The flying aspect was always set to be an experience in itself. We are going to be facing a lot of new procedure and experiencing situations that until now were nearly theory. So how did it go?
Firstly we had learnt a lot about various airspaces and how you deal with them from a VFR standpoint. Experience was another matter. It was a little intimidating dealing with the SOCAL controllers and their class C. It needn't have been. In reality they are extremely welcoming and helpful given the traffic they deal with. It seems the norm is that you are accepted into class C airspace. They work on the principle that they prefer to know what you are doing so acceptance is preferred as opposed to having an unidentified target flying around. The biggest problem we noted was finding the appropriate frequency but once that's sorted out it becomes easy.
I woke up after writing this blog and it dawned on me that the airspace system in the US is geniusly simple compared with our own. I know understand why some of my student had trouble understanding airspace. Why do we have CTZ, CTA, TMA and all that other crap. Call it what it is. Call it by its class. As it stands, I would say most Private pilots only recognise the need for a clearance and that's it. Wll that works for the most part but what about understanding what is going on, who is separated from who and what met minima apply. This helps understand where threats may exist. Hell I know guys in the airline today that don't know that they aren't separated from VFR traffic in certain airspace. In making it simple by calling airspace what it is, it makes this easier to understand. We don't need those British hangovers.
In fact, personally I'd love to see our CAA get scrapped and pay a fee to the FAA to use their system. Re register the aircraft with a N and move forward. Leave this preciousness behind. Of course they think they know better here but I'm fairly sure the Wright Brothers were Americans.
Flight following in the USA is far more of an offering than anything available in NZ. The closest would be controlled VFR but it's available in some pretty remote airspace both E and G. Our 'flight following' is really nothing close. In fact it's more like just filing a plan. Plan filing is fairly similar in both countries as is activation and termination. It just uses simpler terminology of Open and Close. The briefing on the other hand is night and day different. New Zealand used to provide similar services to the USA but now it's been whittled away to basically zilch. They are happy to take your money, in fact they demand that, but provide almost nothing in return. On the flip side, in the USA you get as much info as you want and it's all totally free. To be honest I don't see why the taxpayer should pay but the system sure is safer with so much information available. One of the benefits of population I guess.
Once enroute the services from flight watch are excellent. Our service is similar but has not a lot of information to give however the process is there.
Now that there are more benefits sneaking into the US system in the form of ADS-B and XM NEXRAD etc the US are streaking ahead in the safety and service stakes, while our system seems to be taking up a stance of making things more difficult and expensive. In effect legislating against freedom of aviation in order to achieve the perfect safety record when private flying is abolished.
We noted a huge difference in the quality of airfield too. There seemS to be an abundance of high quality, long, paved runways. It appears that the municipalities see benefit in having a quality runway to serve its people whether it be for recreation, commercial transport Or simply as a means of employment. The quality of the airfield was astonishing even if unattended. Here in NZ most small towns listen to minorities and close airfields in preference to maintaining them. Meanwhile Civil Aviation add excessive compliance cost structures to larger airfields for no real benefit other than absolving themselves of responsibility. These costs will obviously be passed down and eventually force private flying away. Another blow to any freedoms we once enjoyed in the name of being ICAO certified, whatever benefit that may pretend to be.
It certainly was a joy to experience aviation as we once enjoyed before the slippery slope of over regulation was cast apon us. Alas we are heading into the European experience of regulating private individuals away from flying. A real shame. Once it's gone, it's gone for good. I hope the guys involved, who are basically making names for themselves, recognise what it is they are actually doing. They are anything but heros.
I see all these wonderful services to aviation in the USA and I realise we in NZ need to move on past our expectation that the Government will provide for us. They've shown the aren't interested. Met service has hiked fees, Airways has too. It's obvious that these services will only get harder to obtain. I personally think we need to start being the masters of our own destiny. For weather services it would be great if flying establishments would see benefit to providing a quality weather system such as we saw at FBOs in the USA, for the good of all. And I don't mean let's run down to the local electronic shop and hook up some cheap rubbish to some software we wrote ourselves. I mean a QUALITY system that has AWIB capability as well as hooked to the Internet to a common website for all to use. The problem we have is nobody will want to pay. Everyone will bleat at the cost and therefor bleat that it isn't provided for them. It's the old 'the Goverment should be looking after me' mentality that is quickly ruining New Zealand. What a great system we could have if we took control to provide for ourselves and our children. Leave to idiots in the Goverment behind and show how things should be done.
Oops.. Slipping into a bit of a political statement,sorry. I'll move on.
It's always fun learning new things and also when you get to put things you know into practice.
