#notflying (on Purpose) – Stalling and Guineafowl

So it seems stalling isn’t such a big issue after all.

alternate textSexy little Gen 5 SR22T ZS-BET

Yeah, that’s not quite right is it? Stalling is a big issue and should be avoided at all costs. Except when you try to do it deliberately. When you’re learning to fly. I was fairly anxious about this lesson but as it turns out, my anxiety was misplaced.

Lesson 4

Aircraft: – ZS-BOR (my favourite)

Route:- FALA – GFA – FALA 

METAR:- FALA 191300Z 05004KT 310V120 CAVOK 21/M04 Q1028 NOSIG

Hours:-  1.6

Total Hours:- 7.0

What an awesome flight this was. The ubiquitous Lanseria haze was still making itself known so horizons were iffy at best and almost impossible (when flying into the sun) at other times.  I’m not sure if this aircraft (BOR) is a better behaved one than the previous day’s one (ZIP) but straight and level was MUCH easier to achieve, and the turns were a LOT prettier than yesterday’s. A bit of decent altitude and then it was time for the HASELL checks –

  • Height(>2000ft AGL),
  • Aircraft (configured for maneuver)
  • Safety
  • Security(everything strapped down/put away – no anvils in the back seat!)
  • Engine Full rich, boost on, indicators in green
  • LookOut
  • Landing strip for emergency landing.

I keep forgetting the mnemonic so included it here for my own edification.

Then clean stalls – this is a great demonstration of the delay in the pressure instruments – on the AHI it looks like we’re nose level but the nose is down… pull back, pull back, pull back some more and a hefty (surprisingly so) amount of LEFT rudder and then stall warning (and then to the break after a few imminents) – buffet is definitely there but not exaggerated – and she drops the nose but provided no sloppy flying (ailerons level…) no wing drop at all… It gets VERY, VERY quiet in the cockpit as the slipstream decreases. Stalls in the landing config very different – there is a significantly lower pitch angle and again she stalls beautifully – no wobbly wing drops or anything like that.

I’m led to believe that a spin CAN be induced but it requires dedicated action on the part of the pilot.. Not going to be that guy.

So what about the guineafowl? As we were coming back to Lanseria for joining it was obvious that the circuit and approaches were very busy – 3 aircraft including us coming from the GFA, a heli inbound and at least one 737 on an RNAV approach. So we’re listening out and then we hear someone going around. And then another plane goes around. Then they have to close the runway to get someone to chase the bloody guineafowl away and in the meantime we get told to extend our downwind, there are at least 2 aircraft doing orbits and 2 737’s holding for takeoff. We get base clearance but get told to keep the speed up so we chuck out 50% flaps and aim for 105, turn final and then race along in level flight to the descent point, start descent, stick out remaining flaps at 700ft AGL and make a reasonably brisk approach but bang on profile, 80 over the fence, 75 over the numbers and out of the corner of my eye I see the instructor take her hand off the stick – it’s my landing. And it’s not too shabby. And we still have to keep the power up to get the heck off the runway before we become a nose ornament on one of those Mango 737s waiting for us to land. Good fun…. (did I mention I made my first unassisted landing?)

Next time it’s power on and accelerated stalls – can’t wait.

Lesson 3 – Turnin’ and Burnin’

Route:  FALA – Magalies GFA – FALA

Aircraft: – ZS-ZIP (SR20 G3 Avidyne Avionics)

METAR:- FALA 181300Z 28007KT 210V360 CAVOK 19/02 Q1029 NOSIG

Hours: – 1.7

Total Hours to Date: 5.4

The plan for this trip was to ease back into the aircraft after almost 2 weeks of not flying. As previously mentioned I was feeling a little apprehensive about stalls and wanted to hone my flying a little. I’d consider that goal achieved after this lesson. 1.7h in the logbook.. So what went right?

Taxiing is definitely better. The free castoring nosewheel on the Cirrus takes a bit of getting used to but I found I had more control and wasn’t applying both power and brakes at the same time (apparently that is frowned upon – who’d have thunk it – and my instructor calls it bad airmanship) – i find half the battle is anticipating the end of the turn – so that was definitely better.

Last time my left turns were good. This time, not so much. This time my right turns were ok and the left were not so great – still, I think we did about 703 turns over the GFA (Ok, maybe that’s an exaggeration) and I think they’re coming right.

What still needs work? – relaxing in the cockpit. I was very tense for some reason – to the extent that I felt at one point that I was applying full pressure to both pedals the whole time – net result being a numb left leg (not ideal) although i think the seat may have been a bit funny on this aircraft (I haven’t flown her before). And then there was the approach. Oh dear. Not so awesome.

