28 December 2010

Kind of There, Did Some of It, Got the T-shirt…

… and the cap, and the metal badge.

Monday, 27 December

I’d been looking forward to this day for about 2 months. Why? Well, for those that don’t know, I’m a fan of motorbikes as well as aircraft and photography, and today was the day of the 9 Passes in one day motorbike ride. Over 400km of beautiful roads and stunning scenery.

Well, for the rest of the group it was, but not for me; I wouldn’t be able to do all nine passes because the bike was giving problems and ran the risk of overheating, so it was decided that I shouldn’t push it. Plus, I’m far from ‘riding-fit’!

So I did a whole two passes, then peeled off from the group and sat at Worcester Airfield. For 4 hours. After sitting around, twiddling my thumbs and watching South Africa get thrashed by India in the cricket, it was time for me to meet up with the group to go over the last pass (Du Toit’s Kloof).

Sitting at Worcester

On my way to the rendezvous point, I noticed that the clutch cable was sticking out of its plastic cover, and pieces of wire had unraveled. Once with the rest of the group, I decided that the safest would be for me to give the pass, well, a pass; the last thing I wanted was for the cable to fail or snap while I was going down a mountain.

So I went through the mountain instead of over it, breathing in car and truck fumes for several minutes, then I had to go through a toll gate when I got to the other side. Brilliant.

So I’m feeling a bit disappointed. At least I had a great breakfast, and got to ride the BMW R60/5. It’s probably the longest trip that bike has done ever since my dad bought it (I think that was over 6 years ago). Next time I want to do it on something that can go 120km/h without overheating. And I want to do all 9 passes and earn my shirt, cap and badge!

23 December 2010

Happiest Time of the Year?

Christmas is just around the corner (tomorrow for those of you that celebrate it on the evening of the 24th), and the Christmas cheer is everywhere. Colourful lights in various shapes ranging from trees to bells, to Santa and his reindeer are flashing merrily. Shops are decked out in tinsel and playing Christmas carols, and cheesy Christmas movies are showing on Mnet and the Movie Magic channels. The shops are packed and money is being spent left, right and center.

But despite all of that, I’m not really feeling it. Christmas isn’t Christmas unless you have little kids running around who can’t wait to give Santa his milk and cookies. I’m not a little kid anymore, and I don’t have little kids running around, so it just doesn’t feel like Christmas. Heck, I only put the tree up yesterday and all I could bring myself to put on it were some lights and a few purple baubles. How festive…

Yeah, I’m feeling a little cynical. I finally finished high school, and I forgot to do the thing I was most looking forward to doing once I completed school; belting out School’s Out by Alice Cooper. Fail. Summer has decided to give us 30degC+ weather (as if we needed the reminder that it is indeed summer). I failed my Met exam again. I want to fly bigger, faster aircraft, or at the very least, complete my night rating. I want to get a job, but at the same time, I need a very flexible schedule.

But the thing that’s probably getting me down the most is the fact that I just don’t have the motivation to study. I’ve never been very good when it comes to the self-study thing, so if I can manage two hours a day, that’s good. And I want to write 3 subjects in February. Ha, I’m really going to have to pull up my socks!

So peoples, Merry Christmas and all of that. Stay safe out there.

15 December 2010

Jingle Bells, Batman Smells

So Christmas is just around the corner, and I must say it feels decidedly un-Christmas-y. I made Christmas biscuits, but I haven’t put a tree up yet (I was going to do that today, but I decided to go flying instead).

I’ve finally hit the 100 hour mark. It took me a while, but I’m hoping that I’ll get my 200 hours in no time. I also had to do my PPL Renewal thingamajig, which went quite well (I actually remembered the CAT’s, CAR’s, AIP’s, AIC’s, and I even did calculations using the C152 handbook; I haven’t used that thing in ages!).

So that’s the good news. The bad news is that I will need to write Met. Again. It will be the third time. I think I’m going to leave it for last now. The next exam sittings are at the beginning of February, so I should hit the books, but there’s always something better to do; fly in the VSAAF (Virtual South African Air Force), build model aircraft (I now have three that I’m busy with), lie in the sun, reading, and sit at the airfield. I have little discipline when it comes to self-studying.

I’m going camping in Saldanha this weekend, so after that I’ll try get back to the studying.

Hmmm, ok, cheers fellow readers.

04 December 2010

Fire Season

Yes folks, it’s that time of year again; summer in the Western Cape. Which means that it’s fire season here. And that means that our skies will be graced with Huey’s (doing what they do best; looking good and sounding great. Oh, and putting out fires), Spotter’s, as well as a few bombers (its been about two years since they were last down here).

They’re big and they’re ugly, but I would love to fly Dromader’s/AgCat’s/Thrush’s/Pawnee’s/you get the picture, one day.

Apparently Stellenbosch will play host to two bombers, a Spotter and two Huey’s. Guess where I’m going to be spending most of my time :D

I attended the VWS (Volunteer Wildfire Services) open day at Newlands today, and I was treated to a shower courtesy of a Huey (when he took off the downwash shook all the water from the trees I was standing under), and then a couple of hours later I had the opportunity of standing a short distance (15m maybe, I don’t know; I can’t judge distance) away from another Huey during its take-off and landing. It was awesome!

22 November 2010

Fling-wing Things

Saturday, 20 November dawned cold and rainy, but that didn’t stop numerous aviation enthusiasts coming to the airfield to see what was going on. But, what was going on there? Well, Stellenbosch Airfield played host to no less than 43 Gyrocopters and broke the African record of the most Gyrocopters on an airfield at one time.

The African record was 28, and unfortunately Italy still holds the world record of 52. But was still a good day with a fair amount of flying despite the clouds and odd showers. It proved to be a good day for some networking, and a huge Christmas Party was held that night (unfortunately I had to play barperson/waitress at he event, so I wasn't really part of it). I don't have much to say, so here are a couple of photos.

As you can see, a Gyrocopter is essentially a combination of a fixed-wing aircraft and a helicopter. Go figure.

Oh, and a beautiful Harvard was there too. Unfortunately we didn't get to see her fly.

In other news…
I’ve finished High School! No more stupid school exams and wearing a boring uniform! Am I happy? Well, I think it’s still sinking in.

17 November 2010

It's All About The Passion

How many times have you started something, and then not completed it? Like that book, that blog, that song, that website, that portfolio, that DIY project, that degree, that homework (shudder), that shopping list? Guilty of any of that? I know I am.

But why do we do that? Why do we start something, and hardly ever finish it? Laziness? Well yes, I am extremely lazy, but I still manage to get some things done. Like sit on the couch, drink coffee and watch TV... Ok, so laziness is definately part of it. But the other part - the more significant part - of the human-being's lack of 'task-completion' is due to a lack of passion (in my opinion).

It's really quite simple. Those that go far in life are passionate about what they do (or they've had no other option but to do what they do). It's psychological; you can't be great at something if you don't have the Will, the Drive, and the Passion to be great at it. Take writing a book for example: I'm very good at coming up with an opening line and a closing paragraph. Awesome, but what about the rest of it? No matter how much I try think of a good story, I'm hardly ever able to write more than a page. Now, that's not due to a lack of imagination, but rather a lack of passion: Why am I writing this story? Do I plan on ever finishing it? The short answer is No, I don't actually plan on making it something worth reading, so why bother finishing it. Heck, why bother starting it?

The same goes for blogs and stuff. I think I must have about 5 blogs floating around the interwebs, most with no more than two (rather pointless and boring) entries. How does this tie in with The Flying Fish, you might ask. Well. . .

Flying is all about passion. Because without passion, you probably won't get anywhere. As I've mentioned before, becoming a pilot isn't easy. Especially if you want to work overseas. Picture this: PPL (7 subjects), CPL (8 subjects), ATPL (not sure of how many subjects, but it's probably about 7). But wait, there's more! Should you want to work in Europe you need to get another license (which means more subjects). And should you want to work in America, there's yet another license (and that means even more subjects). So at the end of the day, you have a stack of flying notes that go from floor to ceiling, and your eyes are bleeding from all the reading, and your brain has been reduced to a puddle of some unrecognisable substance that is oozing out your ears. Lovely.

