Thursday, March 30, 2006


I had three flying lessons booked this week. My Monday lesson was cancelled due to low cloud and rain. I was at work Tuesday. I did fly on Wednesday and more on this in a moment. I was due to fly today (Thursday) but ended up weeding in my garden. It was just too windy at Blackbushe today. The wind was at least warm and has moved away from the east and was from the south west. Any wind with some south in it is not great at Blackbushe because it blows over a large area of trees and causes a lot of low level crosswind turbulence.
I am trying to get my flying up to a standard to take the skills test. Despite the two cancelled lessons, yesterday was a very good day. My lesson was booked for 1:30 and I was expecting to practice all the various types of take offs and landings.

Blackbushe Aviation from the car park.

On arrival at Blackbushe Christian was still flying so I checked out my C152 for today (G-BLRK).

Photo taken from the aircraft apron.
After I had checked the aircraft and Christian was back at the school two things had happened. One was that the wind had moved considerably to the south and the other was that the aircraft that my instructor was due to fly after my lesson had a technical failure. So Christian asked me if I wanted to do a practice skills test and have a double slot. Yes, I did want to do this and so went to retrieve my flight bag from the aircraft so that I could do the navigation planning. I planned the visual navigation from Blackbushe to Buckingham after which there would be a diversion to somewhere ?. The winds aloft figures had changed from their earlier numbers and I used the new figures to calculate a heading and speed. My estimated groundspeed was 116 knots and it would only take 21 minutes to fly from just north of the field to Buckingham on a heading of 349. Soon after 3pm I started up the aircraft and soon we took off on runway 25. I turned to the north and gained altitude. As I levelled out to lookout for other aircraft in the vicinity I could see that although the sky was mainly grey and cloudy, there were a few breaks in the cloud. At my planned altitude of 2300 that was at the minimum safe altitude for the route but below the cloud and London TMA airspace, I set off on my planned heading. It just so happened that the one break in cloud ahead was causing sunshine to fall on a tower in the distance. This was my second visual reference point some 20 miles away. It is the Stokenchurch communications tower alongside the M40. It was almost as if someone up there was picking it out for me to guide me on my way. I could tell that my planned heading was correct and I could concentrate on other matters for a while such as changing to Benson Radar on the radio and carrying out FREDA checks, etc. I flew over the tower and found that my Walmart stopwatch had not been running and was unable to check my timing. This was the not the first time I had had a problem with this stopwatch so I made a mental note to buy a clockwork one that I could fit onto my kneeboard. I would hate to fail a skills test just because a watch was not working. I did not properly identify my next planned checkpoint, but a couple of adjacent lakes a few miles further on showed that I was on track. So, I was soon overhead Buckingham with no problem. As I had approached Buckingham, Christian told me that my diversion was to Goring (on Thames) and he showed me where it was on the chart. I suppose I should have worked out my planned heading before I got to Buckingham but in fact waited until I turned overhead as I knew the approx heading. I stated my planned heading of 200 and ETA for Goring. As I was flying on my heading I could see the two lakes again and convinced myself that I was not on the right track and altered my heading and reported this to Christian. He had to tell me that I was approaching a MATZ (I should have realised this myself) and to request a MATZ penetration. I did this and it was authorised. I was struggling to read the chart with my bifocals in the area that was shaded blue for the MATZ zone and Christian commented that I was spending too much time with my head down looking at the chart and not enough flying the aircraft straight and level. I could tell that the new heading was not working out and so I adjusted it back to my original 200 and Christian commented that he could not see why I had altered it in the first place. Subsequently I could work out where we were and got to Goring without too much difficulty and a only just after my ETA. Then we did some manoeuvres and once again some went well and others not quite so good. I was still making mistakes but Christian said they were not major. Next I needed to find Blackbushe and within a couple of minutes I had worked out where it was. I made another mistake on the joining and Christian had to prompt me to sort it out. We did a few touch and go’s but the crosswind was quite difficult and on one approach for a flapless landing, there was some windshear and the aircraft just dropped fifty feet and we both came out of our seats and Christian reported to the tower that his head had come into contact with the cockpit roof. The last landing was a glide approach and I landed it a bit hard and at an angle. I was mentally fatigued and we called it a day. Back at the apron Christian went through the good and bad. I had made big improvements in the areas where I had difficulty on the last flight but this was offset by some new mistakes such as failing to recognise that I was soon to make my first ever MATZ penetration. So I have a list of things to sort out and the plan was to return to Blackbushe on Thursday to get into the circuit and fine turn the take offs and landings.

