Saturday, February 27, 2010


Our mess table and the name...

The boys go solo...

(John and I in the air the day before his solo flight. My beloclava is the best sunblock and the only thing that works!) Also the two happy faces of Mick (front seat) after his first solo and Mike equally happy.)
There is always something special about a solo flight. That triumph of man over machine, the sweet taste of victory after weeks of disciplined training - it is something that few understand and fewer still experience for themselves. The sacrifice two new pilots have made to join the rank of those that can justifiably look down upon those that have never gone solo, though big has been well worth it, especially looking at their faces. Mick the SOS Capt did his first solo flight day before yesterday. Then John followed with a solid performance yesterday (27th Feb). Well done and congratulations! (Could this be the start of the SOS Air Wing Division?)

Today we are going to see if Fred can get there. He has been struggling a bit with those landing, which is the most difficult part of flight. Looking at the CCTV monitors the weather seems fine and the only excuse left must be his lovey girlfriend Maria. (I would be distracted too Fred! ;)

Mixed in with this sense of joy is some nostalgia. Our time on board the ship is coming to an end. Two weeks of mingling it up with the crew and they in turn having made us feel like part of the family makes it hard to say good buy. We got a SOS ships T-shirt which is cool. (The crew members wear them all the time). We will miss this time and the new friends we have made. Of course life on the island is just like that - people come and go. On the other hand, I am also so ready to go home too - I can not wait for that familiarity of my own bed! I start my journey home on Monday at lunchtime. It is going to be a long trip since this time round I fly to Mauritius first before connecting to Jhb. The end result is that I will only arrive back in Grg on Tuesday the 2nd (it must be the longest trip ever from Sez to SA!) Naturally I think it is worth it...

Friday, February 26, 2010

27 Feb...

Flying around rain cells. There is good reason for the whites of Mike's eyes!

27 Feb
It was still a struggle to get up. 5 o clock is just not my cup of tea! The usual morning ritual followed – having a pee, washing the face, running hot water, shaving, showering – all in an effort to shed the comatosed state of those that have been deprived of sleep. Still, when I walked into the mess and greeted John there was undenyable effort to keep the eyes wide and bright. Even John looked the part – we were both longing for that sleep!

Every morning we wish for rain. It is not that we do not want to go flying, just that there is this desire to stay in bed longer – well at least till its light. This morning flashes of lightning greeted our eyes from the mess room. Even from the CCTV it was clearly visible without needing to go outside. Of course by now we were up and kind of awake. The feeling of being cheated enters the mind. I could have been sleeping. Then we would not have known it was thundery outside. Ofcourse, but maybe we could have looked first before going through the wake-up ritual. Even that would not have worked. Getting to the deck involves some stairs (effort) and it’s still too dark to see anything. One needed some light to see if the clouds were really threatening or not and by the time you can see that it is good you need to be at the airport to take advantage of the early morning air. Even with the signs of lightning one could not be too sure of its distance – the activity could be far away and flying at the airport quite good. No, the notion of being cheated is well grounded and for a moment it lingers in the mind.

We waited till 6:30. By his time it was light enough to see what’s going on. We walked out on deck and looked around. The sky was filled with CB cells. Big ones. A new one was developing over the airport and I could see the rain falling from its base clearly. The tops were billowing upwards at a healthy rate of knots. It’s an easy call. My bed is so snuggly and comforting…

26 Feb

Another long and hard day. Up at 5 and 5 hours training. Teaching people to fly sure is a tough job...

The sun stroked the high clouds with dashes of pink, eluding the presence of some over development in places but it was still too dark to see clearly. When we arrived at the airport I could see there was some rain falling out to the north east but the wind was light and we had at least an hour or two of flying time. I manged to coax Fred into the early morning session, which was tough. He is the only one on board with a girlfriend and I could see he did not like the idea of being pried away from those lovely comforting arms in the early hours of the morning, especially for the stress of having to land and not dying. In the beginning Fred did his best to try and kill us on a number of occasions. In fact even now he reminds the two of us of that hidden tendency lurking in that muddled student brain. It is the kind of lurking that keep us flight instructors pondering the wonders of desk jobs... But for some inexplicable reason we keep doing it. (Maybe because we need the money!;)

And so it is with John and Fred. That lurking killer. Ever present. Making us work for our money. That is why I am, once again, so tired. Or it could just be the 5 o clock starts. ;)

We got grounded 3 times during the day because of CB cells. They were moving in from the North East and very well marked so we could judge it well when to quite and go and land. One actually had a weak gust front that made the students take note. I guess all good in the training process. At lunch time one large cell was overhead the island and rumbled away in deep resonating pleasure. We were starving and since we were heading to the ship for some of Evelyn's great meals it all sounded good.

Tommorrow is another fiver for me and John. I hope to see some more progress. (It has been there but slow in coming. ;) Guess then it is time to turn in...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

25 th Feb

Phew! Boy I am tired. Up at 5 this morning and only back at 8. 5 hours of intensive training. I am off to bed now because tomorrow is another 5 o clock start... But the sea is beautiful. and clean. Saw some dolphins, sharks, bump head parrot fish, eagle rays and stuff while doing circuits around the runway. So it is all pretty... But I am pretty tired now. Will write something good soon...


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

It rains.

23 Feb!

Finally it rains! Mike and I are relieved - it means i is a rest day. Ha! That is a mistake. Fly we might not have but rest we did not. It was lecture time and we set some brains on the boil stuffing them with lots and lots of new information - all about weather and navigation and other interesting bits of air law. It was 3 hours of the stuff in the morning. then lunch. Then another three hour session of navigation in the afternoon (which was more like 4 hours!). Every now and then I would walk out to check on the weather (there are these cool CCTV circuits on the big screen so we can see what the weather is doing) just to make sure that the CCTV monitors were not lying. There was a slow drizzle all day. But it did mean we got home earlier. No need for sunset flights with late pack ups. I actually hope for good weather so we can fly. The students need more experience before we leave - we only have 5 days left...

Will keep you posted!

Monday, February 22, 2010


Wow. Time flies. Would you believe it is the 22nd? At least there is progress in the flying. Mick is landing o his own - now and then we have to put in some input but it is minimum. In smooth air he will manage real well. He is just about ready for his first solo - I am sure he does not feel the same though! ;-) John too has been making great progress. his feel for direction and pitch on climb out is spot on - it is just his landings that wander off every now and then. Nothing that more practice wont cure. Fred has been spending some time with Mike. His confidence is also increasing and even though he does not believe he is progressing we can see the difference.

The weather has been unusually fine. We have had no rain and the winds have been light to moderate north westerly all the time. The flying around the runway is very enjoyable with a mix of turbulence and smooth areas - great for giving the pilots exposure to a variety of conditions. But Mike and I are both tired. For this reason I am going to sign off and go to bed.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Search and rescue continued...

Mike eating pizza from the plane...

(Search and rescue continued...)
Below us the lights of Victoria made for a pleasant change to the usual lightless overflying of the Seychelles capital. Given different circumstances we might have allowed the beauty of this to penetrate our minds - for now we were focused on making contact with X-ray Lima. Mick and I were both feeling the tension and as if rehearsed we passed underneath a very large and dark cloud. Rain was starting to fall from it but we were on a mission to get to Beau Vallon bay and establish if Mike and Evelyn were reachable by radio or if the float plane was perhaps parked on the waters edge by a nearby beach. Mick covered his face from the sting of the rain drops while I took over control. We were hurtling along at 50mph - a fast speed for the microlight. We were also racing against daylight hours.

Once past the town and over the Beauvallon bay are we scoured the sea side while I called on the radio, November, X-ray, Lima this is Eco Pappa Eco, do you copy... while we waited in anxious moments.

Nothing. I tried not to think of the possibilities but it was clear that the control tower did. It was also clear that the other pilots on air did so too. Everybody was waiting for that one radio call.

Then the tower called. Everybody listened. "November X-ray Lima what is your position now?"
That means they must have heard from them. "Roger November X-ray Lima report left base three one..."

"Eco Pappa Eco yo may return to the airport call next right down wind three one and thanks for your help."

Mick and I turned back to the runway. We were happy. Everybody was happy. It was even darker and we had to fly under that big dark cloud with the rain again. But the lights of Victory were so beautiful.

Of course, Mike had done nothing wrong but we did what we felt we had to. Everybody did.

It was a long but good day.

Wish you were here!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Search and rescue...

The day started with threatening clouds - ironically Mike and I were happy. We had been flying everyday for a good few days and secretly had been oping for rain. We did some theory with the group on board but within an hour the weather cleared and we went to the airfield for some flight training. I had John who is starting to get his landings sorted. By the end of the morning he was still landing with my help. But he has made progress. One needs to have a lot of patience with this sort of thing.

In the afternoon I took Mick and things went a lot better. For the first time he did a landing without my help. Infact, he did two. For the others I nudged a bit. But he is happy with his progress. While we where up Mike took Evelyn our chef, for some training and last we heard they were near Conception. For an hour there was no news from them. Then it was ten minutes before sunset and still n word - even after repeated calls from the control tower. Then the boys in the air volunteered their help. We had a Beach-craft 1900 near the south, a helicopter from Zill air in the north and Mick and I decided to head towards Beau Vallon bay. We knew that if they were still on the west coast the radio reception will be poor and the only way to know was to get in line of sight of that area. But we heard nothing. no response to any of our calls. Every one was getting worried and we could all feel some tension building. It was getting dark and how do you start a search and rescue at night?

