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


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Cirrus Life

According to the late American psychiatrist William Glasser, we are driven by five genetic needs: survival; love and belonging; power; freedom and fun - and it just occurred to me that aviation caters to each of these needs, sometimes in turn and sometimes simultaneously. I have just returned from an experience of the latter: The Cirrus Life event at Hamilton Island.

With SR22 FER at Roma

While no pilot on earth could argue they need an aircraft for their survival, any pilot who remembers their first solo (and that's all of us!) can attest to the fact that flying is a survival exercise. The moment that giant piece of metal (or carbon composite!) is in the air, the pilot's impending survival is dependent on their ability to land the aircraft; we literally take our own lives into our hands when ever we go flying. Of course, flying a Cirrus aircraft which boasts the lowest accident rates in the industry [0.49% compared with the average of 1.2%, 2014. For more info visit http://whycirrus.com/safety/cirrus-history.aspx] with their in built safety features: the blue button, the CAPS, ESP, hypoxia alerts and FIKI, significantly increases the chances of survival, should an unfortunate incident occur.  So, while take offs are optional and landings mandatory, it's clear to see that once a pilot is airborne, flying is about survival.

Co-pilot to the fabulous Rob Fuller

The Cirrus Life event placed a big focus on training, improvement and learning. For two days, seminars were offered on engine maintenance and management, avionics, flight planning and advanced handling techniques. Specialist mentors were on hand to aid pilots with advice and support and senior American staff were present and approachable across the entire event. I myself manage to catch CEO Dale Klapmeier, to ask a few Cirrus specific questions, including what does the SR stand for in SR20 and SR22...answers in the comment section, pilots...

Dale Klapmeier presenting a seminar on the Vision Jet

Of course, flying is about so much more than survival. Although for many a job in the industry is their mode of financial survival, for the majority of us, flying begins (and often continues!) as fun. There are as many ways to have fun as there are aircraft types, and while flying inverted isn't my favourite way to get my kicks, for some it's the only way. For me, the fun is in the travel, the journey, which is why I'm at home in a comfortable, well-equipped tourer (with cup holders!) Fun, too, is belonging to a group of like minded individuals. Like many mammals, humans are pack animals, for whom the group is vital. Birds of a feather do indeed flock together. 36 Cirrus aircraft flew in from all over the country (which represents nearly 25% of the total Cirrus aircraft in Australia) including five Australis (Australi?) with 143 people in attendance at the dinner on Saturday night. Although I was at the previous Cirrus Life event in 2013, this was my first Life event as Cirrus staff. The contrast is that now I am part of the Cirrus family, which extends to everyone involved in Cirrus - pilot or not. Not only do I have the chance to fly amazing aircraft, I also have access to an enormous body of group knowledge; between the attendees at the Cirrus Life event the knowledge and experience of the company - its history, its future - every aspect was covered. There's nothing there one couldn't learn about any aspect of Cirrus. But, in addition to the knowledge, is the shared experience. I could literally walk up to any person and start a conversation (not hard for me, I know..) and be certain we would have something very vital in common - our love for Cirrus aircraft.

Landing at Hammo with Rob Fuller

But, aside from learning, the event's focus was equally on fun. The Friday night cocktail party hosted a steel band, alongside drinks and canap├ęs at the breathtakingly beautiful yacht club. Saturday night's dinner was headlined by the side-splittingly funny - and extraordinarily talented - James Morrison (former Cirrus owner, who arrived in a Piper as Dale pointed out in his intro speech, with comic derision!). The James Morrison band, made up of his (giant!) sons and the most fabulous scat singer I've encountered since Kurt Elling, provided a diverse and amusing evening, which ended in a raffle and a happy birthday to my boss, Cirrus Melbourne CEO Charles Gunter. 

The Sunday evening leaving drinks, set around the pool, had no planned entertainment. However, half way through the evening, one of the event waiters made an announcement that a staff member was getting married. He invited her to step up and sing a song in order to receive her wedding present, and blushing, she stepped up to the mic and issued a painful rendition of Waltzing Matilda. The crowd applauded her bravery, when the waiter, Mario Lasagne, broke into Pavarotti, claiming 'THIS is how you sing!" As the crowd stared in disbelief, Rebecca, the tone deaf waitress, declared he hadn't mentioned she should sing opera and burst into the aria from Carmen. After a duet, followed by a rendition of Hey Big Spender, the team announced they were hired by Graham Horne (regional director of Cirrus) from a company called Undercover Entertainers, whereupon they proceeded to thrill the audience with their outstanding opera selection. Finally, Vice President of Marketing, Ben Kowalski, was added to the mix, with his outstanding performance on the triangle!

