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Saturday, 19 November 2011

Diamonds are forever

Wedenesdday, November 16th, the day was finally there. After having had to postpone it a couple of times for various reasons, I had an appointment with Wouter Nagel to go fly a Diamond DA-20 Katana. He has a share with Katana Flyers (and it's for sdale ;) ) just like I am considering. So this would be a nice opportunity to get to know both the airplane, and the organisation.

Wouter doing the paperwork of the PH-FLK
Wouter had booked the PH-FLK for the entire day, so the idea was to do an overland to a field just accross the border in Germany or Belgium. Unfortunately, the weathergods were (again) not very favourable...
First thing early morning, I checked the METARs and TAFs to see if we would have a "go" or not. Schiphol was said to have a visibility of 4 km, while I could see Schiphol from my home. That is 5.8nm (some 10 km) away in a straight line. The visibility would improve during the day, and there were no significant clouds, so we had a "go". But the reduced visibility, and the forecast the by the end of the day the entire country would be misty, made us decide to stick to a local flight. The risk of getting stranded on a foreign field did not appeal too much to either one of us.
We agreed to meet at noon in Flantuas, the most famous restaurant of Lelystad airport. Wouter had time until 16:00, when he had another appointment at the airfield. Of cause, I was a touch early, so I decided to park at the south side of taxiway C. That proved to be a lucky shot, because at that very moment, the new Aquila of KLM Aeroclub came taxiing in. I quickly took some photos (more on that in my next post). I entered Flantuas at 12:00 exactly, and got myself comfortable with a cappuchino. Soon after, Wouter entered as well, so we talked a bit about ourselves over coffee. He had also heard of the KLM Aquila, and suggested we go have a look there first. And I agreed, so so we did. I'll make a separate post of that visit, as to not blur this one too much with side information.

We ended up at the Diamond Flyers hanger at around 14:00. Enough time for an hour local, but it was getting tighter and tighter already. Luckily, visibility was above minimums by now, so it would finally happen...
After the walkaround, and the pumping of the oil in the engine plus governor (turning the prop until a gurgling sound emerges from the oil filler cap), needed to be able to measure the oil quantity, we climbed in, and buckled up. The width of the Diamond is slightly less than in the AT-3. The seats look cheap, but they actually are quite comfortable. OK, start-up checklist, and off we go!
I found it busy far a weekday. Three planes in front of us in line for take-off, and continuously 1 to 3 planes in the circuit. This time, the familiar sound of a cellphone interfering with the headset sound attended me of my phone. I quickly put it in airplane mode, and swirtched on my GPS logger.:)

An inversion layer of about 3000ft kept all moisture and dirt at the lower levels, limiting the ground visibility. On the ground, it was 4 degrees Celcius, at 2000ft the OAT was 11 degrees Celcius! That prohibits the air from mixing (warm air is already on top), keeping all "pollution" in the bottom layer. This, combined with a relatively low shining sun, made it kinda hard to rcognise ground features. Water masses were easy to spot, though, because of their reflection. So we could easily navigate on the shape of the lakes and islands that surround EHLE.

This time too, we circled  the camping, but headed North afterwards. We flew to Zwolle and Kampen, turning left and right along the way to get some feel for the responsiveness of the plane. After waving to my ex colleagues in Kampen we did some stalls in various configurations. In a Katana, this is a true non-event! No shaking, no dreadful instability, no shaking of the  stick, only an annoying beep to indicate the stall. After that, we headed back against the sun to reporting point Bravo. Luckily, Bravo is next to a bend in a well-visible canal that lit up in the sun. We did 3 circuits (2 touch-and-goes, and of cause one full stop) to top off this flight.

GPS track
* During the stall excersices, the GPS alternately detected +3000ft and -3000ft. Elevations are not very reliable in this GPS plot anyway

All in all a very nice flight. The Katana comes across as a very forgiving plane, that is easy to fly.
An advantage of the Katana in this shared ownership construction is the low hourly rate. Also, landing fees are low, which are becoming more and more a considerable post on the balance of a PPL course in NL, nowadays. The hourly rate and landing fees are comparable to the AT-3, but the initial investment in the share is less than half of that of the AT-3. The AT-3 is a younger, and more "fun to fly" plane, with it's far greater agility (this also makes it a bit harder to fly properly). It is going to be a tough call if the initial investment of the AT-3 can be lowered a bit, somehow...

Let's not forget the Aquila.KLM Aeroclub has just gotten their first tester, so maybe I can arrange to have a similar flight in that one. Read all about it in my next post.

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