Friday, July 31, 2009

New Annual needed soon

It seems the nice Summer weather has decided to go on vacation too. Warm sunny flying days have been replaced with crappy unpredictable rain soaked days, mixed with the occasional few days of strong gusts. I only hope that I get a break in the weather because I need to fly F-NP down to Strasbourg soon for it's Annual Check and CofA renewal before I head off on my on holidays soon.

I had hoped that I could have the work performed here in Holland and just get the guys in France to submit the paperwork to the French authorities....but those gombeens in the EASA have struck yet again. In an effort to harmonise the rules across Europe, in this case regarding maintenance of an aircraft, I have to wait until some date in Sept/Oct (which by then the CofA will have expired) in order to allow a perfectly qualified Ducth engineer to work on an "F" registered plane. Something I don't understand because a light GA plane works and fly's the same way in the air above Holland as it does above France or anywhere else for that matter. And if the engineer in Holland could fix it/look over it, then why must we be forced to wait for EASA to formally allow it in Sept/Oct.

Suffice to say, we European pilots hear a lot of bullshit from the multitude of Aviation Authorities, Groups, Organisations etc about standardising and singing from the same hymn-sheet but we never actually see it in practice. Look at the recent Mode "S" tx debacle, or the current conflict on licences and ratings (notably IMC vs Instrument Rating). Seems that standardisation results in more stringent rules being applied, and without any value-add in terms of extra safety...just more confusion, more paperwork and more cost. Oh how I long to have a flying experience enjoyed in the U.S. in place here in Europe.

Well....back to the weather charts to see if this weekend would work to get F-NP down South for her annual check-up.

Blue Skies

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

First PLANNED flight to Germany

This summer has been a pilots dream. There have been countless weekends with high pressures sitting right over the continent and not really bothered to go anywhere else. So it means that I can get to fly more. Yay!

Marina has also recently taken up sailing (a passion and dream of hers for a long time) so it means that I no longer feel guilty when I look at the long term weather forecast and start to come up with places to fly to. The plan this time was to attend a small airshow in Germany, spend the day there and fly back in the evening. We were both keeping an eye on the weather (I've begun teaching Marina what I learned so she can put it to use sailing) and everything was set. I dropped Marina off early and drive to EHLE to get F-NP ready for the trip across the border.

This was to be the first "OFFICIAL" trip to Germany. The previous visit to Germany (if you recall) was an unintended precautionary landing at an ex-RAF base in Elmpt, now occupied by the British Army. F-NP happily spent the night being billeted in one of the HUGE hangers that once house RAF Tornado's. I am eternally grateful to the guys and girls of HM Armed Forces for getting us back into the air the following day. Today, we would try and get ourselves there and back in one piece and under our own steam :-)

I filed the flightplan online (using the iPhone of all things) and got sms responses back that they were accepted (outbound and inbound) earlier that morning. Before leaving, I raided Wouter's Jepp guides for the airfield charts for my destination and alternate, and then packed the all important sandwiches into the Robin.

This was going to be the longest flight undertaken int he Robin since ferrying her from Strasbourg, and was also a good way of testing the PocketFMS software on the PocketPC. I had fiddled with it on shorter flights, but never really worried because I could also find my way back to EHLE if it ran out of batteries etc. This flight though was different. I plogged it on paper, but also created an identical flightplan for PocketFMS to steer me on. I would test my dead-reckoning against the computer and see how accurate I was, as well as test the PocketFMS more extensively in the air.

Before long I was up and away, contacted Dutch Mil for FIS to the German border and opened the flightplan with them. The great thing about heading East is that there is no Schiphol TMA to deal with from Harderwijk onwards. That means you can climb up to FL065 before reaching Class B airspace, and significantly improves fuel performance as well as comfort level (since it's less bumpy higher up). Traffic wasn't so busy, and the folks in ATC in Germany even let me cut through some of Dortmund/Hamm's Class "C" airspace, cutting down on the journey time. I even got to climb as high as 9,500ft on the way over.

One of the annoying things about German pilots though is the insistence on speaking German to made building up a mental picture of who was were almost impossible because I couldn't understand what they were saying. I know Dutch pilots do it too...but not nearly as much as the Germans.

Finding the grass field of Soest-Bad Sassendorf's airfield was a doddle this time. I've been to Texel numerous times, and still have trouble spotting it's grass strip from the air. But the GPS simply pointed the way and I spotted it without much effort. It's also situated parallel to an Autobahn so I think that took a lot of the guesswork out of finding the field. I entered the deadside of the pattern, descended to circuit height and landed without a hitch. I parked right next to the tower, paid my landing fee and enjoyed the show that continued on into the afternoon. It was a rather simple affair, but fun and interesting all the same.