Cirrus procedure calls for downwind to be flown at 50% flap at 105kts, base at 90kts 100% flap. Downwind was ok – joined nicely and had good awareness of speed and flap. As I rolled out onto base it just didn’t feel right. There was a reason for this and that was airspeed – i was short about 10kts. Which meant we weren’t descending enough. Obviously we tried to correct this but turning finals I was high and slow. Also we flew a reasonably short final so we ended up divebombing the runway. I followed that spectacular move by a very affirmative flare (which as can be guessed from the story was about 5ft too high) and we dropped onto the runway, bounced once and then had control. Back to ye olde drawing board.

Valuable lesson learned – good landings start with good approaches. Good approaches start with good joining and circuit flying. And – the aeroplane is no respecter of confidence. I was patting myself on the back thinking I’d flown reasonably well. Pride etc.

To my instructor’s credit she didn’t yell at me but we spent a good few minutes debriefing the landing and how it had gone wrong. Well, there will be plenty more. Got another lesson today where we are going to beard the stall dragon…. Am I nervous? A little. But it will be awesome. (And hopefully I’ll remember the SD card for the GoPro. #facepalm)


Gorgeous day today.

FALA 150900Z 35008KT 320V020 CAVOK 18/04 Q1024 NOSIG

Ok. There is a bit of a crosswind on the 07/25 but it’s irrelevant. Because I’m not flying. And why is that? Because on call….

And there is apparently a massive cold front cruising in. Will probably be there just in time for next lesson on Tuesday. (Of course)


Incipient Stall lesson

(See what I did there?)

My next lesson is due to be on slow flight and stalls. Now I know that these are safe and a necessary part of flight training but the whole concept worries me somewhat. I have 3.7hours of training under the belt so far which is essentially 3 lessons. My instructor says she is very happy with my progress and wants to get all the high work done to get me into the circuit.

I bought the (Excellent) Air Pilot Manual book 1 “Flying training” which used to be edited by Trevor Thom but has now been taken over by others. It has great explanations of the airwork required for the various exercises and I’ve been reading up on the slow flight and stall exercises. And I don’t believe I am comfortable enough with the airplane at the moment to do that exercise – there are lots of warnings about entering the stall regime in level flight and being very precise with speeds, attitude and power. And I don’t think I’m quite there yet.

Also, by the time I fly that lesson it will be 13days since I last flew. So the whole thing makes me a little nervy. I’ve decided to book another lesson which is not as goal directed prior to the stall lesson – just so I can get more comfortable with the plane and the basic maneuvers.

Does this make me chicken? Maybe. But I don’t really care. I’d rather be comfortable behind the controls and ahead of the aeroplane than behind the plane and uncomfortable.. And in the back of my mind always lies the knowledge that a spin (although it is apparently almost impossible to spin the Cirrus) in this plane is only recoverable by using the CAPS. I don’t want to have to pull the CAPS.


Attitude Flying – Lesson 2

So its been a bit of a bad time for flying of late. What with the persistent winter inversion and ongoing IMC at Lanseria and then someone apparently broke an engine mount on one of the Avidyne equipped SR20s. Which prompted the flying school to pull all the Avidyne SR20s off the line and inspect the engine mounts. This is an advantage of having the maintenance facility for the aircraft on site. The engineers know the flight instructors and won’t send them off into the wild blue yonder in dodgy aircraft. Bad news for me was that I had a lesson cancelled. Better safe….

But there’s always another day. And that was Thursday. Lots of work to do in the plane. On the plus side – my NFlightCam GoPro ATC Cable arrived on Monday so was able to use that. Now if I’d actually managed to plug it in correctly I’d have ATC audio. But I didn’t. Next time..

But back to Thursday. Got to fly the lovely ZS-JAB complete with her  faux USAF markings..

Actually, I wonder if this isn’t one of the Cirruses used by the USAF for ab-initio training and then sold on? Apparently these SR20’s are some of the highest time Cirruses in the world.

First hurdle was that I managed to flood the engine. #facepalm. Fixed that. Instructor says, “OK, you can do some of the radio calls.”

So I belt out the first contact. She looks at me sideways and says… “Are you sure you aren’t a pilot already?” Then I have to confess the hours of online Flight Simulation and virtual ATC I’ve been doing for years and years. At least that’s one thing I don’t have to worry about.


