Well, it ws a calm day, partly cloudy and time for a flying lesson – something I have wanted to do since I was a kid 🙂 So it was with a tinge of excitement and anticipation that I drove into the airport and parked next to the transportable office with the glass door marked “Brindabella Airlines“. I was quickly introduced to my pilot and he calmly explained the control surfaces and the the three directions of movement provided by the controls. He explained that I would have some good hands-on time when the aircraft would be fully in my control. It all sounded reassuringly straightforward.
The plane is tiny – the size of a small car with wings – and it was reassuringly basic. We started off with a thorough pre-flight inspection – make sure none of the rivets have come loose, or that any of the wire split-pins had come adrift, and that all the control surfaces worked easily, and to check all the leading edges (including the propellor) for any dents or nicks. Then check the undercarriage and the brakes. And then the all important stuff – fuel. This thing runs on 100 octane avgas and it was important to ensure there was plenty of the stuff in the wing tanks, and to check the relief valves and make sure there was no water or grit in the fuel.
The plane is a Cessna 150 which weighs just over 500kg (just twice the weight of my motorbike and lighter than my car) and has a top speed of 202kph (slower by a fair margin than the top speed of the motorbike!) and seats two – a generous assessment.
- Span : 9.97m (32’9ft)
- Length : 7.34m (24’1ft)
- Height : 2.59m (8’6ft)
- empty : 501kg (1,100lb)
- max : 757kg (1,670lb)
- Power Plant : 110hp Avco-Lycoming )-235-N2C
- Performance :
- max speed : 202kmh (125mph)
- ceiling : 14,700ft (4480m)
- range : 1,158km (719m)
The engine – a 110HP horizontally opposed four cylinder air cooled Lycoming motor uses only about 27 litres an hour, so with more than 70 litres of fuel on board we had plenty for my half-hour flight.
The pilot took care of the radio stuff and went through the checklist, and started the ngine, setting the throttle to a bit above idle and got me to feel the brakes and the foot controls. Then with the instruction to taxi following the yellow line he handed over to me. First impression – it feels really counter intuitive to press a right pedal to turn right. So with a real conscious effort I managed to mostly follow the yellow line, and was slightly relieved to find that we would be turning with the ailerons, rather than the rudder. Perhaps it is a car thing – you know, turn right by pushing on the steering wheel with your left hand and pulling with the right – it somehow just felt wrong…
Anyhow from there things got much better very quickly. After waiting for a passenger jet to take off and a Dash-Eight to land, it was our turn to line up on the runway. After clearance from the tower, my pilot took over and opened up the throttle and launched us down the runway.
Once in the air and up to about one thousand feet the pilot handed over and asked me to turn left – just use the ailerons to roll a little (just like a motorcycle) and keep the nose up … “that’s it, now bring it back level – good, so I can relax and go to sleep now?” he said. “Well, maybe in a while” I said – I could feel some mild turbulence, and it took a little while to get used to the feel of the controls – how much movement of the controls produces how much movement of the aircraft. Surprisingly, it didn’t take very long at all before compensating for the small air bumps became fairly straightforward, if not entirely automatic. Soon we turned again and flew over the racecourse, then on to Black Mountain tower – by now we were about three thousand feet. Steering just left of the Tower, we passed over the lake and over Parliament House then another small turn to head towards Woden.
We turned again at Mount Mugga and headed back towards the airport. The airport radioed to let us know there was a Dash Eight making an approach and we could slot in behind for our landing. It didn’t take long to spot the other plane off in the distance at right angles to our path, and we kept going straight in a ‘square pattern’ until the Dash Eight had made its approach, then I turned the plane to line up with the runway as we began our descent. It soon became apparent that the wind was not as calm at our altitude and a 25 kph wind kept making us drift offline. Once I had manoevred us back on track I handed back to the pilot for the landing – and I was glad I did as the approach had a bit of turbulence. But as we levelled out over the runway on our approach the air became smooth again and all too soon we were back on the ground, as I made a rather better fist of taxiing than when we started.
I couldn’t keep the grin off my face as we walked back to to the office and I inquired about what I would need to do to qualify for a basic licence. It actually started to sound quite reasonably priced – and I am very tempted to at least do a follow-up flight very soon 🙂
The folks at Brindabella Airlines are very professional in their approach, and very conscious of safety – I shall certainly fly with them again:-) Thank you Eve – that was a wonderful present!