The correct attitude

Lesson 5

Date:- 28 July 2017

Aircraft: – ZS-BOR

Route: – FALA – Magalies GFA – FALA

METAR: – FALA 18110Z VRB05KT 9999 FEW030 17/03 Q1031 NOSIG

Hours:- 1.4

Total Hours:- 8.4

Power + Attitude = Performance
This mantra is drummed into student pilots and has been for years. But I believe it goes beyond the physics of flying. Power is easy – Either you have it or you don't. So for me it isn't as important as attitude.

On Friday I had a revelation while flying. My instructor kept telling me to lower the nose, lower the nose, get the bloody nose down while we were in level flight. I was convinced the nose was low enough (in my defense the horizon consisted of 3 fingers of haze…). 70% power and ZS-BOR (my favourite SR20 in the school) is wallowing along at 105kts. So, in line with my stated policy of listening to the instructor, I trim the nose down 2 clicks. And…. as I expected, she starts to accelerate. And descend (OK, the VSI drops) – I hear my instructor telling me to look outside. I'm about to say, "I AM looking outside" but then it occurs to me I've noticed the VSI and I can't have noticed the VSI if I was looking outside. So I bite my tongue. And then I feel it.

There is a subtle shift I feel in my butt. And she accelerates to 120kts. The nose comes up, I trim her down and bingo. We are on the correct side of the power curve. Attitude. And now we're really flying…. I can feel now in retrospect how we weren't doing so well before – definitely on the wrong side of the curve.

That got me thinking about attitude – with the right attitude you can really fly. I want to fly with the right attitude. I'm too old and have too many people depending on me to take a slapdash approach to my flying. So I make sure I dress correctly and smartly for lessons, and have a pen in my pocket, pitch up on time, and learn the flows (OK, I'm trying to learn the flows).

"Just because you aren't getting paid doesn't mean you don't have to be professional"

I can't remember where I heard this but I think it's a good philosophy. Hopefully I'm still using it when I can't fly anymore.

Equipment

I used my old iPhone and MotionX GPS to record our track for the flight – I was amazed to see we flew almost 200km – lots of back and forth through the GFA – see pic below.
28 jul

I also tried (again) to record ATC/Intercom audio from my GoPro – but as we leveled off in the cruise the cable fell out – which I thought was weird, until I looked at it and saw the plug was completely bent out of shape. Which was very weird – until I reviewed the footage – I must have kicked the cable and ruined the plug when I got into the plane. Bother. So now waiting for a new one. Which despite paying Amazon for expedited shipping will still only arrive on Thursday according to Amazon and more annoyingly on Monday NEXT week according to UPS.

The flying

This was a lesson to firm up the stalls because next week I have my stall/spin/high GFA work signoff eval – with the chief instructor – it also forms part of the dual check which they use to make sure the instructors are up to spec – which means I'm flying with a new instructor for this. So we did power off, power on, landing and clean config stalls, reinforced HASELL checks, and even a quick rudder spiral dive for good measure. A selection of the stalls are shown in the video below – I was surprised at how benign the power on stall was – definitely less of an event than I imagined – still not something to take lightly. I'm finally nailing the power off stall – much less aggressive forward pressure and more of a check forward – still a bit hard on the right rudder as power comes in – interestingly I didn't appreciate this fully until reviewing the GoPro footage – I do have an inkling of how much to put in now though. I did appreciate it when the instructor said, "your'e good enough to get signed out, but I know you want to do them better, so let's do some more". – that's the attitude.

Landing was much better – although I did round out a meter or two too high so we had a very positive touchdown – but all in all not too bad at all.

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#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)

#NotFlying

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..
image

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.

So.

ROUTE:-  FALA – Magalies GFA – FALA

AIRCRAFT:- Cirrus SR-20 ZS-JAB

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….

First (Official) Lesson

Date:- 24/6/2017

Aircraft:- ZS-BOR (SR20) – Avidyne Avionics

Route:- FALA – Magaliesberg GFA – FALA

ZS-BOR

First official lesson – briefing required. Had an hour long briefing on the effects of aircraft controls – a great revision for me (I thought I knew most of this stuff already being aviation mad all my life) but there were a number of finer points that it was good to get a hold of. There is a lot of physics. Yes. Physics.

