Friday, December 15, 2006

Going to 'The Dish' (Parkes)

Flight hours: 3.3
Study hours: 0

Note: This event occurred during October

Preface: The plan was to fly out to Parkes and go visit the dish. The only preparation outside of flight planning was to ensure that the radio telescope was open for tours. Hilarity ensues.

Guest writer: Wade Beattie AKA Turtle

It was an ordinary day, besides waking up late next to a few empty bottles of Bacardi Rum. Today we were going to fly out to the dish, the same radio telescope that was used in the movie 'The Dish'.

Getting out to the airport, it was the first time I had seen a light aircraft up close. I was surprised at how cramped you could get inside a small plane when you pack a couple of motorised scooters. Also the fact that weight and balance can be an issue and that the windows opened... Cool.

Geoff's preparation of the navigation logs, fuel, charts and instruments seemed complex, but he assures me that anyone can learn. Before pulling the aircraft out of the hangar, I was shown how to perform the first daily inspection, a detailed check of the various aircraft systems and flight controls.

We taxied out to the run-up area and had discovered a rough running engine when only using one magneto. That was soon sorted out by leaning the engine and running a slightly higher rpm.

Before long we were airborne after a crosswind takeoff, which I found interesting as when we gained altitude, the plane was turned into the wind by a large degree, yet we were still flying straight ahead.

We flew west over the Blue Mountains and initially the bumpiness and hangover started to gain control. Soon after, the air smoothed out and everything was 'plane' sailing. Geoff never tired of me speaking as a captain or randomly yelling out "Contact!".

Approaching Parkes, we flew over the airfield and the windsock was swinging in different directions up to 180 degrees making it harder to pick the best runway. I was a little worried as when I asked the captain what we were going to do because of the changing wind, his reply was "Not sure, I think I need to use a lifeline and phone an instructor. Can you pass me the phone? We didn't cover landings in training".

After a smooth landing, we parked the plane and prepared the scooters. We were using the scooters to get ourselves around town. The airfield is about 6 kilometres from the town centre and we found out that the road to get there was a highway. Perhaps we should have booked a taxi!

Leaving the airfield on our scooters, stunt driver Geoff decided to navigate himself over a cattle grate at full speed. In the process, the scooter partially disintegrated when the rear wheel was forcefully ripped off the scooter after it was launched skyward from hitting the first grate.

The scooter came to a sliding stop, sparks being generated from the steel frame sliding along the bitumen, with Geoff perfectly balancing on it. The engine was still producing power and the rear wheel flicked up into the air, over Geoff's head and bounced down the road. To put this into perspective, Geoff is 6 foot 4.

He turned around to face me and cut the engine. Now we had to find the wheel and I had to manage to not crash my scooter by the fact that I couldn't stop laughing. On quickly inspecting the scooter, we found we could fix it if we could get some tools. Amazingly the chain had not broken.

Taking the scooter back to the airport, we found an aircraft mechanic and borrowed some tools so that we could start our repairs. This involved bending the frame straight, removing the rear brakes and re-inserting/re-tensioning the rear wheel.

One hour later we were back on the highway, but only after we lifted the scooters over the cattle grate. Travelling along the open highway at 40 kilometres an hour, we soon reach the town centre only to find that my scooter now needed a service, the clutch was no longer supplying power properly to the rear wheel.

After borrowing more tools and fixing my scooter as best we could, taking the better part of another hour, it was time to think about flying home. At least we know how to find Parkes and that scooters were impractical for this airport. Perhaps we should spend a night or leave earlier in the morning so that if we have to conduct ad-hoc repairs, we have enough time for a tour as well.

Flying back home, Geoff let me fly most of the way back. I had trouble with altitude and directional control initially, so that we were heading south instead of east, but this was fairly short lived and I felt relaxed at the controls.

Geoff performed a wing over near a Sydney's Warragamba dam. Wingovers are fun. Back at Bankstown, we cleaned the plane and put it away.

Still looking forward to seeing the dish.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Brisbane Scenic and the flight home

Flight hours: 5.2
Study hours: 0
Aviation Reading: None

Wade and I decided to take a leisurely scenic flight around Brisbane and the islands before I had to finalise my preparation to depart for Sydney.

There is a published VFR track that takes you south of the city, over to Stradbroke island, tracking north to Moreton island before crossing water to the west for Bribie island and finally now being north of the city, returning to Archerfield.

There were some interesting colours to be seen, the coast and islands looked great from the air. Pity about the low cloud which reduced picture clarity.

