Sunday, 28 April 2013

Microlighting Trial Lesson - April 28, 2013

I had been promising myself a trial flight in a microlight and so this week looking at the weather, I thought to myself that Sunday seemed to be a great day to check it out. I had been once before but many years ago. Anyway, off I trotted to Medway Microlites based at Stoke Airfield on the Isle of Grain. They are a friendly bunch and Chris the CFI there was to take me for an hours orientation (Trial Flight). 

I arrived at 10:30 and after signing up for a days membership donned my overalls and headed out to our chariot. As you can see from the pictures it was a beautiful morning and the grass had recently been cut so although it wasn't yet warm you could still smell summer just around the corner.

When we got to the trike Chris explained the basic parts. As I am a  PPL (A) he obviously skipped some of the obvious points and soon I was sitting in the elevated position at the back with helmet on and headphones ready to go. By the way I have to say the headphones were excellent!

Chris  talked me though the cockpit and all the do's and don'ts and soon we were on our way trundling down the runway. With a positive jerk of the bar we were airborne and I was impressed with the rate of climb which was 1000 ft per minute. We were soon crossing the River Medway and heading to Gillingham at 3100 feet. I noticed the air blowing around my feet was making my ankles and lower shin/calf  feet really quite cold. The rest of me was suitably warm  though (note for next time wear boots). Crossing the river lots of boats were out and it was great to see.

We headed over to a small airstrip (Farthing Corner) and also saw the Detling VOR before Chris asked me to have a go. At first I found it unusual as you can't see anything with the instructors crash helmet in front of you and with no view of the horizon or VSi wasn't sure if I was flying level.

Everything is in reverse to normal flying of course and so I found myself pulling the bar back slightly which means lowering the angle of attack temporarily and in my case increasing speed from 65mph to 70mph. Chris is very good and told me what I was doing. After a while relaxing it became more natural and started to make more sense. It is a very stable machine. It 'wants' to fly. After a few twists and turns we headed back to the marshes at the Isle of Grain. I wanted to go there to get a birds eye view as it was something I had not properly seen before. 

Chris knows a hell of a lot of local history and gave me the complete run down of the area. He was like a proper tour guide and made it all very interesting.

 Once over the marshes I had another go and then Chris took the reins for a fly along the sea wall. This is a long sea wall set against a great peaceful backdrop. Apparently this is a lesson the students do a couple of times during their course. They have to follow the contours. It is quite thrilling and again Chris flies you along while giving a total history and current affairs guide at the same time. 

After exchanging waves with a few ramblers and a brief low flying exhibition (to look at what a group of people were doing on the beach) we headed home. Coming back to the circuit Chris explained that there was no dead side as such (meaning the circuit was always on the river side) and the join was along the length of the runway turning (kind of) crosswind we rounded the circuit. Chris made me position onto Final where he took over.

He talked me through the decent and it panned out exactly as he said it would with turbulence kicking in at exactly 300ft. Stoke is 10ft above see level. It looked like at this point you have to be ready up your game as the wind can knock you around a bit and being so close to the ground you have to act quickly. Needless to say we landed safely with what felt like a fast landing. However that was no doubt due to the proximity of the ground. We backtracked along the runway and closed down.

As a complete novice the thing that strikes you the most about the airfield is the proximity of the railway track and electric pilons. The former not being too much of a concern but the latter somewhat! On my way back to the car I took some snaps and you can see what I mean. When I spoke to the nice lady paying my money she said they didn't notice them anymore. I can imagine what she meant but as a newbie they certainly dominate the area.
As I was leaving, the airfield was filling up and Chris had another 3 trial flights to do. I didn't mention earlier but this lovely microlight was a Pegasus GT which is 100HP. Quite tasty in a scrap I suppose.  I am going to think about doing this again actually, it was a lot of fun. You feel like you are flying (at one, intimate with the machine) and I can imagine doing this for the pure exhilaration of that.

I suppose, next time I would ask to sit at the front where the view would be better and I can get a better feel for the controls.

Who knows .. could be my next challenge... we shall see ;-)

It was a great day today.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Beaten by the early morning fog

08:00 BST
This morning, I had promised myself a cross country navigation trip round Kent (Rochester, Wadhurst, Rye, Canterbury) but when I got to Rochester Airport it was clear the weather was not going to allow me. Despite good forecasts for the south east of England the airport was fog bound and it was only when I was leaving did things start to improve. Although conditions were rapidly on the mend (see photo below) the aircraft I had booked, G-CEPX was due to be in use so unfortunately I could  not hang(er) around and fly later.

