Yesterday I had my first flight on OO-G83 - golf eight three
It was super intense and as amazing as you would expect.
The day started out foggy but the forecast was good as soon as the fog would clear. Driving to the aerodrome (EBZH) I came in and out of the fog. Out of the fog it was very sunny.
By the time I got to the aerodrome most fog banks had cleared. A fellow student (PPL) and his instructor were briefing their flight as well. My instructor opened the airfield and told us we were ready to fly.
I had been quite nervous, but in a good way.
First we logged into the computer to log the start of the scheduled flight. We also checked the aircrafts logbook to make sure the reading from the engine matches what was in the system. You are charged per minute the engine runs, so it's kind of important.
After we grabbed the documents of the aircraft and one of the headsets and walked over to the hangar.
At the hangar, I performed the outside checks, which we had already covered in a first meetup. In short, this check is:
- Open the hood of the engine
- Look for anything unusual in the engine
- Then check the three engine fluids: oil, coolant, gas
Oil check: the type of engine (Rotax 912 ULS) doesn't have oil under pressure. To check the oil level, one must turn the propeller (which is connected to the engine) until all oil is drained into a collector. Then one can check the engine level as you would in a car. Once the engine is started, the oil will be circulated through it.
Coolant: an overflow collector can be opened up, if there is water in there, there is sufficient engine coolant.
Fuel: one must "drain" a little bit of fuel in three places: both wings and in the engine. These drain points are at the lowest point, so any water in the fuel would collect there. When draining the water is removed from the fuel tanks. You drain it into a cup and then check if there is any water. Since water sinks in oil, it represents as clear bubbles in the yellow-ish fuel. If no water is found, and the fuel is clean, one can put it back into the fuel tanks.
After these checks, I closed the bonnet and ensured it was correctly fastened. I then proceeded with the walk around where the exterior of the aircraft is checked.
Starting at the propeller:
- Check the propeller and the screws on the propeller
- Check that the air intake filters are clean
- Check the Static port
- Check the wheels, especially any screws, the wheels take quite some load during landings
- Check for anything unusual
- At the wing, check if the ailerons can move freely
- Check if the pitot is clean
- At the tail, check if the elevator can move freely and it is well connected to the trim
- Check for anything unusual, check the other wing's aileron too
- Check the right static port
All was good, I noticed a small dent in the fuselage, but the instructor wasn't worried (I suppose it has been there for a while).
After that, we pulled the aircraft out of the hangar and positioned it for start-up. The instructor then gave me some information on where we were going to taxi and what we were going to do: fly around in the area between Hasselt, Genk and Sint Truiden to practice turning.
At that time, I went to my car to fetch my sunglasses, which were adviced by the instructor. I had my normal glasses with me as well, because you must always have a spare pair of glasses, if you wear glasses.
To start the engine we stepped inside and proceeded through the checklist, which the instructor had already provided me with.
I was a little hesitant starting the engine the first time, because, you know, I've never done that. But after making sure the propeller area was clear I fired it up.
The engine uses a choke, which helps a cold engine start by ensuring a richer fuel mixture. Starting the engine went smoothly, and after a couple of seconds it stopped "running rough", meaning we could turn off the choke.
After completing the start-up and waiting long enough for the oil to heat, I removed the chute pin (yes the aircraft has an all-saver parachute!) and released the parking brake. At this point, we started moving.
I was then instructed to increase the throttle a little and taxi to the holding point. Easier said than done, since you steer with your feet using the rudder pannels, which was more awkward than I expected. I also had the feeling we were driving a little fast. I was also not sure yet where to go exactly, since the field is mostly grass.
At the holding point we proceeded with the "run-up". There you check if all parameters are green: temperatures and pressures.
We then increase engine rpm to 4000 and perform a magneto check. There we disable one of the two magnetos, which must result in a small drop in rpm. We then do the same with the other. If the RPM for one of them doesn't drop when we turn it off, we know that it wasn't working to begin with. If that is the case: we do not fly. The magnetos provide a voltage to the spark-plugs to ignite the fuel in the combustion chamber of the engine. It's a big deal.
We then put the throttle back to idle (sounds simple). And set the flaps to "T/O" (Take Off), which means half-way.
We also set the trim to almost neutral.
