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Down the Sydney coast with my father – an unforgettable flight

View flight photos here

Yesterday, Easter Monday, my father and I flew down the coast of Sydney to land at Wollongong, then returned to home base. It was a magnificent flight, for many reasons but most significantly for the sheer joy and pleasure that it clearly brought to my father. I’m blogging about this one because I don’t want to forget the sheer enjoyment of it.

Dad has flown with me before, just the once, not long after I attained my GFPT. (This, for those who may not know, is what used to be called your “restricted license” and in my case permitted me to fly within the environs of the Bankstown training area.) But that was about a year ago, and wasn’t a particularly memorable flight, marred slightly by some radio problems. And the opportunity to take Dad flying doesn’t come up much as he lives interstate from me. So an Easter visit from him offered the opportunity to finally show him what it’s all about.

Weather

Sunday was a bit questionable weather-wise and the evening brought some moderately severe storms, prompting some careful review of the aviation weather forecasts. However, both the aviation forecasts (AirServices Australia) and the general forecast (WeatherZone) offered reasonably encouraging news, so I was fairly confident we’d at least get a start. The possibility of isolated showers was out there and it was clearly a case of “see how things look in the morning”. I’ve learned from experience that crap weather the night before a flight is in itself no firm predictor of similar conditions on the following morning. Once or twice in the past I’ve cancelled a flight because the weather “looks bad” only to rue my decision when the day in question turns out fine – or at least, perfectly flyable.

And, I was right. Yesterday morning dawned cool and clear, with a light to moderate southwesterly breeze blowing. It was absolutely stunning.

Pre-Flight

I’d booked SFM, a club Cherokee that I’ve not yet flown. However a quick (and well advised) familiarisation check of the cabin, controls and instruments revealed that the seat belt retractable shoulder sash was firmly stuck at about 3/4 retracted and there was absolutely no budging it.

Faced with the choice of trying to get some assistance to get it fixed, or grabbing an older but perfectly serviceable aircraft (FTU), I chose the latter option.

Fuelled up and pre-flight checks done, we returned to the clubhouse to file the flight plan, check the latest weather and the ATIS. All continued to look lovely. We were started up and away only slightly behind schedule, which in my experience for a cross-country flight of any kind is not bad going.

Harbour Scenic

First main leg of the flight was (hopefully) to do a Harbour Scenic, what I consider to be the jewel in the crown of flights available to light GA aircraft in the Sydney Basin. However you can’t always get clearance to do this flight – depends on prevailing conditions and controller workload at Sydney Airport – so you never quite know until you get out there if it’s going to happen or not. Filing your flight plan early, as we did, helps – but it’s no guarantee.

Taking off to the west and tracking north over Parramatta, I radioed Sydney Radar approaching Pennant Hills from the south and made my initial clearance request. I was directed to track to Longreef, as per the standard procedure, and stand by. Sounded good.

Reaching Hornsby and turning right for the coast just over the railway sheds, I was pleased when Sydney Radar contacted me with the instruction to “squawk zero four six one and contact Sydney Departures on 123.0 when approaching Longreef for clearance”. Awesome! That looked as though they were going to let me in. So with 0461 on my transponder (and confirmation from Radar that they had me identified) I proceeded for the coast, descending to the required altitude of 1500 feet just by the time I overflew the Narrabeen Lakes. Turning south for Longreef over the golf course, I radioed for and received my clearance for Harbour Scenic One, and I was off headed straight for Sydney CBD and the Harbour Bridge. Conditions were CAVOK and visibility was crystal clear, I was able to head straight for the Bridge with a clear visual fix.

Once approaching the bridge I throttled back slightly and put out one stage of flap to slow us down a bit for a better look. We then executed the standard 2 left hand orbits (remaining east of the Bridge, north of the Opera House and west of Garden Island as required), Dad enthusiastically snapping away with the camera on my smart phone so that I could finally have a visual record of one of my Harbour Scenic flights.

Orbits done – and with yesterday’s flawless weather we got some truly magnificent views – I retracted the flap, throttled up and headed east over the harbour. I requested and received permission to track directly out through the Sydney Heads and descend directly into Victor One South, the low-level coastal route that runs from Longreef in the north to Seacliff Bridge in the south. Once Radar had us out off the heads and over the water, I was cleared to descend to 500 feet and switch to the Victor One radio frequency.