I took a photo of the Blackbushe tower just before driving home.

As mentioned above, I ended up weeding today instead of flying. Tomorrow I have to drive to Boston in Lincs and back. That is 6 hours of driving. I can’t help but think that it would still be much quicker to go in a slow old C152.

Next lesson is booked for Monday 3rd April.

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Friday, March 24, 2006

Back in the air

Being back in the UK has made me realise how much I miss the Florida weather. I walk my dog every morning and I have suffered from that relentless bitingly cold east wind and the constant near zero temperatures. Almost as soon as I got back to the UK, I rang the school at Blackbushe to arrange to take some more lessons so that I could get up to the required standard to take my ‘Skills Test’ as this is the last hurdle to gaining a PPL. Getting available training slots is difficult as my chosen instructor is in demand.
However, at last the diary dates came around and on Monday I was at Blackbushe checking out G-BLWV in a howling cold wind. It was such a different experience to being on the ramp at sunrise on a warm day in Naples. There is a new regime at Blackbushe Aviation so that when using one of their aircraft you exchange your car keys for the aircraft keys and a netting bag containing a checklist, fuel tester, hi-vis waistcoat, and a headset. I guess the headset could be useful for a passenger. The fuel-tester is also useful if the aircraft has been refuelled. When I was at Naples Air Centre you always tested the fuel using a GATS jar before every flight. The idea is to collect the tested fuel in this jar and then pour it back into the tank (through the gauze filter). Dumping the fuel on the ramp was not allowed. Having said that, one of the fuellers used to fill the tanks until the fuel was running down the wings and there was no way you could empty the fuel into the tank.
Having carried out the external checks on WV, I did some of the internal checks before taxiing over to the fuel bay to top up the tanks. My instructor Christian came over to the aircraft as it was being filled. We then moved away from the pumps, completed the checks and took off on runway 07 that was almost straight into that wind. We departed the area to go through the various manoeuvres that are checked on the skills test. There was cloud at 2400 feet but this was just enough to allow the planned manoeuvres to proceed. In general I was OK but there were some areas where improvement is needed. My radio procedures were poor as I did not really know what I should be saying. My landing approach back at Blackbushe was not great either because my airspeed was rather low on a few occasions. It just goes to show how rusty I got in just over two weeks. So my homework was to read CAP413 (the 110 page document on radio procedures), get used to the UK charts, plan a visual nav. route and log from Blackbushe to overhead Marlborough, think about how I would handle the promised diversion, get my head back around the correct speeds for various flap settings on approach, etc. This first flight back in home territory was a bit of a wake up call to get re-focused on flying and my next lesson was planned for Wednesday the 22nd.
The main differences that I noticed between Florida flying and UK flying are :-

Warm and sunny in Fl, and cold and windy in UK

Florida is flat and the altimeter is set for xx.xx inches of mercury at sea level. There is no QFE or QNH. The highest place that I flew to was Punta Gorda that has an elevation of 25 ft above sea level whereas Naples is 8 ft.

The look of the charts is very different and a lot of detail is different such as they show the morse code ID on the VOR’s on a US chart.

The radio procedures and terminology are significantly different.

The US have a lot of local weather radio stations for getting the weather in the area you are flying, whereas in the UK this is limited.

The Florida terrain can be difficult for visual navigation (especially over the Everglades) whereas it is easier to pick up significant features in the UK.

The aircraft registrations are different. Most of the fleet at NAC had registrations in the format N***AC (where *** is a three digit number and the NAC is rather like Naples Air Center). So when flying amongst many other NAC aircraft, you got used to ignoring the AC part of radio calls and tuned one’s ear to pick up on the numeric part. Now back in the UK the abbreviated call sign uses Golf and the last two letters of the registration. So now I need to retune my ears and brain to pay special attention to the last letters that I was previously partially ignoring.

