Saturday, December 08, 2007


Flight hours: 4.4

You may recall that the engine was well over TBO and although performing strongly, it was time to use the insurance money to buy a new engine.

The decision was made to move to a Penn Yan beast, which also requires a new prop... Who cares? 180 HP, ability to carry full fuel and 4 adults in a 172... Sold.

The engine will take a few weeks to arrive by sea freight and another two weeks for installation.

The outcome should show a 125 kt cruise (130+ kt fast cruise) at around 40 litres per hour fuel burn.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

He can fly for another two years!

Flight hours: 2.6

There haven't been many updates over the last 5 weeks due to my travels and planning for relocation to the U.S.

Over Christmas I flew in a human mailing tube to the U.S east coast to suss out the location from the point of view of living and working there. Over the month long period, my girlfriend and I tried to lead a normal life so I could establish some sort of baseline for living costs. This also included driving past an airfield right next to my work headquarters... hoping to find a good general aviation presence at this particular airfield.

So, that leads us to my Biannual Flight Review (BFR). It is due in December and I really don't like the idea of letting my license lapse, so I tentatively booked my flight review to occur sometime over the next week.

I figured I would do the planning early in the week and watch the weather to see when it would improve, then book the BFR. Obviously, this wasn't going to happen. The instructor I had chosen, called me in the late afternoon on Saturday and said "I have a cancellation for flying tomorrow due to weather, how about we do your BFR instead, what time would you like to start? I think 10am will be fine".

The only issue, the weather was quite lame. "The weather isn't the greatest".

"I think you should do your BFR, it would be good to practice in and exercise your decision making".

OK, so it was on, I decided to head down there by 9:30am and plan the trip at the flight school. The trip was only planned up to my first landing destination and minimum planning was asked to be performed. He wanted to ensure I could cope with a maximum cockpit workload. This would include determining the tracks, heading, ETA's etc, whilst in the air to any other location or diversions.

Usually I would use Air NAV and thoroughly do my pre-flight planning, so I can relax and enjoy the flight knowing that all normal operations have been accounted for. This flight was far from that.

The first landing was at Cessnock, a relatively easy exercise as I could follow the coast up north, the only concern being that due to cloud cover, I would have to provide overflying and transiting radio calls for other aircraft operating at the airfields I was to pass within 10nm. The actual landing was a full crosswind, potentially at the maximum XW component of the C172 (15 kts). The windsocks were showing around half-mast and perpendicular to the runway. I did quite a good job.

On the return and randomly selected destination/diversion legs, we finally headed out to the western training area and performed airwork and emergency landings. We stayed out there for around 45 minutes when I also noted that we are at bingo, excluding mandatory reserve fuel (a military term which means there is enough fuel to return to base of intended landing). The return landing was performed as a shortfield.

I passed my BFR and am now authorised to fly for another two years.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Escape to Cowra

Flight hours: 5.2

I have actually been flying quite a bit, but have had nothing of interest to report until now. The SAAA held their national convention at the Cowra airfield, where some of the best in home built aircraft was to be be found along with workshops on home building and some flying displays thrown in for good measure.

I didn't stay for the full event (Friday to Sunday), instead I took my father out for the Saturday which materialised from a rather quick and random comment I made to him just two days prior "I might go flying out bush on the weekend, want to come?" He didn't know until the Saturday where exactly we were going.

On the morning of the flight, the forecast showed FEW and SCT clouds at various levels and from Bankstown, it looked like the layer of clouds extended to the Blue Mountains. Once airborne I could see this wasn't the entire case, so I decided to punch some holes in the sky and get above the clouds before heading further west over the mountains. I do really enjoy flying near clouds and turning and weaving to climb above them. NOTE: Never attempt to fly in or through clouds unless you have appropriate ratings and experience, especially if you are a VFR rated pilot!

Soon after, the clouds cleared to a perfect blue sky and the trip was smooth. As we headed to Cowra, Melbourne Centre (Radar) advised on the area frequency that there are 12 aircraft converging on Cowra with similar ETA's by what his computer could show him. I could not see any aircraft in front of me yet ML CEN was reporting a number of aircraft in my vicinity and near the altitude I was flying. I was actually the only pilot who grabbed a flight following after his announcement which helps to ensure my safety.