Victor One

It was just one of those rare, gorgeous days, not only due lovely flying weather but also because we seemed to have the sky all to ourselves. There simply was no one up there with us.

Dad enjoyed this bit in particular I think. It’s hard not to. Down low, you’re up close to the magnificent sandstone cliffs that mark nearly the entire southern coastline of Sydney. We could clearly see the heavier traffic in and out of Sydney Airport on our way past.

We coastal flew the beach at Cronulla, then passing south of Jibbon Point, I climbed to 1000 feet. I’m always happier with at least 1000 feet of air below me, preferably more (not that much of the Sydney coastline gives you any decent forced landing options). Past Marley Beach, then Wattamolla, my signal to climb higher as it marks the southern end of the 1500 feet control step. I climbed to 2000 feet and levelled out.

Notwithstanding a little mild turbulence due to the effects of the westerly wind blowing over the coastal ridges and peaks of the Royal National Park, it was a reasonably smooth ride down to Seacliff Bridge. I switched radio frequencies (back to the area frequency 124.55) and consulted my Visual Terminal Chart. This final part of the southwards leg to Wollongong was new to me: on previous flights in the area I’d approached only from the west.

Not much to my surprise, I didn’t need to work too hard to identify relevant ground features to determine where I was. Not far south of Stanwell Park and Seacliff, you’re already abeam the northern sprawl of the Wollongong area with districts and townships like Thirroul. And it’s pretty hard to miss the dark rusty red hues of the sprawling Port Kembla steelworks on the northern reaches of Lake Illawarra, let alone the massive chimney stack on the headland. At nearly 800 feet in height it’s definitely an attraction you do want to miss …

Once south of Port Kembla and and established at a circuit overfly altitude of 1500 feet, I headed southwest over Lake Illawarra in search of Wollongong airport. Again, fairly hard to miss as it’s located right on the southeastern reaches of the lake, not too far south of the easy-to-spot Dapto dog track. I picked the airport up visually about 5 or 6 nautical miles out. Having already checked the AWIS weather report and picked up some radio traffic indicating that the 16 (north to south) runway was in use, I decided to head slightly inland at overfly altitude and then descend to circuit height of 1000 feet on the “dead” side. This allowed me to join the circuit on the crosswind leg and get properly established in the circuit for approach and landing, also (hopefully, by virtue of my radio calls) fully alerting other traffic in the area to my presence and intentions.

(I could just as validly have joined the circuit on the downwind leg, or – less preferably – on the base or even a straight-in final approach, but from my own personal experience, recommendations from others and some of the safety reading I’ve done, I’m a reasonably big fan of doing the full circuit at CTAF aerodromes where possible.)

Ironically, the importance of staying alert and observant in and around the aerodrome area was reinforced to me by virtue of the fact that despite my crosswind, downwind and base radio calls, a light aircraft on the ground announced his intention to “enter and roll” just as I was turning on final and having to delay my radio call due to the broadcast of another aircraft departing the area. I quickly made my “on final” call with only the mildest tone of reroof, fully prepared and ready to go around if no response from the aircraft on the ground. However, he was quick to respond with a call of “holding”, leaving me free to execute a crosswind landing that to be frank was probably only a 5 out of 10. However, we made ground safely and taxied to the parking area next to the HARS (Historical Aviation Restoration Society) museum hangar for a stretch of legs.

We had a half hour of aviation geekdom, gawking in at the lovely aircraft on display in the hangar, especially the RAAF DC3 and the fully operational Lockheed Super Constellation, named (naturally) “Connie”. Dad loved this bit, which was rewarding for me too, as I’d envisioned and planned this as a fun part of the trip for him ever since my first visit to Wollongong back before my first cross-country solo.

Back home: north and inland to Bankstown

In striking contrast to the 94 nautical mile outwards leg of our trip, the inwards/home leg was only 45 miles – it’s a much more direct trip between Bankstown and Wollongong directly overland via the Royal National Park rather than going the coastal route. I expected that the trip would take us less than half an hour, and indeed with the moderate southwesterly behind us we achieved that easily. Having climbed up to 3500 feet to clear the escarpment and head north to Appin, we quickly picked up the Hume Highway and – by the simple device of keeping the highway just on our right – we stayed well clear of the Holsworthy Army Base restricted area and enjoyed an easy trip leading us straight to the junction of the M5 and M7 motorways, with the 2RN radio tower just beyond.

