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Monday, 21 December 2015

XC-ing

I decided it was time to step up one notch, and increase the frequency of flying a bit. With all those weather- and holliday issues, lately, I have had to skip or cancel too many flights to make any serious progress. Every time there was yet another whole month between two flights, I noticed I would end the flight at the same level as where I left off the month before, but not significantly better.
So I booked lessons pretty much every week, and now I have a different problem: I can't keep up with my blog :D

So below you will find a blog on 8 flights, divided among 7 flying days during a period of 8 weeks...




11-07-2015 EHLE-EHHO v.v.
In order to get my soft- and short field take-offs and landings to a higher level, we decided to go to Hoogeveen and do some circuit practice there. The away trip was a navigation excersise, with some upper aerial work (stalls, steep turns) along the way.
Hoogeveen city is easy to spot from the air, so the airfield is well findeable too, if you know it's at the North-East corner of the city.
But coming in West - East alon the south end of the city, it's hard to judge how far the circuit area actually extends. So I took a very large margin (there was glider and para activity at the field) when I flew around the field to join the circuit from the North. Motorised traffic pattern is to the North, and runway 09 is in use, so a comfortable lefthand circuit. The circuit itself is pretty clear, I thought. Yet still, I got called on the radio that some neighbours of the airfield had complained about noise, and the quaetion if I could fly more compact circuits. Of course I complied, but from a post-flight analysis of my GPS track it was clear I had stayed within the circuit area all the time. Ah well, there's bound to always be somebody that does not share your passion for flying ;) Probably had something to do with good BBQ weather...

After some 6 circuits I had a good feel for the ground effect, and the "hold the nose high" principle. It was time to go pay. It was nice and cool in the air-consitioned tower, so we stayed a bit to talk aviation geek for a bit. Amongst others, we talked to a previous owner of PH-EAM, a Cessna 172, formerly owned by Aeroclub Schiphol (in the time General Aviation had it's own place at EHAM), which is now based at my home airport, Lelystad.
There was not really much time to explore the recently renewed restaurant, so we decided to skip the coffee and cake, and head on back home again.


It was a fairly standar return leg: stalls, steep turns, a couple of toucha nd goes. The usual :)

18-07-2015 EHLE-EHAL v.v.
With my new, unofficial  "Grass rating"  in the pocket, it was now time for me to go solo on my long-prepared flight to Ameland (which has a grass runway too). My ancesters (Dad's side) come from the island, and my father always had a special bond with it. So I took up the idea to fly to Ameland, buy my dad a bottle of the local nip for his 80th birthday. Just to relive Ameland a little, now that he is no longer capable of traveling there. Add a couple of photographs to that, and voilĂ : an excellent present :)

So said, so done! There was still a fair bit of wind, but the direction was 270; exactly the runway direct ion at EHAL. Ceiling was still at 2700 ft, So after circling Balk (my niece lives there) I climbed to 2500ft to cross the "Waddenzee"via the West side of the Leeuwarden CTR. Nice and clear weather, with all the islands visible from that altitude. Spectacular view! :)
After a good and solid touchdown (a little turbulence over those sand dunes in front of the threshold), I had to give way to a glider on final, when I was taxiing to the apron. Took a while, because with such a wind, a glider on final has near-zero groundspeed :D
In the village of Ballum, I could not get the "Oerder bitter" (my first choice), because that's a drink brewed in "Buren", a vilage 5 miles away... So I bought a "Nobeltje", because I did not fancy a 10 mile walk.

Also, I wanted to return to Lelystad in time for the next pilot's booking, while I had also planned some extra exercises for myself.to do some airwork excersises. The return flight took me around the east side of the Leeuwarden CTR. Some restricted airspace in that area will keep you from flying over 1200 ft. Below that, it's class G, or "do whatever you want" airspace. But the island itself is supposed to be overflown at a reasonable altitude, as well as the "Waddenzee". I opted for 2000ft over the island, and the sea. That meant I had to drop a minimum of 800 ft over a distance the width of a dike. So I flew parallel to the dike for a bit, while descending.
Once clear of the restricted airspace, 65000 ft. is the limit of airspace class "E". Below is G, so I decided to climb at least over 6000 ft. There was hardly any cloud, so there would not be a problem. Why 6000 ft? Because I had never been that high (except for a couple of occadiond with an airliner, and 6000 ft is 1 nautical mile. So now I can say I'm a member of the mile high club too, right?...

