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Monday, 16 March 2015

Centennial Landing

As my booking for March 3rd was cancelled (weather, again...), and my next booking was only at the 18th, and my instructor had previously indicated to be available at the weekend of March 7th and 8th, I decided to put a backup reservation in the system for the second half of the afternoon. A backup, because two of my flying buddies had reserved the plane for a trip across the Channel, to Biggin Hill, and back the next day. Should their flight be cancelled (due to bad weather on Saturday, or on the other side of the Channel, e.g.), then I would have first dibbs for the plane. Now, the weather promised to become steady, beautiful spring weather, just about at that weekend. So it was just about WHEN the weather was going to improve. In time for my friends to go make their trip, or in time for MY flight, or only after the weekend...
It soon became clear that the weather improvement would come well before the weekend. So they went ahead, and made their flights. It was their fourth attempt already. Three times before, thay had to cancel due to bad weather, or uncertainty about the weather on the second day. So, good for them! Less good for me, because now my flight would not go through ... or would it ...
Itso became that there was a stong south-westely wind, which made them go really, really slow on the way to Biggin Hill. It took about an hour longer than planned to get there. As the wind remained over the weekend, the return journey ook much less time than foreseen :) Also, because of ground fog at their half-way stop Le Touquet (France), they decided to make it straight back to Lelystad. It ended up being only a 2 hour flight! That meant (and luckily they kept me in the loop) that they would be back on the field around noon. And that, again, meant that I could go do my flight that afternoon!
When I arrived at the club at 1:00LT, she was alreday sitting out on the platform, waiting for me :)
(foto: Piet de Hondt)

Piet was going to be slightly later (he has a little more commuting time), but airborne at 15:00LT should be possible. Weather forecast said the later that day, the weather would temporarily deteriorate along the coast, and in the Northern provinces. That would mean only a few kilometers of visibility, and a cloudbase at 600 ft. With 700 ft circuit altitude, and 500 ft windmills in the neighbourhood, that is not the type of weather you would want to find yourself in. That change would come somewhere between 16:00 and 19:00 LT, so we would at least have an hour, most probably more. Should it happen at 16:00, then things might get tight, should it be 19:00, then we'd all already be home, having dinner...

We decided to first go do a couple of patterns, after which I would go fly the "IFR waypoints navigation flight" we did last time, but this time as a solo flight. The guys left enough fuel in the tanks to go do all that, and still have fuel for diverting to Teuge, and then still have some fuel reserve left. So we would not have to waste time refueling, which saves another 10 to 15 minutes. So I stick my camera to the canopee, put my iPad inmy kneeboard, connect the headset to the iPad, and start the apps for recording sound and the GPS track. We are ready for departure!

Apparently, my first traffic pattern was canvincing enough, because the second one could be a full stop landing already. The wind was exactly "on the nose" when landing; that makes things a lot easier, of course. So, I dropped my instructor Piet off at the club, to start my first solo navigation flight. Punching in the route has become an easy thing already, as this is my third time to practice it in-cockpit.
Off we go! All alone ... still a weird feeling!
On my way to the run-up area, I get a reminder that this hobby of mine is to be taken very seriously at all times. I had to pull over to let a truck pass, with a light airplane (MLA) on a trailer. The plane hat it's undercarriags laying flat underneeth the fuselage. I do not know exactly what had happened - nor do I want to go speculate - but this is not what an airplane is supposed to look like.

