31 December 2013

2013 - The End of Another Year

2013 has been filled with scares, thrills, and many laughs and great opportunities.
Obtaining my first flying job, and realising that people weren’t joking when they said that an instructor’s students are out to kill them. Learning the art of teaching, learning when to intervene, and when it is safe to allow a student to continue and make a mistake.

I’ve been fortunate enough see sun rises and sunsets from the air, and soar with the birds (and in some cases, take drastic action to avoid hitting some of the birds). I’ve said good bye to friends, and seen people grow and move on. I’ve met people from all over the world, and made new friends.

I’ve learnt to love the Cessna 172, something I never thought I’d find myself saying (I mean, come on, it’s a tri-gear aircraft). I’ve flown in formation with RV’s, and T28’s Trojans; Bosbok’s and Cessna 152’s; I’ve experienced formation aerobatics from the front seat of the highly capable MX-2; and I’ve seen the majestic Boeing Stearman navigate through the skies, from the rear seat of the highly-capable Atlas Bosbok. I have flown in the back of the Huey, and relished in the feel of the blades beating the air. I’ve been to Gauteng several times, and seen the country from the pointy end of a Boeing 737-800. From advanced aircraft, to the basics; a J3 Cub with the flapping door acting as your stall warning; landing at Ysterplaat AFB in a 1940’s Howard.

I’ve flown in the early morning, where the air is so still and smooth that it feels like you’re dreaming, and I’ve flown through horrible turbulence and rain. I’ve flown to – and landed at – the most southern airfield in Africa, and I have experienced first-hand what it is like to chase zebra and ostrich off of a grass runway.

I’ve had days where nothing seemed to go right, and where I eventually made the decision that, after the third issue, it wasn’t intended for me to fly that day. And I’ve had days where everything seemed to go well.  I’ve flown with B777 pilots, and old retired pilots. I’ve introduced young and old to the wonders of flight, some of whom are natural pilots, others who simply didn’t have a clue, but enjoyed it nonetheless.

I’ve seen Cape Point from the air more times than I have been there by car, and no longer fear the water crossing to Robben Island. I’ve seen waters so crystal blue and beaches so white, it was as if they belonged at some tropical island, not off the coast of the Western Cape.  I’ve witnessed whales swimming with their young, and seen sights I never would have seen from the ground.

All in all, I’ve had a good year.

Here’s to 2014. May fewer students try to kill me.

03 December 2013

Working on Fire Demo Day

Monday, 2 December

Every year, Working on Fire holds an open/demo day at the start of the fire season. It is normally held at Fisantekraal Airfield, but not anymore!

For the start of the 2013/14 season, the Stellenbosch Airfield was the host.
Which meant that for the first time in my memory (and possibly ever), there were 7 Huey's at the airfield. It doesn't get sexier than that.

Along with the Huey's there were also 3 Dromaders, 7 Spotters, and the FFA's brand new Air Tractor AT-802.

The 802 is a monster of a machine, and has a hopper with a capacity of some 3100 litres. 

As is the norm, an hour or so is spent giving speeches and showing videos to the invited guests, and then a fire is "started" (this year they used a smoke machine) so that the guests can see the pilots and aircraft in action.

The display consisted of 3 Huey's (two with Bambi buckets, and the other the troop carrier), 2 Dromaders, the AT-802, and 1 Spotter. 
The Dromader's are quite impressive when they drop water, and it's always amazing to see. But the AT-802 took it to a whole new level when it deposited its load of water and foam down most of the length of the 760m long runway.

Even though only 3 Huey's flew, having 7 there at once made it feel like something out of Vietnam. Okay, not really. But that didn't stop me from humming Paint It Black by the Rolling Stones for most of the day.