Monday, 9 January 2012

Book Review: Sagittarius Rising - Cecil Lewis

Amazing story, superbly written.

First published in 1936, this is an autobiography of the author set during the first world war. That said, it also includes some of his time after this when he went to China to teach flying. It is an amazingly well written book. During the time of his story, he studied poetry and in my opinion it shows in his intelligent and melodic writing style.

Sometimes I like to 'dog ear' pages or underline things if I think that in the future I would like to pick up the book again and go find something striking, something profound or poetic. I didn't bother with this because after a few pages I just knew this was a book that was going to be full of such things.

In terms of an autobiographic story it flows with a lively pace and is graceful and humble in many ways. Cecil appears to have lived a charmed life. After everything, the war ended when he was 20 .... when the average lifespan of a pilot was measured in a few weeks and days ! He went through so much and lost many friends.

Some of the scenes stay with you long after you have closed the book and nodded off to sleep! I was flying over the Somme most nights while I was reading this. I was also flying back to England without telling anybody, or I was cloud scudding at 300 feet over the beaches looking for an airfield.

There are a couple of passages where I couldn't breath through laughter. His first loop the loop, the time one of his inventor gadget loving fellow pilots made a grenade launcher (oh how I cried at this) and the time he tried to swing his own prop.

Oh yes,  for sure, I will be reading this book again.

I wholeheartedly loved this mans story and in particular the poetic way he delivers it to the reader......What an amazing life a man can lead.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Lesson 39: Solo Cross Country Navigation Excercise

A good day today, visibility was fine with (the stratocumulus and cumulus) cloudbase all round kent being at about 3,500 ft. I was on a solo nav ex going down to Manston and then turning overhead Manston tracking to the Dover VOR beacon and then once on that, heading back up tracking to the Detling VOR Beacon. QNH was 1025 and the wind was about 315 degrees , 25 knots. I didnt experience any gusts. Runway in use was 34 at Rochester (the one with the lift off chute in the middle). However with the wind locally on the airfield 320 / 10 I was down on the ground before the lift off point for a good landing.

Whoever cut the tall tree down which overlooked the south park (the one that used to visibly kiss the threshold for runway 34) - THANK YOU! I used to hate that dam tree. Sometimes it felt like it had a hypnotic hold over me, drawing me in like some silent assassin but then saying at the last minute ... "GOTCHA FOOL ! just kidding - you are too close - now climb, throttle in... go way over me so I can turn and watch you struggle trying to wash off the airspeed in time and land before the bump in the runway!". Maybe the lift off chute (apparently it's a buried gas pipe) and the tree were in league together. Not now though... thanks to that tree being gone!

Prior to going out on my own I did a quick circuit with my instructor and he jumped out after that. Comically, we nearly had a bird strike just at the time of touch down from one of the crazy seagulls who was strictly out of order. He had clearly not done his Air Law exam! He was using the same "runway strip" but going in the opposite direction [to the unitiated thats runway 16 , i.e. 340 - 180 degrees! As for the trip round Kent, all went well, I thought I tracked to the needle well enough. Manston Radar was busy with lots of RT chatter and so typically just as I was waiting for a gap in the RT calls in order to call (as requested) ten miles from Detling... she asked me to confirm position! Apart from that the RT was fine.

Good day really, cockpit was comfortable, flight was smooth and you could see the coast from Rochester when turned Downwind for runway 34.

Have booked another slot for next weekend. My instructor told me to go via Hailsham & Lydd turning points.

Have posted a couple of pictures here after I parked up. iPhone + Motion X GPS Tracker failed again with its GPS signal so can't post a track. I would like to buy myself a Sky Demon Mobile or Air Box device later in the year if all goes well. I'm leaning towards the former as I like thieir flight planning software.

I renewed my flying club membership for 2012.

I finished an absolutely wonderful book the other day about Cecil Lewis's early flying experiences (WWI). It's called Sagittarius Rising. I'll post a review here in the next couple of days. Oh my... how well it is written and oh my ... what a life he had!

39. 08/01/12 C152 G-CEPX EGTO EGTO 09:55 10:10 0:15 1-1 EX12/13
*39. 08/01/12 C152 G-CEPX EGTO EGTO 10:10 11:15 1:05 1-1 EX18A/C

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Goodbye 2011... Hello 2012!

Well that's the end of 2011. Goodbye and thank you so much. 

Hello you.... Mr 2012. So then, where are we heading? 

I should tell you.. 2011 was a kind year and you have a lot to live up to.

... she gave me the birth of my son Oscar, my first year wedding anniversary, my wife's good health, my good health (it will be two years February since I gave up smoking), my two beautiful daughters growing up  and doing so well at school, my mum still with us in reasonably good health, and 2011 gave me good fortune in that I could continue to learn to fly. Last year I had my first solo flight in the circuit, and then away from the aerodrome.... All these wonderful memories.

I hope this year is as good.. I hope everybody who I love and care about can remain healthy and safe. For me, I hope I can remain lucky enough to build some more wonderful memories. And .. of course, I really hope I can get my Private Pilots License. 

So then Mr 2012, lets go together into the unknown. Let us see what you got.

Happy New Year