Sunday, March 11, 2007

Another day in the saddle

Well, today brought with it another day of sunshine and another day of flying. I took Jana and her boyfriend, Barry, up for a spin around Amsterdam.

I was flying Jessie again today and after a ham and cheese toastie and a cup of coffee at the cafe in Lelystad, we went and checked out Jessie.

With everyone strapped in, safety check done, I started her up and taxied out to RWY 23. The wind was coming from the side a little, so on rotation the plane weathercocked into the wind a little, but nothing a spot of rudder couldn't fix.

We climbed out and departed to the South West aiming directly for the city. I called up Schiphol tower, who seemed to be very quiet today, and passed along my details. I squawked and kept the plane at around 1500ft on the way in. As we got closer to the city I descended a little so that guys could get some good photo's. These ones are from my camera (thanks Barry!!) and I think Barry did a great job getting some lovely shots of the city. Jana didn't like the trip so much. It was a little bumpy every now and then as the sun was heating the ground causing rising thermals.

After some circuits is various directions, we then headed back the way we came and headed home. Jana had calmed down a little as the thermals had reduced over the Flevo polder. We joined the circuit and I had to extend downwind a wee bit because the circuit was busy when I arrived. Coming in a little high and descending slowly gave me enough spacing from the folks in front of me, and a gentle landing brought us back home safely. Another good day and some more great photo's. Enjoy.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Lunch with a friend

Talking to Matt this week meant that we were both pre-occupied with the weather and what it was doing for the weekend. matt was interested because he was fling home with Ryanair to Blighty and he was hoping to get a lift to the airport from Stavanger in a C172 rather than having to drive there. Me? I was interested because I wanted to go to Texel for lunch with friends :-)

Towards the end of the week, we noticed that the weathermen were predicting that the high pressure sitting over France would push North and help deflect the low pressure coming in from the Atlantic North towards Scandinavia. Bad news for Matt, GREAT news for me. But having seen how bad the wethermen got it last week, I wasn't so sure. That is until last night. I checked the weather and yes, sure enough it was going to be a nice day. Even the red sky at night (a shepherds delight, as the old saying goes) was proving them right this weekend.

All I needed now was a plane with friends willing to come for a jolly.

There's something I've noticed about non-flying friends. Firstly, they simply DO NOT GE
T IT. They have no idea how much fun going somewhere in a plane for a spot of lunch can be, and they also don't enjoy the enthusiasm for flying the way Matt, Mark of Jimbo do. Secondly, when they hear you're a pilot, they say "Oh, I'd love to do that....the next time your going can you invite me?" Which I do gladly. For those of you in the Netherlands reading this, you'll understand the diary syndrome, for those outside the Netherlands, let me explain briefly. Here in Holland, to get ANYTHING done with friends, you have to get in their diary. And ususally that means planning weeks ahead in advance. Not an easy thing to do when you're flying VFR in Holland, but what I've tended to do is block book a weekend, send out an open invite and people respond. BUT!!!! What seems to have happened of late is that people cancel last minute, suddenly changing their minds. Or they've been out on the piss the night before and are enjoying the comfort of their duvet and loved one beside them and don't fancy getting up to be at the airport for midday. Anyway, I digress. So last night I got a "Nah, we're too busy" from two friends and a reconfirmation from another friend that he was keen to come along. So it was just going to be the two of us. Fair enough.

Paul picked me up at the WTC and we drove out to Lelystad together. We arrived with LOADS of time to spare and I checked the weather. The winds had c
hanged a little so I went and adjusted my PLOG. The lovely Vivienne was working today, and she had her hair done. I swear, Dutch women are funny. I complimented her on the new colour (it does look very nice, even a little sexy) and she gave me one of those looks. You know, the one that says "Are you taking the piss??". So I joked with her saying "That's the last bloody time I pay you a compliment". I think she thought I was upset because she got very apologetic, but I was only kidding......about being offended, not about the was genuinely a lovely hair-do :-)

Anyway, I brought Paul out to the plane and strapped him in (with a little difficulty....he's a big boy) and gave him the safety briefing. I did the pre-flight, got in myself and started her up. My plane today was a new one for me, PH-GYS....I'm gonna call her Jessie. I taxied out, did the power-up checks and waited my turn to line up on the runway. With it being such good weather, every man and his dog was out flying today. This meant it was a while on the ground (like being in Schiphol) before we got a break in the traffic to take-off, and it meant that I'd have to keep an extra special eye out for pleasure flights going to and fro from Texel. I already heard Ruben (one of
the pilots in Polder) was already over there himself. Well, line her up and off we go.

