Friday, 19 July 2013

Lesson Number 12 - Circuit Bashing

Today, conditions were perfect for a bitta' circuit bashing - High cloud, excellent visibility and low wind!

I arrived at the flying club at around 15:35hrs with my dad and we headed on in to the club restaurant 'Cloud Nine' where my dad ordered a coffee, we then proceeded to outside to one of the several picnic tables to wait for my instructor Michael to arrive in from a student flight.

Outdoor Siting Area at the Ulster Flying Club

It wasn't long until G-UFCL was taxiing on the apron to refuel for it's next flight. My dad and I waited about 5 minutes before going in to see him -just to give him some time to fill out his paperwork.
We headed in and got speaking to Michael, to start with, my general training so far, if I had my medical done, what exams I'd need to go solo, etc. I'd explained that I haven't got my medical done yet, or my first exam, but that I would be getting them both done shortly so that I can go solo in December when I turn 16.


G-UFCL was parked up on the apron now, refuelled and ready to go for it's next flight, so I headed out to the aircraft carried out my checks to make sure everything was in order and ready to go, then I proceeded to get in to the aircraft, bring my seat to the right position, harnesses on, and I begun my internal checks awaiting Michael to arrival, which he did, just before I was ready to carry out my 'Pre-Engine Start Checks'. He got in, fixed his seat up, got his harnesses on, and awaited me to finish my checks, making sure I was doing it all right, we put on our headsets, turned our avionics on, only to realise my headset wasn't working, luckily there was a spare in the back!

Me: "Newtownards Radio, Scrabo 68 requesting airfield information and radio check"

Control: "Scrabo 68, Readability 5, runway 22 in use, QNH 1024"

Me: "Readability 5, runway 22 in use, QNH 1024, Scrabo 68"

Me: "Scrabo 68, taxiing to runway 22 hold"

We had a Cessna 172 in front so I slowed the aircraft and pointed it into the wind behind the aircraft first in line and carried out the 'Pre Take-Off Checks"

With the Cessna 172 away, I released the parking break and slowly taxied to runway 22 threshold.

"Scrabo 68, ready for departure, lining up runway 22"

Pushed throttle to full after lining up with the centerline;

"Scrabo 68, taking off runway 22"

And away we went. After hitting 50 knots, I began to pull back on the yoke and we began our climb, I used the compass to make sure my heading was 220 degrees and that I wasn't drifting of course. 

Upon reaching 300ft, I put the flaps up, continuing to climb at about 65/70 knots, reaching 500ft I began a 15 degree turn to the left until we were heading 310 degrees (An exact 90 degree turn to the left) and we had the runway directly adjacent to our left, still climbing to 1000ft, I lowered the nose, let the speed build and then brought the RPM down to about 19000 to keep our speed at about 85/90 knots, when Michael made a radio call to the ground asking one of the firemen to take my dad down to the side of the runway to get some pictures/videos! We were now flying directly parallel to runway 04 heading 040 degrees, I waited until we passed the 04 marker then made the radio call that we were downwind for runway 22:
"Scrabo 68, downwind runway 22"

I then started my downwind checks:

Fuel - Right Tank
Mixture - Rich
Altitude - 1000
Engine T&Ps - All in the green
Canopy - Secure

Etc, etc, etc!

Courtesy of Matthew Cooper 

While carrying out my checks, I let the aircraft climb to about 1100ft, so I trimmed it out, and continued heading 040. We passed the runway 22 markers and Michael told me that I should begin my turn on to base when the threshold of 22 was 45 degrees (Roughly) from the back of the wing. 
When I thought it was about right, I began our turn onto base at 30 degrees until I was heading 130 degrees, I waited until our speed was under 90, took our first stage of flaps and slowly took away all of our power, and pulled the carb heat to cold, holding the nose at 1000ft until the speed dropped to about 65/70 knots, and began descending, I turned onto finals (220 degrees) at about 750ft and kept the descent going at 65knots, making the radio call:

"Scrabo 68, finals for runway 22"

The speed was in the 'White Ark' so I took full flaps and at 300ft I turned the carb head to warm and carried out some last minute checks such us undercarriage down, speed right, good height, harnesses secure, etc. When I was looking straight ahead at the runway, all I could see was my dad and the fireman running to the side of the runway to get pictures, it was funnier than ya think! At about 100ft, I kept the descent going, it wasn't until about 20ft of the ground that I centralised the control column, flying level over the runway and then slightly flaring the aircraft for touchdown, and of course my dad and one of the firemen were standing at the side of the runway to get pictures/videos (A rare opportunity!) Michael told me to look at the camera and 'Cheese', and I did so... Flaps up to take off, and throttle to full - Away we went for another circuit.  

