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]