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notes from the command line

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If you can do nothing else – just fly..

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Bush Air — Soo.. it’s been a while

And I finally got a bit of spare time to update. So – last year I had some time off planned, and decided to take a week off and do some bush flying in Africa. There are plenty of offerings, from a full blown bush safari (complete with porters and hotel accommodation) to more simple fare of a plane and a swag.. one place did stand out of the couple of days research that I had done however – Bush Air‘s mountain flying course. Run out of a small airport in Neilspruit about 3 hours east of Johannesburg in South Africa. It stood out due to the amount of different opinions that the owner has generated amongst the local and international pilots. I had to go and check it out – for my own experience if not only for the journey!

 

Flights were duly booked, along with hire care and travel insurance. Having read up about Johannesburg being a dangerous place if you’re the wrong person in the wrong place, this had the makings of an interesting journey.

 

The flight down was uneventful – from the UK South Africa is just straight down, no time lag as it’s in the same timezone. BA provided the usual good standard service, and I took the opportunity to catch up on some films during the trip down. The hire car was picked up and duly checked out, bags packed into the boot and maps consulted. Straight forward I thought – until l realised that in fact I’d missed my turning and ended up driving north an hour to Pretoria before realising my mistake.. Never mind – time is not of the essence and petrol is cheap.

Stopping to refuel at a service station I had the chance to taste some of perhaps the most famous export South Africa has to offer – proper biltong.. It’s like dried gold – basically dried strips of meat that is smoked and spiced.

The scenery was stunning – think Dorset but desert.

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The colours were wonderful

 

And finally I arrived to be met by the owner and my teacher for the next 3 days – CJ Pocock.

 

A couple of beers to relax, and a chance to unwind with a couple of the other students on the course, both locals who had flown in from Johannesburg in their C172 for the experience. They confirmed some of the rumours that surrounded CJ – everything from him being a wild bush pilot to people having some kind of religious experience when flying with him (whether good or bad I was unable to determine however..) Also along for a 2 day review was a local reporter, who would be covering the magazine for African Pilot – one of the premier aviation magazines in South Africa.. Perhaps I’ll even make the write up!

 

The airfield – what a view..

 

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The hangar.

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An easy nights sleep lead to dawn, as the sounds of Africa came cascading through the window.

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Gathering my flight bag and heading down to the hanger at 7am for a flight briefing would take some getting used to – I’m used to a far more relaxed approach to school! Never the less, the briefing started and CJ started to probe us on our knowledge, experience and expectations for the stay at Barberton. So far it’s totally normal – nothing that I would not have expected outside a normal flight school. CJ has a definite style and passion when he covers the topics that we will be taking part in over the next couple of days, and you have the feeling that he talks of emergency topics with a wary eye of someone who’s experienced them first hand. We’d be covering Emergency engine failure, short field landings, low level (tree top) flying, canyon, wing overs, emergency canyon turns to name a few. A quick glance between the 3 of us exchanging surprised looks and raised eyebrows confirmed that we were not sure what we had signed up for. Nevertheless, we were duly dispatched for a very hearty breakfast, and straight into the cockpit for the first days flying, Stabilised approaches. We took it in turns flying circuits, stabilised flight approaches to perform what we thought were good landings. After one such attempt CJ just laughed – commenting  that by the end of the week we’ll be landing in half  the distance. The afternoon’s flying consisted of a refresher on basic emergency drills, more circuits and lectures. Before too long it was approaching dusk which always sneaks up near the hemisphere, and we were putting the aircraft into the hangar and securing the compound, heading back to the bar for a well deserved beer. or two.

 

2 lucky local pilots!

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We all commented that the experiences so far were not really what we had expected – it was a mix of trepidation with some of the upcoming sessions and relief that we’d survived the first day, not having made many mistakes..

 

The second day saw us packed off to practice STOL take off techniques, after an hour or 2 of ground school before breakfast. In the C172 the bush air standard is to perform a performance takeoff – 1 stage of flaps, feet on the brakes, hold it full power then release for maximum progression. Let the aircraft accelerate to 30 knots, pull 2 stages of flaps, count to three and then rotate. The effect was marked – takeoff in as little as 250 meters, able to clear 50ft at 350. Soon we were all performing takeoff’s in under 300 meters repeatedly (nearly half the distance on the first day – not bad going). The afternoon was landings, pulling the aircraft through the approach, taking the last stage of flaps at the last minute, power on then dump into the ground, on the brakes, drop the flaps and halt – I kid you not, less that 150 meters.. amazing.

