Archive for the ‘Aviation’ Category

October & November

Saturday, December 4th, 2010

No web updates for three months – what gives? Well, basically October and November weren’t much fun for me..

At the start of October we found an issue with the some of the bracing structure inside the Auster’s port wing. If it needed the wing fabric removed and recovered we’d be looking at costs of around £7k

The very next day I had my Class 1 aviation medical at Gatwick. My Class 2 (Private Flying) medical was due to expire anyway, and as I hope to do flight instruction at some point the Class 1 (Commercial) seemed a good course of action. There are issues with eyesight where there are limits on correction for initial Class 1 medical issue, but not renewal, so sooner rather than later seemed to make sense. However, I failed the Class 1 medical and had a two month limit on my Class 2 due to something called an ectopic heartbeat. These hadn’t shown up on my first ECG in 2006.

My heart was beating early approximately every 10 to 15 beats, and the beat was originating in the wrong place. Stress, alcohol and caffeine can cause these ectopic beats, but in my case only stress seemed likely. The people at the CAA Aeromedical division were great and went to great lengths to assure me these ectopics were the sort of thing that a GP wouldn’t even bat an eyelid at, had no life threatening or life shortening implications, but nevertheless needed investigation for flying.

I had to have a device called a holter monitor fitted for 24 hours that records heart patterns over a long period to ascertain exactly how big the issue was. It would take a further five weeks until this could be done. Cue careful eating, lots of extra exercise and sleep, and avoiding stress and caffeine full stop – not so easy working in IT! In the lead up to this test I was convinced I would probably end up with some serious restrictions on flying.

When the test results finally came though I had recorded 9 ectopic events out of 90’000 heartbeats. Most normal people have one or two every day, but my GP said even 9 was completely normal. A week later and the CAA had the results and verbally confirmed I was Class 1 fit. The same day I spoke with our Auster engineer who told me the repairs were nearly complete, and it shouldn’t be too expensive. (Relatively speaking). Finally at the end of November I had the Class 1 medical in my hand.

Though I had flown on my temporary medical once, I didn’t really enjoy it – at the back of my mind was the thought this could be my last ever powered flight as pilot in command. So today Catherine and I took the Tomahawk G-RVRL for a quick flight out of Ronaldsway to have a look at the snow on the hills, and it felt great to be airborne again without medical constraint. It was also great as this was the first flight where I probably wouldn’t have gone if I hadn’t completed the IMC Rating (Instrument Meteorological Conditions – i.e. flying in cloud). Keeping an eye on the outside temperature as light aircraft don’t have de-icing gear, we avoided all the cloud, but it felt really reassuring to have an instrument capability should it be required.

  • G-RVRL, Isle of Man Snow
  • G-RVRL, Isle of Man Snow
  • G-RVRL, Isle of Man Snow
  • G-RVRL, Isle of Man Snow
  • G-RVRL, Isle of Man Snow
  • G-RVRL, Isle of Man Snow
  • G-RVRL, Isle of Man Snow
  • G-RVRL, Isle of Man Snow
  • G-RVRL, Isle of Man Snow
  • G-RVRL, Isle of Man Snow
  • G-RVRL, Isle of Man Snow
  • G-RVRL, Isle of Man Snow

Furthermore, with the Auster’s potential massive repair cost reduced to a slightly happier cost, we were also able to buy this:

  • RX8 at the Point of Ayre - October 2010
  • RX8 at the Point of Ayre - October 2010
  • RX8 at the Point of Ayre - October 2010
  • RX8 at the Point of Ayre - October 2010

She’s a 2008 Mazda RX-8, “Rotary Engine 40th Anniversary” Edition, number 31 of 400 in the UK. A rear wheel drive four door coupe with 231BHP that isn’t a dull and boring BMW or Mercedes eurobox. She handles beautifully and promises to be a lot of fun – provided we can live with the fuel economy. 20 – 22MPG. Still, better economy than the aeroplane! I feel a trip to Stelvio Pass coming on…

So December is starting off on a high – New car, new medical, excellent snow conditions in Scotland for Skiing, only two weeks of work left, all Christmas and New Year off work and off island, and a trip to Brussels on the Eurostar just before Christmas.

August Bank Holiday

Monday, August 30th, 2010

The weather today was excellent for flying, which is odd as we’d been planning to go away today for at least one week, and that’s usually a sure-fire way of ensuring low cloud, wind and general nastiness. We set off from Andreas at 09:35 and returned at 14:35, and in that time we’d been to Newtownards airfield near Belfast to uplift some fuel, then on to Enniskillen Airfield in the south west corner of Northern Ireland.

We had excellent weather throughout the day and other than the Auster’s radio had no major problems. Belfast City and Aldergrove were very accommodating clearing us through the controlled airspace rather than having to drop down to low level whilst still off-shore.

Navigation wise both portable GPS units did an excellent job, and the Skydemon software is much easier to use than PocketFMS.

