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Friday, 16 August 2013

First Flight

I finally got to fly "my own" plane! :)

So far, I have flown a lesson in a C172 (PH-ACT of and with Ronald Janssen, Zelf Vliegen), and in the Aquila demonstrator plane (F-HARN with Flight Instructor Ferry Herfst, KLM Aeroclub). Also , I have flown along with an Antonov An-2 (D-FONL, Classic Wings, EHTE-EHSE-EDLV-EHTE), AT-3 (SP-ACY, with Erwin van den Boom, Bami Aviation, via Zelf Vliegen), DA-20 (PH-FLK, with Wouter Nagel, Diamond Flyers), and recently, of course, with a Piper Comanche (D-EGHE, of and with Kees de Hoogh). I have written about that in previous posts, so go look them up if you like :)
But now, the moment I've been waiting for was finally there: my first flight in the plane which I partially own!

I had planned to do that as an official flight lesson, so that I could write up my third hour in my logbook. KLM Aeroclub has multiple instructors in their ranks to choose from, and I had already flown an hour with Ferry Herfst, so for this flight, my eye was set for Piet de Hondt. I know Piet a little already, as he is the secratary of the foundation Vuelo (legal owner of the airplane), and from several social evenings at KLM Aeroclub, and of course as the main Flight instructor (FI) of flying friend Barry. I contacted Piet through mail to check if and when he felt like flying. The timeframe within my holidays was limited, it would have to be in the last week. On Tuesday and Thursday, the aircraft was already booked, and from Friday onward, the "Q" was scheduled for a club flight to the Air France Aeroclub (within Air France - KLM, of course, the counterpart of KLM Aeroclub) to celebrate their anniversary. So only Monday and Wednesday remained, of which Monday, Piet had to work. So it was quickly decided it would have to be Wednesday, the 29th. Piet booked the airplane for two hours from noon.

Unfortunately, the weather was not very co-operative, that day.
A band of rain spun over the centre of the country like a propeller, with Lelystad as its spinner. In the rain, visibility was below minimums, outside only marginally better. Clouds in the weather front were between 300 and 800 ft, outside the rain 1000ft to 1700ft. Long story short: around 10, we decided to call it off, and not go to Lelystad at all.