Jean – the reporter from African Pilot – even commented that from where he was standing it looked very impressive – a much greater improvement was being noticed all round. Back to the hangar for beer and another excellent meal. Not only a good teacher but a good cook also! The third day promised to be the most exciting – and worrying for some, as we were performing PFL exercises, canyon flying and steep canyon turns.

 

The next morning, after a debrief, it was the turn of more circuits, then onto the PFL exercises. CJ took us overhead the airfield, cut the engine and then said ‘well you’ve got an engine failure – what are you going to do about it!’ No time to argue – standard into downwind, check the fields are under the wing, base, field still under the wing, parallel into final and then touchdown. Not bad.  The afternoon flying was more of an eye opener. The 2 local pilots were a bit more nervous at this stage – unlike the UK where controlled flight into terrain (usually in IMC) is the largest killer, in South Africa it’s canyon running – going up a no-way-back canyon, coming to steep terrain and a downdraft resulting in a crash.

 

We flew about 20 miles to the south, looking at the scenery which lulled you into a false sense of security with it’s beauty. Into the canyon, now the lesson really starts. Pointing at the track to take, CJ says ‘right – you’ve got 5 seconds to work out where the wind is coming from, so we can place the aircraft in the right part of the canyon. Make a mistake and we’re gonna crash’ as he then proceeds to count down, me returning his look not sure if he’s being serious, then realising too late that he is as I frantically peer out trying to make sense of the environment.. ‘ummm – the north?’ I venture.. Wrong.. ‘nope – we’re bushmeat.. Try agin – fly out and back’ as I turned back around for another try. This time – taking into account the downdrafts on one side of the canyon I made a proper evaluation and came out with the correct answer. ‘Yep’ CJ ventured ‘Right – get onto the updraft side, perform a canyon turn and take us around’.. back to the other side, full power, 2 stages of flap and yank the yoke around, inside a tiny circle and back to the uplift side of the canyon again. ‘wow – not bad’ I said and CJ just smiled that flight-instructor smile – you know, the one where you’ve done something right, but they never totally say anything  unless you get too confident. I’ve see that smile before – but this time it was for a different reason. ‘now – canyon turn,  you think we can turn on the spot? Look at the road below, we’ll turn in no more than the width’ CJ said as he took control. Full power, flaps, nose pointing up 30, 40 degrees, suddenly a wing-over and we’re riding out to the bottom of the turn like a roller coaster. more wow!

refueling – bush style..

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The final day was a culmination of the previous days work – CJ took the 2 local pilots off first, as they had their unmodified Cessna whilst I was flying CJ’s pride and joy.

After they returned we headed off and into a couple of dirt strips – no more than fire breaks – along the side of the road. The strips were usually one way in, one way out – at some point in the approach you make a go / no go decision, as after this point you can’t turn back even if you wanted to. The following field was just that – about 350 meters in length, a microlight strip barely big enough to turn around it, we were duly in, down, parked up in a short space of time and distance. As we were taking off CJ said ‘the next one I’ll do – it’s not one that people can usually do until they’ve been flying bush for a long time’ as he pointed out a small patch of dirt on the side of the road. It was not really a landing strip – barely 250 meters in length, I’ve seen longer I’m sure! However with CJ the control’s there was no drama, no flicker of uncertainty, just the calm precision that he’s exhibited these last couple of days.

 

It’s totally different flying to what we experience here in Europe – freedom, responsibility and perhaps more danger. But nothing you cannot plan, prepare and be ready for – which is one of the best reasons to get as much varied experience as possible. Time learning is never time wasted.

For me this trip was a great experience – from the friendly local people, through to the serious amounts of fun we had flying about. I think we all came away from this with something. For me it was the canyon work, I don’t get to experience hills like that as England is mostly flat. However I did get something extra in the post a couple of weeks later – a write up with some pictures of me flying!

Yours truly.  A (slightly) better bush pilot..

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France – The four musketeers

21st of June – we had a scheduled trip to France, or as far south along the coast as we could go. Initially planning for several people, there were the inevitable casualties as people rang in with other priorities, other adventures or other time plans. Eventually we were left with the last 2 planes – 4 people for the weekend trip..

