Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Enrico's Turkish Delight

I just heard some wonderful news from my friend Enrico. I met Enrico at Anglo American, the flight school I trained at. He was the instructor of my friend Matt. He's one of those people who has a heart of gold, is fantastically funny and has one of the most espressive faces I've ever come across.

Enrico left for Turkey just before Christmas to begin training in the B737. He has his commercial licence, but no type rating. And without a rating, no airline would touch him. However, he heard about a place in Turkey where for €30,000 and change he could get his type rating AND maybe be offered a job at the end of it.

The good news then??? Well, he's can now consider himself a 737 driver and will head off to Germany soon to begin line training with the Turkish sponsoring airline. So he'll soon be flying high above on a daily basis, doing what he does best.....flying. I jokingly told him his English has gotten worse since going to Turkey. I hope it doesn't get even worse when he goes to Germany.

Blue Skies Enrico.....and whenever you've got a spare jumpseat, I'm sure Matt and I will be happy to take it ;-)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Dar she blows.......Can you pass me a sick bag??

Sunday brought with it some dodgy weather and a strong desire for me to get up into the air. I didn't have "getupthereitis" but I was keen to go fly despite the weather. I checked the TAF's and the forecast was that it was due to clear by the afternoon. That's all I needed to hear and I met up with my friend Demy and we drive out to the airport.

This was to be Demy's first flight with me, and the plan was to take the plane over to Amsterdam and let her check out the city from above. However, Demy wasn't feeling too good to begin with. She said she started to feel like a headache was coming on, so we stopped off to get her paracetamol. She was feeling better by the time we got to the airfield and I checked out the plane and strapped her in.

My steed on this journey was to be PH-ALI, a C-150. I gave the safety briefing, started up the engine, called Lelystad Radio and made my way to the run-up area. All the checks complete and a quick taxy to the runway. The wind was blowing quite strong. I was being bounced around quite a bit and this was still on the bloody gorund. I lined her up and took off and immediately was bounced around by the wind. I climbed up to 1500ft on the QNH and called up the folks in Amsterdam Information to get clearance into the Amsterdam CTZ. But I was having a slight off-day on the radio. I had a bit oif a wanker on the other end for starters, and on top of that, the radio wasn't very clear so a few times I was repeating "Say Again, PH-ALI". No need to worry though, we got clearance into the CTZ and the boys in Schiphol were as always very helpful, and very professional. We were cleared into the CTZ and told in no uncertain terms to stay well in the VFR sector. We squawked 0060 and kept our eyes well peeled. I could see why as I got closer to Amsterdam....off to my left RWY 27 was in use for landing traffic as was RWY 01C ahead of me. I kept us at around 800ft-900ft and did some orbits of the city. Even though Demy was enjoying herself, the sudden bursts of turbulence really didn't help her relax. I was enjoying the challenging flying conditions but would have preferred if it was smoother.

After about 20 mins over Amsterdam we headed back towards Lelystad and I gave Demy a go at flying. She did a great job steering but kept pulling or pushing too hard, so I controlled the height with the throttle as she steered. I contacted the wanker in Info, gave him our position and asked for FIS for the trip back. By now though the bumpy weather was taking its toll on Demy. She had gone VERY quiet and had gone a little pale. Then she started complaining of an upset tummy. I made direct for Lelystad and set us up for the circuit. Thankfully it was quiet and we slipped into the circuit behind one other aircraft. and set us up for approach.

The wind was really strong and I was flying diagonally on each leg the whole time. I did the landing checks, and aimed for the threshold. With the wind being as strong as it was I was concious of maybe stalling, so I purposefully carried power and extra speed just in case. But that meant the landing and flare was a little iffy. A gentle bounce (followed by a "ahhh shite" from me) and we were down. I could almost see Demy heave a sigh of relief out of the corner of my eye. On the taxy back to the hanger we joked that she's sticking to fair weather flying....she'll only come up when it's sunny. I had fun though and I prived to myself that I can handle European weather just as well as the blue sunny stuff I got used to in San Diego. But I do love a limp wind sock ;-)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Road trip with a twist!!

This evening, Matt and I used a really cool feature in webpage sharing feature in Yahoo! Messenger from WebEx and an equally cool website http://skyvector.com/ to plan our up-coming trip in May. The website basically has every Sectional Chart for the U.S. (they're the most up to date charts) and also has the weather available as a mouseover for a number of airports. What's more, when you click onto the airport, it will then open up a detailed page showing you information about the airport, runways, airport elevation etc etc etc. I just wish they had something similar to this for European pilots to use. Matt and I both commented that things like this really show how GA friendly the US is. They just love private pilots over there.

Anyway, we spent an hour coming up with a basic plan and working out destinations, things to do at each stopover, how many nights we'll stay and more importantly...WHERE we'll stay. Here's the plan we've come up with so far.