After landing in a very busy pattern (6 aircraft at once), we walked through the flight line and looked at some of the show aircraft. As soon as I entered the main tarmac area I saw none other than Jon Johanson, the famous Australian with an unbelievable number of flying world records. He was standing near his plane and was just getting off the phone. I had a nice chat with him and also enquired about his services to ferry aircraft from the US back to Australia for me. I also bumped into a fellow pilot and builder, Richard, who had also taken his father but was staying for the full weekend.

It is fantastic seeing a huge number of GA aircraft parked for an event like this and congratulations to Cowra council and the SAAA by putting on a great event.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Maintenance & APEC

Flight hours: 3

I haven't posted over the last few months so have quite a bit to cover.

The windshield was replaced and is fantastic. Photos turn out so much better and now I will have no problem with glare when landing into the sun.

The hail damage post I made some months back, well it has been decided to take the money from the insurance company offered and increase the premiums a little to bring the insured value of the aircraft back into acceptable figures.

What this means is that instead of total replacement of the hail damaged skins, I will have the control surface skins replaced and use the remainder of the money to buy the new engine (the engine is 25% over TBO, but running really well). This will see an upgrade to 180HP.

Recently I have also taken a few more managers from the US and India for flights around the Sydney basin area. Flying however was put on hold for some period of time due to APEC being in the city. A 45nm radius around Sydney was evoked and if you flew without proper procedures and clearance you would be visited by a couple of F-18's. One such pilot had the privilege of this on the second last day of the restrictions even though procedures were followed.

Apart from that, some more news coming down the line soon regarding my flying and what the future holds.

Monday, July 02, 2007

AirNav VFR

Flight hours: 0
Aviation Reading: Aviation Magazines

Over the last few months I have had a few emails from readers asking about the web-based application I designed to help with tracking the aircraft hours and maintenance as well as whether I use flight planning software. This post will be about the flight planning software I use.

This article was written sometime ago, however I never got around to taking screenshots of the software. Seeing as George, a work colleague from Western Australia and fellow pilot, will be in Sydney for a work junket in the next few months, I decided to quickly whip up a flight plan for a possible trip we will take and present some screenshots on the process as well as telling you why I choose this piece of flight planning software (for Australia).

The software I use is AirNav VFR from Sentient Software.

The reason I chose this software is primarily for its point-and-click interface on official Airservices Australia maps. I can essentially plan flights on suitable maps and instantly cross-check them with airspace requirements, PRD type zones and selecting suitable waypoints. Totally cool!

Below is a planned route. I simply opened the three charts to determine the best route (WAC, VNC and VTC), double clicked on Bankstown for takeoff and proceeded to mark my route via easily identify features or points of interest. Click on the picture for a closer look.

In addition, it has a whole swag of features such as adding notes to the flight plan on the actual map, GPS coordinate uploads into my GPSMap 296 (it's in a standard format so it can be used on most GPS's), moving map display options (if you take a laptop/tablet PC with a GPS connection) etc.

Below you can see how useful it is to make thorough notes in the planning stage so as the flight progresses, you have taken some considerable workload off your in-cockpit decision making. Again, click on the picture for a closer look.

You can then print out official Airservices maps (Best to print them out on a colour printer to obatin the full benefit), customised to your flight along with flight plan details, navigation information, radio frequencies etc. Obviously, a safe pilot will also spend a small portion of the planning stages on basic cross checking of the software navigational plans with old fashioned real map work.

A final checklist helps ensure you have covered the major aspects of planning a cross country flight such as fuel requirements, altitudes to fly and even winds aloft so you can have your magnetic tracks already worked out. Goodbye E6B use for flight planning fuel burn, ETA's and wind correction angles.

I fully recommend that pilots (even students doing NAV’s) or hard-core simulation pilots, forget the competition to AirNav and seriously consider putting this piece of software into your digital flight bag. Primarily due to the fact that this is the only software with approved full colour Airservices maps which is one hell of an advantage as well as being generally easier to use than the others on the market.