In addition to seminars, presentations and musical fun, the Cirrus Life event provided an opportunity for interested pilots to fly with mentors, both CSIPs from Australia and the USA. As I'm midway through my Cirrus transition, I took advantage of this opportunity by booking a session with Andy Hartel of Cirrus Sunshine Coast, and Kevin Korteum from the factory in Duluth. And here is where I had the chance to experience both power and freedom in the same session. The SR22 is the most powerful aircraft I've flown to date, with a 310hp IO-550 six cylinder Continental engine. To date, my command experience has been on the smaller IO-360, 200hp. 

Short final, Hamilton Island, me in command

With Kevin Korteum
I spent the next two days, in two sessions of two hours, flying circuits (in challenging coastal weather!) and learning about power management in higher performance aircraft. By the end of session two, I could barely walk from all the rudder inputs (oh for a yaw damper!) but had finally earned the right to change my name to Kreisha 'nails the centreline' Ballantyne. And while I'm not fully certified as Girl With a Side Stick just yet, I now have the confidence and the knowledge and experience to know it won't be too long. Both Andy and Kevin were incredibly laid back, and made me feel confident and capable, despite the unfamiliar surroundings and challenging winds. I cannot reiterate the value of spending the time with qualified mentors, something I lacked in my early flying experiences (but more than made up for in the later part of my journey: you know who you are, dear mentors of mine!)

For me, flying has always been about freedom. From my very first flight, a TIF back in 2008, aviation has represented liberty to me. As someone who believes that travel begins when you pack your bags, the process of travel - flying - has always been my favourite part of the journey. When I became licenced to BE the pilot of that journey, I gained the absolute freedom: to combine travel and flying, my two passions, into one event. To fly to the Cirrus Life event (although not PIC, I was fortunate to be co-pilot to the fabulous Rob Fuller in his lovingly cared for and immaculate SR22) on Hamilton Island, and then spend the weekend amongst like-minded people, eating, drinking, learning and making new acquaintances, is about as good as it gets. Cirrus Life? Yes please!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

One week; three lovely birds!

My life has taken a very exciting turn: I have been offered and accepted a position at Cirrus Melbourne as Sales and Marketing Manager!

Suddenly, everything is Cirrus, and while the learning curve is huge, I have had the opportunity to learn on the job over the course of the last week. The first flight in an SR22 GTS to Wagga, detailed in the previous post, was the start of many more flights in many more Cirruses (I still like Cirri better as a plural).

For my second flight of the week, I was fortunate to be present for an 'acceptance' flight: a customer had purchased an aircraft from the factory and had it shipped to Blue Demon in Moorabbin for assembly. 

After the test fight and signing of documents, the aircraft was released and Regional Director Graham Horne and I conducted the acceptance. This involved checking each item - the doors, the air con, the anti-ice, the EVS camera, etc - were all in tip top working order. This aircraft, an SR22T, was top spec, and very very exciting, not to mention luxurious, to fly.

After the acceptance flight to the training area, where a few minor issues were noted, we refuelled and prepared to return the aircraft to Air Gold Coast, with Graham dropping me off at Bankstown on the way.

As this aircraft is turbocharged, and fitted with oxygen, we climbed up to FL170 for the return leg. Check out our TAS at 17,000ft! The trip between Moorabbin and Bankstown took an incredible 2 hours and ten minutes!

The following weekend, I was back in Melbourne for Avia's Cirrus Life open day. The first perk of the job - other than the privilege of working for a progressive, forward thinking company with the best selling piston aircraft in the world - is travelling everywhere by Cirrus! I felt like a celebrity as I waiting at the Bankstown passenger terminal for Graham to arrive with Avia's new Australis -  (so new it's still in N reg - N9ZN). 

In the passenger seat was Graham's son and co-pilot Benjamin, who as a fine young gentlemen, slipped into the back so I could take over as co-pilot. Once more, we had a lightening IFR trip to Moorabbin, at a little over two hours and fifteen minutes, with Benjamin in the back listening to his own iPod, whilst Graham and I shared tunes in the front.