Having done my homework and regained my focus, I set off for my 1:30pm lesson at Blackbushe. Christian checked over my chart and log and was happy with them. Today was reasonably sunny for the first time in ages and so the cold east wind was slightly offset by some sunshine as I checked over G-CCHT. This is a C152 that I had not flown before. It also needed the fuel tanks topping up. After I had got the engine started, I could not get the brakes to release. After many attempts to free them I gave up, shut the engine down and went back to the school offices. Christian came out and found that one wheel had the brakes locked. Rocking the aircraft backwards and forwards whilst I sat in the cockpit and applied and released the brakes did the trick. I got everything re-started and taxied to the fuel pumps. Whilst the aircraft was being refuelled I was able to take my chart and log from the cockpit and put the last bit of input in which was the compass deviation for that aircraft.
We took off on runway 07 that was again almost straight into the east wind and I turned in the right hand circuit direction to start my nav exercise from overhead the airfield. I actually kept turning and went past my planned heading of 285 before realising and getting back on the correct heading. The visual navigation went well and my radio procedures were much better. Soon after I took off Christian did say that I should be talking to Farnborough Radar so I did this and missed my first visual checkpoint in the process. The rest went to plan and with the tailwind we reach Marlborough in under 20 minutes. Overhead Marlborough, Christian asked me to divert to Henley on Thames and I struggled to find this on the chart. This was my first ever diversion and I did make some mistakes. Firstly my maths let me down and I worked out the heading wrongly although I realised this within minutes and recovered from my mistake. I did start to use a VOR and did not identify it plus did not really use it at all having messed up my original heading. I did not hear some of the radio calls intended for me. As I approached Henley on Thames, Christian had to tell me to descend because the chart detailed some height restrictions as we neared Heathrow. So quite a catalogue of errors but hopefully I shall not repeat them. Once near Henley I was asked to route for Blackbushe and this time I was at 90 degrees to the wind and Christian asked me what my maximum track error due to wind could be. I did not know but do now. Typically the max error in degrees is 60% of the wind speed in knots. I soon had visual contact with Blackbushe and requested a frequency change. Blackbushe information virtually gave me straight in clearance and soon we were back on the ground after I flared a bit too early this time. I was amazed that we had been to Marlborough and Henley on Thames and back in just about and hour. It would have taken 3 or 4 times as long in a car.
At the end of the lesson Christian reported on the areas where I had improved and also the new mistakes. Overall I did feel a big benefit from this flight and flying over UK airspace seemed less daunting. I just need to learn from my mistakes.
I will be doing more diversion work in my next lessons that are after the weekend.

I have no pictures in this post. Next time I hope to include a few if the weather allows.

I’m glad to be flying again.

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

ppl Postscript

I have recently returned from spending three and a half weeks at Naples Air Center in Naples Florida.
My blog has charted my time with them in Florida.
For those that have already been to NAC it should help with your memories of the place. For those considering going then you will know much more about the place than I did when I arrived. If I had to do it all over again, I would and not change a thing. It was a great experience in an excellent climate and location.
Nothing is guaranteed in life (except that it will end eventually) and as long as you accept this then you should have a similarly good experience.

I flew on 19 days and during those days added 43.2 hours to my logbook. Of those hours 14.1 were solo.

Since my return to the UK and the reality of the weather that is either cold and windy, or wet and windy, I have been in touch with Blackbushe Aviation and booked up some lessons. They are a couple of weeks away and of course subject to the British weather.

Yesterday I decided to fell a tree in my garden. This proved to be the most dangerous thing I have done this year. It was rather awkward to get at the trunk and I was up a ladder. I am afraid of heights. As I cut through the trunk I left a bit intact so I could go and get a wedge and hammer to make it fall in the desired direction. As I stepped off the ladder I heard a splitting sound and ran as fast as I could. I felt the branches of the falling tree brush through my hair. Looking back the tree had fallen into the space I had just been occupying. Phewww that was close.

The good news is that my dog Angus has decided to take up flying. Here he is in his headset.

This is him on his first flight round Bisley Green.

I have noticed that his R/T is not very good as it consists mainly of woofs and the occasional growl when he sees that darn Jack Russell. Luckily I am confining him to Bisley Green Dog airspace and as this is from surface to 50 ft you are unlikely to come across him.

I returned to work today and that really was a reality check. It has been raining hard all day.

This is my last post for a while, but will be back when I have more to tell re my PPL training.

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Stop press

Griffiths 71
Accrington scorers - Craney 48, Roberts 61, 79, Mangan 67

Accystan march on.

That is now 10 wins in a row and 18 games undefeated.
I don't think I will bother applying for HoT.