The thing that blew me away is the cost of the software, starting at $225 for a map pack for instance Western Australian WAC’s, VTC’s, VNC’s, ERC-L and going to $300 for all VFR maps (You can also get IFR map packs).

Now THAT price is very reasonable, even for pilots flying low hours per year. In fact, if you think about the time you will save in planning a flight from fully traditional methods, you have certainly paid for the software many times over in just one or two cross country flights as well as improving your safety in the air by enhancing your ability to plan thoroughly thus reducing your cockpit workload.

The subscription for all maps currently comes to under $60 per year. So if you purchase the software and all the maps you will ever require, Sentient supplies you with all of the Airservices updates at that low price. You just cannot beat that.

Do yourself a favour and obtain a demo of the software (suited for Australia only unless you are a real hardcore overseas simulation pilot looking for reality planning). Email Paul Boxer and tell him OzPilot sent you. Alternatively give Sentient a call on (03) 9646 3331 (+613 9646 3331 for your overseas folk).

Note: I'm not employed by Sentient Software. This is just an unbiased post about how happy I am with the software and their customer service.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

How to win friends and influence people

Flight hours: 1.1
Aviation Reading: Aviation Magazines

Or should that title say, influence managers?

The company I work for has gone through a major shift in organisation models and business process. The outcome of this was to have the new leader, Terry, visit Australia to meet with the highly successful and skilled teams.

Seeing as Terry's trip was to be a very small one due to other commitments, it was asked if I can take Terry and his wife Annette for a flight around Sydney.

It was a crisp day, the weather was very calm with some inversion layers to be seen floating around. The best part of this kind of weather and the time of year is that I enjoy looking at the fog within the valleys on the northern rivers and seeing the mountain tops poking through. The downside is it can make for bad photos depending on the clouds above the aircraft and the lighting conditions.

Terry has his Private Pilots license in the U.S, however he has not exercised those rights in over 7 years. I let Terry fly for around 25 minutes and aside from the "chasing the needle" aspect, he did quite well. Annette mentioned in later correspondence that after they returned to the U.S, Terry mentioned he has the flying bug again. Excellent :-)

We did a few full laps of the city, waved hello to Johnny Howard (The passengers forgot to thank Johnny for the solidarity in Iraq) and then completed Victor 1 with a longer trek down South before returning to Bankstown.

As for influencing managers, I shouldn't have let this opportunity slip by, I could have asked for another raise as we were inbound for landing.

"Hey Terry, The concepts and techniques on landing are a bit sketchy to me at the moment, I am drawing a mental blank as to what I need to do. I don't believe I attended that class when they taught landings."

"For some reason, I have this feeling that by getting a salary increase, this wealth of knowledge will come flooding back, along with cut scenes from movies like Top Gun and Iron Eagle, and then we should be able to successfully land. Until then, I think we need to discuss the increase or other viable options."

We landed shortly after the successful negotiations. I am proud to say I can keep my job. Lucky, because I have to pay for the windshield this week!

Yeah, that is how it would have gone :-)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Maintenance hell is frozen… For now.

Flight hours: 0
Aviation Reading: Aviation Magazines

Well, what a pleasant surprise!

The mechanic (actually a L.A.M.E (Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer)) cleared the plane for another hundred hours before engine overhaul! That extra hundred hourly on-condition sign-off allows me to take the engine up to 400 hours past TBO.

The Lycoming O-320 in the plane was compression tested and oil consumption was in the middle of normal limits along with no metal being found in the oil filter.

What does this mean? Financial raping of engine overhaul/replacement has been diverted for now. Hell is frozen and is thawing over the next hundred hours of flight. It also gives me a few months reprieve in departing with my cash.

On other financial news, the windsheild will get replaced in the coming week or so.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Stallion and the Hen

Flight hours: 1.3
Aviation Reading: Aviation Magazines

It was just one of those nights.

I went out on the town with a few friends and before I knew it, plans were in place for later that weekend to take a few chicks for a flight around Sydney.