Slightly dissappointed, I posted on facebook that it wasn't going to happen. Again... That triggered a responese from Emile "would you like to do a flight with me, Thursday, end-of-day?" I had a working day, that Thursday, because there was this seminar I wanted to go to. So I could be at the club at 6PM at the earliest. UDP (Universal Daylight Period) is until 10PM these dasys, so that would still leave some time to fly. So we'd meet at around 6 at Flantuas for a "Wereldburger" to kick off the evening. Emile had booked the "Q" from 7 'till 8, so everything was set for an early evening flight. All that remained was to see what the traffic and the weather would do on Thursday.
In the end, it was a quarter past 6, when I arrived at Flantuas. Emile had been at the club, and as he phoned me just before I arrived, we arrived at Flantuas at practically the same time.
Weather looked fine when I left from the seminar, but when I got closer to Lelystad, ceilings came down, as well as visibility. Luckily, most of that dissappeared during our Wereldburger :) We took the opportunity at Flantuas to  check weather briefings, NOTAMS, etc. Nothing major, except that in the vicinity of Lelystad, another two or three dozen new windmills were erected. Tallest of them reached up to 500 ft, and those were near reporting point B, where the Lelystad approach starts at 700ft. Also, the Firing Range EHR-3 is active during weekdays, so we need to avoid that area.
It was already well past 7, when we returned to the club. Emile had already put the Aquila outside, so we could quickly start with the walkaround checks. BuThere's nothing difficult about that, because the calculation comes all prepared in an Excel spreadsheet. Also, it is practically impossible to overload the Aquila with half-ful tanks, since there's no room for more than two people, and 40kgs "cargo" is pretty much for a one hour local flight. It is, however, one of the mandatory flight preparation steps, and club procedures demand that you leave behind a print-out, so that other people can see who`s away with what plane.
After we did the walk-around: a general impression af the aircraft, followed by inspection of some critical exterior points (including draining some fuel, to check for correctness, and for (the absence of) water).
Once inside the cockpit, Emile handed me the checklist. He had just revised it, and I got to try it out :) I get to actually do all the checklist items, and Emile comments on them to explain what they do, and why they are there. What to look for, and corresponding values, if applicable. That's a good learning experience! In the new checklist, the starting up of the PFD and MFD (the two centrel computer screens) is pulled to the beginning of the sequence, so that once you get to the end, they are both active and useable (it takes some time to, especially, line up the GPS). This order might take away some waiting time at the end. Might, because at my speed (read: slowliness) it did not make a difference anymore :D
Time to taxi! Runway 05 is in use, and we have 2 hours worth of fuel, so left on C, and on to the run-up area, just before the holding point 05.At the run-up area we did the pre-take-off checks. This is to make sure all critical engine components function correctly, even at higher thrust, and that temperatures stay within operational limits while doing so.
So, where do we fly? Well the camping was of course an easily decided waypoint. A little wave to the wife, and the in-laws is always fun, and gives something to talk about upon return. The camping is reasonably close to the airport (some 13nm), but it is also located some 5 nm south of the firing range. So we needed to be a bit careful about navigation, there. I know from experience that there will be no firings after 4 PM. So it's not so much dangerous to overfly that area in the evening. But it is very expensive ;)
The camping is just north of an easily recogniseable sand pitch, surrounded by forrest, with two green dots (a couple of trees) in the centre. Once in the neighbouhood, this is easy to spot from the air.
On the photo, it looks like it's a bit misty up in the air. From the ground, it looked real clear. This is because of a so-called inverion layer (layer of air in which the temperature rises, the higher you get), trapping some dust and smog. Funny how that is far more obvious from above than from below. Visibility was well above minimums, though, so not a problem for this flight.
For me, this was of course a good opportunity to photograph the camping from above. The camping lies in military low-flyting area from 100 ft 'till 1000 ft, which was frequently used over the last couple of days, so Emile kept us at the minimum altitude of 1000 ft while I took some pictures :)
From that altitude, people are still recognisable as small dots, but it's the tree lines, roads, caravans, and tents that give you clues where to point your camara. In the end I needed the photographs to see that my wife, dog, and in-laws were actually outside to wave at us.
Time to move on. We had by then decided we would do the same thing over Cees Ootjers' house in Almere. So on to Almere. A little side-step over Harderwijk, so we would have cell-phone reception to text Cees that we'd be overhead in 10. The Dolfinarium in Harderwijk is also one of those landmarks for General Aviators: a big, bright blue dome. From there it was directly inbound PAM, and then visual to some patch of water in Almere. Luckily, Emile knew exactly where to go. This time too, the minimum altitude was 1000 ft (because of built-up area) so we did a couple of tight turns there as well.
By then, we had already flown the better part of the hour time that we had, so it was about time to return to Lelystad. Just as we did that, Tower reminded us that he would close his service at 9 pm, and with that, the airpost would close as well. So it was either land before 9PM, or divert to another airport, or request the airport to be open for an extended period of time. All options would be kind of costly. To divert would mean to divert to an airport that was still open: Schiphol or Groningen. And then get back to Lelystad somehow, AND get the airplane back the day after ... Keeping Lelystad open past normal operating hours starts off with a steep fee, and adds a significant amount every 15 minutes. So we'd better get to Lelystad in time!
Taking a direct "Bravo" in a speedy descend (descending by trimming the nose down with the same power setting, resulting is an increase of groundspeed) got us touching down at 20:55, singning off with Tower at 20:58. Home, with time to spare :)

My first air time with the KLQ was a fact :) A lovely responsive airplane, which I will have my hands full with, trying to master her every whim. A handful to fly neat and tidy.
I can't wait to learn "for real" ...

Here, a Google Earth file of this flight:

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