Towards the RA-Aus Pilot Certificate: @ruralflyingdoc
An early start at Pirie Aerodrome this morning at 0730. Despite the early hour, it was very peaceful driving down the 30-odd kms from Port Germein with only a few cars on the road. As I pulled the car up to the office, the windsock was hanging limp in the middle of the paddock. Perhaps it was still hungover from the bull riding shenanigans on Hindley St the day before? Not a breath of wind to be felt, perfect! I had no sooner walked in the door that Earl said “lets get to it” and we were off. Walking, that is. And it was over to the large hangar for the pre-flight checks. By the time we opened up the doors, the sun was just peaking over the southern Flinders Ranges that bathed Jabba in a gold but crisp glow (ready for its morning tai chi?). Within 15 mins we were ready to go. I went though the checklist for start up: brake on, doors shut and locked, fuel lever on, avionics off, master switch on, fuel pump check, both magnetos on, throttle fully out, yell out “CLEAR PROP!,” push the starter button, set power to 1,200 rpm, check oil pressure, avionics and headsets on then a radio call for taxi and out to the holding point. Phew! The holding point is the set of dotted/full yellow lines that a plane will always hold at before entering the runway. Even large commercial planes do it, have a look for them next time. As part of the run up procedure sitting there, we pulled on carburettor heat. On a cold morning like this ice tends to build up inside of the carby due to the Venturi effect and decreases the amount of air reaching the cylinders and therefore the performance of the engine. Just two seconds after the heat was selected, the power jumped another 2-400 rpm and we knew the ice was there and had melted.
Once up in the air, Earl asked me to perform a series of turns at varying angles of bank that took us closer and closer to the lead smelter. Perhaps I might pick up some Pirie traits from the lead content? At the end of one of the turns there was a sudden and unexpected bump of turbulence on an otherwise still morning. Earl calmly explained that we had simply just flown back into our own wake turbulence. Ha! Then some basic level climbing and descending. Next was a combination of climbing/descending turns. Following that, an extended climb to 3,500 feet (which felt and looked like 30,000!) we went through a number of stalls from clean (no flaps) to fully flapped. It was amazing to see how much lower speed the stall would start and nose drop. A stall occurs simply when there is not enough airflow over the wing to produce lift and the plane loses altitude and can potientially enter a spin. It happens at low speeds and when the angle of attack is high (plane pointing up and going slow). Obviously this is best avoided when close to the ground like when landing, just when your speed is slow and the nose can be high!! Great, thanks Bernoulli.
I think Earl realised that my brain had soaked up enough information when I forgot the word to say on the radio to let other planes know we were finished. The word was ‘vacate’ and it had done the same from my head. So it was a quick trip into Pirie proper for a few errands and some lunch while Earl did a flight review with another pilot. On the drive into town, I keep an eye out for the local coppers and the chance to rile up one in particular. No such luck Terry, LC evades capture again! Chucked a ‘mainy’ and ended up grabbing some hot chips from a local institution and parked at the boat ramp to finish them. When I got within sight of the strip coming back from lunch there seemed to be a bigger plane on the taxiway. I thought that the other guy Earl had taken up might have brought his private plane up? As I neared closer, it looked more like a Pilatus PC-12, a $2+ million dollars worth of pressurised turboprop aircraft. However, turning into the driveway the distinctive colours of the Royal Australian Flying Doctors (RFDS) shone through. A patient had obviously been retrieved from Port Pirie Hospital during my lunch break. No private cars had accompanied the SA ambulance, so obviously the doctors in Pirie weren’t as interested in patient care and handover as Scott and myself in Wudinna. Or perhaps they just aren’t as Aspergers-y about aviation like we are!! Soon Earl and his student landed. This other pilot was about 60 and was updating his training with a few circuits and radio calls. Before heading off himself he said that it didn’t matter that I was inexperienced as you have a tonne of luck when you start. Then as you gain hours and experience, you trade one for the other. A sobering thought!
Earl and I jumped back in Jabba to practice some circuits from Runway 17 (map of the airport to follow next blog). A circuit is a rectangular track that takes a plane around the runway in use. If you live or have lived near a busy general aviation (GA) aiport (like Parafield, Moorabbin or Bankstown) you would definitely know and curse this practice! By the 2nd or 3rd lap, the wind started to pick up. There was a tendency for a strong sou’wester to blow in the mid afternoon. “Kind of like the Fremantle Doctor” I offered. “More like the Wudinna Doctor” countered Earl. On these circuits, I was left to my devices and Earl would only chime in if I had forgotten something like carby heat or switching on the fuel pump. I was nice to take off, fly the pattern, make calls and handle the plane without much reminding or help. The landings were proving increasingly difficult with a moderate crosswind, with a few being pretty bouncy. Given the strong wind, we pointed Jabba back to the hangar and headed back. On the plus side, my taxiing was much more co-ordinated and business like, despite the continued presence of tumbleweeds. After learning how to fuel up the plane (AVGAS being about $2 a litre at the time of writing and no Coles/Wollies dockets available), Col took her up for two circuits and then back inside the hangar. While writing the days hours in my logbook outside, we watched a few of the students from Flight Training Adelaide (FTA) based in Parafield fly in for circuits and listened to their radio calls on the transceiver. It was good for my own learning watching and hearing the good and bad things about each lap around.
Over a beer or two at the end of the day (No more West End, I had bought a case [or deck] of Boags Premium on special!), we talked about some of the other truisms of aviation. Earl said that at one point an instructor had placed his wallet on the dashboard on top of the airspeed indicator and said bluntly “they’re the only two things you need to fly: money and airspeed.” I’d have to make sure that I have both in the future. One of the local lads who does a bit of flying popped by with some cooked blue swimmer crabs. His surname was Sleep, so of course went by the nickname “Halfa” A few jokes later (e.g. why do men’s heartbeat rise and throat tighten when there is a woman in a leather dress? Cause it smells like a new car) I called it a day and drove back to home base. As I accelerated up to 110 km/h on the main highway, I had the strangest sensation. It felt that the nose of the car was rising up (or that it should have been). Because I had been in a plane all day that naturally did that as the speed increased, my brain hadn’t separated the two! It would be just another annoying habit that I have to try and coax out of the skull. Perhaps in 2015 I’ll get me a hover conversion? Tomorrow would bring more circuits and some emergency flying procedures like engine failure and go-arounds.