Saturday, March 12, 2011

Not easy getting in or getting down

Have been debating whether or not to pop this AIRPROX report form into the postbox or not. Maybe I'm over-reacting, or maybe I'm justified?

It wasn't the best starts to the day either. I had picked up a friend who is interested in either buying a share of "Nippy" or at the very least, using her on a regular basis. We've been trying to arrange a date to complete the check-out for the best part of three months. Maintenance, bad weather and worser scheduling conflicts have resulted in the series of delays in getting together to do the check-out flight. When we arrived at the airport there were road blocks at every road leading into the airport. Everyone was asked to exit their cars and both people and cars alike were searched. Unfortunately, a rather plump middle-aged policeman bodysearched my friend and I, whilst the car was given a once over by a rather nice young looking blonde female officer. 

Arriving at Polder was a little like arriving at the scene of a police raid. The instructors were panicking and asking their students if they'd remembered to bring the Weight & Balance docs and a copy of the NOTAM's with them. It seems the police were airside too, checking all arriving pilots. Interesting....first time I've ever seen such a thing in all the years I've been flying in the Netherlands.

We rolled "Nippy" out of the hanger and I showed my friend the in's and out's of the walk-around for the Robin ATL. We topped off her oil and headed out to the run-up area. I suggested that we head over to Texel, do a few practice landings, have a spot of lunch and then head back to the training area and do some slow flight, stalls etc. By the time we'd get back, the "Rozzers" would have gotten bored and buggered off. 

Since it was a check-out flight, I elected to sit on the right hand seat. This was a first for me. My friend climbed in next to me and we walked through the idiosyncrasies of starting up "Nippy" on a cold morning. She's a bit finicky and there's the added curve ball of using the choke. She spluttered into life and we quickly closed the choke and headed off to the run-up area. It was quite a busy morning, and even though we were last to join the run-up area, we were ready quite quickly and managed to jump the queue a wee bit. The Dutch pilots were probably grumbling into their headsets :-)

We lined up on runway 23 and my friend advanced the throttles forward. He was a bit unsure of the rudder and when we lifted off he had a bit of trouble negotiating the crosswind we had on take-off. I heard a "Interesting" from him in my headset and asked if that was god or bad. He replied "good" and commented on how nimble and almost "fighter like" the handling was. We weren't climbing as fast as I would like and reminded him to set the trim and climb at Vy to get the best climb performance out of "Nippy". 

We exited the circuit and headed for Lelystad city and I had my friend dial up Amsterdam Info and ask them for a FIS (Flight Information Service) for our trip to Texel. He hadn't flown since November, and even then it was in the UK so he was a bit unsure of what the say etc. Also, given the fact that he is used to flying Tiger Moths in uncontrolled airspace with no radio, and you can soon see how he was a bit hesitant about using the radios. But after the first two or three exchanges with AMS INFO he soon got the knack again.

We didn't climb too high, just bimbled across at 1,200ft. I gave him the lay of the land and pointed out the key landmarks. It was on the short hop across that he noticed how light "Nippy" tends to be, especially when you have your head inside the cockpit setting the radios. He ended up doing the same thing I did in my early flights...the plane would slowly start banking left or right. It's a habit he will learn to correct for, as have I.

About 20 mins later we were setting up to call Ed & Michael in Texel. I helped run through the BEFORE DESCENT and BEFORE LANDING checks. It was hard for my friend to spot the grass airfield in amongst all the many farmers fields. We were set-up for Downwind, turning Base when I asked my friend to drop some flaps as we were a little high. He struggled to get the Robin down and keep the plane from overspeeding on the descent, so he side-slipped a little to lose height and traded the excess speed off in the flare. We landed (a fairly decent attempt even though it was fast) and taxied back. He was sweating a wee bit and offered up to him my own first landing, which was also too fast. We said hello to Ed and Michael and then had lunch and a debrief at the restaurant on the airfield. 

On the way back we uplifted fuel and planned to do some airwork north of the polder. But we noticed on the climb out from Texel that the ammeter showed it was discharging. I quickly set about unplugging and switching off all non-essential items, but nothing happened. As we flew on, we decided to skip the airwork and head straight back to Lelystad. As we drew nearer to Lelystad city, lo and behold, the ammeter was showing fully charged. We reckon it must be a loose connection. Michael from VOT will take a look at it next time I bring her over.

So we tracked eastwards so I could show my friend where the VRP (Visual Reporting Point) of BRAVO is. This is a mandatory VRP used by all VFR traffic into Lelystad. We descended to 700ft and called overhead. Pre-landing chacks complete we were turning right for downwind for runway 23. This meant the sun would be in our eyes on final. As we turned final, I made the call to Lelystad Radio. My friend was again trying to control the speed and lose height (slightly high again) when all of a sudden some idiot rolls onto the runway without making a radio call, when were only about 300m from landing at the threshold!! I glanced quickly over to the right (the dead-side of the runway) to make sure nobody was using the microlight runway, just in case we needed to take avoiding action from this idiot.

Thankfully he was in a powerful airplane that he was able to clear the runway and climb away, but needless to say it had our hearts going. When I landed I asked for the tail number of the plane and the pilots name as I wanted to file an AIRPROX report. Strangely the guys in the tower were a little hesitant to give the details at first. If I wasn't so cynical, I'd half imagine they knew who this person was. 

And so endeth another fun filled day in the wild blue yonder. My friend is now checked out on the Robin, and I decided....the AIRPROX is in the mail.

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