Flight Twenty Four - 06/06/2017
The purpose of this lesson was to consolidate everything taught from the past two 'basic instrument' flights. I was also introduced to recovering from unusual attitudes with reference to the instruments as prior to this we'd only done so with use of the horizon. As the weather was somewhat overcast we didn't have that much of a horizon anyway so it was perfect simulated conditions.
Flight Twenty Six - 04/06/2017
As with the basic instrument flight mentioned above, these two lessons exist to continue consolidation of taught techniques. As with the first general handling flight these were also completed as solo flights and to make things a bit more interesting I opted to fly out to the western training area in knowing the weather was a little calmer. I was hoping it would be rather scenic and it's safe to say I wasn't disappointed. I think you can agree that the above photo - taken during a later dual lesson - shows it's' rather picturesque with not one cloud in the sky I could see for miles on end. This next bit may seem odd to read, but I had goosebumps and a grin from ear to ear. As I sat there flying about at 4,500ft practicing stalls and turning etc it had finally hit me just how enjoyable a career in flying is going to be - despite the 6 months of ground school and this being my twenty sixth flight.
Flight Twenty Seven - 08/06/2017
This flight wasn't quite as enjoyable as the last and I was pushed back in the schedule a few times due to aircraft complications but I eventually managed to go flying. The weather was no way near as nice as the previous flight and while the wind on the ground was relatively calm, it was far from it at altitude. Flying out to the east to an area with plenty of fields I'd let the basics of meteorology escape me and flew a little too close to the leeward side of a mountain. With the wind blowing up and over the mountain before rushing down the other side towards my little plane, it was certainly turbulent. Gusting 23 mph and causing me to gain/lose altitude in the up/downdraughts, it was the first time since starting my training that I've felt a little scared - Mother Nature is not there to be messed with. To avoid the bumps I needed to the relocate to the opposite end of the training area and thus wasted a fair bit of time. Despite the delays though I still managed to get a few practice forced landings in so I guess it wasn't a complete waste of a flight. If there was one takeaway from this flight it's that I've certainly learnt my lesson when it comes to winds!
With one of my morning flights being cancelled due to fog/cloud and with it being much the same situation among my peers, a few of us took an afternoon trip out to Tauranga. Walking up the steep-ish path of Mount Maunganui we stayed a while to watch the sunset. In typical New Zealand fashion it was another jaw-dropping scenery moment. If you want to see more photos, go see them in the gallery!
Flight Twenty Eight - 09/06/2017
In completing the basic instrument flights and the solos that follow, it was time to commence the navigation flights of the foundation phase training. I would be lying if I said I wasn't worried about the thought of leaving the 25km training radius and exploring further afield but, at the same time, I was excited to see what else this country could offer. Before being able to complete this flight I had to have three separate classroom briefings on the procedures and methods employed for navigation. These sessions were quite long but I can certainly see why they were important.
During the first session we planned a route on our maps to which we would then fly in the first navigation flight. At a grand total of 134 nautical miles / 164 statute miles / 263 kilometers, this will actually be among the shortest navigation flights I complete during my time here. Filling out the flight log with the required track, heading adjusted for wind, fuel information, radio frequencies and more, I was set to go and complete the first lesson.
To demonstrate how navigation works in the air my instructor had the controls for the first leg of the flight before then handing the plane over to me. In essence, the planning completed on the ground is typically quite accurate so long as the wind plays ball and doesn't change for whatever reason. Thankfully I managed to remain on track and on time for the majority of the flight although, there was one or two points in which we were too far left or too far right of our intended position to which I needed to correct for.
To make this flight even more interesting we were the last daytime flight to leave and thus needed to be on the ground prior to sunset so as to not break aviation law. It is a time constraint like this which made the flight that much more enjoyable as you get such a buzz when your plane arrives where it should be exactly when you say it will. It's certainly peace of mind that your planning is accurate! With thanks to some help from a tailwind and permission from Hamilton tower to use the grass runway we made it in with 1 minute to spare! We also saw the moon glowing orange as the sun set behind us. Sadly the above photo doesn't do it any justice though.
Flight Twenty Nine - 10/06/2017
The weather today was far from perfect. In fact, many cadets whom left to complete their flights later returned citing very strong turbulence and/or cloud. As the day progressed it did begin to calm down although the cloud was still very low and visibility was reducing to below 15km in rain thanks to the incoming frontal system. My instructor and I kept revisiting the weather and eventually decided to give it a shot in the knowledge that if it was poor we could just turn back and try again another time. I'm pleased to say it didn't come to that and despite the clouds lingering at 2800-3000ft the flight went on without any difficulty. This flight was longer than the previous one and introduced hazard avoidance and diversions.
In the case of hazard avoidance the days weather lent itself rather nicely to the demonstration because flying at 2500ft towards a 3500ft mountain was quite clearly problematic. With the cloud so low it was impossible to climb above it and as such I was shown how we alter our heading to fly around it, count how long we fly in a straight line using the timer before then turning back to towards our original track for the same amount of time, it was much more straightforward in the air compared with the classroom. Where diversions were concerned I had no idea when we would do one, although knew it was in the syllabus for this lesson. Midway through the second leg of the flight my instructor said whilst pointing at the map - "I have control, plan me a diversion to this place". My brain just turned to mush at this point as I tried to pull all of the classroom theory from the back of my mind. I needed to do a couple of mental calculations in order to figure out our ground speed, drift due to wind, distance and new expected time of arrival. As this was my first time doing it I was pleased that my instructor actually gave me plenty of time as we were still quite some distance from our diversion point. She reassured me i'd get quicker as I completed more and more diversions, but it's certainly an area for me to go back over again. The math wasn't the hard part, it was more figuring out:- "Well if the wind comes from here, that's 20° off the wing, thus that's a head/tail wind" etc etc.
Having completed navigation flight one and two without any major issues my instructor has signed me out as solo worthy for navigation purposes - eek. My next few flights are therefore navigating the country solo with the odd general handling or dual navigation flight in between. Tomorrow i'm scheduled to be completing navigation flight three and four which, for familiarity, are the same routes as in flights one and two - albeit reversed. I'm looking forward to doing them so here's to hoping the weather plays ball.
Until next time,