When I took off, I climbed out and exited West. When I turned, I could see off the starboard someone else below and slightly behind me but turning with me none-the-less. I was worried if he could see me or not, but thankfully he passed below me and I continued along to Lelystad city, my first waypoint. We were a little slower (about 30 seconds) overhead Lelystad, which meant the wind was stronger, and I was also having to crab at a totally DIFFERENT angle, which meant the winds aloft were not doing what they were reported to be. I compensated and updated the PLOG and then switched to Amsterdam Information. All quiet there and we headed over towards Enkhuizen on the other side of the Ijsselmeer.

I switched then to De Kooy approach (again these guys are so nice and so helpful) and they gave me a SQUAWK 4363 and gave me RAS until I got towards Texel. We had two traffic warnings, the first I didn't see, but he passed above us 1nm to our starboard, and the second I saw coming straight for us before De Kooy gave us the alert. I had already turned to avoid when he gave us the call and I replied "Roger, traffic in sight". Paul was enjoying himself, happily snapping away on the camera and enjoying the view. He would ask me some questions now and then, but he was happy kicking back and enjoying the flight.

On the way in to Texel, De Kooy told me that there was traffic to the South East but not on my route to Texel and
cleared me to contact Texel Radio. Now, for those of you who may have read my last blog about visiting Texel, you may have remembered me complaining how hard it is to find a green field in amongst hundred of OTHER green fields. AND on top of that, I had memorised the routing for RWY 04, the one I landed on on my first visit. But this time, the runway in use was RWY 22. Bugger!!! Now I have to find the airport from the other side. I was joking about this with Paul, and he helped keep a look out for the airport. I passed the VRP, realised that what I thought was the airfield was indeed the airfield and gave them the call that I was long finals. I could also see someone ahead turning short finals and that reconfirmed my suspicions. I set up Jessie for the approach, dropped the flaps and power, pulled out the carb heat and did my "Before Landing" checks. The sun was kind of in my eyes, but I was wearing my sunglasses and the visor was down, so it wasn't a big problem. And before I knew it I did a GREASER on the grass runway....gently kissing the wheels down with barely a touch......I was CHUFFED, and Paul turned and said "Wow, that was so smoothe Clay". I was delighted :-)

We taxied to the apron, shut down and secured Jessie and went to the tower to pay the lanbing fees. Again, I joked with the guys in the tower that it's so hard to find a field in a field and how I was psyched for 04 and not 22. They laughed and said that now I was prepared for ANY runway in future :-)

Paul and I made our way to the cafe and had some food, Paul enjoying a beer (the lucky bastard) and we enjoyed the view out the window. Eating our uitsmijter's and coffee we noticed that the parachuting club was in full swing and some family members were outside looking up at some family members being hurled out for a tandem jump. It was fun seeing the guys landing right in front of you, and reminded me of my sky-diving days. but I'm not sure I like how close they are to the apron.
Afterall, if you get it completely wrong, you could find yourself minus some limbs with props everywhere. Bill paid, we went back out to Jessie. I helped paul strap in, did a quick pre-flight again and started her up. A quick radio check and taxy to the active where I did the power-up checks and then set jessie up for a "Soft Field Take-off". I LOVE doing these and have loved doing them since Kevin (my instructor) taught me how to do them. Although, when I was learning, I must admit that I DID scrape the tail on one occaision. Anyway, flaps set, control column right back, lined up and power in. Keeping the nose centred with the rudders the nose then lifted up, with the fuselage eventually getting airborne. I then kept Jessie in groud effect and then pulled her right back roaring into the sky. I looked over to Paul and he had a grin ear to ear, as did I. We then climbed and made our way out to the coast and called the guys in De Kooy again. A different controller this time, we were told to Squawk VFR (7000) and made out way to Enkhuizen again. Eventually we called Amsterdam Information, and Paul was so quiet, engrossed with listening to the chatter on the radios. I was telling him how one of the things I love about flying is chatting to ATC, and he said it was fun just to realise that we were interacting with them like this. We arrived overhead Lelystad, did a quick orbit to photograph a ship Paul missed on the initial pass and then headed towards Lelystad airport. I asked if I could head for Sierra via an overhead and was told it was OK. There were two aircraft ahead of me and I had to extend downwind a bit to give adequate spacing.

Eventually on fina
l, I was all set up for the landing. But just as I was flaring, the wind caught me and I began to sink a little. I wasn't happy, pushed the power and carb heat in and called "GYS, going around". I cleaned her up and got set-up again for the second attempt. This was a much better circuit first of all, and I was set up nicely. When I was in the base leg before turning Final, I thought I could hear a radio station. I asked Paul if I was hearing things, and he said he could hear it too. Having said that, the radios in Lelystad were SHIT. I think someone had a stuck mic or something because there was so much squelch and crap ont he radio. Anyway, I turned final, albeit a little high and I slipped Jessie in, gently settling her on the runway and coming to gentle stop. I called clear of the active and let the guys in Lelystad Radio know about the music. They sounded surprised, saying that I was the first to report it and that others yesterday reported it on another frequency. Most odd. We taxied back to Polder, shut her down and I then completed the paperwork. Another successful and fun day flying, albeit an expensive one. Given the cost per hour, I am seriously thinking about buying something on my own. I am always concious about how far places are and would love to explore more, but it's so expensive here. If only I had some flying buddies who were interested in either sharing the flying costs or co-buying a plane. I'll wait and see.

