Wednesday, October 15, 2014

On bumps with aeries and bumps in aeries...

The first entry into my Pilot's logbook was on 16 August 2012. I was exactly 1 month pregnant. And yet to find out...

First entries in my Pilot's logbook, 2012.

By that time I have been on a waiting list at the Flying School for some time and was really psyched up and ready to learn to fly. My deposit was payed a few weeks before and the ground school books were sitting on the dining room table. 

Needless to say when we found out about our second pregnancy we were over the moon! Zee had just turned one so the new baby would be 21 months younger than his older brother. We couldn't be happier! And then started the planning and the logistics. We realised that, if I wanted to obtain my PPL (Private Pilot's Licence) any time within the next decade or so, it probably would be easiest to do it while there is still only one baby, which still takes naps during the day. So after our doctor confirmed our pregnancy he also confirmed that there was no medical reason why I couldn't continue with flying lessons. So I planned on completing the PPL during Zee's daily naps and in the remaining eight months before the new baby was due. Oh if I only knew how interesting it would still get...

Then of course I did what any responsible pregnant student pilot would do: I didn't inform my instructors. Instead I waited a few weeks. I completed the radio course and a good number of flight exercises.

From the very first lesson the instructors allows the student to take off. If at first you still had your doubts, the thrill of getting a plane in the air should really sort that for you. It was absolutely fantastic! Of course later you realise that anyone that can follow three simple instructions can do it: full power, keep her in the middle of the runway and wait for 60 mph to lift the nose wheel (with a whole lot of right rudder input from the instructor, of course). But still. After the first flight I was totally hooked. 

Then came flying exercise 10 and 11: Stalling and spinning. Stalling is when one or both of the wings of the aircraft stops flying. The aircraft runs out of airspeed and the nose drops for a dive. When the aircraft stalls in a nose-high position, to recover you merely push the nose down a little below the horizon to regain airspeed and she will fly again (this is not a lesson in flight, just a very rudementary explanation of what is referred to when talking about the stall).

Now stalling the aircraft it no real biggie. Not while you are doing it intentionally during training or for what ever intentional other reasons you may have. If you happen to stall the plane during flying for some or other reason and you recognise the stall early you can easily recover from it and continue flying. The reason why stalls are taught is for students to be able to recocnise it early and to recover normal flying. And this is also why spins are taught. 

Spins happen if you don't recover from the stall quick enough. One wing keeps on flying, the other is deeply stalled and you spin in a corkscrew fashion as is illustrated below.

Spinning around the stalled, dropped wing in a corkscrew fashion. (Source).

Cute picture, hey? I have to add here that spinning an aircraft is no longer required for the completion of the PPL excercises. The fact is that too many accidents happened during training of the spin, since many of the instructors were just not able to properly execute spins. Also, the airframes of many of the light and ultra light aircraft are not certified for spinning and other maneuvers which automatically precludes them from spinning training.

But then I trained in the Cessna 172. The Toyota Hilux of the sky. And my instructor is an aerobatics pilot that remembers his first flying lesson at the age of six, sitting in the co-pilot's seat next to his father. Nuff said. He lets his students spin, and he makes sure they can recover from it. (Just for clarity I feel I need to add that a Cessna 172 is as stable as an Isuzu KB on gravel, not as loose-tailed and jumpy as the Hilux. So I assume it is referred to the never-say-die aspects of the Hilux, not the stability...)

The Cessna 172 in which I trained for my PPL.

Now look. I am brave and I am all for fun and games, but you know the saying of opening an umbrella in somebody's whatever? That is how I feel about spinning. And I can promise you on the grave of my inhibitions that I lost on that first day of spinning, that I will recover from a stall sooner than you can reach for your cellphone to call your mother. But spin I will never again. Not for me. Thank you.

And then only did I tell them. I knew that stalling and spinning were coming at some point, so I waited it out until then. My t-shirts just got bigger and I always made sure I went to the bathroom before our hour long flying lesson, but the bump stayed tucked away for the first almost four months. 

I want to be a good pilot, and for that I needed the best training, including the complete spinning exercise (I was never really nauseous during my pregnancies so that was a plus). I figured it would be safe to spill the beans after the worst was done and I proved that I wouldn't barf all over the cockpit. Apparently that worked, since neither of the instructors batted an eyelid during the big reveal and we just kept on flying.   

So after the spinning it was mostly touch-and-go's in the circuit ("bumps") - where you take off, go around in the circuit pattern, land and immediately apply full power again for the take off. Bumps are mainly to practice landing and takeoff procedures. The 'bump' was doing bumps and thoroughly enjoying it! I remember noting how I could feel baby Vee moving and turning while I was flying. I think his little system is wired for adrenaline after all those touch-and-go's and stalls and spins. But nothing, really nothing, gets close to the adrenaline rush of a first time solo flight...

But more on that later.