With the weather gods on our side, Avia GM Shannon Taylor - a professional chef - fired up the barbecue. No soggy old snags for Avia, though: Shannon prepared steak and salad for the Avia audience, who turned out to admire Avia's new Australis. AvPlan, Jacobson Flare and Wingmate presented seminars, while Avia CEO conducted tours of the facility including the state of the art six axis simulator. The day was an enormous success, as I experienced the fear and fun combo of giving my first on-the-ground demo.

Like all good things, it was over all too soon. However, my fine fortitude continued for the remainder of the day, as Graham and Benjamin were returning the aircraft to Ballina, with myself as lucky passenger as far as Bankstown. It was passed last light when we arrived, and I experienced the glory of the SR22 by night, where the massive 12 inch screens are really seen to their advantage. Graham demonstrated a superb night landing, before refuelling and heading straight off for Ballina, leaving me on the ground in an absolute whirl.

Three Cirruses in one week! It doesn't get better than that!

Monday, June 8, 2015

A Cirrusly Good Day...

I am not known as a 'morning person' and there are very few things that can entice me out of bed at lark o'clock. In fact, there are three: the possibility of travel, the chance to fly an aircraft at dawn and a giant diamond at the end of the bed. Sunday offered two out of three, which is good enough for me to set my alarm for 05.00 on a Saturday night.

Woken by the smooth tones of Mr Sinatra offering to fly me to the moon, it was still dark when Charles Gunter from Avia Aviation rolled up in his car and drove me to coffee. It was still dark when we pulled back the hangar doors to reveal a bevy of Cirruses (Cirrai? Cirrarum?) not yet glinting in the morning sun. Refuelled, preflighted and ready to go was the magnificent, the awe-inspiring beauty known as VH-XTS - an SR22 GTS Platinum. It was still dark when I opened her gull-wing doors and reclined onto her magnificent leather seats, and still dark when we taxied to the run up bay.  Indeed, it was so early, the tower had yet to become operational and we received our departure clearance from Melbourne Centre.

With Charles - Director of Avia Aviation and Cirrus Melbourne, and former airline pilot with over 14,000 hours - in command and AvPlan EFB open on my lap, we ran up and rolled for take-off, the only aircraft on the airfield. With power on the magnificent XTS emitted a sound halfway between a growl and a purr and within seconds we were airborne and turning, taking up the course for Tumut, our first stop of the day.

I, having had the enormous good fortune of being invited on the first stop of Cirrus Melbourne's Australia Tour, was heading to Tumut for breakfast, and Wagga for lunch. The Australia Tour  is set to showcase the latest in Cirrus technology, visiting flying schools and aero clubs to showcase the magnificent aircraft for which every pilot pines (even the ones who claim they don't can't help but feel awed after a demo flight in an SR22T).

Our 228nm trip to Tumut was, according to AvPlan EFB, going to take a speedy 81 minutes, as a cruise speed of 173kts. At top of climb, Charles requested direct to MUSOP, and with a ground speed of 184, the flight was a little over an 70 minutes. But my, what a seventy minutes! Flying above the clouds, in the silky morning air in an aircraft that purrs, that feels like a luxury car with wings, is as good as it can get; better perhaps than finding a vintage diamond, or discovering your tax bill is actually a rebate. It's up there with the most pleasant thrills in life. And, on an early morning in Melbourne, an aircraft with 'reverse cycle' air-conditioning just topped it off.

We barely had time for Charles to show me the highlights of the Cirrus Perspective - oh the joy! The ease of flight planning, the wonderful traffic system, the terrain visible on the synthetic vision even when we're above cloud! Oh boy, I could gush for hours - before it was time to begin planning the approach.

As Tumut has no TAF, we were working on the forecast for Wagga, the METAR for which was claiming fog. Charles loaded the RNAV approach for Tumut, but as we neared, we heard two local gents on the radio, both of whom were ahead of us, and would serve as our canaries. John in a Mooney and Jim, in a Paradise, both landed without issue, despite some clumps of fog near, but not over, the runway.

Even throttled back, we orbited the field, for distance between us and the preceding aircraft, and we watched them both land from overhead before going in through a lovely hole just above the aerodrome (thank you, weather gods. It's been a while since you've been so kind!) The old adage that a great landing always follows a wonderful approach, we landed smoothly and in style at Tumut, just in time for breakfast.

