Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Flying with Doug

Friend Doug built himself a Vans RV-6. He spent about two and a half years building it, and got it flying in December 2011. Since then, he's flown all his test hours (40 of them) in order to prove the aeroplane, and flown lots more; because, well, he has a RV-6, and who wouldn't fly the pants off their RV if they had one?

Doug and his RV-6

Recently, he delighted me by asking if I'd like to join him on a flight. So we went off to San Marcos and I acquainted myself with his aeroplane. It is very nice, containing a completely glass panel fitted with Grand Rapids instruments.

We flew out past Lockhart to the practise area south and east of San Marcos, which is fairly quiet airspace with few airfields. Doug gave me control of the plane, and I got a feel for the way it flies. This airplane loves to climb! I've been lucky enough to fly a few different RVs and they are all sensitive on the controls; this one is no exception. It will run away with you as soon as you're not paying attention. So even though this was a beautiful, clear, calm day as only Central Texas can provide in the fall, I did spend a short while chasing the plane all over the sky until I got a handle on it.

After I got it sorted, we were flying straight and level, and Doug suggested I try some turns. Around we went, in 90-degree increments, left and right. Then I tried doing a complete 360-degree turn, and to my extreme satisfaction, we felt a bump on resuming our initial heading - we had flown through our own wake :-) I always wanted to do that!

We tried some slow flight; Doug had me reduce the throttle down to about 15 inches and the plane slowed to around 90 knots. The controls get very mushy at the slower speeds (cruise is more like 180 knots) and turns happen a lot quicker, it feels like you're turning on a dime (a sixpence, for our UK readers!).

Back to San Marcos we flew, and I was very happy. Apparently I didn't disgrace myself too badly either, as Doug has taken me up twice since then!

On our second flight, I was getting to know the electronic display a little better. Doug reckons it takes a good ten hours of flight to really get going with it - at first, it is a sea of numbers and moving arrows. It still is, to some extent, but the heading, airspeed, vertical speed indicator, altitude and artificial horizon are all obvious enough. There are other indicators and reference points that pop up now and again, especially when the autopilot gets involved. The little circle just left of centre on the main panel seen here is an indicator to show you where you're going at that moment in time.

You can probably just make out on the left hand panel that it shows fuel levels, manifold pressure, engine RPM, cylinder head temperatures etc. It can show all kinds of other things too, but that screen is usually visible.

Before wet set off on our second flight, Doug took me through the whole flight planning process; deciding on where you want to go, then using a whiz wheel and chart to calculate the heading to fly, compensated for magnetic deviation and wind, and for how long to fly before you reach your destination, how much fuel burn you will use etc. This was very cool as I've not had this stuff explained to me before. We thought that we should reach Gonzales 15 minutes after we took off. The timer was started as we entered the runway, and 13.5 minutes later we crossed Gonzales airport - we'd had a slight tailwind which we didn't account for.

We spent more time on this flight doing turns, and lots of slow flight practise. Doug walked me through making a downwind, base and approach leg at the proper power settings - we stayed up at 2500ft or so, but I got the idea. Still not sure if I could actually land (I have confidence I probably could), but at least I'd crash slowly now ;-)

Here's San Marcos from the air.

Yesterday, Doug texted me and asked if I'd like to join him for a jaunt up to Georgetown for some cheap fuel. Avgas (100LL) is currently about $5.60/gal in San Marcos, and $4.50/gal in Georgetown. I am always amazed at the huge variation in avgas prices; if you go to Bergstrom you can pay $8/gal. So off we set to the north, flew over our neighbourhood - always fun! - and got a nice view of Austin as we passed by, although it was a little far away for the lens I was using to make a decent picture.

We made it to Georgetown!

After fueling up, we flew towards Taylor. Doug had made mention of doing a touch-and-go there but there was some random traffic floating around the area, so we hung back. Doug had me make a bit of an approach there; at least turning towards the runway a couple of miles out, before we turned away and headed south again.

Doug asked the controllers at Austin Bergstrom if we might be allowed into their airspace, to have a look at the Circuit of the Americas, which is where the Formula 1 race is being held this weekend. They have spent the last two years building this track and it looks pretty awesome. We have tickets to the F1 race, so watch this space for reports! Anyway, the track is very close to the approach into runway 35R at Bergstrom, just across the other side of the 130 toll road. So you don't want to be getting in the way of commercial jet traffic. The controllers were very accommodating however and let us make an orbit around the track to get some photos. I wonder how many planes have been doing the same thing; I know for a fact we're not the only ones!

Bergstrom is really close!

Circuit of the Americas

The middle of the track area

The hairpin

Flying away

So that was sweet; getting a look at the circuit from on high. They have painted a bunch of red white and blue stars all over the sides of the circuit, it looks all shiny and new. I hope those of you watching the F1 race on TV get a good look at it all! Watch for Alan and me waving; maybe you'll see us in the grassy area at the end of the hairpin.

Meanwhile, I will let Doug's lessons sink in. He has been very generous with his time and airplane. Thanks, Doug!

1 comment:

Rob Edgcumbe said...

Nice stuff. I hope you have fun at the Grand Prix. Very jealous. Had originally thought about it, changed my mind and now regretting that. I'll look for you on Speed.