 

We were going to fly to Alderney (In the channel islands) to pick up some fuel, plus the nice drawback that this provides as it’s tax free. The colours of the water were fantastic, as we descended over the rocks to the island for our quick pit stop. Soon we were off again, heading to Dinan on the French coast where we needed to clear customs.  A direct in approach and we were in the airfield trying to impress the customs official with our best French language skills.. We had to really push on as we had at least another 4 stops planned before the overnight stay, which we were initially planning for La Rochelle .

 

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At the weekend there is very little GA traffic about in France, and also because it is such a large country in comparison with the UK there was no one else about at all. We decided to therefore take the scenic route around the Brittany coast, onto our next stop Ouissant, a tiny island on the French coast with a small airport.

The scenery was as beautiful as the clear golden sandy beaches and the deep blue sky.  Ouissant is a very small island off the west coast, with a small airport, a couple of houses and a very large shipping tower. They had a Pilatus screaming up to the sky and back, disgorging it’s payload of eager sky divers before heading back in for a quick change of crew.

 

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Into the aircraft again, and this time south to Quiberon, another small airport on a spit that runs out into the sea.  The only downside is that the runoff from the landing will be straight onto the beach and into the Ocean. It was lucky no-one wanted to test this procedure yet, so we positioned for landing and the much needed Lunch break. The next portion of the trip was a simple hop to La Rochelle, which was by far the largest airport we would visit. Jostling for position with competing 737’s carrying either well-done or under-cooked holiday makers we made it down safely. It was then time to put the aircraft to bed for the night, re-group at a hotel and partake in a well deserved beer or 2.

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Finally being debriefed in the hotel lobby for the next day’s activities – I think at this point we just wanted directions to the bar..

 

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There was a local music festival on as we walked around the old harbour, finding a spare couple of seats for a very enjoyable meal. Then back to the hotel for an early start – we had something planned for tomorrow, and we were not going to find out until we left in the morning if it was confirmed or not..

 

The morning sun was glorious – just like it always is in summertime in southern europe. Since we refueled the night before we could just take off quickly – which we promptly did just as the first holiday makers were stumbling through the door for their early morning flight home..

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We had confirmation that the first stop would be a Chateau – the owner apparently had just replied saying he would welcome us, he has a small airfield attached to the side of his country house. Along the way we spent much if it sightseeing the rolling countryside of France – complete with Chateau’s, vineyards and all manner of delights.

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And finally it came into sight – Chateau Monhoudou. A small strip with a windsock indicated our preferred location, and after landing the owner came out to greet us to his home. It was a delight – completely hidden!

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Coffee and petit fours were provided and gratefully consumed, and everyone confirmed it would make an ideal location for a stop next time, as you can stay in the house as it runs as a hotel as well.

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So – the final 2 stops of the day – Saint Cyr and then back to Deauville to clear customs. I did not get any pictures as I was flying these legs, but Saint Cyr’s approach comes over the top, or directly into Versailles in Paris. So then back into the aircraft after an exchange of passports, papers and money then back to blighty. It is always bitter sweet coming back –  the realization that the journey is nearly over coming after the delight in seeing the coast of England and being homeward bound. Another adventure – and a couple more airports ticked off the list..

Now if I can only brush up on my French a bit more..

 

 

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No updates – just lazy

Nothing to update because I have not got around to spending any time updating!

What have I been up to? Studying for my Solaris 11 OCA exam.. Flying about in France, and a bit of bush flying in South Africa. Will have an update buy the end of the week complete with a couple of vids and numerous pics..

ECU A Fail, ECU B Fail, Land immediately

Wow..

 

What a day.

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I didn’t expect to have a dual ECU failure in the DA40 at approx. 50 feet on the climb out from Elstree on our weekly trip..

For those not used to FADEC systems, the DA40 has a totally electronically controlled injection, prop and mixture combined control in the airplane. You have one single lever, the power lever, which then co-ordinates your ham-fisted operations into one smooth, fuel-efficient flight. The only downside is that as opposed to the simple (and some say agricultural AVGas systems) is that it’s all computer controlled. Loose the computer or battery and you loose the power. The old AVGas systems will keep running without any power, a couple of cylinders smoking and half the magneto’s missing..

