneself.  Firstly looking back at the training material provided, it doesn’t really describe all aspects of the non-controlled aerodrome procedures or the radio calls (face save #1).  Then, in practice, Adam’s microphone wasn’t working in the first Navigation flight, so we didn’t get to cover the procedures in practice (face save #2).  Actually that is all bollox, the buck stops with here…

In reality, I’d probably underestimated just how much was involved in relation to non-controlled aerodromes.  Some of the dimensions to consider:

1. Which end of the runway do you land on?
That depends on the wind of course.  Unless you can get confirmation before you arrive (either via a weather service or an authorised person), you need to overfly the runway and look at the windsock.  The overfly is conducted at at least 500ft above the circuit.  At 600m up, it can be a challenge to see the windsock.

The one big lesson we learnt the other day, is that even when there is already other aircraft in the circuit at the airfield, don’t assume they got it right.  We arrived and joined the circuit with another aircraft at Narrogin.  We setup for landing and found that we couldn’t lose the height quickly enough and that we were closing in really quickly.  As we got low and I decided to go around and noticed that the windsock showed we had a tail wind.  So we had to change the direction and it was all good.

2. How do you join the circuit from the overfly altitude?
This is easy, we decent on the dead side of the runway.  The dead side of the circuit is the side of the runway which the circuit is not using.  Basically we overfly the runway, decent on the side opposite the circuit and then join.  The following diagram extracted from the CASA document referenced below shows what is described here.

Recommended joining procedure for non-controlled airfields

Of course, we may overfly and find that the direction we are heading puts us on the live side.  In this case we simply turn back and then decent on the other side.  This can include turning back in the opposite direction from which we arrived.  Basically there are many options you can take to join the circuit.  However to do the join, you must be at circuit height before you join.

3. Joining the Circuit if you know the runway before you arrive

Options for Joining the Circuit

There are many aerodromes where the runway in use can be established before arrival and overflying isn’t required.  In these cases you can arrive and join the circuit directly without doing the overfly.  The preferred method is to join at 45 degrees to the downwind leg.  However you may often approach the airfield from the opposite site so doing so is not possible.  The rules don’t stop you joining the circuit from crosswind, downwind, base or final.  However base and final are least preferred.  The diagram to the right here (also take from the CASA document) shows the circuit entry approaches.  Basically it comes down to safety, so straight in final approaches are the least safest approach when other aircraft are already in the circuit.

4. Who gives way to who?
Any aircraft in the circuit have right of way.  However, there are times when it pays to be a little more open minded and bullish.  For example, giving way to commercial aircraft, particularly those of the larger and faster variety.  Excuse me Mr 747, bugger off, I was here first.  He may reply with a big fat dose of wake turbulence.  Most commercial aircraft will be flying by Instrument Flight Rules (IFR).  So it pays to consider these and be courteous.  You don’t have to thought.  The circuit is designed for aircraft to behave in a predicable and safe manner.  That includes knowing where to look.

5. So how do you all communicate?
This is the other huge dimension of non-controlled aerodromes.  When do you do radio calls and what do they entail.  It all starts when you are at least 10 nautical miles from the airfield.  You radio in your intentions to let other aircraft know your coming.  They may inform you of their intentions or ask you directly.  Once you arrive at the airfield, you are also required to communicate your intention on how your going to join the circuit.  Then at certain points in the circuit. “Narrogin Traffic, Cessna 172 India Golf Yankee is joining mid cross wind for runway 28 Narrogin”.

Basically you communicate your location and intentions right before conducting turns.  The reason why this is the time of making the calls is because as the aircraft turns, it is easiest for other pilots to see you.  A greater cross section of the aircraft becomes visible as the wings tilt on an angle.

What next?
So this is a basic regurgitation of what I’ve now come to grips with.  It also seems a lot easier now that I’ve taken some time to understand the requirements, when, where and what to say.  What is next will be to go and put it into practice.  Rather than waiting for the next Navigation flight, I think this weekend will need to involve a flight down to Murray Field to give it a go.

Anybody who is like me and wants to learn and understand the procedures, I would highly recommend the following document 🙂

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

A Blatt to Rotto and Back

BigKev with his new favourite!

