CPL Update #2: Diamond DA40

Well Happy New Year everyone, I hope you all had a good Christmas break. We had a few weeks off but are now back at it full throttle for 2017. I have done a bit since my last update. I finished my last flights on the Cessna 172, did the Aerodynamics exam and have had my first flight in the Diamond DA40.

The end of 2016 was coming up fast, the school was really buzzing with new students just starting and many completing freshly minted PPL‘s and CPL‘s before Christmas. So into ground school we went to crack on with the last subject for the year. Everyone will have subjects they like, hate, love, find easy, find dry, and so on and so on. For me, I guess I’m lucky that I find it all largely interesting, and my curious nature drives me forward, wanting to acquire as much knowledge as I can. That being said, I’m not immune to finding some subjects more difficult than others. Of the seven subjects, some you can boil down to their core elements and I’d say Aerodynamics is Physics, a subject I didn’t study at school. So while that doesn’t make it impossible to learn, it does mean you have to stay really switched on to understand the fundamentals of what’s going on rather than just bake in the answers to just pass a test.

Up to Archerfield one last time for the year we went again, did the test and happy faces all round. Then it was time to finish up the last three of the Cessna flights before the school closed for the year. We’ll be here forever if I detail each flight, so I’ll recap them all in one hit. There were various destinations/airfields including Sunshine Coast, Archerfield, Watts Bridge, Toowoomba and Clifton, all of which started and finished with Gold Coast. One thing that really began to kick in for these last few flights is the summer weather. Hot, humid, stormy and maybe just my luck but 15kt crosswinds on each of them. This certainly made for some challenging flights given my experience. Get ready to be delayed and to reschedule flights as the weather can be pretty unpredictable and change rapidly. While my personal experience of summer living in South-East Queensland tends to be somewhat good mornings with big towering storms building to the west by mid afternoon and arriving not long after, that’s not always the case. It pays to be vigilant and to not develop press-on-itis. No way do I want to be caught up there wishing I was down here because of poor decision making.

I did manage to complete the last of the Cessna flights in 2016 however, which was a relief. The weather on my last flight being the most challenging to date, with lower cloud bases, poorer visibility, more wind and just generally degraded conditions. I’m always really careful with going up though, and this was no exception. We looked closely at the weather and what it was trending towards that day, and the decision was made to go up and see. Seeing as we are now into the commercial phase of training, not every flight will be CAVOK and we have to learn the more complex conditions. That didn’t mean safety was put on the backburner for one second, it was set that if we did get up there and find conditions en route that we didn’t feel safe with, were worse than forecast or not legal VMC, we were to divert or come home.

Off I went, first stop Archerfield for a touch and go, with everything looking fine and only some light turbulence. The conditions out to Kingaroy however, which was the next stop, didn’t look so flash. Once at Dayboro I made the decision to climb up a bit more and make a more thorough assessment, of which I found a cloud base too low to safely continue. I then had two choices, come home or divert. I chose to divert, with conditions to the east and south (where I came from) not as bad, nor degrading. So I went to Sunshine Coast and did a touch and go then tracked south, hopped over to Tangalooma then down to the Gold Coast. I could see some big clouds building out a fair way over the ocean, and by then the conditions were changing with the cloud lifting and dissipating progressively as I got closer to the Gold Coast, but the wind had picked up a bit and things had gotten more bumpy. I got cleared into the Gold Coast, landed without issue then taxied back, happy to be finished with the flight but thankful for the experience.

I was happy with the decisions I made on the flight. I got the experience of not so great weather but didn’t make any brash decisions that could have compromised the flight, instead erring on the side of caution and making decisions early. I had a good end of year debrief with my Uncle which was reassuring and honest, being able to talk with someone so experienced but to also keep it real with the challenges all pilots face. I also made sure to reflect myself and tally up the year that was 2016, then enjoy a few weeks off with friends and family before getting stuck back in.

With the calendar switched to 2017, it was time to get back into it. Three CPL subjects to go and a new aircraft to learn. First up for the year is Meteorology, which I have been looking forward to for a long time as I love the weather, I’ve always been fascinated by it, always have the radar tab open. An interest inherited from my father no doubt, I remember as a child sitting out on the verandah with him when the power would go out and we’d watch the storms roll past, an almost daily occurrence though summer it felt, or watching the pressure change on the barometer, things I didn’t really understand as a kid but found cool none the less. Met is complex though, there is all the theory and all the operational requirements. I decided to get the Manual of Aviation Meteorology textbook by the Bureau of Meteorology which has been a great addition, and one I’m told will serve me through to ATPL.

The exam isn’t until a few weeks from now so we also started on the Diamond DA40, quite a change up from the 172. With a glass cockpit, turbocharged Jet A1 powered engine, low wing and more. There is a lot of new things to take in, the Garmin G1000 is vastly more sophisticated to the instrumentation in the schools 172’s, it’s going to take some time to really hone the skills and master such a system. Adding to that new flows, pre-flight procedures, performance calculations and more. It’s exciting though, I’m really excited to learn more about this plane and look forward to training in it. Jack and I went up on Friday for the first flight, such a different experience. Going from a yoke to a stick between the legs is different, I must say that although I’ve only had one flight it does feel quite responsive. I really enjoyed flying it, it did feel more sharp on the controls than the 172 which I like. Power is set as percentage load rather than RPM which is different, and there is now an automatic CSU. This along with many other factors make it quite a departure from before, at least right now it feels magnified perhaps. I’m looking forward to the rest of the year, with plenty of exciting things on the horizon. I feel 2017 will be a great year.

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