So – the day started out the same as so many Sunday’s have done in the past. The group wanted a trip, and the weather was lousy. We spent the week in anticipation, waiting for the sky’s to clear to send us far north, Scotland and beyond, or South past France to the sunshine of the mediterranean.  You could almost hear the collective sighing during the week as the weather report raced to achieve a maximum covering of rain and cloud.  ‘No chance of a BBQ bank holiday weekend’ the weather forcasters cheerily announced, their hands flicking across the cold grey blanket that covered the horizon. I could almost feel the raindrops on the screen condensing onto my television as I watched with a heavy sigh.. Scotland was out of the question (Living in the UK you have to make snap decisions on the weather, as we can have 4  seasons in one day. Take every chance for a journey that you get! ) and Europe was looking more and more unlikely. There was a large depression gathering over the UK (amongst the pilots no doubt as well) and it would prevent us from any large journeys.

However it was almost like our CFI ( Chief Flying Instructor) was then trying to pull out all the stops with a swash buckling journey across a collection of grass strips in the west country. 6 strips were planned for (3 within 10 miles – e.g. 2 minutes of each other!) It was a chance to hone our skills, forget the weather and discover the country. We were all shooed out of the briefing office like some unsavory group of pesky kids who had invaded a sweet shop, clutching assorted A4 sized print outs of en-route, arrival and departure instructions. I was taking the DA40 for it’s first trip out of it’s service, it had not flown since my Scotland trip some weeks back.

Glad to be back in the hot seat again, we buckled up, said our goodbye to the flight-sustaining fuel pump and made our way through the taxi area, performing checks until the final hold before the departure. I did notice one thing – usually the prop makes a definite ‘cycle’ sound during the ECU test procedure – kind of like a massive “sigh” the aircraft does when testing it’s ECU’s. However nothing untoward showed on the display, and no lights, messages or anything else showed up. Calling ready for departure we lined up on the 26 Runway, buried the lever as far forward as it would go and bounced along the runway gathering speed… 40 knots.. 45.. 50.. 50.. 55.. 65.. Lift off.. . 65ish.. Lift off and still 65ish. hmmm.. Still 65ish, perhaps 68 when we should be doing 80? At about 50 feet I was then greeted with the second worse bad-news signal that you can expect (the first is lots of mechanical grinding then silence..) A polite “bong” and the display lit up like a fruit machine jackpot. ECU Fail -ECU FAIL A, ECU FAIL B.  I announced ‘we’re heading back now’ and my passenger glanced over (another fellow pilot) saying ‘uhhh…. what??’ .. ‘we’re heading back’ I repeated, stabbing at the blinking message in a vain attempt to push it away from existence..’oh.. ‘ he said in a very small voice.

Over the comm – ‘Elstree this is G-OCCU coming back for an immediate landing due to equipment malfunction’

There was a pause before the controller (luckly it was one of the nicer ones that day) asking ‘affirm. Do you want emergency services to be activated??’

I considered this – I was not on fire, I was still flying and I didn’t think I would crash. The flashing blue lights would be pretty interesting, but since our airport facilities consisted of one red landrover with a couple of quick-response yellow safety vests with hoses I declined the offer to be hosed down with cold water…  ‘Naah – I’ll just come around for a bad weather circuit and land if that’s ok’..

At this point we’re doing 70-75 knots, full power, no flaps at about 800 feet above the land. We practice bad weather circuits quite often, so it was just a matter of putting the aircraft in the correct picture for the height. Around we went, ‘final to land on 26’ and touchdown. All the lights still on and we’re down. One of the other aircraft on frequency was one of our group, and the CFI came over after we parked up and suggested we take another aircraft. We obliged after securing the sickly machine in it’s cover and then departed without further issue..

Looking back on this, and after discussing this with the CFI I think the prop had malfunctioned, and was not setting the correct pitch for the aircraft, resulting in anemic performance. In hindsight I should have stopped the flight when I noticed the unusual ECU test, but nothing came up on the display and nothing for me to base anything on apart from a hunch something was not right. One for the experience methinks.

 

So – after this excitement we were off – Overhead Oxford airport, on towards a small strip near Ledbury, just over past Gloustershire.

A lovely little strip if a little damp. And muddy. And damp.

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This old girl in the hangar.. an Auster.

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And the rabble about to depart.

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Then we were off – although needing all of the 700 odd meters of mud (sorry, runaway) to get airborne and off to Badminton (yes.. this is the birthplace of the sport..) We arrived past the splendid Badminton House, only to be greeted by none other than the Duke of Beauford himself.. A very nice chap indeed, who has his own aircraft stationed on the strip that he flys out of on a regular basis.

