Monday, April 06, 2009

Buzzing the tulip fields

Well, Spring is in the air, and with it comes some fantastic flying weather. At this time of the year the weather is turning to warmer climes but the dust and dirt has not yet had a chance to get lifted into the air on the warm columns or rising air, which means that you can expect pretty good visibility in all directions as opposed to Summer flying when you can expect a layer of clag hanging around at the inversion layer.

Today's sortie or sorts was to bimble around the tulip fields of Northern Holland. Something I have wanted to do since I got my PPL but had never managed to get up in the air for whatever reason during blooming season. The weather forecast all weekend was for sunshine, but when I awoke on Saturday I thought the weather men had gotten it completely wrong. Saturday as it turned out was indeed a write-off, but as luck would have it, I had planned to go up on the Sunday, and when I awoke and had breakfast and my morning coffee the sun started to burn off the early morning mists and the sun was playing centre stage.

While Marina entertained the dog, I whipped out the map and had a look at where might be a good place to go. I had initially planned to go towards Lisse, but those crazy Dutchies have scuppered those plans....and also any future idea's of overflying Amsterdam with friends. They've introduced a new SRZ (Special Rules Zone) which prohibits VFR flying inside the Schiphol CTR. The reason for this apparently is that since the introduction of Mode S transponders, the radar scopes that ATC use are now cluttered and they cannot provide safe separation. I'm guessing that the Mode S tx's give more info which must show-up on the screens. If you ask me, all they need are bigger screens which would help with the clutter. But after talking with some fellow pilots yesterday, they think that this has been their (ATC) golden goose in terms of finding an excuse to kick VFR traffic out of the CTR. Which the way the SID's (Standard Instrument Departures) and STAR's (Standard Arrival Routes) are set-up for Schiphol, there really isn't a lot of work for ATC whenever a VFR flight passes through, but c├ęst la vie. I'll keep you posted on any updates, as the AIP stated that they were "working on a solution". I personally won't be holding my breath.

Anyway, after chatting with Wouter in Polder about the new SRZ I asked if he thought I would be excluded. The rules stated that all Mode S equipped aircraft wouldn't be allowed in, but I had an old Mode C tx in my plane. He said give it a go and let him know how I got on. I did, and failed. ATC wouldn't let me anywhere near the CTR even told them I was Mode C equipped. Unless, I was told, that I intended to land in Schiphol, I was not allowed in.....BUGGER!!

No worries, I turned the plane Northwest and headed towards the fields over Noord Holland. It was a gorgeous day, and F-NP (if anyone can come up with a cuter name, then let me know) was enjoying it as much as I was. Over the water of the Ijsselmeer she settled down and was as smooth as silk. Overland though, the thermals bumped her ever so slightly. She's a very light plane, only 600kg's MTOW, so she can get a little jittery if a stiff breeze is blowing, or in rising thermals.

With the camera in my hand and a few fields spotted, I did a few orbits and snapped away. Mission complete, I then headed towards the Afsluitdijk for the crossing over towards Texel. The closer I got to the island the better the visibility, and pretty soon I was talking to Ed in Texel asking for the airfield info. Runway 04 was in use today, so pretty simple approach. I've noticed with the clean lines on the wing of the little Robin that F-NP is very slippery and hard to slow-down. I was a little high initially on finals, but I put in the remainder of the flaps and throttled all the way back. Today's landing was an indication for the rest of the day...very smooth and gentle.

After taxying back to the apron and paying the landing fees I got talking to Ed about landing fees in general here in Holland. Texel is the cheapest in terms of Full-stop and touch and go's, but I was asking him his opinion that charging for touch and go's puts some pilots off of practicing their landings. I know though that I'd journey over to Texel to do them rather than pay the HUGE price in they charge in Lelystad!! Ed went out to take some photo's of F-NP as she was a new visitor to the airfield. Marina called to ask when I'd be back. That was my signal to head off again, and so goodbyes to Ed and I was off.

Crossing back though was a bit of a pain in the arse. I had Amsterdam Info providing FIS all the way over to Texel, but when I left Texel, I couldn't raise them on the radio at all. I called De Kooy tower for the frequency of De Kooy Approach to ask them to give me FIS service. The boys in De Kooy were only too happy to oblige and every few minutes suggest I try Ams Info again. It wasn't until I was near Enkhuizen that Ams Info could hear me. Very strange. But there wasn't much in the way of traffic at all. I took the scenic route to the North of the Lely Polder and then headed South towards Haarderwijk to join BRAVO.

Lelystad was pretty quiet, considering the weather. I think I was only one of two airplanes in the circuit. I turned downwind, did the before landing checks, throttled back on base leg and then turned final, selecting the last notch of flaps. Once again, the little Robin just kissed the Earth...what a smooth landing. Maybe my friend Matt is right......low-wings seem to have a more pronounced ground effect and the landings seem to be greasers a higher percentage of the time. :-)

Off at Delta and taxy back to the hanger to tuck F-NP into bed. I have to say that the 3 hours clocked on her were a lot of fun. I had thought that I would get cramp or something, but it wasn't so. And with only 11 litres of fuel drank during those 3 hours flying, it has to be one of the cheapest flights. That's €5.50 per flying based on the fuel consumed, and I wasn't flying too lean either. A few more hours under the belt and looking forward to the next bimble. Now if I can only convince Marina :-)

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