24 May 2012

Flying the Cessna 206

Finally... Wednesday, 23 May 2012, was here.
A Cessna 206 was available for training and conversions. An instructor was available. The money was available. The time was available. The weather was good. The catch? The aircraft is based in Clanwilliam, some 250km from where I live.

0630... Wake up, eat, go pick up a friend.
0730... Sit in traffic.
0815... Hit the road, equipped with music and foods (crisps and energy bars).
1100... Arrive at the airfield, "Clanwilliam Nooitgedacht", a dirt strip with one heck of a slope (I mentioned it in my "The Middle of Nowhere" entry, http://www.the-flying-fish.blogspot.com/2011/07/middle-of-nowhere.html).
We park the car, and stretch our legs as we walk to where the C206 is parked.

Seeing that aircraft with its white-blue paint scheme and the cargo pod... well, it was love at first sight. Two hours were spent writing the technical exam and waiting for another guy to finish his training. Come 1300, it was our turn. There were three of us that were there for the conversion, so when one was flying, the other two sat in the back and observed.

I chose to fly second, so I got comfortable in the back, ready to take notes, learn, relax and enjoy the view.
We took off from Nooitgedacht and were airborne no time, the six-cylinder engine firing away and hauling us into the air with ease. After take off we turned right and routed north towards Bushmans Kloof ("Bushmans Kloof", http://www.the-flying-fish.blogspot.com/2012/01/bushmans-kloof.html). Climbing to 4000ft, the training began. Sitting in the back allowed us to note power settings, learn about the aircraft's quirks, and quietly run over the procedures. And we also admired the view.

After about an hour, we did a full-stop at Bushmans Kloof and I climbed into the left seat.
Once strapped in, I taxi'd the aircraft around to get a feel for the rudders, then completed the power checks and got acquainted with the cowl flaps (the lever to open and close them is located between the two front seats, and is quite difficult to operate).

Happy that the aircraft was still working as it should, I released the brakes and let her roll forward slowly. As we rolled off the concrete block and onto the gravel, I applied a bit of power to get us moving a bit faster, and as we picked up speed, I pushed the throttle all the way in. Two things happened...

As the throttle moves past the half-way point, it's as if the engine hits a power band; she suddenly roars to life and you actually feel yourself being pushed back into your seat from the acceleration. From that point on she just hurtles down the runway like there's no tomorrow. It's an amazing feeling and sound.

And once you enter that 'power band', you find yourself veering off to the left. I've heard about yaw on take off, but this was insane! Kick the right rudder and, like a taildragger, she suddenly changes direction and shoots off to the right. Ease in the left, just a touch of right, the speed builds up and she starts getting light on the wheels, you can kind of maintain the runway centreline, and before you know it, you're climbing away at 1000fpm.

First off, climb to altitude and get a feel for the aircraft. She's repsonsive and the controls are light. Unlike other Cessna's I've flown, you actually need to use the rudder when turning. Once at altitude, it was time for some gentle turns, followed by steep turns. Keeping your eyes outside, it's easy to line the dash up at a 45deg angle to the horizon, and maintain altitude and bank throughout the turn.

After that, some stalls. First in the clean configuration, then with 10 degrees of flaps, and then full flaps (30 degrees). Now, I knew from watching the guy before that she was very docile in the stall... but actually trying to get her to stall was a lot like trying to get the Cubby to stall; little to no buffet, and she just mushes along. The only time she didn't behave nicely was as you recovered using power; if you don't catch the yaw, she tries to drop a wing. But even that was easy to recover from.

After the upper air work, it was time for some circuits. I had been told that raising the nose in the flare could be difficult, so it was best to keep a bit of power on, just to help you out. With that in my mind, I set up an approach and flew it down. It was all going well, until we bounced off Mother Earth; I'd pretty much forgotten to flare. With such a high nose, it's difficult to judge your height about the ground, so the wheels found it long before I realised just how low we were.

No problem though, the C206 is rugged and built to handle hard landings. The next few landings were much better, and I got better and better at anticipating the kick of power and yaw to the left as the throttle was opened. The 30 degrees of flaps were like barn doors, and slowed the aircraft down in no time.

I was working hard, and the hot sun beating down on me didn't help. I was quite relieved once I'd finished 6 circuits and swapped places with the next guy.

To finish things up...
The C206 is a dream to fly. I was expecting it to have heavy controls, and be tricky to handle, but the controls are light (lighter even than the C172RG's) and she's incredibly docile (like a Cubby with flaps in the stall). With four on board, full tanks, and operating at 1000ft elevation on a warm day, she performed as if she were a C172 flying at the coast with half tanks and one on board, and half the time she simply refused to stop climbing.

