Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Tiger Club - Tailwheel Course, Supercub Session 2 - Rye, Ashford, Folkestone

Last Sunday (11th August, 2013) I had my second jolly in the Tiger Clubs PA18-95 Supercub. It had just received its new engine so there was to be no circuits. This  would have unduly stressed the engine with the variations of throttle setting required for take-off, climb out, circuit and descent etc.

It didn’t matter because off we headed for some general handling. Taking off from 28 we headed south down to Rye then via Ashford over to Folkestone. During the flight it was just a case of getting the feel for her again. For me the biggest difference is the attitude, which appears distinctly, nose down compared to the Cessna 152.

Take off and landing were OK but it will be a couple more times before I would feel completely comfortable with things. Taxying was less alien I have to say. The throttle appeared to stick (not quite close) on approach which was spotted by my esteemed colleague in the back. Nothing too drama filled but the extra rpm may have caused a prolonged float.

I’ll round off by saying I was honoured to have met and received excellent tuition on the day from a super guy and most knowledgeable gentleman and aviator Robb Metcalfe. He is a professional aviator, ex-RAF (Jet Provosts, Canberras) with experience as long as your arm, ...leg and foot all placed end to end. How lucky was I to benefit from all that experience. How lucky am I to even have this opportunity to fly. It brings me so much.

This Sunday I am back at Rochester as I have promised a family member I would take them flying. Hopefully the weather is good, we shall see. 

Brakes Off: 11:10 Brakes On: 12:15

HOURS = 51:15 DUAL + 21:00 PIC [P1] Total Time = 72:15

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

The Tiger Club - a line of Turbulents and love at first sight

When I was down at the Tiger Club on Sunday they had a fly out and how wonderful it was to be around all the excited club members getting the planes ready for their day trip. Of course the Tiger Club is well known for its Turbulent Display Team and I was in for a treat when they had them all lined up for the days activities. Naturally, I couldn't resist taking a few snaps of these enigmatic machines... However there in the midst of all this was a complete stunner a Stampe SV4. She captured my heart the moment my eyes met her. It was the first time I had encountered one properly, sparkly clean, majestic in the early morning sunlight ... just look how beautiful she is. Some more pictures of her can be found at at the link here.

The cockpit of a Turbulent

Ready for inspection ...

Love at first sight - what a stunner!
I called the club the day before yesterday and the Supercub (G-LCUB) is having a new engine installed on Thursday (nothing to do with how I treated it I hasten to add) and if all goes to plan I'm all set for another orientation with her on Sunday morning, weather permitting of course. I'll call Friday to make sure everything is fine. Can't wait!!!

Monday, 5 August 2013

Tail Wheel Conversation Course - First Lesson in a Piper SuperCub

So yesterday August 4, 2013 was only my second experience in a tail wheel aircraft. The first being that wonderful trial flight in the Tiger Moth. During the week I had read the literature the Tiger Club had given me in preparation for my first lesson and was I quite raring to go. It was a lovely warm day down at Headcorn and even at 9:30 in the morning the temperature was up around the 25 degree mark. Visibility was great with a few scattered cumulus clouds and there was to be a gentle crosswind from the left on the active runway [28].

After a comprehensive briefing regarding the handling differences and a walk around where my instructor went through an explanation of the various 'this does this and this does that' we were set to request taxi, takeoff and make our way down to the south for some general handling.

For fear of stating the blooming obvious, initial handling on the ground felt quite odd really. The tail wheel is directional with a free castoring feature depending on what you just did in the turn. The brakes are applied via your heels and in my opinion although effective they are not quite as easy to "jump to" as the ones on the Cessna that I am used to. Perhaps this is just it though, i.e. it is just 'different'. I guess time will be the judge of this.

So then, taxi and take off were fairly uneventful but as I thought the cub felt quite laboured in the climb. This is the baby version with only 90 hp to be fair. I noticed quite quickly also that the nose attitude is quite low when wanting to fly straight and level and that is something to get used to. I naturally flew too slow or ended up climbing on occasions as I was too nose high. Eventually once this registered in my brain then it was a simple corrective action to consciously keep that nose down.

