Sunday, 29 September 2013

Exams & Endorsements...

By rights, I should have been horribly hung over today, and given that the weather forecast was much less than spectacular I didn't really have much hope of it being a productive day.  I should know better.  Last night we celebrated the club Oktoberfest - there was much drinking of German beer, followed by much drinking of Schnapps, accompanied by a hearty meal of bratwurst, pretzels and sauerkraut.  We all had a great night that continued well into the morning - I quit at 1am and climbed into my sleeping bag dreading how my head would feel in the morning.  Read on for more...

Crawling out of bed in the morning, I was greeted by the sound of gusting wind and rain on the roof above my bed in the parachute hut.  I felt a bit fuzzy in the head but had none of the headache or nausea associated with a raging hangover.  I actually felt pretty good.  Must've been really good Schnapps...

A hot shower had me feeling more alive, and once I'd gotten the coffee on and taken a precautionary painkiller, the day was beginning to look a little better.  The rain had stopped and the clouds were breaking up, although the breeze was still quite gusty.  One by one, other members began to drift in for breakfast, in varying states of alertness.  It seems I fared better than most.  Charlie Deal nabbed me straight away and made good on his promise to run through my Daily Inspector's certification exam, so after a brief bit of oral quizzing, he headed off to set up a glider for me to inspect.

The oral exam was mostly around the process to follow when conducting a DI, along with various questions about types of faults that may be found, and which types of faults would ground the glider. My endorsement would initially be for composite gliders, I'll need to get additional endorsements for metal and timber gliders later on. The practical exam, however, was a real test. Charlie had pulled the PW-6 out and "booby-trapped" it with a number of faults that would require correction before flying was permitted. He'd made a checklist of the faults he introduced, and would compare them against my list after I'd finished the DI test. Some of the faults were easily detected - such as the wrong logbook being in the cockpit, the harness that was incorrectly threaded, or the pitot pressure line not being attached to the airspeed indicator. Others were more subtle, like the tiny screwdriver that was tucked away under the rudder pedal mechanism where it could jam the controls, or the partially connected aileron linkage behind the cockpit. One was downright evil - I'm happy to say that I picked it even though he fully expected me to miss it on my first go and have to do the exam again.  The PW-6 has a sprung retention clip on the pin that secures the elevator pushrod to the elevator horn, the clip was just out of safety and the pin slightly out... not enough to be obvious, but enough to potentially work loose. I think I'm lucky that another instructor had shown me that exact potential problem once before and I was checking for it. So, I passed my exam and having done several DI's with Charlie he signed off my endorsement!

I was on the roster as the Duty Pilot for the day, a step up from my previous role as Logkeeper, so I was responsible for getting the meteorological info together and conducting the daily briefing.  I dutifully went online and printed out the forecast - pretty bleak - but the briefing was a largely quiet one.  Not many people flying today, the weather wasn't great and there was only one AEF booked.  Besides myself, there were only two other post-solo members looking to fly, so allocating gliders was easy.  Jorge only wanted to do a couple of instructional flights with Dave Ellett, and Philipp and I settled on sharing one of the Jantar's - VH-GEE this time, for some short solo flights.

EE is a little different to our other Jantar, IZS.  It is a little newer, and has been modified with winglets.  The instrumentation is also a little more modern and includes a very flash LX electronic vario/glide computer.  I did the DI on it and gave it a good clean before towing it out to the airstrip.

The AEF passenger arrived nice and early, so we had him up and flying by 11:30am, so I had to scramble to get myself ready for an immediate launch in the Jantar.  I'd learned my lesson on getting set up in the cockpit last time, and it was a much easier process to get the seat in the proper position and myself comfortably into the cockpit.  After a tow to 2,000' I headed off north a bit and found a reasonable thermal to play around in.  It wasn't strong, but I got a couple of thousand feet out of it, and it was enough to let me get a grip on the handling differences between EE and IZS.  This newer Jantar was a much better thermaller, the winglets really helped it in the thermal with a lower tendency to slip while banked.  I'm told that the winglets incur a slight glide performance penalty though, so EE is better for thermalling and IZS has a better straight line glide ratio.  After about 45 minutes of flight, I was back down to circuit height and it was time to land.  I managed to avoid the horrible ballooning flare I'd performed last time out, and landed much more professionally.

While I was up, Jorge had already done his first instructional flight with Dave, and upon landing Dave asked me if I wanted to knock off my rear seat endorsement.  I happily agreed and handed EE over to Philipp so he could fly.  I did two short rear seat flights with Dave, one to 2,000' with a short bit of thermalling and the other just a 1,000' launch and circuit.  On the second flight, Dave had me make a spot landing, directing me to make my touchdown on the runway numbers and to finish my ground roll before the first car parked on the runway periphery.  To manage this I had to modify my aiming point and bring it right back to the runway threshold, as I usually aim for the piano keys and touch down just beyond the numbers.  I'm happy to say that I managed to gently touch down bang on the numbers, and Dave was well impressed.  He made the comment that at this stage of my flying I should be trying to make every landing a spot landing, and know not just where I'm aiming but also where I'm going to touch down and where I'll stop.

Talking to Dave after the flight, he announced that he had no concerns at all about my ability to handle flying from the back seat, so he ran through the requirements for passenger awareness with me.  We covered things like how to keep the flying within a comfortable range for the passenger, and not the pilot, and also to recognise when a passenger is not comfortable or may be getting airsick.  It was good stuff and gave me a lot to think about in regards to how I'll need to conduct my flying if I take a guest up.  Of course, before I do that I need to get my FAI "C" certificate from the GFA.

Dave had one more flight to do with Jorge, but that was it for the day so we started packing up the launch point van and towed the Jantar back to the hangar.  Once Jorge had landed we closed up operations for the day just as the first shower arrived.  It was only 13:30 and it seemed a shame to finish up so early, so Dave offered to run through my exams for my A, B, and C certificates.  I've been studying for them regularly, so I definitely took advantage of the opportunity.  The exams were oral, the topics ranged from Glider Theory and Flight Rules, to Airworthiness and Soaring Meteorology; with quite a few questions on Airmanship thrown in.  All up, covering all three badge exams there were well over a hundred questions, and it took the better part of two hours to get through them all... and I only got one wrong (well, not wrong, partially right is more accurate.)  Dave was very happy to sign my logbook today, he signed me off for the ABC exams and the Rear Seat Endorsement, and also signed off on my application to the GFA for my "C" certificate and badge to verify that I had met all the flying, checkflight and theory requirements and that I had done the passenger awareness briefing.  So, I can finally get my "C" and begin the next chapter of my soaring activities!

What does the "C" certificate allow me to do exactly?  Two things, really.  Firstly, along with the rear seat endorsement and passenger briefing it allows me to take family or friends up as guest for flights, and secondly it allows me to fly cross country under the direction of the duty instructor.  So, this is the big step I needed to make to progress on towards cross country soaring and eventually competition.  Still lots to learn though, I need more work on navigation, as well as task planning and flight preparation.

Heading out of Cunderdin for the day there was a lot of traffic on the highway so I opted to take the longer route home, out through the back of Toodyay.  A much more scenic drive, although it rained for a good portion of the drive home.  Still, I'm planning on heading back out again next weekend, hopefully in some better weather to start working on the skills I'll need to go cross country.



Update - Got my Certificate from the GFA!  It's all official now :)

The FAI "C" Badge!  Next stop, Silver "C"!!