I now know why they're so popular in Botswana. A workhorse indeed, and a beautiful machine to boot.

22 May 2012

Stellenbosch Flying Club

One of the reasons I've been so quiet on the blog front (and the photo front, and the forum front, and really just in general), was due to the fact that I was tasked with the creation of a new SFC website. Or at least, I was tasked with the not-so-glamorous job of uploading content for the new website. I honestly thought it would take a month or two, maybe three, but alas, I was horribly wrong.

So after many months of writing out requirements for licences, proof-reading, finding photos, and figuring out the basics of web design, it was a relief to make the website live last week.
It's not the most awe-inspiring, or beautiful website, but it is a lot more modern than the old one, and all the important information is there.

As I'm still figuring the whole web design thing out, there might be one or two glitches, but fear not, for the site is young and hopefully it will grow from here. And if I get stuck or completely mess up, I can call on the man who helped me with everything ('cause there's no way I could've put that entire website together myself); thank you Virtual Media Company, for your guiding hand, patience, ideas, and hard work.

I don't think everyone realises just how much hard work goes into putting a good website together. All you web designers out there - respect.

Please take a look at our new website: www.stelfly.co.za


Another reason I've been so quiet is because I've started writing my ATPL exams.
Excuses, excuses, I know, I know.

Cheers for now!

12 May 2012

St. Bernard of the Sky

The Avro Shackleton MR3 was used in the South African Air Force as a maritime patrol aircraft from 1957 to 1984. The SAAF ordered eight of these huge aircraft, with their unique contra-rotating propellers. Today, 4 are on static display throughout the country, one is lying in the Sahara Desert ("Pelican 16"), and Pelican 22 is the last of its type still in (relatively) serviceable condition, though it is unlikely that she will ever take to the sky again. 1718 crashed in 1962 near Rawsonville.

I last saw and heard a Shackleton in 2006, and had missed every ground-run of 1722, "Pelican 22", based at AFB Ysterplaat. Due to technical issues, the ground-runs were put on hold, and she spent her days looming over Impala's and Mirage's in 4 Hangar. So imagine my joy when I heard that her 4 Griffon engines were to be fired up once again.

On 12 May 2012, Pelican 22's 24 propeller blades sped into life for the first time in many, many months. What a sound and sight!
Her engines were run for over 20 minutes (with a cough and splutter here and there, and one engine deciding that this whole "running" thing was just far too much work, so she acted up a bit). Once the cobwebs were cleared out, she was shut down and given a wash. Enough talking, here are some photos...

Thumbs up for the start





All the Griffon's growling

Water salute

Being towed back to the hangar

01 May 2012

TFDC 2012

On 14 November, 2009, Thundercity Lightning ZU-BEX crashed at the Test Flight and Development Air Show, claiming the life of Dave Stock. After that day, the Thundercity jets ceased to grace our skies, and the TFDC show for 2011 didn't happen. But on 21 April, 2012, AFB Overberg once again opened its gates to aviation enthusiasts eager to see and hear fast jets, helicopters, and general aviation aircraft. With the focus on General Aviation, pilots were encouraged to fly in to the air show and camp by their aircraft for the duration of the weekend. I believe over 150 aircraft flew in for the event. On the Friday, clouds sat gloomily overhead while pilots did their display validations. Towards the middle of the day, the wind had picked up, and the temperature dropped. But when the Buccaneer came roaring towards the field, the biting wind was forgotten as cameras were grabbed and hearts raced with excitement. Not to be left behind, the Hawker Hunter pitched up, here unique sound bringing smiles to our faces. This was the first time in years that we got to see the Thundercity jets fly.
That evening, the clouds lessened and the wind died down, and the perfect atmosphere for the evening display was created. An Agusta A109 was put through her paces for the rotorwing fans, and then Blokkies "Cobra" Joubert, took to the skies in the Gripen, setting off car alarms in the process. Few words can describe what it felt like to see and hear those two displays.
The next day was cold and rainy. A few aircraft managed to fly in, and the displays only started towards lunch time. Towards the end of the day, the clouds lessened, and we were blessed with some sunlight. I'm not going to babble, but I will say this; there is nothing better than eating breakfast and drinking in the smell of JetA1. Watching a jet roar past while the sound travels through your entire body and shakes your bones is still one of the best feelings in the world. Watching helicopters manoeuvre always has me wishing that I could be the one manipulating those powerful, versatile machines. At the end of the day, the air show was amazing, even though a lot of displays were called off due to the weather. But even better than seeing the aircraft, was being able to meet the pilots, and chat to them at the end of the day.