Where do I start about today?

Is it appropriate to go back to my earliest recollections where, as a child I looked on in fascination at the aircraft operating overhead? Do I describe in infinite and painful (to others) detail how my passion for flying though experiencing phases where it was all but repressed has brought me to typing this entry?

No.

What has happened to me today is so much more. Today was at once a culmination of a life time’s worth of dreaming and near empty wanting and at the same time my first completed steps into a whole new world of experience and opportunity.

You see ladies and gents today I earned the right to wear my first set of pilot’s wings. At this point words fail me in an attempt to describe what exactly is going through my mind. I have survived spinning, I have conquered fears and I am learning to master myself. And again today was so much more than that.

What does one say in a situation like this?

I really can’t explain to you why I feel vindicated at receiving my wings. It’s not as if that only now that I have them I can fly. It’s not as if they make me in any was superior to normal people.

So what is it??

I think, it is because now that I have my wings I can say to myself,

 

“Well done. You did it.”

And at the end of the day it’s the best thing in the world.

Damian’s wings

Ok boys and girls its time for an update on Damian’s quest to become a pilot. I faced my greatest challenge to date.

Well last week I got to fly my solo cross country navigation flights. This means that I actually got through my dual navigation flights without killing myself or my instructor.

This I assure you is no easy feat.

Up until this point my entire flying “realm” has consisted of the controlled airspace of Port Elizabeth and our uncontrolled General Flying Area (GFA) just to the north of the city. My longest flight in a Cessna 152 was up until last week 1.8 hours or 1 hour 40 minutes for you normal folks.

Imagine what mild sense of panic one would encounter when leaving this little comfortable, reasonably safe little world behind on your first solo long cross country flight. Now factor in that the weather (i.e. mainly the FUCKING wind) has decided to completely change in the hour and a half that has elapsed since you did all your flight planning and flight plan filing so all your times and fuel usages are right out the fucking window.

Ok so far no problems it is after all a beautiful day, so you’ll just take longer to get where you’re going no big deal at all.

 

Port Elizabeth Airport

 

During the course of my flight I managed to hit every single pocket of turbulence and each thermal and updraft I could find. If I took my eyes off the horizon for a second to take a pic or to double check my map the plane would to the “bowel loosening boogie” (well its only loosening to those who haven’t had much time in light planes, we stoodunts are quite used to the “upchuck shuffle” ). This just made writing my times and the aforesaid tasks a little more difficult than they need be.

 

The Eastern Cape hinterlands spreadout before me

I made Grahamstown, my first stop, in good enough time and my course wasn’t too bad. On my initial flyover of the aerodrome I selected the wrong runway for my unmanned joining procedure, what this mumbo jumbo means there’s no-one on the ground to help you land, you fly a certain pattern while announcing on the radio to the entire aerodrome flying area what your intentions are. So I got my first one wrong as I misread the wind sock as I was jiggled about the cockpit like a stripper’s tits on singles night.

 

Arriving over Grahamstown

The second time around I got it right and lined myself up for my approach into one of the grass runways.

Then I noticed it. Small black dots on the runway, “Hmmm too small to be the game or animals that might be present” I thought to myself. Turns out the dots where a flock of Hadada Ibises know locally as Hadeedahs for their calls of haa-de-dah. I called them holyshitfucks as they took off right into my flight path. The thought of one or more of these sonabitches striking my plane was not a comforting idea. You see this would have turned my plane into more or less a rather pretty with rock with burgundy accents.

 

Grahamstown slipping away beneath me…

So I did a go around and decided to try my luck at a touch and go at Fort Beaufort, my second destination on my three leg tour of the Eastern Cape. I got my clearances from ATC (Air Traffic Control) got on my heading and relaxed for my trip further inland. Total time for this leg, 27 minutes. About 15 minutes into it I realize that I have a massive piss brewing. Oh no what will our hero do?? The Final leg back to PE is supposed to be 77 minutes in length!

Well I’ll just stop at Fort Beaufort! YAY! The day is sav…hmmm you know I haven’t heard from ATC for a bit. No chatter nothing.

Weird.

Try calling them and I get zilch. PANIC!!! Is the radio out!? Ok stay calm. I have Fort Beaufort in sight I make a blind call and come into land on a nice but bump grass strip.

After 5 frantic minutes I get through to ATC in Cape Town and let them know I’m safe on the ground and they don’t have to send out a search and rescue team for a second time this week (not me, sadly the glider pilot died in the crash). I get my clearances and transponder “squawk” (my plane’s in-flight “ID” number). Now for some other business.

 

ZS-PAY on the ground in Fort Beaufort

TIME TO PEE! I conduct myself in a thoroughly professional manner by peeing on the side of the runway, look I’m the only soul for about 40 square kilometers, that’s a whole lot or little for you mile users so I don’t have to me modest.

Then my zip gets stuck.

 

Yours trully with his stuck zip, yes its gusting like fuck.

Now I’m behind schedule and my winkie might just pop out if I’m not careful…at least I didn’t go commando that day! Ah I’m flying alone so fuckit. I hope in do all my start up and engine run-ups. And finally fling my little plane down the runway and back into the wild blue wonder! Only to find that I still have no communications with ATC, ok I fault find while climbing to altitude. After about 10 minutes I get to 4500ft and regain communications. I breathe a sigh of relief which is short lived as it begins to dawn on me that while I was messing with my comms I have not been checking my heading, drift and other vital navigational things. PANIC!!! MY GOD I’M LOST! The last thing I want to do is broadcast this to the entire Eastern Cape so that ATC can give me a location fix. After a few brief moments where I was convinced I was having a mild stroke I regained my calm. I go back to the map I reset the directional indicator to the compass. I’m not lost!!

 

 

 

YAY!!!

 

I’ve been flying the right track all along, only I have a massive tail wind so my first position checkpoint that was supposed to take 20 minutes to get to took 10. I regain my position on my map and flew the rest of the way in.

 

The sweep of Algoa Bay, trully a sweet sight!

Once back in PE airspace I had to hold for 15 minutes as the local ATC brought in jet traffic. Heaven help me if I make a businessman late!!!

 

Circiling over the Swartkops river

I landed back in Port Elizabeth 3 hours later. I had 1 hour of fuel left in my tanks. By law if I had flown another 15 minutes I would have had to declare an emergency. But by God I had made it. I have crossed the Rubicon.


I am an aviator…

The Store Room – my archives

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