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Normal service resumed

Events of 3rd March 2006

Having made a

of my skills test yesterday my spirits were at a low ebb. Little did I know as I was packing my cases early on Friday morning that my enthusiasm and mood would soon be fully restored to their former high.
I did feel a bit queasy after rather too much alcohol the night before, but I had not been ill as I seemed to have developed an iron constitution over the last 3 weeks. I’m sure that the Big Az Bubba Twins Chili Cheese Dogs mentioned in an earlier post were part of this process. So a couple anti-acid tablets and loads of water seemed to settle things down. Having got the bags more or less sorted I went out to the back of the hotel to cycle to NAC for the last time. I really had enjoyed the cycling in Naples and as I subsequently found out I lost 7 pounds in weight as well as getting some muscle tone and improving my cv system. So I was in reflective mood on this last ride to the airschool. On arrival I saw Richard, Nikki and some of my fellow students. It is easy to make friends in this learning environment and so I was sad to be going. I checked in my bike with Richard and then he asked me if I had my headset with me. I didn’t. A spare was located and I was soon checking over a C172 for a consolation flight with Richard. Bending over to take the fuel samples from under the nose area of N953AC soon reminded me that I was not in the best of health. After Richard had doubled checked everything he invited me to take the left hand seat and said where would I like to fly to. I thought that Marco Island and Cape Romano sounded good so a few minutes later I taxied out to runway 23 and took off. I flew south along the coastline. The interior of the C172R is a big improvement over the 152. It is roomy, comfortable and there is no carb heat to worry about. Being a heavier aircraft it also seemed more stable in the air although it was a lovely calm clear day. At Marco Island I descended to 500ft and Richard took control so I could get some photos of the area. This is a selection :-

Cape Romano

The sky wars house on Cape Romano. It is sinking in the sand.
Did you know that the tidal range here is only a couple of feet. When I go to the Channel Islands in the summer, the tidal range is a massive 30 feet +. On some beaches the tide comes in at running pace.

Marco Island in the distance.

The start of “The Thousand Islands”

Me at the controls of the C172

Lots of new property being built in Naples. Apparently it has the highest number of golf courses per head of population of any-where in the world. Must be 10 golf courses per head by my estimation ? They make good emergency landing sites apparently.

This is Wing South very close to Naples. Here you can buy a property and have your own hanger and airstrip in the back yard.

Richard was making a short approach back onto 23.

Taxiing back to the NAC ramp
Thanks so much Richard and Nikki, I am now determined to complete my PPL training and looking forward to getting in the air again.
I asked about my account and this was printed off and some money refunded to my credit card. It really was time to say goodbye now and then Richard gave me a lift back to my hotel in his fifteen year old, but really nice BMW M5. A final farewell and when Richard had driven off I decided to call home.
If you recall I was visiting Dale last night and what I did not say was that he was going to drive me to Miami Airport (a 4 hour round trip for him). Why ? Because he liked my blog and my apparently unusual enthusiasm for flying at my age (61 this month). I was so grateful for this and it removed the possibility of me getting lost in Miami again.
I got my bags and checked out. In my view the Wellesley Inn had served my purpose very well. I sat on one of the benches at the front of the hotel. Feeling a bit hungry I used up some of my US coinage in the vending machines giving me one more opportunity to sample the weird selection of items contained within. I also got some bottled water to aid my re-hydration process.
I took a photo from the bench.

I tucked into my calorific snacks and the water and gave Dale a call. He said he would be round at midday as promised.
Once I had consumed my lunch and my stomach was obviously undecided on how to deal with it, a couple of “cool dudes” came out of the hotel. They were only in their late teens and were wearing incredibly baggy trousers. One had his bottom jaw entirely replaced with metal. It really did look like ‘Jaws’ in the Bond movie. To complete the picture he had a python around his neck. He started talking to me. Their speech implied that they were under the influence of something. I did feel a bit nervous but did not show it. In fact they had just been thrown out of the Wellesley for having a snake in the hotel and they were a bit upset. I have to say that they were very polite to me and asked if I wanted to touch the snake. I didn’t really as I did not want to build any further relationship with these two. The holiday rep. in Marjorca would have described them as ‘Colourful characters’. I did ask if I could take a picture and Jaws handed the snake to his friend. For some reason he did not want his picture taken and I did not enquire why. Here is his friend + 5 year old Burmese python. Jaws also had the pythons mother and she was 12 feet long but not visiting Naples today.

As the colourful characters walked off to a neighbouring hotel where their snake policy was less strict, Dale arrived. We got the bags loaded and were on our way. Dale said that we would take the Tamiami trail as this was likely to be less busy. This road is long and straight and goes right through the Everglades. It differs from the Interstate 75 in that it is not dual carriageway and it does not have wire fences to keep the alligators away. I found the drive much more enjoyable and the scenery and amount of variation of wildlife almost overwhelming. Photos do not do it justice.

There were many different types of birds in the trees at the side of the canal that accompanied the tarmac.