Approach to Wagga

This was my first visit to Tumut Aero Club, but it certainly won't be my last. The standard of the aero club brekkie is legendarily high, but the banquet at Tumut would give a Sydney cafe a run for its money. And what a fine bunch the club members were, too; some of whom I knew from AvPlan and others from my time at AOPA, as well as some new faces I'll not forget in a hurry!

Charles with XTS

The interest in XTS was great, and Charles was lightning-quick in setting her up for the excited club members to have a look. It never fails to make me smile, seeing the reactions of grown men when they're sitting in a luxury aircraft! They really are like children at Christmas; a look I know I've worn many a time when having had the privilege of an amazing new aviation experience.

Me, John and Jim

All to soon it was lunch time, and time for departure to Wagga. The ever-generous Charles invited two lucky club members to join us in XTS and I happily gave up the front seat to experience someone else's joy. Nick and Ryan tossed a coin, and fortune favoured Ryan - student pilot and club Facebook admin and future Cirrus owner! 

Ryan, Cirrus Owner of the Future!

Sitting in the rear (the seats recline!) I was reminded of the Cirrus Life event on Hamilton Island back in 2013 when Cirrus CEO Dale Klapmeier spoke of how the Cirrus interior was inspired: wives and partners. He knew if he could persuade wives and partners to join pilots in long journeys by light aircraft, he would have to design something that was both safe and comfortable. And did he ever succeed: the rear seats of the SR22T are as comfortable as those in a luxury SUV; the cabin is cavernous, with plenty of room in the footwells, and the seatbelts are like that of a car, unlike the usual neck garrotting affairs that are found in the rear of your average GA aircraft. Of course, there's nothing average about the ST22T.

Charles, keen to show Ryan the brilliance of the Cirrus Perspective, set up a practice ILS at Wagga and XTS flew the aircraft right down to the minima, with perfect precision. Our flight to Wagga took a mere 18 minutes, and as we taxied in, the crowds were already waiting for demos in XTS. 

Leaving Charles to show prospective buyers the full range of features, I took the opportunity to experience something quite different - a ride in a Paradise. The Paradise, a two seat LSA manufactured in Brazil, is not an aircraft I'd encountered before. Having had breakfast with its owner, Jim, in Tumut, I was thrilled to be offered the chance to fly it. It was something very new for me - a high wing lighty with a CSU! It was so much fun to fly, and quite a different experience approaching at 55kts. My landing was a little bumpy, but Jim was super calm, used as he is to landing the Paradise in paddocks. I love regional NSW, and it was a pleasure to have a flight over the local area in an aircraft with such wonderful visibility.

The Paradise

Back on the ground I encountered a couple of gents who'd been participants of a recent AvPlan webinar, and who were keen for me to check their aircraft details, so I spend a happy half hour demonstrating the joys of AvPlan EFB, while Charles took club members on demo flights.

And, just like that, it was four pm and time for me to leave. I'd booked a Q-Link flight home (the Dash 8 being something of a come down to me, even in 2C right near the front, after the joys of the day) and had to depart, leaving behind the fabulous friendly folks of Wagga Aero Club to continue their Cirrus experience.

Charles' flight home

I woke to the sounds of "Welcome to Sydney" having fallen into the most delicious doze. My Cirrus cap, which had fallen over my eyes, was thankfully a reminder that the day hadn't been a dream. May there be many more...

Sunday, March 15, 2015

I Glid, I Did

Clunk! That’s both the sound of the tug rope leaving the glider and the sound of your brain realizing you’re up at 2000ft without an engine. In that moment, a powered pilot must own and acknowledge that they’re going to have to land without the energy of an engine.

There are no second chances at landing a glider, a fact all too blatant to Captain Bob Pearson, pilot of Air Canada flight 143, the Boeing 767 that lost both engines due to fuel starvation, and became the Gimli Glider (www.damninteresting.com/the-gimli-glider/#continue).  Captain Pearson’s near-perfect dead-stick flying, and the skills he utilised in landing the powerless jet serve as the definitive demonstration, for every pilot, of the value of gliding experience.

In an attempt to understand these skills first hand, I was invited by glider pilot Leonie Furze to the Bathurst Soaring Club, based at Piper’s Field, just to the north-west of Bathurst (http://bathurstsoaring.org.au/default.asp). Myself a powered-pilot with around 600 hours, I asked Leonie how she expected my glide experience to differ from a ‘normal’ powered flight. “The most interesting thing about gliding,” Leonie explained, “is that every flight is different. In order to succeed as a glider pilot, you have to harness so many things: your understanding of the weather becomes critical; you become an expert in energy management; you spend so much time looking outside, always assessing the options for landing. You’re critically aware of your altitude, your surroundings, your attitude relative to the horizon at all times. You won’t believe the way it extends your skill set as a pilot.”

