19 March 2012

The Pipeline...

As usual, I'll start this post with an excuse. The lack of frequent updates this month are due to a number of flying related things I'd had waiting down the proverbial pipeline. Flying related things that seemingly came crashing out the end of pipe all together last week.

Firstly, I've finally managed to start my instrument rating with AFS. Upon return from my January holiday to England, I was told there was a long waiting list to get onto the course. I had two options, MEIR (multi engine) or SEIR (single engine). The MEIR is done using the schools two ageing BE76 Duchess' which notoriously spend a great deal of time down at the maintenance hanger and are obviously always fully booked. The other option is to do my rating on one of the many glass cockpit Garmin 1000 C172's, which I'm already familiar with, and then convert it to a MEIR once I've passed the flight test.

The AFS G1000 sim
The problem I have is that time is really of the essence- my theory IF exams that I sat in 2009 expire half way through this year, so I can't afford to wait around for a multi. I was told there would still be a long wait until I could start SEIR however, and I busied myself by writing up all my KDR (knowledge deficiency reports) for my 3 IF exams and even sitting a two day BE76 ground course run by the school, in preparation for when I have to convert over to the twin.

Because I was super concious about time, I'd even made enquires with a South Island flying school to see if I'd be able to transfer my student loan over to them and go down and sit my MEIR immediately- they said it shouldn't be a problem, and I was highly considering making the move.

This was until last Wednesday, when the parachuting company who I'd spend a day with to get my parachute drop rating, rang me to offer me a job as a drop pilot. They were looking for a full timer to fly skydivers for the next two months, and then do part time weekend dropping for the rest of winter- something that I would just love to do, and seeing as my school had told me there was very little chance that I'd be able to obtain my instrument rating before mid year with the current waiting list of other students, I was almost certain I'd take the job. I strait away began making rental inquiries for a house close to the airport up north where I was looking to be based.

Later that day, I called my CFI to let him know my scenario, and the response I got was "No you're not, you're beginning your instrument rating this afternoon. What time can you get to school?". Obviously this was a big surprise as everything I'd been told up until this conversation had indicated there was still months for me to wait until Ardmore could begin my IF training. 

Wanting to take advantage of this sudden apparent jump to the top of the student queue, and not wanting to have to restudy and resit 3 instrument rating exams if I didn't complete the rating by June, I was shoved between a rock and a really hard place regarding the job offer I'd been finger-crossed hoping to receive since February. 

I next called the instructor who'd issued my drop rating for some advice, and he reckoned it would be best to explain my predicament to the company, and to just offer my services to fill in the weekend slots over winter once I had completed my IF rating. This is what I ended up doing after writing up a table of pros and cons and agreeing it would be best for me. I had my heart in my throat and couldn't believe the words coming out my mouth as I told the boss that I'd suddenly become unavailable.

A requirement for the position was that I needed a Cessna 182 type rating in addition to my 172 rating, so following the call, I booked it in for Saturday with Southern Air Services in Thames. I'd never flown an aircraft with a constant speed unit propeller set up before- although understood the theory behind their operation just fine. The basic rule to take into consideration is that power (boost) must always be equal to or less than propeller rpm (controlled by the pitch lever).

We did a hour or so of ground work, with some schematic diagrams of the governor system on the white board, and questionnaire on the aircraft type, followed by some weight and balance and performance calculations. The aircraft S.A.S had hired to teach me in was ZK-DSH, owned by a friend of the instructors. Although it looks brand new after a complete refreshment in the year 2000, -DSH is actually a 1969 182K model. It reminded me of a much larger version of the older 172N and 172M carbonated models I had flown, although the interior was immaculate in this privately owned variant.

Apart from the controls feeling much heavier when airborne, the major difference for me was the flat 6 Continental O-470U powerplant. It seriously felt like a rocket compared to the timid 172, and I couldn't believe just how much difference 70 horsepower actually made (230bhp compared to 160bhp from the IO-360-L2A).

Snapped by aircraft owner Michael Thorp
We headed out over the Firth of Thames, where I was demonstrated how to increase and decrease airspeed using the power and pitch levers. It was really neat how I could set 24 inches and 2450 rpm then yank the nose back and watch the altimeter zoom up as we climbed above the sea without hearing the engine struggle at all. I was required to demonstrate some turns and stalls which were all straight forward for me, as the 182 was very docile, even in the wing drop. The only difference I was shown was during the forced landing with out power, if we pulled the prop back to the course setting, it slowed our rate of descent dramatically, and gave us plenty more time to position ourselves for the large easterly heading mud flats which favoured the wind that day.

Circuits were last on the agenda, with grass 05 at NZTH active. Compared to the longer downwind legs at Ardmore with it's sealed runway, this was a little more challenging, having to now worry about  cowl flaps, carb heat, faster airspeeds and propeller pitch. The shorter strip length threw up in the visual illusion of being far too high on final leg, but the 40° of flap soon sorted me out with that. Les also recommended that because I wasn't used to the heavy engine in the nose, it was worth squirting in a pinch of power in the flare, just to encourage the front to lift up at touchdown.

Once he was happy that I was doing everything in the right order and having flown a flapless landing and a go around, we made a full stop landing and grabbed some lunch at the cafe across the road. Finally, I went up again for 3 solo circuits without any dramas. However, the easterly was picking up by this time and quite a downdraft was apparent on short final, with the wind washing down from the Coromandel ranges dead ahead of me. Type rating completed.

So that's me all up to speed. This week I'm due back into the simulator at school to practice VOR tracking and approaches. I'll make another more detailed post about that once I've logged a little more time in the Frasca Mentor. Over and out.

05 March 2012

Vincent's New Whisperjet

Vincent Aviation of Wellington who acquired ZK-ECO, a BAe 146 from Air National in 2011, have spent the last two days applying their distinctive new livery to the Whisperjet.

A friend from airline recorded this timelapse video of the event on his GoPro Hero2 camera which can be viewed below: