Carlo is wants to learn how to fly and land as many things as possible. Tonet wants to compete in aerobatics.
On the list of things yet to earn are Italian cooking credentials, Carlo’s master’s degree, Tonet’s A&P license, beginner’s sexual techniques, advanced cocktails.
Some of the learning happen accidentally. Or near-accidentally. (We don’t plan to take any crash courses)
We want to learn slowly, leisurely, deliciously. Some of our best lessons, below.
Eighteen miles out, I turned back to the northwest to intercept my planned track to La Union. Into the worst of the haze. Except it wasn’t just haze.
A minute. Two minutes. Harder rain! The airplane started bouncing around.
Bouncing around? Am I in a thundersto… ?
The haze had veiled a cumulonimbus behind it.
Cb, or thunderstorms, are bad news. Dragons prowl around spewing out electrical bolts, roaring, as their huge scaly tails hammer your airplane.
As I flew deeper into the rain, the ground was still visible, but the dark dragons loomed ahead.
[Han Solo: "That’s no moon. That’s a space station!"]
More on this Quixotic joust here.
The temperature at Baguio that day was 24*C, dew point 19*C, QNH 1021. The calculator gave me a density altitude of 6,296 feet, far higher than the 4,250-foot elevation at Loakan. Our wings were trying to take off in thin air. Then we had an inch of carb heat knob out, which I had failed to push all the way in.
Scary video. More on this, a stark lesson on density altitude, mountain flying and advice from other pilots.
The airplane rolls for a long time before we get to 55 knots. I pull on the yoke and the airplane lifts off reluctantly, loafing above the runway. The stall horn blares.
“Stall warning.” Carlo is calm.
We have runway ahead to land and stop. The airplane sinks. We almost touch down again.
I hold it low in ground effect and gain speed. Yoke back again.
We are barely climbing. No more runway. We cross the threshold, a few feet over power lines.
Over the chasm at the end of the runway, and suddenly 1,000 feet above terrain. I put the nose down again, gain speed, and finally start a healthy climb.
That’s when I notice that…
Graduation day was CAVOK. Meynard wanted me to string four maneuvers together:
– A spin from straight and level. Recover at one turn and dive on original entry heading, pull back to climb into a . . .
. . . Loop, 3.5 Gs up and over, relaxing back pressure to round out the top. Pull out of dive into level flight for one second, then haul 4 Gs to climb vertically to a . . .
. . . Hammerhead, diving vertically in the opposite heading, then pitch up 30 degrees for an . . .
. . . Aileron roll, rolling 360 degrees non-stop and recovering straight ahead.
Then, 180-degree competition turn, and do it all again.
Tonet’s been urging me to write about our flight to Plaridel, but I’ve been having real trouble writing this article. I keep thinking of those two Indian girls, who died the day after our flight. They were fledgling pilots, just like me. About my age. The next day, they were names on the morning news. What differentiated us?
About 200 feet.
Dumb luck is important too.
I don’t know if I believe that, but having them die in practically the same situation I’d been in the day before really shook me.
As pilots, we believe that the well-being of our aircraft and their occupants is entirely dependent on our competence as pilots-in-command.
It takes a degree of humility – and courage – to realize that lady luck, ever fickle, is part of the equation too.
The head of my flying school once told Dad that I would mature when I learned to fly. I think that’s true, although any claims of maturity on my part inevitably lead to debate, roaring laughter, and the occasional wild party.
What is certain is that my flight training in was a time of firsts for me, including, in February 2007, my first ever solo out-of-town trip – airborne or otherwise.
The drone of my engine is loud and strong as my plane plunges towards the coast at pattern altitude above Lingayen airfield.
And I chose to learn from the best aerobatic pilot in the country.
He learned to fly at 40. Then he packed four years of study in US flying schools into a single year. Private, commercial, airline transport pilot licenses, instrument rating, airplane and helicopter certified flight instructor instrument, MEI, seaplane .
And aerobatics! Today Meynard is the undisputed aerobatic pilot in the country. He learned from the best – Sean Tucker, Patty Wagstaff, Bill Kershner – all gurus of aerobatic flight.
Latest in the series on IFR flight. Carlo and I are completely in the dark.
Friday the 13th, last April. Guess what we decided to do?
Yup. We flew at night! 😀
We were also in a microburst, a vicious downdraft created by the storm. The altimeter was unwinding, from 2,000 to 1,500, to 1,300 …. Julio’s pictures showed the vertical speed as 500 feet per minute, down. In 3 minutes we would be swimming instead of flying.
Julio wanted to say something about the GPS. I ’sterilized’ the cockpit and told him to look only at the airspeed indicator and listen for the stall warning horn.
Manila Tower asked me to verify my position, then said that their radar was showing a level 3 thunderstorm at that location.
I made the galactically idiotic reply, “Copy that, have the weather in sight.”
We were in solid rain, solid cloud, zero visibility. The last time I looked at the altimeter, we were only 800 feet above the sea.
More on this. The airplane likes to scare Julio. Maybe because he is the only one ever to throw up after a ride in 1513.