“I’m often asked by powered pilots, ‘How long before I can solo a glider, as I already know how to fly?’” commented instructor Nick Wills. “My standard (tongue in cheek) reply is “slightly longer than if we picked a random person off the street!” As an instructor in gliding and powered flight, Nick extolled the benefits of gliding experience. “I cannot recommend it highly enough,” he said “The advantages are enormous: a glider pilot must fly accurately and efficiently, being in balance at all times, because energy management is critical. Adverse yaw in turns needs precise coordination of stick and rudder - those pedals are not footrests! You learn to gauge height and distance (glide angles) with instinctive accuracy at all times during all phases of flight –you don’t have an engine dragging you through the sky – so you are constantly looking for options to land safely. When you do land, you have got one chance and one chance only.  There is no going around! What do you call a Cessna 172 when the engine quits?  Answer: a glider (although not a very good one!) In addition, the GFA require full spin recovery checks for all pilots once per year (in my opinion, this should be a requirement for any pilot who flies an aircraft capable of spinning –which is most of them).”

Graham Brown

Keen to experience these benefits myself, I’m introduced to my instructor for this session, Graham Brown - a glider pilot with over 40 years experience - and my long-winged bird, a sleek looking ASK 21, a glass-reinforced plastic two-seater mid-wing glider with a T-tail.

Touchy Feely – fly by senses, not just by instruments

Aside from the enormous wings, which boast a glide ratio of 36:1, the obvious difference between a glider and a powered aircraft is in the cockpit instrumentation: there’s barely any in a glider. An ASI, AI, compass and the glider’s unique instrument, the variometer, which used to determine rising or sinking air, are the main instruments in the ASK 21. But, as Graham is about to demonstrate, a competent and experienced glider pilot can manage without any of them. “Gliding is very much about feeling the sensations of flight,” he explains. “Your attitude, along with the thermals, will determine your altitude. The sound of the wind will indicate your airspeed. You will feel, in your seat, whether you are climbing and descending. And, at this stage, you will know where you are in relation to the airfield, because we will not go far, and you’ll be able to see it.”  It’s a very tactile experience, one that emphasises why the senses of vision, hearing and balance are so important to a pilot.

As we hook up to the tug, Graham reveals the airbrakes which increase drag, reduce lift and are used to control the rate of decent during the approach to land. The ideal approach is a “half brake approach”. They can also be used to descend rapidly from altitude.
Graham’s safety briefing includes the tug release control (“please don’t touch that one” he comments, sardonically) and the trim, which sits alongside the stick. “No throttle!” I remark, pointlessly.

With the wind straight down the runway, we begin rolling and Graham demonstrates how to stay out of the tug’s slipstream by adopting a high or low position. At 2000ft, Graham asks me if I’m ready, and clunk, the tug banks to the left, we bank to the right and we’re soaring. I suffer an initial moment of panic before calm descends over me. Without an engine, the sounds are so different; you can hear only the wind and it becomes immediately clear that you are soaring; that you are experiencing flight’s most pure form. Graham shows me how to listen to the wind to judge our airspeed, and by changing attitude, we change the sound of the wind, first in the climb (quieter) and in the descent (when the wind howls). In this, I’ve learnt how, in a case of instrument failure, a glider pilot could be confident in landing the aircraft without the instrumentation on which a powered pilot is so dependent.

Fancy Footwork – learning (again) the importance of rudder

It’s a wonderful day for gliding, with plenty of cumulus clouds providing us our desired lift, and we experience no problem in climbing to 6000ft. Graham hands the ASK 21 over to me, and instructs me to turn, to climb, to descend and to have a ‘good feel’ of the controls. “One of the benefits of a glider is that it allows us to demonstrate adverse yaw,” explains Graham. “This is turn shows the importance of using the rudder in keeping the aircraft in balance,” he says, giving the right rudder a huge boot to demonstrate. 

These rudder skills are also vital in a non powered landing; without an engine to provide power close to the ground, and with a go-around a non-option, a glider pilot’s landing requires a great deal of rudder skill. I think back to the times I’ve relied only on power to rescue me from an ugly approach, and shudder.

