Browsed by
Schlagwort: LSA

Paper work

Paper work

Today my licence arrived in the mail. The stamp makes it official, what a great feeling!

Last week I went to the flight school to complete the paper work with the instructor. He was not there the day I took the test, so we had a cup of coffee together last week and got the application for the licence ready.

And since I was there anyway, I took my new powers for a spin. Without the physical licence, the instructor had to write a flight plan for me and sign that he was sending me.

I went on the short hop over to Eggersdorf. I had done that trip numerous times before and it was a good first trip as a new pilot.



(originally posted on May 6, 2011 by tilbo at

Big Day

Big Day

Visibility: almost unlimited
Temperature: 14°C
QNH: 1020hPa
Location: EDAY (Strausberg)
Equipment: MD3 Rider (D-MALJ)

I’m up early. I did not sleep well, woke up several times. I’m nervous. Yesterday I spent three hours at the flight school drinking coffee and listening to the rain. It should have been my practice run but we stayed on the ground. “I’m sure it’s gonna be okay” says the teacher. I don’t feel well prepared.

My wife tries to calm me down over breakfast. I look at the sky. It is completely over cast but it looks light. Without a reference it is very difficult to tell how high the clouds are. I need 2,000 feet, more would be better.

On the way to the airport I watch an airliner turn into the final approach of the near by commercial airport. I know that it is flying in the controlled airspace “charly” which is above 2,500 feet here. The large jet is not even close to the clouds. One less thing to worry about.

I’m at the airport very early. Watching as an early pilot gets his Cessna ready, I look at the sky. The sun is dyeing the clouds orange. It looks pretty together with the light blue patches in between.

The secretary of the flight school arrives and the office smells of coffee. I fire up the computer to start with my flight preparations. At least this I practiced yesterday. The weather data of the GAFOR system looks promising. Except for the wind direction. ‘VRB’ (variable) means that I have no direction to put into the flight plan. So I can not compensate for the wind. 10 knots is not too bad, though.

The examiner arrives just as I’m getting the flight plan ready. I like him. He was also the examiner for the theory class last year. He is very experienced and very calm. He radiates calm – just what I need now!

Three out of five

We chat for a few moments until the mechanic comes in to tell us that the aircraft is ready. The first part of the test is precision landings. I have five tries to get three right. I tell the examiner that I did not practice yesterday because of the weather and that I would like to fly two patterns before we get startet. He smiles in a friendly way and says I should not bother but start with the precision landings right away.

I do a slow and thorough pre flight check. The examiner is watching me and I comment on every check item as the flight instructor has taught me to do. We taxi out to the runway. The examiner gets out to watch my landings from the side of the runway. I am cleared for take-off and bring the aircraft in position on the center line. 1,200 meters of runway in front of me with a slight slope. My hand is shaking when I let go of the yoke. Come on, get a grip, you can do this!

A precision landing is an emergency landing exercise. You fly over the threshold of the runway at 2,000 feet. Then you pull the engine to idle and fly a full circle in order to arrive at the threshold and touch-down within a 150 meter area. I begin the first one and come in too high. My circle was not wide enough and I am still at a comfortable altitude over the landing area. I push the throttle forward and go around. One out of five.

On the second attempt I talk to myself loudly. I call out altitudes and way points. I come in too high again. I can safely get the aircraft on the ground now but I am way out of the 150 meter area. So I go around again. Strike two, now it has to work.

The talking to myself helps. I remember my altitudes from the last round and fly a wider circle. At 700 feet I set the flaps to 15° and slip a few moments to loose more altitude. During the flare, shortly before touch-down, I cross the middle marker of the landing area. I force Lima Juliet to sit down and turn the left over kinetic energy into squeaking rubber. Not cat like but within the landing area. I’m getting calmer.

Turn number four, I am actually a bit low. The flight instructor told me before, that I can cheat a little by giving the engine just a half a turn of power to slow down the descent. As long as I don’t gain altitude again, the examiner would not be able to tell from the tower. My examiner is not on the tower but right next to the runway. So much for cheating. I set the flaps late and actually make a respectable landing.

Number five is actually good. I break and stop the aircraft on the runway. I close my eyes for a second and take a deep breath. On to the second part.

The examiner gets on board and we take-off for the second part of the test. Now I go on course 121 on the first leg of my prepared rout. On the way the examiner asks me to perform several maneuvers. A “flat 8″ were I do two circles and should arrive back at the staring point. Rolling the aircraft from one side to the other around the center line.