During some of the island hopping, I decided to provide Wade with a taste of what a zero G environment feels like. Seeing as I still had the sound recorder hooked up, I decided to record the experience. You can listen to it here (Warning: Contains Explicit Language).

On the return trip to Sydney, I decided to re-record most of the radio conversations again for my Student Pilot Training podcast listeners. This is because I totally screwed up major portions of the radio conversations on the first trip by failing to ensure that the unit was able to record at the correct volume and also because I needed better settings to transfer the recordings to my laptop.

The weather ahead looked like it wanted me to make a diversion back to Byron Bay, where my friends Bill and John were still staying. No drama, diversion adventures crop up occasionally when flying light aircraft.

The cloud cover was getting increasingly lower than forecast and I had to transit the Gold Coast Class C airspace at 1,500 ft, whilst dodging small areas of rain.

The cloud cover was lighter and higher when passing Byron Bay, which saw me climb to 6,500 ft. Visually ahead however, the clouds looked broken to overcast, below my current altitude, covered the entire horizon and extended one hundred miles or more.

I didn't want to find myself above an overcast and unable to descend when needed. Calling up Flightwatch, I was informed that Sydney has unlimited VFR. I decided to fly VFR on top, using the breaks in the cloud every few minutes to maintain visual tracking along with using navigational aids to backup my track made good.

Passing Coffs Habour, the clouds started to clear over the coast and I was able to maintain 6,500 ft for most of the trip home.

The Bankstown ATIS on my return had the wind at 05010G20KT. That means the wind was coming from 50 degrees, at 10 knots gusting to 20kt. The ATIS broadcast crosswind maximum was at 18kts, 3 knots higher than my Cessna 172's crosswind limitation.

The landing was quite interesting, having to adjust the aircraft at all stages of the circuit for landing. The flare, landing and roll out all required correct crosswind technique, otherwise it may have been an unhappy landing.

Flying between Sydney and Brisbane is quite fun in terms of the radio work, the number of differing airspace areas and the different weather patterns you may encounter. I would recommend it to any private pilot for flying, radio and decision making experience.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Byron Bay and BrisVegas

Flight hours: 3.7
Study hours: 0
Aviation Reading: Aiming High

A good friend of mine lives in Brisbane whilst another is taking a short holiday on the eastern most point of Australia, Byron Bay. What a perfect excuse to take a short break and fly myself up the coast to visit them and score some free accommodation.

The Sydney area had quite a lot of low cloud hanging about, however it was forecast as fine and sunny along the coast up to Brisbane. The clouds wouldn't present a problem as they were high enough for me to fly the Sydney lane of entry and soon after, I would be descending to 500ft to pass the Williamtown military area, which would then open up into better weather.

My trip today would take me to Tyagarah, a grass landing strip right on the water near Byron Bay. I planned to fly coastal most of the way, with only a detour around a restricted area used as airforce firing grounds if it was active.

During the flight, I recorded the radio conversations as an opportunity to present my podcast listeners with a wide range of radio calls including GAAP, CTAF, CTAF(R), Class C, Class D, Sarwatch and Restricted airspace. I will put the radio calls together and publish it in the next podcast.

The sky was BKN55 (read: Broken cloud at 5500 feet) and I didn't have enough light to take good photos, so hopefully the trip back will present better conditions for photo opportunities.

The weather was much better in Byron Bay and after meeting up with my friends, we hung out at the beach and went for a swim, followed by some relaxing drinks at the beach hotel.

The next day, I left the boys, prepped the plane and flew up to Archerfield, the GAAP airport in Brisbane. I have never been to Archerfield before, so it was important to read all of the relevant material and instructions in the airport directory (ERSA).

I will be staying in Brisbane for 3 days before flying back home, but my next flight may be a scenic around Brisbane and the coast.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The DJ's mums B'day

Flight hours: 1.0
Study hours: 0
Aviation Reading: Aiming High

I've been fortunate enough recently to be regularly judging or being a VIP of the local Inside Sport model search events. These events allow me to have unfettered access to the models and because I have been taking Trieu, my friendly Asian photographer, he has been snapping up literally hundreds of excellent semi-naked photos at each event both backstage and on.

But that isn't the point of this "aviation" blog. What point am I trying to make? Oh that's right.

The main host on some of the nights was none other than MJ, a Saturday night DJ from Nova 969 (radio station). It was his birthday the night we met and I was soon invited to the crazy party that was to ensue on the following Saturday.