Seeing is Believing – improve your situational awareness

The cockpit FLARM starts beeping, and I immediately look out for traffic, spying another glider heading our way. “It’s common for glider pilots to all head for the same cloud, invariably the best cloud,” Graham explains. “This is why situational awareness is paramount in glider operations.  Sighting and avoiding traffic is a critical skill.  You can’t assume other aircraft are also FLARM equipped.” Another hazard is birds, particularly eagles, who often confuse gliders for other birds. However, because there are so few cockpit instruments to monitor, it’s very natural to spend most of the time looking out, scanning for traffic and searching for clouds, like a surfer seeks waves.

Watch the Birdies – learn more about the weather

Curious to learn more, I ask Graham for clues. “ The birds give us a lot of information,” he tells me. “Have you ever seen a flock of pelicans circling high in the sky or a seagull hovering motionless over a headland? The pelicans are flying in a column of rising air (a thermal) and the seagull is flying in the rising air deflected upwards by the cliff face. In both cases the birds are in an air mass that is rising faster than they are descending through it. Gliders exploit exactly the same natural phenomenon.”

While knowledge of the weather is vital to all pilots, it’s paramount to gliders, particularly those participating in a cross-country. “On poor soaring days you will be restricted to within glide range of the airfield,” Graham says. “However on good days, once you are competent, you can attempt recognised flights of 50, 300, 500 or 1,000km. The straight glide performance of gliders varies immensely. A typical club glider will easily glide 10km for each 1,000 feet without encountering any rising air. You soon learn to spot the banks of cloud that facilitate long range gliding.”

Be Aware, Be Spatially Aware – and improve your judgment of height and distance

Typically gliders fly at around 70 - 100 knots between thermals. When circling in lift, the speed may be as little as 40 knots; gliding is all about energy management and this is best demonstrated in the approach and landing. While the wind whistles about us, we commence our descent to the field, and Graham demonstrates the importance of our height and distance from the strip as we fly a circuit. He deliberately overshoots on final to slip off a little height, but just as I remark that we seem terribly high, he deploys the air brakes. We sink like a stone. We aim for the latter part of the strip, to avoid turbulence from the hill. What happens if we undershoot? “We don’t,” answers Graham, with a laugh.

No Second Chances – learn advanced energy management

Short final in a glider is much like any other – we are certain to land on the nominated point.  However, what becomes clear to me (other than the clear absence of engine power), is that landing a glider is like landing a tail-dragger. Turns out all gliders are tail-draggers, which I discover when I ask what prevents us from taking off again, given our weight and the into-wind position we’re in. “We stall the aircraft onto the runway,” explains Graham. It’s another example of energy management: “we will run out of lift, and then bring the stick back to pin the tail down. Eventually, we’ll use up all the energy.”

And indeed we do, and I soon realise there’s no energy left to get us back to the hangar.

Smells like Team Spirit – join a culture of safety

As we wait for the pick up car, Graham details the fundamental importance of teamwork in gliding. “It’s not a solo sport; it takes a team to glide. Someone has to fly the tug, there’s someone at the wing to aid with the take-off, another person to collect you from the field. It’s a club sport, and with that comes a club spirit. We’re extremely sociable here; we have a clubhouse, and a series of caravans in which people come and spend the weekend. A lot of our pilots live in Sydney and spend the weekends up here. A benefit of the sociability of gliding is that it promotes airmanship and safety. We constantly discuss our experiences, and the old mentor the new. We encourage each other to share tips and tricks, and that breeds a culture of safety and respect.”

Upon arrival back at the club I’m introduced to club CFI Bob Hall, who is very keen to hear about my experience. I discover that gliding in Australia has one the best safety records in the world. Before long, Leonie and Nick are joining in and we’re discussing the many merits of gliding and the way in which it stretches your skills. As they kindly invite me to join the club, and to participate in their next social event, I can’t help but wonder if gliding not only makes you a better pilot, but whether it makes you a happier, more sociable person as well.

Huge thanks to Leonie Furze, Nick Wills, Bob Hall and Graham Brown
For more information on gliding please visit http://www.glidingaustralia.org

This article was first published in Flight Safety Australia 103 - March - April 2015


Monday, March 9, 2015

Passing the Stick...