At that altitude I perform my trics: stalls in various configurations, steep tuns. Man, that rocks, pulling some G's!!! Makes the final stretch to Lelystad a bit dull, in comparison. When I punch in reporting point Bravo in the G500, it tells me it will take me another 35minutes, while I am supposed to be back in the hangar in 30 minutes. A little extra speed is required! Luckily the air is smooth, so I can just trim the nose down, while keeping the power settings to 6% cruise power. That takes me down at 400 fpm, with a speed of 135 KIAS; just about end-of-yellow-arc on de AirSpeed Indicator (ASI). And all of a sudden, the GPS thinks it will take me only 18 minutes to get to BRAVO. Reality will be somewhere in between, but it's good to see that I will be back at least reasonably in time. :)

22-07 EHLE-EHHV v.v.
In the Netherlands, there is one more "soft" field I haven't flown to yet, even though it is the number two diversion field for my home field: Hilversum Airfield (EHHV). Piet wanted to go there together, because the runways at Hilversum are relatively short, and with a buch of trees on final rwy25 (or take-off 07) that make the picture on final look pretty awkward. With the south-western wind prevailing, runway 25 would probably be in use, and that's the one you need to approach "through" the trees. I had studied the approach plates at home already, and I had memorised what I expected to be some visual references for the approach. I found that very helpful when actually flying that approach.
After the predictable engine failure over the low-flying area that lies mid-between Lelystad and Hilversum, I followed the A27 highway to Hilversum, and contacted Hilversum Radio. Indeed, runway 25 was in use, with glider activity to the right. I found all my visual references ( :) ) and got on to a final rwy 25. It is indeed a strange thing to look at the last tree tops, and just not see the threshold - on a runway you know is relatively short... The visual clues you are getting are that you are very low (the tree tops  are not the ground, but it does kinda feel like that), so the natural response would be to fly higher. That also brings the entire runway into view, but sets you up for a too steep (read: too fast) approach, because you will want to force her down by pitching down. So you have to overcome that feeling, and virtually "land"on the tree canopee, after which you close the throttle, and keep the nose up to slow down as much as possible - without running the risk of stalling. If you manage to loose some speed, then the final approach will be steep enough to start a flare over the threshold, and be stopped half way down the runway easily. If you don't loose the speed, chances are that you start your flare with a little extra speed, which you bleed off way less because of ground effect. Then you'll touch down at about half way down the runway. Not a problem, because the runway is 600m long (which is half the length of Lelystad's runway), and 300m should suffice in "normal, dry"circumstances. I did the math with the Pilot Operating handbook once, and 600m would be enough on a 30°C day with a wet grass runway to clear a 50ft obstacle. So it should all be OK, but the psychological factor certainly plays a role here.
All in all, I did 5 landings in several configurations (flapless was a challenge...), and I felt my confidence grow with each landing.
Back to Lelystad, we did my first lesson "Basic IFR". With view limiting goggles - which limit your view to only the instrument panel - flying by the instruments, as ordered by my instructor. Checking altitude, heading, speed, orientation with respect to a beacon, and that again, and again, and again,... Funny thing is that you actually fly better, "cleaner" when restricted to instruments :) If you want to fly a certain heading, and do so by looking at a point in the distance, you will fly a more irratic path, then when only looking at the instruments. With VFR flying, you need to have eyes outside pretty much all the time, of course, but this was kind of a surprise to me.


