Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Tailwheel rating: not as easy as it sounds!

As I said a few weeks ago, I was planning on doing a tailwheel rating with Adrian over at the British Aerobatic Academy (@BritAeroAcademy). Well, since then, I have completed the rating on his Extra 200, G-EEEK, and what fun it was!

As you can imagine, it was all a bit of a steep learning curve: a new aircraft type, that has the added "complication" of a 'wobbly' or variable pitch prop, as well as being a taildragger with a bit of power!
The thing with a taildragger, you see, if that they are very lively aircraft on the ground. Mis-handled, they will come back to bite an unsuspecting pilot. As I was keen not to let this happen, I thought I best pay attention to what I was doing!

First up was the task of getting into, and strapping into, the Extra - no easy feat, as Chris over at @studentpilotblog will attest! Once in, however, the real work begins. First up: starting the aircraft which, at first, seems a world away from the C152, but you soon get used to it! (It also starts first time, unlike the C152s and PA28s I am accustomed to!).

Once you come to taxi the aircraft, you realise why tailwheel pilots aren't to be sniffed at - it takes some getting used to, thanks to the very restricted forward view. You have to taxi the aircraft is a constant weave to check the area in front of the nose is clear, and so as you can see where you are going. Whilst you are doing this, you are being careful not to let the aircraft run away from you - something you could do - and probably get away with - in a Cessna!

Anyway, after the power and pre take off checks, which are not dissimilar to a Cessna or other aircraft, apart from the exercising of the propellor to check everything works and to get oil around it, it is time to leave terra firma.

The take off itself is a non-event after you are used to it, but takes a bit of getting used to. You have to steer the aircraft very actively to keep the aircraft straight, raise the tail by pushing forward on the stick, carry in steering the aircraft carefully and very shortly, the aircraft will fly itself off of the floor.

In the air, the aircraft behaves like any other aircraft, like you would expect. Once you want to come down, however, the fun really begins! Landing a taildragger is unlike anything I've ever done - a massive, massive, learning curve.

You approach the runway in a manner rarely used in a Cessna, apart from in a crosswind or other event - a slide slip, the purpose of which is to allow you to see over the nose of the aircraft. Once you have flown down the approach to the required height, you begin the round out and hold off - bringing the aircraft back to the attitude you need to land in a smooth, three point, attitude. You then sit there, holding off and controlling the aircraft very smoothly until you hear the gentle "thud" for the wheels hitting the deck. Once down, you control the aircraft with your feet until it has stopped - the biggest danger being the aircraft cocking into wind (or ground looping) at slow speed. That could *really* ruin your day.

Anyhow, after two days of superb instruction off Adrian - and much tea drinking in between - I achieved my tailwheel rating and complex sign off. I'd recommend the rating, and indeed the British Aerobatic Academy, to anyone. It really helps you sharpen your skills and become a "proper" pilot.

Anyway, I'm off flying,

PS - a quick thank you to Lauren aka @groovy_nut, Chris aka @chrisJB94 and of course Adrian - @BritAeroAcademy!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The first of my aims..

In the first post of this blog, I mentioned that I warned to get a tailwheel rating this year. Well, thanks to Adrian over at the British Aerobatic Academy and Lauren from The Aerobatic Project, it looks like I will be able to achieve this very, very soon indeed.

Having spoke to Adrian about it, I have made the choice to do it in his aircraft, the wonderful Extra 200 that is G-EEEK, based down in Little Gransden, Cambridgeshire.

The tailwheel conversation itself appears to be a fairly straightforward affair, comprising of roughly 5 hours flying and a fairly sizeable amount of ground briefs and debriefs, just like you would expect. As you may know if you follow the antics of @groovy_nut on Twitter, they are in the process of acquiring a Piper Cub, but aren't quite there yet. So, for that reason, I believe I shall be doing the conversation on the Extra 200 instead. Just to make it clear: I'm not complaining! It means I may be able to do some aerobatics also!

I shall keep you updated when I start doing this, and will post some pictures and an overview of what I've learnt. Until then, safe flying!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

An Adventure..

Late last year, I attended a talk by Steve O'Bryan, the vice president of the F-35 integration and business development programme, at No. 4 Hamilton Place, London. This should have been a simple talk, some light refreshments and a chance to meet some new, and interesting, individuals.