Ah well, let's go on to the run-up area, and do the pre-take-off tests. We just did them only 15 minutes ago, but I'll just go do them all again. If something's off, motor-wise, this is the time to find out, and abort the flight is needs be. Luckil, all systems are still "go", so I can take off. With pattern practice, we had to wait for about 10 minutes before we could ente the runway (busy weekend; landing traffic has right-of-way), but this time I could just keep on rolling on to the runway. I did make the radio call to say that I was lining up, just to be sure. The fact that I did not hear or see anybody in the traffic pattern, does not necessarilly mean that there isn't anybody...
(foto: Piet de Hondt)
After a smooth take-off, I leave the traffic pattern with the prescribed 45 degree turn. I give the radio call to let other traffic know I'm out of the pattern, and make a climbing turn to the north-east, in the general direction of my first waypoint ARTIP. This time, I even do not forget to give a radio call for leaving "Romeo 100" (the former VFR Area Lelystad). I see another plane coming from my left, at about the same altitude. I climb a little more, but the airspace here is limited to 1500 ft, and that is just not enough for comfort. So I make a right turn for a bit to show him my white belly, and that works. He makes a left orbit to eventually pass behind me.
Meanwhile, I am approaching ARTIP, and from there I climb to 3500ft (FL35, as TA = 3000 ft in NL), and I switch the radio over to Dutch Mil Info. Next waypoint NOVEN. At NOVEN, I need to make a sharp turn to the right, so I need to prepare and be ready in time befor the waypoint to start the turn. That too can be done with the help of the GTN-650 / G500 combination. It can tell you exactly when to start a rate 1 turn so that you end up exactly on track when you reach your next heading. Neat! :)
Just like the previous flight, there is an inversion partially obscuring the ground. Not as strongly polluted as the last ime, but it still takes away a lot of effective ground sight. I had promised Piet to go look for some visual reference points, like my next waypoint OSKUR - the intersection of the A28 and A50 highways. That one was well visible from some 5 miles out, but to pick a point in the distace to keep flying in that direction was out of the question.
I could also descern the meander in the IJssel river near Olst, which was my next VRP. But the waypoint after that, TENLI, is not so easy to spot (it is an IFR waypoint, so it is only defined by GPS coordinates, and does not necessarily need no have a visual landmark). I would better keep the IJssel bridge of the city Deventer as a VRP. Right, next waypoint is FLEVO already, which takes me more or less overhead Teuge airport. I need to start my descend somewhere over the Veluwe area. During the leg OSKUR-TENLI, I had already entered a descend into the GTN-650, so now it is telling me that I need to start descending at 216 fpm in 4 1/2 minute to get to 700 ft, some 2 minutes before reporting point BRAVO. So, let's try that.
In the mean time, I hear over the radio that at least three planes are headed in the opposite direction, from Lelystad to Teuge. Most of them do so between 1000 and 1500 ft, so I already know I need to be extra watchful when passing this height enveloppe.
And indeed: I see a landing light heading straight for me at 1500 ft. I make a turn to the right to avoid the oncoming traffic. That cannot be continued indefiniely, because there is a restricted area off to my right (military firing range). So I return to my original path as soon as he has passed.
By now, I am already flying north of Harderwijk over the lake "Veluwemeer". That means it's time to switch to Lelystad Radio again, and announce my intentions. I skip waypoint FLEVO, and head direct to mandatory reporting point BRAVO. This saves me a little distance, but more importantly: this keeps me away from a group of windmills.
Although it was relatively busy in the traffic pattern, it all came down to me "leading the pack". There was no traffic in front of me in the traffic pattern. It is good practice (although not often practised) to make the traffic pattern a short one: over the markers. The traffic pattern area extends a little further, but that extra room should only be used to create some extra separation between a slow "leader", and a faster "follower" in the pattern. I usually make the pattern tight, unless there is other traffic in front of me. So this time, I make a very tight pattern, which almost comes down to a glide-in. Wind by now has already shifted from 230 degrees to 280 dergrees, so that 8 knots of wind mean some 5 knots of crosswind component. That's OK, it's not extreme. I made a decent landing out of it. My 100th landing! (Hence the title). I'll drink to that; Cheers!

100 landings in 33 hours... that's 1 landing every 20 minutes, on average :)

Returning home, my camera appeared to have been in time-lapse mode, and Air Nav Pro did actually not record my GPS track. Too bad! With those gadgets, I have an attitude of: spend time on them before flying, and after flying. During flying, they should be "fire and forget"; I am not going to troubleshoot them if something seems off, once I've started the start-up check list (like a purplish blinking LED on my camera remote, instead of a red one). Those are of secondary importance, and the workload is high enough as it is, without these distractions. Especially as student pilot, you should focus at the task at hand.
So below you will find a time-lapse video of my first solo navigation flight (with one of those standard YouTube music tracks...) and the KML file of only the two circuits (traffic patterns) I did with Piet.

Link to KML file

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