Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sharks, Turtles and Stingrays..... from 300ft

Well where do I start with this posting.....
I suppose the beginning.
My Instrument rating instructor Chris, has his own business as well as teaching, he imports light sport airplane for selling on the mainland US.
I helped him out a while ago to shoot pictures for him for his brochure and website as start up costs are high and photographers are expensive beasts.
So I offered to do the pictures for free in return for getting checked out on his plane so that I could rent it in the future. Deal done and todays the day for flying.
He is based out of Tamiami Airport towards the south of Miami so I went down to his offices and I am enclosing a picture of the plane.
Its quite small and pretty light, but really well equipped with all of the latests computer wizardry. Tamiami airport, KTPM,  is pretty big with 3 runways and a ground controller who would be better off off doing horse racing commentary he can speak so quickly, so some serious work on the radio to use 4 different taxi ways/ intersections and runway crossings to get to the hold for runway 9L.
We took off to the East out over the bay area over the water until we were 6-7 miles out and over head some of the isolated florida keys.
First off we had some manouvers to get through: Power off stalls, Power on stalls, Steep turns, slow flight.
The stall were amazing, it didn't want to stall at all and the stall was barely noticeable, very smooth ride and no wings dropping, just a steady sink.
The slow flight surprised me, at 40kts we were able to hold altitude at 2000ft and put in slow turns, it was like we were floating.
With all of the boxes ticked for this part of the check ride Chris asked if I wanted to go see the sharks.
"WHAT ?" I exclaimed, "SHARKS"
He went onto explain that there is plenty of aquatic life around the Keys and with the really clear sunny day we had we could see right through the clear blue sea.
So Chris told me to take the plane down to 300ft over the water, to which I raised an eyebrow and it was time for fish spotting.
Leveling off at 300ft and soon enough with the pair of us looking out of the windows we were spotting schools (not sure if thats the correct collective) of Sharks dotted around the keys, then a few turtles breaking the surface of the ocean and lastly a giant, and I mean giant, the size of a ford fiesta giant, Sting ray gracefully swimming along oblivious to her observers 300ft above.
I have not had so much fun whilst flying a plane in my life. I am only sorry that due to the low lever, wave hugging flying I couldn't take pictures at the same time but I certainly feel like I have discovered a great reason as to why flying in southern Florida is so popular.
So after we had done out David Attenborough bit it was time to rejoin the real world back at Tamiami, 10 miles out and a few radio calls and we were back in the circuit with Lear Jets, King air twins, and a few other students. There wasn't one normal circuit as we had to slip in between planes on ILS approach, then go on super long extended down wind legs to join the queue, there was always a minimum of 4 aircraft in the queue ahead.
One great reason for being able to do the PPL at Limoges, being always able to use the Class D airport facilities but nice and quiet at the same time.
Landing the light sport is a new skill thats for sure.
In my pre flight briefing Chris had explained as much as it loves to float, so he said we were going to be doing flap-less landings and come in a a shallower angle, as with the flaps extended the plane tends to come in steep and slow and drop onto the runway, also any cross wind can pick you up and throw you on the grass. Flap-less it is then.
It was nice to be back flying with a stick rather than yoke so the aircraft feels more under control to me for the finer touches coming to land and I was pretty happy with how the 4 landings went and Chris was happy enough, one thing though, I came in a touch quick one of the, just 8-10kts and that lead to floating nearly halfway down the runway even with power off, so its important to nail the speeds in this light plane.
I have another hour and half to do to finish the check out on the plane and then I will be able to rent it myself and start building up these hours that I need to, to get to the magic 150 P1, pilot in command hours I need for my commercial license.
On Sunday I will be heading off to Daytona beach, to do my first compulsory study weeks for my theory work for my commercial pilots license, 8 hours of sitting in the classroom learning about the internal workings of piston and jet engines for 5 days.

I think I may spend some of it day dreaming about a rather large Stingray swimming around the Keys.....

And finally the Night Rating is done.....

How much fun was that.... ?
I got to travel over to Naples air centre on Tuesday night to finish up my Night qualification with Lawrence (my instructor).
In brief the night rating consists of 5 hours of total flying including doing a night navigation to another airport, various procedures and 2 hours of solo flight with 5 full stop landings and taxi backs at a towered airport.
Firstly I need to say that in Lawrence I have found a terrific instructor, really dedicated to flying and certainly not someone who is there clock watching. A really good guy to fly with and always there with some good advice and helpful hint or 3. A huge thank you to him for working into the small hours for me.
The flying itself was simply awesome, particularly the solo work, I loved it, up there at 3000ft alone with nothing but the stars and the moon for company, I would have happily stayed up there for hours, especially at its only $99 per hour instead of the 200 pounds in the UK.
The landings took a little getting used to, as you tend to use the runway lights for perspective instead of the broader horizon in the daytime, which meant I was coming in a little steep and tending to land a little heavy until Sue's voice (my PPL Instructor/Mentor in France) came back into my head from my PPL training, "look to the end of the runway and fly the runway" whilst on final approach; almost like the OB1 Kenobi Star Wars moment: "Use the Force Luke" and the problem was fixed, the force was with me.
The one problem with doing all the landings is you then have to taxi off the runway and taxi back to the start of the runway and go through pre take off once more, I think during my first hour I spent more time driving the plane around the airport taxiways than flying it.
The airspace around Naples Florida at night is unrestricted at and over the coastline with the small islands lit only by moonlight and the city lights are truly beautiful, I recommend getting the night rating done, it certainly gives some confidence at the same time as a real feeling of achievement.
I am off to get some flying done in Miami over the coming days so there should be a few more postings from there......

A pretty big week of flying with some centreline hopscotch.....

Hours flown this month(FEB): 33 Landings: 8 Countries visited: 5  Continents visited: 3  Quick iron of the shirt and in th...