Tomorrow I'm supposed to go flying again. We'll wait and see what happens and see if anyone sleeps in late, misses the train or just plane cancels o
n me. The mission tomorrow? I kind of fancy an overflight of Amsterdam. Who knows.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Now THIS is a heavy landing!!!

And I thought some of my landings when training were bad.

Apparently, this a C-23 Sherpa was operating out of a U.S. operated airfield. He flew in during the day and noticed that there was construction equipment on the runway but no NOTAM informaing pilots. He issued a complaint but nothing was updated.

A repair trench was being dug in the runway to fix a large surface crack an it was not NOTAM'd. Work continued through the night and nobody thought of turning off the landing lights to the runway either.

A C-130 arrived that night and lined up to land. The pilots were unaware of the construction work going on and it ended up ploughing into this MASSIVE hole in the ground.

The C-130 was a write-off and there were a few injuries, but thankfully nobody was killed.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Damn those weather men

Quite a frustrating weekend. I booked a C172 for both Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Saturday was booked for 16:00 and Sunday was booked for 12:00, on the proviso that if Saturday was a wash-out then we'd go up on Sunday. Who was coming with me? My best friend Sally, her boyfriend Ricky and my friend Jana from work. The plan?? To go for a quick sightseeing flight over Amsterdam.

I checked the weather during the week and again on Friday. According to the TAF's and satellite images, there was a large low about to move in from the West which would clear up and leave a ridge of high pressure (and consequently blue skies) all day Sunday. Which was just as well, because Sally asked if we could go on Sunday instead. "Not a problem", I told her "it's supposed to be pissing down on Saturday".

But how wrong did the forecasters get it. I awoke on Saturday to lovely high Cirrus Stratus and as the morning went on the weather stayed mild, although it did get grey as the day passed. I emailed Polder to confirm the TAF and they said it was supposed to be crappy by the time I was to go up, so they were OK to let me scrap the flight. I rang Matt to talk flying etc and we were joking about how when we do scrub a flight, how we want the weather to prove us right. And sure enough it started to turn bad, but the "cats and dogs" never did appear, just poor visibility.

I went to a friends party and watched my beer intake. I stuck to 4 bottles of beer, made sure Jana knew she was to be at the train station by 10:30 and was home, tucked up in bed by midnight....and who said flying is glamorous :-)

Sunday began with Sally sending me an sms about the weather. She was worried about the fog in Lelystad. Her parents live there and she could see how grey outside it was. I checked the
weather and the forecasters were predicting it to burn off by lunch-time. So off I went.

But it didn't start out all roses. Jana pissed me off by doing a typical "Jana". "Oh my alarm clock didn't go off sweetie....can you tell me what trains I can get sweetie....Oh I'll be an hour late sweetie
". I just KNEW it...I knew she'd miss the train. In the end she ended up not making it....which if I was clever, I could have put money on, AND won. I got to the station, met Sally and her family and we drove to the airport. But there was no sign of the weather changing. We went for a coffee and watched the weather from the cafe. At last......a glimmer of sunshine. But it was already 13:20. I had the plane (PH-PJL...or "Me Julie") until 14:00. But I pre-flighted her, posed for some pics (coming soon) and strapped Sally and Ricky in. Fired up the engine, radio check and pre flight checks etc and we taxied to the run-up area.

Sal was babbling away while I was trying to do the pre-flight checks and eventually we taxied onto the runway. And very soon afterwards we were skybound. Sal let out a "Whoooo" as we rotated and climbed out and then I headed out for the city of Lelystad. But the weather was still iffy up above. Clouds were scattered at around 500ft so I had to be careful to remain clear of clouds. As I continued, the weather was beginning to improve. I dialled in the Lelystad NDB and made a route back towards the airfield. I aimed for VRP Sierra and called overhead, joined downwind and did the pre-landing checks. Again Sal was babbling in my ear and I had to concentrate with a stiff crosswind. I overshot a bit turning final, and had to slip to loose height, but recovered and brought "Me Julie" in for a landing. But sadly I flared a little too high and hit the deck a little hard. But there was no bounce and it was a solid landing. We taxied back, shut down and headed back to the club to do the paperwork. I mentioned to Ruben about the hard landing and he smiled and simply said "You can't get them all the time".

Time logged....30 mins, but I wish it could have been more.