This is Dale at the wheel.

This is the smallest post office in the USA

and this is the sign describing it.
We passed through an Indian reservation and villages. The strange thing is that at the Miami end of the reservation there is a huge casino complex that is owned by the Indians.
I also saw a lot of places doing those airboat tours into the Everglades.
Eventually we left the countryside and arrived at the Miami outskirts. There was some traffic but apparently it would really build up later. At 2:15 pm we pulled up outside the airport terminal and by the entrance to where the BA desks are. The bags were unloaded and I said bye to Dale. I did press him to take the money that I would have spent on a hire car. Dale, many, many thanks and I hope the trip back to Naples was untroubled.

My flight home was on schedule and every seat on the 747-400 was taken in cattle class. I left Miami with the temperature in the high 20’s at 17:15 and arrived at Heathrow at 06:02 where the temperature was –5 on a sunny day.
My wife met me at T3 and after the 30 minute drive I was soon home and back to reality.

See my postscript in my next post.

I want to thank everyone who has helped to make my Naples adventure so enjoyable and unforgettable. I feel more confident in myself, and given the opportunity to return to Naples and my friends at NAC, I would not hesitate to go.

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Monday, March 06, 2006

Skills test

Events on 2nd March

Up early and another of those pleasant cycling at sunrise journeys via Brookside Drive and Estey Avenue. These surburban roads are quiet and the only obstacles on the path are the occasional wheelie bin that has been put right in the way. The school buses are always active at this time of day so I guess the schools start early over here. I arrive at NAC by 7am and go and check the weather so that I can complete my planning for my route from Sebastion KX26 to Indiantown KX58 to River Ranch K2RR. For the last few days the skills tests have been conducted from Sebastion as the resident examiner has been missing. As he was not available, alternatives were put in place to fill the gap. The only affect as far as I was concerned was the rather long trip of 120 nm to get to the start airfield. One of the instructors named Brett (a very pleasant American) was to fly me over there and back. I got the winds aloft and they were 210/05 and I completed my planning. I knew these winds aloft figures could change and so I intended to check them again at Sebastion. I also did a weight and balance form for N946AC. Once all the paperwork had been checked over, I did the pre-flight check on the aircraft.

A nice day for flying.
Soon after 9am we took off for Sebastion and I took some photos along the way.

Departing the Naples area.

The La Belle VOR. Brett used VOR’s as his prime means of navigating and we both used visual reference points to check our progress.