We did that exact same as last time, everything was fine, speeds right, height fine, I was actually quite impressed with myself! When we turned onto finals again, I could still see my dad and the fireman standing by the side of the runway so I wanted to make this s good landing, I was a bit high this time so when we landed we didn't really have much time to 'cheese and smile' flaps up to T/O again and away we went. 

The third time was again, good, infact pretty good if you ask me, and I had the aircraft under control, okay, perhaps a mistake or two, but it was all rectified before it was serious this time when we landed, my dad and the fireman had left, but upon landing, I spotted a fox on the runway, luckily we didn't hit it, and as we passed, it just stood there and watched us go by, Michael reported it to the airfield manager incase it was on the runway again. 

During the first three circuits, Michael did prompt me through it, just to make sure I knew what I was doing and that I didn't make a complete muck up of the whole exercise, from the third circuit onward he told me he was going to keep silent and not say anything, and to be quite honest, I felt as if I was only ever getting better, less mistakes, feeling more in control, taking all my training into account and flying the aircraft and not letting it fly me - Personally, I think I done pretty well, and Michael even said my flying was perfect and that my circuits were great, which is always a good thing to hear as well as a personal boost. 

So, after the fourth circuit, I continued to do another two, everything was fine really, my only thing that needs more practise is my touchdowns... I can get the aircraft down okay, but I could just make it a bit more streamlined on the touchdown, by that I mean, get the aircraft to a few feet of the runway, then take full power away and flare it. Instead, I was getting it low enough, but kinda rushing the actual touchdown stage. I think it's something every pilot has had to learn upon, and it's my time to learn it - Practise makes perfect, honestly it does, by my sixth circuit, I had almost got it, not got it, but almost!

Michael, after my last circuit, done a very short 'circuit', at about 300ft and demonstrated the 'perfect touchdown', it looks fairly easy, but it does take some practice and that I'm not afraid to admit - But I'm certainly getting there!

So, after today's lesson lasting exactly an hour (1.0) combined with my previous circuit experience, I work it out that I have 1 hour and 54 minutes, circuit time under my belt (1.9) not bad!

Looking forward to my next lesson already, but more to it, my solo in December which I'm eagerly awaiting!

Thanks for reading and get in touch if you have any questions:

Twitter: @JakeLewis23

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Q&A w/Simon Burnham British Pilot Flying in South Africa

When I first begun training to become a pilot to now, there have always been certain motivational people who inspire me to go further. Even just hearing their stories or seeing their pictures is enough. 

Simon is one of those people - A British Pilot from Devon flying in South Africa, ex Dispatcher. Surfer & photographer and all round good chap with a real passion for aviation.

I asked Simon if he'd be interested in doing a Q&A session with me for this blog, just so I can get to know him more, but also for those who don't know him can get to know him more. 

Here it is - Meet Simon Burnham:

Simon with a Cessna 208 Caravan

Where did you're love of aviation begin Simon?

My first love was flying to Spain to visit my grandparents when I was around 9. I remember it to this day - A British Airways B757 and those were the days when you were allowed to go on the flight deck. I just remember saying to myself this is what I want to do, and from that day, I was a real aviation geek.

BA 757 - Similar to what Simon flew on
After you later realised you wanted to become a pilot, what steps did you take to reach that goal? 

First steps of course was nagging my parents to fund my PPL when I left school, when I started flying it was not so expensive as it is now we used to get a VAT return on all flying back then, I also managed to get a career loan sorted to pay part of my flying. I started flying soon as I left school so I did not do 6th form or University so I struggled with the exams.


Do you still remember your first ever flying lesson? 

It was on my 15th birthday remember it well on a Cessna 152 at then Plymouth Flying School on G-WACT (I think).

