Friday, 21 September 2012

I bought these Saitek controls for X-Plane back in April 2011 and to be fair they have been great. They worked first time with x-plane 9 and 10. The build quality is very good. I have not used the functional switch on the yoke (which means you can have multiple programmable options for the same switch movement) because while I love x-plane to fly a route, I am NOT really into the key assignments. I prefer to fly a 172 not a 737. In summary though.. my Flight Sim hours have been great with these. You know... Do you REALLY need them? Probably no, BUT is your simulation experience enhanced with them? YES

Serengeti Drivers

I've had my Serengeti Drivers since about March 2011 which at the time of writing is 18 months and they are truly great glasses. The lenses are very good and I'm pleased with my selecting them. However, there is one very annoying aspect though of these which is the thin wire frames holding the lenses in their places. Of course what happens over time is they move around and flex and the (reasonably expensive) lenses drop out!! OK you think, just re-tighten the screw and that would be resolved? Wrong.. the screw is so tiny and you have to have a very special screwdriver to do this. This is quite annoying because you pay good money and the least the manufacturers could do would fit a sensible screw size so people could do this easily. Its a shame really as apart from this the performance of the lens is very satisfying. 

Thursday, 20 September 2012

X-Plane Remote / iPhone Joystick

I decided to experiment with x-plane 10 and run it from a laptop connected up to my HD T.V. I connected the iPad EFIS app up on the wireless network so that covered the basic instruments. I then purchased the x-plane remote app (£2.99) from the iTunes store and ran this on my iPhone. This meant that with x-plane running in full screen scenery mode and the EFIS running on the iPad I could literally use my iPhone just as a wireless joystick. 

It took a couple of failed take-offs (ooops) but once I got the hang of it was great fun. If you want to see how to set this up please refer to the manual. I didn't of course and was wondering my I couldn't set my Nav Aids up on the master copy of X-Plane. It was only when I read the manual the next day that I realised they were set from the x-plane remote app BUT to do that, you had to swipe down in order to see them! Doh. 

I would recommend this setup for x-plane, its fun and very easy to setup!

iPAD EFIS App for X-Plane

The iPAD EFIS app is fun. On the plus side its cool and it extends your flight sim setup wirelessly. On the negative side I suppose you could say its cost at £13.99 is a bit steep compared to other apps. I would add as well that occasionally it hangs. This means going back to the iPad home page and jumping back in to the app to rectify the situation. Most of the time this means it still remembers what you have setup however sometimes I've found it doesnt. This means redoing your flight plan again so that you can see how far you have to go in the map. 

Actually another negative here is that the flight plan setup is not that intuitive. You need to do this so that you can track towards a nav Aid easily on the map. In this sense you will get a coundown of the distance to go and the estimated time. Buy or No Buy? I woud say it's a bit gimmicky so if you think of it like that you wont be that dissapointed.

Book Review - Fate Is The Hunter - Ernest Gann

I read this book back in April 2012. I found this enjoyable and I  have to say that Ernest Gann writes incredibly well. The book describes his journey through over a 1000 hours as pilot in  command. For me the favourite parts of the book describe his near disasters, and how close he came to the fatal end. The story end will probably strike a chord with many who have devoted their life to one thing. It is a good book, well written but it did not leave me with the same feeling of awe as the adventures of Cecil Lewis in Sagitarius Rising. Perhaps that is unfair since what could compete with such a dramatic backdrop as WWI.

My Rating: (7.0/10)

Comment: Well written, and a very clever and thought provoking title. There is a section that describes Fear v Panic. I also liked the observation that man dreams about a quiet life in a mountain log cabin .. no doubt seeking to escape fates partnership. How true.

Book Review - Spitfire Manual - Edited by Dilip Sarkar

I read this book in Oct 2011. What an interesting book! This is full of sorts of odds and sods. It's got everything, to name a few things, it has labelled cockpit layouts, Fighting Tactics, Tests for trainee fighter pilots, Pilot "Forget Me Not" leaflets, Forms and various instructions on keeping a logbook and running the engine correctly. I loved the section where it describes all the controls. At the front of the book there is a section that introduces the Spitfire. I would certainly recommend this book to anybody interested in this iconic aeroplane. Good job by the editor to asssemble all these artefacts in a lively and interesting format. I also liked the 'build quality' of the book itself (270+ pages held together with a good spine, and nice paper feel). This is published by Amberley Publishing Ltd.  

My Rating: (7.5/10)

Comment: Buy! Go on .. treat yourself to a unique collection of artefacts!

Book Review - 101 Things To Do With Your Private Pilots License - Leroy Cook

Book Review - 101 Things To Do With Your Private Pilots License - Leroy Cook

I read this book in December 2011 during the xmas break. It was interesting but I was disappointed with the relationship between the book title and the actual book contents! It is more of a book for those people now past the PPL and starting to fly who want to sharpen their skills. In that regard I could say it included what I could see as useful guidance but I didn't really get a book with a list of things to inspire me. There is an american slant to it but as you know a lot of aviation is standard so in my opinion it does not detract too much from what you can get from the book. It's about 290 pages. At £14.99 published by McGraw Hill I would shop around and read some reviews before purchasing this book. Like I say it's OK but nothing special. One minor gripe, I found the spine cracked when I tried to flatten out the two halves of the book about page 43! 
I now have two books - part 1 and part 2!

