Saturday, April 14, 2007

An ordinary flight

Today was the day that reminded me why I like flying so much. Every minute of the flight was a sheer joy, even the landings...
Woke up to the brightest sun in the last few weeks pouring through the windows. Unfortunately, my flight was not till afternoon by which time, the forecast indicated clouds. I packed my parachute, but, thinking that in case ceilings got too low I may make it a photo flight, packed my camera as well.

My drive took me near CYKZ on a way to my little airstrip, so I pulled my handheld radio and set it up to YKZ's ATIS. The weather observation indicated the 5 kts wind from 280, which was almost in line with Rwy 26 at the little airport and visibility of 15 sm. This was very good news as it meant Wx was good for flying. However, it also indicated ceilings at 3,600 ft which was lower that my personal acro limits. 4,ooo ft is my personal minimum and i would only practice figures i am good at with ceilings that low.

Arriving at the field, i signed up for the plane and my instructor helped me refuel it. We dipped the tanks again, so that Ii knew exactly what I had - which was good as the fuel gauges read "empty" on the left and "full" on the right for the while flight.

Walk around and checklist completed, I did the run up (no problems this time) and looked at the windsock one last time - it was somewhat limp and still favored Rwy 26. I made the required announcements and took off. Earlier, I decided to do a few circuits to get some landing practice in. First one was a bit bouncy, second one was fine, except I had to drag the plane in with a power- came in a bit too low. Few circuits later, I noticed that the smoke rising from a place near short final indicated direct x-wind to the Rwy, so paid more attention to my x-wind inputs. My final landing before departing the circuit was floaty with place taking forever to settle. As I added power and started my climb, one look at the windsock as I passed it explained the floating - the wind shifted more than 90 degrees in the 30 mins that I was in the circuit and now favored the opposite Rwy. I made a mental note the check the sock on a way back.

Flying North and climbing away from circuit altitude, I set up my camera. By then it was late afternoon and the light under the clouds was not the best, so I had to make some adjustments to the camera settings. My plan was to fly around Lake Simcoe and take picture of the local shore access scuba diving spots to see if they were clear of the ice yet. I also wanted to see if the ice had any interesting patterns on it like the ones that form when it first freezes.

Surprisingly, there was very little traffic in the area that is typically busy with students. I only saw one plane and had the whole area to myself afterwards. Making my way to the first diving spot (Big Bay Point), I watched the battle of water and ice. Ice was definitely loosing this time, cracking and changing colors as it thinned out to nothing. Open water close to shore had an unreal greenish teal color that contrasted sharply with occasional whitish ice floats.

Flying over Big Bay Point and then along the south shore of the Kemperfield Bay towards the City of Barrie, I observed the diving spots to be in clear water, however, the bay still under one solid sheet of ice. By then, the sun was setting lower and occasionally shined from under the clouds, reflecting on the water. Once in a while I could see a piece of blue sky through the clouds. The air was relatively smooth, radio quiet and i felt really peaceful and relaxed. Alas, it could not last forever and soon it was time to turn home.

Coming to the home airport, I flew across the field to observe the windsock and discovered that wind picked up and shifted to about 60 degree x-wind to the opposite Rwy - 08. I crossed the field yet again and joined the downwind to Rwy 8 for an uneventful landing.

It was a very good day. And the pictures turned out OK as well.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


The weather decided to play nice today after almost two weeks of endless low ceilings, snow, rain, more snow and wind to top it all off. My solo night currency was expiring tomorrow, so I decided to take an opportunity and go up for a night flight.

Came in and asked for the same plane I had on my last night flight – it was snagged. The choices remaining were the plane that game me radio problems few weeks ago, the plane that reportedly had an unreliable engine and VLD, my namesake plane that I have not flown in a while. I picked VLD even though I never flown it at night.

Checking the journey log, I discovered a radio snag, on both radios and a standard “can not replicate the defect” note from AME. However, I was told that the plane was up all day today and no one reported any issues. So VLD it was.

Did my walk-around started the plane and did a run up facing into the wind – plane seemed to run a bit rough, so paid attention to mag check which it passed with flying colors. With that done, called Ground and tried to taxi. “Tried” being the key word. Plane refused to go straight and wanted to go right. After some efforts, I decided that a) I certainly was not going to fly that plane today and b) I will try to put it back into empty parking spot. Holding the right brake, I turned it around so that I was facing that empty parking spot and then holding the left brake tried to move straight. Plane was sluggish and then suddenly lurched straight and then left (as I was still holding the left brake when that happened). The wingtip came in contact with another plane wingtip at which point I had both feet on the brakes and hand pulling the mixture.

I exited the plane, shut it down and went back to dispatch to snag two planes, one with the plastic wingtip cover broken and the other with some unclear brake issue (and yes, parking brake was off when I checked). It was a snag day at school – one more plane returned from a trip and was entered on a snag list. And my night currency now expired. I must be now due for some real nice acro flight in Citabria.