31-07 EHLE-EHBD v.v.Budel
I had already planned a cross-country flight, crossing the Eindhoven CTR, to Budel. I was going to do this one solo, and that was rather exiting, a first solo CTR crossing. I had of course seen Groningen CTR already (crossed it dual, and flew to EHGG dual, and solo), but this is Eindhoven! A military field with civil use as well. And quite busy, compared to Groningen. Good RT (Radio Telephony) is then essential, because if the controller doesn't get the feeling that you know what you are doing, he will deny you the crossing clearance. Then you'd have to fly around.
Apparently, I did well enough on my opening sentence, because I got the clearance, and a request for my intentions. Well, let's do a standard Tango arrival, followed by a Zulu departure, descending overhead (Tango = 1500 ft, Zulu = 1000 ft). "Approved, report Tango". Wow, this is really going to happen! Meanwhile, a Rynair flight is lining up for departure, and two others are standing in queue behind it. I get instructed to cross the field over the threshold, due to traffic. And of course, I comply.
It is only after passing the airfield that I realise that I did not turn on my camera yet, so I don't have any pictures of it. A pitty, but there are worse things.
Once arrived at Zulu, things go very quickly. Budel CTR is adjacent to Eindhoven CTR. After the approval to switch frequencies, I call Budel Radio. I immediately get the landing information, although I am still some 10 miles out. I read back the information with the remark that I will only be joining the circuit in abot 5 minutes. Apparently, they usually get the initial call only seconds before joining the circuit. That circuit has just been changed, with the latest charts updat a few days earlier. It was now "a tight turn around the chimney and a skewed course as a base leg rwy 03. Circuit entry was drawn at about the threshold rwy21, so I visually aimed for that, with a heading perpendicular to the runway. I estimated when I had to start the 90 degree left turn to join mid-downind by the location of the chimney (and made the appropriate radio call). Then tight around the chimney, following the lines in the fields below, and then final 03. I did all that with only the paper chart in hand, and the GPS trace, plotted on a geo-referenced approach plate, later confirmed that I did that pretty well according to the plate :)


There was not very much to do at Budel airport. There was a terrace with the restaurant, which is supposed to be very good. I only had a something to drink, but I hear that the restaurant is very good. I think that must be true, because it was relatively busy for an airport where only two airplanes are parked in front of the tower (a C172, and myself). So I just chilled a bit in the sun for half an hour, before heading back hoem again.
The return trip was going to be the same recipe: ask to cross the Eindhoven CTR, and if permission was denied, fly around it. When I taxied out to the runway I heard a helicopter report in that he would be crossing the Budel CTR West to East. When I announced my lining up runway 03, I got the warning also from Budel Radio. I acknowledged the information, reported the helicopter in sight, not a factor, and departed. By the time I was half way down the runway, I was already above the helicpoter, which was a Chinook, "grazing" the trees some 3 miles ahead of me. After passing the helicopter, I said goodbye to Budel Radio, and called Eindhoven Tower. A different controller this time, but I got my permission to cross nevertheless. This time at 2000 ft for the whole crossing "due to landing and departing traffic". Well, fine by me! :) A bright pnk Whizzair Airbus was taxiing back to the apron, when I crossed the field this time. Other than that, it was rather uneventful.
Over Tango, I thanked the controller for being cooperative, and switched to DutchMil (responsible for Dutch Airspace in the eastern half of the country, outside the CTRs). Usually, I only monitor their frequency, but since I was in an "RT-mood" anyway, I decided to give them a call too. Not that that made much of a difference, because I gave them another call near Nijker to anounce that I was swithcing to Lelystad, and that was alle the RT I had with them. The thing that you notice immediately when switching from DutchMil to Lelystad is what a henhouse Lelystad Radio is. Everybody trying to squeeze in their bit of RT. Too busy on a beautiful weather weekend day, if you ask me...