The best way to end the week and kick off the weekend, is quick blast to Rottnest to catch the sunset.  Well lets just say that was a great side-effect.  Having recently earned ($$) his twin endorsement, BigKev was keen to get some twin time to brush up and keep his newly acquired skills sharp.  Along for the ride, BigKev had three of us in the back and Wash alongside him as his co-pilot.

We’d have liked to have gotten away a little quicker, but she required some fuel and the Wash was running a little late.   Anyway, it didn’t matter, before we knew it we were getting the full length treatment down runway 06L at Jandakot.  Having not been in a twin for a very long time, the obvious big difference was the rate of acceleration and the rapid nature in which the airspeed indicator rose.  Even with the 5 burly blokes, it was rather impressive.

However the impressiveness of this machine didn’t end with the take-off role.  While climbing out, we accelerated through 100, then 110, then 120 knots all by the time we hit 1000 feet on our cross-wind departure.  No sooner had we levelled off, we were blasting out over Fremantle harbour with the air speed nudging 160 knots.  With Perth Radar giving the all clear to no other traffic, we “ascended” another 1500 feet.  I couldn’t use the typical phrase “climb”, because this thing didn’t climb, it ascended!

City Views at Sunset from VH-CJJ

While the boys up front were dazzled by the digital cockpit and slowly shifting their focus to the rapidly approaching Rottnest runway, the rest of us sat back and took in the spectacular views.  There is something magical about the sun setting and the colours it projects.  We were in for a treat too, the sun was creating some amazing reflections, whether that be from the engine spinner or the large golden mirror lake at Rottnest, spectacular!

VH-CJJ on approach to Rottnest

Attention soon turned to BigKev’s ability to grease this twin onto the runway.  The sledging was at an all time high, even the Australian Cricket Team could have learnt a thing or two.  Expectations were high and BigKev was even starting to doubt himself.  “Well, you’ve all put the mocha on me now”, the excuses were coming thick and fast, as was the approaching threshold.  However, it was BigKev that had the last laugh greasing her down with a gentle finesse on his yoke.

Last light was approaching fast and we’d now turned our sights back on Jandakot.  It was a fun ride back over gauge roads with the needle hard on 160, everybody was having a good laugh.  No sooner was the mainland coast arriving, attention turned towards “the next landing”.  After a slick touch and go at Rotto, the pressure was back on BigKev to show he could back it up.  With the tower just giving us an all clear for a straight in approach, the twin all but seemed to be there already.  All setup on finals, the cockpit was probably not as clean as usual, the pressure on BigKev was being maintained right down the glide scope.  To add to the pressure, word of mouth was not to be trusted, the GoPro camera was out to catch the landing in all its glory.  Well lets have a look shall we 🙂

Despite all the fantastic sights, the colours of the setting sun and the shenanigans of all on board, I did find the time to trial a couple of Aviation iPad Apps for pilots.  The two involved were AirNav Pro and OzRunways.  Both have maps and inflight navigation.  On the way there it was OzRunways and AirNav Pro on the return.  With my GNS external bluetooth GPS in the front window, the iPad had a good GPS lock throughout the trip.  Unfortunately OzRunways dropped the plane off the track and I basically lost where we were.  Since it wouldn’t recover, I swapped to AirNav Pro.  It immediately located us correctly on the map and showed a 5m error.  Although this was a quick test, it got me thinking about how you can’t trust the apps as the sole replacement for navigating with maps.  More on these another time.  For now, here’s the sunset I captured at Rottnest Island as we climbed out from the airfield, enjoy 🙂  Thanks for the ride Kev.

Beautiful Sunset from above Rottnest Island with the Lighthouse in the foreground.

