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Wednesday, 15 January 2014

On a roll!

Sunday the 12th was the day! My first lesson in 2014 :)This is the start of my practical PPL course. From here on, I'll be flying as much as the calendars (and my wallet) allow; from here, I start rollin'!
My first appointment, January 3rd, was cancelled due to bad weather. High winds wist too big gusts. But this time, the weather was exceptionally kind ,especially considering the autumn storms we've been having, those lase weeks.
PH-WVO leaving for circuit work, while Piet is retrieving the W&B form

Piet (my instructor) had made the booking in AeroPlus from 14:00LT to 16:00 LT. We were to meet half an hour early for a pre-flight briefing, and I wanted some extra time to install my camera, and hook it up to my headset. I am not too familiar with that procedure yet, so I wanted to take my time for it. So I aimed at 13:00LT at the club, and that worked out pretty well.
Tim was already in, one of the planes was flying, and another was parked outside, ready to go. "My" plane was still in the hanger, and had not been booked earlier on the day. So I got on the plane, stuck the camera to the roof, connected through wifi to the camera with my phone (change the order of that, next time; makes life much easier!), checked the camera image, adjusted the lens orientation, and switched all off again. Plug in the audio cable (next time: do that before sticking the camera to the roof), and connect to the headset controller, then plug in the headset. Pfff... you almost need a checklist for this procedure :D )
Not much later, Ard, Linda and Erik arrived for their flight. They are plotting out a navigation exercise as a club event. And today they'll fly the route, taking some aerial pictures of the navigation landmarks the contestants have to discover. But, I'm not here for that, so off to the briefing room.

As I entered the briefing room, so was Piet. Nice timing! After wishing everybody the best for this new year, we quickly went on with flight preparation and briefing. "Have you ever done eight and Balance?", Piet asked. "Yes, no problem" I answered quickly. And that's true, but it was over half a year ago... Ah, well, it's not difficult. There's an Excel file for that, and the briefing room PCs are well protected, so there's no forest of shortcuts that other people find handy ;) So I quickly found the W&B file for the PH-KLQ, in it's latest version. Uhmmm... o yeah, you need to know how much fuel is in the plane first! So out to the plane again, and gauge the fuel tanks. Left tank was slightly under 3/4 full, right hand tank about 1/2 full. With 60l per tank, that amounts to 45+30=75l worth of fuel. Well enough for our planned trip, and still within weight and balance limits with two heavyweights like myself on board ;) After entering weight, name, address for both Piet and myself, the graph showed we are legal to fly this plane, loaded like this. This is a mandatory exercise for every flight, since one must have the calculation present at any time. It is one of the first things that gets checked by authorities. Rightfully so, I might add, because if the balance of the plane is outside it's limits, the plane can become uncontrollable.
So we make two prints, one to leave behind in the briefing room so that everybody knows who's flying what plane, and one to take on board. But wait a minute, ... The printer does not work! Rather than spending a lot of time troubleshooting this, I just entered the values in the other computer, and printed from there (previous flight was printed from that PC). That worked! On with the briefing.

Weight and Balance
The only thing to remember next time is to not leave the printout in the printer... ;)

Piet had prepared a briefing for this lesson as a PowerPoint on his laptop, so we sat down in a quieter place to go through the briefing. It was all about power settings (thrust and rpm levers control the power output) that go with certain uniform speeds for straight and level flight. Typically at 100 and 110 knots indicated air speed (KIAS) for the cruise phase, 85 KIAS for pattern flying, and 65 KIAS for approach. We are going to try them all out in the air in a minute.
Because this was the first flight of the day for the "Q", we had to do a "Daily Pre-Flight Check", which is slightly more extensive than the regular "Pre-Flight Check". The regular one is only performed, if someone else has already preformed the more extensive version. Piet walks me through the Pre-Flight, this time. Next Time, it will be up to me. Piet will then monitor my actions.
It has been quite cold for some time (max. 6°C throughout the day), so the oil is thick, and needs more work spinning the prop before the first "gurgle". That gurgle is the sign that the oil has been pumped all through the system. Because of the cold, I repeat the tric one more time, before actually gauging the oil level. It is at the lower end of the scale, but good enough for our planned flight. Probably, when "gurgled" yet another time, the dipstick would indicate an even higher level, but "good enough" is just that.
Many of the inspection items are low to the ground on this plane. So a lot of knee-bending involved here. Now, that's sort of a problem with my rusty knees, but hey, the pitot tube needs to be inspected, of course. As do the tyres, fuel drains, aileron- and flaps hinges...
Moving the plane outside is wonderfully easy. It's light, and rolls easily. And the yellow lines Cees painted on the floor guide you well clear of hangar walls, doors, and pylons. Outside, I park the plane with it's tail over the grass. You don't want the prop wash after starting to be directed at people, or into the hangar.

