Thursday, May 26, 2011

Long overdue part 3

The previous day I had raced around to Sydney Aviators and arranged to hire HVX, an Arrow II, bumping into an old instructor of mine who is now a First Officer with Jetstar. He gave me some much needed encouragement.

I went around to Schofields to await the ATOs return. As usual they were running late, which only heightened my anxiety as the weak Autumn sunlight was draining into the west. Eventually they returned and I had around an hour to demonstrate to the ATO that I could, actually, land an aeroplane.

Taxied out again, lined up and took off. The aeroplane looked and sounded great, a real throaty thump from the Lycoming 360 and three bladed prop, but for some reason it was not an enthusiatic climber. Never mind, round we go and line up on final. The controller was in a chatty mood and gave witty quips to everyone on the frequency but neglected to give us a landing clearance. Go around and he promises to give us a landing next time. I thank him for his diligence. The aeroplane felt good, the control forces light but it felt sluggish and just a bit sloppy.

Final again and cleared to land. Holding speed very precisely, round out, reduce power, flare and then the aeroplane fell out of the sky, touching down with a pronounced firmness, which is a very kind description.

OK, I thought, that's just a warm up, but it was puzzling nevertheless. The ATO requested a flapless landing but otherwise kept a close and stoic countenance. Same again with 5 knots added and a very similar result. Almost a belly flop in the flare. I couldn't understand what was going on and I honestly thought I had lost the ability to land an aeroplane. Time to give up, chuck it in, tear up my licence and take up gardening.

"You know that airspeed indicator is calibrated in miles per hour," the ATO remarked, casual like. I examined the dial and noticed there were two scales, large miles per hour around the outside and tiny knots on the inner scale. No, I was not aware of that, nor did anyone see fit to mention it to me and this was also the first ASI I had seen so marked. The aeroplane, or should I say airplane, is an American import with an American style ASI. Speed is life and the difference between statute and nautical miles makes a big difference, at least to me.

Now with 15% more speed the Arrow was a lot more sprightly and well behaved, transformed, it bolted into the sky, the controls felt positive and firm. Round we went, holding good speeds and precisely lined up, even if I do say so myself. I put everything I had into this circuit, it was as good as I've ever done and I was rewarded with the sweetest, straightest, softest squeaker of a touchdown I can remember.

"That's more like it," the ATO commented. I felt exuberant, all the stress and anxiety lifted off and wafted away behind us. "Take us back," he said, "I'm happy with that."

Round again and a short field landing, pulling up and exiting within 400M of the threshold.

I finally had my commercial licence, but my day wasn't over. I dropped the ATO off at the clubhouse and taxied back to drop off the aircraft. Unfortunately my way was barred with a crowd of red and blue flashing lights. A jet had reported difficulties and declared an emergency, closing the aerodrome and attracting a gaggle of fire engines, police and ambulance vehicles. Eventually the jet made an uneventful landing, reporting their throttles had frozen, the crew electing to shut down a good engine in flight so they could descend. The single engine landing had looked no different to any other. I taxied back in the dark and handed the aircraft over, relieved, exhausted and went home for a dinner of baked beans and eggs on toast cooked by my congratulatory wife.

7 Comments:

At 1:49 am, Blogger Julien said...

Great story Chris! And of course congratulations again. I can't believe the mph/knots thing... It must have been one of those moments when you doubt your own sanity. I hope you took a photo of the ASI :-)

Is LSG still up for sale or have they given up by now?

 
At 7:51 pm, Blogger Brendan said...

Jeez, what a story. I don't think anyone would expect to be put through that many hurdles, and just plain bad luck with a broken plane, during a flight test! Nonetheless, congrats, it must have made the pass that much sweeter.

Any tips you can share? It sounds, to be honest, all fairly straightforward actually - all the same things tested as in the PPL, except with inflight diversions more pronounced, and obviously with much higher standards expected - do I have that right?

What's your plan now that you're a commercial pilot? :)

 
At 6:32 am, OpenID wilko said...

Welcome to the group! Now you can fly for hire. It's enabled me to do a little paid aerial photgraphy but even if you never get a check, there's satisfaction in knowing you have become a much better pilot.
Congrats!
Wilko

 
At 8:10 pm, Blogger Chris said...

@Julien - I'll try and get a photo of that damn ASI. It's so unusual I can't even find a photo of one the same through GIS. I don't think LSG is up for sale and I have heard it may be insured for more than it would sell for anyway. That's all I have to say about that.

@Brendan - thanks, it was a huge relief once it was all over. It was pretty much like the PPL test, but yes, more precision required. Fortunately I didn't make any gross errors (other than nearly plant the bus) or get lost, so I don't know how much latitude is given. Speed, precision and positive decision making. I'm going to volunteer at the club, keep my ear to the ground and save up for an instructors rating next year.

@Wilko - thanks mate. One never knows the changes life will bring.

 
At 2:31 pm, Blogger Brendan said...

Got you, thanks for the clarification Chris. Looking forward to hearing more about your flying exploits in the near future!

 
At 2:29 pm, Blogger Brendan said...

Just had a thought. Given that you'd already completed your ATPL exams, that means that you essentially passed with not just a CPL but a frozen ATPL, correct?

 
At 9:23 am, Blogger Chris said...

Apologies for the late reply Brendan. Been having trouble commenting on Blogger.

Technically, yes, I have a frozen ATPL. All I need to get now are the required hours and, I think, a ME/CIR. That was always the plan, and well worth doing if you have the time/energy/patience/motivation/money while hour building. I have heard of a few First Officers who have been passed over for Captain by people junior to them because they were still completing their ATPL exams.

 

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