Saturday, September 29, 2018

Stepping up

"Holy moly, that climb rate is incredible!"
"Yeah! Better lower the nose, you're already at 2000 feet"
"Oh shoot!"

After flying the SR20 for around a year, in recent weeks I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to step up to the Cirrus SR22.

An untrained observer can be forgiven for not being able to pick a '20 from a '22.  On the outside, they look quite similar - in fact, the fuselage, tail and wing are the same.  It's when you look a little closer that the differences can be noticed.  Details like the fuel filler caps are much further out on the wing (because of the much larger fuel tanks), plus there may be extra features like anti-icing equipment or a large composite propeller.  Even the interiors are similar.

The biggest difference by far is under the engine cowl.  The model moves up from a 200 horsepower engine in the '20 to a 310 horsepower beast in the '22, and it takes some getting used to!

SR22 G3

The upgrade training provided by Cirrus is called "Airframe and Powerplant Differences Training".  It consists of two parts; a theory component and a flying component.  The theory is completed online in the Cirrus Learning Portal, and was interactive and enjoyable.

The flying component I completed over two separate flights due to time constraints on my instructor Darren (yes, the same Darren that trained me for my PPL!).  For the first flight, we departed busy Moorabbin to head down to Latrobe Valley.  The climb rate was fantastic!  Only two people, with a little over tabs fuel - the aircraft wanted to climb!

First SR22 flight. Upper line is to YLTV, lower is return.

On the way we practiced some basic handling, like steep turns.  This particular aircraft has some new parts in the engine that needs to be run in, so we needed to run the engine at around 85% (normally around 65-70%), which meant that we got to the circuit at Latrobe Valley FAST!  Normally, I'd give my 10 mile inbound call, then have a couple of minutes to gather my thoughts and prepare for entering the circuit.  Not with this aircraft.  No sooner had I completed my inbound call, that it felt like only seconds before I was joining the circuit.

My first landing was ok, however I was still surprised by the climb ability on the second circuit, so it was a little less tidy.  The resulting landing was not as pretty as I'd like.  It was probably perfectly ok, but I'm used to landing fairly nicely in the Cirrus now.  The lightweight and very wide chord propeller acts as a massive speed break if you pull the power off too early when approaching the runway.

Circuits at Latrobe Valley (YLTV). The close circuit cutting the last corner was a practice forced landing glide approach.

When staying in the circuit, I took some getting used to the power reduction from 100% down to 30% when 1000 feet AGL is reached.  The SR20 is much less of a reduction down to only 50%.  The physical difference on the power lever is marked!

We stayed for a couple more circuits, including some flapless and glide approaches.  There is a lot of emphasis on going around in this type of aircraft, because with so much power up front it's easy to undercook things (especially the right rudder) and get into trouble.  Each time around the landings were getting much better and consistent.  On the last time around, Darren wanted me to do a maximum angle climb on departure, which involves raising the nose and climbing out at a lower airspeed but with an incredibly high angle.  It's ALL sky out the front windows, and it doesn't take long to get up to a cruising height.  It's not something you'd do on every departure, but it's nice to know what the aircraft can do.

On the way back, Darren got me to complete a practice forced landing, which I am happy to report that I nailed!  Very proud of that one.  That's the squiggly bit over Drouin airfield.  We also completed a practice emergency descent, which is designed to get you down quickly in the event you're up high and your oxygen system fails for some reason.  The descent is completed at a little below the Never Exceed speed for the aircraft.  At one point, we were descending at around 5000 feet per minute!

Practice emergency descent - as viewed in Google Earth.  The colours relate to the descent rate. Red is ≥5000 fpm.
The next flight a couple of days later included a short field takeoff, a crosswind landing, and a short field landing to finish.

For a short field takeoff, you line up on the runway, apply full power whilst holding the brakes, then when all is stabilised, release the brakes and zoom off. This is kind of what it feels like:

There was a significant crosswind component that day, and we were sequenced in the circuit behind a student pilot who was most likely on their first crosswind lesson.  Their circuits were reeeeeeally big, with a long and meandering final leg. Thankfully, you can still comfortably fly the '22 at 'normal' circuit speeds if necessary - it just requires very little power.  My circuits this day were much more ordered and smooth - the time in between flights allowing my brain to catch up with the necessary changes.

After one final short field landing, the course was complete!  Just in time, too - as we were departing in the '22 for Airventure Australia in Cessnock that day.  Edgar flew the aircraft up, and I flew it back at the end of the airshow.

Edgar and I on the way back from Airventure Australia in Cessnock.
We had a great couple of days talking AvPlan EFB an catching up with many old friends.  On the morning of our departure, we ordered a local taxi to pick us up and take us from our accommodation back to the airport.  Enroute, the driver asked us about where we'd flown from and all about the aircraft we flew.   He was so keen to see the aircraft that he drove the taxi right up next to the aircraft. He was suitably impressed!