Posted in GPS, iPad, Twin Engine | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Navigation Flying Lesson #1 – co-ordinated kaos

Adam and I pretending all was good

Once upon a time, there was this incredible student pilot.  He was brimming with confident, had a strut in his step and swaggered as he wandered the streets.  His amazing skills included finenessing the aircraft into the air, flying military grade circuits, wowing his not so willing  passengers with scenic trips around the training area and landings so greasy, McDonalds would be jealous.  Life could not be better for this fine young fellow.  With the mere formality of a few cross-country navigation flights, he would be qualified to fly anywhere in Australia.  Of course, that was until they day his iPad was taken away and he commenced his Flight Navigation training…

Navigation training is simple, think again!  The real story goes something like this…

Its been a good while now, the US trip is but a distant memory, the last shuttle has taken off and landed (will get around to writing about that soon) and work is dominating one’s time yet again.  Having carted my navigation training books half way around the world and back, they didn’t get opened once.  Now back it was time to get on with it.

The first step was to do the 3 mandatory briefings with Adam and go through what was to be the foundation theory for the navigation flights.  That was a shock to say the least.  It involved:

  • Drawing the navigation route on 3 different scale maps
  • Using a protractor (for the first time since year 10)
  • Learning to use both E6B and CR-3 navigation computers (both more closely related to an abacus than a real computer, but only just)
  • Non-towered aerodrome speak
  • Creating written flight plans (more high-brow than open heart surgery)
  • Decoding weather briefings encoded by world war 2 spies
  • Attempts at submitting a flight plan into a computer system so non-intuitive, it must have been designed by government policy makers

Apart from all that, it was rather straight forward.  A note to those yet to do the theory, please don’t leave it till 7pm on a Sunday night to do your lessons.

The briefings took about 3 hours all up and gave a high level overview.  They felt a bit rushed and we pretty much just ripped through each area.  To go with that, the training material is not that flash, it reads like it was the last few chapters somebody had to write before being released from prison.  It could just be me being a dumb ass.  Anyway, one big tip.  Search YouTube, there are some brilliant videos on pretty much everything you need to learn.

The poor weather which negated about 3 flight attempts was a god send in the end.  It meant more time to familiarise myself with the navigation material.

Pre-flight Planning

For the first navigation flight, I was given the details of the route we were to fly well in advance.  It was Jandakot (YPJT) with a Yangebup and Lake Thomson (LTOM) departure.  From Lake Thomson we would climb out and down to Bunbury (YBUN).  Once in Bunbury we would join the circuit rom overhead and do a few touch and go’s.  Then depart Bunbury to Boddington (BODD) turning North West ish to Byford (BYF) and then back to Jandakot via Six South (SIXS).

First step we drew out the flight plan on the VNC.  This is the map that has the best scale for the entire flight.  Then transfer than on the VTC which has more detail closer to Perth.  Then also draw it out on the WAC, which basically covers the southern area of WA south of Perth.  Once the maps were done, the main details were written out on the flight plan.  With weather needing to be applied, I practiced a few times in the lead up with the conditions at the time.  It was worth while as it meant having to use the manual E6B flight computer to re-enforce that skill…

So on the morning the routine with the weather captured and printed from NAIPS, the flight plan updated, map 10 minute markers drawn, flight plan submitted to Air Services and about 10 other things, it was time to head off.  But not before the plane is checked over and we get ourselves setup in the cockpit…

The flight…

Flight track of my first Navigation Flight

The only way I can summarise what it is like to non flyers is something like this.  Imagine you have hand written directions, 3 maps at different scales, a bunch of primitive geometry tools, a pencil, an eraser, your talking hands free on your iPhone, dialng different random people at different points on your journey, driving your car on a bumpy road at 250 kmh, you driving instructor trying to give you tips (but you can’t hear him as his microphone is rooted), your trying to find the correct turn off, writing the time you past the last intersection down, measure the distance from the town in the distance, perform some geometry based mental arithmetic, noting down your current fuel and make sure you engine isn’t overheating. But thats not before you re-calculate your ETA because your speedo isn’t reading correctly and you need to phone ahead and let them know when you’ll arrive within a 2 minute tolerance.  Thats all before you instructor rips on the handbrake and tells you to safely park in-between the trees off the side road with a power pole in the way.  Well something like that anyway…

Maps on our laps...