(I have long wanted to do another trip back in via 2RN, as I’ve never found it particularly easy to locate visually. It has a strobe nearby, which I’ve sometimes picked up but which isn’t always easy to spot on a bright and clear day. As things turned out, I dialled the 2RN frequency of 576 kHz into my Automatic Direction Finder and used the ADF needle to guide me in. With the knowledge that the tower is just beyond the M5/M7 junction I was able to school myself on the surrounding ground features a bit more, and feel more confident about locating the tower without the aid of the ADF the next time I fly in from that direction.)

Making my inbound call to Bankstown Tower at 2RN, I received an unusual traffic instruction, specifically to track direct over the control tower at 1500 feet to remain clear of a Beechcraft Duchess which was about to take off from 29R. Halfway there I radioed to confirm the instruction, just to be sure … then, reporting overhead the tower, I was directed to join crosswind for 29R as per the usual procedure. He chipped me slightly for flying too far west before turning crosswind, however he wasn’t unkind and quickly cleared me for my visual approach to the runway. I quickly dropped down to circuit height and, receiving an early landing clearance, turned base conscious of the growing crossswind. This time the landing was a 6/10, nowhere close to my best, but I, pax and plane were home safely and in one piece.

Reflecting

Hands down, this is one of the best flights, overall, that I’ve done. Others have, of course, been special for various reasons – my cross country solo flights, flying into Canberra’s controlled airspace, my first Victor One/Harbour Scenic, taking my son flying, and of course my GFPT and PPL flight tests. But yesterday’s – because I was flying my dad, who is significantly responsible for my love of aviation; because Dad is by far the most enthusiastic passenger I’ve had so far, and he had an absolute ball flying with me; because it was my fastest visit to another airport since I qualified for my PPL; and because it was just such a spectacularly beautiful day that showed off scenic Sydney in all it’s glory; for all these reasons, plus the fact that it was another successful, enjoyable and instructive flight – it was probably the best one so far.

This is why I learned to fly.

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Navs 3 and 4: Going south this time, and first cross-country solo

Date: 19/04/2011 to 20/04/2011

Hours flown Dual Command Instruments
This flight 2.00 2.00 0.00
Total to date 40.14 6.60 2.00

Seems I have hit the wall in terms of blogging daily. Due general pace of life I have been unable to blog after each flight recently, so I’ll continue my trend of wrapping up recent flights in a single, catch-up blog.

Focus of this entry is nav flights 3 and 4. Both flights were very similar in terms of flight plan, tracks and locations. Nav 3 was special in being a checkride with Ashley (the Grade 1 instructor who reviewed me prior to my first solo and first area solo flights), and Nav 4 in being my first solo cross-country flight! Nav 3 took place on Tuesday (19/04/11) and Nav 4 on the next day (Wed 20/04/11).

Nav 3 – Bankstown – Goulburn – Bankstown (or was it?)

After my 2 apparently successful initial nav flights (see entries for Cessnock and Cowra/Orange flights), John evidently felt that it was time to send me up again with Ashley to see if I was ready for my first cross-country solo. So this flight was planned as a foray out over the ranges via Warragamba and Bindook down to Goulburn and return to Bankstown. The wrinkle in all of this is that Ashley was required to give me a diversion to another waypoint or destination en route, but he wasn’t allowed to tell me where in advance. So I didn’t know if we’d make Goulburn and then divert elsewhere on return, or whether I’d even make Goulburn.

The flight was in FTU, an aircraft I’d flown in only a couple of times, very early on in my initial flight training. Turned out it didn’t even have a working ADF (Automated Direction Finder), meaning I couldn’t make use of the NDB (Non Directional Beacon) navigation aides en route and had to rely solely on dead reckoning. It wasn’t bad practice actually.