G-WACT - The aircraft Simon had his first lesson on
Once you completed you're PPL in the UK - What did you do next?

When I did finish my PPL in 2000 I went to South Africa to do some hour building, instead of going home I ended up staying and started my Cessna Caravan Rating. At this time I did not get a JAA ATPL as I was flying in South Africa. I stayed there until 2002. When I came home I could not afford to fly in the UK so ended up working in dispatch at Exeter Airport to fund my ATPLs.

Exeter Airport - Where Simon worked as dispatch to fund his ATPLs
Tell us about your first solo flight:

Long time ago now but all I remember is that I was not expecting it, we landed then the instructor just said okay,  you're alone next... What I do remember was sounds in the aircraft you have not heard before because you are alone now and there's no one to speak to.

So you got your PPL and ATPL - Then what?

I would recommend anyone in the UK to come fly in Africa in general come get your conversion it's not a mission - 3 exams and a flight test - What I'm currently doing. Come get some real flying experience under your belt, what's wonderful with this place is that you can be flying into a 5 Star Safari Lodge that most people pay big bucks for and you're doing it on a daily bases!

Example of a Safari Lodge in South Africa
What's you're experience of living in Africa involved?

The experience has been great, yeah, it has it's downfalls - The crime is one of them but the British media do like to hype it up a little, but other than that everything is very professional... The aircraft are kept up to scratch, fantastic airfields but what is a difference in the summer time you get massive thunder storms that you spend the day flying around and it can get very scary!

A typical example of what the storms are like in S.A
So of all the aircraft you've flown in you're lifetime, which is your favourite and why?

Of course I am going to say the Cessna Caravan what a machine! It's like flying a Cessna 152 on drugs. That's now but I will be flying the King Air 1900 and 200 soon so I might change my mind.

King Air 1900

Once you compete your conversion, what do you intend to do next?

I will be heading up to North Africa for a year to get more Multi-Time on my licence. Plenty of work in some really dodgy parts of Africa but if you love flying you go where the work is.

The North African Region which Simon speaks of

What is you're ultimate goal to achieve in aviation in your life time?

Of course to come home and have a stable job with an airline, I do love flying in South Africa but I also love England and to work for an airline.

Virginia Airport, Durban, where Simon is currently flying

And finally, what is you're advice for aspiring pilots out there?

First off, have passion in what your doing. Look around at every school before you choose, ask other pilots what they think. I would strongly tell young pilots to become an instructor or come here to Africa to do some flying before they even attempt to go to the airlines and pay a lot for a conversion. It looks better on your CV, also maybe look for work in an airport part time just to know the workings of an airport.

Which is it?

Thank you to Simon for giving up his time to do a Q&A session with me. I find his story intriguing and very interesting, not everyone gets to experience flying in South Africa, but Simon does.

If you have any questions for Simon, drop a comment below this article or if you're on twitter send him a tweet: @PilotSimon208

Thanks again, 

And remember come back tomorrow for yet again another blog post!

Lesson Number 11 - Stalling!

Just before I start writing my post about stalling, I feel now is a good time to tell you about this weekends bumper blog posting: 

Today: 1. Lesson Number 11 - Stalling 2. Q&A w/Pilot Simon Burnham - British Pilot flying in South Africa
Tomorrow: Lesson Number 12 - Circuit Bashing

Sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride!


There's one thing that I've yet to cover in my PPL course so far - Stalling. 

To be honest with you, I did feel a notch nervous and anxious about this lesson. I have been demonstrated a stall before, and there was a wing drop, it felt pretty weird but kinda cool in hindsight, however when I think about doing a stall, as in, me, actually conducting the stall... I got nervous.

The weather was fine, it was a nice afternoon, little wind and high cloud, perfect for stalling, so we got on with it. My instructor for today was Gary or Kiwi as he's more commonly referred to on this blog, he set me off to check the aircraft out and to make sure everything was good to go.