During the party I met MJ's parents and soon after, MJ asked if I would be able to take his Gold Coast living parents out for a flight around Sydney for his mothers 50th birthday. No sweat.

A few days later, the trip was arranged and it was looking like a great day from the ground albeit with some smoke haze from recent bush fires. The visibility was forecast as 8 kilometres in haze and a high was over the Sydney basin area along with light winds. Fairly stable weather.

I arrived early to the hangar, pre-flighted and swept the hangar in preparation for my syndicate's annual general meeting the following night.

The sweeping was interrupted due to my required attendance on a global conference call. Soon after and about 2 hours after I actually arrived at the airfield, the whole tribe arrived being his parents and his two brothers. MJ knew I would only take two people on board my Cessna and everything was cool, the boys would wait near the car whilst we went flying.

Briefings were performed and we were soon in the air. Climbing straight into thicker than forecast haze. The go-no go decision was made harder by the fact you couldn't determine what the haze was doing from the ground.

The haze wasn't a problem below one thousand feet, with visibility ranging between 6 and 8 kilometres (confirmed by reference to what towns I can see and how far away we were according to GPS), but around 2500 hundred feet, visibility was significantly reduced. Still legally visual, but not the best weather for a scenic flight over the city.

I descended back to 1500 feet and on approaching the control zone, requested clearance to the harbour which was approved. Approaching the city, the haze was quite thick and would have made for terrible photos. I amended my clearance request and descended to 500 feet to fly along the Victor one coastal route.

It was much clearer at this level and if I didn't like the look of the haze at Wollongong, I would return north along Victor one before returning home. The horizon was becoming quite difficult to see, so as to require straight and level flight to be based on instruments.

The haze down south was much the same, so we continued the flight back home over the national park and around the Holsworthy military restricted zone by use of instruments for flight and navaids for pilotage.

On approaching the airfield, the ATIS was now reporting 3 kilometres visibility and restricted VFR. The winds had also picked up in the area, thickening the haze band and making it denser in the process.

I was told by ATC to hold at my inbound reporting point known as 2RN. I put the Hoxton Park frequency on my second radio unit to improve my situational awareness, as the departing traffic from Hoxton can come close to 2RN, my holding location.

I positioned myself further west of 2RN so as to not be right over the top of 2RN at the same altitude as other traffic that may be approaching the airfield via 2RN.

Just as I was completing an orbit, I had spotted another inbound aircraft (Cessna 172) that proceeded to fly over the top of 2RN and continue north-east bound. It had no strobe or navigational lights switched on.

I kept a close eye on the traffic and was soon cleared to join crosswind as number one in the circuit. I informed the tower of the unidentified aircraft approaching the GAAP control zone.

I noticed that the other traffic was turning left and right and changing altitude by up to 300 feet either side of the required inbound altitude over the next few minutes. Keeping an eye on the other traffic at all times, I joined crosswind and as I was starting my right turn to downwind, I noticed the other traffic was also turning downwind and was now at a much higher speed possibly from a descent. I decided to slow down and would inform the tower that I am going to manoeuvre behind this other aircraft and that it may have an electrical fault.

The radio soon sprang to life with the pilot in the other plane reporting inbound 2 miles north of 2RN. (In fact, they were around 4 miles north east, towards the airfield and on an extended downwind).

The tower mentioned the other traffic in the circuit (me), and the pilot mentioned he didn't have me in sight.

I was on the right hand side in relation to the other aircraft, at his 2 o'clock and no more than one mile away. He was also now at the correct altitude.

As we were effectively on a collision course, I radioed the tower to say that seeing as he didn't see me, I would further slow down and slot in behind him. I also mentioned to the pilot that his lights were not on. He acknowledged but no lights ever were switched on (I noticed this much later after seeing him land).

The poor visibility was easily confirmed by the fact that it was difficult to see the airfield when on downwind.

The other pilot flew the largest circuit I have ever seen, so wide that to maintain my usually very tight circuits, I had to slow down to roughly 60 knots to await his return from outback Australia and turn final on 29R.

Again this other pilot astonished me by ignoring the crosswind alert on final and allowing the wind to swing him through the runway centre airspace.

I didn't have a chance to go up and talk to this person after shutdown, but I wonder sometimes if these types of pilots ever learn that they made mistakes, could have made better decisions and that they were putting other peoples lives at risk.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

A seedy joy flight

Flight hours: 0.6
Study hours: 0
Aviation Reading: Killing Zone: How and why pilots die

As you can see, the flight was of short duration. Matty had planned to go flying with me on the Friday after his dentist appointment, however due to low cloud, we decided to make it the Saturday for a better viewing experience.

