Welcome to my blog.

In 2008, I received a trial flight in a light aircraft - a flight which changed my life. After a mere thirty minutes in an asthmatic old Cessna, I decided I would become a pilot. It was love at first flight. As Leonardo Da Vinci famously said - Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”

However, like any relationship, there were highs (and there were puns!) and there were many moments where I thought I would never grasp this new skill.

After fifteen instructors, six flying schools and enough tears to fill a dam, I became a private pilot. And, because of a strong masochistic streak, I decided to study for my Commercial Pilot's Licence.

This blog is a working narrative of my time as a pilot, through my personal writing, my round Australia trip and my career as an aviation journalist, magazine editor, customer engagement manager for AvPlan EFB and aircraft salesperson for Cirrus Sydney.

Aviation has changed my life: through learning to fly I have discovered a part of myself that is resilient, organised and capable of great joy as a result of hard work, setbacks and learning.

In the words of Socrates, “Man must rise above the Earth – to the top of the atmosphere and beyond – for only thus will he fully understand the world in which he lives.”

Thanks for reading, and please feel free to email me with advice and suggestions on


Monday, February 20, 2012

Sticky Flaps

And so, the time has come. Having blown every cent earned from the sale of the bookshop, and unable to hire my beloved Archer on a dep ed's wage, the search for a cheaper aircraft has inevitably commenced.

The Sharp Eyed Scotty, always on full alert for a bargain, spied an ad in Eddie's coffee shop and urged me to respond.

"Cessna 150 for private hire. $110 wet. Bankstown."

I phoned the owner Mat - a LAME for Aeromilpacific, which is exactly the occupation a hirer desires from an aircraft owner, and arranged a flight check. He suggested I fly with an instructor, rather than him, so I booked my fave fella, Conrado from Schoies.

Mr Sticky Flaps
So, on a yucky day, Conrado and I flew to the training area to give Cessna 150 HPU a whirl.

Now, I wasn't expecting fast and I wasn't expecting modern, but I can see I have become used to "luxury" aircraft after my time in SFR. That said, HPU is comfortable, and has more instruments than I get when I fly over at Recreational Aus. The ADF was of a type so old I had never seen it before (it had a tuning scale, like on an old transistor radio) but then, until recently I did have a policy of not flying in aircraft as old as myself. However, I cannot afford to be la-di-da, and thus decided to focus on the merits of the aircraft.

Truth be told, I've never much liked Cessnas. Fact is, though, they're the Toyotas of the aircraft industry; ubiquitous, cheap and, allegedly, as easy to fly as the Warrior. For me, the high wing is a pain to refuel, requiring a ladder, and the wearing of trousers and flat shoes. The Vernier throttle is anti intuitive and the high wing configuration seems to make the aircraft float for ever on landing.

I knew, though, it was time to get over such predujices. And so, as Conrado and I walked around the aircraft, I tried to appreciate the differences. Two doors! Better visibility! A rear window! Electric flaps!

On take off, she climbed quite well considering her titchy little engine; certainly no worse than a 150 hp old Warrior. And although her cruise was no more than 90 knots - and in a strong headwind you'd be flying backwards - she was comfortable and sedate (qualities I adore in an aircraft). We took her up for a stall, and she was polite and well behaved. We did a few steep turns to get me used to the different attitude of a high wing, and then pulled out the flap for a "dirty" stall and a little bit of slow flight.

Conrado and I have a bit of a history of inflight disasters, so I really oughtn't have been surprised when the flaps wouldn't retract. Last time we flew together we couldn't lower the undercarriage, and the time before that we had a radio failure. So when the flaps simply wouldn't go up, we just grinned. "They'll go in a minute. We'll give it another go"

Nopes. Nothing. Well and truly stuck.

Being closer to Camden than Bankstown, we decided to land and get them looked at by a LAME. It took us 25 mins to get to Camden at 42 knots! I alerted the tower to our predicament, and he gave us a straight in. The final approach seemed to go on for ever, as Conrado said, "don't get too high, we have absolute no chance of a go around. We have to get it down first time"

Luckily, Camden has at least 1400m of runway, so I was pretty confident we'd have no trouble landing. As we exited the runway, the tower remarked it was the longest time ever from the reporting point to the threshold. As we taxied to the maintenance hangar, Conrado tried the flaps one more time, and 'zip' up they came.

Damn Cessnas! Nonetheless, I'll be back for more, no doubt about it....

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