After a couple of pleasantries, we were off to Charlton Park (again for myself) On arriving we noticed a tractor cutting the grass merrily oblivious to anything else on the approach to the runway we were going to land on. Since I was the first to arrive it is customary to do a low approach and go-around, to confirm the suitability of the runway (and hopefully make the driver notice 5 aircraft were about to land on top of his cab!) which was duly done. The tractor carried on regardless.. So another aircraft chose another into-wind runway, but had to do a go-around themselves as they picked up some wind shear on the final approach. I was lined up and slotted in nicely with only a short tap-dance performance on the rudder and with a gentle ‘plonk’ we arrived and parked up.

One of the aircraft trying to chase the tractor away!

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Panoramic of the glorious setting..

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Fees were paid and we all started the engines apart from.. us.. It would not start.. no!!

At this point I was starting to think if I should have ever even arisen out of bed that morning.. Nothing seemed to be going that well.. Even the CFI could not get the aircraft to behave..

We then decided after about 15 mins of failed attempts to leave the plane there and continue to the next destination, Oaksey Park, with the 2 ‘extra’ pilots shared amongst the remaining aircraft. Oaksey park is a lovely little strip, but as we were approaching we noticed 2 white barrels marking a point about 100 meters down the runway.. We came down for a nice landing, only to then be catapulted upwards as we hit ‘the ditch’ that is marked by the 2 barrels, and were bounced about 2 meters in the air.. However the PIC (Pilot in Command) handled this without a second thought, applying a small amount of power to cushion our arrival and gently placed the aircraft on the ground.

More coffee and tea, and after several discussions about ‘arrival procedures’, ‘non-standard bounces’ and what actually constituted a ‘ditch on the runway’ we took off for the final stop, Draycott Farm.

Beautiful as always – the rolling hills of England green and true..

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And after a quick pit stop back to the aircraft and we were off.. Almost. Full power and we were not moving.. Not something else – we were all bogged in! A quick shuffle of people and bodies and the remaining 3 aircraft were all man-handled (and indeed woman-handled) out of the gloop and back onto the hardstanding..

stuck in the mud!!

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Finally back to Elstree, where even the local police have to fill up with a fried breakfast..

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So – another trip, another chance for lessons learned.

I am a bit of a sucker for gut feelings – my hunch about the prop paid off, and I was more attentive (as I should always be during takeoff and landing) and caught the problem before it ran away and turned into an issue. I honestly did not have any time to think about it – it was ‘there is a major problem, we’re going back immediately’ and that was it.. It all adds to the learning experience – mistakes are often the only way we learn. The real mistake is not to learn from your mistakes..

 

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Scotland day 2 – Eshott, Inverness, Blackpool and Elstree

Talk about lucky – the hotel only 20 mins walk away from the airfield happened to be a spa as well:)

The thought of spending the evening being massaged and gently exfoliated was nice, but I had to revise my plan slightly after my near diversion. I advised Perth that I would not be making an appearance after all and had a quiet night nursing a beer in the on-site pub, with a very agreeable homemade burger.

The next day though – how about good omens for this.. The sky was perfect over the lobby of my hotel for the night. Not a bad place to stay in fact! It was an old manor house that was restored and converted into a hotel / golf course complex.

 

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Sitting down to breakfast there was no-one else in the restaurant. Staring out over the green expanse of the gardens, being served local produce whilst listening to a bit of Beethoven on the radio. It doesn’t get much better than this – just a shame no-one else was there to enjoy the moment!

 

So back to the airfield to unpack the aircraft, say hello to the owner and phone up Inverness. I decided against stopping in Perth because I was not sure that I wanted to say there. I had plenty of fuel and I was really interested in seeing the cairngorms as I passed overhead, so I took off into the most perfect flying weather – light winds and a clear, blue sky..

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Dunstanburgh Castle

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Bamburgh Castle

 

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The holy island of Lindisfarne

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Then up to Scotland. My first view was this – spectacular..

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Fidra Island

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wow.. Not much else to say but wow.

 

After that a straight landing in Inverness was a bit of a letdown – back into the real world. Refueled both myself and the plane (still it had only consumed 80 liters or so of Jet A1 fuel on the way up here – amazing.. It gets better MPG than my car!)

 

The next step was to Islay – I tried phoning for over an hour, but still no-one answered.. After some consideration I decided that I’ll make my way down the great glens, and give them a call around Oban to see if they were about. If not, I’ll carry on, taking in the coast scenery as planned, over Campbeltown and back across the borders to the Lakes and I’ll decide what to do there.

