Friday, 21 November 2008

if you don't grin from ear to ear, you don't "get it"

Chatting with Cath, Stew and Neill the other day it became apparent that my attitude to the solo is unusual - that while I regarded it as a massive and looming landmark, which made me increasingly anxious, for them it was something that came upon them all of a sudden without them having really given it any thought. For me, the number of hours to solo was a matter of pride and the growing anxiety about not doing my solo early, as I imagined I would, made me tense and my flying erratic.

Having read about flying all my adult life, I have always seen the first solo as something akin to the loss of ones virginity... a huge big deal. Maybe the pride around solo comes from a GA/light aircraft frame of mind. Most of my reading over the years has been about what lay-people call "real aeroplanes".....the type that only the well heeled can afford to fly.

I never want to lose the sense of awe at having got this far. I am lucky that there are many more firsts ahead: I have my two hours alone in the circuit, my first hours venturing alone out of the circuit, my first time alone in a Quantum and my first out-landing.

I know there isn't a limited amount of flying to be shared out. Everyone can have as much as they want (or can afford), but it irks me that some people are just doing it because it is there, rather than that they are passionate about it. People have too much money if they fly because they can or because they think it makes them sexy.

And I know people can be smiling on the inside, but what is it with pilots who go round grimacing, like it is all just too much bother. I don't think I have ever seen a GA pilot based at Sywell smile...and the blokes who fly the Harvard look like they are serving some kind of sentence. I hate pilots like that - pilots who can afford to fly some of the really great aeroplanes but don't seem to care much for it. Flying something magnificent like a Harvard is a privilege wasted on people who are not passionate about flying.

If you aren't grinning from ear to ear, you don't get it. That's one of the reasons I like Neill - he's been doing it yonks, but he still gets it in spades. He will say, "You have to be a Spitfire pilot now, no hanging about, we only have an hour of daylight left" - and we scramble, while GA pilots are no doubt wandering over to the Aviator for a bevvy. It is why I like just hanging round Flylight, even when there is no flying to be had. People there get it. I think, generally speaking, microlight people get it.....and the flexwing pilots, the more so....because flexwingers are flyers, not aeroplane drivers.

I am not going to beat myself up if I seem "frantic", as Cath called it. Maybe I seem like an excited kid about flying, but is there any other way to be?

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Film of Electric Retracts

(edit: The film of the electric retracts has been superceded - I will get a link to it and put it here soon) The electric retract I was praising to the heavens a day or so ago. is a superb electronic design by Pat Gardner and Peter Finley, which complements Ben's very elegant mechanical system. When retracted, the control panel shows a red light (as in "Stop, don't try to land" - like a red flare from the ground), but when the wheels are down you get a green light. All very logical, and logical though the manual version was, with colour coded toggles, I think that most people will be a lot happier with this system.

In case anyone is worried, in the event of an engine failure with wheels up, the retract has a back-up battery with power sufficient to get the wheels down.

Monday, 17 November 2008

You win some, you lose some: airborne after 20 days, but I lost one of my balls!

Me sitting in Cath's newly unveiled and absolutely unique blue Dragonfly

This morning I flew, for the first time in twenty days. I hope that isn't a record I break. I couldn't solo as the cloudbase was at 800' but I did get to fly some decent circuits - wearing my new suit for the first time. My height control was initially rather erratic (rusty) but improved dramatically. The inversion threw us about quite a bit for ten seconds at a time at about 200', climbing out, but above it the air was smooth. My turn-ins were accurate and my landings were good, though on one I could have gone on longer. I need to be going on my own now.

Neill has said that I can convert to the school Quantum, which kills two birds with one stone. I am likely to have something similar as my first two-seater and the machine is under-used and therefore likely to be free for me to fly while Neill is instructing someone else. I am looking forward to flying it. I flew India-Echo once before and it has a nice wing. Hopefully I can solo it next weekend -but the weather is awful these days - it is so frustrating. I have bought a 7th edn of Cosgrove and am going to concentrate on getting met and nav out of the way while I am grounded.

When I arrived this morning Ben showed me the new electronically controlled, powered retracts for the Dragonfly: superb! I want one. Realistically, though, finances being what they are, I think I will have to wait a year or two for one, second hand. In the meantime, I need to get something more within my budget and build some hours.

Neill is a true convert to the Dragonfly and above you can see him in Cath's, which will be the first production machine with automatically retracting undercarriage. Beauty!

Neill is delighted to see that Ben even designed somewhere for him to keep his sandwiches.

Unfortunately, there were only two sponges available, so I was forced to admire the work and provide Neill and Steve (also a student pilot) with useful "you've missed a bit" type encouragement.

At Overstone Manor, having lunch, I was goading Neill because I had two balls and he only had one, when Ben Ashman, that hairy, four-eyed bastard dwarf grabbed my ball and popped it straight in his mouth. Everyone fell about laughing and Stew nearly had a coronary.

A day of great larks, some of which I captured on my phone (but which need editing - anyone know of a RealPlayer editor, free online?)


Tuesday, 4 November 2008

The Dotty Dog Rule

Here's a way I devised to remember the 1-in-60 rule: Distance Off Track x 60, divided by Distance Gone is expressed as DOTx60 over DG, which to my mind is best remembered as dots over a dog (60 of them), giving you a dotty dog.

Of course that only gives you a track which is parallel to the intended track, so some people double the number of degrees (two dogs!), so that you track back towards the intended track, but this will take as long as it took to get off track, and you may then only get back on track after your destination! So some recommend tripling the result (three dotty dogs!).

A better way to get on track and to your destination is:

(Any suggestions as to how to picture the TTr/DTG memorably?)

Suit and Nav

My new suit.

For the first time in two months I couldn't fly because of bad weather, so I spent the last couple of days studying for my Navigation exam. I rather feared triangles of velocities but actually enjoyed doing them once I understood them. I feel a lot more confident now and will take the paper next weekend. I have decided to leave the cross-country qualifiers until after my GST. Getting my licence, albeit restricted until the qualifiers have been flown, will mean that there is no chance of weather-delays invalidating my solo hours and exams.