But if you're passionate about what you do, all the long hours spent studying and the pain of writing (and possibly re-writing) exams won't matter. Much. Sure, it can start getting to you and you'll begin to wonder why you decided to be a pilot.

But for me, seeing the world from a couple of thousand feet, or doing low-level flying over open areas makes everything worth it. Getting back after a flight and filling in my logbook leaves me with a sense of pride. Every take-off, every landing, every correctly executed manoeuvre leaves me with a smile on my face because I can say "I was in control. I did that, and I did it well." Every exam passed gives me a spring in my step, and every exam failed helps me to learn more. Every step I take, takes me that much closer to achieving my goal. Every step forward fills me with a sense of achievement.

That is why I do what I do. That is why I've picked myself up after every failed exam or horrible landing (and there have been a few spectacularly bad ones!). That, to me, is what life boils down to; finding something you enjoy, something that you're passionate.

What you put in determines what you get out.

09 November 2010

What Goes Around, Comes Around

Sunday, 7 November

I’m a firm believer that, if you do good for/towards others, good will eventually come to you. A lot of good things have come my way this year, and a number of people have given me some truly amazing opportunities. So I’m always looking for ways to give back.

Being a volunteer pilot for Reach For A Dream was one ‘big’ good deed that I’ve done this year. On Sunday, I completed another good deed; I gave a young man the opportunity to fly in a light aircraft for the first time. A simple act, but one that has left him extremely happy and yearning for another taste of flight.

It's little deeds like those that make a world of difference. Sometimes we get so caught up in our own lives and problems that it’s nice to reach out and help someone else out every now and then.

04 November 2010

2 Down, 6 To Go!

Yes, that's right! Today I found out that I've passed Radio Aids. It was by the skin of my teeth, but the actual mark doesn't really matter; a pass is a pass! So that's a huge relief.

Now I only need to stress about 6 more subjects, the General Radio License, and the Flight Test. And maybe my final matric exams too. . .

Bring it on!

02 November 2010

It's Funny How One's Mind Changes

Things have been quite quiet. Well, on the aviation side of things at least. I’ve done very little flying, but last week Wednesday I wrote Radio Aids, and yesterday I decided to take a flight up to Malmesbury. I had the whole of the GFA (General Flying Area) to myself, so that was enjoyable. I've also hit the 90-hour mark (finally!).

My Matric final exams have started, but of course every time I sit down to try study, I get bored and end up thinking about flying, naturally. And that resulted in me pondering about the human mind...

It’s weird how one’s thoughts, opinions and ideas change over time. A few years ago I was positive that I’d fly for the RAF. Then I decided no, I’m going to be the second female fighter pilot in the SAAF. Every time someone asked me what I was going to do after school, my answer was always “Fly for the SAAF!”, and they’d ooh and aah.

But then last year I started to wonder if I should fly for the SAAF; 16 years is a long time, and what are my chances of actually making fighter line? I decided that I would apply anyway; that way I could say that I tried, and move on with my life.

It’s been about a year since I applied, and I haven’t heard from them, so I think it’s safe to say that I didn’t make it. But that doesn’t really concern me too much. Yes, it would’ve been nice to get a letter or something (I didn’t even apply to the Royal Navy yet they sent me a letter and a whole lot of info explaining why I wasn’t eligible to join), but I guess that this IS South Africa.

But I’m an indecisive person, and I’m forever changing my mind. So now I’m thinking “Maybe I should apply again. Who knows, I might make it this time.” But still, 16 years. Yes, someone told me that as you get older, 16 years doesn’t seem like all that long. But I mean, 16 years!

Yes, I could finish my CPL, get my Instructor’s and then go fly in the Bush for a year or two, then give the SAAF another go. But I don’t know. I’m definitely going to get my CPL and my Instructor’s rating (hopefully before the end of 2011).

Maybe I’m worrying about nothing. If my marks aren’t good enough (right now I seriously doubt my maths marks will be good enough), then there’s no point in applying. Maybe then I’ll stop chopping and changing my mind every other day.


09 October 2010

There's A First Time For Everything

Tuesday, 5 October

Today I flew in an RV-6. I've been waiting for this flight for ages, and the wait was definately worth it!

It felt a lot more sensitive than the RV-8, or maybe I was just imagining it, or it just felt different because you sit side-by-side (as opposed to the RV-8's tandem seats).

But wow, it's an absolutely awesome machine to fly! We flew along the coast towards Hermanus, and we did a couple of rolls too. The amount of power, acceleration and agility is amazing, and the large canopy promises a wonderful view.

I'm finding myself becoming more and more addicted to high-speed (anything is 'high-speed' compared to the Cubby) flight, and pulling G's!

But, that RV flight isn't as amazing as another flight I did that day...

I took my mom for her first Cubby flight. Not only was it her first Cubby flight, but it's also the first time she's flown in a single engine aircraft in years (and years and years)!

We took it easy and flew along Strand Beach to Gordon's Bay, then on the way back to Stellenbosch we went around the Helderberg Mountain, mother happily taking photos of anything and everything.

The landing, while not my best, was decent; no go-around necessary :)

After the flight my mom was full of energy and she couldn't stop bouncing around for several hours.

'Twas a good day.

Farewell, Friend

Tuesday, 5 October

I was walking through Pick 'n Pay, bored (what else is new?), and browsing Facebook on my phone when I came across some rather shocking news. One Nine, the cat that used to live at Stellenbosch Flying Club, had passed away on Monday. Liver cancer. No one even knew he was sick.

The loss of One Nine has affected a number of the members at the Club; we all become so used to seeing his furry black form roaming around the airfield, and he recently took up (almost) permanent residence in the Training Centre.

He is one of the very few cats I've ever liked (I'm more of a dog person), and I'm definately going to miss his visits to the Flightshop every Saturday morning.

So, Farewell One Nine, have fun catching mice in the big hanger in the sky.

26 September 2010

AAD 2010

Two days of jets, choppers, transport aircraft, tanks, trucks, wind, and loads of sun.

I was going to have a massive write-up of the event, but I'm still trying to recover from exhaustion and my sunburn. And I don't really have much to write about.

I got quite trigger happy (the only disadvantage of having a good camera is that 'continuous shot' function; click click click click click click click), and clearly I still have a lot to learn about the new camera - most of my photos were either far too dark, or extremely blurry. But, practice makes perfect.

I found some of the displays boring, and I was quite disappointed when a lot of the American stuff didn't fly. I was really looking forward to seeing the C-5 Galaxy, and the Sea Stallion.

The C-27J display made everything worth it though. The pilots of that aircraft really know how to fly it, and their display was absolutely amazing! Who would've thought that a transport aircraft could do those things (rolls, knife edge, and all sorts of other amazing manoeuvres)?!

I felt a bit uneasy when the Americans did their simulation of an F-16 pilot that had ejected; seeing that black cloud of smoke simulating the F-16's impact into the ground looked a lot like the cloud of smoke that appeared when the Lightning crashed at TFDC last year.

Now, time for me to rest and to sort through my photos.

23 September 2010

My First Helicopter Flight

Tuesday, 21 September

My day kicked off with a flight in a Cessna Citation CJ4. It’s the first one in South Africa. Saying that it’s luxurious doesn’t quite tell the reader how fancy it is. I don’t have any photos of the inside of it, so a quick description will suffice.

You can have 8 pax. Two sit sideways, facing the door, two sit facing backwards, and four sit facing forwards. There are three mini TV screens, so you can watch movies, listen to music, or open up a really cool map that shows you where you are.

