4 exams down, 3 to go...
Next up for the dual nav's was Goulburn. Since this was going to be the longest flight so far I was ready for some R22 DVT (can you get that after almost 3 hours in a Robo?). The first part of the flight was somewhat familiar so I felt quite comfortable at the beginning. The weather presented to us on the day was cavok and wind vrb 10 kts, so I couldn't complain about that at all. The instructor I had was an experienced guy and I appreciated his practical approach to the flight and his drumming into me of fuel management on a flight where fuel payload was and could be critical. We'd put on as much fuel as possible and with the reserves in mind and allowances for wind it would be fairly close to make it from Bankstown to Goulburn and back. We spoke about when we started, time elapsed, distance flown, calculating fuel burn and checked against the gauges. Every way point reached was the same. Off to the southwest towards Canberra there was still fog around and thankfully it stopped short of Goulburn. We discussed options for getting back if the weather ever turned a bit nasty (thank goodness for the Hume Hwy and the gas pipeline back through the southern highlands etc). We flew over Goulburn and headed back, it's funny how even on the reciprocal heading the features in front of you look somewhat dissimilar to half an hour before when tracking over the same ground. Can't wait until I've done some of these legs a few times to get some form of comfort (but not too comfortable if you know what I mean). We'd gone over Mittagong and on our way back to Picton, the instructor asked me to check our fuel status and see if we should stop for a drop. I looked at him and said we probably could but at the same time I'd hate to (for whatever reason) have to hold for half an hour and then get to choppers south and hear the engine start spluttering - I don't think that would go down to well. Ok then decision made, fuel it is, where are we going for that? Well at the briefing we did discuss Camden was the likely diversion if we needed it so take me to Camden. It was an unfamiliar approach (from the south) and I felt a little under prepared because of it. Carry on (it's all part of the learning curve), join the circuit, down we go, taxy past a "flock" (not sure what the collective noun for rotary pilots / mechanics is) gathered around a Squirrel - no pressure everyone watching, and over to the bowser. Splash of fuel and off to find 2RN and home.
It was a good flight where I was reminded that even experienced drivers never stop learning and there's always challenges out there - especially with us newbies.
Solo to Wollongong...
You keep reminding yourself, you can fly "okay", machine shouldn't let you down, just don't get lost! I did pick a pretty good morning to go on my solo nav to YWOL, cavok and vrb 5kts (definitely no excuses there). Flight plan prepared the night before, radio calls even written out for the CTAF calls (yeah yeah I know...) and got to the school nice and early. Left a copy of the plan at the front desk asked someone to keep an eye on the clock, pre-flight done, full of juice and was ready to go. Started up and went to turn the radio / transponder on and looked over to no headset hanging there... what the far out! One of the other guys saw me and popped over to save me from having to shut down and go inside and get some headsets - only slightly embarrassing and I can't believe I'm typing it here. Off I went via choppers south, 2RN, Ingleburn, Appin, YWOL (coming over the escarpment was awesome yet again and I took about 20 seconds to look around and soak it up). Overhead YWOL and 1 minute early, I was happy with that and then turned to track to YMIG. I thought that this would be the harder place to spot but with the good weather I was lucky and picked it up early. Past half way, turn right and with help of the highway and railway line found my way to Picton. Trying to spot a hint of the 2RN strobe from there was a bit of wishful thinking and immediately took me away from navigating in front of me so I was probably off track a bit to the east which didn't help (note to self, don't get too far ahead of what's happening now). Picked up where I was and made changes to see me join track again. I was conscious of the fact there was no need to panick and picked features from map to ground until I was happy I knew where I was. Once 2RN was located, the pressure dropped a bit and felt home was near. Back through choppers south and a nice normal approach - it felt satisfying to have flown a chopper away and got back in one piece.
Solo to Warnervale...
Since Wollongong, I've tried 4 times over the last fortnight to get to Warnervale. I know some people have had many more weeks of delays in training and it felt frustrating to not go in 2 weeks let alone a month or 6 weeks . The first time I tried I got to Parramatta and turned right and basically couldn't see much at all, I had the wisp of cloud go past the cabin and I thought I'm not going any further and retreated to Prospect for an early exit. It was encouraging that everyone said good call and I'd made the right decision. Next time, no cloud but the wind was about 12 or 15 knots so grounded. Third time, someone who had radioed back to the school had said don't send him, he wont get through. I was in the machine at the time and was just turning the ignition key when I was given the open hand slicing at the throat signal (it's not a welcomed signal). Oh crap, I was having withdrawals, can I just go out to YHOX and throw down some circuits, yep ok - at least I flew that day. This morning I got up and was hoping that neither the cloud or wind would stand in my road. Plan done, pre-flight completed... a radio call, nup he wont get through, you've got to be kidding . I know there's not a lot you can do about it and it's just part of the game - the frustrating part. Another instructor came back and said just wait a little bit more and it might clear up a bit. Half an hour later I was told to go to Parramatta and if ok keep going, if not head back. Up and off via choppers north, Parramatta (I could see up the lane of entry), kept going, Hornsby, Patonga (cloud was probably just above 2000), Wyong (keeping a very good look out for what the map was saying and confirmed on the ground). I met back up with the F3 and Warnervale was just off the nose. So far so good, I hadn't flown into cloud yet and didn't play dodgems with anyone else in the lane. Overhead YWVA and turned for Brooklyn bridge. Now when I did the flight dual I was west of track and probably headed more over Somersby rather than where I wanted to be so today I was conscious of my heading and picked up early some features from map to ground that helped me keep on track (well close to it anyway). The grey mass ahead didn't allow for me to pick the cut out in the hill behind Brooklyn Bridge so it was a little bit harder than on my dual nav. I picked up Mooney Mooney bridge which was a relief. Brooklyn Bridge was located and it had been mentioned on my first lane of entry nav that you can broadcast an optional call down the lane for traffic etc and today, due to the weather, I thought it wouldn't be a bad idea. Immediately after my call a Warrior called in the same spot and he couldn't see me and I couldn't see him. First things first, where am I going, once I'd located the Berowra strobe I kept an eye out for him. A couple of minutes later I spied in my 4/5 o'clock said Warrior and let him know i was under him at about his 11 o'clock - I was glad we'd sorted that out. Other than that it was a good run back to Prospect (the Warrior beat me back - bastard, wait til I get in an R44 then we'll race) and it felt good to get the Warnervale monkey off my back. Even though the weather wasn't the best, I felt relaxed during the flight and can't wait to get up again.
One more long range (I'm talking R22 long range) solo nav, either Maitland or Goulburn and then back out with the instructors for a while for some polishing - can't wait .
Just over 52 hours now.
Until next time...
Follow choppernut on his journey to CPL(H).
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