Door-to-plane service!
We dropped in to Bathurst for some fuel (we were still running the engine at high power settings, which isn't the most fuel-efficient setting, but it's only for a handful of hours).  After negotiating the fuel bowser (one was broken), we got back in the air and set course for Melbourne.  At around the same time, a club of Piper owners were winding up a social weekend and also departing.  Even though a couple of them departed minutes before we did, we easily overtook them not far down the way.

The weather at the Kilmore Gap (a natural area of low ground below controlled airspace used by VFR pilots to cross the Great Dividing Range back into the Melbourne Basin) was a little sketchy through the morning, so we hadn't been in a hurry to leave.  All signs pointed to 'The Gap' weather improving as the afternoon arrived, so we were keeping a close eye on the weather reports.

Fields of flowering canola make for a beautiful patchwork.
When we reached Kilmore, we found that although it was a little hazy, it was perfectly flyable VFR.  The wind had moved the low cloud on, so we could very comfortably get though - albeit with a few bumps.

Higher than normal fuel flow for the run-in period.  Normally it's around 13.5 GPH.

Sugarloaf Reservoir, on the Melbourne Inland VFR Route. Nearly home!
Approaching Moorabbin, I gave my inbound call at Academy (ACE) where the tower instructed me to join base for the Eastern circuit 17L (which is usually the busy circuit training side).  As I was manoeuvring towards that, the tower came back on and instructed me to turn and manoeuvre for a long final for the Western runway 17R and to call up Tower West at 3 miles. When I did, they immediately cleared me to land - it must be the star-power of the SR22! 😉  ...and I even managed a greaser! (Edgar can attest)

After the flight when I was sitting down putting the hours into my logbook, I discovered a nice surprise to cap off the experience:

More than 50 hours total time piloting Cirrus aircraft!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

2017: In Review

When I look back at the year that was 2017, it's easy for me to think that I didn't achieve all that much in flying. However, as I went back through some of my photos it finally dawned on me that it was in fact quite a good year for achievements and experiences!

Here's some of them - in roughly chronological order:

First rear-seat pax:

After obtaining my Cirrus qualifications in the previous month, I began to get to know the SR20 aircraft.  A couple of local scenic flights followed, but the most notable one is flying a my first rear-seat passenger!

Coming from flying only two-seat aircraft, this was a momentous occasion.  I had to turn around to make sure our friend Veronica was plugged in and strapped in correctly.  Although only short in duration due to some rain showers in the area, she really seemed to enjoy the coastal flight!

Flight to Maitland, NSW:

To attend the Maitland Airshow in New South Wales and represent AvPlan EFB, Edgar and I were asked to bring up the aircraft so it could also be displayed and introduced to potential Cirrus clients.  

We shared the flying duties.  At Edgar's insistence, I flew the first leg from Moorabbin to Wagga Wagga, where we would refuel (both ourselves and the aircraft) then switch places and Edgar would captain the next leg.

After the show, some huge thunderstorms on the mountain ranges prevented us from departing until the next morning - where we had to wait for some pesky fog to dissipate!  Once airborne (I flew the first Maitland - Wagga leg), we were treated to incredibly picturesque views as we crossed the Great Dividing Range.

Some low cloud and high winds also tested us for this particular journey, but I plan to write a separate blog post about it. 

Introduced Dad to the Cirrus:

For his birthday, I flew down to West Sale aerodrome (only minutes from my parent's house) where Dad met me for a little local scenic flight.

He enjoyed the flight, and found the Cirrus to be smooth and sporty.  He took to it like a duck to water!

Helicopter scenic flight:

Melanie had given me a scenic flight voucher for me and two others for a scenic flight around Melbourne city. I finally got the chance to grab Shane and Edgar and we went up in the very shiny R44.

The views were absolutely stunning, and it was a nice change to not have a wing in the frame of the photo!

USA trip:

I was lucky enough to be selected to represent AvPlan EFB at the biggest airshow in the world - somewhere I've always wanted to go: EAA Airventure at OshKosh Wisconsin.

As well as seeing some amazing aircraft that Australia's airshow scene could only dream about, I got to meet up with many aviation podcasters that I've been listening to for many years. Plus, many of the other listeners that I've interacted with online due to the communities popping up around these podcasts.

After the airshow finished, I joined up with Dad and his long-time friend and fellow pilot Mark to visit Dayton, Ohio. Whilst there, we visited the National Museum of the USAF; seeing the supersonic XB-70 and a B2 Spirit was incredible.

It was a treat to see the display case for the Doolittle Raiders, which is housed at the museum. Each year the Raiders members would return and, using a goblet inscribed with their name, drink a toast of rare brandy to those who have since passed. The goblets of those passed members are turned upside down in the display case.  When I saw them, all but one goblet were inverted.

