Towards the RA-Aus Pilot Certificate: @ruralflyingdoc
Gee wiz, the time was flying…no pun. Already up to day three, with 7.6 hours under my belt. Prior to climbing up into the sky, we had to head out to the BOM weather station to report the findings about the sky we were about to get amongst. That meant walking over to the side of runway 26 and reading off the temperatures, rain fall etc. Earl and I then had to enter the info into a decidedly 1980’s looking DOS based interface for the Bureau. This computer was inside Steve the pirate, I mean, the airport manager’s house. Steve was away down in Adelaide getting a tooth out, so Pirie’s weather was up to us! When we left his house I spied his cat slinking around outside. Looked a bit strange from afar and as it sidled up I realised why. It was missing a tail! Perhaps strayed a bit too close to a propeller one day? 8 lives left. The walk back to the plane gave us a chance to talk about the past. As a young lad, Earl had got into flying after being taken up by a family friend from Parafield Airport just north of Adelaide after only having been a passenger on commercial flights a handful of times. It seems that he took off that morning and had never come down. Before starting his flying training career though, Earl spent a few years in the Royal Australian Air Force flying D-42s. I had never heard of this sort of plane, so I asked what sort it was. He replied quickly a ‘desk’ model, with a wooden top, four legs and two drawers. He was a self described paper-pusher for six years, but the RAAF had helped pay for some of his own flying training. So it wasn’t all office circuits.
Today was the day for nutting out real circuits, however. As mentioned in the day 2 blog, a circuit is a rectangular racetrack (see below) that an aircraft follows around the runway in use. This would usually be the runway that is more or less facing into the wind. A circuit is made up of five major components. Upwind (just after take off), crosswind, downwind, base and final (lining up for landing). Sounds simple enough until you realise that all of your radio calls and pre landing checks need to be done in this time, about 10-15 minutes for a 1000-foot circuit. Of course the idea is to practice these enough so that everything becomes second nature and you can fly and turn the plane while getting all the calls and checks done. Earl had given me a circuit diagram on a sheet with all of these things written on, but I thought that Spencer Gulf Flight Training could do with a bit of PowerPoint™ magic (DISCLAIMER: ruralflyingdoc is not affiliated with Microsoft or any of its related products).
As you can see, the downwind leg of the circuit is full of checks that go by the acronym BUMPFH. It still sounds to me like bum fluff! Doing circuits from runway 17 (so taking off roughly to the south), I was getting into a good rhythm, so much so that when came time to make the obligatory look out of the window to check the undercarriage, the same little homestead would float by beneath. Using the visual landmarks becomes an important part of doing the circuits and helps you assess where you are in the pattern and when to turn. It also is extremely comforting to know that you are in ‘roughly’ the same place each time. I started working out that for the turn onto base was just over the Pirie refuse depot and the turn for final was over Senate Rd where houses started to pop up south of the golf course (was that near your house Kirby?). Gradually the landings were getting better and better, with lots of room to improve. Earl was constantly telling me to “hold it off, hold it off, don’t let it land, not yet.” It was probably the fact that the ground was just there and I wanted to bloody land the thing and get it done. I’m sure the art of flaring and letting it touch down sedately will come in time. We decided it was time for lunch and Subway sounded like a good plan. So I thought I’d be clever and call through our order so I could just go and pick it up then shoot back to the strip. So I got to the main street Subway 10 mins after calling up and asked for the phone order. “We haven’t got any phone orders, did you call the other Subway?” Other Subway? Wha? Dammit, I’d called the Centro plaza shop. So barrelled over there and eventually got lunch back to the airport and squared away PO.
Then it was time to practice some emergency procedures like engine failure just after takeoff. So I would have Jabba in a nice little climb and at about 200 ft, Earl would pull back the throttle to simulate an engine out. The procedure called for some nose forward to keep the speed up, lower full flaps and look for a suitable place to land/belly flop. Preferably somewhere flat with a good run out space and no power lines or fences. After a few of these it was time for some go-arounds. These are used if your final approach or landing is going pear shaped or something/someone is one the runway. Coming down for once such landing, Earl yelled out “cow on the runway!” So full power on with a bit of forward pressure so that the nose didn’t leap up because of the full flaps that had been set for landing. Then as the airspeed came up, I would bleed off the flaps little by little and re-join the circuit to try all over again. However, we were now using Runway 22 because of the wind. Alas, all of my nice little landmarks were no use when using this crappy natural surface strip….so a few times I got a little bit flustered. To add further pressure, Scott had flown in ready for us to that afternoon make the small puddle jump across to Whyalla (about a 15-20 min flight). He’d chucked on the high-vis tabard and walked near the runway to watch a few of the circuits. I wonder whether he guessed what all the malarkey was about after take off and before landing. Especially without any cows on the runway to explain a quick go-around! A nice finish to the day was passing the pre-solo exam with 95%. I thought that it was probably a better mark than in any medical exam I had done 🙂 So that brought up the end of day 3 and it was off to Whyalla for a retrieval and trauma workshop, hopefully no aviation related cases!