For the avoidance of any doubt, aircraft photos featured in this post are not taken from any CTC Aviation operation and are thus not in breach of the Operations Manual.
Having completed last weeks flying with the first of two lessons in straight and level flight, it was time to hop back in the aircraft and crack on with the second one. This lesson built on what I'd learnt the week before by introducing both speed and configuration changes (flaps) in to the mix. This lesson also breaks the common misconception that you require a nose up or nose down attitude in order to climb or descend by showing you how to fly level and influence altitude with speed alone. We took quite a tour around the local area on this flight and it was such a clear day you could see for miles. What's more, having brought up Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit in general discussion, my instructor decided we'd fly over it and have a look which nice. It looks tiny from the air, but is supposedly beautiful on the ground and I certainly plan to pay it a visit at some point.
With each of us having a few hours under our belts, it was time to return to the classroom for some more mass briefs on the topics of climbing, descending and turning.
Lesson Five - Climbing, Descending & Medium Turns 1 - 10/04/2017
In understanding what to expect from the next two lessons it was time to return to the air. I invited my roommate and coursemate Will along to mix things up a bit this time and rather interestingly, despite having 4 seats, I learnt that the Cessna 172 can't operate with both a full tank of fuel and more than 2 occupants as it would be way above its structural limitations. Thankfully, the aircraft hadn't been filled up completely as otherwise Will would have stayed on the ground. Sitting in the back he managed to get some really nice photos of the flight, but unfortunately i'm not allowed to share them publicly as I don't yet have permission from the school to do so.
Completing the pre-flight calculations, radio calls, start-up, taxi, and take-off unaided we then head East to complete the contents of the lesson. During the departure Will and I, whom share the same instructor, were asked to pinpoint where we were heading on the chart before being told about local procedures in respect of flying through valleys. Once clear of the valley we were once again asked to get the maps out, pinpoint our location and then tell our instructor what the maximum and minimum altitudes were within the airspace we occupied. We then began the contents of the lesson.
I learnt how to enter, maintain and exit a climb before doing the same for the descent. After a few shots at it, thankfully improving with each attempt, we then flew further south to try entering and rolling out from turns. This was interesting as you required a significant amount of back pressure on the controls in order to maintain the same altitude throughout and you could certainly feel the force of the airflow through the yoke! Having completed a few turns I was then asked to pop the components together and try both climbing and descending turns following each of the workflows and checklist components I'd been taught throughout both the mass brief and lesson. Prior to heading back to Hamilton I was shown exactly what glide descents look like which are typically only required in the event of engine failure. They allow you to maintain flight for as long a distance over the ground as possible. With any luck, I shall never need to employ a descent glide at any point in my life beyond training.
Happy with how the lesson went, my instructor allowed me to navigate back to Hamilton, perform the approach, talk to air traffic control and take us down to the threshold height for first landing. I can certainly see why pilots love the landing as you get such a buzz from bringing the aircraft perfectly inline with the centreline before descending and touching down safely.
Lesson Six - Climbing, Descending & Medium Turns 2 - 11/04/2017
This lesson covered the principles of a standard circuit pattern. With every circuit consisting of a take-off, climb, turns and descent for landing before repeating the process with a go-around, I got to implement the teachings of the previous lesson. Staying well clear of Hamilton we instead used a nearby paddock as our 'dummy' runway ensuring to not descend below 500ft as required by law. I found this lesson mentally taxing as it brought all of the previous lessons together into a meaningful situation. Given the use of a field and not a glaringly obvious 2km long slab of tarmac I also lost the visual references a few times which made it even more difficult. On the way back though we requested permission to try out a full circuit from Hamilton Tower which put it the lesson contents in to practice.
As one storm passed providing us a little glint of sunshine another made rapid progress towards the North Island from the Tasman Sea. With the local weather service here issuing very severe weather warnings concerning land slides, power outages, trees falling etc the local radio station claimed "it is to be the worst event in 49 years". Up to 50-60mm of rain per hour are expected in the most severe areas with winds upwards of 120km an hour which increase with altitude. What's more if the airlines are cancelling their flights in to the region it's certainly not safe for me in my small Cessna. With that in mind I was grounded once more but hey - that's all part of the process! To make use of the time I returned to the classroom to learn the theory behind stalling to ensure that come the nice weather I'd be ready to go!
The New Zealand operation is closing down for Easter which is nice, but with nothing but rain on the way it may not be that fun. With that said though a few of us are off to Hobbiton tomorrow and I'm stoked for that rain or shine. I'll be sure to make a Vlog about it and post it here in the not too distant future and I'll be back with another blog update once i've completed some more flying.