Towards the RA-Aus Pilot Certificate: @ruralflyingdoc
Had it already been 10 days of flying training? Over the space of 3 months, well yes it had. Of course there was some flying study and flying practise with my GP supervisor Scott in between. This particular week, my instructor Earl was on the way down from up north in the Gawler Ranges doing a few flights with a guy who owned a Piper Cub. Unfortunately there had been a problem with his carburettor that meant the instructing had to be put on hold. So it was that Earl arrived in Wudinna on a Wednesday instead of Friday. After getting the morning excisions done at the hospital, the afternoon was clear for another day of training myself. Before heading up in the Jabiru, I had the opportunity of heading up with a local farmer to have a quick flight to look around his property east of the town on the way to Kimba. He had been planning to build an airstrip and wanted some tips on location. Earl was also his instructor on his quest towards PPL. So we all loaded into his Cessna 172N and roared into the Eyre air (ha!). After an hour of looking at potential landing strip sites away from trees and power lines near his farm sheds, we made a beeline back to YWUD. The landing was very smooth with the Cessna’s huge barn door flaps (left of picture, above) giving a great view over the nose on final approach.
This local farmer, despite not flying much day to day, had kept his Cessna in good condition. The same couldn’t be said for some of the other light planes in the hangar. I remember back to Scott early in my GP training saying that planes are built to fly and the best way to keep them in good condition is to get them into the air regularly. Speaking of planes looking trashed, Scott had put the Piper Aztec/truck in for refurbishment at Parafield Airport. Dropping in one day, he found it in a sad state and posted quite a miserable photo of the plane on Facebook. I guess that’s what you get for parking a plane near Salisbury (pretty much the Frankston/Campbelltown/Palmerston/Rockingham/Redcliffe version of Adelaide). At the time of writing, it will only be another few weeks until the new panel and rebuilt engines are installed. It will certainly look and fly like a different aircraft with a full glass cockpit and more powerful engines. In fact we only realized recently that the Aztecs registration was VH-JSB and the aforementioned Cessna’s rego VH-RSB. Romeo and Juliet in the phonetic alphabet. Love was certainly in the air. (what did I say about Dad jokes, no apologies!)
As the afternoon sun started to make its way across the sky, Earl and I fired up Jabba and rolled onto runway 32 to begin some more training. Today would be a refresh of some of the techniques learnt in the last few sessions. Forced landings, precautionary search and landings, steep turns, flapless landings and stalls. Although it was stuff I had done before, it was exciting because I knew that the final flying exam would be soon! As mentioned previously, I was lucky enough to do some flying with Scott in his RV-6A, especially cutting laps in the circuit. This meant that I was familiar with the airfield and some of the landmarks to guide me. Unfortunately it didn’t help with my force of habit in declaring “Traffic Port Pirie” over the radio on a few occasions. Luckily there was no other traffic to be confused by my misleading position calls, and I was only 300 kms west of Pirie, not too bad.
A few simple refreshing circuits got me used to flying the Jabiru once again. But it was after two or three of these that I started to get very sore shoulders and back. The night before had been a very intense gym and oval session at footy training. For the past 4 months I had been playing footy for the Wudinna United Magpies who play in the Mid West SA Country Footy League. Even in the B’s (called ‘bees’ by a certain Canadian doctor) the skill level wasn’t too bad and the Maggies reserves had actually won the GF in 2011. Somehow I managed to get into the best for my first game in Poochera. I think as much as an encouragement award let alone any actual football prowess/vague talent. Training attendance and even games on Saturday had been hit and miss as I had been on call for the hospital at times. The benefit being on call for home games usually meant some interesting injuries coming through ED. So far there has been metacarpal fractures (from smothering a kick, not punching), lip laceration (from punching) and A/C joint subluxation. That’s not including my own PIPJ dislocation at footy, but more on that in a later blog. Some of the flying took us over the town of Wudinna and I was able to find my house and the beautifully kempt footy oval.
Despite the moderate myalgia and severe whinging on my part, the training refresh went OK. As far as steep turns went, I struggled to hold Jabba in a 45 degree bank. Not only must you ‘twist the ailerons’ for this but also pull back on the stick to keep the nose from dropping. The short aerodynamic explanation of this is that as the wing is banked, the plane loses some vertical component of lift and the nose drops requiring more back pressure on the control stick (happy for Scott or any medical students to correct </injoke>). I guess it was my frustration with some of this that also meant that during prec/search/landing practice, I forgot one or two pre-landing checks. Engine failures were pretty good, but again I was a little bit rusty on the radio calls and passenger briefing. The other reason that I was a little less prepared was perhaps that I hadn’t had a 2-3 hour drive prior to flying. Driving to Pirie meant having time to practice radio calls and thinking about the different procedures beforehand. It seemed going straight from lesion cut-outs at Wudinna Hospital to flying wasn’t conducive for effective learning. At least I was able to land on both the gravel and tarmac strips without much hassle.
(Note the stroboscopic effect of the propellor causing horizontal lines when facing into the sun, i.e. freaking out the camera!)
The only thing to get used to in Wudinna was the fact that the aerodrome was already 300 ft above sea level. This meant a circuit height of 1300 ft and re-thinking about the altitudes on base and final approach legs. I had been spoilt that Pirie was at sea level. Again having flown with Scott in the same circuit meant this change in altitude wasn’t completely new. However, it was nice doing them in the Jabiru rather than his RV-6A. The main reason being a snail-like 12-minute time to complete the circuit compared with the hasty 3-4 minutes in the RV!! By the time we had covered everything I needed to go over before going for the certificate exam it was late afternoon. Time to pick up some stuff from the medical clinic; head home and then re-convene at the hotel for a few beers and a pub meal. Over a few ankle juices, Earl worded me up that the next time I was in Pirie would be the big day. Stay tuned…….dun dun dun!