Fortunately in the dark recesses of my mind lies rattling an old physics file from when I started anaesthesia training – physics is quite NB for anaesthetists. We reacquainted ourselves with Bernoulli and Newton, drew aeroplanes on the whiteboard (which may or may not have borne a striking resemblance to dolphins..) #insidejoke

Time for paperwork – NOTAMs to read, Weather to check, aircraft folio to check etc.

Then off to preflight. I was quite concerned earlier in the day that the weather would not be good enough to fly – it was cold and cloudy and Lanseria was reporting IFR only with the field in mist. Fortunately as it warmed up the clouds cleared and the weather just got better and better.

The Cirrus is a great aircraft to pre-flight – there is a nice flow to the process moving carefully round the plane from the left door towards the tail, round the tail, round the right wing, to the engine and prop and then round the left wing back to the door – I find that keeping a hand on the plane at all times makes it easier to not forget something.

There are a few funny things – the stall warning horn needs to be checked prior to the walk round – it is done with the BAT1 and BAT2 switches and the avionics on (which is part of the pre-preflight but needs the right hand door open which is a bit fiddly) And you need to kiss the wing (or apply negative pressure to the stall sensor – we can’t think of any other non anorak way to do it other than sucking on the port). Then you have to get back into the plane, extend full flaps,  kill the battery and avionics switches and then start the walk around. I’ll do a more detailed post on the walk around at some point in the future.

Winds from the East meant a runway 07 takeoff, which means I had a LONG time to get used to taxiing the aircraft. Which is still for me the hardest part. The nose wheel castors, and you’re not supposed to ride the brakes or use differential braking as the primary guidance tool. So you have to increase the power and let the prop wash turn the aircraft with the rudder. Which is fine when you’re going slowly/uphill. Not so cool when on the downhills.. We spent 8minutes doing the run up checks. Hopefully that will get quicker – no need for shortcuts but I need to memorise those flows…

Takeoff was better (RIGHT Rudder! RIGHT Rudder, MORE right rudder – I now know WHY you need right rudder btw) and off to the GFA we go…

Major goals for this lesson were to get a feel for the primary and secondary effects of the controls. Which was as simple as it seems – but for me the major challenge remains keeping my head out of the cockpit. I think I’m born to be an instrument pilot. Too many years of flightsim and too much gazing at screens is an issue. Those lovely 10″ Avidyne displays seem to lock my gaze like the sirens of mythology.

Interestingly my instructor says she can tell without looking when I’m heads down in the displays – apparently there is a slight lag between reality and what is presented on the artificial horizon/HSI and this delay means that I’m continually behind the aeroplane. This leads to oscillations. I’m told these are uncomfortable. I think this means I’m not supposed to be doing that….

Manoeuvres done:-

  • Banking
  • Climbing
  • Descending
  • Effect of Rudder
  • Pitch and Power with flaps in and extended
  • “Virtual go-arounds” (more of these to come I’d guess)
  • Spiral Dives

 

Spiral Dives

I was warned about these in the briefing. Apparently some people find them “unpleasant”. Not me. These are fun.  Straight and level flight. Add aggressive rudder and hold. Secondary effect of the rudder is to cause rotation or banking in direction of application. As you bank, the nose slips down and there you have it – a fairly aggressive dive.

Recovery is simple and in this order – Neutralize offending control input. Roll out of bank and simultaneously reduce to idle power. Apply back pressure on stick and as nose comes up add throttle while avoiding ballooning (very easy – not).

Why are these spiral dives so important? Because these are what kill pilots in IMC (apart from CFIT of course). Then they are called graveyard spirals. I recorded the flight on my GoPro – the dives don’t look as spectacular as they felt, but, looking at the horizon – on one of the aileron induced spirals we had a bank angle of around 70degrees…

 

Back next week with some more….