The flight very nearly didn’t take place. FTU had apparently experienced severe spark plug fouling earlier in the day, and the same problem occurred when I was doing my run-up checks. (Very low RPM’s and rough idling when I checked my right magneto during run-ups). So we had to taxy over to the other side of Bankstown Airport to Schofields’s maintenance provider to see if we could fix the problem. A new spark plug on the lower left hand side of the engine and we were on our way, aided by the tower’s permission for us to take of (unusually) on 29 Centre to avoid me having to taxy all the way back to the opposite side of the airport again.

I have to say that FTU handled quite strangely on both takeoffs I made in her that day. During climb-out, normally I have to roll the trim wheel back a few turns to trim the nose upwards to maintain best-rate-of-climb speed of about 75-79 KIAS. But in FTU I seemed to have to roll the trim wheel forwards – quite disconcerting at first. Made me wonder if the neutral position on the trim wheel in FTU is correctly marked. It certainly felt on climb-out as thought I had to force the nose down, rather than the usual situation of needing to pull back on the control column to bring the nose up. Weird. But anyway …

Out over Warragamba Dam at 4,000 feet and then turned left towards Bindook, a major NDB/VOR (Very High Frequency Omnidirectional Radar) installation located south-west of Warragamba in the Great Dividing Range. Notwithstanding my lack of a working ADF, my track to Bindook was almost spot-on and Ashley pointed it out to me as we approached it – a cleared area amidst wooded hills.

Over Bindook, Ashley sprung the diversion on me. Could I please divert to Wollongong (YWOL), sorry we won’t be going to Goulburn today.

Dragging out my map, protractor and navigation ruler, I worked out a new track to YWOL fairly easily, along with an estimated time of arrival, and turned left to find Wollongong. Much to my pleasure, about 15 minutes later we dropped over the escarpment around Wollongong to find Albion Park Airport directly in front of us! Doing an orbit to drop down from 5,500 feet to circuit height of about 1,000 feet, we joined mid-crosswind for Wollongong’s 16 runway and made a pretty decent landing. Given the option, I elected to stop at YWOL for 15 minutes (as opposed to doing a touch-and-go landing) as I was getting a bit sore and wanted to stretch my legs.

As it happened, Ash both lives in the YWOL area and did his flying training there, so he knows the airport intimately. We taxyed over to park outside the HARS (Historical Aircraft Restoration Society) hangar, grabbed a bottle of water and had a quick peek into the HARS maintenance hangar. All manner of wonders lay within, which I’ll describe later in this blog.

Our break over, we started up and headed off again, making a downwind departure from runway 16 and climbing quickly to 3,500 feet (to clear the escarpment around YWOL) and heading more or less due north for Appin and Menangle Park. Once at Menangle Park (which is also an inbound reporting point for Camden Aerodrome), we map-crawled the rest of the way home to 2RN and Bankstown, remaining just to the left of the Hume Highway to avoid infringing upon Camden Aerodrome controlled airspace to our left and on the Holsworthy Army Barracks and military zone to our right. Joining crosswind for runway 29R at Bankstown, I made a really damn good landing and we were home. Ashley declared himself more than satisfied and that I was good to go solo the following day, weather permitting.

Nav 4 – Bankstown – Mittagong – Wollongong – Bankstown

Although I’d planned on heading solo to Cessnock for my first solo (having been there on my Nav 1 flight), John and Ashley were reluctant to send me there as they felt that I needed at least one more flight through the northbound and southbound lanes of entry before doing them solo. Ash wanted me to head to Goulburn as originally planned on the previous day. However, weather was getting in the way and as there were storms forecast (30% probability) around Goulburn, both I and Ash weren’t comfortable going there and Bathurst was not an alternative as the cloud base over the ranges was looking just too low.

So I proposed a brief first solo flight, literally Bankstown down to Wollongong and return. However, Ash felt that this was too short (you need a total of 5 solo cross-country flying hours as part of your pre-requisites for achieving the Private Pilot License), so I had to revise my flight plan to do as follows: depart Bankstown, head down the Hume Highway to Mittagong, continue to Marulan (distinguishable by a large cement factory and a couple of large truck stops), then head direct to Wollongong, land, then return home.