 

So – this was it. Perhaps one of the most picturesque trips you can make in the UK that only a handful of people have been lucky enough to experience.. Well, it was now my turn. All those hours hitting the books, exams, practicing, making mistakes, correcting them, learning and finally this is my big payback time.

Urquart Castle on Loch Ness.. You see nessie just there?? Well I guess it’s just a boat then. I’m sure to get a snap of her somewhere..

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADown the great glens – Loch ness

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WOW..

 

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More wow..

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Loch Locky and Loch Arkaig in the distance

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Fort William – I was supposed to turn right here and go via the Isles of Sky in the distance but I was too taken aback with the views!

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At this point I was getting no answer from Islay so I decided to head on, head up and take a look at the views. They were spectacular..

 

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Wow..

Scottish control gave me clearance at FL80 to proceed through their class D airspace along the side of Prestwick and before long I was in the Lake District. It is as beautiful as the hills in Scotland, but it is distinctly different.. Bassenthwathe lake..

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The color is fantastic..

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And at this point I hit some turbulence.. Nothing major but not ‘let’s snap pictures whilst trying to fly’ sort of turbulence.. I tried calling up Walney island (I knew they have Jet A1 fuel) but got no reply. A quick call to Blackpool and they let me land to take on a bit of juice. After a quick pit stop I was off to the Welsh coast, along by Liverpool (out to see so not much to view) and then across the northern side of the Snowdonia national park. The mist rising up from the hills was particularly nice.. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

After a cruise back at around FL60  then descending to 2000 around Oxford it really felt strange to be so low to the ground after all that high flying!

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Then back to Elstree for a normal landing and that was .. … it.. Nothing else left.

Just the depressing task of filling out paperwork, emptying the aircraft of all my junk and wrappers, and getting in my car to go home.

There is not much else to say really – I’m still a bit overwhelmed by the whole process. Sitting typing this with the last of the blue sky outside it is just not the same as being in an aircraft in control of your whole destiny for the next couple of hours. There is just nothing like it in the world..

We are special – we do have to practice and learn and teach others, and we are very, very lucky to be able to do what we do. But today – today is a good day. It’s the reward for all that hard work.

Please – if you’re reading this whilst studying, learning or just interested in flying – You can do it. You can achieve this and when you do, the reward is worth all the effort, all the pain..  take inspiration from all these glorious pictures and make it happen. As a pilot you’re in charge of your own destiny – you can make it happen. You just have to get out there and grab it..

 

 

day 2

Total flight time – 7.2 hours.

Flight distance – 930 Miles

Fuel used – 230 Litres

Water Consumed – 3.5 litres

Beef jerky – 1 pack

Hours spent planning – 15

Number of times I panic’d because I had not planned something – 0

Number of sinking feelings – 1. The final landing..

Scotland trip – day 1 – Elstree to Eshott

The day started off with a mixed forecast. The long range told me that the inclement weather would improve, coming from the north down and better towards thursday afternoon. I decided to then head off at around 10. The initial route was to go up the east coast by the wash, landing at Breighton to refuel, short stop in Eshott, Then Perth / Scone and Inverness to stay the night. Since the DA40 I was flying is JET A-1 fuel only, I had to be more careful for the fuel stops, as not all small airfields have this fuel to hand.

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Day 2 was going to be then Inverness, down past Oban and landing in Islay, refueling and spending the night. The final day would be routing down the west coast of England, over the lakes, Snowdon national park then back to Elstree.

 

The departure was normal – apart from the 8 or so hours of planning across 3 different charts that I had done over the last week. Since the plan was in my mind, I had determined several ‘stop’ points where I would determine if I was going to go on or not. For example Newcastle, if it was a no-go then land at Eshott, Perth if the cairngorms were to messy then I’d land there. I had a very clear idea of my alternates across the whole route which is a very, very good idea. No panicking if I need to nip into a small field somewhere on the route, I had them all marked out.

 

So – out of Elstree in the blue sun and across Luton’s control zone – in time to see a British Midland jet taking holiday makers off somewhere nice.

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The up to the wash. Plenty of nice houses to look at along the way as well!!

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My view for the next day or so 🙂

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Just past the wash, in receipt of a LARS service. Can you see the small black dot on my port wing? That is a Eurofighter typhoon heading east on maneuvers just saying hello 🙂

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The weather was ok, but still not the greatest. Perhaps 3500 feet overcast with winds 15-20 knots.