Approaching Sebastion

Brett refuelling the aircraft at Sebastion.
I met the examiner Ray Williams and he checked over my paperwork, medical and ID. He then went through the procedure that he would use on the test. He gave me his weight and I had to re-do the weight and balance paperwork. We were only just within the allowable envelope. A few more pounds and we would have been taking fuel back out. Luckily I must have lost 7 pounds in weight after 3 weeks of cycling. It was now midday and we were to meet at the aircraft at 12:30. I just had time to have a bite to eat and drink and mull over what he had told me. I thought I had better go and pre-flight check the aircraft. Just as I finished this, Ray arrived. Damn I didn’t recheck the winds. Ray strapped in and the C152 cockpit was well and truly filled. He was double the weight of my instructor so I do not know how this will affect aircraft performance. I do the internal checks and passenger brief and soon we take off on runway 26. Climb performance is poor and I need to contact the Vero Beach tower whilst still climbing to 3500ft on my planned 177 heading. The route skirts the Vero Beach airspace and they do not ask me to alter my route. I find it difficult to spot my visual check points and it soon becomes clear that the winds are not as planned and I am drifting significantly port of the intended track. I decide to alter my heading from 177 to 190 and report this to Ray and provide a new ETA as requested. Even with this corrected heading I was struggling to pick exactly where I was. I felt that I was close to Indiantown and called on the unicom frequency and started descending. Indiantown is a grass strip and there was no radio activity. I was still left of track and as soon as I saw a canal I knew to fly no further and turn to the west. I soon spotted Indiantown and continued my descent. I had made two mistakes by now. One was not making a sufficient course correction and secondly I assumed that I need to descend to the circuit height of 1000ft. In fact Ray said that as I had said that the next leg was to be at 2500ft, I should have not gone lower than that. I do not think that he was too happy about the fact that there are some tall masts (1549ft) left of track and of course I was left of track and descending. My next leg started at the nearby power station overhead the stack. He advised me to stay south of the stack to avoid the turbulence it produces. I picked up on my course and the visual references were easier to spot and so this leg was going well. As per normal we started on the manoeuvres. My rate 1 turn was good. I struggled with the steep turns and in the left direction had to try really hard to get the required 45 degree bank. In the process of trying to achieve that angle I lost some height and I knew that was bad. My right steep turn was only a bit better. I cannot remember exactly what we did next but the slow flight was bad as I had been practising it at 55 kts and Ray wanted 75 kts and it took too long to get stabilised. We did a practice forced landing and it went really well and the following simulated engine failure on takeoff also went well. The way in which we commenced the stalls threw me. He asked me to fly at Vs0 +10 and I completely forgot the HASELL checks. Ray was exhibiting a fidgety body language and I could tell it was going pear shaped. A little while later the test was terminated. I was feeling really disheartened and then somehow just weary. I flew the aircraft back to Sebastion. Ray went through my mistakes. It was nobody’s fault but mine, and Nikki always said that I rationalise things, so here it comes. Maybe I was not quite ready for the test and perhaps my stamina after 3.5 weeks of intense learning activity is not what it is for the youngsters. In hindsight, I could have done with 4 weeks here but like others we all have family and work commitments back home. I knew quite a few students that had not allowed long enough for the training and left without even taking the skills test. At least I got a chance at it and I will learn from the experience.
After the de-brief I met up with a sympathetic Brett who had refuelled the aircraft again. I paid for the fuel and we set off back to Naples. The wind was definitely a headwind on the way back and the journey took 2 hours. The visual navigation was difficult as we were flying into the sun and there was a lot of haze. Even though Brett was flying I found the trip difficult. At that moment I felt that this flying was all too complicated for me. Back at Naples I had a sympathetic reception from those still there as it was getting late in the day. I went through the test in detail with Nikki and she did her best to cheer me up. After sorting out the paperwork I left for the hotel knowing that I would be back in the morning to return my bike and say my goodbyes.
At the hotel I had a shower and got changed as I was meeting up with Dale (known to some as DownIn3Greens), his wife Ilsa (originally from Latvia) and Eugene (a fellow student, also from Latvia). At Dale’s house, I met a friend of his called Rob and he had a Harley Davidson.

Rob is a fireman for Miami-Dade county and the Harley is a special 911 edition only made available to firemen.
We drank quite a lot of beer whilst waiting for a lost taxi driver to arrive with Eugene. Then we sat by the pool and all had more beer, nibbles, etc whilst talking over many subjects such as air passenger transport, Florida, Latvia, shared acquaintances, etc. It was very relaxing and enjoyable after a disappointing day for me. Dale offered me some wine and then came up with an enormous glass of a soft fruity Merlot. I did not drink all of it. Later a taxi was organised to take Eugene and myself back to our homes in Naples. It had been a good evening but I was aware that I was not in the best state to be flying home the next day.

I slept well though.


Come back and read my next post if you want to hear about my pleasure flight in a C172, an unexpected encounter with a python, the Tamiamia trail, the smallest government building in the USA and my flight home.
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Sunday, March 05, 2006

Dawn to Dusk

Events on 1st March

It was another early start so I was at NAC by 7am. I checked out N938AC and found a bit of water in the fuel. In my picture you can just see the bead of water in the bottom of the jar and also the water droplets on the inside of the jar above the fuel.

I disposed of the contaminated fuel in the special drum and on rechecking all was OK. My first flight of the day was with Nikki where I was to practise the various types of landings. The one I enjoyed most was at the end of the lesson where I did a soft field landing and was able to run most of the entire length of the 5000ft runway with the only the main wheels on the tarmac and the nose-wheel off the ground. This lesson was 1.1 hours and my next was to be a solo flight at 11:00 to practice the various types of takeoffs and landings.
Alister or is It Alistair ? was having his first look around a C172.

He was walking around for a long time with the fuel testing jar and so Thorsten thought it would be a good time to make a toast to “Good flying”

At 11:00 I was ready to join the circuit, this time with N946AC. It was quiet for 30 minutes and I put some good practice in, but then the traffic just went silly. I was asked to make a short approach and as I did this I could see a long queue of aircraft on the taxiway waiting to take off. I did my touch and go and because they want a very tight circuit I was back around for another touch and go in about 4 minutes. Apparently Thorsten was in the queue and he said he saw me make two touch and go landings while he sat in the queue. I guessed that they would send me off somewhere soon so on my next downwind leg I requested a full stop landing. This time I counted 8 aircraft in the queue and as usual there were jets arriving from all quarters. Just as I well I stopped as it was obvious that playtime was over. I was going to call for the ‘Option’ so I could practice the short field take off and landing but it would have been refused. My solo flight only amounted to 0.8 hours. My next fight was to be a mock skills test at 3pm.
In the interim Nikki showed me the ground school operation.
Here are a couple of pictures.