So then, we did some standard and steep turns and some stalling and a PFL (Practice Forced Landing) and then it was time to do some side slipping. This is where you have an angle of bank applied via the ailerons while simultaneously applying opposite rudder. I hadn't done much of this before (in fact it was only once as I remember it well) and so this was something else to learn. We did some slipping towards various ground features until it was time to come back into the circuit and do some for real... on final approach.

The reason why this is an important thing to master in the Cub is that in our case (in this model) it doesn't have any flaps and so by side slipping you can, if you are too high and in danger of overshooting, lose altitude effectively in order to reach your intended touch down point.

We did a couple of circuits (my first at Headcorn) and I experienced my first landings in a tail dragger. As a first attempt I guess they were not too bad really. After all I was not used to this physical size of aircraft, a stick and a tail wheel all combined so it will naturally be case of trial and error until I get the feel for it. 

On the last one (we only did two), following a reasonably good landing, I probably would have ground looped had it not been for the fast reaction of my instructor who applied brake in time. Lesson learned.

In summary, I was very impressed with the Cub. Yes it feels somewhat underpowered and a bit laboured but the view is really very good. Not just around and ahead but there is a transparent ceiling to it allowing extra unobstructed views of above (see below).

Steering, well lets just say I'll have to get used to that. Thats really what I am doing this for isn't it?

I really enjoyed my time at the Tiger Cub (flying the Tigers Cub) and felt good driving home knowing that I had set myself a decent challenge in my learning to fly story.

Brakes On 09:55, Brakes Off 10:50

HOURS = 50:10 DUAL + 21:00 PIC [P1]
Total Time = 71:10

Saturday, 3 August 2013

3 Tiger Moths Taking Off at Headcorn

Last Saturday (27 July), it was a lovely hot day (we've had so many this year) and I headed down to Headcorn to sign up for The Tiger Club. This was so I could do a tail wheel course with them. I was about to get back in the car to head home when I captured this ... Not something you see everyday. Absolutely lovely.

Tiger Club Headcorn - Tiger Moth Flight

Take Off Runway 03
I received the DVD of my Tiger Moth flight this week and it was great to watch the flight and re-live the moment so to speak. I was pleased with the packaging and the quality of the DVD and like I've said I would recommend the experience to anybody - not just those with an interest in aviation. The Tiger Club who run this lovely aircraft also offer other experiences and are really friendly and helpful. In fact I went down there last week and signed up as a member (which I'll explain why below).

Climbing out from Headcorn
Of course this true classic of the skies looked and flew beautifully and felt really responsive. Her prop goes anti-clockwise as viewed from the pilots seat which in my experience is unusual as most light GA planes are clockwise. The difference this makes in controlling the airplane is more application of left rudder as opposed to the usual right. This I mean in respect to the effect the helix (corkscrew) of air has going around the fuselage and hitting the fin. With an anti-clockwise prop its hitting the fin on the right hand side wanting to push the tail to the left, and the nose of the aircraft to the right. For this reason more left rudder is required to counter that and keep the plane stable in its yaw. 

Starting an Inside Loop ('Loop the Loop')
I mentioned before we did some aerobatics and this picture here above is at the beginning of an inside loop (as most people would know as a 'loop the loop'). Below we are upside down at the top. Love it!

Upside down

Finally the last picture is us coming in on final approach to land ('over the hedge' as people term it). It appears to be quite fast over ground watching it on the DVD but I guess that's because of the visual effect of the grass background whizzing past me being the point of focus. 

Coming in to land 'Over The Hedge'
So like I said previously, last week I signed up as a member of The Tiger Club and I have booked myself on a tail wheel course. This is to learn the handling differences in an aircraft that has a tail wheel as opposed to what most people learn on, which is a nose wheel aircraft. The aircraft I will be learning on is a Piper SuperCub and the club have a page showing it here. It is a lot different to what I'm used to so should be a great challenge. So far in asking around I've only heard great things about it as an aircraft to learn in. 

My first lesson is scheduled for tomorrow morning!

