Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Finally, a new flying post

At Bankstown again today, just to fly some practice circuits for the recency and proficiency that's in it. It took some cajoling at the front counter to establish my credentials.

"Who's your instructor?"

I don't have an instructor. I have a licence.

"When was you last flight review? It's not within the last year."

Yes, I know, but it is within the last two. That's why it used to be called a biannual flight review. I glads they changed the name to make it less clear.

"The computer says your medical has expired."

Well, my class one medical expired, but my class two medical lasts for another three years. And anyway, I've since renewed it and got the paperwork back.

And so, eventually, almost reluctantly, I got the keys to my favourite Archer, SFA. Preflight, nothing out of the ordinary, a few stray nicks on the prop that will need attention before too long.

Startup, SFA is a bit quirky on starting up, she always needs three pumps on the prime to turn over, but she won't start on the first crank. Prime again and she fires almost straight away after cranking again. The first time I ever flew SFA, I picked it up at the mechanics, taking two passengers for a harbour scenic. The previous Archers I had started did not even need a prime, just a quick boost with the fuel pump and away they went. When that did not work, I primed. She didn't start. I rang the club and Nelson advised me to prime and try again. She fired straight away. Now that I know this quirk, I feel more comfortable with this aeroplane. She is my club favourite.

Taxi out, and trapped behind a C152 with two white shirted, epauletted pilots aboard. A CPL student and instructor, or two CPL students, or two student instructors, and clearly in no hurry to get out to the runway. I have no problem with people who taxi slowly, taxiing too fast is a bad habit I have picked up from impatient instructors. Nevertheless, I idle the engine the whole way and have to drag the brakes to keep from chewing up their rudder. All the way around the airport from the northern to the southern side, which is the training runway.

Run up, the engine is well warm from our extended taxi run, instruments ok, carb heat works, magnetos ok, idle ok, cockpit checks complete, controls full free and correct, hatches and harnesses all secure. My C152 roadblock is beside me and I manage to get to the holding point before them.

I hold, then cleared to line up, and then cleared to take off. Lights on, heels on the floor to avoid dragging the brakes, power up, check the oil pressure is fine, airspeed indicator alive and rising, maintain centreline with rudder. 65 knots and lift the nose wheel, the Archer rises of its own accord, leaving the runway behind.

I am told the preceding traffic is a Cherokee on a very wide downwind leg. This is tower controller talk for I am getting frustrated with the pilot of this Cherokee and I am going to let everyone know what I think of their flying skills. He is right, the aeroplane in front of me is 2-3 times further out than it should be. I drift out as well, it will be difficult for me to stay behind it otherwise. I drop some stages of flap to slow down. It turns base after a very long downwind, pushing me out to avoid cutting it off, lines up on final and receives a call clearing it to land. No reply, the tower tries twice more without acknowledgement. The pilot lands anyway, but I have to go around, then request and am cleared to make an early crosswind turn back into the circuit. I hear the tower ask the pilot for a radio check, the pilot says she reads him 4. The tower asks why she did not acknowledge the previous transmissions. We must have been talking she says.

This sets the tone for the following 1.2 hours. I am constantly throttling back and dropping stages of flap to avoid running too close behind other aircraft. I go around three times. I am cleared to land when I am about 50 feet above the ground on the verge of going around. Consequently my landings are safe, but not things of beauty. My second last landing is a big bounce. I realise I am still flying, so I pour the coals on and call it a day. I request the northern runway to shorten my trip back to the club, and I am denied - it is just too busy. The Cherokee landing in front of me lands, then detours sideways, narrowly avoiding running onto the grass, saving it at the last moment. There is no wind to speak of.

My last landing is a good one, a nice little squeaker, although I carried a bit too much speed and miss the first taxiway. I take the second, and unfortunately the C152 behind me has to go around. Sorry dude, but welcome to my world. I hold and wait to cross the centre runway. A C152 in motors down the centre runway, practising aborted takeoffs. After it passes I am cleared to cross the centre runway but hold short of the northern runway. Another C152 lands on this runway and takes the exit in front of me. I am cleared to cross the runway behind the C152 and expedite. Expedite means do it now, without delay, make it fast. I see an aeroplane is lined up on this runway, waiting to take off. Unfortunately the C152 in front of me is taking his time exiting the runway and has decided to go way to another aeroplane taxiing in front of him. I briefly entertain the notion of reminding the pilot that aircraft exiting runways have right of way, and that he is holding the whole show up, but I don't, the tower can see the whole thing.

I taxi back to the club, behind the dawdling C152, the two pilots hanging their elbows out the open windows as if on a Sunday drive. I idle the engine again, and drag the brakes.

I park, shutdown and secure the aircraft.

Thus ends a very frustrating training session at Bankstown airport. It's getting so that the only days I can train out here are days with a stiff crosswind or a damp runway, when everyone else is forbidden to come out and fly, lest they bend the school's favourite C152. On the plus side, I didn't seem to have forgotten anything, I view it as a positive that flying daytime circuits is a waste of time for me - I need to get out and about and get some cross country flying under my belt again.


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