We’ll save the flying version till another time.  The flight was good putting into practice all of the things we covered on the ground and then some.  The visual navigation I seemed to do ok.  We added a small deviation before Boddington so we could practice a “1 in 60 rule” navigation correction.  I was surprised how well it worked.  Basically it is a way to mentally calculate how to bet back on track when you have deviated from your course.

Just before Boddington, Adam ripped on the handbrake.  Well the flying equivalent of simulating an engine failure.  With little to land on besides a cattle filled paddock on the side of a hill with power lines running through it, all was good.  You can see these on the flight track above.

All in all, it was a good experience.  The key lessons:

  1. Organise you maps on the lap so as to have only the main map in place and the others nearby, but not in the way
  2. Memorise your CLEAROFs (an acronym for your regular checks)
  3. Practice doing your CLEAROFs on your lap at home
  4. Practice updating your ETAs on your map 10 minute markers
  5. Practice recalculating ETAs
  6. Practice your non-towered aerodrome radio calls

The only real unfortunate thing of the flight was that Adam’s microphone in his headset actually bit the big one about 5 minutes after leaving.  It meant that we had very limited in flight communications and that made it considerably more difficult.  It meant the lesson felt like it was half solo and there were many things I would have asked which I couldn’t.  Oh well, Bunbury Traffic will wonder who the clown in C172 India Golf Yankee was that Saturday morning!  The positive is that Adam is now the proud owner of a set of Lightspeed Zulu’s.  Or is he…

Now I just can’t wait for the next nav lesson 🙂

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At the controls of Concorde

Long before wanting to get my pilots license, I’ve always had a big interest in Space Travel and Supersonic flight. With these, I always wanted to fly on Concorde and the second was to see a Shuttle Launch. My two dreams will hopefully be realised this week. The first was as close as it will happen unfortunately, I got to crawl over my favorite Concorde, G-BOAD.

Anyway first things first, my 8 year old and I visited the Intrepid Air and Space museum in New York this week. We got early entry to the museum to do a tour of Concorde. G-BOAD, the record setting Concorde is on display. It sits on the end of the pier between a 1950’s submarine and the USS Intredid aircraft carrier.

The first impression of the aircraft  is how high it sits off the ground.  Other visual appearance was pretty much as I’d expected having seen it many times at Heathrow between 2000 and 2003.  As it was raining, we stood underneath as our tour guide rolled off stats, stories and goodness knows what else.  I was too busy just taking it all in and appreciating the amazing engineering.

As the stories came to an end, we made our way up to the stairs to the small entry in the aircraft side. My anticipation of seeing inside was building, however it would have wait another 10 minutes more. Our tour guide, placing his large frame in the doorway, then started listing off the rules.  “Folks remember this is a now a museum piece, the only Concorde you can enter”.  We were provide more facts and stats. Finally the rules.  “1. Please sit only in the first 4 rows, the seats have plastic covers and will protect the seats, 2. Don’t open or close anything, 3. Stand back and view the cockpit, there are no barriers so you can get the full appreciation and only come forward when I call you. 4. Hold your breath so you don’t… actually I made that one up.  There were about 20 rules, of which I thought were all fair enough.

Inside, the cabin is narrow and very long.  In fact nearly 150 feet long.  There is a divider after row 10 with loos and a mid-ship galley. Although the whole aircraft is a single class, it was often felt amongst travellers that the front 40 seats were first class with the rear 60 being for the riff raff.  Apparently Madonna had to sit the back section one time and was rather pissed after she was refused a seat change (damn I did get one of his stories).  Anyway the seats are nice leather and quite comfortable.  Lots of leg room.  As they are 2 x 2, you could easily get out from the window seat without the aisle passenger having to move.  Not something a regular airline can boast!

We all took a seat (there was just 2 adults and 3 kids on this tour) and listened to more interesting facts and stats.  The tour guide revealed why the windows were so small, how the aircraft would extend “8 inches” when it was at full tilt and how the engineer would ignite the after burners when the pilots had given the aircraft full throttle for take-off.  He claimed it could climb to 29,000ft in the first minute, at which time I coughed to the sound of *B*U*L*L*S*H*I*T*.  If it was the Space Shuttle, it would have been more believable.  Anyway, Concorde’s climb rate is impressive at around 5000 ft per minute (quoting Wikipedia).