The seats are comfortable and the isle is lower than the seats, so one doesn’t have to hunch over when they’re out of their seat. And it has a toilet. A real one. This is important ;)

The other funky thing about this aircraft is that it goes high and fast. How does mach 0.7 at 40 000ft sound? Mmm, yes.

The acceleration is phenomenal, and on take-off, I was thrown forward in my seat (I was facing backwards). Even after take-off, you could feel the acceleration forcing you out of (in my case) or into your seat, and they actually had to come back on the power a bit.

The flight itself wasn’t all that interesting. The CJ4 is the jet to have if you want to travel in style.

My luck keeps getting better and better…

Shortly after we had landed, I found out that I was going on a helicopter flight. This is something I’ve wanted to do for years, but I always missed out on the opportunity.

Imagine my joy when I saw I would be flying in the Eurocopter EC145. This toy is huge; it can carry 8 pax, and there’s loads of space (it can be used as a rescue helicopter and all sorts of things). The price tag is also quite huge: 7 million Euros. I’ll take two.

I was excited; who gets to say that their first helicopter flight was in an EC145?! I would’ve been more excited if I could’ve flown it a bit, but beggars can’t be choosers.

As we took off, there was a huge grin on my face. The sensation of going up, backwards and to the side all at the same time was quite something. But once we had climbed away, the excitement vanished; it felt like a regular aircraft.

The thing is a computer; it practically flies itself. You don’t have to touch the anti-torque pedals, and when hovering you can take your hand off the cyclic and the heli won’t budge.

The only thing I liked apart from the take-off was the sense of freedom; we thought there was a whale, so the pilot simply did a 180 degree turn, descended to a couple of hundred feet above the sea, and slowed right down. Not really something I’d try in a Cessna 152. (The whale turned out to be a whole lot of seaweed).

Even the hovering wasn’t all that spectacular. Neither was the landing (well done to the pilot for battling with the strong wind).

Maybe if I get to fly a helicopter, hover, fly backwards, and do all of that other cool stuff, I’ll enjoy it more. But that flight was really a disappointment.

18 September 2010


... doesn't even begin to cover it!

Four words: Africa Aerospace and Defence.
YES! I've been looking forward to this event for the whole year, and now it's (finally) just a few days away.

The first few photos have been coming in, and things are looking absolutely A.W.E.S.O.M.E! There's going to be loads of USAF aircraft participation, and I'm really looking forward to seeing the massive CH-53 Sea Stallion.

What's better than being able to attend this show? Having a media pass. Oh yes. After weeks of procrastination, I decided to apply for media accreditation... the day before the cut-off date. And, my application was successful, surprisingly enough.

Next week is going to be incredibly busy, but I'm looking forward to it. As this is the last year AAD is going to be held at Ysterplaat, I'm sure they're going to make sure it's one of the best.

Monday must arrive now!!!

13 September 2010

Lucky Fish!

11 September

Another boring Saturday, spent sitting at work attempting to study, right? Well, yes and no. I did sit at work (yawn), and I did attempt to study (double yawn), but once work finished, things got a whole lot more exciting!

Today the de Havilland Centenary Celebration was held at Stellenbosch Flying Club. Raffle tickets were being sold, and everyone who bought tickets stood a chance of flying in a Tiger Moth or Chipmunk.


After work, I was ordering lunch when I was asked if I'd like to go for a flight in a Super Cub. Is that a trick question?! 30 minutes later found me strapping myself into the front seat of the great white beast. We flew to Strand, then back to Stellenbosch via the Helderberg gap. Once at Stellenbosch we did 3 circuits. It was on downwind of the first circuit that both pilot and I realised he had forgotten to show me where the flap selector is. Hee hee, it's little things like that that make flying fun.

The circuits went alright, but it was definately a different experience for me. The Super Cub has loads of power, and I found the controls to be extremely heavy. If I'm honest, I much preferred flying the Tiger. But it was still an awesome flight and I thoroughly enjoyed the new experience.

The Raffle took place just before 5pm, and guess who's ticket was the first to be drawn... Yup! I won a flight in a Tiger Moth. So I found myself being strapped into a taildragger for the second time that day. The fligt took us anti-clockwise around the Helderberg Mountain, then back to Stellenbosch. Short and sweet.

I had barely unstrapped myself from the Tiger when I was asked if I'd like to fly in a Citabria and take some air-to-air photos of the other aircraft. Of course I was up for a flight, and I rushed off to find my camera.


And so I found myself being strapped into a taildragger for the third time that day. It's got quite a large cockpit, and it's incredibly comfortable. After take-off we headed south to Somerset West and puttered around while waiting for the Tiger's to come along. I felt like police chopper pilots must feel; circling overhead the houses. It was actually quite cool. And it was also great not having to do any work; I just sat back, relaxed, and watched the world go by.

After a bit of waiting and a few steep turns, Tiger Moth ZS-PCW came along, and we flew alongside her for a couple of minutes while I took photo after photo. Tiger Moth ZS-DNR then came along and we flew in formation once again while the camera fired away. I'm a bit trigger-happy.



Unfortunately we didn't manage to fly in formation with the Chipmunk and the other Tiger Moth. But the flight was spectacular, and I've decided I quite like this whole air-to-air photography thing!

It had been a beautiful day so far with clear skies and little to no wind. What better way to end a great day than with a flight in the Cubby as the sun starts to set? And so I found myself sitting in the FOURTH taildragger that day! This time with my old instructor sitting in front of me (the poor guy hasn't flown the Cubby in ages).

After 3 circuits and 3 somewhat dodgey landings (two of which were mine. Whoops), I was on the ground once again. This time I'd be staying there. After tucking the plane in for the night, I realised for the first time just how tired I was! Which is no surprise, really.

I consider myself extremely lucky to be given the opportunity to fly in 4 different taildraggers in the space of about 3 hours (and I can log three of the flights!). A big thank you to the pilots, and everyone else that made the day so awesome!

de Havilland aircraft flying that day:
Tiger Moth's:


Aircraft flown in:
Super Cub
Tiger Moth ZS-DNP
Citabria ZS-FKL
Cubby ZU-DVR


04 September 2010

Nice surprise

I was sitting at the airfield, bored out of my braincell, and feeling rather 'pap' when I overhead someone saying "The helicopter has arrived." Helicopter? What helicopter?! I didn't hear anything! I immediately jumped up, grabbed my camera, and went outside. I was expecting to see some smallish private helicopter. But that's not what I got!

An Orxy was merrily taxi'ing towards the fuel bay. I'd gone from feeling blah and pap, to lively and bouncy in about a split second, and I immediately started snapping away. (I think my new name should be "Trigger Happy")

After they shut down and their pax had gone on their merry way, I took a closer look at the beast. She's massive! It was a cool feeling standing next to this great machine. Click, click, click goes the shutter. I think I have at least one photo of her from almost every angle.

The co-pilot was also kind enough to let me take a look inside. He was quite surprised when I said I've only ever been in two helicopters. I think amused him with my mutterings of "Wow, this is so cool!" and "This is amazing. Beautiful!" So I consider myself kind of lucky to have been able to get up close and personal to an Oryx.

Oh yes, I only flew 3 times in August, so I'm not going to bother posting a flying summary. Yesterday I hit the 80hr mark though :)

27 August 2010

I'm All Alone, There's Nobody There In Front of Me

Head hung low, brain hurting, I dragged my feet outside as I thought about the exam I had just written; Maths. Ugh! Morale had hit rock bottom, so I took my phone out in the hopes that something exciting was happening on Facebook. I slid my phone open and saw that there was a calender event. Confused (I don't normally set these things), I opened it. "Went solo".

A smile instantly appeared on my face as I remembered one of the biggest, happiest days of my life. All thoughts of maths vanished, and there was a spring in my step as I walked to the car. "It's been a year since I first went solo. Woohoo. I'm giving myself the day off! I'm going to go for a flight!"