We then lined up with the runway. At this point I was kind of assuming the instructor would take off and fly us to some place where I could start flying. But instead, we increased the throttle and I was told to keep it driving straight. Stressful but it worked. The instructor did do most of the controlling though, luckily ;)
Something I learned is that you don't control the speed of the aircraft via the throttle (much) but via the pitch (pointing the nose up and down). You have three things to do with the throttle:
- Full throttle
- Set it to 4500 rpm
All the rest is done using the pitch. For instance for take-off you lift the nose up and point it towards a cloud in the sky, maintaining a speed within the safe range for the flaps (white band on the speedometer).
When the flaps are up, keep the pitch but the speed will increase (full throttle).
At the desired altitude we "level off": bring the nose down to level flight, wait a little to gain speed then set the engine to 4500 rpm, using the throttle.
When descending, set the engine to idle and maintain a certain speed.
So anyway, back to the flight, the instructor did most of the take-off. Once we leveled off I was instructed on where to keep the nose of the aircraft relative to the horizon. When turning, I should keep s a steady bank but also keep the nose level.
We then proceeded to make a large number of turns. I tried my best to keep the nose level which demanded pretty much ALL my focus. I occasionally checked the engine RPM.
During level flight, you want to trim the pitch. This I constantly forgot to do. What it means is: if you release the stick check if the nose goes down or up. Trimming means adjusting the elevator so that in level flight the pitch stays level if you don't hold the stick. That way you don't always have to slightly pull or push to keep the nose level.
This is something I must practice.
The second thing that I found very difficult was the rudder, which you control with your feet. When making turns, you must make a "coordinated" turn. An indicator (the ball) shows you how coordinated your turn is. If it's not coordinated, your aircraft is flying sideways somewhat.
You can correct that using the rudder. So I tried to do that, but it's really sensitive and I had the feeling I was pushing the rudder too hard.
Additionally, I was super tense! Squeezing the stick, making it harder for the instructor to correct things. I tried to make myself relax but the high amount of focus made that difficult. I always went back into super tense mode.
But you would be, I guess, flying an airplane for the first time.
One thing I noticed is that I was usually losing a bit of height while turning. So I should keep my nose a little higher.
Eventually, after a lot of turning left and right. We flew back to the aerodrome. The instructor announced over the radio we were coming in for a touch-and-go. This is a landing immediatly followed by a take-off, without stopping.
Also here, I didn't expect to do much, but I was wrong.
To land, one must fly into the circuit of the airfield. It's at 1200 ft in this case, with right-hand turns. The instructor uses landmarks to know where to fly (over a hangar, turn after the railroad, ...).
To land, you first fly down-wind, then base, then final. Just before ending down-wind, I was instructed to set the throttle to idle, then maintain pitch until the speed dropped enough for the flaps to come out. And after this, I'm going to be honest, it gets a bit hazy on what we had to do first, turn in or set the flaps.
But anyway, at some point the engine was on idle and the flaps were out. Then we turn to the runway and keep the speed (by pitch) just below 100 km/h. Doing that would get us to the runway almost automatically.
To be honest, I had little or no idea what I was doing there, trying to keep the plane going to the runway. Many things I did wrong:
- I didn't pull the throttle back far enough - it wasn't fully idle!
- I looked at the beginning of the runway, I should look at the end
Eventually, we came down really late and quickly accelerated again for another take off. At this point I did a lot more flying for the take-off, but it was still hazy.
The instructor announced on the radio we'd come in for a full stop landing, meaning it was over. And after an hour of intense concentration, I was kind of happy.
The landing was still weird - I'd like to see a video of that - but we did get to the ground safely.
After taxi, getting some gas and cleaning the plane, we did a debriefing.
- I kept the bank during the turns constant
- I kept the nose reasonably level, although a little too low in general
Points to focus on:
- Turn in a little quicker (I'm too gentle)
- Be quicker with the throttle
- Pull the throttle to idle for real
- Be less tense
- Keep the nose a little higher to fly level
- Trim more frequently
Also, most of the time I had no idea where I was. Except when the instructor showed me some land-marks. Obviously this is because all my focus went to learning the basics.
I spent the rest of the day being overly excited about the whole thing. Looking back, it's so cool I got to fly around a cloud. Imagine that.
We flew exactly 1 hour. € 1.60 / minute = € 96, the instructor was another € 30.
Total € 126 for 1 actual real authentic official very first hour of flight.