Up north we still go and we meet Grimsby – the home of the uk’s largest port by tonnage. The world famous fish market is below with the dock tower in red.

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The clouds were amazing – the second time only I’ve seen this type of formation.. Not sure what It is actually called – for me it’s ‘god’s piles’

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And a uneventfull landing in Breighton. A lovely little airfield, it used to be a WWII base (like so many airfields in the uk). Before refueling I take a moment to pay my respects to everyone who lost their lives on both sides of the war.  A memorial to the crew of a Handley Page bomber that crashed nearby. The engine block is all that remains.

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Taking time for a pit stop and lunch, chatting with some of the pilots as they make their way in and around the area whilst I’m planning my next move. I gave the weather a couple of hours to settle (it was still pushing in from the north) The forecast was to improve, but the winds would stay around for a while yet. I decided to head north, making checks before the Yorkshire moors and just afterwords, with my go/no go point at Newcastle for Perth. I phoned up Perth and they said they would be delighted to see me, but advised the winds were now 22 knots gusting over 30, but straight down the runway. I promised to let them know if I was going to divert and filled up my aircraft.

 

Onwards now – up to York and the York Minster

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The Yorkshire moors were stunning in the light. So desolate but beautiful.. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A sailing ship just outside of Durham. You can see the wind at sea level with the white tips blowing quite strong..OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And onto Newcastle.  The Penshaw monument.. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And perhaps my favorite photo – the bridges of Newcastle, with the Tyne Bridge in pride of place

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Just north of the airport on the coast was this lovely lady as well.. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABefore I reached the airport I had decided to land at Eshott. The wind was to mucky, but more importantly the visibility was closing in, and it appeared to be a line of showers along the coast to the north. I dipped into the airfield (Newcastle was reporting 25 gusting 30 now!) and parked up on the grass. A quick phone call to the owner who was delighted to see me there and said there was no problem diverting into the airfield due to the weather. He even offered me a place to stay in the clubhouse overnight which was very kind. I passed him my thanks and said I noticed a hotel only a couple of minutes walk away where I would stay the night.

So – the eventual track for day 1 looks like like this. Not a bad journey I would say, getting this far north before the nice weather was a good step, and it would mean  my longer trip the next day would be far less eventful and far more enjoyable..

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wow. Easter surprise

I’ve been planning a trip off and on for the last couple of weeks, it’s never gotten further than the planning stages due to our inclement weather we experience in the UK. However I did book out an aircraft over Easter with the plan of doing ‘something’ other than eating chocolate and bunny burgers. The weather was spectacular all week, it was going to be a bit worse on Thursday but Friday was going to be a corker. So I booked off a day of work on Thursday, and planned a trip up to Scotland via Inverness, the great glens and back down the western edge of scotland.   This is just a taster – the rest is being copied and filed as I speak.. Plenty of pics to keep you interested and hopefully a couple of points that could help you!

 

Calais – La belle France

The weather is nice – exceptionally nice which is strange for the UK. The group then decided to head out to the coast and beyond, taking in the scenic route so many people endured or overcame to journey across the channel onto the mainland continent, and into France.

Our small party departed after numerous coffee and tea related stories, soaring into the topaz blue sky. The view was indeed very nice. Sometimes I am really grateful that I can go flying and experience a side of the country that few people have a chance to view. To see the rolling green countryside topped with clear blue sky on a sunny morning is one of the best feelings I am lucky to experience!

 

Journying out we pass one of our fellow planes – alongside and nicely in sight we slipped past and onto the coast.

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Dover castle and the port just beyond

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Mid channel – lots of traffic about as it’s one of the busiest sea routes in the world

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Calais port

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And Calais terminal

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Lunch was a typical french affair – steak frites for those in the know, and other options for everyone else. It’s a much more relaxed affair in France, as everyone seems to take their time over lunch, dinner and eating in general.

My chosen transport for the flight back. An Austrian made semi-glider which is just a dream to fly..

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Our flight plan – only 50 mins there (my commute to work is usually longer than this.. sheez..)

 

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Solaris – OCA exam delayed

There has just not been enought time to study properly for my OCA exam, so I’ve delayed it by a couple of weeks. I should have some spare time off over easter to help my revision, so I’ll be putting a couple of notes together based on my study notes I’ve  been taking.. If I don’t just go flying instead!!