Oh, I have to run! Will finish later! ;)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

9 days to go...

19 Feb,

The flying is getting serious. Four hours of training today – which does not sound a lot but with an hours worth of ground school with every hour flying, not to mention the refueling and driving, lunches etc, we get back only after 7 in the evening. Then its beer time (of course ;) while log books are filled in and then dinner.

I must mention our meals. Thank goodness we do not have to cook. It makes such a difference in not having to worry about making food, not to mention that it needs to be good food to keep us going – without that we would be lost. Evelyn, the is our chef. Not only is she a gorgeous woman (yup, blond hair, blue eyes, great body and with French accent – French Canadian ;) but she is a master at preparing meals fit for a king. Yup, we are eating like kings. And I am not just saying that. Its true. Tonight we had lamb chops, with fresh asparagus and a light rice to complement with all kinds of fruit for dessert. Last night we had roast lamb with baby potatoes, pumpkin, baby carrots with a great meat sauce and fruit salad with a strawberry smoothie to die for. Nights before I recall fish pasta's, paellas and beef stews and ti-chicken and roast duck and... The list goes on. O and did I mention free beer? There is no lacking in good food (and drinks). So after the meal, I shower, try to write something for the blog and emails and then crash. Up by 7 and out by 8 (Which is a reasonable time but like I said it is a long day and tough work)

But the boys are making progress. We are doing circuits – that is doing take offs, flying in the circuit pattern and landing again. Lots of touch and go’s. Lots of stress for us pilots too. Today, Fred locked on the bar a few times while I had to work hard to get him to relax in time (Before we flew into the ground! OK, it is just rounding out in time for landing) but this is the stuff that makes it hard work. Truth be told, I don’t like it much. It really is too hard and risky for my liking. Anyway, at this stage it is paying the bills and we have a lot of those at the moment. So we fly. ;-) (By the way, I love teaching but not trike training. Hang gliding yes. But trikes no. In a trike I am with the student who is doing their utmost to take you down with them. But with hang gliding I stand on the side and watch. If the student does not want to listen then they alone are going to eat sand. Much less stressful! ;-)
Anyway, 9 days to go and the boys will def not finish in time. I can see that. They can see that. In fact they have actually got to respect our skills, on their part realizing that it is going to take them far more hours to get up to speed with flying than they had at first estimated. It will take more than just having a licence to be experienced! But it is a start and they are enjoying it.

OK, time to hit the sack. Chat later and yes, I wish you were here. :-)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

17 Feb...

Another day! More flying. Its great to see the students making progress. Its also interesting to be doing touch and goes from an international airport. That is different. Every now and then we need to do holding turns while a chopper or shorts 360 or a 737 or Russian Antonov does a landing or take off. And then when the controller say call finals we respond, with a Sir we will remain in the holding pattern for another 5 minutes to allow the jet blast to dissipate a bit... Makes for real interesting flying. One also has a 4km runway. It makes go around really obsolete. If you do find the student stuffing up, it is simply a matter of applying power, getting level and then re-aligning for the 3.5km of runway that is left. Heck we can do it 8 times in one go...


But we are settling into a routine of sorts. It is not over working but comfortable. We need to last for two weeks so that is not unreasonable. Secretly mike and I are hoping for some rain...

I am off to bed. The day has been long and I am tired.

Wish you were here!

Monday, February 15, 2010

We move...

16 Feb...
So we have moved to guess where? The grand SOS ship. Michael loves it. I dig it. Michael likes the internet. I like the food. (Mike likes the food too :) And there are people. The ship’s crew is great. Eight of them. There were four that we were supposed to train but Ben got really sick. To the point that he has been flown out to Nairobi for treatment. (Though we think that from Seychelles to Nairobi is not much different. I come from Africa and know…) he developed severe headaches. He is under going scans to look for possible brain hemorrhages. We are all praying for him.

But that leaves a spot open for the rest of the crew to learn to fly. The trick is to select one. We are going to start the process this afternoon. For the morning I will be taking up Fred and Mike will be taking Mick. Yesterday Mick had a scary flight. Today he wants to make sure he can get over it. (The float plane gave him a bit of a scare – it was the high siding thing that got him. To steep right turn and the prop torque and thrust line just about over rides your high siding input. One needs to watch the steep right turns with full power… I had John in the front seat and he did great.) So far they are all showing great flight potential which helps to make our job easier.