Backing up a little... My ANZAC flight went swimmingly and I will also be able to squeeze a few more flights in before the hundred hourly.

Back to the story. A tourist (Roberta aka The Italian) and the local hosting the tourist (Liana aka Mother Hen) would be blessed with a magical flight before winter wonderland arrives.

The weather was great and as I was preparing to get them into the aircraft, they both decided they need to go to the toilet (is that from excitement or fear?). Off I take them across the airfield and apron to the toilets (I don't happen to have any near my hangar).

On approaching the city, I was told that due to navigational beacon testing, I would be unable to get over the city for at least thirty minutes. What a perfect opportunity to head south on Victor 1 before returning for a round 2 and closer look of the city when testing was complete.

During the phases of Victor 1 on both South and North bound, I took the girls through Zero G a number of times.. They loved it! I didn't record the girls laughing during Zero G as they weren't funny like Wade, who screams like a girl. (You can find the sound file in a previous post).

Back to the city I was cleared to take them into the harbour. It looked great in the afternoon sun.

A few orbits later, we headed back to Bankstown for a greaser touchdown despite the worst possible visibility from the windshield and the afternoon sun glaring on it. I could barely make out what height the aircraft was in relation to the runway so instead, I opted to land by looking out the side window. Can't wait to get that windshield replaced!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Special VFR

Flight hours: 0.3 (air switch time)
Study hours: 0
Aviation Reading: Killing Zone: How and why pilots die

The weather forecast looked promising at the start of the weekend and Saturday was a great day to fly. As I was still a little tired from a previous big night out, I decided to postpone and go flying on the Sunday.

The weather changed overnight and by morning, a broken to overcast cloud cover rested at around 3000 feet. The weather was calm with almost no wind. I decided to take the flight anyway, bringing someone along for the ride. The plan was to do a simple CBD orbit and the low altitude Victor 1 route under the clouds.

Pre-flighting was a breeze and I pulled the plane out of the hangar, had a fuel truck fill her up and then started to taxi for the run-up bay. The ATIS reported visibility at greater than 8km below 3000 feet at that time.

Soon after, we took off and straight into fairly crap visibility above 1000 feet. I would have estimated a distance of around 6 kilometres by this stage and in haze. It certainly looked much better from the ground, just not great for photos.

As we approached Parramatta and then started for Pennant Hills, I told my passenger we will reschedule this flight for another time due to visibility, which by now, was more like 5 kilometres, still legal in the VFR sense as I was clear of clouds, however it could easily deteriorate further. I started a descent and swung the aircraft towards Prospect to go back to Bankstown. I did however manage a small diversion to allow my passenger to take a photo of their apartment.

The visibility in the area of Prospect and looking South-East to Bankstown must have dropped to around 3 kilometres. The ATIS was still reporting the original weather.

After my inbound call, I was needing to reference the instruments a lot more to ensure I was on track for joining downwind on 29R. I also was utilising my colour GPS, which is a much quicker way of confirming instruments along with landmark identification.

As I joined the extended downwind, the tower informed of a new ATIS, which was now Special VFR with a visibility of 3 kilometres. I was mid-downwind when the call was completed and soon after, the landing was a greaser.

On other news, the plane has only 10 hours to run before the hundred hourly maintenance release expires and we all know what this means... Prepare for financial rape! Engine replacement, windshield replacement along with most of the aircraft panels.

My next flight will be on ANZAC day and I am sure this flight will be the last before it's massive maintenance.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sydney Jaunt

Flight hours: 6 (3 via Human Mailing Tubes)
Study hours: 0
Aviation Reading: None

I finally managed to get some time in the air and not just my usual RPT flying, yes folks, I took my plane for a spin.

It ended up being a very late afternoon flight and very pleasant. I let Ajanta control the aircraft at times and she did quite well... that is if your discount the screeching of excitement at various times.

We flew over the harbour and Johnny Howard's Kirribilli residence a few times before heading back into an excellent sunset. I will post photos when AJ gets back from New Zealand.