I fuelled up UFY (in which coincidentally I did my first circuit solo) and headed out. Taking off from 29R, I turned south-west for Menangle Park and, achieving Menangle, climbed to about 3,000 feet while tracking towards Appin. Over Appin I then turned south-west and more or less just tracked down the Hume Highway towards Mittagong, only getting up to 4,500 feet as clouds above were a bit dark and heavy.

I successfully located Mittagong Aerodrome then continued southwest for Marulan – though a bit carefully as the weather off in the distance looked dark and showery. I wasn’t sure weather I was going to make Marulan or turn around and head for home or the coast.

A good 10 minutes before I expected to reach Marulan, I spotted a large cement processing factory off to my left. Surely this couldn’t be Marulan already? I forgot to look for the truck stops that Ashley mentioned to confirm if I was there already. I was faced with a decision though. If this was Marulan, then now was the time to turn left and head for Wollongong. But if it wasn’t – how many prominent cement factories could there be within a 20 mile radius of the Marulan area? And did I really want to head closer to some dark looking weather, especially on my first cross-country solo?

Reasoning that if this wasn’t Marulan I still wasn’t very far away, and that regardless, my planned track to Wollongong would take me back to the coast within reasonable proximity to Wollongong regardless if I was actually at Marulan or still a bit to the north-east. So I turned for Wollongong and 15 minutes later dropped down over the coastal escarpment to find myself only slightly to the north of where I’d reached the coast yesterday, and still very close to Wollongong Airport.

Joining mid-crosswind for runway 16 (again), I was a bit startled when a Jabiru joined the circuit on the base leg and not too far in front of me. I’d made my appropriate radio calls on the Wollongong CTAF and hadn’t heard anything from the Jabiru so I was a bit narked when he made is joining-base call and appeared from my right, but of course I did the right thing and avoided him, extending my downwind leg to leave enough room for him to land and vacate the runway before it was my turn to land. I then made a good landing (my landings really are better again this week!) and taxyed to the same parking area as the day before, just next to the HARS museum hangar.

Parking UFY, I went for a stroll to stretch my legs and took a few quick phone snapshots outside the HARS hangar. Notably, HARS operates the only operational, flying Lockheed Constellation in the world! Known affectionately as “Connie“, this magnificent aircraft lives at Wollongong and, courtesy of my ASIC card entitling me to be airside at RPT airports, all I had to do was stroll over to the hangar door to gape in appreciation!

I also spied – briefly – a couple of DC3’s, a non-flying Lockheed P-2 Neptune, a de Havilland Drover and the shells of various other aircraft too numerous to mention. One of the first things I’ll do with my PPL will be to take a quick flight down to Wollongong to have a proper look at the HARS museum (I’ve driven past it often enough on the way to and from the South Coast). My quick Blackberry snapshots will have to suffice for now:

Connie, with DH Drover in front

Ex-RAAF DC3

Tourism done with, it was time to head home. I got back into UFY and retraced my steps from the day before, the only wrinkle being that I found myself at Menangle Park before I registered that I’d already flown over Appin! This and my earlier doubt about Marulan alerted me to the fact that a couple of my nav calculations (specifically my estimated time intervals between waypoints) may have been wrong, as I wasn’t in any significant headwind or tailwind.

Insight #33

Your flight plan is just that – a plan. Check and double-check it carefully so you can be confident in your tracks and calculations. But don’t expect everything to go to plan. Be prepared to deal with the unexpected, as and when situations arise. Think on your feet!

A final, again pretty good landing at Bankstown and I was home, well stoked I may say after a 2.0 hour flight being my first cross-country solo. I was very pleased with myself! The most enjoyable flight I’ve done so far.

Day 4: Lessons 4 and 5 – Turns/Slow Flight and Stalls

Date: 04/03/2011

Hours flown Dual Command Instruments
This flight 2.20 0.00 0.00
Total to date 5.40 0.00 0.00

OK, all in all, today was a better day. I was better (though by no means crash hot) at most things. And I had more fun. But it was still bloody intense. Any day with 2 hours of flying, I’ve come to learn, is a really long day.

My ride today was Foxtrot Tango Uniform (FTU). (Apologies for the grainy look on left hand side – shot was taken with my Blackberry and the lens was obviously smudged).