Newtownards was busy with loads of microlights and training aircraft, and Enniskillen was really quiet, and has a nice cafe.

  • Coasting in at Ballyhalbert, Portavogie to the South
  • The Ards peninsula looking North
  • Newtownards Airfield with Belfast Lough in the distance
  • Alpha Uniform on the apron at Newtownards with Scrabo Tower in the background
  • Turning final at Enniskillen
  • Short final for Enniskillen runway 33
  • The church here is only a couple of hundred meters west of the final approach track.
  • Looking South East towards the Mourne mountains
  • Routing from Portadown to Portaferry
  • Dundrum Bay
  • The South end of Strangford Lough
  • Strangford Lough
  • Strangford Lough
  • 15NM West of Jurby
  • The Isle of Man, Northern Plain
  • Andreas town and airfield

Aboyne Gliding Trip

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

Yesterday I got back from a week long trip to Deeside Gliding Club at Aboyne, Aberdeenshire. Unlike last year, the forecast weather for the week was excellent, so we were able to escape the Steam Packet racket and take the Auster.

We still didn’t manage to find any wave lift, where gliders can climb to very high altitudes on the lee side of hills, but at least I had the chance to convert onto the ASW19, which is a step up for me. I flew about 9 hours in total, including 7 in the ASW19. The weather during the first half of the trip was excellent, though there was some thunderstorm activity on Friday.

The trip back from Aboyne to Andreas took 2hrs 20mins, and thanks to the Auster’s new auxiliary fuel tank was done non-stop. Total cost for the there and back element of the trip was just under £300 including landing fees, and was far cheaper than we could have done with the car and boat, and about 10 hours quicker too…

  • Loch Trool, Loch Valley and Loch Neldricken
  • The Southern Uplands with Loch Doon ahead
  • Perth from 5000ft on the return trip
  • The ASW19 under a thunder storm cell
  • Our Auster landing after a local flight  from Aboyne
  • The SZD Junior in the same thermal as the ASW19
  • Looking towards Aboyne and Aberdeen from the ASW19
  • The single seat gliders, Discus, ASW19 and SZD Junior
  • Looking East over Scotland's central belt

Tailwheel Endorsement

Monday, June 1st, 2009

This past weekend I was at Shobdon airfield in Herefordshire getting my tailwheel endorsement (finally!)

Tailwheel aeroplanes fly just like any other aeroplane, but landing and taking off is different due to the main gear being forward from the centre of gravity. The aircraft needs more attention to the rudder than a nosewheel aeroplane. (Similar problem with those flat trolleys at B&Q when you push them instead of pulling!)

I did the conversion on a Citabria, and it was a fun aircraft to fly. Unlike the other powered aircraft I’ve flown the Citabria is a tandem aircraft, meaning the instructor or passenger sits behind the pilot. Getting into the front seat would have been easier had I been a few inches shorter (or a lot more flexible) but once in it the vision over the nose and down both sides is excellent. It’s got a stick instead of a control yoke, and the throttle is mounted on the side wall of the cockpit.

  • Rallye Tug G-BTUG at Shobdon
  • Rallye G-BTUG Glider Tug
  • Citabria G-AYXU
  • Citabria G-AYXU at Ledbury
  • Citabria G-AYXU at Shobdon
  • Citabria G-AYXU at Shobdon

Total time to convert was 4h 50m, and I flew the aircraft solo after 2h 5m. I did a session of circuits at Shobdon on Saturday morning, then we visited a private strip 15 minutes away from Shobdon. Back at Shobdon I did a solo circuit then we headed over to Welshpool looking for some crosswinds.
Finally on Sunday morning I did an hour of solo consolidation. It wasn’t cheap, but a great experience as I was able to operate from tarmac and grass runways at Shobdon, and fly into a private strip, and do some cross county flying too. Shobdon successfully mixes powered aircraft, microlights, helicopters and gliders, a really busy airfield. There’s a cafe and camping site there too. No hassles with liferafts, lifejackets, flight plans or special branch notification either. Fantastic!

In combination with my Aboyne trip two weeks ago I’ve flown about 16 hours this month, and I’m feeling better for it too – currency really does make a difference.

Finally this afternoon I went to see the gliding club on the airfield. Unfortunately they didn’t have an instructor available so I couldn’t get checked out to fly their SZD Junior, but an afternoon in the sun watching the aircraft come and go was a nice way to finish off the weekend there, I even got sunburned in the car on the way back to liverpool…

Our Auster’s back at home

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

Our Auster is back in the air, and back home. Now all I’ve got to do is get my tailwheel endorsement and I might be able to fly her!

  • Landing with the Blanik in the background
  • Landing after her first aerotow in 19 months
  • 2000ft Overhead the field with the "Boggles" the Blanik (G-DCVA) in tow
  • The new tyres don't quite fit on the hangar trolley, so she's outside for Saturday night
  • Taxying In with new tyres and disc brakes clearly visible
  • Alpha Uniform overhead Andreas after traveling back from Spanhoe