AJ decided to extend her trip downunder up to her maximum 3 month visa limit (she has been continually extending her trip since it originally was only going to be for 3 or so weeks) and now she has decided to move to Australia. Until that time, her visa tourist day count needs resetting, so she flew over to New Zealand for a couple of weeks so that when back in Oz, the count will be zeroed off again.

The plane has around 45 hours left until its hundred hourly, which also coincides with the engine and windshield replacement along with some insurance work on the hail damaged areas. Time to buckle down on the money saving.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


Flight hours: 3 (via Human Mailing Tubes)
Study hours: 0
Aviation Reading: Aviation Safety

So much has happened over the last few weeks, this thing called life is getting in the way of my aviation adventures. At least I'm still having an adventurous life. If only I can put the two closer together. Hmm. Possible, but not for a while.

I still haven't had the time to get a podcast episode out. This episode is actually an interview with an Airservices Australia Air Traffic Controller. We need to record a few sections again and after mixing, voila!

A few weeks ago, my aircraft was parked at Bathurst when a storm came through and dumped large hail stones everywhere. The aircraft did take some damage, luckily all cosmetic, although it does reduce the value of the plane.

It was decided through different discussions with insurance and my mechanic that when the engine gets replaced (The engine is reaching TBO), it would be a good opportunity to replace the main canopy (windshield) along with replacing or repairing the hail damaged panels.

Because of the large amounts of money needed for engine replacement and repairs, I have significantly reduced my flying time so that my wallet still has a little bit of weight to it after I get financially raped.

For maintaining currency I'm going up for a spin during this week, just a little jaunt around Sydney with someone I met in India. She is going back home to the US in a week, so best we get this done when the weather clears.

Monday, February 26, 2007

India and Podcasting don't mix

Flight hours: 12 (via Human Mailing Tubes)
Study hours: 0
Aviation Reading: Flying

I believe India is jinxed for actually getting a podcast out. Working long hours, broken equipment and the Windows Vista audio drivers I'm using are not recording as well as they could. L.A.M.E Lame lame.

Appreciate the man-handling of my bags and the outcome to the microphone I was going to use whilst travelling. Slightly functioning through only ear piece, damaged head band, inability to clip the earphones into the holder and a crackling mic when recording. Joy.

I will endeavour to push out one of the planned episodes this week on my normal recording rig. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Crazy Air Deccan

Flight hours: 2.2
Study hours: 0
Aviation Reading: Plane and Pilot

I survived getting to Goa and returning to Bangalore, however feel the need to highlight the actual experience.

Air Deccan have certainly revolutionised the low cost carrier concept. It's really an unreliable airline as far as schedules and seating are concerned, but at least they did SMS me the fact that the plane had been delayed... twice.

Booking the tickets were fairly simple besides the fact that they don't take foreign credit cards online. So I had forced my newly minted IT Manager of India to pay for all of the 3 tickets on his Indian credit card. I did pay him back!

We were supposed to leave at 2:45pm, which was bumped on the same day to 3:30pm, no big deal, but on the way to the airport another SMS arrived saying 4:45pm.

After check-in, We waited quite awhile in a fairly dirty and old lounge area of Bangalore airport. There was a power point to charge our laptops and do some emailing and net surfing. Bonus.

Boarding time actually became the departure time. So at 4:45pm, we handed in our ticket stubs and jumped on a bus. The amount of pushing and shoving on the bus was unbelievable. I had to step up and use my size a number of times. I was wondering why everyone wanted to be near the door of the bus instead of spreading out and sitting down.

When we arrived at the rear of the plane for boarding (there was also another bus at the front of the plane), it became apparent why people were striving to stay near the entrance. When the bus came to a halt, there was a mad free-for-all dash for the steps of the plane. The reason being, there are no seating allocations.

I managed to secure seats and two lucky people had to leave the aircraft for not finding one in time. I wonder if the ticketing people at check-in learnt to count.

The seating space is incredibly small. I'm 6'4" and it was small enough that the person in front would not be able to recline and my legs had to be suspended in the air by raising my knees in order to fit in the seat. Oh look, a few small Indians are seated in the exit aisles and they don't want to swap seats. I hope you get trampled in an emergency.