One positive note though was I did find time to visit the cafe and have a cup of tea and a super size bacon baguette! I re-booked for next week. Hopefully the weather will be the same, as it looks like it is going to be a glorious day, but without the early morning fog.

09:30 BST

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Book Review: Vulcan 607

A true story set at the time of the Falklands War about the RAF mission to destroy the runway at Port Stanley. At the time, the longest ever recorded non-stop bombing mission - 8,000 miles.

Shortly after finishing this book I was inspired to research this enigmatic aircraft and sure enough it did not take long before I was watching a full blown TV reconstruction of this mission on YouTube! Hmmmm, anyway, I would recommend both (the book and the film) especially if you are interested in military aviation and this unique aircraft.

I enjoyed the story and in particular understanding the dire situation behind the scenes and the bravery of the RAF men involved. The bleak logistical situation behind the scenes is the one we never got to hear about at the time of the Falklands war. I think as a teenager I believed, like all my friends we could send such aircraft anywhere and achieve anything we wanted. Of course totally ignorant to what is involved in such an operation. This was unquestionably an above and beyond mission that saw aircraft take off well above their MTOW. Fuel calculations were pure guesswork because they were in such unknown territory ... and so it proved to be given the critically low situations they subsequently found themselves in.

If I was forced to criticize it I would say it is a little on the large size (dimensional speaking and story wise). On a positive side though, the prose is written in an easy to read,  free flowing style which is not at all tiring. For me personally, I found it educational which was the primary reason I bought it. Did it leave me in an emotional kind of awe like Sagitarious Rising? No, but in fairness it is a different type of book and so in this regard I would still congratulate the author for persevering to write the story in the first place (against the isolated opposition he faced) and just giving us a good read. 7/10 for me.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Skills Test - April 7, 2013

It was a week ago today, on April 7, 2013 that I finally had my long awaited Skills Test. I passed. The feeling of nerves in the build up is quite draining and at the end of it all, in the evening I felt tired but elated. 

It was a humbling feeling to be congratulated afterwards by the kind people at the SkyTrek flying school. I guess everybody remembers their first solo, their Qualifying Cross Country and of course their Skills Test. On the way back to my car afterwards I passed a young lad returning to the flying school with his proud father. He had just completed his first solo flight. We had all watched from the flying school window. I stopped to shake his hand and congratulate him, knowing just how he was feeling. It was smiles all round.

To be honest, it has been a very long journey. I don't think I would have believed on the day of my first solo that I would have to wait another 23 months before I would finally get a chance to complete everything. But I have been unlucky. Very unlucky. Last years weather was incredibly poor, and of course we had the Olympics which closed off a lot of airspace. The winter weather saw no let up either and so here we are nearly two years on from that magical day. 

Upon reflection, even with all the cancelled lessons and the cancelled skills tests and the cancelled Qualifying Cross Country sessions, it was a real excitement to do this. I have been really fortunate to have had this opportunity. 

... I have filled in all the forms and sent off for my PPL (A) licence.

What next?

Are you kidding? ... Carrying on learning to fly of course. 

07/04/13 C152 G-CEPX EGTO EGTO 13:30 16:10 2:40 SKILLS TEST PASS

HOURS = 45:50 DUAL + 15:50 SOLO

Lesson 53 Refresher Circuits - Saturday, April 6, 2013

The weather had been absolutely dire for the last 4 weeks and so after many cancelled sessions and even a skills test I finally had the opportunity to do 40 minutes of circuits. The session went well which was just as well as I had my skills test booked for the day after (Sunday April 7, 2013).

I went up with Mike (my usual instructor) for a critique and was on runway 02 which was quite unusual. It had been some time since I had used that and I had forgot how the sink hit you coming up to the high ground on the final approach.

Anyway, like I said it went well enough and I was set for the following day, my skills test. The weather was set to be good. 

53. 06/04/13 C152 G-BNKV EGTO EGTO 10:20 11:00 0:40 EX12/13(FL/FF) PFL

HOURS = 45:50 DUAL + 13:10 SOLO