Soon it was time to get going again, so I fired up F-NP, took off and contacted ATC to open the flightplan for the journey home. The fuel inspection before leaving showed slightly more than half tanks. But the winds aloft had picked up. What's more, on my nose, I saw a bloody great big rain shower and it's associated low hanging claggy cloud right in front of me. I leaned the mixture right back and was more interested in staying aloft as long as I could than getting home as fast as I could. I had chosen Teuge as a fuelstop/alternate, but the rain shower sat right over Amersfoort and Teuge. I had enough in the tanks to get to EHLE, where they were reporting blue skies, so I opted to deviate North a little to avoid the rain and cloud and continue on to EHLE. Once clear of the cloud on the Western side, I benefitted from a tail wind too (according to the GPS) and I was doing 138kts G/S (ground speed). Sweet!!!

Traffic as always was busy coming into Lelystad and I had some clown report overhead "BRAVO VRP" but basically overtake me as I was making my way to join the turn downwind. I swear some pilots fly as badly as they a hurry to get back, but not paying attention to traffic ahead of them!! But the rest of the circuit was uneventful. After putting F-NP to bed in the hanger, I rushed back to Aalsmeer to pick up Marina from her sailing lessons. I guess there will soon be TWO captains in the family :-)

BBQ and the Robin

About a month or so ago, with the Summer weather finally making it's way to Amsterdam, I thought of a novel way to go flying with multiple passengers in the two-seater Robin. The solution was simple. Bring the mini BBQ, invite a load of friends, and then take them up one at a time.

I whipped open Google Earth and scoured the area for a nice spot close by to Lelystad airport but also nice enough for those who were busy eating to sit and relax while I took folks up for a spin in the Robin. As luck would have it, there was a nice wee spot in a woods close-by with a nice river area.

With the BBQ, burgers, beer and the dog pack into the back of the car, we headed off. The sun was beating down and it was perfect weather to go flying. I was so keen to get up in the air that I took our friends Nadya and Pavel up before heading off to set-up the BBQ. It was Nadya's first time flying in her life. And she was also the first passenger I had ever taken up in F-GFNP. So I was a little worried that she might get air-sick or worse....freak out on me. I told her that I would only do a few circuits and if she was up for going further, then let me know. The idea was that if she did freak out we'd only be a few minutes from the airfield to get her down quickly and safely.

Armed with her video camera (am still waiting for the video to load up to You Tube) Nadya strapped herself in and was busy taking in the sights. When I lifted off I could hear a happy scream from the right-hand seat. I looked over and saw the Cheshire cat grin on her face. When I asked her if she wanted to fly the plane, she declined and said she was happier if I flew. She sat back and enjoyed a quick tour of the area and about 20 minutes later we landed. This time to load Pavel into the co-pilot seat.

I can't remember if Pavel had flown before, be he was clearly not at all nervous and after listening to Nadya regale her experience, he was keen to get up also. I asked Pavel if he was interested in doing some light air maneuvers. He gave a cheeky grin and said he was up for it. As soon as we were up and I trimmed the plane for the climb, I gave Pavel the stick and asked him to head to the North. When we got over the North end of the Flevo Polder I did a 360 to check for traffic and showed him simple things like Dutch Rolls, negative-G flight and spiral turns. I don't have a parachute, so i wouldn't even attempt anything hardcore in the F-NP. He clearly enjoyed himself and he too landed with a Cheshire cat grin on his face.

After parking F-NP, we headed off to the woods to get the BBQ going. The girls found a nice spot and Pavel and I lugged everything out of the car and did what all BBQing men do the fire going :-) Not long after the BBQ was fired up, the rest of the gang arrived. My friend Jamie, his brother Kyle and friend Mike, and my friend Ben and his girlfriend Monika. Introductions over, we soon got down to the business of frying up the burgers and the girls digging into the ice cold white wine. Of course, I was the only one not allowed to drink....bugger.

Ben was next to come up with me. And as a novice glider pilot, he said he really liked the feel of F-NP. It was very light, and you only had to turn your body in the direction you wanted to go and found yourself heading there. I explained that it's as much a curse as a blessing. Especially if you're navigating long distances by yourself. I found this to be the case when I flew back from Strasbourg as well as a recent trip to Germany. With the guys and girls enjoying each others company at the BBQ, I took Ben up for about 40 mins. We did a large tour of the polder and took in some airwork. Before long, we were parking up F-NP and heading back to the gang.

The BBQ was winding down, all the food having be devoured by everyone (including Alko). So we packed up everything and headed to the bar on the airfield (Flantuas above Martinair's offices). The food there is fantastic, and they also have a great terrace overlooking the active runway where you can sit outside in the sun watching everything going on around the airfield. Jamie offered to pay for a C-172 for a flight with himself, Kyle and Mike, so I arranged the use of one of Polder's 172's for an hour or so. The rest of the gang sat enjoying beers while I took the boys for a jaunt over Amsterdam. I managed to squeeze in an extra passenger on this flight...a world reknowned traveller who goes by the name of Mr. Duck. Seems he was accompanying Kyle and Mike on their trip across Europe and Kyle smuggled him onboard :-)

The boys enjoyed their flight, snapping away at the majesty of Amsterdam below us. But I could hear the bar calling and I wanted to head back and enjoy my well deserved glasses of beer. I for one really enjoyed the day, and cannot think of a better way to spend an afternoon....BBQ, beers, burgers and view from above. Isn't that right Mr. Duck??