Thursday, May 17, 2012

Weekend in the Cayman Islands

With great weather predicted for south FL and the Caribbean, this past weekend was the perfect opportunity to make a dent in the bucket list.  I decided to fly to Grand Cayman.

The flight was a straightforward IFR route mostly over water and directly over Cuba:
There were a few VOR fixes along the way, which are not shown.

I was a little nervous about the international flying protocol.  While I have done some international flying, this flight would require a  Cuba overflight, which involves getting an explicit permit and some special procedures. 

I probably could have done it entirely on my own.  But for added convenience and "peace of mind", I enlisted the help of the concierge service of Air Journey.  This service is like having a private airline dispatch crew at your disposal.
They provided me an amazing briefing packet prior to the flight, which included everything I needed.  Not only did it include the stuff you would expect, such as charts, flight plan, and International permits, it also included photos of the destination buildings, FBO, customs etc.  With their help, I felt totally prepared.  In addition, it also felt nice to have the "safety blanket" of a knowledgable person to call in the event I encountered something unusual during the journey.

The journey itself was rather simple and very much like flying any IFR flight plan in the US.  However, the ATC radio calls were a bit interesting.  Somehow, the Havana Center controllers seem to know which planes to speak to in English and which ones to speak to in Spanish.  There were also several nuances to international flight that I learned along way.  For example, altimeter usage, Class A airspace boundaries, and reporting points over water in areas with minimal radar coverage.


You can hear some of the ATC audio in the Youtube clip below:



But the views were the most amazing part of the trip.  The color of the water, especially just south of Cuba, was brilliant:
Of course, after a couple of hours over the water, land was certainly a very welcome sight!
Notice the runway edge is right on the water!
Once I landed the immigration/customs process extremely simple and took no more than 5 minutes for the authorities to check my passport and look over the plane.

Within 30 minutes after landing, I was sipping a cool beverage in this hammock on Seven Mile beach!







Saturday, May 5, 2012

Aerobatics Training in a Zlin

As you have probably noticed, I have not been posting much lately.  It is NOT because I am flying less.  In fact, I have been flying quite a bit lately.  However, most of my flights were routine with nothing that I hadnt posted about before.  But this week, things really started to change!

After finishing the 50 states, I wanted to set a few more (new) goals, which you can see here.

This weekend, I decided was the first step!

I didn't have all of my international paperwork in order.  So a trip to a new island was out of the question (for now).  But a new aircraft type was totally possible.   With the help of Kathy Hirtz of WingOver Aerobatics, I got to log some VERY interesting time in a ZLIN 242L, which you can see below:



Notice the required parachute I was wearing!

This plane is a 200 hp, aerobatic plane that is capable of pulling +6 Gs and/or -3Gs!

But more importantly, I learned "how to fly" (again)!

Aerobatic training was absolutely intense.  I started with a bunch of ground school and learned the intricacies of "hardcore" stick and rudder flying.  You are probably wondering what "hardcore" means in this context...

In "regular" training, which I did years ago, I learned all the basic of flight (pitch, roll, yaw etc) and all of the flight controls that the pilot had at his disposal (power, rudder, aileron, etc).  But with aerobatic training, you MUST learn all of the same material in greater detail and more by "feel" than by numbers on a gauge.

The Zlin was a great plane to learn aerobatics in.  Many aerobatics planes are tailwheels.  But the Zlin is a standard tricycle gear, which makes it a little more comfortable for most pilots to taxi and land.  The Zlin is also the polar opposite of the Cirrus I am accustomed to flying.  Kathy was  repeatedly reminding me to so stop looking at gauges inside the cockpit and focus my attention on "feeling" what the plane was doing outside the cockpit.

I am still not sure I totally understand it, but after a couple of hours, I am starting to get the hang of it!

Kathy was really an amazing instructor!  Despite the numerous mistakes I made in the cockpit, she was totally calm and patient.  So far I know how to do Falling Leafs, Spins, Dutch Rolls, Wing Overs, and (my favorite) the Aileron Rolls.

Can't wait for the next lesson, where I will learn how to more advanced maneuvers, such as a Hammerhead or a Cuban 8

I recorded everything from this lesson on video.  Hopefully, over the next couple of days, I will get a chance chance to edit the video and post it on Youtube.  Stay tuned for that...

Cheers,

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