1.2 hours behind the already changed schedule and we were airborne.

The flight was fairly non-eventful, however two things caught my attention. One being that the hostess on a number of occasions during the flight, provided some advertising for the airline and its services over the intercom.

The other being that people have the ability to "bid" on items that are normally sold in the back of the in flight magazine. The headrest cover in the seat in front had the prices on it, showing the product RRP and the minimum bid amount. The idea is that you fill in your name, seat number and bid on a bid sheet and hand it in.

Depending on the number of items available, the x number of highest bids, win those items and the winner must pay for them before the flight has terminated.

Crazy Air Deccan.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Flight hours: 0
Study hours: 0
Aviation Reading: Flight Safety Magazine (Australia)

I have been in India for almost 3 weeks and it is very apparent I am lacking two favourite activities... Flying and not working.

The flying component consists of two things:

1) Actually taking an aircraft for a flight, I wasn't impressed by the aircraft available in India (no wonder many Indian's do their flight training in places like Australia) nor the hoops I would have to jump to be allowed to take a "semi-wrecked" aircraft for a flight. I did see some nice looking ones on the flight line, but was unable to locate the owners.

2) Finishing the recording of a podcast for my show. This has been a little harder as I almost totally lost my voice in the first 10 days. I managed to get a sore throat before leaving for India and it progressed into Laryngitis from all of the talking I have been doing at work. Hopefully after this weekend, I might be able to get one released. (Thanks for all the fan mail and no, I have not been killed or kidnapped in India).

When I arrived at the office in India, it was at the same time as another employee from overseas. I could hear a Russian accent speaking American English. After quick introductions, we have been hanging out and going out on the town in Bangalore.

Did you know? for the last few years, Bangalore pubs/clubs shut at 11pm. They get busy at 10pm-10:30pm. You do the math. By curfew, I mean lights on, music off, police or security inside to escort everyone outside and then clear the crowd from the street. It is madness.

Being annoyed at this, I planned a holiday trip to Goa, a long string of beaches where the law is more relaxed and people come to party!

There is a public holiday in India on the 26th of January (Just like Australia day at home, but I will not be having lamb, I have been lucky enough not to get an Indian food enema/Delhi Belly etc thankyou very much, I'll have my lamb back in Oz). Due to this holiday, I planned to take a half day off on Thursday before the public holiday and a full day off on Monday. This saw me plan for a full 5 day holiday in Goa for both of us. Good Times! I Like! (In my best Borat voice).

Arezo, a co-worker from my Sydney office, is also arriving in Bangalore on Thursday night, so she booked a flight for Friday and cancelled training on Monday to give her a 4 day holiday in Goa.

So, the only flying I will be doing so far is in a crazy local Indian airline. I hope to take some pictures of me arriving safely in Goa. Perhaps I should fly the plane?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Flight hours: 22 (via Human Mailing Tubes)
Study hours: 2
Aviation Reading: Killer Caldwell

I haven't done any GA flying in the last few weeks as you can see. I have been thinking about it though and occasionally looking skyward.

The reason for this short hiatus is that I was over in Western Australia (thanks to Virgin Blue), for the Christmas break. I stayed on a homestead near the edge of Perth civilisation and dreamed about the possibilities of having a property with my own landing strip. One day.

We left Perth in the afternoon on NYE and landed at 10:10pm in Sydney. Just enough time to get home, change clothes, grab booze and fireworks and head out to Matty's house party. We arrived at 11:30pm. Yay!

The first week of 2007, I'm finalising my plans for the 5.5 weeks of work in India. I'm in contact with an aero club in Bangalore, so hopefully I can get some air sightseeing done.

I will be podcasting in India, albeit on inferior equipment and hopefully will get to release two planned episodes.

My flight to India via Qantas (for the frequent flyer points), would have seen me arrive in Bangalore around 3:30am. That wasn't going to happen. Instead I'm flying Singapore airlines and now arrive at a more respectable 11pm.