Depart Livermore (East of San Francisco, and where we'll be based when doing our aerobatics course) and fly to Lake Tahoe. We'll spend some time swimming in the lake and enjoying the scenery. Then in the evening, depart....

Lake Tahoe - Reno

At Reno, we'll sample the nightlife and casinos. We'll stay overnight in Reno with a friedn of mine who's relocating there soon.

Reno - Las Vegas

Again, we'll sample the nightlife etc in Las Vegas

Las Vegas - Grand Canyon - Las Vegas

We'll spend the day at the Grand Canyon, and will try to fly in/around the canyon too. We'll then fly back to Vegas and spend a second night there.

Las Vegas - Mojave Desert (Airplane Graveyard)

This is where a lot of old airplanes are parked and scrapped. It's an old airplane graveyard. But it is also home to Burt Rutan's company Scale Composites. This company won the "Ansari X Prize" for being the first private company to successfully launch a manned space vehicle into Low Earth Orbit, and so now the airport has been dubbed the "America's 1st Inland Spaceport". Here we'll spend some time looking at airplanes and being geeky pilots.

Mojave Desert - San Diego

We'll fly into our old school and spend time with our friends John and Janis. Hopefully we can go for a spin in their new Mooney. We'll stay over in San Diego as I'm sure there are a bunch of people who'll want to go for beers with us (I know John and Janis will be keen for sure).

San Diego - Los Angeles (via Santa Catalina Island)

Our plan is to land into LAX (just because we can) and mis it up a little with the 747's and multitude of other planes going in and out of there. Matt's a little apprehens
ive, so I told him I'd fly us in and he can do the radios, and then he can fly us out. I think he sounded happy with that.

Los Angeles - San Francisco

We'll spend a couple of days in San Francisco. I want to show Matt about because it's one of my favourite places in the U.S. and I'd love to show him around Napa and go wine tasting. We're also keen to get a flight in over the Bay Area, and I want to bring some of my friends up in the air too. And then sadly we'll ahve to give our plane back and head home to Europe.

All in all, if we get our aerobatics out of the way quickly, then we should have no problem squeezing in the flying with room to spare. And if we find we're running short, then we can always skip something along the way. I'm really looking forward to the trip. I'm looking forward to it for a number of reasons....firstly the flying, secondly sharing something so fun with a friend like Matt. He's a friend who's as passionate about flying as I am, and I think we'll have as much fun planning the flights together as we'll have sharing the flying. We'll be sharing the flying and radios and we've promised that whoever does the landing back at Gillespie (our old haunt) then the other will do the take-off but do one circuit for a touch and go before we depart. I'd kinda like to do the departure if I'm honest (heehee). It may even work out to be the case if we're planning on flying into LAX as out next leg. We'll wait and see of course.

One of the other reasons I'm looking forward to the trip is the fact that American girlies totally love when you tell them you're a pilot. I got Matt and I t-shirts for fun with "I'm a pilot" on the back, just to be a total arse. But the funny thing is that American's don't get sarcasm, so they'll think we're being genuine and they won't bat an eyelid...heehee.

There's still a lot more planning to do. For example, we have a lot of paper work to sort out to get our licences validated for the U.S. When we land Stateside, we need to go to the FAA and hand in our licences and get American versions which will allow us to fly there. It seems like it's more of a formality than anything else, so hopefully it'll al go smoothly.

Also, we still have NO idea where we're gonna live when we go to Livermore for the aero's course. I hope we find somewhere soon. AND somewhere that's not mad money. I'm counting the days until May....only 199 days left until we fly KLM's Big Blue Bird to San Francisco. I can't wait

Friday, January 05, 2007

How NOT to do it!!

A Happy New Year to everyone!! I hope everyone is well rested and ready to take on what the New Year has in store for them?

One pilot however seems to have taken on a little too much. I don't remember if I told some of you about the story of a banner tow pilot who ran out of fuel and had to land on the highway running next to our airfield in San Diego. She landed safely that time, and was given the all clear to keep flying (i.e. the FAA didn't take her licence away from her).

Well, it seems that her luck just ran out. My friend John sent me an email and some pics of her banner towing plane which was truly plowed into the ground. Apparantly she went for the banner, climbed, stalled, recovered and stalled AGAIN!. Only this time she wasn't able top recover from the second stall.

It's clear from the photo's that she sadly did not make it, and I believe she died on impact. A very sobering thought to us pilots for the New Year. I only hope that the "stall pixies" will leave Matt and myself alone when we go Stateside for our aerobatics course.....although having said that, the course is indeed designed to make us better, safer pilots.

I myself don't know when I'll next be up in the air. I have a pretty hectic travel schedule ahead of me which includes Moscow, Kiev and Riga, but I hope to get up possibly next week for a quick spin. We'll wait and see what the weather does.