The world sure does love raining at the moment doesn't it, what with the flooding in Texas and more of the same in parts of Asia and Africa and whilst it's not to the same level of severity here, mother nature sure does need to chill out! With an alarm set for 5.20am I was awoken 20 minutes earlier by the rain smacking against the roof / windows and if there's one thing to start the day off well it's being woken up before your alarm! Thanks to this harsh weather not one aircraft flew today. The visibility was reported as roughly 2.5km and a significant meteorology report was issued for severe turbulence at or greater than 6,000ft - right where I needed to go. A mixture of mist / lingering fog made visibility even worse at the airfield and last, but by no means least, our best friend the Towering Cumulus was also forecast for the entirety of the day and considered to be embedded by nature.
My first flight was scheduled for 7am but we cancelled half an hour before as we should have technically been walking out the aircraft by that point. I popped back to Clearways for a nap and a bite to eat and planned on heading back in an hour before my second booking at 10.30am. As the day progressed the weather worsened and winds picked up to the point my instructor called to say there'd be zero point going back in. At the same time my instructor also said to get used to the poorer weather as historically September has had the highest number of cancellations due to weather compared with any other month in all of L3 / CTC's history in the country. Hearing that certainly makes you wonder whether you'll be making it home on schedule or not - especially considering our return flight is the 2nd November!
As only a couple of my CP were booked in today I was pretty much the only one awake for the majority of the morning as the rest continued their slumber. Eventually waking, a few of us decided to head to the new 3D Art gallery in Rotorua and while I'm not normally a massive art person I've always wanted to checkout a 3D art exhibition such as this. It cost us about $14 each and we were then free to walk around the 50 paintings on show. On the way around I asked a rep how long it took to produce and she told us it took a team of ten painters six months from start to finish. I'll tell you what though, they're incredibly talented people and certainly know how to produce art that tricks your mind. The majority of pieces appeared flat until you took a photo from a specific point marked on the ground. Further, one particular piece was a giant landscape comprising a waterfall falling into the ground which was remarkable really, it certainly took up the majority of the room. If you're ever in the area, I'd definitely recommend you visit.
I've uploaded the photos to the gallery for you to take a look. I think you'll agree some of the pieces are spectacularly done!
Despite a few days of cancellations I was finally able to fly today and replicated the contents of the first few sim flights in my noble steed, the mighty Cessna 172. Back in March when I first received my aircraft allocation I can remember the cadets in CPs ahead of me saying i'd be thankful to have been allocated it when it came to IFR lessons and it's only now that i'm starting to see what they meant. Having flown the Cessna from the beginning I'm familiar with it's layout, checklists, procedures, speeds, attitudes and last but not least, the Garmin. Knowing all of this meant I could simply hop in the aircraft, start her up and be on our way therefore having capacity available to truly immerse myself in the contents of the lesson. A few of my peers, however, have mixed reactions as some love the Cessna and others dislike it. They have a new set of speeds / attitudes to learn in a short space of time in addition to adjusting to a yoke compared with a stick. These are all minor things of course and the biggest area of confusion, the Garmin, isn't so much an issue for my CP due to us completing the VFR Twinstar flights first, but nevertheless, the less you need to learn or get used to the better you can perform in the lesson. At least that's my perception anyhow. Don't get me wrong, I would have loved to have originally flown the Katana with it's classic six pack steam gauges, but in the interest of an integrated minimum hours course and more specifically IFR, I'm much more comfortable doing the lesson in an aircraft I've already flown for circa 100 hours in vs. being entirely new to me.
My lesson was second in line for departure today which saw us take off shortly after my coursemate Fabian. Departing to the South my instructor and I climbed to around 6,000ft before being given clearance to conduct training exercises within a 12 mile radius of Hamilton's VOR. Fabian was doing the exact same lesson although for spacing remained beneath us at 5,000ft. As per the practice in the simulator we turned back towards the VOR and conducted a direct hold entry followed by 3 to 4 laps around the hold. On completing this we flew out to the West for 10 miles and back again to rejoin the hold on an offset entry before then repeating to the East on a parallel entry. All in all I completed around 12 or so laps in the hold which nicely solidified the hold process in my brain.
On completing almost two hours buzzing around in the hold we commenced the descent into Hamilton on the "VOR/DME" approach mentioned in an earlier blog post. It was odd to fly this as typically you'd descend down to circuit height and fly in visually. This time, however, I flew a set of published instructions right down to around 630 feet where I could then look up and fly visually. I have to say, it's definitely a strange feeling transitioning from IFR to VFR for the final mile or two. It's also quite cool to be slap bang on profile for landing with minimal effort from yourself given you'd just followed a set of instructions. The lesson was good fun and i'm looking forward to continuing with the rest of the IFR syllabus.
