Sunday, June 14, 2009

More nightness

Another night session at Bankstown.

Julien commented on one of my recent posts - he happened to attend the same session of night circuits as myself a few weeks ago. We didn't fly together, but G'day Julien if you're reading this. I'll be reading your blog with interest in the future.

Daniel Martin was our instructor for the session, a very experienced and agreeably laid back instructor at Schofields. Grahame Smith and Dave Roberts were my fellow acolytes. Grahame took us out to show us how it was done, and really gave us something to aim for. Grahame never got around to completing his night VFR rating, but is an experienced IFR pilot and it showed in his precise speed control and effective instrument scan. He took it round for three good circuits, copping a nasty patch of slipstream for an Archer in front of us. It threw the aircraft off at least 30 degrees angle of bank shortly after take off and really got our attention. Landed, taxi back and shut down.

Now my turn. Took it around for one good circuit and a squeaker of a landing. Normally this would be a good thing, but I would rather have my landings be a little on the firm side at night, rather than grope around in the flare and float too high. The next circuit was ok and the landing this time was firm, but rather too hard. A Duchess was on its way into the circuit and the tower requested we extend out downwind leg to accommodate it. I choose to turn too early, thinking a Duchess would be a bit faster than our Warrior. Pilots who have flown a Duchess may choose to chuckle at my expense at this point. I also didn't twig to the transmission that preceded, advising the Duchess to slow to follow a Liberty. We ended up going too close behind, and being asked to go around. It's a good thing to get to practice a go around at night, I rationalised. The last circuit was good up until it was my time to receive a fright.

On late final we encountered wake turbulence as Grahame had earlier. And there's no wake turbulence quite like wake turbulence at 100 feet. The left wing dropped past 30 degrees and I put in a boot full of right rudder to pick it up. It wasn't done with us though and we dropped first the left and then the right wing during the flare, probably no more than 10 feet off the ground. The landing was surprisingly good, taxi back and shutdown to allow Dave to have a go and for my heart rate to retrun to normal. Dan speculated that because the night was so still and calm, wake turbulence was hanging around for longer rather than being broken up by passing currents as it would during the day. Another good lesson there, campers.

Unfortunately as Dave is a pre-solo student we weren't permitted to be on board while he flew the circuit, so Grahame and I waved him good night and wandered back to the clubhouse, which was a decidedly warmer place to be.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Heartland of Choad

Eastern Europe. The New New Jersey.

This post no good without pics

Flew again last Friday 29th May. Took a workmate Brett along for the ride. Apologies for the tardiness of this post, but I was expecting to get some photos from my passenger to post, who has since told me the battery in his camera died and so he can't yet retrieve the images from it. Brett's father was a flight engineer for QANTAS for many years, and grew up near the northern beaches of Sydney, where a great many QANTAS flight crew seem to reside, so I took a route I've flown a few times before that goes as close to Sydney Harbour whilst remaining outside controlled airspace.

The weather had been poor for several weeks leading up to the flight, the confluence of low and high pressure systems off the coast brought day after day of heavy rain, flooding and low cloud. The day of the flight, though, was nice and clear, some cloud but not enough to effect the flight. The aircraft, SFA, had not been flown since the 17th, and a fuel drain revealed it had soaked up a fair bit of water. I had never seen quite so much water in a fuel tank, I must have rocked and drained the tanks a dozen times each before they came up clear of water.

Startup, taxi out, extended run up on both tanks to make sure they weren't going to quit with water contamination after takeoff and out to the runway. A few months earlier a Chieftain had run off the end of the runway after a failed aborted takeoff, the report blaming water contamination for the loss of engine power.

North via the VFR lane to Hornsby, then east to the coast north of Long Reef, one orbit over the beach, but clearly too cold for naked sunbathers, then north to Barrenjoey Head lighthouse, west to Brooklyn Bridge, then south back the VFR return lane to Bankstown. Encountered a couple of minor showers along the way back, prompting my passenger to ask what I used to keep the windscreen clear of water.

'Airspeed,' I replied.

Into the circuit at Bankstown, too close behind another Archer in front prompted a 'waggle your wings SFA' request so the tower could differentiate us, then having to go around. I thought we had sufficient spacing, but the tower controllers were handing over, I think the new controller was erring on the side of caution until he had a handle on the circuit traffic.

Around we go again, on short final my passenger started asking questions about the layout of the field, which I tried to answer, but probably shouldn't have. My fault for not briefing him to stay quiet during our approach and landing.

A nice, fun flight, and easily done within the 1.5 hour booking we had.