Engineers cockpit panel

The time came when the stories ended and we were invited up in twos to the cockpit.  Josh and I were first and we certainly took our time.  Entering the cockpit, you realise that the aircraft is from a previous generation.  It is certainly not adorned with GPS units, digital displays  or other such equipment.  Rather it was dials, switches and other good old fashion equipment. It takes 3 to fly this thing and the pictures tell the story.

Concorde cockpit view

My excitement at this point had reached a high and our tour guide seemed to be enjoying it.  I had to ask, can we take a seat.  He hesitate, looked back out the door and said, go on.  Please be careful.  That was all I needed to hear.  I lobbed Josh into the captains seat and I was only seconds behind him, taking the co-pilots seat.  We were both very careful and there were instructions and a general fear emanating from behind us as the tour guide re-assessed…

Concorde instrument panel

It didn’t matter, once in the co-pilots seat I was in another world.  My eyes scanning the instrument panel looking for those familiar gauges and appreciating the rather larger scale from the trusty Cessna.  The IAS went to 330 odd knots, but below it was the “Mach gauge” which takes over where the IAS finishes.  The panel was complex and as you take into account all the systems, the Pilot Operating Handbook must has been like an encyclopedia.

With at least five minutes in the seat, the tour guide was fantastic and answered many of my questions.  I put myself into the shoes of the pilots as they would have flown past my London apartment at 5pm every afternoon when on finals into Heathrow.  Thinking about all those on the ground looking up to the super loud noise as the 4 Rolls Royce Olumpus 593 Turbojet engines powered us into land.  It must have been a proud experience to fly one of these birds.

Before I finish up, there are a few records this particular aircraft set and the reason it has always been my favourite.  A few of the records include:
1. It has the record for the fastest Atlantic crossing for any passenger aircraft.
2. It was the place where the worlds longest putt occurred.  A 150 foot putt was performed done down the aisle of the aircraft by Jose Maria Olazabal into a cup in the cockpit. The fact that Concorde was travelling at 2 times the speed of sound meant the putt actually travelled 9.13 miles!T

One dream fulfilled, at the controls of Concorde

This visit to see Concorde was awesome and something that I will always remember.  The sad part is that none of us will ever get the opportunity to fly on her.  A combination of economics and politics (at Airbus the only organisation licensed to perform the maintenance) killed her off.  At least we can visit awesome museums such as this and watch YouTube to be able to appreciate the amazing engineering long into the future…

Posted in Concorde, space shuttle | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

STS-135 Final Space Shuttle Launch Trip

The next few days will be fun, taking a few friends and my little man flying on the weekend.  Plus finishing my Cessna 172 full load check flight.  Following that however will be my next major Plane Adventure, a trip to the US to see the final Shuttle Launch.  It’s always been a dream of mine to witness a launch having watched just about every launch for the last 10 years on NASA tv.  With  STS-135 being the absolute last chance to see a launch, it just had to be done.  It will be incredible, but also sad to see the end of the Shuttle era. Just as it was when Concorde flew its last flight into Bristol on the 27th Nov 2003.

Anyway, the trip, with all the travel details and tickets sorted, it will be a 43,000km adventure!  Josh and I will be heading straight to New York via Dubai for a 4 day look around the big apple.  Its then on to Washington DC for American Independence Day celebrations.  While there, we’ll be visiting the Smithsonian Air & Space Museums.  This will include seeing every famous plane from the Wright Brothers first plane through to a retired Air France Concorde.  Then, it’s off to the space coast of Florida…

We arrive in Orlando and will take up residence for 9 days at one of the DisneyWorld Hotels.  That will be our base to head off to Kennedy Space Centre for the ultimate air/space craft experience, the Space Shuttle Launch on the 8th July.  We’ve got 7 more days contingency if it doesn’t get away on time.