Also, whilst in the city of Dayton, we paid homage to the place where powered flight began.

To see the actual 1905 Wight Flyer III was a huge treat, which is restored and housed in Wright Hall - a building who's design and construction was overseen by Orville Wright himself.

Next, we flew to San Francisco where we rented a car and drove down to Silicon Valley where I met up with Cirrus Guru and popular podcaster Max Trescott. We rented a beautiful Cirrus SR20, and we did this:

It was one of the most amazing flights I've ever had the pleasure of flying.  The air traffic control was very accommodating in a busy region. With their approval, we flew 2 nautical miles past the San Francisco International Airport and completed a Bay Scenic.

My first General Aviation flight in the USA, and the first 'N' registered aircraft in my logbook.

Melbourne city orbits with friends:

I built up the confidence to fly city orbits of Melbourne CBD; something I had only previously done with an instructor on board. It's a busy flight, but a rewarding one - with some beautiful scenery and a view of Melbourne few people get to experience.

It makes for very happy passengers!

Who can blame them for enjoying them; when we have views like this?!

Taking Mel out for Sunday lunch:

We flew up to Ballarat to visit and have roast lunch with her parents. She particularly loved the fact that it is a 25 minute flight, which sure beats a 1.5 hour drive!

Achieved my Private Pilot Licence:

Yep.  After almost two years of mooching on my Recreational Pilot Licence, I finally decided to jump in and do it. I would have had to do a biennial flight review (BFR) in Jan/Feb anyway, so I thought I'd make a little more effort and step up to the next licence level - and reset my BFR clock at the same time!

I had hoped to have it all finished by Christmas, but aircraft availability pushed it back a little.  I ended up doing my PPL flight test on the 27th. That's still pretty close, right?

I even managed to convince my instructor Darren to allow me to take an SCS* on one of the training flights in the lead up to the test day!

(*Smug Cirrus Selfie 😀)

At some point, I hope to sit down and write in detail the stories behind the above adventures.

What's in store for 2018?

Who knows?  Short term, I'll continue the adventures - hopefully going further afield, and even look at stepping up to the SR22 (which goes faster and carries more load).  One day, I'll maybe tackle something like my instrument rating!

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Some "Cirrus"-ly Awesome Adventures

Working at a busy flying school and for an aviation software company can certainly have its advantages!  Every now and then, trips come up where I can tag along.  From time to time, Cirrus aircraft tour around the country to be placed on display and meet potential buyers.  The other part of my job involves promoting our Electronic Flight Bag software - something I can do at the same time as promoting the aircraft.

So far, I've been lucky enough to tag along and travel to Cirrus events in Wagga Wagga, Bacchus Marsh, Deniliquin and even a tour to Tasmania.  All of these trips have been with an IFR rated pilot and (with the exception of Bacchus Marsh), flown under the IFR system. For me it has been a fascinating glimpse into the next level of flying... through and above the clouds!

First trip was to Bacchus Marsh with James (commercial pilot with Avia/Cirrus Melbourne).  James was excited about this flight because he got to hand-fly it the whole way...normally company SOPs dictate that the autopilot must be used for the cruise portion of the flight.

Cirrus SR20 on display at Bacchus Marsh airport.
While we were there, I got to catch up with a friend Dan who built his own aircraft.  The RV10, nicknamed "the Beast", for before it received it's beautiful paint scheme it flew for a few months with no paint.  This made it look almost like a piece of military hardware.  It looks a little different now!

Dan didn't want me to leave without going for a fly in his plane, so he kindly took me up for a local jaunt!  You can see the gliding club operating on the grass to the left of the runway.

James, climbing for an overhead departure back to Moorabbin. 
Even though the flight time was less than 20 minutes each way, it was a great day.

Next, was Wagga Wagga Aero Club's open day.  Unfortunately, the weather wasn't particularly helpful for all but the most highly equipped aircraft - low cloud, hanging around almost all day. Thankfully, Charles is qualified to make use of the ILS (instrument landing system) installed at Wagga for training airline cadets.  It was lucky, because we only 'broke out' just above the minimum level required visually acquire the runway position.

Breaking out of the bottom of the cloud on the ILS moments before the avionics announced "Minimums...Minimums".  Wagga had experienced sustained and heavy rainfall, so we could see the swollen creeks.   Eagle-eyed viewers might be able to make out the very beginning of the runway just up ahead and below the cloud line.

The SR22 GTS on display at Wagga.  We used an open hangar for some protection from the passing showers.

On the return journey, I got to experience my first sunset/night flight in a General Aviation aircraft!  It didn't disappoint.

