Friday, September 29, 2006

Flying how it ought to be.....

Well I have done my first proper trip. I had to do a short cross-country trip with my instructor and the result of that would determine if I would be endorsed to go it alone the following day. The night before, Kevin asked me to plot a route from our airport, Gillespie, to a small airport to the North called Hemet. I had free reign to choose the route I felt comfortable with, choosing visual references etc that would prove useful during the trip.

I called round to Matt's that night and we planned the route. He's done the trip already, so he was a mine of useful he knows how to use the whizzwheel and I needed a crash course in that. Let me tell you about the whizzwheel though first. It's essentially a curved slide rule. It call help you figure out the corrected track for winds and how that will also affect your ground speed. It helps you figure out times for each leg, given a specific indicated airspeed (IAS) and recalibrates the IAS for True Airspeed (TAS) as the IAS changes with the difference in altitude (less air molecules hit the IAS instrument so you show a lower IAS than the TAS. And it also helps you convert litres to US Gallons, calculate fuel required for the trip etc etc etc. The only downside to it is that using this thing in the air is pretty bloody difficult because the markings are quite small. So you plan most of the trip on the ground beforehand.

I marked out the route and figured out the headings, then had to work out what the winds were doing and if they'd blow me left, right, tailwind or headwind and how that would affect my groundspeed and times for each leg. Then I sat ith Kevin before the flight. He liked how I planned the route and how I'd also incorporated the use of Radio Nav Aids to reconfirm my position when airborne.

Unfortunately however the flight wasn't trouble free. It started when I took hold of a new steed....a C-172 called N133AJ. This was the wee puppy who had suffered an engne fire a few weeks ago. She had a whole new engine put in and had been tested a few days earlier. But when I did the pre-flight I noticed the battery was flat because the flaps took FOREVER to deploy and the lights were all dimmed. I flagged it to Kevin and he agreed it was probably a flat battery. He asked the mechanic to come over and he said he'd hand start it with the propeller. Then we'd sit for a while wilst the engine recharged the battery. All looked well, we took off and headed for our first waypoint.

I was settling into the flight, keeping an eye on the instruments and an eye outside looking for traffic and my visual references as I flew North. But about half way into the flight, the low voltage light lit up. We recycled the electrical system and about 15 mins later the light lit up again. We then turned off the alternator and ran the battery only. Light lit up AGAIN about 8 mins later. We then turned off all non essential electrical equipment, recycled and guess what....lit up AGAIN.

Kevin took the circuit breaker out, let the thing cool down. By this time we were already heading back home. But the power was beginning to run low. We recycled a few more times and we knew things were getting bad when we were just about to approach Gillespie and the controller asked us to Squawk our transponder so he could see us on radar. I guess the signal was week because of the low power because he couldn't see us right away. Our main concern was getting back on the ground in a hurry while we still had radios. So we basically flew like the clappers, coming in to Gillespie at about 140kts and then only slowing her down for approach. I had to sideslip in because we were too high as a result of the extra speed we were carrying. But we got her down on the ground and back to the school. This little puppy was going back to the shed for the mechanics to fix her. And I was glad that I had finished the flight.

The flying and navigation parts themselves were fine. I just didn't like the fact that I was flying a sick airplane and the potential of flying home radioless. Matt and I will stick with "Zulu Papa" (Matt's re-christened her Zippee) and "Golf Foxtrot" (I've re-christened her Foxy Girl).

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