30 January 2012

Bushmans Kloof

What better way to start the year, than by flying a PC-12 to Bushmans Kloof (near Clanwilliam).
I don’t have much time to write blog posts these days, so this one is going to have more photos than writing.

In short, I got to fly in the right seat on a charter to Bushmans Kloof, and we spent a day and a half, and a night there. We were treated to excellent food and a stunning view. The staff were incredibly friendly and professional, and I felt like I was on holiday.

There was a long line of aircraft waiting to get airborne in the rather dreary weather


The 'terminal' at Bushmans Kloof


One of at least 3 pools


The view from the 'stoep'


A river no more than 50m from the cottages


A large deck with a 'kitchen' area (braai and wood oven), and fire area, nestled in the mountains, was the venue for a traditional South African dinner.


The dam outside some of the cottages.


Heading back to the airfield (it's about 20 minutes' drive from the lodge)


The gravel runway


Wingtip :)

03 January 2012

The Flattery... is Bat...

Friday, 30 December

A few weeks ago, I started doing aerotowing, or 'tugging', at the Cape Gliding Club in Worcester. I fly a 180hp Super Cub, and it's my job to pull the glider along behind me, until we find an area with plenty of lift, so that they can go and do their soaring thing.

While it's intense flying, it doesn't last for very long, because each tow is about 15 minutes, with about 5 minutes spent on the ground while preparing for the next two (so call it a total of 20 minutes per glider). I've done 14 tows so far, and I've gained less than 4 hours. But this type of flying teaches you a lot.

Today was a bit of a slow day; the weather wasn't playing ball so we had to postpone the flying for a few hours, and there were only 4 tows planned. While waiting for the weather to improve, I drove around Worcester in search of a McDonald's. Worcester reminds me of Stellenbosch, only, the streets are wider, there are less trees, and everyone seems to have a death wish (they walk across the road, stop, run back, stop, then go back the other way again).

The previous two days that I did tugging, things were very rushed, but today I was able to do
everything nice and slowly, and get myself and all my gear in the cockpit with time to spare. I went through the pre-start checks (of which there are few), checked all around to make sure it was clear, and hit the starter.

Nothing. I tried again. The prop half-heartedly did a quarter of a turn. I changed tanks and tried again. Same thing. I climbed out and was about to run to one of the glider pilots to tell him the Super Cub wasn't playing along, when I decided to give it one more go. This time she started up.

I taxi'd to the threshold, did my runups, waited to see what the glider pilots wanted to do, and when they all just stood there chatting, I decided to shutdown because they looked like they were really going to take their time.

As soon as the aircon stopped, the heat hit me. It was a relatively windless day, with temperatures in the mid to high thirties. I was sweating within minutes. After about 10 minutes, the glider pilots decided to start flying. It takes them a while to get set up on the runway, so I took my time with the start.

Aircraft ready, I pushed the starter button. Half a splutter. Again, quarter splutter... Long story short, the battery was on its way out. So some of the other pilots went to fetch jumper leads while I melted in the sun, drank warm juice, was attacked by flies, and listened to a pair of fish eagles doing some soaring of their own.

It was the first time I've jump-started an aircraft, and once we got her running, I made sure everything was working properly before setting off with the first glider. After an hour, all four gliders were making their way around the mountains (they managed to get to Swellendam and back), and I sat around in case anyone else pitched up and needed a tow.

When no one pitched up for a couple of hours, I got bored and decided to call it a day.
It took me over half an hour to put the plane back in the hangar (the doors don't like to open, and you need to push the aircraft up a hill to get it into the hangar), so after that I was tired, even more sweaty, and ready for bed.

Another day of good, challenging flying.