“Keep in mind, the nearest exit might be behind you…”

Just after crossing a near by airport, he pulls the engine to idle to simulate an engine failure. I push the nose down to control the speed and then turn back to the airport behind us. Examiners love to I see whether the examinees are looking for an empty field ahead or if they remember the safety of a nice and plane runway just behind them. I was prepared for this, he can not fool me. A few minutes later we simulate landing on a field. I set full flaps in order to be as slow as possible on touch-down. It feels as if someone is holding the aircraft by the tail. Just before I am able to identify what is growing below us, he tells me to go. We scare a few cows as the engine screams to life.

A moment later he does catch me off guard by asking which air space is above us and at what altitude. I blank and fight with the map for a bit before I can give the answer.

I keep talking as I was told by my instructor. I volunteer possible emergency landing areas, tell were the wind is coming from and comment on the engine readings. The examiner does not say much. I know it is the way he is and it actually calms me down.

“Please stay seated until the aircraft has come to a complete stop”

The trip is meant to take just over 30 minutes but by the time we are approaching Strausberg again, almost one hour has elapsed. All the drills and emergency landings take time.

The landing is acceptable and we taxi back to the apron. I carefully follow the shut-down check list. Then I fill in the log book. “So, what do you think?” asks the examiner. I decide to take the bull by the horns and say “I thought it was okay.” He smiles and shakes my hand “I though so too. Congratulations.”

To be continued…


(originally posted on April 16, 2011 by tilbo at

first solo

first solo

My first solo flight was on October first and it lasted for 21 minutes.

On that day I was flying with Klaus. He used to be a fighter pilot in the East German army. Klaus has been flying for 50 years and has probably been teaching for a good part of that. Long retired from the cockpit of his Russian MiG fighter jet, he is teaching a very different crowd nowadays.

That morning, Klaus and I had gone from Strausberg (EDAY) over to Egersdorf (EDCE). The two air fields are about 10 minutes apart from each other and since there is less traffic and a very long grass runway at EDCE, we go there a lot. The day was clear and moderate winds were coming from the east. Klaus and I did pattern work for about an hour. After warming up a bit, we started with emergency drills. Simulated engine failures on take-off and emergency landings.

During our seventh round, Klaus asked me if I had flown solo before. I said no and he did not say much. After the eighth landing, he pulled the break and told me to get off the runway and taxi over to the tower. On the way he told me to do three more touch and go’s on my own now and then come back to pick him up. I was thrilled!

He double checked with me if I felt comfortable going solo. He told me to take it easy. He would be watching from the tower and would be in touch with me by radio.

Everybody told me that the first time alone in the plane is a very special feeling and boy were they right! I did what I had done before but the absence of the instructors watchful eyes made all the difference!

I knew that the aircraft was very light. But I was still surprised how clearly I could notice the absence of the second person. When I pushed the throttle forward for take-off, I was airborne almost immediately and I reached the pattern altitude before the first turn.

The three rounds I did went well. On the second one I came in a bit too high but all in all it went well. But the significance of the first solo was not so much the technical aspect of flying but the emotional aspect of doing it alone.

No second pair of eyes in the cockpit with me, no one to ask if the approach looked okay. Now it was me and what I had learned so far. This sudden independence was exhilarating. I was now able to bring an airplane to fly and I could safely land it again – I could fly!

When I picked Klaus back up at the tower, I could not get the smile out of my face.

To be continued…


(originally posted on April 4, 2011 by tilbo at

touch and go

touch and go

Touch-and-go’s are flying 101. Every pilot has done hundreds of them and continues to do them during his or her flying career. As I write a lot about “pattern work”, it might be time for a quick explanation of the idea:

A “touch-and-go” means take-off, one round in the traffic pattern and a landing. After the landing, the aircraft is not slowed down but accelerated again to take-off again immediately.

The idea is to practice landings – which takes the most practicing – as well as maneuvering the aircraft. Pattern work is a great warm-up and it is good to get to know a new aircraft.

The traffic pattern is a set route in the air around the runway. Every airport has one. At my home airport Strausberg (EDAY), the traffic pattern is south of the runway at 1.100 feet. The pattern consists of five segments or “legs”.

Upwind (1) is the first part after take-off before the first turn. In Strausberg it’s about 1 kilometer.

Crosswind (2) takes you away from the runway. During this leg I usually reach the pattern altitude.

Downwind (3) the longest part, parallel to the runway. This is where you can relax a bit. If you are approaching an airport, the middle of the downwind leg is where you enter the traffic pattern.

Base (4) is the busy part: Radio your position and get the plane ready for landing by reducing the speed and power and setting the flaps. In my plane it is relatively easy and I’m busy. In more sophisticated planes, Base must be a lot of work.

Final (5) this is where you make sure that you don’t drift away from the runway and that your descend is right.