The departure was set for around 12pm via SMS, the only issue was that Matty, who is usually quite prompt on replying to messages, was not to be heard from. I decided to try calling a few times, but was not successful.

At around about 1pm, I was planning to head out for a flight of my own, perhaps to fly up north to meet an instructor whom I have been thinking I want to use to complete my aerobatics training. These thoughts were interrupted with Matty calling to say that he just woke up and he would be over in an hour.

One hour and forty five minutes later, Matty arrived safely. The reason for the sleep-in was that the night before saw him polish off a keg of beer. Good work. At this stage, I was secretly wondering if I still have passenger sick bags in my flight kit. Affirmative.

I pre-flighted the plane and before we knew it, Matty had successfully performed the take-off. Heading towards the coast, we overflew some of the surfing beaches that Matt uses, but before too long, the steep turns had him feeling a bit queasy and he mentioned that he was faded (read: tired) and seedy from the night before. Oh well, looks like we will cut the trip short.

I requested clearance into Sydney airspace and was given a complex set of clearance instructions, along with holds, that allowed us to see a greater part of the city and surrounding areas.

"Track Long Reef, Manly, Spit bridge, one thousand five hundred, hold overhead and to the east of spit bridge and await further clearance".

At Spit Bridge, "Track direct Chatswood, 1500 and await clearance for left turn to track towards city".

At Chatswood, "Make left turn and track towards Darling harbour, 1500, single orbit approved overhead Bridge, between Darling harbour and the Opera house, North of Circular Quay".

After the orbit, "Would you be wanting a track direct west, north of Parramatta river?"

Yes please! I asked the controller to say hello to Paul and wished him a G'day, The airswitch showed 0.5, probably the quickest scenic flight I have taken from Bankstown to the City and back.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Avalon Airshow Planning

Flight hours: 1.2
Study hours: 0
Aviation Reading: Killing Zone: How and why pilots die

A friend of mine, Pauly along with myself and possibly a few others are planning to go to Avalon airshow in March 2007.

Paul is an air traffic controller here in Sydney and he at one time rated as a multi-engine command instrument instructor. The ATC work suits him much better and I would have to say that I enjoy the fact that he is a controller as I can catch wind of new procedures, learn how it all operates within Australia and also get to know the people who can give me better clearances for scenic flights etc. Excellent!

Seeing as I don't take many photos of things, I also invited Trieu to Avalon. We will most likely go on a trade day as there is less crowd and the airshow is usually condensed, so you don't have to hang around to see the entire show.

A fellow podcaster, Steven Pam from fame, contacted me through my podcast a while back and we may use Avalon as a meeting ground. Steven's background is in photography and aviation appears as a significant part in his online collection.

Paul and I are not sure how long we are going to stay in Melbourne along with how we will get there. Perhaps I should take my aircraft? We will have to wait and see.

As for flying, Trieu and I had a classic boys night last Saturday sans Alcohol. This included a crazy session at the gym, pizza, movies and a flight around Sydney at dusk/night. The pictures are not up to the normal Asian standard according to Trieu, but I will see if some are acceptable for posting.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Night VFR Instruments

Flight Hours: 2.9
Study Hours: 1
Aviation Reading: Killing Zone: How and why pilots die

Note: This event occurred around early-November

A few days ago, I was booked in to complete a component of the Night VFR rating, which is instrument flight, instrument failures and unusual attitudes with recovery based on instruments only of which some may be failed (by covering the instruments up) at certain times.

One of the other members of the syndicate is an instructor at a Bankstown based aviation college, so I decided to transfer my integrated CPL training over to that school.

I arrived earlier than required as the session would start after closure of the fuel trucks and I also wanted to inspect the aircraft before last light to make things easier.

I taxied the aircraft across the airport to the college and met up with the instructor. After a quick chat and seeing as last light would be over 35 minutes away, I decided to bang out some crosswind circuits.

Doing circuits as the sun is setting is interesting at times when the sun is directly in your eyes, but it was nothing that intermittent use of sunglasses couldn't fix.

Finishing the circuits, I headed back to the college for the training brief. I was to take off visually and once 3nm from the airport boundary, I would be under the hood for the next 2 hours.