ROUTE:-  FALA – Magalies GFA – FALA


Hours:- 1.4

Goals: – Exercises 6-10

Taxiing is coming right!! It’s less like a runaway shopping cart and more like an aero plane. I’ll get on top of that free castoring nosewheel yet!

Takeoff was OK-ish – overdid the right rudder and really struggled to find centerline again on the roll but liftoff was good – was able to find Vy easily at 95kts. It was very bumpy en route to the GFA and pretty hazy making heading holding difficult. Turning left over Hartebeespoort dam we flew UNDER a vulture. Which was really cool. (Better to fly under than into…).

On to Straight and Level – same speeds, different attitude. Climbs, descents, turns. I’m starting to get the feel of the plane and looking OUT is definitely an improvement on staring at the panel. Turns are going to take some work. Left turns are okay – the spinner traces the horizon nicely at 30deg of bank. Right turns are harder because I see mostly sky and while the spinner may well be tracing the horizon, I can’t see it. But after (quite) a lot of turns they were getting easier.

Back into FALA airspace and I was back on the radio – not making an a*se of myself at least. I’m starting to recognize the landmarks around the airport which will help. I know where the turn point onto final approach to 07 is. My approach and round out  was “very good” (according to instructor) but the landing… Well let’s just say that if you hear the instructor saying “don’t fight me” as you’re about to touch down it’s probably not a good thing.  Apparently I was trying to bank the plane left in ground effect. On debriefing it would appear that as I flared my wrist was externally rotating which was twisting the stick to the left – leading to bank. I’m going to have to concentrate very hard on that.

Here is some audio free GoPro footage from the lesson.

Next lesson 19 July…..

When VFR is not VFR

Yesterday was supposed to be a fly day. My flight school (Cirrus Training at Lanseria) books 2h slots for an hour lesson and 2h slot for an hour briefing (for those lessons that need a briefing) before.  We were scheduled to do the “straight and level” briefing and then fly the exercise.

A briefing is essentially a one-on-one tutorial covering an aspect of flight which then followed by a flying lesson where the concepts are solidified and demonstrated. I had 9h00 to 13h00 carved out for this. I really look forward to the lessons – so from Thursday I was keeping an eye on the meteosat images (for approaching fronts) and from Friday, watching the METAR and TAF for Lanseria (FALA). For those not in the know – the METAR is a coded report on the current weather and the TAF is essentially a long term (16-24h) outlook on the weather to come.

So keeping an eye on both gives you an idea about the conditions at the airfield. IF they are created at the airfield. (Which I suspect they may not be….) Driving in on Saturday morning the ground frequency reports were indicating ground fog and haze with a visibility of 5000m – with the airfield operating in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) – despite a METAR which suggested CAVOK (Ceiling and Visual OK). Interestingly weather at home was severe clear but at FALA not so much. I suspect it has a lot to do with the informal settlements in the area – when it’s cold there is a lot of heating by burning wood etc and because the field lies in a bit of a valley the pollution gets trapped under the inversion layer.

No problem I think… give it an hour or so and it’ll burn off / blow away. So we start our brief. The brief is, in a word, hectic. I’m not sure how people without some physics in their education manage. Also, I was very much under the impression that I understood lift and drag. Apparently I didn’t. But thanks to some very intense (my instructor takes the briefings seriously and explains things well – lots of colors(!)) lectures I can now expound on induced and profile drag, Centre of Gravity:centre of pressure couples and my personal fave… Power Required Curves.

Straight and level briefing done, we stick our heads out onto the apron and… get blown back into the office. Yes, it’s clearing. BUT now there is 25kts blowing across the runway. Demonstrated cross wind landing limit in the Cirrus SR20 is 26kts. ( Instructor’s comment was that this should not be regarded as something achievable but was demonstrated by test pilots) Guess we aren’t going flying. We decided to knock out some more briefings – this will decrease the amount of time I’ll need to carve out for future lessons. We did Climbing. Then Descending. Then Turns. FOUR hours of briefing.

Induced Drag

I’d consider the morning adequately seized. Could we have flown? Maybe. Would it have been safe? No. The ONE thing I am absolutely determined to do is to train safe, and then fly safe. I really like the school’s approach to safety. My instructor and I see eye-to-eye on safety. The aircraft has great safety features. Is General Aviation dangerous? Maybe. But when I read the accident reports, it’s usually quite easy to see what went wrong. And a lot of the time it’s flying in marginal weather. So we reschedule the flying. I can fly any day. But only if I’ve made good decisions on marginal days….. Blue skies….