I knew density altitude would be an issue. It's something you learn, or rather, get told about when you learn to fly. In NZ the highest airfield is around 1600 feet with a few exceptions in the form of mountain ice etc.
I appreciated that in real terms we knew nothing about it. It had been totally theory. A few people had said something along the lines of 'no brainer' but living in the environment, that was fine for them to say.
I was weary enough to put myself on a diet an lose 12kg or rather gain 30min fuel depending on which way you look at it. So we approached the altitudes with caution.
We learnt a LOT and it was great having Duane around to pass on advise. Sure, the plane used a lot of runway and the engine only pulled about 20″ at higher DAs but there was so much more. For instance, after takeoff you can forget about the black knob. Just leave it all the way in. On approach don't use full flap. You need power to overcome the drag and power is one thing you don't got! We found this out the hard way. Landing at Santa Fe once we had full flap we had the black knob a long way in and a lot of noise coming out the front!
One instructor Darryn chatted to at Longmont said that a 172 is a 2 seat aircraft up there. In the peak heat of the day they knock off the training since the aircraft just don't perform.
We also noted the prop would slightly overspeed on takeoff. Just not enough to bite against on the full fine stop I guess.
Takeoff is a really gentle affair. You really need to feel what the aircraft wants to do. Ham fisted yanking the plane into the air would only end in tears. We would always set a slight nose high attitude and let the aeroplane run on the mains until it gently lifted of. We then held it in ground effect until we had a more comfortable energy state before gently climbing away.
The climbs were another consideration. Temperatures had to be watched like a hawk. You can pretty much forget best rate of climb. That would cook the cylinders lickerty split. I settled on around 120 indicated for climb. It kept a good airflow, had a good view over the snout and managed the temperatures well enough. The rate of climb dropped off up high but that was the least of our problems.
Having the DA displayed on the PFD was a handy thing. We did note that regularly while cruising at 8500' the DA was around 10500' and the highest we saw it was around 12500' when we had a short stint at 10500' going into Jackson Hole. It was quite and experience.
Then there was starting and finding the right mixture for takeoff. You can forget full rich. We went days with it never being full rich.
Vapour locking at the hot and high altitudes meant that we needed different starting procedures if we didn't want to flatten the battery. Fortunately Duane helped out there. Certainly his methods worked a treat and explained the trouble we had at Santa Fe when we tried to taxi from the pump to the park with a hot engine.
I'd heard of vapour lock before and in hindsight probably have had a minor version of it maybe twice ever before. Here, it's every time a coconut so you need to do things right.
I learnt more about flying light planes over the past three weeks than I have in a long time.
Other things that were different that we enjoyed immensely were the equipment and services available for flight planning. Our iPads came into a world of their own. We used an app called Foreflight for planning and use throughout flight for aviation data. What an amazing piece of software. It's no good at home as the data doesn't exist for it to be useful. The benefit of population again but I could certainly get used to it. It has to make flyin much safer. I still wonder how we would have managed without it. We certainly would have needed to spend a lot more time flight planning. Even with a computer there would have been a lot more references to various websites. Foreflight has it all.
Along with Forefilght, my aircraft mounted EFIS had a lot more functionality. Safe taxi was excellent and we used it regularly. AOPA data and internal charts all made it a lot more functional. Jeppesen provide much more data and are interested in the business. NZ just doesn't represent a significant market and gets treated appropriately.
Another aspect that was new, FBOs or Fixed Base Operators. It's still a bit of a mystery and I don't know how they make money but they are a business on the airfield that does everything and I mean EVERYTHING for you. They will guide you into the park, greet you, fuel and oil your plane, tie it down. You can ring in advance and they will book you accommodation and a rental car. Some have crew cars that are basically free to use for a short time if all you want is to run into town for lunch. Just fill it up before returning it. One place we went to gave us the crew car for the night. No paperwork, nothing, just jump in and go.
If you have a car booked, some will have the car at your plane with the trunk open for for bags before you get out of the plane. The service really is amazing.
They have nice offices, some not little, with free wifi, a flight planning computer for everyone's use, toilets, lounges, TV. Vending machines, food, you name it. They are a real treat. One gave us free bottles of water. One gave us free hangarage for the night and drove us into town to our hotel.
I don't know how they make a buck. A small tip ain't gunna do it but boy I wish we had them here.
All this stuff has given me ideas of things I want to do over the next few years. I guess we will see what I achieve.
Resume normal service….
The flying was fun, the services were outstanding. Again the benefit of population but also of attitude. And I guess that's the key. In the USA they don't suffer tall poppy syndrome, rather they appreciate success.
I really loved the flying and the learning. It's aviation as it should be. Sure there were a few TSA hassles but it didn't stop us from enjoying every other bit the aviation system had to offer. Truely outstanding.