Tecnam P2002JF - G-UFCL
It wasn't long until he was out, and off we went using runway 15 - we headed straight out over the peninsula towards Bishopscourt, maintaining a climb at about 70 knots and also contacting Belfast Approach:

Courtesy of Matthew Cooper - Ards Peninsula  
Me: "Scrabo 61, Tecnam just departed Newtownards, 2 persons on board, operating over the Ards Peninsula, not above 2000ft and request a basic service"

Belfast Approch: "Scrabo 61, operate not above 2000ft, VFR, remain outside controlled airspace, QNH 1023 and basic service report complete"

Me: "Not above 2000ft, VFR, remaining outside controlled airspace, QNH 1023, basic service, wilco, scrabo 61"

When we were nearing 2000ft, I made a radio call to request at least 3000ft to carry out stalling exercises, they approved of the request and we continued our climb to 3000ft still heading towards Bishopscourt.

Taxiing to the Apron
During the climb, Kiwi explained to me how to carry out the stall, he explained that at first we would be doing slow flight, then taking away all the engine power, holding the nose up, waiting for the stall warning and correcting it - that's all there is to it!

Diagram showing how Slow Flight is maintained
To start with we done a flap-less stall, pulled out the carb heat, removed the engine power, held the nose up, waited for the stall warning and when I heard it, I pushed the carb heat in, and put throttle to full to silence the warning with a loss of about 50/100ft.

After the successful first attempt at correcting a stall, Kiwi got me to repeat the exercise two more times without any mistakes. 

Time to change a few things around; We took first stage of flap and tried the same exercise. We noticed this time that the aircraft stalls later than without flaps. 

Diagram showing indicators on an Airspeed Gauge 
In general, I completed this part of the exercise with no problems again and kiwi was happy that I understood what to do when the stall warning goes off so we turned the aircraft around so that we were flying back towards Newtownards. 

Kiwi informed me that we would join via the overhead for runway 15, a new experience to me which meant flying directly over the standard circuit at a higher altitude then descending so that we could join the standard circuit after joining via the over head, everything was all okay at this point until short final when we realised we were too high for the small runway so we done a go around and give it another go, everything seemed better this time around, I think primarily because it was at standard circuit altitude instead of joining the overhead which was new to me, but worthwhile, this time we had the right speed and altitude and I made a good landing, after landing, we taxied back to the apron, as you do, and done a quick de-brief.

Embedded image permalink
Ulster Fly-in - 14/07/13
Kiwi told me that my flying was great, and that stalling was complete so we can go ahead and start circuits, which I quite like doing!

All in all, a good days flying done and I look forward to my next lesson. 

Thanks for reading and get in touch if you have any questions:

Twitter: @JakeLewis23

Or by commenting below!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

When the world leaders came to town...

Northern Ireland - An iconic country in terms of how far it has come in the past few decades played host to the 2013 G8 Summit which was held on the 17th and 18th of June at the Lough Erne resort in Fermanagh.

Weeks before the much anticipated event for Aviation Enthusiasts, I and a few friends from an online Aviation Forum localized to Ireland ( whom I had never met until the summit, got in touch with the PSNI, more commonly known as the Police Service of Northern Ireland regarding the possibility of being able to gain entry into Belfast International Airport's highly secured perimeter during the G8 summit to:

 1. See the Delegates aircraft arriving at the airport ahead of the summit.
 2. And also get pictures of the aircraft arriving - After all, we are aviation lovers!

At first, we thought we would really be pushing our luck in the sense that, the likelihood that we would even get a reply from PSNI would be very slim...

A few weeks on from the messages being sent - We got replies. Replies telling us to get in touch with Cons. R. Taylor of the PSNI who would look into the proposal. Both surprised and excited we all got in touch with the officer who then proceeded to organize a meeting for us all to gather to discuss what we wanted to get from the summit in terms of Aviation Spotting. 

The meeting was hailed a success by all who attended and within a few weeks, special passes had been issued to only a select handful of people which allowed them to get into two locations with no problems as long as they had the pass. 

Location one was Killead Parish Church located just to the side of the approach lights for runway 25 at Belfast International and Location two was at the other end of the runway, runway 17, and it was simply a car park. See picture below:

After weeks of waiting, the 15th of June arrived - The big arrival expected today was the Japanese B747 among others, there were also C-17s, Merlin helicopters, Chinooks... but it was primarily the 747 that those with the passes, were going to the airport to see.


It was expected to arrive in the evening, but no one had a precise time, therefore, I, also wanting to be places early, headed up to the airport at about 14:00hrs. The wind was coming from the east, making runway 17, where location 1 is situated - In use. So, that's were I headed for.

