Saturday 6 May 2017

Above the Clouds

I know it’s been a while since I posted anything here – but I did say it would be for “interesting “ things only as I wasn’t going to Blog all my flights.

Anyway, this year (2017) is rating renewal – it is every two years so not too bad.  As part of the renewal, I need to spend an hour with an instructor and get my logbook certified, simple really.

Anyway today, I’d booked an hour with an instructor on G-DAZO which I haven't flown before.  It’s a Katana DA20 but with a 100hp engine rather than the usual 90hp I did most of my training in. 

I was expecting to fly circuits as the weather – especially the visibility was marginal to put it mildly so I was surprised when the Instructor said we would do a local flight to the east over Kent.  So usual checks, engine start and taxi out to G2 the holding point for runway 09L at Redhill.  In the taxi, I’d noticed the aircraft seemed more powerful than you might expect from just an extra 10hp.  After clearance from air traffic control, it was line up on the runway and take off.  Then I really noticed the difference.  The aircraft accelerated rapidly and to stop the nose wheel bumping too much I eased back on the controls – bad idea as the aircraft immediately took off well below rotate speed with the stall warner going.  So level out and then climb out and wow this thing can climb compared to the other (90hp) Katana’s.

Departure was via Godstone Station and the visibility was so poor so I stayed at 1400 feet even past Gatwick airspace.  Instructor got me to fly to Bewl Water and there pointed at a patch of sunshine a few miles away.  Next thing he said, fly there and climb through that hole in the cloud.  This was definitely a new one on me.

We got there and I did a spiral climbing turn into the hole – it was weird as I lost all spatial sense of direction and ended up flying on instruments to get through the gap.  Then suddenly it was into clear air and bright sunshine just above the clouds – such a massive difference from a 1000 feet below.
It was a definite wow factor flying at 120mph with the aircraft just skimming the clouds – never been above cloud before (not permitted on my licence) so this was really something else.  Instructor got me to do a few turns as above cloud the horizon is not as defined as solid ground – first turn wasn’t great but on second one I'd cracked it.

After a bit of general flying around and getting used to things, it was look for a hole to get back down.  I spotted one and did a spiral descent at speed straight through the gap and then into the murk and poor visibility below again.  Instructor then set a VOR bearing to get us back to Redhill.  Been a while since I followed a VOR but sort of managed it – just about.

Even close to Redhill Airfield , I couldn’t see it so followed landmarks to get there.  Then it came into view and it was a downwind join for 08L.  As I’d never landed (or even flown) this aircraft before my approach was “interesting” and I ballooned on landing.  Still Instructor was unconcerned and signed me off.

I’m hoping to fly G-DAZO solo next week weather permitting.  If I do I’ll post a brief review and a picture of the aircraft here.

That’s my hour with an Instructor in the bag for my rating renewal.  Not only that, it was a fantastic experience in a different aircraft for the first time and above the clouds for the first time.


Pic below taken by Instructor and me looking terrified…..

Monday 24 November 2014

Runway 25 and back to the Katana.

Well I’ve been doing a bit more flying in the PA-28 and even had my first passenger (Penny) along for a ride.  Because of the recent heavy rain the grass runways at Redhill are all closed and they are using an unlicensed runway (07 / 25 which is actually a taxiway) for take-offs and landings.  Long ago in my training I have taken off and landed on this runway and my thoughts at the time were it is short, narrow and has a curve in it.

Before Pilots can use the taxiway runway they have to do a short training course with an Instructor and as the weather today was looking good I’d booked an aircraft and instructor to do the training.  As the PA-28 was not available I booked a Katana DA-20-A1 G-BXPD which is the aircraft I did my PPL Licence test in.  I hadn’t flown it since then (August 2013) so I’d get a double benefit today, approved to use Runway 07 / 25 and get certified on the Katana again.

Got to Redhill on time and it was a beautiful but cold day.  Usual checks around the Aircraft and get myself acquainted with it again and after about 10 mins I was ready to go.

I had a bit of a problem talking to Redhill ATC as they couldn’t hear me but moving position and resetting the headphone jacks seemed to clear the problem.  Then it was on to taxi to holding point B2 and get ready for take-off.  After power checks I was cleared to take-off and by now it was obvious the runway was both narrow and curved.  Still no problems with take-off and the circuit and soon felt at home back in the Katana.  Coming into land was a different proposition – the runway was really narrow and the curve was obvious.  Still made a reasonable approach, got the aircraft down and had to steer it on the landing run which was a bit interesting but OK.  Touch and go’s are not allowed so I was sent to hold at D1 while another aircraft landed behind me.  Then I was cleared to backtrack (taxi back along the runway) and line up for another go.  Take-off was fine as was circuit and I got a better approach this time.  I was a bit slow at the threshold and bounced the aircraft a bit and again had a slightly erratic steering around the curve.  Then it was backtrack and line up for another go.  This time it was better, I got the speed right and although I bounced a bit the landing was Ok.  Instructor said he was happy and I was to taxi back to the hanger.