Well, I did give myself the day off, but I didn't get to fly; Murphy was at it again and the wind was really pumping. So I decided to leave the Yellow Beast in her hanger and take photos instead. I wish that I had photos after I'd gone solo, or that I'd been chucked in muddy water, or something, but I don't have any physical evidence of that day. I do however, remember it quite well...

27 August 2009

We'd been doing a couple of circuits and things were going well. It was one of those days that just make you feel good! My landings were respectable and I was really enjoying myself. On the Downwind leg of one of the circuits, my Instructor said that I must make it a full-stop. I didn't want to leave the air, but I grudgingly said "Alright then"; I didn't want to question his decision.

I landed with a somewhat heavy heart and vacated Runway 19, wishing I was still in the air. As we neared the Clubhouse, my instructor said "Ok, from now on, you will be Student Delta Victor Romeo."
"Uhm, ok?" Was this some kind of exercise? A test?
"I'm going to jump out, and I want you to taxi around a bit, then do a circuit."
"Uuhh... Wait. WHAT?!"
We stopped in front of the Clubhouse.
"I'm going to get out now."
"And you want me to... taxi?"
"And then I want you to take off."
"... WHAT?!?!"

My jaw dropped and I must've looked like a fish (haha, Flying Fish. Anyway). Was this guy actually serious? I looked at him and saw that he was already half way out of the plane. Mouth still hanging open, I looked from him, to the my hand (which was resting on the throttle), to the windsock. It was completely vertical; not a breath of wind. I looked back to my Instructor and saw him standing there, looking at me rather expectantly. I quickly snapped my mouth closed and tried to regain some normal brain function. That done, I said the first thing that came to my mind.

"I can't."
"Why not?"
"My dad will kill me; he said he wants to be here when I go solo."
"I've already spoken to him."
"Are you serious?! ... Do you think I'm ready?"
"If I didn't think you were, I wouldn't let you do this."

I glanced at the windsock. It hadn't moved.

"Taxi around a bit and if you don't feel happy, go back to the hanger. If you're alright; take off."
"Ok... Student DVR?"
"Yep. I'll talk to you on the radio just now."

And then, he was gone. Thoughts of 'Solo? Go solo? Is he mad?' kept racing through my mind. I remembered what he had said; taxi around. Snapping my mouth closed once again (why does it keep falling open?), I had a quick look around to make sure I wouldn't hit anything, took my feet off the brakes, and slowly opened the throttle just enough to get the plane moving.

As I taxi'd around I started thinking 'No way! Solo. Really? No way! Solo?!' I taxi'd past the clubhouse again and glanced at the windsock. It was just hanging there. "Ok, lets give this a go," I said out loud to myself.

I taxi'd to the threshold of runway 19 and ran through every checklist I could remember; Just in case. (But even so, there isn't much to check when flying the Cubby. The joys of basic aircraft). Checks done, I listened on the radio to make sure that there wasn't a lot of traffic. Luckily, there was only a Tiger Moth that had just joined overhead.

"Stellenbosch Traffic, Student Delta Victor Romeo entering and backtracking runway 19."
I entered the runway in a haste, but then I reminded myself that I had right of way, and I mustn't rush; this is my time. I lined up, being sure to try and be on the centerline. I glanced to my right and checked the windsock one more time; nothing.

Taking a breath, I slowly opened the power and pushed the stick forward simultaneously. "I can do this, I can do this, I can do this, I can do this, I can do this. Why isn't my tail going up?!" Checked the speed, looked outside. "Aaaah! About to go onto the grass!" Speed was alright and the tail was starting to come up, so I gently pulled the stick back a bit and raised the nose, applying some left rudder so that I would leave the black stuff and go 'farming'. "Wow! That was a close one! Hey, I'm flying! ... Wow, I never realised how big this cockpit is without someone sitting in front of me."

It's amazing how we think of the most random things at the most random of times. I decided to stop day-dreaming (ok, I was actualy about to break into song), and apply everything I'd learnt. The after take-off checks popped into my mind, and I went through them: Brakes, Undercarriage, Throttle-Set, Mixture-Set, Flaps, Lights. (I neglected to check the temperatures and pressures during that flight. I haven't forgotten since.)

By this time the Tiger was on Downwind, and he was quite far ahead on my 11 'o clock, so I decided to do my usual tight circuit as I felt confident that I wouldn't get too close. I called Downwind as he did a very tight Base leg and turned onto Finals. I still thought "He'll be clear by the time I'm ready to land." I throttled back and got my speed to about 80mph, found my Base marker and turned.

"Student Delta Victor Romeo, Base, 19"
I looked at the runway and realised that the Tiger didn't have brakes, and therefore couldn't exactly vacate all that fast. I turned onto Finals and I felt a sense of panic. Now what? Do I do an orbit? Am I allowed to at this height on a final approach? What do I say?! I couldn't answer any of the questions that rushed through my mind, so I did what seemed logical; I killed time by doing zig-zags. Right, straighten, right, hard left, right. My grip on the throttle and stick tightened as I got lower and closer to the runway, the Tiger still puttering along it. "Pappa Charlie Whiskey has vacated runway 19". I breathed a huge sigh of relief and focused on my height and speed. I was a bit high, so I figured that I may as well side-slip in. "Student Delta Victor Romeo, Finals, 19"

I flew it down to the numbers and held off so that the speed would drop. "Fly it down, fly it down." I was going to land deep. "That's right, check back, check back, all the way back now and hold it." I thought it would be like all my other landings; a bouncer with a go-around. The tail-wheel touched, then one of the main gear, then the other. It took me a second to realise that all three wheels were on the ground. It was a PERFECT landing!!! (Or as perfect as they can be. Nothing in flying is perfect after all). The Cubby quickly reminded me that I wasn't finished flying yet by swinging the tail from side to side. I quickly got my feet working the rudders and countered the fish-tailing.

It's an amazing feeling going solo, and it's even more amazing when you execute a flawless (IMO) landing. You really think "Wow, I just flew all by myself with no help from anyone else. That's so cool." I remember vacating the runway and wondering if I should say that I had vacated or not. Seeing as no one was in the circuit or on the ground, I decided to keep quiet. I flung the door open and savoured the nippy fresh air being blasted into my face. It was invigorating; the sun was setting, the air was crisp and fresh, and the adrenalin was pumping!

I taxi'd the short distance to the hanger without incident and shut-down. After I had jumped out I just stood there, thinking. My instuctor walked up to me and I looked at him before packing out laughing. I couldn't stop saying "Wow" and "I can't believe I just went solo!" I think he was impressed; he didn't even make me put the covers and everything on the plane. I bounced off to the clubhouse, trying to contain my grin; there were a lot of people there and I didn't want to seem smug.

When I walked through the gate they all looked at me and started congratulating me. I didn't really know what to do, so I just kept saying "Thanks" and "That was so amazing" and shook a bunch of people's hands and got a whole lot of hugs. I got my dad on the phone and he couldn't stop saying how proud he is, and at one point it really seemed to hit home for me, and I almost started crying from the realisation at what I'd done. Solo in a tail-dragger at the tender age of 17. That's something.

By now I couldn't keep the grin off my face, but the adrenalin was starting to wear off; I was cold, tired and hungry, and I still had 3 hours of radio lectures to get through. I ended up dozing in the lectures, smiling every now and then when I thought about my flight and whispered "Solo!" to myself, followed by a quiet, goofy little giggle. I also realised that that one, short little flight had made every failed exam worth it.

And now here I am, one year later with a Com subject passed and almost 80 hours behind my name. Life, she is pretty good.

24 August 2010

Thou mocketh me

So things have been pretty quiet lately. I've only flown twice since the third and the 19th. On the 3rd I had a bit of a scary experience; I almost ground-looped the plane. For some reason I couldn't get my landings right, and for the first time since I started flying I thought "Am I ever going to make this thing stay on the ground? What if I can't do it?!" Luckily I eventually hit the ground and stayed there (after a few jarring bounces).