I did meet interesting individuals, and that in turn has led to interesting prospects. In the first post on this blog, I mentioned some snow, a few pilots, and an aircraft. Remember? These people are all aviators with one common goal: to achieve something unusual and out of the ordinary on a standard PPL.

So, "what is the goal?" you may ask. I must stress it is very much in the planning at the moment, up in the air, if you will. Currently we are discussing two things:
A flight over the North Pole
A flight from the UK to Cape Town, South Africa.

As you may expect, the flight to the North Pole is what we originally discussed at the talk, and is still possible: it just needs some careful planning and consideration to make it happen. We have currently talked to the likes of Polly Vacher (Wings around the World) and Timothy Nathan of the AOPA about our plans, and we hope to start to make them a reality in the coming months and years.

For now, however, you can follow our progress on Twitter: @PPLInitiativeX

Safe flying,

Monday, January 28, 2013

General Aviation in the UK

As I write this, I am reading a Pooleys Flight Equipment catalogue ( in the cafe of my local aeroclub, watching the rain lash against the window. This, as you may know, is lovely weather for putting your feet up by the fire, but isn't any good for a spot of flying.

There are no aircraft flying today apart from the lonely foreign pilot in his R22 that is doing bad weather circuits - rather him than me in this weather, I tell you. The cafe is full of aviators who are entertaining themselves by talking about an avionics refit to their aircraft, their flying experiences and what it was like to fly on a day without rain!

Unfortunately, this is an all too common picture for those of us who are unlucky enough to fly on the Welsh Borders and for that matter, most of the UK - you get superb, unhindered, flying weather in the summer and lots of rain, snow and sleet in the winter.

However, the story doesn't stop there: the weather is only a small part of the story when it comes to general aviation in the UK. The rising prices of aircraft hire are forcing people out of aviation, especially the older, yet vastly experienced, aviators who maybe no longer work. These prices, coupled with the weather and the other costs associated with aviation - medicals, renewals etc.. are ultimately meaning airfields are quieter and in some cases are struggling to keep afloat.

This, I feel, is only the beginning of the end for British general aviation. As you know, UK airfields will be loosing my business - and ultimately cash - during hour building for my commercial licence as I refuse to pay over the odds, which now seems the norm, for old aircraft and, ultimately, weather which is unflyable most of the time.

Anyway, hopefully the weather will begin to pick up again soon, and we can return to clear blue skies and glorious, long, days of flying! In the meantime, stay safe.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Hour Building in the USA.

So, hour building. It's a vital part of becoming a commercial pilot - it enables you to gain the hours required to start the CPL (Commercial Pilots Licence) whilst also helping you gain much needed experience and confidence. But, with typically around 100 hours to get, it's not cheap - especially at UK prices.

These expensive prices can be avoided, however, by going to America - where a C152 aircraft can be rented from as little as $80 an hour. This gives a substantial saving which, with the overall cost of training, can only be a good thing!

As I am currently in a position to start planning hour building myself, I've been assessing the options. Top of my current list of places to go so far is Air America ( Air America Flight Center) in Daytona Beach, Florida. They are currently offering a C152 at a price of $770 (roughly £485) for ten hours flight time, wet (with fuel).
At this pricing, if you buy 50 hours flight time with them, it works out at $3850, or roughly £2450. If you were to buy the same amount of hours over here, assuming a ballpark figure of £120 per hour, it is a cost of a staggering £6000!
That saving of £3550 is money that can be spent on more hours over here, or put to good use somewhere else in your training - maybe even add it to your Type Rating fund!

Anyway, I shall update you with my plans as I figure them out. Until then, happy flying!

Why the blog?

Hello, and to anyone who may be reading this, thank you!
Having written for blogs in the past, this is the first time that I've ever had one myself, so bare with me whilst I figure out how everything works!

So, the reason I wanted it set up the blog is to keep people informed with what flying related endeavours I get up to over the coming weeks, months and years. I want to keep this first post brief, so I'll just give you a flavour of what I am hoping to get up up to this year:
  • Start my ATPLs - I shall be doing this via the modular routing with BCFT at Bournemouth Airport
  • Go to Florida and do some hour building - more in depth posts on this in the future
  • Get a tailwheel rating and maybe take a look into aerobatics
  • Kick-start a rather special adventure (think ice, snow, a few pilots and an aircraft or two!)

So, I hope I'm not too boring, and that you'll stick around and follow me about on my adventures as and when they happen!

Also, thanks to Lauren over at The Aerobatic Project for giving me the idea to do this!