So that’s it, now qualified to take-off and land on the unlicensed runway and certified for the Katana DA20-A1 again.  Result.

Google Earth view of Redhill with the unlicensed runway boxed in red

Redhill Airport (1)

Katana and the PA-28 at Redhill – both of which I am certified to fly at the moment.


Tuesday 9 September 2014

Another Conversion

Well just over a year since I got my Pilot’s Licence and I’ve only flown 7 hours in the Katana DA-20 C1. I’ve done one set of circuits, one flight out over the Isle of White and Portsmouth with the rest out over Kent.  I’m now in the second year of my licence and have to do a minimum of 12 hours this year.  So to kick things off, today, I have booked to fly the PA-28, something I meant to do a while ago.

The weather today is high pressure so some early fog, light winds, with some cloud at 2800ft but fine for flying.  First stage was the walk-around checks, I couldn’t find some things so had to ask the instructor, but soon had the external checks completed.

Then it was into the aircraft – it felt enormous and complex compared to the Katana I’ve been flying.  The controls are much heavier, the instrument panel is more complex – especially the navigation systems and radio telephony.  I still wasn’t sure how they worked despite the instructor taking me through them.  Then it was on to internal checks and start-up.  Engine was easy to start but the whole aircraft felt completely different, the layout was different, the controls were different and I joked with the Instructor – was he really going to let me fly this thing?  He said yes and to get on with it.

Radio call to Redhill ATC then taxi to holding point G1 for Runway 08R.  The aircraft steers differently and felt like a “lumbering beast” compared to the Katana.  However I soon got the hang of taxiing it and after a few minutes it even seem easier than the Katana, especially on the rough ground.  Then it was on to power checks and call ATC for clearance to line up.  Approval was given followed by the take-off clearance, so I lined up and got ready to go.

I open the throttle and the aircraft started to move – now somewhat nervous.  The aircraft didn’t swing left (like the Katana) and more or less carried on a straight line with speed slowly increasing as it lumbered across the ground. At 50Kts it was rotate and hold until take-off speed of 70Kts.  Again the aircraft accelerated slowly and took a while to get to 80 Kts – the climb speed.  Soon at 500ft, raise the flaps and the aircraft started to perform better so I climbed to 1400ft and set a heading for the departure point at Godstone South.  Then it was on to Bough Beech reservoir, turn over Tunbridge Wells and on to Bewl Water to get well outside the Gatwick zones.  By know I was getting the hang of it (apart from the navigation and radio systems) and the controls seemed really heavy and slow to respond.  By now I was thinking this was a good thing as the Katana is sensitive to control movements and can be a bit jumpy.  My left arm was getting a bit sore so time to sort out the trimmer properly.  At Bewl Water, it was steep turns at 45 degrees left and then right. I managed them OK considering I’d never flown this aircraft before.  Then it was on to a climb to 3500ft followed by a spiral descent and a simulated engine failure – all OK so far and the instructor seemed happy.

Then it was back to Redhill and a downwind re-join for circuits on Runway 08R.  Circuit was fine once I could see through the haze and got my position correct then it was onto base leg, descent and final for a touch and go.  I was somewhat nervous but the aircraft seemed OK as long as it was trimmed correctly.  Approach was fine and I even managed a reasonable landing and take-off.  Then it was another circuit this time with a flapless approach.  This time the speeds are higher (80Kts approach 70 kts landing) and the nose attitude is higher.  Again a reasonable approach and a touch and go.  Climb out was different as no take-off flaps this time.  Then it was a short field approach and landing – again all OK.

As we taxied back to the hanger, the Instructor said he was going to sign me off to fly it.  Really?  I was a bit surprised but then again I had managed to fly it and control it without any drama.

Well – it certainly is a different aircraft.  The controls are much heavier - which is not a bad thing, it responds slower – again not a bad thing and it just feels so much heavier and bigger – which it is.  Still not sure I understand the navigation and Radio systems but I can make them work.   I’ll take it on a solo flight next time to get a bit more familiar with it.