OK, get in, adjust the seat, close the harness, take out the checklist. Oh, oh, ..., left the Weight and Balance sheet on the printer! One copy has to be on board (it is one of the first things any inspector would ask for), and before I knew it, Piet was already underway to retrieve it. :) That gave me the opportunity to switch on the camera. I want to film all my lessons with my action cam, so that I can review (and re-listen; is that a word?) my performance from the comfort of an armchair. I'll probably publish a movie at some point, but for now, the footage is just too dull (see all the pictures in this post - all reasonably the same).
We taxi to runway 23, where we have to wait with the pre-take-off checks ("run-up checks") until the oil temperature gauge starts to move. Meanwhile, I rehearse the run-up checks out loud, which seems to fall well with Piet. After the actual run-up checks, Piet takes over for take-off. I can "feel along" with his moves, but not yet do it all myself. That will come soon enough.

The exercises for today are straight and level flight at 1200 feet, at different speeds, and with different flap settings. In between the straights, some 180° level turns. I felt like a ferry between the villages of Urk and Kampen :) Purpose of the day is to get a feeling for what happens when power is applied, or decreased, what it takes to remain straight, and what it takes to remain level, in those cases.
Especially selecting flaps gives a strange sensation. Lift immediately increases, which causes a nose-up tendency. At the same time, drag increases, so the plane slows down. This reduces lift, and pitches the plane nose down, although this effect lingers a bit behind. So your first reaction is to lower the nose, which, by the time you actually do that, is amplified by the deceleration. It's not a car, though. You need to get a feel for which things you need to respond to immediately, and which things require you to wait and let an equilibrium set in. So that takes a little getting used to :)

Full flaps, descending
There was a fair bit of wind, some 6 to 8 knots, but that was comfortably constant. That made straight and level a lot more controllable. Finally I got a good feel for the trim settings (precision-adjustment of the null zone of the control stick). It is indeed possible to find an optimum trim setting, and fly straight and level with no hands (nor feet)! That's the way to go!
We took off pretty late already, well past three PM. And an hour is gone before you know it, so by the time we had covered all the speeds and configurations, it was starting to get darker already. The sun was very low above the horizon, so it's time to return to the field. The radio, once tuned to Lelystad Radio again, revealed that there wer a lot of planes approaching the compulsory reporting point Bravo, so it was going to be a busy circuit. With the low sun, and hazy lower altitudes, it was pretty hard to spot other planes. Because of all the traffic, Piet took over, once we were past Bravo. This was a good thing, because this way I could focus on finding the other traffic in the pattern, a technique in itself. I spotted only three out of the four that Piet saw, so it is safe to say that I need the exercise.
Piet's landing was a textbook one. Beautifully executed, with only a small squeak as the tires touched the tarmac. No lateral force whatsoever. And that sunset ...
Beautiful sunset landing
Taxiing was then up to me again. Mental note: stay on the yellow line better; "cutting corners is cutting wings". Also: throttle idle, or just above, is sufficient to start the plane rolling, when you release the brakes. Nose wheel steering simplifies the ground manoeuvring a lot :) Oh, and steering is done with your feet, but I was already used to that, behind het PC screen. Stick into the wind, if there is any significant wind. And keep looking outside for other planes, and obstacles. Those 7 meter wings stick out a loooong way!

My next lesson is only planned for the 5th of February. There just wasn't an earlier opening in all of our calendars. From then I have three lessons booked with two-week intervals, and one lesson somewhere there in between. So that's 4 in 4 weeks; that should get me somewhere!
Meanwhile, I don't have to be bored, though. I have my theory class Navigation, with an exam at the 21st of February, together with Communications theory. And I have volunteered to help update the Safety Management System of KLM Aeroclub. It needs an update because of the new EASA legislation. I was asked to help out, because of my professional background in quality management, machine safety, and food safety. So this should be a walk in the park. Ahum. That sort of thing always takes up much more time than anticipated. Anyway, because of my background, I was the obvious candidate ;)
Home, sweet home
More later!

Until then,

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