But now I've started with school mock exams, so everything else has been put on hold, much to my disgust; I now have a beautiful Canon 40D in my possession, and all I want to do is take photos. But due to time constraints (and a small memory card), I'm unable to do this. Although, I DID get to go to Cape Town International yesterday, so I took a couple of photos there.

I can't wait until these exams finish:
- AAD 2010 is coming up soon
- I want to do a few cross-country flights
- School is almost over... FOREVER!

Woohoo. That's it for now.

Stay safe.

01 August 2010

July Flying Summary

I’d say that July was quite a good month flying - and photo - wise. I took over 600 photos, unfortunately very few of those are actually good, but anyway. I also flew the Cubby, a Piper Cub, and a Tiger Moth.

Flying the Cub was quite strange, and the biggest problem for me was that there was a delay when one opened the power, so you have to be very careful, especially when on the ground (brakes don’t work very well). The Tiger however, is an absolute dream to fly, and she’s even a pleasure on the ground, despite the lack of brakes. It’s quite something sticking your head out of the cockpit, wind blasting you in the face as you fly the Final approach, alternating between watching the ground, checking the speed (using the primitive airspeed indicator on the wing), flying, and trying not to be blown away. One also flares a lot sooner in the Tiger as it has ‘long legs’. Awesome!
The really cool thing is that I can log the times of both those flights. And I’ve finally started a new page in my logbook.

So, this is where I stand:

CPL subjects passed: 1
Hours flown for the month: 5.6

Total Instrument: 5 (4.8 FSTD actual time)
Total Dual: 29.2
Total PIC: 41.2
Total: 75.2

31 July 2010

And Now… I Wait

20 July, 2010

Today I wrote the Human Performance and Meteorology exams for my Commercial Pilot’s License. I’ve been preparing for over 5 weeks, and I was feeling okay. That is, I was feeling okay up until last night when I decided to check the form with the names of those of us that are writing. I discovered that, because I had neglected to tick the little box that mentioned something about “IFR”, I would now be writing the “VFR” exam.

Why did I make that mistake? Because it should say “If you plan on doing an Instrument Rating, you should tick THIS box!”, but it didn’t say that, so I ticked the other box. Now I might have to rewrite both exams because they are – apparently – two different things (my Human Performance exam actually said “Human Performance (VFR”) ). What’s the difference?!?!

But anyway, the exams went kind of ok. Human Performance was quite basic, and Met was tricky. I think (hope) I passed both of them. And I sincerely hope I won’t need to write the “IFR” versions (whatever those are). Now I must wait 2 weeks for my results. How fun.

26 July, 2010

I got my exam results much sooner than expected. Despite the considerably reduced waiting period, it still isn’t fun sitting around wondering whether or not I’ve passed. Unfortunately I failed Met by one mark (that’s always the worst), but I passed Human Performance. Now I need to find out if I have to re-write both because of the stupid IFR/VFR thing.

One down, many more to go!

30 July, 2010

I get credit for Human Performance! Yes! But I still need to rewrite Met, so my goal of passing every subject first time is no more. But I’m still happy.

03 July 2010

Aerobatics in an RV-8

3 July

You’ll often hear pilots say that; “In aviation it’s not about WHAT you know, but about WHO you know.” You can be the best pilot in the world, but that won’t do you any good unless you have some contacts, right? It’s also about being in the right place at the right time.

I was bored and cold, and stuck at work, so I figured I’d walk over to the clubhouse and get myself a cup of tea. As I was leaving the clubhouse, a steaming cup of Rooibos in hand, Peter asked me if I wanted to go for a flight. “I’d love to, but I kind of need to be at work. Thanks for the offer though!” For some reason, it didn’t click that Peter is the owner of RV-8, ZU-LUS.

Geoff, who was sitting at the bar, said, “I’ll go with you!” Peter just laughed and said that he wouldn’t fit. A little switch went off in my head, and I turned back to Peter. “What are you flying?”
“The RV.”
My face split into a grin as things clicked into place. “Ok, I’d LOVE to go for a flight!” Work? What’s that?
“Alright, go tell the cops and we can go.”
I ran upstairs to let the cops know that I was going as a passenger, and they took my details down (World Cup security and all that).

While Peter went to get the aircraft ready, I left a sign in the shop saying that I’d be back in a bit, then I went over to Peter’s hanger and admired his beautiful yellow and blue RV. He told me to climb into the front seat, and I did so, settling myself in comfortably. He then explained which instruments did what, and allowed me to familiarize myself a bit. But I wouldn’t be flying in the 'hotseat'.

I climbed out of the cockpit, then settled myself back into the aircraft as Peter did the pre-flight. This time I was sitting in the ‘back seat’. The only instrument I had was a GPS displaying altitude and airspeed (and a few other things I think, but I only focused on the altitude and airspeed).

Once I was strapped in, Peter climbed in and set about firing the beast up. He always told me exactly what he was doing. The view from the back is limited; you can’t really see forward, turning around is difficult because of the low canopy and shoulder harness, and I couldn’t see any of the instrument panel in front of Peter.

We started up and taxi’d to the holding point of Runway 19. While waiting for the oil temperature to come up, Peter told me some more about the machine and how he came to own it. After a couple of minutes we were ready to go.

As we lined up, Peter said that I must follow on the controls during the take-off as I would fly once we were in the air. I loosely wrapped my fingers around the stick and rested my toes on the rudder pedals.

He advanced the power in stages, and all I noticed was a green grassy mass rushing past. The tail came up, and before I knew it, we were airborne. I think the first thing that popped into my head as my jaw dropped was “WOW!” All of a sudden I could see the world around me. The view was absolutely spectacular, and the rate of knots we were doing was something else.

“Alright, you have control.”
I snapped my mouth shut and focused on the machine. I hesitantly tightened my grip on the stick and got my first feel of what it was like to actually fly this beast. It was rather jumpy “Fly it with two fingers.”
“Alright.” I held the stick between my thumb and index finger, and I found that things just felt smoother. What a difference!

The world rushed past as we climbed to about 1000ft. I then made a left turn and pointed us towards Franschoek, being sure to remain below the cloud base. WOW! We flew overhead Helshoogte and turned right into a valley.

“Alright, climb and we’ll fly over that ridge.”
Not knowing how far back I could pull, I gently pulled the stick towards me and watched the numbers on the altimeter increase. “You can pull back more. Climb at about 90kts.” I checked the airspeed and saw that we were doing about 120kts. I pulled back on the stick until we were doing about 100kts. At about 3000ft I leveled off, and we flew over the ridge. Stunning!

We climbed to about 4000ft to get out of the turbulence. One second we were being buffeted around slightly, and the next everything was absolutely still. It was surreal. This plane practically flew itself.

“Alright, shall we do some steep turns?”
“Yeah, ok!”
“Ok, you can give it about 60 degrees of bank, and keep the nose on the horizon.”
I gently banked to the right.
“More, more, more. Ok, hold it there.”
I held it there, loving how smooth the controls were.
“Tighten it up, pull back on the stick a bit.”
I did so, the nose dropping below the horizon, the world floating past.
“Ok, now roll out, then immediately snap it to the left.”
Feeling more comfortable, I rolled the wings level then (gently) threw the stick to the left, keeping the nose on the horizon. It was definitely much better than the first one. We rolled out and Peter took control once again.

“We’re going to do a roll.”
I’m quite sure he could hear how excited I was when I said “Cool, ok!”
Raising the nose, he gave it right aileron. Wow, wow, WOW! Now is probably a good time to say that this is the first time I’ve ever done any aerobatics. AMAZING!

He then rolled to the left. Again, it was absolutely awesome. Then came the loop. Nose up, watch the left wing, look for the horizon, pull through, clench the thigh muscles, feel the G’s. All I could say after that was “Wow! Awesome! That was so amazing! Wow!”