Aircraft – PA28 161 Piper Warrior II, flying time 1hr 20 mins

On the apron at Redhill



Instrument Panel – radios and navigation equipment on the right


Saturday 23 November 2013

Aircraft Conversion

Now I’ve got my licence I’m converting to two other aircraft – a Diamond Katana DA-20 C1 and a Piper Warrior PA28.  Both my previous bookings were cancelled due to bad weather (mostly fog and low cloud) but today looked good and I had a booking for the DA-20 C1, registration G-NIKK

It’s a Katana – similar to the aircraft I did my training and skills test in – but different.  This one has a fixed pitch propeller, a fuel injected engine, a mixture control and 125BHP Continental engine.  It’s also a bit bigger than the DA-20 A1 and even has a bit more room in the cockpit.

First stage was a briefing with the Instructor about the differences – mainly the engine, mixture control and propeller.  There is quite a different start up procedure, the fuel pump operation is different, there is no carb heat and of course it has a fixed pitch prop.

The out to the aircraft and start-up.  It was a bit harder to start and certainly made a different noise.  The nose was also angled a bit further up so forward visibility on the ground was reduced slightly.  Taxiing was similar with the same steering but the controls felt much heavier.  The runway today was 36 so a long taxi out to the holding position was needed – so plenty of practice.  En-route I was asked to move to a parking area so another aircraft could pass, first time I’ve seen that.

On to power checks (which are similar to the DA-20A1 except for the propeller control) then it was line up and take-off.  Ground run was slower than I expected and it became airborne at 45Kts, which is a rather low speed.  Climb performance wasn’t great (due to the fixed pitch propeller the Instructor told me) but I was soon climbing out to 1400Ft and departing via Godstone.  Once past Gatwick airspace at Bough Beech, I climbed to 2400Ft and opened the throttle.  This aircraft is much faster than the other Katana’s and I was soon at 130Kts rather than the usual 90kts.  Backed off the throttle to 2300RPM, settled down at 110Kts and practiced some turns.  Then it was a practice stall and a few more turns so I could get the hang of the aircraft.  It needs a lot less power in the turns and was really difficult to stall, IAS was down to about 40Kts at the stall point without any flaps.  I had to keep adjusting the throttle to keep the RPM constant but I soon got the hang of it.

Then it was back to Redhill for some circuits.  I was cleared by Redhill ATC for a base join and touch and go on Runway 36.  The aircraft was difficult to get to descend needing full flap much earlier than I was used to.  Still I made a reasonable approach and even managed a rather good landing.  Then it was take-off again for another circuit.  By then I was getting the hang of it and did two more circuits both with good landings although my altitude control was not great due to the different propeller and the need to adjust the RPM.  For the last circuit, Instructor asked me to make an approach at 50Kts rather than 60Kts to practice a short field landing.  Everything was fine until the last moment when I flared slightly high and ended up bumping along the runway.  I think I’ll stick to normal approaches in future.  Then it was back to the hanger and shut down.

It’s been nearly four months since I last flew and this was a different aircraft but I was fairly happy with my performance.  Instructor obviously was too, as he signed me off to fly this type of Katana solo.  Excellent…..

G-NIKK on the parking area at Redhill


Instrument Panel


Thursday 19 September 2013


Got it.  Arrived in the post last night.

I’m now officially licensed to fly single engine aircraft as Pilot in Command.   It’s a bit scary and exhilarating at the same time.


Personal details removed for security – it’s not a fake (honest)


Friday 30 August 2013

Licence Application

Back to the CAA at Gatwick this morning – this time with my passport.  Even though I got there at 08:25am, before it opened there was a long queue.  An hour and a half later I got to the desk and handed in my paperwork and log book

All I have to do now is wait for the CAA to process and issue my licence.

Thursday 29 August 2013

Radio Telephony Exam

This is the last exam on my Pilot training programme – the RT practical.  I had booked this with a different flying school (Harvard Aviation) at Redhill as they had the specialist equipment to do the test.  Basically, I was given a planned route which involved a departure, a route through a Military Air Traffic Zone (MATZ) two turning points, a route through controlled Class A airspace and an approach and landing.  The test is carried out with an examiner and a computer and I had to “fly” the route on the PC simulator and make appropriate radio calls en-route with the examiner acting as the air traffic controller.  It also included an emergency relay call and an urgency call to a Radar controller.

The test took about two and a half hours, much longer than I expected.  It was also a bit more difficult than I expected and at the end of it I was exhausted.

Anyway, I passed it so that is my training completed.

The plan then was to go to the CAA at Gatwick to hand in my documents for my licence.  I eventually found the CAA building after getting lost around Gatwick several times and then discovered I needed my passport to apply.  Of course I didn’t have it with me so that was the end of that.  Back to the CAA tomorrow morning – at least I know where it is now.