Friday, 2 August 2013

Sunday 28 July - A hop, skip and a diversion

Sunday I took my friend’s father up for a quick jolly around Kent. This is the same friend in fact who a few weeks beforehand had been flying with me. I must have left a reasonably good impression with my old school chum (I’m pretty sure we didn’t lose any filings on landing or anything) because he didn’t hesitate to accept the offer of taking his dad for a spin!

So, usual gig really, we met at Rochester airport around 9:45 and after some paperwork and briefing, off we trekked in one of Skytrek’s C152s. It was lovely to see how pleased he was for the rare treat of coming flying.

I wasn’t too delighted with the cloud base to be honest. I mean it would have been perfect to have something like “few at 65000 ft” but alas it was not to be (maybe one day). The previous night we had torrential rain all over the county and although the outlook was good with clear skies forecasted there was still patches of dark cumulus  scattered around the 2,200 ft mark. Wind was a brisk affair from SW at around 25 knots at 2000 ft. Leaving Rochester was uneventful but as we headed south towards Rye the cloud base had dropped to about 17000 ft and so I decided to skip that waypoint and head towards clearer skies to the NE. Off I headed to Ashford where I opted to continue a northerly track to Faversham and skip my intended waypoint which was Canterbury which was covered in fairly low cloud.

Once at Faversham the north Kent coast was bathed in sunlight and great visibility so the trip back to Rochester was rather pleasant and uneventful.

Upon reflection afterwards and self-analysis on my ‘performance’ here was my outcome

1) Plus. Fuel. I departed with 80 Ltrs after taking the decision to delay my departure to put in an uplift of 35 Lts. Although without the uplift I already had around twice as much endurance as I technically needed, I obviously had the weather and a possible diversion in mind and so I was pleased I delayed my departure and erred on the side of safety. I was pleased I didn’t let my eagerness fog my judgement.
2) Negative. QDM check on line-up. Forgot to align the HI with the compass cross checked to the runway when I lined up. I had previously checked the HI against compass but then forgot the last check with the runway. Not happy with that oversight. I remembered to set the transponder to Alt on the way to lining up so I wasn’t a complete klutz, but still. Must do better next time.
3) Plus. Circuit join, Landing, FREDA, unprompted Position Reports – all fine, speed control better than the last jolly although I was in Bravo November and not Kilo Victor which I think cruises at a friendlier pace.
4) Negative. Dithering before diversion. The area I am least happy with. Approaching Rye I think I should have made the decision to divert sooner and I should have been clearer about my intentions on the radio to Lydd Approach. Heading to Ashford I could see the area beyond clearer but what if it had not been? I did an orbit about 5 miles NW of Rye for some thinking and observation time. I noticed the route behind me had started to close off in terms of decent cloud base. What if the route to the NE hadn’t been some much better. Would I have struggled? Which leads on to …
5) Negative. Weather. Was my weather briefing truly sufficient? Should I have really erred on the side of caution and stayed local for some general handling? I cross checked several weather reports (actuals and forecasts) and I did even ask an instructor for their view before I left. However, my lesson learned here was you have to be comfortable with your own limits and although I handled the diversion would I really want to repeat that in a hurry? I don’t think so. I think next time when the weather looks like it is going to be ‘one of those days’ then I will make some phone calls covering the entire routes weather or maybe even better stay local for my aviation fix.
6) Just remembered another Negative. Although I spent time checking NOTAMS before I left home, when I was at the airport prior to departure I forgot to call the last minute NOTAM telephone number. I’ve never forgot that one before. I’m determined to make that the last time I ever do.

Thinking of all this, I’ve just had an idea of a personal post flight performance review form. This might support a healthy continuous improvement process , I really want to learn as much as I can and be the best possible Pilot I can be, so this kinda makes sense. Yup - I should do this and look to complete soon after each flight. Watch this space I guess.

Oh hang on – so lets end on a positive. 1) I went flying and experienced the beauty of flight and 2) as I said to my wife in the evening. To be in a position where you can take somebody flying and make then so happy is not just a honour and privilege but a truly humbling feeling indeed.

Next step is starting a tail dragging course at Headcorn and of course start work on the post flight performance review form. Brakes Off: 10:20 Brakes On: 11:20

HOURS = 49:15 DUAL + 21:00 PIC [P1]
Total Time = 70:15