PA28 Foxtrot Tango Uniform

Unlike previous days, the aircraft was not waiting for me when I arrived – it was out on another lesson. When my instructor and student landed, they parked next to the clubhouse and it was immediately mine to inspect. All OK: fuel up to tabs on left hand tank, below tabs on the right, oil and brake fluid good. A quick wash of the windscreen. After a proper pre-flight and a chat about turns (turns in straight & level flight, climbing turns, descending turns), we taxied for runway 29 right. Run-ups completed, we taxied to holding point A5 at which point my instructor John surprised me by asking me to make the radio call to request clearance for takeoff. I flubbed it a bit – what I should have said was, “Bankstown Tower, Warrior Foxtrot Tango Uniform, ready two niner right for upwind departure, received Charlie”. (Charlie being the 3rd ATIS report of the morning – they do them in sequence, Alpha, Bravo, Charlie etc). But the tower either was being kind, or missed my poor call, because we received clearance to take off.

Lining up on the runway and takeoff checks complete, throttle full open over 3 seconds and we were soon at 55 KIAS (knots indicated airspeed). I lifted the nose and we were away – need to remember not to lift up too much, need to allow the plane time to accelerate.

Climbing to 1500 feet we levelled out before crossing the railway tracks that delineate the (Class D) traffic control zone. As I trimmed for 1500 feet things felt a little better than yesterday – didn’t seem to be struggling as much keeping the plane in balance. Once passed the tracks John told me to climb to 2300 feet. Trying to keep up a “best rate of climb” speed of about 80 KIAS, I did OK, until reaching 2300 feet at which point I failed to lower the nose enough and ended up around 2500. But John was nice enough to tell me that I was doing much better than yesterday. I replied that I was glad he thought so!

Out to the training area and up to 4000 feet around the clouds, we proceeded to do a number of different types of turns, including:

  • Level turns (maintaining constant altitude, up to 30 degrees of bank angle)
  • Climbing turns (no more than 15 degrees of bank angle)
  • Descending turns (under power/gliding, clean and with flaps, up to 30 degrees of bank angle)
  • Rate 1 turns (intended to turn full 360 degrees in 2 minutes)

The mantra before a turn is to check before the turn. If you want to turn left, first check right, then centre, then left to clear the area of any traffic that may present a hazard to you conducting the turn. Once done, start the turn using ailerons and rudder, and remember BBB – bank (angle of bank), balance (ball in the centre), back pressure (to keep up the desired altitude or airspeed as the turn robs the wings of some lift).

Went OK. We returned to land on 29 right and John had me descending most of the way but it all got messy – I wasn’t keeping the nose down enough during base and final – so he took over and got us down safely.

Insight #5

When descending – particularly with flaps – you really need a serious nose-down attitude in these small aircraft! I’ve got to get comfortable with finding the right nose-down attitude and sticking to it. You can’t keep the nose up at all – if you do, you won’t descend as required. Seems obvious when I look at it in writing, but it’s harder than it looks or sounds.

Back on the ground at about 1115, I called the Shell people and had the fuel truck come round to fill to tabs on both tanks. Then into the clubhouse for a much-needed drink of water (my mouth was dry as after today’s flight – it’s a hot day, and the concentration and the cabin environment really dries me out). Grabbing a sandwich, John started to talk to me about radio calls.

I’d been wondering when we’d start in on this. In a strange little way I’ve been kind of dreading it. I’ve often read or heard of people really struggling with their calls. I can understand why. Especially when you’re brand new to this game, you just wonder how the hell can you ever remember all the calls you need to make? How can you possibly give attention to what’s happening over the radio when you’re trying to do 10 other things?

I guess it all goes with the territory, because as any experienced pilot or student will tell you, it all starts to fall into place. I have to remember the following basic format for all calls:

Insight #6

Not so much an insight as something I need to remember. Basic format for each call is:

  1. Who are you talking to (eg. “Bankstown Ground”)
  2. Who and what you are (eg. “Warrior Foxtrot Tango Uniform”)
  3. Where you are (eg. “on Mike 2”)
  4. What you want and what your intentions are (eg. “for upwind departure request taxi”).

I can see I’m going to have to do a lot of practise on my calls.