With the past few days comprising bad weather and its' associated cancellations, in addition to having to sit the class rating exam, it's now my instructors days off meaning I won't be flying now until Wednesday. In any case, here's hoping the weather is nicer then so I can at least get more flights in. I won't hold my breath though.
Learning to fly is the inverse to normal life as in a typical 9 to 5 you may well wish for good weather on your day off. I can't tell you how much I kind of wish the opposite to be true during training though because whilst having the sun out can make for an enjoyable day trip, it also means you've missed the perfect opportunity to progress. If i'm allowed to be a tiny bit selfish, it also means you fall behind the rest of the group. I mean.. today is a prime example! Most of the guys who travelled to Rotorua had completed a flight earlier in the morning and still had fun in the process. In the grand scheme of things I can't really moan as instructors are human and deserve time off too, but having poor weather would've meant I may not have fallen behind today. It'll all balance out eventually, I'm sure.
Having enjoyed a lovely lay in this morning I woke up to an invitation to visit the Rotorua Luge for the day and jumped at the opportunity. If you're a frequent reader may realise I've visited the Luge before back in March but sadly failed to take the correct GoPro mount so couldn't capture the true exhilaration of racing down hill in a mini toboggan-esque cart. So, after a spot of lunch in Rotorua we took the gondola to the top for five runs and I simply can't describe how fun they are! Not one run today was without event and on this occasion one of our group, Sam, went flying on one of the corners. Don't worry though, he walked away with nothing but a graze or two. You can pick up quite some serious speed on these things and I can't help but wonder if the Luge would ever be permitted back home in its current form - good ol' EU health and safety laws. I also wish I could have shared the experience with my brother as I know he'd love it.. but that's a bit of a logistical challange when he's in another hemisphere!
All in all it was another great day out. I've pulled together video footage of each of the three Luge runs into Youtube videos below. Pretty speedy!!
1/3 - Scenic Track
2/3 - Intermediate Track
3/3 - Advanced Track
Another day off today although not quite as eventful as our Luge trip. I surprised myself and actually managed a decent night's sleep. I can't remember the last time I slept for long enough to actually dream so it was nice to wake up refreshed. Today consisted off a trip for coffee, a cycle at the gym, a supermarket shop and last but almost certainly not least: yummy dessert. One of our group had his parents visit not too long ago and they ate out, with rave reviews, at a restaurant called Iguanas. That same restaurant hosts a dessert only evening every Tuesday so after weeks of him hinting we should go, we finally made the trip. I opted for an ice-cream triple which came with nuts, shortbread, marshmallows, wafers and melted chocolate. It was very tasty and cost the grand total of $6! - That's only about £3. Bargain!! Thankfully, I felt less guilty in that I'd offset this treat with my earlier gym trip but it was certainly tasty and i'd recommend a trip there if you're ever in the Hamilton area.
Waking up at 5am, being in the training centre by 6am and then back at Clearways by 7am is typical of your standard poor weather day and today was a prime example. It's a little frustrating really considering both of my days off were really nice. A few flights went this morning today but the mention of 'Isolated Embedded Cumulonimbus' on the TAF resulted in the swift cancellation of my IFR flight as we'd have no way of seeing a stormy cloud if it's hiding among less sinister cloud cover. So, back to Clearways I went to then write up this paragraph over toast and coffee hoping for better luck tomorrow.
The remainder of the day was fairly typical. A trip out of Clearways wasted a couple of hours before one of our group then decided he was dead set on convincing us to visit an Alpaca farm. We weren't buying it though as why pay $35 to see some Alpacas when there's some up the road from Clearways. If he's reading he'll know exactly who he is and it got him so visibly frustrated. I'm sure he'll get to go and see them one day though - haha!
Before too long the next schedule was released and I found that I'd been put down as a poor weather standby behind a chap called Sam who was to have the first of three CPL mock flights. As the CPL is a visual flight he'll need decent weather to carry it out and so if the weather isn't good enough for him but still good enough for instrument flight then I may have a shot. However, if it's anything like today then it'll be unlikely either of us will fly. I'm keeping those fingers crossed though - but appreciate Sam is the more important here as he's so close to his CPL test now. It's scary really as he and his coursemates are the last group to take their CPL exams before it's our turn. Those days are certainly counting down rapidly now and while home good ol' Great Britain is calling, the true prospect of stress also beckons. Let's try not to think about that for now though, eh!
It's arrived! - Aileron Logbook
Impressive logbook in Britannia Blue leather and debossed silver type.
Compact in size. (Laptop shown is 15" Macbook Pro)
Nice quality paper used throughout - I was impressed.
I wonder how long it will take me to fill up its' many pages.
A week or so ago I mentioned the awesome Aileron logbooks and how it'd be great to start out with a custom book. I didn't expect to then be bought one and it was very thoughtful of my parents to do so. We thought it'd gone missing at one point thanks to none other than Royal Mail, but I'm very pleased it didn't. The first thing i'll say is the above photos, nor anyone elses for that matter, will do these things justice! The quality of the leather is immediately obvious and I can see why it took the team at Aileron so long to source it.
