March 11/14 – Flying an aeroplane – write up by Mark; my buddy and PPG pilot.

Andre, as anyone who follows this site will know, has recently gained his recreational pilot license. He is now able to take a passenger. Having recently turned 40 (in December), Andre suggested beers and a flight as a gift. We did the beers in December, but I had to wait until Andre passed his exams to go for the flight. Well, Andre passed with ‘flying colours’ so to speak, coming top of his class (2013) at the St Catharines Flying Club. We headed out for an evening flight on Sunday. It was a couple of degrees below zero, but it felt a lot colder as Andre took me around the plane for some pre-flight checks. I must say, flying a plane has always seemed a lot of hassle to me. There are so many things to remember… important things. That’s why they have written check lists to follow. We checked for fuel levels, water in the fuel, air speed indicator, oil levels, moving surfaces etc and then climbed in. The cabin was preheated. Apparently engines don’t like cold starts, so they get them toasty warm before you set off. The upshot is the cabin was very much warmer than the outside. We spent another 10 minutes or so going through lots of pre-flight checks in the cabin. The array of dials, instruments and buttons looks overwhelming, but Andre knew his stuff and rattled off all the safety checks like a pro.


There was a moment during his safety briefing where I though Andre was suggesting we would bail out without parachutes in an emergency, but it turned out he was talking about an emergency on the ground.. pheww!

We taxied to the end of the runway, Andre did his golf, november, oscar, papa talk with the control tower and we prepared to take off. Speeding up down the runway, we were airborne in no time.
We gained altitude and move away from the St Catharines airport, then did some sight-seeing. We took a look at Niagara Falls, visited the airfield we fly from when training powered paragliding,
then Andre showed me some of the maneuvers he had learned. First we slowed our airspeed right down, the stall warning went off and the nose dropped suddenly. My stomach leapt into my mouth and the plane dove forwards before regaining flying airspeed. That was a full stall but quick application of full power got us flying again in no time. Then we banked hard, pulling some g’s. Out of the right window I could see sky, out of the left window I could see the ground. This was a ‘steep 45 degree bank 360 degree turn’.
Then Andre dropped us a few hundred feet with a full application of right rudder and left aileron. This, I was informed, was forward-slipping. It allows a quick loss of altitude without pitching the aircraft forward. We were now much lower and on an approach to Welland airport.
Andre announced his intentions over the radio to fly low and inspect the runway. We did that then banked around and approached for a landing. This is where it got interesting. Having only been in light aircraft a couple of times (for sky-diving) I have very little to judge an approach by. Flying in a paraglider is easy because you can see exactly where your feet are with relation to the ground. With a low wing Piper, it’s a bit different. You really can’t see that much, so it’s very difficult to tell when you are actually going to land. This made me a little nervous, but I had every confidence in Andre’s piloting skills and we were down smoothly in gusty conditions. As soon as we landed, Andre spun the plane around, backtracked the runway and we were off again.
This time he was keen to show off a so-called soft ground take-off. Off we went hurtling down the runway a second time. After seeing that cloudbase was lowering and snow seemed possible we headed back to St Catharines.
This landing was a little bumpier, but Andre informed me still much better than some of his earlier attempts. Once the plane was parked up, we hauled our gear out and headed back to Andre’s for some liquid refreshments.
Thanks Andre