Hot the on the heels of a week at Avalon, I barely had time to recover from the av-frenzy before it was my turn to tote the baton. My friend Andrew, owner of Banktown's finest C182, had offered to lend me his aircraft in honour of the relay and arrived at Essendon on the Sunday to hand over the controls (and the cushion!) 

Landing at Mallacoota

Having caught up with baton-wielder Peta Denham Harvey at Avalon, I knew the suspected the arrival at Mallacoota might be a little later than the projected 13.00, on account of the first leg being flown by four ladies, each stopping at a different port to hand over the marvellously hand-crafted wooden baton, and iPad provided by AvPlan.

The Vic girls arrive with the baton

Having landed at Mallacoota at lunchtime, just as the wind swung round to the gravel runway - 07 - I took the time to relax and enjoy a tour of the town, courtesy of local couple Peter and Wendy (who provided home made muffins). The Vic girls touched down at 16.30, shortly after the arrival of two Falcos from Merrimbula, piloted by Neil Bourke and Ian Newman. 

Kristin hands me the baton

Handing over the AvPlan iPad

After a whirlwind of photos, it was a race against the light to get to Merimbula, hand over the baton to Belinda Baulch on behalf of Jan Goodhew. After another round of media, and a wonderful welcoming committee (special thanks, as ever, to the Frogs Hollow Fliers for their generous donation) we took of and pointed the nose towards Bankstown. Weirdly, Nowra was still active, and even with a direct to Ulladulla, the elements won when I ran out of light near Wollongong. 

Handing the baton to Belinda in Merimbula

A VFR pilot without a current night rating is always prepared (a dollar for every time I've been caught short at YWOL due to wx!) and it was a no brainer to tie down the 182 and hop in a cab for a direct to Wollongong's Novotel. As I touched down on the blissful hotel bed, I was reminded that the finest bonus of flying a 182 is that I always have a spare pillow - feather at that - should I ever get stranded in a regional hotel.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Avalon International Airshow, 2015 - Voice-Breakingly Good!

 As the unofficial holder of the ‘talks under water’ award, it takes a lot to break my voice. I do demos for a living and my favourite pastime, aside from flying, is talking. I prefer controlled airspace to class G, largely because it gives me a greater chance to talk. So when I lost my voice on the last trade day of the Avalon Airshow, it was a certain sign of how busy the show had been for Team AvPlan.

The AvPlan Crew gets ready for Day One

Avalon 2015 was the most successful airshow yet for AvPlan EFB.  On the Tuesday, it was announced that we had won the Civil Industry National Innovation Award 2015. Bevan attended the ceremony, where the award (a glass boomerang) was presented by Air Marshal Les Fisher.

Bevan receives the award. Photo John Harris.

The AvPlan stand, in hall 2, began buzzing on Tuesday morning and didn’t stop. With the impending launch of version 5.0, pilots were lining up to see our new features, to offer feedback and (mostly) praise about AvPlan and to share their experiences of using the app. We had visitors from all over the country, including jet pilots; a ballonatic; a state senator who never flies without AvPlan; a Powerball winner ($20m! Can you imagine? He was visiting Avalon with ten mil to spend and popped by to say how much he loved AvPlan); and a myriad of pilots from the Army, Navy and RAAF.

Rochelle and Bevan

All five of us – six on Friday when Rochelle popped in to help out – were flatchat the whole show. Popular questions were around our upcoming iOS release, V5.0; our impending Android update, and the ever present ‘what’s the difference between you and the other EFBs’ (which is one of my personal favourites, as I love nothing more than demonstrating AvPlan’s Mega VFR maps, amazing weather radar overlay, velocity world weather and active airspace options – to name but a few).

On Wednesday, I handed over the AvPlan iPad to Peta Denham Harvey, who is the first pilot in the Women Pilots' Relay https://www.facebook.com/WomenPilotsRelay?ref=hl from Avalon to Launceston, counterclockwise. The relay has already raised over $7000 for cancer research, and AvPlan is proud to be a supporter.

Handing over the iPad to Peta Denham-Harvey

After having met what seemed like every single one of our users – and lots of new users, too – I left on Friday, while the rest of the crew continued through til Sunday, enjoying the airshow and questions from the general public.

On behalf of the AvPlan team, I’d like to thank everyone who came by to offer their feedback, support and their congratulations on our winning of the award. 2015 is shaping up to be the best year yet for AvSoft Inc, and I’m delighted to be a part of it.