Next was a Half Cuban Eight, then a Reverse Half Cuban Eight, then a Chandelle.
“Would you like to try?”
“Uh, ok, sure.”
“We can do a roll. Don’t worry; I’ll talk you through the whole thing.”
“Ok, cool!”
“What you want to do is raise the nose, then apply full left aileron.”
“Alright.” I tightened my grip around the stick.
Nose up, nose up, more, more, check the wing, full left aileron!
I wasn’t sure how violent I could be, so I didn’t actually give full aileron, but it was still awesome.
“Ok, good. What next?”
“Could we do another roll please?”
This time I was more confident.
Nose up, nose up, check the wing, and told me when to turn, I pretty much used my whole body as I gave left aileron. WOW!

We leveled off.
“How about a loop?”
Nose up, nose up, nose up, harder, watch the wing, keep the stick there, look for the horizon, pull, pull, pull.
“Good, how about another one?”
How could I resist?
Nose up, nose up, nose up, watch the wing, keep the stick there, look for the horizon, keep the wings level, a little less back-pressure, let it float through, ok, pull back, pull back, level off.
“You did all of that. I didn’t do anything!”
I was speechless. I had just rolled an aircraft twice, and done two loops... during my first ever aerobatic experience. AMAZING!!!

He asked what I wanted to do next, so I said that I’d like to take some photos and I don’t mind what he does. He took control and we did a Barrel Roll. We then did a loop, a Half Cuban Eight, a Barrel Roll, and then a 4-point Hesitation Roll, all in quick succession.

I wasn’t feeling good. No, I was feeling GREAT! He then showed me what it was like doing spins in this aircraft. He raised the nose and came back on the power, the cockpit became quiet. Then came the buffet and we flicked to the left. After two rotations he recovered and we leveled off. Second time I’ve ever done spins, and it was fantastic!

“Right, take us home!”
I took control, keeping the stick between two fingers, and pointed us towards the valley we had come through earlier. There was a lot of cloud, so as soon as we were over the ridge of mountains and in the valley, we descended so we could fly below the cloud. “Fly it like you own it!”
An even bigger grin appeared on my face. “Ok!”
I pushed the nose down and we went from about 3500ft to 2000ft in no time. “Just cut this corner here.”
All hesitation gone, I pushed the stick left, applying some back-pressure, and marveled at the sight and feeling as we whizzed past an outcrop of rock.

I pointed us towards the airfield, enjoying the feeling of flying at 140kts (double the Cubby’s cruising speed). Peter took over once we were overhead. Throwing us into a tight left turn, we descended and joined left downwind for Runway 19. He said all the downwind checks out loud as he went through them.

On Final he said, “Ok, I’m going to try a wheel landing.” It was a ‘Greaser’. We touched down gently and the tail stayed up until just before we turned off the runway. Beautiful.

I learnt that the RV is a machine that wants to be thrown around. In fact, it almost begs you to put some force into every movement of the stick. It’s extremely sensitive, but if you tell it what you want, it obeys you and doesn’t ask questions. “Fly it like you own it” is a good way to describe it.

A huge thank you to Peter! I’ve wanted to fly in an RV for ages, and I’m so glad that you gave me that opportunity. Talk about being in the right place at the right time!

So dad, when are we going to get an RV?

** For those of you that aren't familiar with aerobatic manoeuvres, check out this website for explanations: http://www.iac.org/begin/figures.html

Some of the flight: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CFsJ03cPOE

02 July 2010

Do You Know What You’re Letting Yourself In For?

A couple of days ago I was sitting at work, and a guy came in all bright-eyed and happy, a list of the ‘PPL kit’ in his hand. This is about the third time in two weeks that hopeful beginner pilots have come in to buy the ‘kit’. Why is there a sudden influx of new students?

Oh well. I went about getting everything this chap would need, and set it all down on the counter for him. When I was busing ringing everything up, he picked up the stack of books, looked at me as if I was crazy, and said “Do I need to study all of this?” I raised my eyebrows, smiled a bit and said “Yes you do!”

He didn’t seem so bright-eyed and happy anymore! The more he looked at the stack of books, the more nervous he looked, and he was probably thinking “What have I let myself in for?”. I contemplated reaching down and placing my stack of Com notes on the counter and saying “And if you do your CPL, you get to study all this too!”, but I didn’t want the poor guy to die of shock.

The point of this post is this: it seems like new students don’t realize that there’s more to flying than, well, flying. It’s not something you can master, and it’s not something where you can be lazy (ha, says me!) I’ve spent more time studying than I have flying, and that’s the way it should be. For the duration of your training, you need to eat, breath, sleep, drink, LIVE Avex notes (or whatever study material it is that you’re using). And once you’ve finished your training, you’ll find that you never ever stop learning.

Is it the responsibility of the prospective new Private Pilot to do research and find out how difficult it really is to get a PPL? Is that sort of information even available? Or is it the job of the instructor to inform this hopeful wannabe of all the theory they need to know before they can even thinking about flying? I’m not 100% sure how things work with intro flights, having never had one. But I think that if someone is considering learning to fly, they should first see what they need to study, and THEN go for their intro flight.

I’m sure I’ve said it before; this flying business is no walk in the park. It can be difficult, boring, time-consuming, and rewarding, AND (very) expensive, all at the same time. You need to think about all sorts of things before deciding to start training. I started flying thinking it would be a piece of cake, and I soon learnt how mistaken I was. And the costs! I think people forget that, apart from the actual training, they also need to pay for: flying club membership fees, medicals, lectures, exams, and books (loads of them!). That’s already a good few thousand gone, and you haven’t even left the ground yet!

So, do research before deciding to fly. I’ve found it difficult to come by information, but there is a little bit out there; you just need to look really hard.

“If God had intended for man to fly, he would have given him more money.”

01 July 2010

Oranjemund, Namibia

My visit (21-28 June)

A while ago, a friend asked me to visit her in Namibia. After thinking about it for a while, I decided that the trip might do me some good. So we set about getting the necessary security clearance so that I’d be able to enter Oranjemund (a mining town).

Some of the wildlife

The original plan was that I’d stay there for 2 weeks. But things changed, and I only ended up staying for 1 week. Rather unfortunate, I must say.

I was also meant to fly up. But because the plan had changed, there weren’t any flights, so I ended up driving. Road trip! Well, not really. But I still enjoyed it. Normally I get bored after an hour or two in the car, but for some reason that 8hr+ drive was different.

Silly me didn’t take any photos along the way. Now I have a good reason to drive up again! The scenery was quite amazing. The furthest north I’ve been by car is Langebaan, so I got to see all sorts of new places along the way (just don’t ask me what they’re called; I wasn’t really paying attention to the names…)

By the time we reached Port Nolloth the sun had pretty much set, so I didn’t get to see the scenery (or lack thereof) in that area. When we reached the border it was pitch black and freezing! This was the first time I’ve ever crossed a border (on land at least). After a quick passport check, we hopped back into the car, drove across a small bridge, and were in Namibia. Just like that.

On the other side of the bridge we had to hand over our passports again, and fill in arrival/departure forms. This took a while, but I didn’t really notice it. That done, it was back into the car. We drove about 200m (possibly less) before we had to jump out once again. This time it was to enter Oranjemund (I knew it was close to the border, but I didn’t realize it’s THAT close!)

More waiting. This time it was because my friend’s clearance thing had expired. Apparently. No security clearance thing means you can’t enter Oranjemund. Luckily it was just a misunderstanding. After a quick mug-shot (that was embarrassing; I’d been wearing a beanie for the whole day, and I had to take it off for the photo. My hair was a mess!), we were off.

Welcome to Oranjemund.

After a quick dinner, we both crashed. If I was feeling tired, I could only imagine how my friend felt (I got a few hours sleep during the drive)!

The next morning dawned bright and happy, and I saw Oranjemund for the first time. It’s different. The roads are quiet, the houses small, the people friendly, the shops almost non-existent, and there was sand pretty much everywhere.

Beach resort?

