All in-flight photographs were taken in accordance with the L3-CTS Operations Manual. Consent to publish them was sought from L3 Airline Academy's communications team. All flights were dual, I was not the pilot flying at the time and the instructor gave his/her permission.
Flight Fourteen & Fifteen - 22/05/2017
With last weeks weather bringing the flying operation to halt I was happy to see that weather forecast hinted at a patch of high pressure, clear skies and mile upon mile of visibility. However, if there's one thing i've learnt about weather it's that there's always a tradeoff and in this case I woke at 5am to be greeted by temperatures of -4º, plenty of icing and very dense fog. It was so dense that during my walk around I could only hear the departing passenger flights let alone see them and thanks to the cold air my aircraft was covered in ice. The latter wasn't so much an issue due to de-icing equipment here at Hamilton although with the fog failing to clear before my brakes off time we had to cancel the flight... yay, got to love winter!
Thankfully, my instructor was quite keen to see me fly and with a little tweaking to the days schedule we managed to secure both an aircraft and the time of another instructor in order to conduct the flight. There were no slots free though but the local flying club were kind enough to provide me one of theirs. This flight was essentially a repeat of everything I had done previously meaning I had to demonstrate three consistent circuits and a safe engine failure after takeoff drill before the instructor could hop out and once again release me to go solo. It was supposed to be around 1.2 hours of solo time but as my currency with stalling techniques had expired we first needed to leave the Hamilton area to allow me to demonstrate stall recovery. Once that was out of the way though the remainder of the flight went very well. It still came as a surprise to me how differently the aircraft performed with only one person sat in it.
Flight Sixteen - 23/05/2017
With the second solo hurdle crossed I was relieved to be continuing with the flying syllabus and whilst the next lesson was still within the circuit, its aim was to teach me the techniques I would employ within later lessons. Allowing me to take off and complete a standard circuit my instructor then talked me through a glide approach which is how you return to the ground in the event of losing engine power. To make this more realistic we reduced the engine to idle during practice attempts and with no forward thrust being created the aircraft was much more sluggish. Whilst very sloppy on my first go, I had more of an idea of how the plane handled on subsequent attempts and was able to better manage the descent. As this wasn't a real engine failure I had the engine at my disposal should I have needed to go around but thankfully it didn't come to that.
Having practiced a few glide approaches we then moved on to flapless landings and this time I was allowed full use of the engine as we were simply simulating what would happen in the event the flaps failed to extend. Having no flaps meant I needed to fly faster on approach in order to not stall the plane and the nose up attitude was also slightly higher meaning you could see less of the runway compared with an approach with flap. According to my instructor, a flapless landing isn't considered a huge concern - at least compared with an engine failure - as the aircraft is still perfectly equipped to land without them. What's more, as the only variation to flight is a faster approach it was therefore not necessary that we informed the tower of our intentions in order they could safely separate us from other traffic.
Flight Seventeen & Eighteen - 24/05/2017 - CANCELLED DUE TO WEATHER
The nice weather was over before it began and another band of low pressure, heavy rain and high winds lingered around Hamilton Airport on Wednesday resulting in both my flights being cancelled. I wasn't alone though, for when you look at all of the pinkish-red bars in the schedule above you can see it grounded practically all of the days flights. Having been scheduled for my first full 1.5 hour solo followed by a 1.5 hour lesson on practiced forced landings, it was a shame to not go flying. Although, I wouldn't have wanted to have gone anyway, especially with embedded death clouds (a.k.a Cumulonimbus) directly above overhead. On the plus side, it appeared as though the weather was only in for the day but I certainly wasn't holding my breath.
Flight Seventeen & Eighteen - 25/05/2017 - CANCELLED DUE TO WEATHER
Following on from above it was just as well I didn't hold my breath as it was so foggy that visibility had reduced well below 100m. With my first flight scheduled for 7am and meteorologists predicting visibility would improve by 8am I was pushed back in the flying schedule. Unfortunately the weather failed to improve and the forecast was later amended to suggest it wouldn't clear at all until the late afternoon! With there being no further flexibility in the schedule due to slot constraints, I was then cancelled. Having not had much sleep the night before I returned straight to bed for a couple of hours before my afternoon flight.
The New Zealand Meteorologist service had predicted the weather would improve significantly by noon although that didn't work out either and the fog still lingered, albeit rising and later becoming low cloud. My instructor and I were constantly reviewing the weather situation and although Hamilton was surrounded by clear blue skies there was still quite a bit of low and rather thick cloud floating above each end of the runway. A further ten minutes saw yet more cloud move over the airfield giving us no choice but to cancel. Waiting any longer would have pushed the end of my flight beyond evening civil twilight (end of daylight) thus breaking air law.
I've now been scheduled to complete a flight at 10.30am tomorrow so let's hope it's better by then!
Flight Seventeen - 26/05/2017
Thankfully the weather started to show signs of improvement with the fog lifting to become scattered cloud at 4,200ft and, whilst this was perfect conditions for circuits, the wind then became the concern. Initially blowing straight down the runway it was forecast to become a strong crosswind and the duty instructor was reluctant to sign me out without my primary instructors consent. On starting at L3 Airline Academy each cadets' crosswind limit is 5 knots until upped by their primary instructor. Being my primary's day off I wasn't overly confident she'd answer her phone but was pleasantly surprised to find that not only did she answer, but also consented to upping my limit. I could go flying!!
Calling my primary instructor, having the aircraft refuelled and waiting for air traffic control clearance had eaten into my slot time and thus I only managed 1.2 of the booked 1.5 hours. This was a shame, but much better than not flying at all! The aim of this flight was to practice the techniques taught in the previous lesson but due to a busy circuit I was refused clearance for all glide approaches. I still managed to get in around seven landings - four being flapless - so i'm quite happy with that even though my performance in the first couple of attempts was a bit poor. Practice almost certainly makes perfect and the last few approaches were very stable. It was great to be flying on my own once again!
Today marked my 10th week in New Zealand meaning I am essentially a 3rd of the way through my course's allocated time here. It's crazy how quickly it's going and although the majority of my course is quite far behind where we should be due to weather, there's more than enough time left for L3 to have us back on track before home time! Tomorrow is my rostered day off and so long as the weather is good on Sunday I will return to the training centre for my next lesson - practiced forced landings. I'll be back with another post in about a week.
All the best,