On the theory front...had my Navigation exam last week and passed, just Air Law and Performance and Planning to go.
Didn’t go to Goulburn for the long solo nav, back to Maitland it was. It was interesting as another student was doing the same flight as me and we were both doing our flight plans and seeing who should go first and who could follow. I’d finished my plan first so off I went, the other guy said he saw me a few times along the way but I didn't catch a glimpse of him at all (just his radio calls). Around Parramatta and up the lane of entry (bloody found that strobe at Pennant Hills this time ) and up to Patonga. The forecast was for 30/35 kt winds and felt like a bit of a crawl up past Warnervale and especially through that gap before Mulbring and up to Maitland. I thought if it's taken this long to get up here then the return trip is going to be fast. Reported overhead Maitland and around I went, the machine was a bit twitchy with the wind from behind but the ground speed definitely picked up. I was conscious of the time as I knew the forecast for later in the day had the wind picking up back at Bankstown. Sure enough that wind got there early and I flicked on the ATIS quickly before getting to Brooklyn Bridge to see what I was in for. 10 gusting 15, not too bad, by the time I was back at Prospect it was 15 gusting 20 and thought this will be interesting. As I approached the pad I got the nose into wind and settled into a hover. The left turn was a bit of a struggle and taxy back to the hangar was not pretty and was the toughest I'd had so far. Even though I'm always telling myself to relax on the controls, this was one of those days where the grip was tight and the perspiration was present. I'm sure it provided for some interesting viewing from back in the office and when I got close enough for my liking, I got it down on the grass and thought on a day like today at my level of experience I'll get the wheels and help push it closer. One of the instructor's said he watched me taxy in, smiled and said, "bit blowy out there isn't it- it's character building", just as long as I don't deposit a brick in the left hand seat, I'll be right.
To finish off my solo nav hours, I was told to buzz down to Mittagong via Appin and then back through Picton, 2RN and then to Bankstown. So this would’ve been the fourth time heading down these ways, so it felt a bit more comfortable at least knowing some of the features to look out for, knowing what was an appropriate height to be at, radio calls, and clearing checks etc etc. Mind you it wasn’t all feet up and cold beer at the ready, you still have those “ohnoseconds” when you think is that where I am, did I add my time up correctly or did I just say the right call sign. The wind was stronger than I had allowed for in the flight plan and found my time interval to Appin was a couple of minutes longer then Mittagong was 5 minutes longer (this is of course assuming that I actually got the flight plan close enough in the first place). Well I figured that would be compensated for on the return leg when I turned at Mittagong. As I headed for Picton, the beast picked up ground speed all right and was fairly bumpy on the way back which made it difficult to maintain altitude and speed. It was good that in a spot on a previous flight were I was a bit unsure of my position – I had no such problem this time round (the small pieces of experience I have will slowly build I’ve been told). I picked up the strobe at 2RN and back into Bankstown. After I filled out my paperwork, I was told we can leave navs alone for the moment and you'll head back out with an instructor for 5 hours of low level...
LOW LEVEL – how good is it…
A couple of the charter pilots had been telling me you wait until you go out and do low level – it’s the fun part. I’ve flown a few sessions of it so far and it’s hard not to just sit there and smile as the ground rushes underneath. I also realise at the same time that in environment's such as these the risk is higher and you could get yourself into trouble easily (especially with the training wheels still on). In the first session a demo of pedal turns and torque turns were given. First stab was average as I didn't have the feel for the cyclic movements combined with the pedal and then finally converting the height to speed. I think the first couple of goes I was found myself watching the ground after the top of the turn). Tried a couple of torque turns and felt more comfortable with them. The eyes are working overtime as you look out for obstacles, where your going, where you want to be coming out of the turn and a glance at the instruments. Quick stops - gold Jerry gold, I didn't mind these too much as long as that picture stays the same out of the cockpit (ie no sinking, we need the tail boom attached and no climbing). I was very aware that the instructor puts a lot of faith in you when your only 20ft above the grass and going around a tree, but I think they smile a bit as well doing these lessons. There ended the first session, great intro, and a few days later in the second session there was a bit more wind and hotter - so the doors came off.
I'd been waiting for this and to be honest it was intitally a bit freaky flying over Sydney at 1,500ft with no fibreglass between me and out there, very exhilerating though. We approached the same area and performed a SWAT check and I commenced a descent to the spot I picked as the termination point. Straight back into some pedal turns (bit too much pedal and not enough cyclic) and then some torque turns, with a quick stop after each turn. Then we did a bit of a course around some trees then down to either a pedal or torque turn and followed a small hill and terminate with a quick stop on top. Then we tried a pirouette / waltz turn at about 30kts, first 90 degrees ok, second 90 degrees, tail goes up slow down, 3rd 90 degrees almost stopped because I was concentrating on the pedal too much and finally fudged the last 90 degrees at almost a stand still - just an exercise I know but very challenging. With the doors off and the rush of the wind through the cabin it was very off putting - I know not the best excuse.
The session yesterday morning (doors off again - felt more comfortable today), was more about basic race course and figure eights between a couple of trees and a fence. Trying to maintain 40 kts, height above ground and in balance was awesome, I didn't say I was good at it, it was just awesome. You'd almost get used to a right hand circuit then switch over to the left hand direction and stuff up usually the upwind turn. We'd been there for 5 or 10 minutes and then one of the rescue 412's arrived (my boy's still call them Bert and Ernie). They commenced an approach and then started some winching practice over in another paddock. I thought it was a bit harsh sending out the rescue guys before I'd bent the machine... A few minutes had gone past and Polair had arrived on the scene. It started to get a bit "crowded" there so we headed off to Hoxton Park. It was a bit busy there as well so we tried another pirouette turn using the taxyway centreline as a guide, still more practice needed (it felt like I was stirring a tin of paint, hopefully it didn't look that bad to the instructor). I was then asked to try some landings and takeoffs while looking out the side - now that's something that I wasn't used to. Enough for today, we departed and headed back to Bankstown. Besides, I had to get back to work or the boss would kill me.
Still a couple more hours of low level - yes!
Until next time...
Follow choppernut on his journey to CPL(H).
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