08-08 EHLE-EHLE
After the first IFR lesson, there were still some other things to cover, and that was not only to fly a certain heading, but make that a certain heading towards a beacon (or away from it). I had alread planned the lesson, but a friend of mine had his birthday too, that day, ... , and it was going to be flying weather. Difficult to combine! Or not ... ;) I had a GPS location, so I could navigate there acurately. It must be possible to fit in today's schedule, based on navigation.
I had already dialed in 117.800 into the NAV1 radio, which is he frequency for the nearest VOR beacon, Pampus (PAM). 113.000 (SPY) was in the standby frequency of NAV1, so I only had to create a user waypoint in the GPS for my friend's house, and we were good to go.Departure was in the direction of Harderwijk, to practice flying to and from the PAM beacon. Only to leave PAM on a more northerly track to intercept another radial of SPY, and from there roughly in the direction of my user waypoint. Back to GPS navigaiton again, and "direct user waypoint" took me to that bithday party. I circled the garden a couple of times, hoping they would actually see me. And they did, judging by the SMS I got within 3 minutes of overflying (oops forgot to put the phone in flight mode...). So I got to be the talk of the party anyway ;D

From Alkmaar to Lelystad we did a couple more navigation excersises. One was an ADF approach towards ENKOS (Enkhuizen). There is no actual ADF in my plane, but the GPS can very well simulate one. Back to Lelystad via NOVEN (Emmeloord) at higher altitude, so we couls also practice some stalls. It turned out to be a very educational day after all!

11-08 EHLE-EHLE
Piet though I was about ready for my exam, so we should start preparing for that. First thing to do is to have a flight with our CFI (Chief Flight Instructor), so he could assess my candidacy. So I asked Erwin (that's his name) if he had some time for me in September. I got a reply with dates in August. I had not thought he would be able to fit me in on such short notice, and I thought of september, because Piet would be on holiday that month. But hey, this date he proposed was within my holiday, so that was convienient for me too.
We agreed to meet at 18:00, and because I want to fit my camera and stuff, and then do the final preparation work (weather, NOTAMs, Weight and Balance), I was there at 17:00 already. When Erwin arrived, we went over the entire flight preparation process, including the walkaround. I had already performed it, but he wanted to go over it again, and ask me some questions like "What's this for", "What does that do", "If this fails, what would you do?", "Can you reapir this yourself?", "Would the aircraft be fit to fly is this bit was missing?", "What's that radiator for, oil or coolant?","I see an opening here. Why?".
Pfff...
I did not have that all prepared, so he just kept on asking. All in all we had been talking for about two hours, and time was running out. We decided to only go for a couple of circuits, because we would be running against end of UDP (Universal Daylight Period - the time it is legal to fly VFR), and the airport closes at 21:00 anyway, unless you request extended hours - at a price. The standard deviation fields Teuge and Hilversum were already closed, so if we had to divert, it would probably be to Groningen. In the end it did not come to that, but it's good to think about it upfront, and not be surprised if it should happen to you. Now, we were the only ones in the pattern, so there's not much chance of having to divert, but hey...
Blunder: before starting up, I had processed the entire checklist right up to the point of turning the ignition switch .... Still had the keys in my pocket! Auch! Open the seatbelts, open the canopee, stand up, get the keys out, and start the entire checklist all over again... There goes my air time!
Ah, well, things will runs smoothly from here, right? Well... even during taxi and "before take off checks", Erwin was able to ask some impossible questions. And once we were in the air, we had 3 engine failures. In 4 circuits!
Just before closing time, we reported on the blocks to the tower, and go back inside. We still need to do all the administrative work, remove the bugs, empty out the plane, and we did not cover all the pre-flight topics yet, so I ended up leaving at 22:30. Totally exhausted, but it was a very enlightening evening. We sould do this again soon, but with more air time, because Erwin will have some remarks on my flying as well. Or maybe not so much. He did not have many remarks on my flying skills. It was more that I should have my systems knowledge, and theory, more readily available. We'll see. To be continued.


19-08 EHLE-EHLE (2x)
My next lesson was planned for the 19th of August. I had planned a flight to Rotterdam, and to Beek (Maastricht-Aachen Airport, EHBK). But a couple of days before the 19th, LVNL (Air Traffic Control, ht eNetherlands) published VFR routes over the Sail Amsterdam 2015 area. I was actually looking for NOTAMs declaring the area off limits, when I found it. Over the Amsterdam area (there was also an IJmuiden area, on the other side of the 18C and 18R approach areas) there was a route that would take you over the city center, right up to the Eurometaal terrain (I used to work there), and back again.