There is Marco from Italy at the desk and I am sorry I have forgotten the names of his colleagues. If you could let me know them I will correct this post. They were all very friendly and helpful.

This is Steve from the west country and I have seen him on a few occasions with his class of career pilot students.
Nikki also had an office here but I got the impression that she spent more time in the air than in the office.
Next I had a walk out onto the ramp and saw a Velocity that was owned and flown by a Pan-Am pilot. It looked good and has a three bladed wooden prop in a pusher configuration.

The reason for the interest in this particular aircraft is because Richard is building a Velocity himself and here it is :-

Yes, I know it looks rather like a space shuttle now but eventually it will be like the graceful, glossy Velocity we had just seen on the ramp. The project is housed in the NAC maintenance hangers and here are some other pictures from there.

Richard and an aircraft that was brought in for inspection after it’s nose-wheel had collapsed. The left prop had struck the ground and something felt wrong when the prop was turned by hand.

Another pic of the project Velocity. Still a way to go ?
I had a look around the rest of the maintenance facility and the comprehensive parts stores. I also met Mark in the avionics room and he was repairing radio equipment using a temperature controlled soldering iron and multicore solder. I felt quite at home in this environment however It was time for me to go and pre-flight check my fourth different C152 in succession. This time it was N945AC. At 15:40 we took off and completed a mock skills test. The 1.6 hour flight went well although my practice forced landings were poor and I need to swat up on these. Back at base, another Danish student called Henrik was just returning from a successful skills test conducted at Sebastion on the east coast of Florida. I sat in on the de-brief as I was going to do the same task tomorrow. I got the details of the route for my planning later that night. I had arrived at dawn that day and left at dusk having flown 3.5 hours that day. I had a long evening of planning and study ahead so it was just as well I had one microwave meal left. I was due back at 7am next morning for my last day of flying on this trip to Naples.

My nerves were already becoming apparent.

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Saturday, March 04, 2006

Stop press

Crawley Town 0 - 1 Accrington Stanley
Stanley's winning run continued at Crawley Town this afternoon, with a first half Gary Roberts goal enough to secure all three points. Elsewhere both Hereford and Halifax's matches fell foul of the weather, leaving us now sixteen points clear at the top of the table with eleven games remaining.

More details on my last 2 days at NAC soon.
Left Miami with temperature in high 20's and arrived Heathrow at 6am at -5 C. A sunny day though.

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Friday, March 03, 2006

Almost there

2nd March

I failed the skills test. My fault as I messed up a few things that I should have got right. I am out of time here and flying back to UK tomorrow. I am going out to "celebrate" tonight, at least that was the plan.
So much has happened over the last 2 days and I have lots more photos. I will post the details when I am back home so no posts for a couple of days. Thanks to all that wished me well.

I have had 24 excellent days here and 1 that was a dud but I will learn from it.

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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Limited post

Hi all

This post is very short.

I have my skills test tomorrow and still have lots of prep to do.

The internet at the hotel has been down for most of the evening.

Tons has happened today but not time to tell at moment.

My test starts at Sebastian airfield and this is a 120 nm flight from Naples just to get to the start point. Could be a long day.

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Strapless landings

Tuesday 28th February

After completing my QXC yesterday, today is allocated for filling in the blanks in the training and the start of the final polishing of the flying performance for the skills test on Thursday. It is an early start as I need to be at NAC by 7am.
I made up another of those rolls that would be my lunch. If only I could remember to take the Lurpak out of the fridge when I got up then maybe I would not have to chip off lumps and try to get them to stick to the bread instead of the knife. My flight bag was really heavy with the Flying Training reference book in there with everything else. On my way through the breakfast area I have a drink of orange juice, and get a couple of apples for snacks in the day and also pick up some paper serviettes to wipe off the dew from my bike and saddle. I quite enjoy these early starts (don’t tell NAC this) as you are cycling when the sun is coming up, there is not too much traffic about and you arrive with rosy cheeks and all those Endomorphins in your system. It really sets you up for the day. My first flight is in N946AC with Nikki. We set off soon after 7 and fly to the South East and over the farmers fields where it is good to practice manoeuvres as long as you broadcast what you will be doing. We practiced the various types of stalls and their recovery, slow flight, steep turns, turning stalls, pfl’s and the standard rate 180 degree turn in a cloud situation. It all went well and Nikki said to take us back to Naples where I would do a flapless landing. In N946AC it was also be a “strapless landing” as the door no longer had a strap on it from when I gave it a good tug yesterday. I was tempted to tell Richard that it just fell off in my hand but I only tell the truth, and I knew he wouldn’t have believed me. On my approach to Naples I was too high and in recovering from this, too fast, so I made a mess of the landing and this was a shame as most of the rest was good. Back on the ground Nikki gave me a list of “reminders” of things I need to do on the skills test. The dual flight just completed was 1.5 hours and my next flight was to go back solo and practice most of these exercises again starting at 11am.

