I mainly fly the Cirrus SR-22 and occasionally the lovely two-seater DA-20. The Cirrus is a new design. It is fast and well-equipped – ideal for trips around the UK and Europe.
I have a commercial pilot’s licence, instrument rating and around 800 hours total time. Yay me!
Some flights are just out into the local area, for training, to a UK airport or further afield. In the Katana, it’ll be a 30-40 minute flight each way and a visit to an airfield in the SE of England – somewhere nice with a cafe. In the Cirrus, it can be some approach training at a larger airport or a longer trip, perhaps 1-1.5 hours each way with a nice lunch somewhere. Or, sometimes, overseas for a big day out.
For example, in the last couple of years, I’ve flown to Amsterdam, Paris, Newquay, Troyes, Deauville, Dinard, Tours, Belfast, La Rochelle and Rotterdam. I’ve been as far south as Cannes and Friedrichshafen and as far north as Edinburgh. You can see a video of a flight back from Amsterdam(thanks Nick!). There are more trips reports and pictures on my flying blog, Golf Hotel Whiskey.
Pilots are subject to the weather. While I am qualified to fly in cloud and rain and the plane can do it easily, there are some weather conditions that might mean a delay, diversion or cancellation:
- Thunderstorms, obviously
- Freezing temperatures combined with thick cloud
- Very strong crosswinds on the runway
- Low cloud or fog at takeoff or departure
THE FLYING EXPERIENCE
Flying in a light aircraft is fun. The views are amazing and, for most people, it is an interesting and novel experience. However, there are a few things to be aware of:
- It’s not like flying in a big jet. It’ll be noisier and a bit ‘bouncier’.
- Some people suffer from motion sickness. This is caused by these unfamiliar motions confusing your inner ear and sense of balance. Closing your eyes, keeping your head still and taking deep breaths can help. It is usually a transitory feeling.
- If you feel your ears popping, you can ease the pressure by holding you nose and ‘blowing’. If you have a bad head cold, you probably shouldn’t fly.
- Don’t be alarmed by the various noises (beeps and recorded messages) coming from the avionics. It’s all routine stuff.
- Bring sensible clothes and shoes. It can be warm on the ground and much cooler at altitude.
- Don’t forget your passport.
- There is no toilet on the aircraft. You should go before the flight.
- For longer flights, feel free to bring a book or a magazine.
- Definitely bring a camera and feel free to take pictures.
The most important thing is to have fun. If you have a problem, tell me. If you have any questions at all, please ask.
RADIO AND INTERCOM
Everyone in the plane will have a headset. This will allow you to talk to me and other passengers. You will also be able to hear air traffic control and hear me talk to them. They can only hear what I am saying if I press a button. You will hear other pilots talk to the controller but only one person can speak on the frequency at any one time. Think walkie-talkie not cellphone. You get used to it pretty quickly. The ten minutes after takeoff and the ten minutes before landing are usually the busiest times. It’s best not to chat during these times. You should also keep an ear out for our call sign in case someone calls us, and if they do, keep quiet. Otherwise, I’ll let you know if I am going to use the radio and you should keep quiet until I let you know otherwise.
The other thing you will hear me do is run through checklists. There are lots of these at each stage of the flight. On the ground, I use a written checklist to make double-sure I don’t forget any checks but in the air I recite them out loud from memory. This is normal and it doesn’t meant that I have forgotten what I am doing! Also, I may need time to concentrate on navigation or other activities. I’ll let you know if I do.
Most of the time, I am responsible for seeing and avoiding other aircraft. This is something that passengers can help with. If you see one, point it out to me. For the full Biggles effect, you can use the clock code – where the nose of the aircraft is at 12 o’clock, the right wing 3 o’clock, the tail 6 o’clock and the left wing 9 o’clock. Sometimes I get a radar service from air traffic control and they will advise me of other traffic. The plane is also equipped with ACAS which can detect most other planes and warn me if they get too close.
- Switch off mobile phones when you get into the plane.
- No Smoking at any time in or near the plane.
- Please do not bring hazardous items aboard the plane – including explosives (duh!), flammable items, compressed gas canisters, corrosives or anything that emits a strong magnetic field.
- Don’t bring anything illegal onto the plane. Special Branch have details of all international flights and all the passengers and regularly inspect planes.
- It is illegal to fly in an aircraft when drunk.
- Legally, you must obey the directions of the captain of an aircraft in all safety-related matters.
- Be extremely careful around the aircraft if the propeller is turning.
- I will escort you to and from the plane. Don’t wander about on your own.
- I’ll give you safety briefings at various point so you don’t need to memorise anything.