My family decided the best colour for me would be Britannia Blue with silver debossing and as many have asked me already, the middle initial stands "Graham" - my grandfather's name. Many other colours are available though and once this one is full I'll no doubt buy another in a different colour. While a minor detail, a strong point with this logbook is the width of the "Remarks" column. I say this as the CTC provided one has a really narrow column which makes writing your lesson number, route and any comments rather difficult. Overall the book far surpassed my expectations and the challenge now is to find of equal quality to complete it.
Thanks again to both Aileron for producing these and my family for gifting me one. :-)
I thought i'd get an early night on Wednesday as I'd not been having the best of sleep lately so settled down shortly after 10pm happy in the knowledge I didn't need to wake up until about 9.30am. Well... it wasn't to be was it as unfortunately the weather had other ideas! A large storm brought very heavy rainfall, thunder and lightening between 04.45 and 05.30 and it was safe to say it provided a fair expectation of the day ahead. I did manage to get back to sleep but on waking was surprised to see bright blue skies. I thought it was too good to be true and that it must just be a clear patch of weather but head into the training centre anyway. As I mentioned in the section on Wednesday, I was booked for a standby today so the chance of cancellation was already 50/50 but I still held a little hope.
Whilst at the training centre a couple of instructors took their students up for circuit flights before heading back in thanks to increasing winds. As the windsock was now practically parallel to floor and perpendicular to the runway it made for some interesting approaches and a couple of the Cessna aircraft went around once or twice. Even the two Air New Zealand arrivals 'crabbed' down the final approach to the runway and it makes you realise just how unaware you are as a passenger. While you sit there and enjoy your music or book the pilots may well be fighting winds to right until the final moment. It's perfectly safe, but does look strange with a plane flying in a straight line at a 30 - 40° angle.
With it unlikely any trainee flights would go ahead today my standby was overbooked by a staff training flight and I swiftly returned to Clearways. Guess it is true what they say about September. Fingers crossed for some nicer weather before my instructors next days off.
One of the new L3 liveries on a Diamond DA42 Twinstar. Not sure what to make of it - it's certainly different.
Having woken up to yet more rain this morning I rolled over in my tired state to check the weather on my phone. To my surprise it finally looked as though I might be able to go. Don't get me wrong, the conditions weren't perfect especially considering the forming cumulonimbus clouds on the western ranges, but the gap was likely to hold long enough to give two coursemates and I the chance to complete our lessons. Arriving at the training centre for 06:00, pre-flighting the aircraft by 06:20 and briefing, securing a slot and filing our flight plan by 06:40, my instructor and I walked out the plane approximately 30 minutes before departure.
For IFR flights we tend to walk out to the aircraft with more time to spare compared with VFR and the reason we do this is mostly related to air traffic control clearance and flight computer setup. For example, in VFR an aircraft simply requests taxi and takeoff and you're then free to do whatever you please so long as you don't then bust airspace etc. In the world of IFR though you're under the continuous watch and command of a controller and with this in mind we have to obtain clearances before we can do anything. If we're also to fly by GPS then we need to configure the Garmin based on such clearance. For the purposes of training I'd say that nine times out of ten we already know what our initial clearance is going to be, given we were the individuals to submit the flight plan, however, in some cases and certainly within airline operations it could well be completely different. Generally speaking, clearances exist to ensure both parties are on the same page as to the action they are to carry out as well as ensuring both airspace containment and safe separation from other aircraft also within the same airspace. A pilot must not continue beyond their assigned clearance without receiving a new clearance. In many cases different parts of a route are handled by different controllers too. It's a lot of new radio calls to learn, but it feels more 'commercial pilot' like being given frequent instructions.
The main focus of this lesson was to fly twos holds followed by a missed approach, an additional two holds followed by another missed approach and a final two holds followed by a landing. As the lesson progressed the weather got progressively worse meaning we were in rain clouds for the most part - but hey, that's what instrument flight exists for so it was good to practice it in true instrument conditions! It certainly wasn't my best performance but I'm still learning all the same. I forgot a couple of checklists before climbing and descending and the needle on the instrument can sometimes be tricky to track too. Despite these points my instructor didn't have anything hugely critical to say and was happy that my instrument flight technique is developing well. Whoop!
My next lesson will be much of the above but this time in reference to the GPS. Essentially these lessons just repeat what we covered in the simulators, but one thing simulators don't emulate overly well is wind. No amount of technology can truly replicate the "feel" on control surfaces resulting from wind / terrain but what they can do is help you to learn the general technique to apply once in the sky. My next lesson should be tomorrow so fingers crossed for good weather. If I do get to go I feel it'll be marginal just like today.
Until next time,