If everything goes well, you perform a catlike landing right on the center line and take-off again.

To be continued…


(originally posted on April 1, 2011 by tilbo at

Rainy day

Rainy day

Grey sky with light spots, chance of rain
Temperature: 4°C
QNH: 1019hPa
Location: EDAY (Strausberg)
Equipment: MD3 Rider (D-MALJ)

The morning has been over cast and there were a few drops of rain earlier. But now the sky gets lighter and I have high hopes for good weather as I do my pre-flight.

I check in with the tower and start taxiing to the runway. A large rain drop lands right in the middle of the wind shield with a thud. It is slowly being smeared across the plexi glass by the wind of the propeller. The flight instructor is not concerned. We have checked the weather radar in the flight school and the tower did not expect more rain either.

By the time we have reached the runway, the single rain drop is in the middle of a family reunion. Not a big problem, the sky still looks relatively light. The aircraft does not have wind shield wipers but as I push the throttle forward for take off, the propeller blows the screen clear of the rain.

The vertical visibility in the traffic pattern is around the legal minimum of 1.5 kilometers. On the crosswind leg of the departure (the first 90 degree turn after take-off) I have to be able to see to the end of the runway (1.2 kilometers) and a bit beyond that. I see the road behind the runway, because I know it’s there.

We do one touch and go, still hoping the rain shower is going to go away. On the downwind leg of the second round we lose visibility of the runway. The aircraft is shaking, the rain is getting stronger by the second. An Individual rain drop is coming through a crack and lands on my arm. The propeller is not blowing the rain away from the wind shield any more but blowing more water onto it. I’m having a difficult time keeping the runway in sight on the base leg. After landing we taxi over to the hangar. The sky is now black, only minutes after we were still hoping for sun.

13 minutes, 2 landings and dryining off the aircraft. Actually that was a good lesson about weather!

To be continued…


(Originally posted on March 16, 2011 by tilbo at

Eat, drink, fly

Eat, drink, fly

I’m not a big breakfast person. When my wife is not home, I often don’t even have coffee before I leave for work. On days like this I usually have breakfast at work around 11 with the second or third cup of coffee.

When I fly, I’m usually in the air by 11 am. On these days I have to eat strategically so that I don’t have low blood sugar when I should be concentrated. So I set my alarm clock a bit earlier and eat a real breakfast with little appetite.

To add insult to injury, the coffee maker will stay cold on these mornings. I am a heavy coffee drinker. I usually start the day with black coffee and keep going strong until the last steaming cup after dinner. On flying days however, I have to factor in the availability of toilets aboard the air plane – or the lack thereof. And for this calculation, the amount of coffee I  start my day with does make a difference. Sad but true.

The guys in the flight school joke about a case of beer as the universal currency for making up for mistakes. Running late? No problem, it will cost you a crate of beer! Hard landing? Nothing a crate of beer can’t fix! In real life however, this is nothing more than a line of jokes. Alcohol is dealt with very responsibly amongst the aviators I have met so far.

“24 hours from bottle to throttle”

This catchy rule is what I have learned as the code of honour. It refers more to a state of mind then to a glass of beer with dinner the day before a flight. It means that a pilot should be rested, focused and at the peak of his or her mental capacity during a flight. Very much the way one does not feel, 24 hours after attending your best friends stag party for example.

I was still surprised when I learned that the official FAA ruling is “only” 8 hours between consuming alcoholic beverages and operating a commercial air plane. The maximum allowed blood alcohol is 0.04 % (0.4 promille). This seems like a lot to me.

Flying is all new and exciting for me. It requires my full attention. It is hard for me to picture how the routine of a commercial pilot with thousands of hours must be like. But I know how I feel at my boring desk job when I come to work on the day after a big night out. Usually these are not the most efficient work days.

So for now I will stick with my 24 hours. It helps me prepare for the flight mentally. I will see how it goes once I’m in the 3 or 4 digits with my flight hours. Right now I’m still in the low 2 digits and I guess it is okay to still focus on every aspect of flying very much!

To be continued…


(Originally posted on March 9, 2011 by tilbo at

Dry run

Dry run

We start moving and I hit the start button on the timer. The preset time for the first leg of our trip starts counting down. It will start flashing and beeping once the previously calculated time is up.

I have a pretty fancy flight timer. It is a very specialized stop watch. It has a fuel timer, it can time up to 12 legs of a flight and it has a clock in my local time as well as in UTC. The Universal Time Coordinated is the international aviation time. All flight plans all over the world use UTC and UTC only. This is very important to avoid misunderstandings on trips across time zones.