During this time we went over some instrument flight, quickly getting more complex such as failed vacuum pump (no Attitude Indicator or Directional Gyro), No instrument or cockpit lights, climbing and descending turns to a certain altitude and heading, whilst determining my exact location on a chart using two differing navaids and if needed, broadcasting on the appropriate CTAF frequencies. No sweat.

We then covered unusual attitude recovery under the hood along with covering the instruments completely from my field of view and flying towards an area with no lighting to see what night visual effects can occur.

The training was coming to an end and finished up with some circuits at Hoxton Park before heading back to Bankstown.

Friday, November 17, 2006

South Korea

Flight hours: 1.2
Study hours: 0
Aviation Reading: Killing Zone: How and why pilots die

My company just hired a new IT Manager for South Korea, Joung-Ho, who we brought over to Australia so that he can meet the team and learn the intricacies of the company.

On the second day of his orientation and training, the weather was quite good, so after my training time with Joung-Ho, I asked if he would like to fly around Sydney in a small aircraft. At first he didn't understand even though his English is great, then I said "I am a pilot and would you like to fly around Sydney?"

He explained that in South Korea, there is no General Aviation at all, so he didn't grasp what I was saying straight away. I also grabbed Michael and the three of us headed out for a Sydney and Victor one jaunt.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Simulator Training

Flight Hours: 1.2 (Simulator)
Study Hours: 0

Note: This event occurred around mid-October

As part of the NVFR training requirements, it is better to learn on the ground with an approved synthetic trainer where it is cheaper and you can pause the session to go over items.

My simulator training involved general instrument flight, tracking navaids and practicing intercepts. For fun we even covered some instrument approaches along with random and frequent equipment failures.

Tracking (not homing) to navaids I find easy. The only issue for me was that I would take around 6-10 seconds to create a mental picture in relation to my position from reading the directional gyro and VOR in order to execute random intercepts. I will want to get this down to a second or two at most, although a greater understanding of where I am on a chart would help reduce my mental lag.

I found the simulator work fairly simple, probably due to the frequency of my childhood flight sim usage along with my Xbox/Xbox 360 l33t skillz.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Aerobatics 101

Flight hours: 0.9
Study hours: 0
Aviation Reading: Killing Zone: How and why pilots die

Note: This event occurred around late-September

After having a chance to contact people after being away for some time, I rang Greg from the SAAA Chapter 11 to say hello and catch up. Greg was the previous chapter president who happens to have his ear to the ground in many things aviation related.

During my phone call, Greg asked if I would be interested in flying in an Extra 300L with Richard Wiltshire as there was an available spot. Richard is the current Australian Aerobatic Champion and State Unlimited Aerobatic Champion.

On hearing this, I immediately accepted and looked forward to the weekend. After a briefing, I jumped into the aircraft and we were soon in a zoom climb for take off (I don't have my tailwheel endorsement as yet). Richard handed the controls over to me and I was immediately surprised that the aircraft was so nimble.

The aircraft danced around the sky for a few minutes whilst my hand adjusted to the necessary small control inputs and by the time we were in the training area of Sydney I had the aircraft under finer control. The Extra has an incredible roll rate of 360 degrees per second, which means if you hold the control to the left or right for a second, you would have completed an aileron roll.

Richard was great, he allowed me to do any and all of the maneuvers I could possibly imagine, such as the hammerhead (stall turn), loops, rolls, inverted flying, spins (normal and inverted), snap rolls and all variations and combinations I could manage on my own.

Richard also took over and kept up a non-stop commentary on what he was about to show me including how to perform knife edge flying, tumbles and other moves that I cant remember because the ground and sky were swapping places in all geometric planes far too quickly for my mind to determine the maneuver.

If you are in Sydney and would like to fly in a very nimble aerobatic aircraft with a top-notch aerobatic pilot, give Richard a shout via his website

Now I want to get my aerobatics endorsement!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Night VFR Nav

Flight Hours: 3.3
Study Hours: 1

Note: This event occurred around mid-October

I was given the following route to plan for my first night VFR nav:

YSBK - PAA - YPEC - YCNK (Circuits) - MQD - CAA - HBB - YSBK

Simple enough, track the lane of entry, follow the coast north until Aeropelican, swing inbound to Cessnock for some circuits. After the circuits, track to a VOR followed by an NDB and practising intercepts at both navaids, then finish off with a direct track to Sydney for some orbits around the city before tracking home.

The first few circuits at Cessnock where okay but could be much better. I'm generally hard on myself with flying skills so that I keep at it them until I am comfortable and proficient. Because of this, I ended up wanting to keep doing circuits which saw me complete around 10 touch and goes before continuing the navigation.