So where to view the Shuttle Launch has been bugging me for weeks, given NASA sold out of tickets more than a month ago.  Most off NASA locations are nearly 16 miles away.  I keep seeing the ultimate NASA tickets for sale on eBay for over $500, a rip-off.  Anyway as a bit of chance, one of the crooks on eBay listed a tour providers name as the pickup location.  So I’ve just called the tour provider and by chance they had 4 VIP tickets available due to a cancellation.  Woo Hoo!  These tickets are for the premier viewing location at Kennedy Space Centre on the NASA Causeway just 5 miles from launch pad 39A.  So now having secured 2 of those tickets, we’ll get a bus from Orlando and enjoy our space experience.  Now we just need NASA to launch on schedule!

The remainder of our time in Orlando will be for Josh and I to enjoy the Disney experience.  We are very much looking forward to it.  All in all, a pretty good 40th birthday present 🙂

Posted in space shuttle | 2 Comments

Plane Aerobatics at Jandakot with Steve

A few years back I was given a gift to do a formation aerobatic combat flight in an old Nanchang Chinese fighter plane.  Lets just say that got the flying fire going in my belly.  When Steve, a mate offered to take me up to do some aerobatics, I was a certainty.  In fact it was Steve that put me on to “Air Australia” to do my flight training in the first place.

As an ex-RAAF trained pilot, Steve is rock solid in his flying discipline.  However there was one small exception this day… Its called a chock, it stops the plane rolling when parked on the airport apron.  Steve forgot to remove it before we fired up to leave.  No problems he said, we’ll just jump it.  Sweet, a new trick to add to my flight skill when I no doubt do the same 😉

The aero’s were great fun and I’d highly recommend it to anybody.  At Jandakot there are five options I know of:
1. Air Australia – Adrenalin Aerobatic flight
2. Fighter Combat International – Red Dragons – Nanchang Chinese Fighters
3.  Attitude Aerobatics – The most extreme, Red Bull Air Race type plane!!!
4. Cessna 152’s at RACWA – I don’t recommend this option
5. Ask a mate who has their aerobatics license

It’s on my list to try out the Attitude Aerobatics Extra 300L at some point.  They are one of the options in terms of doing my aerobatic training, however they will only teach you in a Super Decathlon aircraft, not the Extra.  To be honest though, if the Robin we flew in above is a V8 Commodore, the Extra is like Mark Webbers RedBull F1 car.  It weights in at about 500kg and has a 9 litre engine up front!

Anyway, thanks Steve, I had a blast!  Enjoy the video 🙂

Posted in Aerobatics, Jandakot, lightspeed zulu versus bose a20 aviation headset best choice compared | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Passed GFPT :-)

GFPT Milestone Completed

Another big milestone was reached today in my flight training, the GFPT!  Formally called the General Flight Progress Test.  What does this mean you may ask.  Well it means that I can now officially take passengers flying when I go solo to the training area.  So, any takers???

I headed out to Air Australia late this arvo to meet Wayne, my CASA flight examiner.  After completing weights and balances, preparing the plane and generally being nervous as hell, we finally sat down and kicked off proceedings.  Wayne asked a bunch of questions as per the GFPT criteria.  He went significantly easier than Frederic had during my preparation (which I’ll blog on a some point soon), but asked a couple of tough questions that required some significant recall.  For example, What are the Special VMC requirements for Jandakot in the event there is adverse conditions?  Ok, that basically means visibility and separation from clouds.

After the general questions and answers, Wayne ran through exactly what was going to happen in the air.  This was good, it meant that there was a clear plan and I knew what to expect.  After a normal take-off on runway 06 Left we departed via Lake Yangebup and then to lake Thompson.  I had to put on the hood and we did the basic IFR check.  That went well.  Next it was stalls.  We did the landing configuration incipient recovery (when the stall warning goes off), then we did a full stall in normal configuration.  These were all good and no big wing drops today.

After that, we did a Practice Forced Landing (PFL) and a Precautionary Search and Landing.  Both went well and at this point Wayne commented that he felt I was flying well.  That helped me relax alot.  At this point Wayne asked me to head back to Jandakot via Six South and Forrestdale Lake.  Approaching Six South, the Eastern entry point to Jandakot I got the ATIS information and flipped over to the tower frequency.

