Friday, 10 July 2015

A special post

I was involved in making a film with our instructor Lee Owens; it was for his foundation with which he's trying to raise money to fly a P51 Mustang around the world! He's doing this in honour of African American Aviators and the Tuskegee airmen missions. This man has changed my life, please give it a watch. I've also added a tab at the top of the blog which will link you to his foundation website :)

PT3 & Buck's university!

I handed in my PT3 form and had a few days off before the test was scheduled so my house-mate and I went to LA for the weekend; it was fun to see the walk of fame and Hollywood sign and the city in so many movies. Sadly, didn't see any stars whilst I was there though.

PT3 is all about manoeuvres, as in PT1 you do your 3 landings again and there’s a little bit of under the hood work as well as stalls and steep turns. The test went by really quickly, I went over to Coolidge to do my touch-and-goes and was given a PFL* in the circuit, I just managed to glide it over to the runway. It felt easier than the previous PTs, maybe because I felt more confident with the plane after doing so many solos.

We also had a Buck’s university day where we were back in the classroom for lectures and were given an assignment to complete in only a few days. It was a group assignment where we needed to make two presentations about the business model and marketing strategies of a selected airline. We did New Zealand air (I love them after their Hobbit liveries). The first presentation went really well and we were given a first, the second we only got a 50 on which I was kind of disappointed with, as with any group project it’s hard to motivate everyone to pull their own weight and I think my mark would have been better had I presented on my own. There was also a written essay assignment about environmental management systems, which I got a first for. I thought this was my worst essay as I did it pretty last minute (there’s a lot going on with the flying).

One the morning of the assignment I was woken by a phone call from Lee at 6am who wanted his students in to interview for a film he was making. I knew he needed me and I’d spoken to the cameraman the week before and got to sit in the sim with him and show him a little of what we were doing here. I didn’t know Lee wanted us so early! I had to put on a tie and get ready quickly then go and stand out on the ramp as the equipment was set up. It was actually really fun to be involved in the film and I really hope Lee raises all the money he needs to.  

*PFL = Practice forced landing, the instructor would pull the throttle to idle on the engine and as I was in the downwind had to cut my circuit short and land on the runway with a simulated engine failure. When we did this in lessons out in the practice area it was all about choosing the best field for an emergency landing. 

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Introducing SPICs

Supervised pilot in command (SPIC) flights are where you do the whole flight yourself but you’re in the cockpit with a different instructor than your own; I found these invaluable as everyone has little methods that are different and I found I learnt a lot from flying with new people. It’s always great to mix up the routine a bit. My first SPIC flight I was asked what I wanted to practice and I said “crosswind landings”. My wind limit was 7 knots crosswind and 10 total, Lee had been saying all along that I could handle more but I didn't want to go ahead and increase it until I felt confident I’d be able to do it by myself on a solo and so wanted more practice. After a SPIC doing touch-and-goes at Coolidge airport (smaller runway than Falcon and uncontrolled) I finally went and got endorsed for 10 knots crosswind and 15 knots total, more than most students at this stage so I was happy J

My second SPIC wasn't looking too good, I was doing manoeuvres like stalls when a cloud descended around us, I wasn't really worried as the rain doesn't affect the plane much and I had an instructor with me just in case. Then we saw lightning in the cloud which is when we decided to go and land ASAP. Chandler is an approved arrival route but was obscured from view and doing the AJ arrival would have taken too long. We decided to make a bee-line straight for Falcon by asking to transit through Gateway’s delta (I am still scared of Gateway after ATC told me off on my second lesson). This was the fastest way to get home but it did cut my lesson short. One of my classmates captured this picture on flight radar with the caption “Who just cut across Gateway’s airspace?”

I finished off the lesson on a different day with yet another instructor and as he was happy with my set up and flying he decided to show me something new. From the SE practice area he said we could go to the NE which is my first time going north of Falcon. We decided to do a Class Bravo transition over Phoenix Sky Harbour International! We got a really great view of the multiple parallel runways and slightly larger aircraft landing below us, it was cool. Phoenix approach were somewhat stricter than previous ATCs I’d spoken to and gave us a squawk* code, track and altitude to follow as well as flight following and traffic advisories. After the Bravo we did touch and goes at Deer Valley airport, it was a tricky one as it’s surrounded by little hills which in the afternoon heat give you thermals which gave a fun up-draft on finals.

I was on my second touch-and-go and was in the crosswind turning downwind when I heard/and felt a loud BANG. My instinct was that the glider tow cable had just been released as that’s kind of what it felt like…however I'm in a PA28 not a glider. The instructor instantly took control and requested landing immediately as we’d just hit a bird. Deer Valley ATC was great and offered assistance and gave priority landing. The worry my instructor had was that the undercarriage would be damaged so he took control to land as gently as possible, I think he also thought I might be worried as he kept asking me if I was okay (though I wasn't really worried). On the ground we inspected the plane and there was no trace of anything having hit us, which was incredibly lucky so off we went again (the instructor still had to file a bird strike report on the ground). We took the scenic route back over the mountainous NE terrain to Falcon Field. It was a good flight.

On Memorial Day everyone was given a day off as it’s a national holiday here, we went tubing down Salt Lake river, which is a really lazy day. You hire a big rubber ring and float down the river, it was nice as rarely do the member of my course actually get a day off together. It was going great until we hit some rapids and I fell out of my tube, some other kid nicked it and I had to swim to shore and wait to be rescued L Two of my lads walked back for me and one of the tubing employees gave me a deflated tube to give back to the hire shop so I wouldn't get charged the ‘lost tube’ fee. All in all it was a fun day and we’d like to do it again where we make it down the whole river.

*A squawk code is the 4 digit number on the transponder so you can be recognised, normally we just 'squawk' VFR which is 1200.