To my amazement, I wasn't the first person there! I showed my pass, entered the car park, and set up my kit, I was then approached by a police officer who, by no coincidence, was enthusiastic about aviation too, we had a lengthy conversation about all things aviation. Shortly after the officer left and got back to his duties, I was approached by a few guys who had just pulled up in their cars, one of them had the whole radar system and ATC radio going in his car, the other was a journalist (Well so he said) who was scottish, and another guy, who was local-ish, Declan. We got into a conversation, yet again about aviation and the summit in particular, before getting word that the runway had changed, so, as you can probably guess, we headed in a small motercade for the other side of the runway. We arrived there, and a few other members whom I'd met at the police meeting, but also from the online forum were there already. We got talking and as the time went by, more and more of the members, who had obtained passed began to arrive, all in all, there was about 25 of us there in the car park at the church, location one - Waiting for the Japanese to arrive. It then sprung to our
attention that David Cameron, should in theory, be in Northern Ireland to welcome the delegates, as at the end of the day, it's him who's holding the summit.

After having word that his BAe 146 had took off from London heading North West towards Northern Ireland we began preparing for his arrival. He arrived at about 16:00hrs.

Once he arrived, it was apparent that the Japanese were near... Oh the excitement!

The 747 was plotting on FlightRadar24 so we knew where he was - At around 9:15 the B747 was just off the eastern coast of Northern Ireland, now I began to get really excited, this would be my first B747 sighting - And what a beautiful sighting it was. 

Once it touched down on runway 25, I finished up the conversation between myself, Michael, James, Ian, Paul, John, Declan and the others and we began packing our kit away for the night, for an early start to the 17th of June, the first day of the Summit. Obama was due in at 06:30hrs and for convenience, I booked in to the local B&B with my dad - Who I'm still training to become an aviation spotter.

It was evident that the police presence around the airport perimeter was heavy, with police checkpoints being carried out on every road leading to the airport. I don't think at any point, I was in a position where I couldn't see any police officers - It really was that tight.

My dad and I woke up at the crack of dawn, had a quick wash and cup of tea and out of the B&B we went, the weather was terrible unfortunately, but there was no stopping me. The first question of the day was, which runway was in use, my dad and I headed straight for location one, at Killead Parish Church... Turns out our guess was right, most of us, from the previous evening had already arrived and the conversation resumed in anticipation for Obama and the other delegates arrivals.

Shortly after 08:20 - Air Force One was in sight, this was it, the one we'd all been waiting for... It was B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L!


After Obama's arrival, in the distance, there was a sighting of Marine One and Two surrounded by Merlins, heading towards the Center of Belfast where Obama had a planned speech at the Waterfront Hall.

The runway had changed to runway 17, so we all scrambled to the second location in a matter of minutes to catch the other delegates arrive, inc. Angela Merkel, Stephen Harper, Francois Hollande, Enrico Letto, Vladimir Putin.

Spotters at Belfast International aren't really treated with anything special, just a steady flow of easyJet, and Thomas Cook aircraft, so when we knew that we would see the German A340, Canadian A310, Russian IL-96 we had reason to be excited, they arrived at intervals of about an hour each into Aldergrove until about 16:30hrs when they had all arrived. We'd been up from 06:00hrs in the morning spotting - It was time to call it a day and to say goodbye to new faces and friends until next time. (If there ever is a next time!)

Hold up! - That's not all, because I love avaiton so much, I went back to the airport on Tuesday the 18th June to catch the delegates departing... But guess what? We missed Air Force One departing; We were at the wrong runway! Amateur mistake of a spotter, not really like to us, but on the plus side we saw the Russians leaving, which we wouldn't have seen if we went to the other runway, all in all it was an amazing experience for anyone interested in aviation. 


I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every member of the online forum who attended over the summit for making it what it was, I would like to thank the PSNI and Cons. R. Taylor in particular for all his hard work in getting the passes sorted out for us and also the Minister of Killead Parish Church for granting us access into the church grounds.

I had a great few days at the airport, and it has opened my eyes to the world of aviation and spotters. 

Thanks for reading, 

I hope you enjoyed!