The fuel timer is also very important. Obviously you don’t want to run out of fuel. But there is more: many airplanes have several tanks. They are not always used at the same time. The reason for that can be weight and balance or fuel overflow. So it is important to remember to change tanks as this is very easy to forget. The fuel timer is a count down timer. As soon as it reaches zero, it starts counting up again as well as giving its warning message. So the pilot knows how long it has been since he should have changed the tanks.

The count down of leg #1 is up and I get a beep. For every part of my trip (leg) I calculate the time that I will approximately need to complete it. As air is a dynamic medium and winds are changing, this is not an exact science. But the leg timer alerts me that I should be getting close to my next way point. It is a good idea to make sure now that I know where I am and that I am prepared for the change of course.

The change is completed. I turn the big, friendly knob on the timer and the D2 leg appears (Destination 2). I hit the start button again. The second leg is longer and I get my morning paper out. The timer starts beeping once more right as the train approaches my stop. Nobody pays attention to the guy with the funny looking stop watch. They have all seen worse things than a flight timer dry run on the subway. I love the big city!

To be continued…


(Originally posted on March 8, 2011 by tilbo at

precision landing

precision landing

Visibility: Low up until 2000 feet, above that unlimited (inversion)
Temperature: -1°C
QNH: 1039hPa (high pressure)
Location: EDAY (Strausberg)
Equipment: MD3 Rider (D-MASL)

The morning is sunny but a bit hazy. Visibility in the traffic pattern is not great but from about 2000 feet upwards it is almost unlimited. There is only light traffic with a Cessna doing pattern work (touch and go’s) and another plane getting ready to go. The plan for today is practicing precision landings. The point of this exercise is to make it to your chosen landing site in case of an engine failure. We climb up to 2.000 feet and fly over the threshold of the runway. Then I pull the throttle to idle and fly a wide circle and land the aircraft with idle power exactly in the middle of the touch down zone – a marked part of the runway.

At least this is how the theory goes. In real life I have practiced this maneuver many times already to get it right. It is difficult to get a good feeling for the wind, for the distance to the runway and a good landing still requires a lot of my attention.

Today the first try is a bit rustic, the second one is acceptable. After the second time, the flight instructor gets out of the plane. This is my third solo flight and the first time I do a precision landing on my own. The air is cold and dense and the trusted Rider is light with only me to carry. I reach 2.000 feet long before I am at the threshold. So I have time to level the airplane out and remember the width of the circles I made just minutes ago.

At the threshold I tell flight control that I begin a precision landing now, I pull the throttle to idle and then turn the vernier to the left all the way. I push the nose down ever so slightly to control my speed. 130 km/h is perfect. The engine gets very quiet at 1600 rpm and the noise of the wind gets louder. I push the yoke to the right and Sierra Lima banks into a right turn. I want the first part of the turn to be as tight as possible until I see my landing area to the right. When I have the runway in sight, I adjust the circle in order to loose the right amount of altitude.

On the first attempt I come in way too high. Sierra Lima wants to fly and with the weight of the second person missing, she has her way with me. At 1200 feet I force her to slip towards the ground. I step on the right pedal to bring the rudder to the right. At the same time I push the stick to the left which uses the ailerons to force the left tip of the wing down and the right up. I make sure the nose stays down and Sierra Lima begins to simultaniously bank to the left and yaw to the right. She screams at me and shakes as the contradicting commands are using up the kinetic energy which she would have wanted to use for maintaining altitude. The needle of the change indicator points straight down as the rate of our descent rises.

After a few seconds of slipping I am down to 600 feet. I carefully bring rudder and ailerons back to neutral and keep an eye on the airspeed and on my heading at the same time. At least this is what I try to do – more or less successfully. I still am high on short final but I don’t think I have enough altitude any more to try another slip. I come in way above the touch down zone. When I’m sure that I can’t make it any more, I push the throttle all the way forward to go around. The Rotax engine jumps to life instantly and yanks me towards the sky.

I try again. This time I loose my altitude more quickly and on short final it looks much better. About 200 meters away from the threshold I am actually too low and I turn the vernier a half turn to the right. The engine comes out of idle and slows my descent enough to get me right in the middle of the touch down zone. Better.

On the third attempt I come in high again, but this time I see it in time. I set full flaps and once I’m sure I’ll make it to the runway, I force Sierra Lima into a few seconds of slip once more. This time I am extra careful as it is easy to exceed the maximum flap speed of 120 km/h while slipping. The wheels touch the runway on the second of the three landing zone markers – perfect. We’ll do this again until it works every time.

Back at the office of the flight school, the instructor pushes the log book over to me. It is the first time I fill it in myself. Not a big thing but enough to put a little smile onto my face.

To be continued…


(Originally posted on March 2, 2011 by tilbo at