With less light available, the landing perspective takes some time getting used to, however after a few circuits, things looked and felt much better. Happy with this, I tuned in the navaids and tracked to the VOR followed by the NDB.

After the last navaid, I headed towards Sydney, requested airways clearance and proceeded to do some orbits of the harbour, then the city and a practiced missed approach at Sydney airport (it's great to have a good friend who works for Airservices (the air traffic controllers within Australia). After frolicking around the city, I took a direct track back home.

Sydney at night looks amazing so after my NVFR check ride, I will have to take some photos.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Night VFR Circuits

Flight Hours: 3.5
Study Hours: 0

Note: This event occurred around mid-October

Now that I have access to an aircraft, it will be much cheaper for me to chase
endorsements and ratings. A school rental + instructor runs upwards of $250 AUD with taxes applied. By using my aircraft, an instructor only costs between $60 and $85.

I did find a neat trick with flying training in Australia though. Sign a form stating that you will pursue your commercial rating (CPL) and you can fly GST tax exempt. This takes 10% of the price away, which at least provides an extra incentive.

A night rating (NVFR) is the first new rating that I will complete. The rating provides me with greater options if the weather is going to pose a problem during daylight or if I am needing to leave earlier or later than planned. Before I get a chance to use it for weather related issues, I will probably be instrument rated, but none the less, I could let my IFR recency slide, but still have Night VFR options and the ability to fly scenic at night.

My only obstacle was to find an instructor who would be willing to teach NVFR-SE. Not many instructors in Australia seem to be interested in teaching single engine night VFR, however I believe you can mitigate the risks by thorough and smarter flight planning, managing not to go over areas that provide little option for emergency landings without a proper light source. An engine doesn't know whether it is day or night, although it usually performs better at night in the cooler air.

Funnily enough, it is either the young instructors or the very old war pilot type instructors who seem to enjoy providing the training and rating check ride for NVFR. Flying at night is great fun. Smooth air, completely different viewing of the same items, especially scenic flights around cities. The rating also resets my BFR time.

My first lesson involved circuits. I had only a few hours in a C172 by this stage, but landing a 172 is nothing compared to a Sundowner, Sierra or Mooney. The 172 is a piece of cake most of the time and greaser landings are fun to rinse and repeat.

The perspective at night is quite different and I noticed the cockpit workload felt like it was higher few the first few minutes, but that isn't really the case. By the end of the hour, the instructor felt confident enough to provide me with a solo night circuit endorsement along with telling me to plan a NAV with circuits at other airfields.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Shiny Headset

Flight hours: 1.2 (Simulator)
Study hours: 0
Aviation Reading: Killing Zone: How and why pilots die

"Imagine a headset so comfortable you may forget you're even wearing it! You'll think it was designed for you personally. Made from new, handcrafted materials that refuse to sacrifice lightweight comfort [and provide] long term durability….

Now imagine it's yours - the new X-11 ENC from David Clark."

I actually don't have my own headset. Let's rephrase that. I have a headset, but I do not "own" it. Michael (the work colleague I flew with on the previous weekend), was a student pilot well before I was. He was in limbo with flying training when I decided to get my license, so we established a temporary trade of his David Clark H10-13.4 headset for an AGV motorcycle helmet of mine. I would commence my flight training using his headset and Michael can race his Subaru WRX with my helmet.

That trade continued to be in place for over 6 years as Michael never picked up flying training again. Now that I have the Cessna, I cannot possibly let all passengers who fly with me to use one of the spare old headsets we have in the rear baggage compartment. Using an old headset can ruin the experience some.

I decided to check out the ANR headsets and made my decision on procuring the new X11. Now one lucky passenger on each flight can use my old (trade) headset, whilst I use the X11.

It weighs only 12.1 ounces and has a music input which means I can listen to some tunes/podcasts whilst I am flying. The good thing about it is that the music cuts out for a period of time whenever it detects a carrier signal on the listening frequency.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Syndicate: 2010

Flight hours: 0
Study hours: 0
Aviation Reading: Flight of Passage

When I joined the syndicate, one of the owners was introducing me to the way things operated. I queried him on how bookings are made, which I discovered was via email to all owners and first-in, first-served.

Seeing as I try to make everything I do in my role within I.T. as automated or simple as possible, I immediately asked if they had considered using a website that could be the recording point of bookings. He said they may consider it and he would put it to the other owners.