 

Jumping Through Hoops (i.e Getting a Class II medical)

So part of the process of getting the PPL is collecting a Class 2 medical. Which should be a simple process for a nominally healthy 41y old like myself.  (Well, that’s what I thought)

For a Class 2 medical the following are required.

  • Stress ECG
  • Lung Function Test
  • Visual assessment
  • Auditory assessment
  • Chest X-ray
  • Fasting lipogram (cholesterol)

Thus far there is good news and bad news for my medical.

The good news – My eyes have not deteriorated significantly at all in the 3 years since I last had them tested. I have excellent hearing (apparently supranormal). My chest X ray is pristine (which is always a relief given the massive occupational exposure I have/have had to Tuberculosis (it goes with the territory when working in SA)

The bad news – It’s on the ECG at the top of the page. This is the 2min post exercise ECG. Now understand that a stress ECG requires one to get to 90% of Max Heart Rate. I got to 99%. On climbing off the treadmill the person doing the test said to me “Try not to breathe too much”. OK then, that is easier said than done. So I try to. Breathe. Slowly. – as a result I basically end up doing a Valsalva and the massive change in heart rate seen on the rhythm strip is a direct result of that.

It’s called sinus arrhythmia and it’s normal. Well. It’s normal for the average man in the street but it needs checking out to be called normal for a medical. So, it’s off to the cardiologist for me.

Fortunately, my wife is a general practitioner and was able to refer me to a cardiologist without a 6month waiting period. Tomorrow I see said heart doc and I hope he’s able to give me the all clear…

 

#holdingthumbs

Choosing a flying school

It’s a strange truism that it’s quite difficult to learn something unless you have someone teach it to you. So it goes without saying that learning to fly is going to require me to choose a school.

Let me state at the outset that the school where I did my initial flight impressed me. They are enthusiastic, seemed to be quite well organised and have a number of aircraft. However, there are some disadvantages to learning to fly in Bronkhorstspruit. Firstly, it is A. LONG. WAY. AWAY. 95km door to door requiring me to drive on one of the busiest highways in the country where accidents and heavy delays are a daily occurrence. Early on a Saturday morning it took 70min to get there. 70min to get back. Add to that an hour briefing, hour flight, hour debrief and it looks like a whole morning to get an hour of flying in. Secondly, there is no controlled airspace out there (unless you climb above 7500′ in which case ORTIA ATC tend to get a bit annoyed apparently) – so when/if I eventually transition to busier airspace dealing with other aircraft and ATC in controlled situations may be difficult. On the plus side, they are nominally cheaper, but as I later became aware, their hourly rate didn’t include insurance. Add to that 140km wear and tear on the car and it isn’t looking that cheap any more.

So I thought I’d look at something a little closer to home. I asked around for some recommendations – I have a colleague learning at FAGC – they are VERY expensive – operating C172s. Another contact suggested 43airschool – which turns out doesn’t have a branch in Jhb for ab intitio training – they put me onto Cirrus Flight Training (CDC Aviation) at Lanseria.

Now THIS is a pro outfit. I went out to have a look and have a demo flight and was taken round by Nick, one of the guys working his way through the CPL. They seem very organised – have a fancy system for flight booking, have onsite Cirrus maintenance and have 5 aircraft for training all SR20’s some equipped with the Avidyne Entegra and some with the Garmin Perpective avionics. There seems to be a strong culture of safety in the organization which is appreciated – especially as I get older I’m becoming more acquainted with my mortality. Did I mention they train in the Cirrus?


Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland, Cirrus Design SR-20 N262MP@ZRH;10.03.2012 (6830458136), CC BY-SA 2.0

They hooked me up with an instructor and we set off to preflight the aircraft – ZS-BOR. Michelle gave me a quick briefing and then took me round the preflight – more on that in another post. It was time to fly!

There is a lot to say about the Cirrus which I hope to explore in other posts as I make progress – suffice it to say that it is a beast of an airplane. You really feel connected to it – the side stick feels natural for a long time computer flight simmer, and the performance is not too shabby…..

So there it is – I will be doing my training on the sleek Cirrus at CDC. Lots of hoops to jump through but we’re on our way!