The key at this point is to keep a keen eye out for planes as they all converge at this point.  Today was no different, there always seems to be other aircraft arriving at the same time as me.  He was in my “8 o’clock” and fairly close.  Identifying the other aircraft as a Cessna 172, it has better performance, so I said to Wayne I’d back off a little and let him through.  The other plane slowly edged away and we followed him back.

On arrival at Jandakot we joined the training circuit and on the first lap did a normal touch and go.  On the second Wayne requested I do a short field landing, which involves landing and stopping in the shortest distance.  He requested I put my wheels on the “numbers” at the end of the runway.  This was achieved and we pulled up quickly without skidding, sweet!  We then took off again and he pulled the power on the upwind climb out to validate I’d get the plane into a safe spot.  That was good, it was then off for our last circuit.  On this one he got me to do a flapless full stop landing.  That meant it was it…

We taxied back and I put the aircraft away.  Wayne was waiting inside, he had Adam (my goofy instructor as seen in the photo above) and Frederic (the CFI) waiting.  He did a run through of how it all went.  The nerves were pretty high at this point.  I was thinking, had I screwed something that was meaning a fail given the audience.  Wayne had a few bits of advice on the circuit pattern and otherwise commented on each area positively.  He gave me some good wraps on the handling of the other inbound aircraft and situational awareness.  Then he said congratulations and complimented Adam and Frederic on the training to date.  Smiles all round!

So the flying thanks, Wilson for helping me sort my balloon landings and getting me solo, to Cameron for Steep Turns and getting me checked out for the area solo, Frederic for the polishing and invaluable lessons this last week and Adam for all the rest, thanks buddy!

Posted in Circuits, Flight Test, GFPT, Jandakot, Pilot License | 3 Comments

Lesson 28 – Precautionary Search and Landing

What was mid-may, we went out and did Precautionary Search and Landing practice.  Basically what this lesson is about is if you find yourself in a situation where the visual conditions have deteriorated to the point where it is no longer safe to keep flying, you can attempt to land with the assistance of engine power.

To do so, we lower the flaps slightly and bring the power back to the minimum level where we can maintain our altitude.  In the Cessna 152 it is at around 2000 rpm with 10 degrees of flaps.  Once we do this we get down under the lower clouds and find a safe place to land.  Using the “Eight S’es” we learnt in the Forced Landings lesson, we choose the location to land.

With these, we do an initial 500 foot circuit of the landing location, set the directional giro in the direction of the landing location we are going to use and then use it to fly our circuit pattern.  The circuit is tight and as we fly over the landing location we are having a good look at the surface to make sure it is safe.  One of the other things we need to do is time the length of the landing surface.  So as we overfly we are timing the landing area.  This gives us a good indication that there is sufficient area to land safely.

We repeat the circuit pattern a second time but down at 200 feet.  Now in training, we keep it to the 500 foot above ground level as it is our absolutely minimum altitude we are permitted to fly.  On the third circuit we would land.  Now obviously we don’t during training.  While all this is happening, we still need to put out a PAN PAN PAN call to inform whomever is listening that we are likely to need help.  We must also re-assure our passengers that we are trained for this situation.

It is yet another important skill of Visual Flight Rules pilots who find themselves in poor situations.  I often wonder if I’d ever find myself in such a situation.  Although it is unlikely I’d ever fly in poor conditions, there could be that rare time when you get caught out, or have to land due to other circumstances.  However when I read through the monthly “flight safety Australia” magazine posted out by CASA each month, there seems to be a considerably high number of folks who find themselves in such situations.

So it is another important skill, like Forced Landings (those when your engine has failed), that are good to be competent with.  Looking at the GFPT criteria, both Practice Forced Landings (PFLs) and Precautionary Search and Landings feature heavily in the assessment criteria.   On this day we did three, but have since on my third area solo and on my review and pre-GFPT CFI check flights have done at least 5 more.  I certainly feel comfortable with them now, but have to make sure the little things aren’t forgotten.  Certainly something not to get complacent about as my pilot time continues on in other directions…

Posted in cessna 152, Circuits, Jandakot, Pilot License | 3 Comments