So I asked Piet how he thought about overflying Sail. He was not immediately enthusiastic about the idea of letting one of his students fly out there. He wanted at least to go with me, to be an extra pair of eyes. That would mean I would not get around to collecting my solo hours yet, but to let that argument spoil such a unique opportunity, ... nahhh! And: especially on days like these, you get to meet the odd cowboy in the sky (not taking any rule or regulation very seriously), so that extra pair of eyes may come in handy!
So, I punched in the GPS co-ordinates of the waypoints SELIN, SELMI, and SELEX in my iPad, and modified my Rotterdam and Beek plans to go via Sail Amsterdam. Skipping if necessary is always easier done than adding at the last moment.
When the 19th approached, the weather outlook became more and more uncertain. So the long flight to Beek was soon skipped. And in order to go to Rotterdam, one has to file for handling 24 hrs in advance. But the 18th was a terrible day - weather wise. And the outlook for the 19th was "it is going to get better, but there's no telling when". It wasn't even sure that I would go flying at all... So I did not apply for handling, effectively cancelling my trip to Rotterdam too.

With no plan, other than maybe Sail, I went to the club. Grey skies were opening up a little already, so it just might be that I would get to fly after all. When I arrived, all rain had moved east of the airport, and even some blue skies appeared :) We decided to make it a dual hour over Sail, and to see if there would still be time to do an hour of solo work.
Most of the fleet was booked that day, and many wanted to take the Sail route. My plane was still in the air when I arrived, with my instructor, and another student. I watched them do some touch and goes, as the weather kept improving. As they were doing the debriefing, and administrative stuff, I did my pre-flight, and put up my camera. I put the camera more to the front to get a better ground view, but that also meant it had to do without the power line. Batteries were fully charged, which will last it for about three hours, so that should be enough for a roundtrip over Sail.
The inbound leg to Sail was a rather hectic one, because it only takes about 10 minutes. After leaving Lelystad Radio for Amsterdam Information, I had to check the Schiphol ATIS, and contact Schiphol Tower already. They had a special controller in charge of all the VFR traffic for Sail. Which was a good thing, because it was busy! When I got my permission to join the pack, the controller mentioned "15 aircraft in the circuit". That's a lot for such a small circuit. Especially when everybody is there to be distracted from flying...
We join a pack of four planes, all flying relatively close to each other. Flying slow (80 knots, flaps 1) to maximise Sail time, the first lap was more to get used to flying close to other traffic, than to enjoy the scenery. So we took a second lap. By now, the controller only said "lot's of traffic in the circuit" to any newcomers. We made sure that we were the first of the pack when starting the second lap, so that we'd have a bit more time to look at all those vessels in the water. Most of them were still in the "Noordzeekanaal", sailing towards Amsterdam. Here's tha kind of view you get then:

What an adventure, and opportunity. Not only did I get to FLY over SAIL - which is held only once every vife years. I got to do that as a flying lesson, and in that sense, I'm pretty sure I'm unique ;)

To get my solo count up a little, we decided I would go up alone, after we got back, to do some airwork and touch and goes. So  decided to fly over the camping, and then do some stalls and steep turns over the Veluwe. I thought my steep turns were a little under par, while stalls were well within the exam limits. Best I practice those steep turns a little more, then. It's a nice excersise, pulling some G's, but to do that without loosing altitude requires some "feeling"- which you'l only get by doing it a lot.
For the next flights, we'll be planning Beek (Dual), and Rotterdam (Solo) again. I still have some Basic IFR skills I need to get "ticked off", so we'll probably do that on our way back from Beek, or in a separate lesson. I could also do EHMZ ("Miden Zeeland") again, because  have been there ony with my first lesson, and my instructor did all the take-off and landing bits there. Also, we'll be going to Texel (EHTX) some more, to perfect my 1000 ft pattern skills.

So, here's the KML files of all of the above flights:

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