I saw that as the green light to fully code the site using PHP and mySQL.
It provides us with:

  • Booking Management
  • Maintenance Tracking
  • Reports
    • Pilot Hours
    • Hours per month
    • Trending the 100 hourly inspection
  • Photo Gallery
  • Medical and Rating tracker (for currency and renewals)
  • Contact information of the owners
  • Newsletters
  • Share-a-ride posting
  • Weather briefings
  • Submission of flight plans for our more common flights

I host the site myself (WAMP) and purchased a domain name for the site which is the tail registration. Naturally the site was accepted and voted as the only means for bookings along with recording maintenance etc, thus moving the syndicate further into the internet age.

That blue line represents our 100 hourly that is rapidly approaching.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Sunday fun

Flight hours: 2.5
Study hours: 0
Aviation Reading: Flight of Passage

I have never taken my parents out for a flight, period. Now that I have my own aircraft, that was bound to change soon enough and it just happened to be a Sunday scenic flight.

On the Friday, it didn't look like the flight would occur at all this weekend. A low pressure system had quickly come through the Sydney basin, bringing with it a SIGMET for significant turbulence below 10000ft and wind from the south at 28 knots gusting to 38 knots.

A few years ago, the three GA airfields in the Sydney area, Bankstown, Camden and Hoxton Park, were sold by our government to a private business holding. Three companies were made for the ownership, BAL (Bankstown Airport Limited, CAL (Camden) and HPAL (Hoxton Park).

This business has great plans for the airfields, most notably, raising the rates by up to 200% within two years (far above the rates that market appraisal deems appropriate), closing down the north to south facing runway at Bankstown and closing down Hoxton Park completely in 2007 to develop the land for the property market. The Hoxton Park residence owners along with people who cannot afford to stay at Bankstown have to move to Camden, which is quite a drive from Sydney even with the new motorway.

With the closure of the Nth-Sth runway at Bankstown along with the imminent closure of Hoxton Park's 34/16 runway, this removes all nth-sth runways within Sydney and effectively provides no ability for general aviation aircraft to deal with a strong southerly wind that may crop up. Well, that is not entirely true. If a light aircraft making its way to Sydney found that the crosswind for Bankstown or Camden was above their aircraft's certified maximum crosswind component, they would have no choice but to divert to Sydney international airport and in the process becoming a financial nightmare for the pilot to pay landing and movement charges along with being a major inconvenience.

With the closure of the Nth-Sth runway at Bankstown, BAL has sold off the land that the runway previously occupied and we now have housing and commercial development encroaching the airfield. You have to wonder how long it will take until the crosswind incidents increase dramatically or an engine out after takeoff results in an emergency landing into someoness house.

My aircraft was available for the entire weekend, so I informed my parents that we could take our flight on either day. Saturday turned out to be quite gusty as well, so we hoped that conditions would improve by Sunday.

Sunday morning was suitable for flying, a manageable 12 kt crosswind and some moderate turbulence below 5000ft which was forecast to reduce as the day progressed. Michael, a work colleague and a student pilot, knew that I was flying so I arranged that he could meet me after taking my parents so that we can go for a spin.

We flew to north of Sydney to take some photos of my sisters house and then proceeded to track to Sydney harbour for orbits of the city followed by a leisurely flight down to Wollongong along Victor 1 (a VFR track to fly the Sydney coast).

After dropping my parents off at the airfield, Michael was soon to arrive which saw us do a similar flight over the city however, instead of Victor 1, we headed to Hoxton Park which was our training airfield, to practice some crosswind landings before returning home.

Friday, October 27, 2006

There's work to be had in Canberra

Flight hours: 2.5
Study Hours: 2

The role of my I.T. job is mostly internally focused. I'm part of a team that keeps the business running, ranging from infrastructure to servers to workstations, you name it. One of the projects I've been running happened to involve our Canberra office.

Canberra, Australia's capital and winner of a number of awards for city planning/design, is approximately a three hour drive away from Sydney. The six hour return trip generally involves having a long work day or spending the night at a posh hotel.

Seeing as I can fly myself there in around an hour, I decided that instead of staying the night, I would fly down, blitz through the work and return home before days end. Two colleagues, Doug and Evelyn, asked if they could also come along as they had business reasons to be on-site. Yeah right!.. Just kidding.