I am allocated N939AC for my flight. Having not flown it before I am looking extra hard at it on the pre-flight checks. All is well and off I go and do my practising over the farmer’s fields. On my return to Naples I am supposed to do a flapless landing but arrive way too high (even the tower told some other traffic in the pattern about me being high) so I had to revert to full flap and idle power. I’m not quite up to side slipping to lose height this close to the ground yet.

Back at NAC we go through the de-brief on my 1.2 hour flight. Nikki had lots of paperwork to do. Just as I was taking this picture she had realised that I was not paying attention and was up to something.

I made a phone call to England and then met new arrivals Carrie and her dad Alister. Apparently they have been reading my blog. Carrie had been here recently and would be starting the ATPL course later this year. She has spent quite a lot of time flying microlights’ and got her PPL in San Diego.

Carrie’s enthusiasm for flying has been picked up by Alister and he is here at NAC for six weeks doing his PPL from a standing start. Best of luck Alister, you will soon be enjoying possibly the best six weeks of your life.

Alister already into using the training videos. The first flying lesson is tomorrow. He says that the weather here is better than where he lives in Portugal.

I managed to eat my lunch and was due to fly again at 3pm. This time it is another dual flight with Nikki. It was my third flight of the day and my third different aircraft, N938AC. Maybe Richard was trying to reduce the wear rate that I was giving 946. After a really good check-over, Nikki joined me and we set off for the farmers fields and the coast near Marco Island. Here I did some hood work with ‘unusual attitudes’. The hood restricts your view so that you can only see the instruments. Then you close you eyes whist Nikki throws the aircraft about the sky to disorientate you (it works), after which you open your eyes and need to recover to straight and level flight by just looking at the instruments and making the necessary corrective action. It is a strange sensation and it will take me a while to get it 100% but it was stimulating. I also tried the standard rate turn with the hood and it should have been straight forward but I seemed to struggle with it. The hood was deposited in the back and then Nikki applied carb heat and idled the throttle and I had to practice a forced landing without power. My chosen landing place was the beach but I went through the ‘fix the problem’ circle and should not have as we were under 2000ft when the practice started. This is all excellent learning practice for the actual skills test. After climbing above the fields I learnt about steep descending turns and did some side slipping practice. After the practice it was time to go back but as the runway had changed it required approaching from over the toll booths on the I75. This was done and Nikki said to do a short field landing. I seem quite good at these as I have a tendency to arrive to high as I did on this occasion. The landing was good though and I taxied off the runway on the first taxiway and only had yards to go to get to the NAC ramp. Nikki is going to sort out my arrival height problem tomorrow although I just need to get down to the circuit height of 1000ft much earlier. This had been a 1.2 hour flight, so I had clocked up 3.9 hours on this beautiful sunny day. After more de-brief paperwork I set off back to the hotel. I swapped my heavy flight bag for a rucksack and cycled back out to the nearby store where I restocked on orange juice, lager and a couple of their strange selection of microwave meals. It is very hard to find one that has meat in it. It is a great store for vegetarians and vegans.

I have another early start in the morning but have just got time to mention some more “wish I had bought with me items” :-

If you are cycling, a big rucksack that will contain all the bits you need for flying

A cycle toolkit

Some map cleaning fluid, although I find that anti mosquito spray works well. (have not seen any mossy’s since I have been here)

A bigger bottle of shower gel

A bigger bottle of deodorant. I got one from Walmart. It smells of popcorn of course.

A while ago I did a post where I referred to a flock of birds on the beach. The picture only had half a dozen birds and that is hardly a flock. This is the picture that I meant to post.

For those that want to know what a peewit is here is a picture of one

It is also known as a lapwing.

I have not forgotten ‘jogging us style’ it is just that I am too tired right now.

Be in touch at the end of another sunny Florida day.

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