I walked to Spar and found it quite weird to see the desert right there. The place has a bit of a holiday feel to it, and I really enjoyed that. Kids could run around and not worry about being hit by a car, or being mugged or raped. It’s completely different from home. The place also gives one the impression that it was great at one stage, but now it’s entering a stage of neglect.

Very informative. This is near the mouth of the Orange River

I got the fright of my life when I walked into Spar and saw that all the prices were in $’s. It’s extremely weird. Now I have 10 Namibian Dollars as a souvenir. Just because.

I didn’t do much during my stay there; I slept, read, and did a bit of studying every now and then. I suppose that that’s why I decided to go there; to relax. And relax I did!

The beach there is awesome; it’s clean, and there’s driftwood everywhere. The waves are absolutely massive, and the sounds and smells were amazing. I very stupidly decided not to take photos when I went for a walk on the beach.

My only photo of the beach

Little braai spots along the Orange River add to that ‘holiday feel’.

Some of the River

I was also granted the opportunity to sit in an S-76. When I walked into the hanger and saw two of these machines sitting there, I got chills and felt giddy. Seriously. They’re beautiful aircraft! Once I was seated in the cockpit I didn’t want to get out! This is the second time I’ve ever sat in a helicopter (first one I ever sat in was a Huey).

Before I knew it, my week there was up. I was hoping that there wouldn’t be any space on the flight back, so I could stay a while longer. Unfortunately there were a couple of seats open.

Convair 580, ZS-LYL. My ride outta there

I was completely lost at the ‘airport’. Things are done very differently there. My ticket was a sheet of paper that not only had the wrong flight number, but also said that I was flying from Cape Town to Oranjemund. When I pointed this out, the chap there merely wrote in the correct flight number and said “Don’t worry; the ticket doesn’t actually count for anything.” Right.

After getting my passport stamped and handing my little security card thing back in, I made my way to an awaiting Convair 580 with a bunch of people who work on ships. I felt so out of place; every one seemed to know each other. Once on the plane, well, it’s a bit like being at a Ster Kinekor Junction; you can sit where you please. I found myself sitting in line with the wing, in the isle seat (I’ve been sitting there a lot lately), next to a young lady. We were the only two females on the flight. Excluding the airhostess, that is.

The nice thing about this little airport is that there’s no waiting for ATC and other traffic. By the time we were seated, they (the pilots) were ready to go. Lined up on the runway, the pilots applied full power against the brakes. The two giant engines roared, and the entire aircraft shook and groaned. It was different, to say the least.

The brakes were released and off we went. One second we were flying in sandy conditions, the next we were in cloud, and the next we were above the cloud. I settled in, ate the snacks they provided, and pretty much zoned out for most of the flight. The drone of the engines reminded me of the Cubby for some reason.

We were overhead Cape Town after less than an hour and a half of flying. Flying around the peninsula, we witnessed a spectacular sunset. On downwind for runway 19, they turned off the cabin lights. I felt like I’d been thrown into one of those plane crash movies; it was dark inside and there was very little sunlight left, dark clouds rushed passed the windows, the overhead baggage lockers rattled as the aircraft yawed all over the place, and the pitch of the engines was constantly changing.

Sunset in the Cape

The pilot made sure that we knew we had landed by slamming the aircraft into the ground and jumping on the brakes, throwing us forward in our seats. One of the passengers laughed and said “And that’s how you know the landing gear is down.”

Despite the fact that I didn’t do much there, I’d love to go back. I really like the feel of the place; the relaxed atmosphere, the ‘rural’ life(style). While I can’t see myself living there (especially if I had to live by myself), I definitely wouldn’t mind if I got to fly there often for work. Now I want to see what Botswana is like! From desert to swamps.

There's a desert out there!

Birds by the River

16 June 2010

2010 Soccer World Cup (Eish!)

So, “World Cup Fever” is here (apparently)… I don’t know about you, but I’m not feeling it. The sound of vuvuzela’s is annoying, the hawkers at robots are annoying, the need for a SSC and FAC to go do circuits is annoying, and I find soccer plain boring.

No photographers are allowed on the active side of Stellenbosch airfield. I honestly don’t know why; what’s the difference between standing on the one side of the fence and taking photos, and standing on the other side of the fence taking photos? Not much except for angle and distance. Or one could just stand on the balcony and get a nice view of pretty much the whole airfield. Just do go on ‘that’ side of the fence, or the cops WILL have a word with you. I know this from experience.

Four words come to mind: “Stupid World Cup Restrictions”.

I’m on holiday now, and I’m supposed to be doing all this assigned holiday school work. Needless to say I went to the library and picked up a couple of books (ok, 7), and I’m working my way through them. Studying? What’s that?

I have, however, started studying Met for my CPL. I’ll be attempting Met and Human Performance on 20 July. Scary thought. But I’m glad that I’m doing something productive, and it actually feels kind of good to be studying that stuff again.

Oh, it’s snowing. Happy happy! I don’t like the cold that much, but I love looking at the snow on the mountains. There isn’t much, but I’m sure more will fall in the next few weeks.

01 June 2010

Charlie 152

Tuesday, 1 June

Today was quite a big day for me. I wrote my final mid-year exam paper this morning, and I go on holiday next week. Needless to say I’m excited!

Not only did I complete my exams, but I’ve also completed my Cessna 152 conversion. It’s only taken me a few months!

Thinking back on today, it feels like the events happened weeks ago. It’s got that surreal feeling. I’m sure you’ve experienced something like it at least once before.

I was tired. Writing a 3 hour chemistry exam isn’t fun, especially for someone who detests chem as much as I do. After some lunch and a power nap, I headed off to the airfield for my long-awaited C152 flight.

It felt so weird having to fill in the authorization sheets; the last time I had to do that was in December. How time flies. Paperwork done, I headed to trusty ZS-LSN and did a pre-flight. I remembered everything, surprisingly enough. Then my instructor told me to climb in and get comfortable while he went to grab his headset.

Checklist in hand, I re-familiarized myself with the cockpit. I was feeling surprisingly calm. Soon we were taxing to the holding point of runway 19. I realized that I was having absolutely no trouble taxiing the tin-can, and asked myself what had changed (normally my turning is surprisingly jerky).

Sitting at the holding point, I went through the checklist, asking my instructor about things every now and then. For someone who has very little experience in that aircraft, I felt I was doing quite well.

Soon we were lined up for take-off, and I went through the last of the checks. What To Do Last: Wind, Transponder, DI, Lights.
The windsock barely moved, transponder was set to Alt, DI was aligned, and the lights stayed off (except for the beacon).

I slowly opened the throttle, and we set off down the runway. At 50kts I raised the nose, and at 60kts we were airborne. Climbing at 70kts, we reached the circuit altitude of 1300ft faster than what I was used to.

It was weird flying the larger, faster, heavier aircraft, but it also felt so GOOD. Never have I felt so comfortable in that aircraft, but today everything just felt right!

The first landing was a regular, 30deg flap one. The next one was with 20deg flap. The one after that was flapless. Then another 30deg flap, then a simulated engine failure. After the second landing I managed to do everything without the help of my instructor, so I was feeling quite chuffed with myself.

Having done the simulated engine failure, we vacated the runway and made our way back towards the hanger. That was when my instructor asked if I wanted to do a solo circuit. I hadn’t really been expecting it, but for some reason my first reaction was to say “Ok!”. (When my instructor suggested I go solo in the Cubby for the very first time, I thought he was insane and shouted “No ways!”).

A few minutes later found me sitting at the holding point of runway19 once again, but this time there was an open seat on my right; my instructor had left me. I felt weird; not nervous, not excited… content maybe.

Things went off without a hitch, and I reckon I ‘greased’ the landing. Unfortunately I decided to be clever and, instead of running to the end of the runway, I jumped on the brakes in order to turn off at the first taxiway. I locked the brakes and the plane ended up skidding a bit, but I managed to make the taxiway and stay off the grass.