My cabin on the ship is pretty cool. It is of course small by land standards (Typical of ships) and I have had a lot of de javue experiences – all from my stint in the Navy and time spent on ships. It is of course a long time ago (20 years!) so the feelings are from a far off dream. (It certainly does not feel like yesterday!) The cabin has two bunk beds. I slept in the bottom one (no one else there) and the bathroom is an sweet (I am sure it is not spelled like that and this spell checker is not picking it up but I am sure you know what I mean!;) No lux bath, just a shower of course. It is all very comfortable and I like it. If there is one thing I could complain about it is that there is absolutely no cupboard space. So I am living out of my suit case. O, and a great plus is that my cabin is right next to the laundry – the scent of softener comforts the nostrils and psyche (well for me at least;)

OK, its time to go fly. Will chat later this evening.
Wish you where here!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

the Cygnet 2 Amphibious plane

13 Feb

The plane – a Krucker manufactured amphibious plane called a Cygnet 2. (Cygnet means little swan – I am not sure if the idea is for the plane to later become beautiful because she sure lacks a bit on the looks department ; ) It constitutes two long floats of aluminum construction fitted under a chromoly and aluminum undercarriage. a Rotax 912 motor delivering 80hp with a warp drive prop provides ample thrust – very needed considering the need to break clear of the water without effort. (One of the tricky parts of water take offs is ensuring breaking the surface tension of the water for lift off). The plane uses a Impusle2 wing from North Wing. A great single surface wing without a king post. The rigging and derigging of this wing is a peach – takes just 10 to 15 minutes, something I really like. She flies well too though as I said before perhaps just a tad too much anhedral for my liking. But the end result is a water landing craft with working and practical ability. It does the job well and surprisingly even in choppy water, though as one would expect there are limits. The retractable undercarriage makes for an interesting change to flying microlights and it is great to land on water and then taxi out onto the beach – with ease!
The floats are very stable. I was able to climb out of my seat and walk around from bow to stern (can I use that terminology on an aircraft? ;) without getting my feet wet.

Personally, I miss the lightness of the other trikes but that is the price you pay for carrying floats. The undercarriage is large and there is a certain amount of inertia that one needs to keep in mind when handling the plane. Def no throwing about in the sky like some pilots I know! The plane likes medium turns, any steep turns and the high siding becomes uncomfortable.

Yesterday, Mike and Chris flew to Praslin. They circled the island and landed near the harbor in a protected area. This is not possible without the float capability. Coming back on the 30 mile sea journey the worry that would have been part of a flight like that (Engine out and landing in the sea without floats is not a good thought) suddenly turned into a pleasant adventure, a walk in the park, a simple sight seeing outing. That’s pretty good! While they did that I took Mick (The ships cpt) for some training around the airport. He is doing great and just needs to get more air time.

We ended up having a dry hamburger from the Eden Island restaurant (The food is nothing to write home about!) and hit the bed at around midnight. It was a long day…

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Its more rain...

11 Feb

Yesterday in the afternoon I developed a headache. I do not get headaches often but boy, this one was pretty bad. I put up a brave front while chatting to Donn, Mike and Alma who was taking photographs of our flying. By 3 I was out of it and took Alma back to Eden Island while Mike bravely flew over to the west side to do some training with the boys. By 6 I was there when he landed to help with the pack up. My headache held at bay by some serious pain tablets. No need for me to get in the air to fly…

In the morning we finally got EPE rigged and into the hangar. I did a 25 minute check out flight just to make sure everything was fine. The one EGT was running 30 degrees hotter than the other at cruise yet at full power it would go to 10 degrees colder. Puzzling! We will have to keep an eye on it.

But it was great to be back in the air with my old friend EPE. She was light and easy after the flying with XL (The float plane which is big and heavy) SO I delighted to float around the sky a bit (All within easy glide from the runway!) while taking in the scenery.

Seychelles really is a beautiful place. As far as tropical island destinations go it is as pretty as they come. The lush greens and turquoise waters and hues of the granite rocks not to mention the shapes make for some creation! Every beach is surrounded by huge granite boulders edged by the greens while the white sand and crystal water is hard to resist by even non swimmers – the beaches are really the best in the world. Eden Island too has turned into a beauty. In the early years while she was just a clump of rock and fir trees and then they started clearing even these and she looked barren and out of place and I though what on earth are they trying to do here? Many of us speculated at mans folly, trying to create a rich man’s paradise? Well, initially it did not look good. The few units they had made the island look like a desert town – in tropical island style paradise it was lost. But then more units were built and two years later it is almost full, along with beautiful palms, ferns, banana trees (with large bundles of bananas on them unlike on the main island where the locals nab them before they can turn ripe) and other greenery that has made the man made creation fit the part. Though much works still needs to be done, It is pretty and it works. Better still, we are living here and it is very comfortable. ;)

Of course it rained again yesterday (and the day before) and last night. This time of the year it rains every day they say. The air is very unstable and any cloud buildup usually develops into a CB cell. We have to be on constant alert while flying. Of course with floats it offers a great many more options for bail outs! I will tell you a bit more about the float plane next time. It has been a pleasant surprise.
Wish you were here!