The weather forecast seemed good for the day we planned to go, so we made arrangements to meet at the aerodrome at around fifteen minutes before our 6 AM departure. I woke up at around 4:30 AM, with plans to obtain the weather forecast, submit a flight plan, as Canberra is an International Airport and then head to the hangar to pre-flight the plane. The weather was CAVOK (CAVU) in Canberra but had closed in around Sydney. The trip today was a no-go for an early departure and I decided I would re-evaluate at around 7 AM.

Doug, a first timer in a light aircraft, lives on the Central Coast and has a daily commute to and from work of around two hours. Seeing as he had to get up quite early, I phoned Doug immediately and told him to sleep in as we won’t be leaving so early. Doug was already up, showered, had eaten breakfast and was walking out the door, so I said I would meet him at work instead. I went back to bed for another thirty minutes before heading into work, which for me is only a five minute drive away.

Doug arrived at work, I told him our options and that I would decide by 7-7:30 AM. Get-there-itis doesn't affect me. The time came, the weather was clearing but still marginal, so I made the command decision to not go. The sign of a good pilot!

Around 2 PM, I started getting the flying bug. A look at the synoptic chart showed a huge high pressure system was approaching Sydney. It was forecast to be within the area most likely within another day or two. I informed Doug and Evelyn and told them we will plan to go a few days from now.

Currently the weather was SCT040/BKN055. I rolled back in my chair and said to Doug, "Want to go for a joy flight around Sydney?” I didn't have to ask twice.

We drove out to the hangar, prepped the plane and took off. I took Doug north of the city, over the harbour, down to Cronulla and then proceeded further down south to head to the edge of the greater Sydney basin.

We didn't make it that as far south as I wanted to go as the weather was quickly closing in even though it was not in the forecast. Spot showers where appearing to the south, so I turned towards my aerodrome and setup a fast cruise. As I was near a military restricted area, I decided to use my GPSMap so that I can hug the edge of zone and reduce the time it would take to get back to terra firma. Those large colour GPS screens sure come in handy for these airspace situations, as you can be more precise when needed.

The crosswind landing was a no brainer, I was a bit high on final as I was number two behind a Cessna Citation, so decided to stay above its flight path and land past its touchdown point.

Fast forward a few days, the weather wasn't the best in Sydney, but I knew it would be improving to CAVOK by the afternoon for our return flight. We departed in cool, calm air and enjoyed (read put up with) some AM talk-back radio through the ADF.

The work was easy in Canberra and I couldn't wait to fly back home. The returning flight was quite bumpy when we were overhead Lake George. The lake is no longer a lake, but a massive flat section of ground, so in the warm afternoon, it creates a nice stream of turbulence. After passing flat lake George, the flight was quite relaxing.

Flying myself for work purposes is fun!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

An air show day keeps the doctor away

Flight hours: 0
Study Hours: 1

I received an email reminder from my SAAA group that there are a number of air shows and events just around the corner. One of them happened to be the Defence Force Air Show at the RAAF base in Richmond, approximately a 40 minute drive for me with the new motorway and with the traffic attending the show, I estimated another 10 to 15 minutes or so.

The air show happened to also be the 85th anniversary of the Royal Australia Air Force (RAAF).

Plans were made to attend on the Saturday, but due to possibly lame weather, I opted for the Sunday instead. A mate of mine, Bill, ended up joining me at the last minute as we made our way to Richmond. The police were quite helpful in directing traffic to the air show through small detours, which made me feel good about my decision to drive instead of catching a train.

I would have preferred to fly myself, as Richmond is only a 10 minute hop from most GA airfields in the Sydney basin, however the base was closed to civilian aircraft movements for a few days.

When we arrived, we were shuttled on to a bus like sheep, to make our way around the base to the air show. It was good to see an aerobatics aircraft performing an accelerated inverted spin as soon as I hopped off to enter the show.

On closer inspection during its maneuvers, the aircraft was Edge 540 being flown by Pip "Why be ordinary when you can be extraordinary!" Borrman.

Some of the types of aircraft on display and used in demonstrations include: Globemaster (Cargo/Troop transport), Hercules (multi role transport), F-111's (long range strike fighter), F/A-18 Super Hornets (Multi role fighter), Some Warbirds, P-3 Orion (mostly surveillance) and the PC-9's that the roulettes RAAF aerobatic team uses.

Midway through the show Alan, an old friend from college days, happened to find me in the crowd (must be my height). Alan and I have caught up recently however Bill and Alan havent seen each other in over 5 years or so. Whilst they were having their catch up, I just kept my eyes skyward looking at the Roulettes performing formation aerobatics.

Here are some pictures taken during the show.