Friday, August 31, 2007

The joys of AOPA membership

OK, so I know there's a lot in the GA community (certainly this side of the pond) on the benefits of being an AOPA member, assuming there are of course any.

Well, I've now found one.

Picture this.....I'm flying back from Minsk (Belarus for those geographically challenged) back to Kiev (Ukraine for same said folks) yesterday and I'm first off the plane into, what I hope, is a small queue at Immigration.

To my horror there's hundreds waiting in line for Passport Control, and from past experiences, this is at least an hour long wait.

Having waited for my flight which was delayed by two hours, I wasn't in any mood to hang around for Immigration. But I remembered two things....

1. They have a special lane for "Air Crew", and
2. I have my AOPA Air Crew card on my which has my photo and "Air Crew" written on it.

"Dare I do it?" I ask myself. Well, they can only say "yes" or "no". So when I go to the desk the Immigration Officer isn't there. "Fear not" I say to myself....I can see the office where they all congregate. So I walk up, knock on the door, produce my AOPA card and explain that I'm "Air Crew" and that there's nobody at the air crew desk. The guys looks at my card and says "No Problem"....and marches me to the front of the queue.....SWEEEETTTTT!!!

I handed my passport, quick review, stamp in the passport and I'm whisked through. Has to be the fastest I've EVER been through an Immigration line anywhere.

I must add however that I'd never have the balls to try this in the EU or US because I know they're more stricter/savvy, plus they can read English, unlike here in the CIS (ex-Soviet Union)....but I'm defo trying it wherever I go in the CIS.

Probably the best €30 I've ever spent :-)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Unlimited Aerobatics

Whilst Matt was getting used to being back in the saddle and was happy doing Dutch Rolls, I went up for some unlimited aero's in a Yak.

A colleague of mine in Ukraine took me out to Chaika aerodrome and introduced me to the folks who run the school there. My instructor, Anatoly, had pretty bad English, and his was the best. I also met the folks in the ATC tower, which looked like something that you'd find in a Western tower back in the 1950's. Still, they had planes and that's what I was here for.

I climbed into the Yak 52 into the back seat. It's a two seater and the pilots sit in tandem, like in the Citabria I learned my aerobatics in. However, the Yak 52 is a tricycle gear, so no need to worry about flying a taildragger. has a retractable undercarriage, so that would cover my complex aircraft certification then ;-)

One of the first things I noticed when I was being strapped into the plane....(first to the parachute and then to the seat) was that nothing on the instruments was in English and everything was metric. The altimeter was showing meters as was the ASI and the artificial horizon was a really old style gyro. But it had a g-meter top right and that's all I cared about today :-)

Anatoly strapped himself in and checked in on the radio. Oh....none of your nice David Clarks here....I was wearing a really old headset with an old analogue style connection to the radioset and they did not have any noise reduction at all. He asked if i was OK and said we'd do a hard routine today. My friend had told him I had done the aero's course and he seems pleased to have someone in the back who wouldn't get sick so easy. We taxied to the hold point. On the way over though, he gunned it over and the taxi was a boneshaking affair. I feared that the prop would hit with the ground as I'm used to taking it slow int he Cessna in Texel, but this guy just belted over the ground. A quick engine check and line-up on the over-grown grass runway and we were soon in the air.

He only climbed to 500 metres (1500ft in old money) and started a routine with knife edge turns right and left, then he did a barrel roll, aileron roll and loop. Afterwards he asked if I felt OK. I said yeah, fine. They he did a spin and asked me to recover. I recovered and he said, OK lets do some more aeros. We did a tail slide, wing overs, and I did a 6G loop with a figure of eight and inverted roll-out at the bottom. He gave me instruction throughout the manoeuvres and said I did pretty good. He then took control and did an inverted spin, followed by a hammerhead, tailslide and inverted figure of eight. I was sweating buckets by the time we'd finished and we only did about 25-30 mins. A quick dump of the flap and we were on final back onto the field (which needs a tractor or herd of cows to keep the grass down).

The only thing I don't like about the Yak is the fumes from the engine which make their way into the cockpit. The smell was so strong that I was getting dizzy when we landed. So what's next? Well, I need to now get a local medical and sit an exam in Russian apparently to be able to fly this beauty solo. So we'll see what happens. But what an afternoon.