Monday, December 11, 2006

First X-country flight!

Yes it's true. I got to experience a cross country flight on friday. I wasn't PIC (Pilot in Command), Franky was (pictured here). He's a Chinese student here and a very good pilot. We flew Three Hills - Wetaskiwin - Stettler - Three Hills. Apart from a crusty gyrocopter pilot at Wetaskiwin and a huge snow drift on the runway at Stettler, the flight was uneventful. When flying, we're actually going for uneventful. 'Events' usually are more negative than positive when they happen in the air. I have a video of the gyrocopter pilot that I might post. It doesn't show him being crusty, just doing a touch and go. He was crusty because he thought we didn't know which direction the circuits were going at the Wetaskiwin airport, which of course we did.

I'm currently planning my first cross country as PIC. It will likely be Three Hills - Sundre - Red Deer - Three Hills. I'll keep you posted on that as it develops.

I'm also hoping to get a 'Current Flight Hours' box somewhere on this blog so you can quickly see how much time I've spent with my head in the clouds to date.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Red sky in the morning...

...pilots take warning. A chinook is a comin'

This helocopter's been parking overnight at the airport for the last few nights. He works for the oil companies doing survey work or some such task. It has been the focus of much interest around the airport. Not to mention providing some inspiration for some of the students, especially when the pilot jumped out and we realized he wasn't much over 30.

I flew again today. This time I was working on my soft and rough field technique. In a tail dragger there is not much different about the take-off because they were originally designed for such conditions. Landing techniqe is similar too, only slower. I basic idea is not to stop on the runway while turning for take-off and come in as slow as possible on landing.

As I get more sophisticated I'd like to post pictures and diagrams of the lessons I'm currently working on; for you, who are interested, to keep up with.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Life at the airport.

Prairie School of Mission Aviation (PSMA) has a policy that all aviation students should be present at the airport every day during the flight training portion of the aviation program. This includes bad weather days, days when you're not necessarily booked to fly and any other days in between. The expectation is that you will learn by absorbtion from the general aviation atmosphere. It's a good policy and beyond just keeping us all aviation focused, it results in a tight family attitude among the students.

Needless to say, though, that when the weather is consistenly foul for several days at a time or planes are grounded for scheduled maintenance, the cabin fever-like restlessness is palpable. I've noticed that necessity is really the mother of invention when it comes to passing time. Some methods for easing the tension include; jumping on a GT behind a pickup while tearing down the local side road, watching all the latest funny or perhaps disturbing video content on YouTube or more recently, building the ultimate Line Rider line.

The maintenance guys, Dan and Nathan, recently did their part to keep us busy by arranging a game of 'Can you spot the aviation hazard?' with two of the planes. We were all called down to the hangar, on a particularily grey day last week, and given our task. The premise was that two planes had just come out of their 100 hour maintenace checks but the mechanics had missed one or two things. We were asked to do our regular pre-flight checks and snag as many possible flight safety risks as possible. Some of the hazards included a screwdriver left on the battery, loose bolts on the dash, missing emergency kits, flat tires, missing undercarriage panels, empty fire extinguishers, missing screws and my favourite boxers in the engine compartment.
It was a great exercise because some of the more subtle issues would be missed if it weren't for the fact that we were trying to find things wrong with the planes. Nobody got 100% of the snags, which would be cause for concern if it weren't for our outstanding mechanics. Dan and Nathan are in a league of their own and keep the aircraft in top form. Recently PSMA sold an older Cessna 172 to another organization and the comment from their mechanic was that he had never seen a 172 of the same year in such beautiful condition. Most newer planes he'd seen weren't even as good.

That says a lot for this school, for the program and for the confidence we have when we strap ourselves in at the beginning of a flight. That, and the fact that should something go wrong up there, the prairies are basically one big landing strip.