My Rating: (5/10)

Comment: It's OK, but nothing particularly special. Enthusiasts with a thirst for any knowledge by all means go ahead. However, for the more discerning you may want to shop around for a more suitably inspiring 'post ppl' type book.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Lesson 49: Qualifying Cross Country

September 18, 2012 - Today was a big day for me as it was my Qualifying Cross Country (abbreviated as QXC). I guess there are three milestones in the PPL course really. Of course the first one is the time you fly solo. Well, thats a massive one, or was for me anyway. The second I guess is this - the QXC and the third is the final Skills Test. This is the final test with the examiner. Of course there are many things in between like the exams but I guess if I had to pick three memorable key events I would pick those above. To most people the QXC is the biggest step in the whole ppl course.

I was up at 5AM thanks to my 11 month old son Oscar. I then dozed off and woke up again at 6AM. Upon waking up this time my mind started racing about the big day ahead and so I had to get up and make some tea and start my flight planning. This involved looking at the weather and plugging in the wind direction to the true track directions in order to calculate a heading. I did this for all three tracks.

Rochester - Goodwood (Chichester)
Goodwood - Lydd
Lydd - Rochester

I was prepared well and I double checked my headings as there was a strong wind at 2,000 feet of around 280/23 knots. I then triple checked it by plugging into Sky Demon to see what it made of it. I was pleased to see it agreed with my whizz wheel calculator and off I set for Rochester airport. I wasn't sure if I would be allowed to fly and I said to my wife "I'm not sure if this is going to happen today."

Upon arrival I had a chat with my instructor who copied my plogs (pilot logs). The wind was touch and go (in terms of cross wind limits for a student like me) so after speaking with my instructor it was the green light and in preparation for the worst scenario I took extra aerodrome plates in case I couldn't get into Lydd. This is the airport below on the bottom right. It has two directions 210 degrees and 30 degrees approximately. This means if the wind is blowing from the west 270+ or East 90+ then you have a cross wind to contend with. This is not good when trying to land an aeroplane. Lydd suffers this more than most especially as its right on the peninsula and gets a sea breeze to content with. My other two airports of the day have two runways which means you have four possible directions in which to face off to the wind on.

Rochester to Goodwood to Lydd to Rochester
I was in G-BNKV today, a tidy little C-152 with (what turned out to be) a little tetchy radio.

Visibility was fantastic today, upon departing Rochester at 2,100 ft heading for Heathfield I smiled when I saw the whole of West Kent and Sussex laid out before me bathed in glorious clear un-hazy, un-misty sumptuous sunlight. It was beautiful.

I headed down over Paddock Wood and was just the right side of Bewl Water. I was pleased the headings were holding up true in the wind as I was on track perfectly. Upon approaching Heathfield I could easily see the radio tower as clear as anything so I turned on to a new heading and called Farnborough Radar (E) to give them a position. The journey across the south downs down to Goodwood was lovely, it was a beautiful day, the headings were holding true and the traffic service I was getting was first class. Calling Goodwood I was given Runway 32 which I had not used before. I joined overhead at 2,000 ft and descended on the deadside coming crosswind at circuit height 1,200 ft. Turning downwind and onto base was good (the wind direction was blowing me away if anything which meant I was under no time pressure). I was nervous on the final approach but I nailed the landing on 2 stages of flap (20 degrees). It was a great feeling. I popped in to pay my landing fees and get my form signed by the radio tower and headed back to my chariot to make a couple of phone calls. About 50 minutes after landing I was trundling down 32 taking off for Lydd!

The journey back to Heathfield was equally as lovely. I didn't use VOR radio navigation as its a simple track to stay on with the coast just a few miles away. Again, I saw the mast at Heathfield and made a slight right adjustment to head East to Lydd. The journey passed without incident and I was guided in to Lydd by Lydd Approach. Runway in use would be Runway 21 which was to be a left hand circuit. I joined at 1500 feet overhead, descending down to the 1,000 foot circuit height for the turn downwind. The wind was quite strong and I could feel the plane being blown about. I managed to keep it together for the turn on to final. As I proceeded down the radio then decided to cut out and I lost communication with the tower. I landed on what was quite a bad crosswind for me but just managed to keep it on track. I vacated the runway, parked on Apron C and proceeded to do a radio check with the tower. It was working ok! When I got back to Rochester later the flying school confirmed somebody else had issues with the radio which seemed to exhibit these intermittent problems. Not good and very frustrating!

At lydd I grabbed a cup of tea and some food and prepared for my flight back. Again about 50 minutes later I was cleared to line up and wait on Runway 21. After clearance to take off I proceeded down the runway and could feel a very strong wind from my right. When I rotated the plane veered to the left completely off of the runway. My airspeed was good so I felt in control, but it was definitely the strongest cross wind take off I've experienced solo.

Coming back from Lydd was a walk in the park and by this stage I was enjoying myself. I called in at Ashford and was asked to free call Rochester which I did. From this point it was plain sailing. Back at Rochester I joined overhead at the 1,000 foot circuit height for runway 34 left hand circuit. It was gusty and I didn't feel too comfortable. Upon final approach I added 30 degrees of flap to bring her in and halted before the bump in the runway for (as it turned out) a nice landing).

Back at the school I completed the necessary paper work and my instructor said "I'm glad that's out the way Paul, congratulations". 

It is a big relief.

So then now, it is the final skills test. The examiner who will be doing this is away until early October so I have a break. In preparation I have booked a couple of hours with my instructor for next Thursday 27th September!

What a fantastic day. 

*49. 18/09/12 C152 G-BNKV EGTO EGTO 10:30 11:40 1:10 QXC Goodwood
*49. 18/09/12 C152 G-BNKV EGTO EGTO 12:30 13:30 1:00 QXC Lydd
*49. 18/09/12 C152 G-BNKV EGTO EGTO 14:40 15:20 0:40 QXC Rochester
HOURS = 40:50 DUAL + 13:10 SOLO

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Isle of Wight and a Spot Of Lunch

September 16, 2012 - I joined my friend Pete in his trusty Robin and we headed off from Headcorn down to the Isle of Wight for a spot of Lunch. We went to Bembridge which I thought was a lovely little airstrip. The journey down there went into IMC (basically cloud) for a few minutes at Hailsham which was a little unnerving for me (he is qualified to fly in IMC) but apart from that everything was fine. Goodwood Information was too busy to give us a basic service as it was the Festival of Speed weekend so fair enough. I guess aerobatic displays, GA traffic and a Battle of Brittain flypast was quite enough to contend with!

Anyway Bembridge - fantastic - There is a lovely little pub there on the airfield called The Propeller Inn which is rammed with aviation memorabilia - a fantastic place to sit down and have a nice lunch and (in my case) a couple of Guinness ..... simply because I could. 

Just passed Bognor Regis and approaching Selsey Bill
for the hop over the water.
Of course an hour later when pushing the Robin back into its hanger at Headcorn I was regretting those two pints of Guinness!!!!!

A lovely day today and I have to say it felt so cool to literally pop over to the Isle of Wight.

More pics can be found on the page section titled - "16 September 2012 - A trip to the Isle of Wight"

Lesson 48: Aborted Land-Away

September 13, 2012 - I was supposed to have a confidence boosting "Solo Land Away" at Lydd but I got as far as Ashford and when I called up the ATIS (basically airport weather information) on the radio I misread the wind to be a cross wind outside my limits. I made the decision to abort the trip to Lydd and return to Rochester. When I landed back at Rochester (it was a good full flap landing on 34) I double checked my figures on my knee board and realised I could have made an attempt. That said, I guess I erred on the side of caution. I want to be a good pilot but I really want to be a very safe pilot so I resigned myself to another day. 

During the flight, everything else came flooding back to me including the radio and I did some VOR tracking to Detling and navigation. It felt good and I was particularly pleased with my landing back on Runway 34.

In joining the circuit I did find somebody encroach quite close to me as I joined overhead and turned downwind. They were leaving for Calais and to me at least really didn't look like they were 2000 feet (basically 500 feet above me).

Anyway, still a confidence boosting 50 Minutes to my solo Pilot In Command time, although I was annoyed with myself that I didn't get to land away.

My instructor and I agreed that my Solo Qualifying Cross Country would be the  following Tuesday. September 18th!  Oh by the way, on the way back from Ashford I took the opportunity to quickly take a couple of quick snaps.

*48. 13/09/12 C152 G-BNKV EGTO EGTO 10:55 11:45 0:50 EX18 Ashford
HOURS = 40:50 DUAL + 10:20 SOLO

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Lesson 47: Circuit Refresher

Absolutely gorgeous day yesterday. Amazing, beautiful clear skies, hot. What a lovely day for flying! I booked myself in for some circuits. My instructor was away so for the first time ever I had another instructor. He was great. We had a briefing before hand and then off we went for some circuits. I did four with him and then afterwards a couple on my own. Technique was full flap landing and no flap take off. These were all light cross wind landings as the wind was about 270 degrees 8 knots. All went well which was good because it was a confidence boosting thing as much as anything. The instructor said I did well. Speed control was on the mark for the last two. My last circuits was back in March!! Next step is to speak to my instructor and schedule a solo land away to Lydd I think.

September 7, 2012 - Circuits Runway 20

47. 07/09/12 C152 G-BNKV EGTO EGTO 16:00 16:35 0:35 EX12, EX13

*47. 07/09/12 C152 G-BNKV EGTO EGTO 16:35 16:55 0:20 EX12, EX13
HOURS = 40:50 DUAL + 09:30 SOLO