All the previous times I’ve flown the C152, I haven’t enjoyed it. There was always so much going on and so much to do. But today I handled her with ease, and didn’t get stressed out about the flaps and carb-heat (things the Cubby doesn’t have). It was still weird flying the larger, faster, heavier aircraft, but it also felt so GOOD. Never have I felt so comfortable in that aircraft, and today everything just felt so right!

I went solo in a C152, despite having flown one only 8 times, the most recent time being in December of last year. That’s got to count for something, right? Even if it isn’t some great achievement, at least I have another hour in the logbook.

Now all I want to know is: What’s next?!

Reach for a Dream

29 May 2010

First of all; THE CUBBY IS BACK IN ACTION!!! Yesterday, she took to the sky after almost 2 months of being stuck on the ground. Yes, I’m extremely happy. And today, I got to fly my beautiful baby, so you can just imagine the grin on my face.


Reach for a Dream is an organization that helps children that have been diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses fulfill their dreams. For the past couple of years (except for 2009), Stellenbosch Flying Club has hosted a day where some of these kids are given the opportunity to go for a short flight. The members of SFC graciously donate their time and aircraft for these flights, and KFC provides meals for the kids.

In the past (2007 and 2008) I helped out as ground crew, but this year I was given the privilege of flying some of these kids. It was an amazing experience!

The morning was bright and cold. The sky clear, and there wasn’t a breath of wind. After a short briefing about how things would work, I took the Cubby out and did a few circuits to make sure I can still fly the thing. Man oh man did it feel good to be back in that cockpit!

The kids arrived just after 10am, and my first passenger was a 15 year old boy. He had never flown before, and was extremely quiet. We took off and made our way to the Strand beachfront. The air was as smooth as glass and it was starting to warm up. They couldn’t have picked a better day for the event! I was a bit worried about my young passenger, but I relaxed when he started showing an interest and taking photos with his cell phone.

The route we were supposed to fly was Stellenbosch – Strand – Gordon’s Bay – Sir Lowry’s Pass- through “The Gap” (Eastern side of the Helderberg Mountain) – Stellenbosch.
I decided to cut the Gordon’s Bay – Sir Lowry’s part out, as it would just take too long in the Cubby. After flying along the beach, we made our way to Helderberg Mountain and through the gap.

Can you say congestion?!

Switching to 119.3, I was met by a cacophony of noise. Aircraft didn’t know if they were coming or going. A Jabiru (I think) had flown past me, so I decided to just stick behind him as we joined overhead to land on runway 01. There were 3 of us on Downwind and one or two joining overhead when the wind changed and the guys on the ground decided to start using runway 19 instead.

Fantastic! I decided to try land on 01 despite the tailwind, and I found myself passing the fence at 100mph (it was meant to be 60mph). Not bothering to even try get the wheels on the ground, I applied power and climbed away, intending to do a 180deg turn and land on 19.

That plan failed dismally when 2 more aircraft entered the circuit, and I decided it would be safer to just slot in behind them. As we descended on the dead side, 3 more aircraft joined overhead. Now, imagine how big those circuits became! As we were on Crosswind, I looked over my right should and saw a Cherokee 180 close behind me. I quickly asked him what his intentions were, not wanting to be shoved around by the other aircraft. Thankfully the pilot had common sense and didn’t try cutting in front of me.

By the time we were on Downwind, there were about 8 aircraft in the circuit. There were double transmissions and just general chaos! Eventually we made it onto a veerry long Final and after some time, we touched down… a few times. I somehow managed to wander to the left of the runway and found myself heading straight for the grass. A spurt of power got us back on track and we touched down with a few small bounces. Heart pumping and mouth dry, I taxied back to the clubhouse. My passenger seemed unphased by the chaos (and the pathetic landing[s]).

And I found myself thinking…

My second passenger was a very sweet young girl. She was quite talkative and over the moon that she got to sit in front. She had flown previously and was eager to experience flight again.

This time I decided to just fly around the mountain instead of going to Strand. 124.8 was a mess of radio calls, and half of the time I didn’t know what was going on, so I just made sure that everyone knew exactly where I was and what I was doing. It must’ve worked; there were a few times when aircraft would pass right beneath us, but we didn’t hit anything, so that’s good.

We flew over my school and when I told my passenger that that’s where I go to school, she whipped around to look at me, a horrified look on her face, and said “You’re still in school?! Yoh!” I couldn’t help but laugh.

The rest of the flight was rather uneventful. There was a lot less traffic as we joined overhead, and soon we were on a long Final. My young passenger decided that now would be a good time to ask me about my plane. I started answering her questions and, as we were on Short Final, I found myself thinking “Why the heck am I explaining EGT’s to this girl?! I’m supposed to be flying!”

A bit of wind had picked up, and the landing was hairy to say the least. Thankfully my passenger wasn’t too bothered by it. Another one safe on the ground.

Just refer to me as a beacon…

My third passenger was another young chap. Also very quiet, and also new to the whole flying thing. As were entering the runway, he loudly exclaimed that he “HAD to pee!” Great. I asked him if he could hold it and he gave me a firm nod.

This chap didn’t talk at all; I’m not sure if it was because he was scared or if he couldn’t hear me, or if it was because he had to pee. Maybe it was a combination of the three? Anyway, we made our way around the mountain and headed back towards Stellenbosch.

The circuit was busy once again. Two aircraft were in front of me, and at least 3 or 4 behind me. The radio was never silent, and I soon found that people started using me as a reference point “I’m 2 behind the yellow Cubby” … “I’m on downwind, behind the yellow Cubby.” … “I’m the one in front of the yellow Cubby.” … “I’m taking off behind the Cubby.” Hmmm… Must’ve been that hat of mine.

Random transmissions…

My fourth passenger was one of the helpers; A chap who had never flown before, and couldn’t wait to try it out. Almost everyone had finished flying at this stage, so we had the circuit to ourselves. I decided to do an extremely wide circuit and do a few steep turns so he could get a taste of what flying is like.

Before each turn, I’d say what we’re doing so he wouldn’t get a fright “Ok, we’re going to do a turn to the left now,” and I couldn’t help but laugh when he leaned to the right in order to ‘counter’ the turn.

As we were trundling back to Stellenbosch, the radio was relatively silent and I heard someone calling from the Langebaan Lagoon. Random. Another oke said “Western Cape traffic, blah blah blah”. The rest of the flight went without incident and we landed safely. After we shut down a young girl came to us and asked if she could take a few photos and get our details; looks like I might be in the newspaper!

That was my last flight for Reach for a Dream for the day.

I still wanted to fly some more, so after a quick snack, I asked a friend of mine if she was up to going for a flight (she has a broken rib and I didn’t want her to put any strain on it). She was game, and she was seated in the Cubby 30min later, camera in hand (Nikon, pfft ;) …)

As we lined up for take-off I mentally kicked myself; I had forgotten to wash the windows. Bright one. But this didn’t seem to faze her; I could hear the camera clicking away for most of the flight. I was also kicking myself because I forgot to give her a safety briefing (“In the event of an engine failure on take-off we will…”) Next time.

We made our way to Strand but didn’t stay for long as the wind was really pumping. Turning around, we made our way back to Stellenbosch. My grandparents were there (it’s the first time they’ve seen me fly), so I was determined to grease the landing. Unfortunately the cross-wind got the better of me and we had to go-around.

On the second try I managed to plant us firmly on the ground (ok, there were a few small bounces). Methinks my passenger was rather chuffed; she kept thanking me and going on about how great it was (I think she’s still going on about it…). Broken rib? What broken rib? *climbs out the plane* Oh, THAT broken rib!

All in all, a magnificent day! It was amazing being back in the air, and also a really great experience to fly some of those young children around. Now I can add another 3 hours to the logbook. I’d forgotten how tiring flying could be, especially with passengers. But it was totally worth it!

[Please note that all photos in this post were taken by Irene McCullagh. www.irene-mccullagh.com]