Saturday, October 22, 2011

Return And Renewal

Entrance to the new GA terminal building at Schiphol
"Nippy" has been living it up at Schiphol this past week. After diverting to Schiphol last weekend on the way back from Bremen, it was time to pick her up and fly her back to Lelystad. When I went to pay the bill, I was expecting to suffer heart failure at the sight of the bill. But thankfully the landing and handling fees were less than I had anticipated, and it turns out it's cheaper to park your plane at Schiphol than your car. Parking fees cost only €1.60 per day, versus the €20+ euro's a day they charge at the long-term parking!! A bargain :-)

The lovely people at KLM Jet Centre whizzed me over in the limousine to where I had parked "Nippy" the previous Sunday. The canopy was full of condensation, so I opened it up completely and began the walk-round. Once the checks were completed,  I settled into the cockpit and got all the charts and paperwork in order and closed up the canopy. This being Schiphol, I was not allowed start up the engine without permission from Schiphol's "Clearance Delivery". So I tuned in to the ATIS for the latest weather update and then checked in with Delivery mentioning that I had the latest weather, was ready for departure and would like permission to start-up. I was hoping they'd be quick about it because the battery on a small GA plane doesn't last very long without the engine turned on. But they replied back quite promptly with start-up permission and I was asked to contact Ground once I had reached a specific taxiway.

"Nippy" parked at the stand in EHAM. Schiphol Tower in the background
"Nippy" started up immediately and I was soon holding at taxiway GL and waiting for permission to taxy to the runway.....runway 22, the same one I landed on the week before. The skies were glorious and I was in my element listening to the Big Iron on the same frequency I was on. Before I knew it I was told to taxy to the holding point of runway 22 and contact Tower when I got there. I was the only airplane using runway 22, so I was cleared for take-off and up in the air in no time at all. The route called for a brisk climb out and then a left turn to intercept the church at Amstelveen. Once over the church, I then need to fly towards the north eastern corner of the lake at Vinkeveen and to report clear of the CTR. I stayed level at 1,000 feet and then when calling clear of Schiphols CTR asked for permission to "resume own nav" and told them I'd change over to Amsterdam Info. 

"Nippy" parked in the morning sun at the GA terminal. KLM ground equipment in the background
The route on the way up was completely uneventful and I was on the ground in about 25 minutes. When I landed, filled up the tanks and called Reuben, my instructor/examiner who I'd planned to meet for my 5 year licence revalidation check-ride. I was a little late, having been held up sorting out the bill in the Jet Centre earlier, so Reuben knew I'd be a wee bit late. When I arrived, he had the coffee on and we sat down for a chat and a prep over todays flights.

Reuben had never flown in the Robin ATL before, so it was something fun for him too. I went through the various speeds, such as the clean stall speed, Vy, Vx, Vs, Vs1 and Best Glide. He told me we'd practiced some PFL's (Practice Forced Landings), some precautionary landings, steep turns, stall recovery and anything else I wanted. We settled into "Nippy" and I ran him through the safety briefing, the speeds once again and the general cockpit layout.

Reuben had me head towards the low flying practice area, which allows us to get down to 100ft of the ground (an instructor has to be on board though) to practice out engine failure drills. The first thing I did was demonstrate an engine failure. I set best glide speed (60 knots) trimmed the plane, looked for a suitable field, ran through the emergency drills, demonstrated a mayday call and aimed to set us up for the filed I elected. Everything went off without a hitch. I was slightly higher than I liked, but I dumped the flaps at the last minute and that sorted out the height issue. Once Reuben was happy, I put the power back in and slowly pulled in the flaps. It was at this point that I noticed that we were lower than the windmills which were right beside us....COOL!!

Next thing we practiced was a precautionary landing. A precautionary landing is a controlled landing which you choose to make as a pilot in the event that you're running low on fuel, there's something up with the engine, you have an ill passenger on board or the weather is turning sour on you. It can be at an airfield, or it can be at a field somewhere. The point of this exercise was the latter. To pick a suitable field, check the condition of the field and see if it's long enough and then set up for a landing once you're happy.

Some of the windmills near the Low Flying Practice Area at Lelystad
So I picked what looked like a nice long field. Reuben had mentioned that when picking a field, it's wise to make sure that there's nothing large at either end that could affect the landing or take-off when you go to leave again. This field had only small shrubs and trees and was so long that they wouldn't be an issue anyway. With a tailwind, I dropped down to 200 feet, throttled back to 60 knots and counted off 20 seconds. That worked out to be about 500 metres long, which is more than enough to get down and fly back out. The condition of the field was also excellent, so we climbed away to 500 feet and did a teardrop turn and counted again with a headwind, and I got up to 28 seconds....wonderful. This time I climbed up and performed a standard circuit and brought us over the field at 100 feet before putting the power back in and climbing out again towards Haarderwijk.

At Harderwijk we practiced steep turns, power-off stalls, approach to stall in full landing config and some slow flight. Reuben then asked what the gliding characteristics of Nippy were and I had to confess that I had not really tried it out much in her. SO he suggested that we climb to 3,000 feet and do a simulated forced landing and aim to land at Lelystad!! Cool. The tailwind would help us out a lot, so I called up Lelystad and asked if they'd be OK with that, which they replied back that they had no problem. 

We both kept an eye out for traffic below us, and there was only one aircraft heading towards the field for landing which would be much quicker than us given they were flying with full power on. I called overhead BRAVO at 3,000 feet and pulled the power off, trimming the plane for 65 knots best glide speed. We seemed to just hang in the air losing very little altitude at all. By the time we'd reached the turn for "Downwind", we were still at 2,500 feet or so!! Rueben started joking that at this rate we could make it all the way to the A6 motorway if we wanted. I was not 100% sure about when I should start the turn for "Base", knowing that as soon as you dump the flaps you start to sink a lot. I made the error of turning a little sooner than I should have, and then tried to compensate and lose height by dumping flaps and side-slipping on Final. In the end I was about 200ft too high over the threshold. I could probably have landed, but it would have been WELL DOWN the runway :-) But it was a very useful lesson....I now have the confidence of gliding Nippy in from a very long distance.

We practiced a few touch and go's, the last one being a test from Reuben to see if I could land where I wanted to land. He picked the spot where taxiway BRAVO meets the runway. So I mastered the speeds and RPM, dumping flaps gradually and floating the plane over the runway, kissing the ground exactly where he asked me to land. This time was even more rewarding because I was not fighting the crosswind with the aileron like I had done earlier. Instead I used the rudder and kept the ailerons neutral just using the elevator to adjust the rate of decent to float her in. 

We taxied back, tucked her in to the hangar and went inside for a debrief and some more coffee.

I'm really pleased with the flight today, and as is always the case when I fly with Reuben, I came out of the cockpit more confident in my own abilities and a wee bit wiser from his excellent tuition and experience.

The paperwork has now been sent off to the CAA in the UK, so I cannot fly solo until I get it back in a few weeks. I just hope that it's raining between now and then and that I'm not tormented by the wonderful Autumnal weather we've had this past month.

Short Wave radio transmitter antennae near Zeewolde

1 comment:

Martijn said...

Nice story Clay! Always good to rehearse the stuff!
(btw it is Harderwijk)