Not too long after, it was time to get back in the Cirrus with James and head over to a little town in NSW called Deniliquin.  Normally, the drive from Melbourne to 'Deni' takes around four hours... The Cirrus covers the same ground in around one hour!

The weather was much better for this particular trip... No need for an ILS this time.

Beautiful blue skies and friendly locals greeted us in Deniliquin. 
In flight catering is important!

There was even time for a selfie on the way home.

Next trip on the agenda was a big one: Tasmania!  This would be my first serious over-water operation in a single-engine aircraft.  We'd fly directly across Bass Strait, down to Hobart, up to Launceston and back home - spending one night in each destination.  As well as life-jackets, we took a full life raft with us too. The extra weight of the raft was worth it, as the thought of floating around in the chilly Strait awaiting rescue didn't seem too appealing.

Goodbye Victorian coastline!

There is a LOT of water in Bass Strait....Just in case you didn't know!

First glimpse of Tasmania.

The beautifully green North-Western Tasmania.

Just before we reached the Tassie coastline, air traffic control called us up and asked if we would climb one thousand feet higher they'd be able to offer us a more direct route down the centre of the island, rather than the one we'd planned.  The extra height is to give an extra buffer against the much higher ground in the middle of the state.  I'm glad the controller offered us this, because that region is amazingly beautiful from the air!

The hundreds of interconnected lakes and streams of the Central Plateau.  Some of the most rugged landscape I've had the honour of viewing from the air.
After passing the Central Plateau, we entered cloud prior to our descent into Hobart.  It wasn't until a few miles out from Hobart that we got our first look at the airport.  We weren't going to land at the Hobart International Airport, as there is a small general aviation airport nestled in right next door.  As Cambridge airport is so close, it is still under control of Hobart tower so the arrival is designed to bring everyone to the main runway... It was a simple case of breaking off at the right point to fly a circuit and land on one of the smaller runways.

Seconds after breaking out of the clouds at Hobart.  Cambridge airport can be seen to the lower-right of the main runway.
Tying down FUF for the night at Cambridge airport.
We spent the next day speaking with the very friendly members of the Aero Club of Southern Tasmania.  The weather was a little cold and miserable, however there was plenty of cups of tea and coffee on offer in the club to keep us warm!  After lunch we began packing the aircraft ready to head North to Launceston.

This flight - however short by comparison - was largely flown in IMC (instrument meteorological conditions, otherwise known as "in cloud").  Only a short time after leaving Hobart we climbed into cloud.  Every now and again holes in the various cloud layers would line up, giving us a fleeting view of the landscape.  Other than that, I have little idea of the places we flew over!

Our view for most of the flight.
Two thirds along the route, we were asked by air traffic control to complete a right orbit - which James happily complied.  It was to give some time for an air ambulance to descend and land at Launceston.  The controller thanked us as he gave us our vectors to our approach.  Once we were handed over to Launceston Tower, the tower controller also thanked us!  We didn't mind at all; especially for an ambulance!

Mid-final on a rainy approach to Launceston.
The situation at Launceston for the big jets was - bedlam!  Several jets had become unserviceable, parts and engineers needed to be ferried from the mainland, causing several crews to run out of duty time - requiring more crews to also be sent!  As we were taxiing to our parking spot, the tower was talking with airport logistics on the radio, asking if one of the far-flung parking spots is certified to support a 737.  It did.  Later that night, we heard the extra 737 arrive over the city carrying the necessary parts and people.

The next day, we displayed the Cirrus and AvPlan EFB to the members of the Launceston Aero Club. Once again, the club members and visitors were very welcoming and great fun to chat with through the day.  Soon, it became time to turn our thoughts to our return journey over the Strait.  We figured it would be best to pack the plane, go and grab some late lunch, then fuel up at the fuel bowser before departing.  Unfortunately, after our lunch we pulled up at the bowser to refuel, only to find it totally unresponsive!  No power at all.  Not even the helpful club members that use the bowser often could rouse it from its slumber.  We had to call the local refuelling truck to come over and fuel us.  We eventually got our fuel, but we had to wait until all the big jets received theirs first - then the guy had to go and get the AVGAS truck.  It had also been so long since he had processed a credit card payment that he had to get out the step-by-step instructions!  We eventually managed to get away with plenty of sunlight to spare - it was just less of a margin that we'd have liked in a perfect world.
It was awesome to mix it up with the big birds!

Departing Launceston.

Back over the water!

An unforgettable view!
The whole trip was an amazing experience - James is a very capable and skillful pilot, far beyond his years.  I learnt so much from listening and observing his polite and efficient operations within the IFR airspace system.  Any passengers that fly with him will have nothing but a positive experience - especially if the said passengers offer jelly snakes during the flight! (I did)

Next adventure - time to do some of my own flying, and fly places myself!