Again lining up on 29 right, we took off and retracted our route to the training area. The cloud had lifted somewhat which was favourable as you need to have plenty of height to practise stalls. Once we reached 4000 feet over a rural area outside Camden, we went through the HASELL checks that must be done before practising a stall:

H for height – do we have enough? – need to have enough height to recover from the stall by minimum 3000 feet AGL

A for airframe – is the aircraft correctly configured – clean wings, doors closed etc.

S for security – in the cabin – particularly loose items that may be a hazard in the stall

E for engine – is the engine operating properly and correctly set up (carby heat on in particular, mixture full rich)

L for location – make sure we are not over populated or built-up area

L for lookout – are we clear of any traffic around/above and particularly below that present a hazard – we did a full 360 degree clearing turn to make certain of this.

So we proceeded to do stalls.

A stall is basically when a wing reaches a certain critical “angle of attack” relative to the oncoming airflow, above which angle the wing cannot generate enough lift to support the weight of the aircraft. Once the wing stalls – and particularly when both wings stall – the aircraft will lose altitude.

Fortunately, training aircraft are pretty stable and it is hard to put them into a really serious stall and almost impossible to do so without plenty of advance warning. Signs of approaching stall include an onset of shaking/shuddering which you can clearly feel through the control column and through the airframe, and the sounding of the stall warning horn. This is a really nifty little safety device which sounds some 5-10 knots of IAS before you’re actually in a stall. They’re wonderful. I fell in love with them today.

So we proceeded into a series of different stall scenarios, including:

  • Power-on stall (engine under power)
  • Power-off stall (aircraft in glide)
  • Variations including stalls in a turn, high-speed stalls.

I had a wee bit of trepidation in actually intentionally stalling the plane – you really have to fight your instinct for self-preservation – but I went ahead and did it (in the words of George Orwell’s Winston Smith) just the same. Power as appropriate, lift the nose to watch the speed bleed away, keep firm back pressure on the control yoke, feel the stall come on. The shaking and shuddering starts. The horn sounds. Then you look at your VSI (Vertical Speed Indicator) and you see you’re losing height.

Apply opposite rudder if a wing drops (right rudder for left wing dropping, and the reverse). In fact the aircraft basically refused to drop a wing, it was so stable! At the same time, lower the nose and apply full power. Watch the airspeed increase. Recover from the stall and level wings if necessary.

OK. There will be more stall training. I don’t know if I’ll ever love it, but I don’t fear it as perhaps I did. It’s pretty easy to recover from.

Setting cruise for Prospect Reservoir, we descended to 1500 feet and I did a reasonable (not great) job of straight & level flight. Over Prospect I radioed, “Bankstown Tower, Warrior Foxtrot Tango Uniform, over Prospect at one thousand five hundred, received Golf inbound”). The tower informed us to stay out of the control zone – by John’s assessment, they were in the process of switching over runways. So we continued north and a bit east to Parramatta, then made a 180 degree left turn and returned to Prospect. We made the same call again and were instructed to make our approach to runway 11 left. So we made for Warwick Farm Racecourse – by which I struggled to descend to 1000 feet but managed to – then turned on final. I did a better job of getting it down, but my alignment with the numbers of the runway was not great. Meanwhile I completed missed our landing clearance, which John handled. But he got us down, and some hard braking had us turning left off the runway.

My final mistake of the day then happened! I did the unforgivable – tried to make my radio call to request taxi clearance while someone else was using the frequency! John jumped on me. Taxiing further, I finally made the correct call, then we taxied back to the clubhouse, shut down and tied down.

Insight #7

Maintain a listening watch on your radio frequency. Never make a transmission when someone else is in mid-call!

John was kind enough about it afterwards. He seems like a decent instructor and bloke – but quite rightly, he has to jump on mistakes like that. I guess it’s how we all learn.

Wow. What a full-on day. But, 2.2 more hours in my logbook, some improvement, and a heap of learning. It’s really coming towards me in a tsunami now.

Tomorrow just 1 hour, depending on weather, will be either more stall work, or a ground briefing about circuits. So we’re coming up on circuit training … stay tuned.

Lovely morning!

Some broken stratocumulus at, oh I don’t know, 10,000 feet AGL? With a lovely tinge of morning pink. Anyway, presages a lovely day on which to commit aviation, I think. 16 days to go!

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