Dave’s First Cross Country Gyroplane Flight.

Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
16,570
Location
Nipomo,California
Aircraft
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
Dave is a primary student (no other rating) so he has specific things he is supposed to do before he can be signed off for his practical test. Most can be done in the pattern or in the practice area. In my opinion, one of the most important (and often neglected) is the cross country planning and then actually executing the plan.

This is where all the separate skills that have been learned are applied along with aviation decision making.

I feel there is a lot to be learned from this exercise and I have been accused of overemphasizing the importance and detail.

Flying is expensive and planning is pretty much free. I think of it as aviation foreplay. In my experience the more thorough the planning the more joy I find in the flight.

Dave seems to share my affection for good flight planning and he used flight planning tools like Google Earth, AirNav, Sky Vector and Flight Service extensively.

He marked up a Sectional Chart with his route and way points (typically every five miles) and had it available in a zippered plastic bag with his flight plan on the other side.

This would be his first time at a non-towered airport so we practiced radio calls a lot on the ground and sometimes on the actual flight.

Dave had already postponed his cross country flight once because he felt he was not ready so when he started to balk I reminded him: the more mistakes he made, the more and better he would learn. I was there to fix anything that put us at risk.

Life had gotten in the way and he had not flown for almost two months. I had him for half a day on Friday and all day Saturday, so Friday we practiced landings and reviewed his flight plan. We had intended to practice on the cross wind runway (2-20) at Santa Maria (SMX) because it is seventy five feet wide just like the runway at Santa Ynez so the site picture is different from the 150 foot wide main runway (12-30). We had some things to work out, because of his lack of recent experience, so we didn’t get around to landing on runway two zero. I had also changed the trim and that took some getting used to. We made seven landings in .8 hours. Dave has only landed on runway two zero once and that was with a seven knot direct cross. We decided two zero practice could wait till Saturday.

It will not be surprising, for those who have done their own cross country, that not everything went smoothly. We did ground till a little after five PM Friday so Dave could get started on refining his flight plan at his motel in Solvang. The power was out and he couldn’t even check in till near midnight and the internet was going to be down till at least one o’clock.

He got up at 5:00 and refined his plan so he could be at SMX at 9:00.

After going over his updated plan in detail, Dave did a careful preflight on The Predator before checking the weather. There was very little wind correction angle or changes in his estimated time in route, so we printed out his flight plan that he had done on power point so he could name his waypoints. I liked this lot. Sky Vector just has “user fix” waypoints in their nav log and is a good example of the way Dave makes the extra effort to excel.

Winds were calm and runway three zero was in use, so Dave asked ground for a takeoff from runway two zero and closed traffic. Ground was a little confused so I chimed in and explained the desire for the narrower runway.

Aviation people seem to know what an important milestone the first real cross country is and are all very supportive.

As I expected Dave made two nice landings and learned something on each one. Dave asked for a straight out with a turn to the south and it was approved as requested.

Dave was flying beautifully and appeared to be looking around more than usual. I could feel the confidence in his control inputs as we basked in the magic of the flight. The hills have greened up from the recent rains. The air was fresh and clean with a constantly changing aroma of the wet earth and whatever was growing there. Dave is a motorcyclist and The Predator was our motorcycle in the sky.

We were within a minute on the estimated time in route on each of his six waypoints and the sky was so clear he could usually see at least one waypoint ahead.

Dave found he had trouble writing and flying so I wrote down the time of arrival at the way points as he told them to me. Cockpit management is part of the learning process. Dave said he is going to practice flying with his left hand on the cyclic or learn to write with his left hand.

Dave did well with his radio calls knowing the reason for each piece of information and where the call should be made. Sometimes, in his effort to not waste airtime, he would get in a hurry and leave something out. It is just a matter of practice.

“Santa Ynez area traffic, white gyroplane Two Mike Golf, five miles to the west over the quarry at one thousand seven hundred feet inbound left traffic runway two six, slow moving sixty knots, Santa Ynez.”

We had examples of both good and bad radio calls at IZA reinforcing the value of a correctly made radio call.

We came in as nice as could be and were off at Charlie.

I had not briefed Dave enough about where to go after landing and Dave could see this was an important part of the planning process.

I could feel Dave’s elation as we pulled up to parking.

We spent nearly an hour applying the lessons learned to the plan for the next leg to Lompoc (LPC) and sharing Dave’s milestone with several friends in the pilots lounge.

We were within a minute of our estimated time of arrival and the fuel burn was exactly what it should have been. It was a good plan and well executed.

The rest of Dave’s story to follow.
 

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Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
16,570
Location
Nipomo,California
Aircraft
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
No Title

The rest of Dave's first cross country story.

We called flight service for the current weather and we were still on the edge of a SIGMET for turbulence and wind shear below 10,000. The turbulence is not unusual but rising to the level of SIGMET is.

Dave wanted to get the weather at Lompoc on the ground so we could listen to the Lompoc common traffic advisory frequency as soon as we passed over Buellton. This can be a busy corridor and we wanted to be on one of the CTAFs all the time. We checked the AWOS at Lompoc and the wind was 250degrees at 8kts so we planned on runway 25. Dave made the correct fifteen degree correction from true to magnetic. (Runway headings are magnetic and AWOS winds are true).

We had someone doing pattern work so I told Dave to announce and line up for takeoff and pre-rotate as soon as he passed us. There was a Cessna 172 behind us. This put some pressure on Dave to expedite and he responded well.

Noise abatement had us flying a 210 degree departure and then a turn to the west over the river. Dave’s takeoff was as nice as could be and he picked a landmark that was 210 degrees because the wind had us crabbing a lot.

We headed west over the river and made our last call at Buellton before switching to the Lompoc common traffic advisory frequency.

Dave misidentified his first waypoint. It is a large round flat structure that Dave felt was a missile silo. Our ETA was short and we had a head wind so Dave started looking for the problem. He was surprised to see a second peculiar round flat structure and now we were a minute late. On Google Earth the large round flat tank had looked unique.

After making his first radio call we heard a radio call that was completely unreadable and I feared it was the jump plane. The landing zone for the jumpers is beneath our right down wind for runway two five so I am cautious about the jumpers. I got on the radio and announced the last call was completely unreadable and got no response. I told Dave we would fly a wide right downwind for runway two five to miss the jumpers, just in case, and it would probably keep us out of the way of the jump plane until he was on short final.

As we got closer, Dave identified a single jumper and we heard two more unreadable radio calls.

Because there was no understandable response we announced inbound on the forty five, downwind mid field, and were about to turn base when we saw the jump plane in a steep descent apparently ready to make a straight in. I announced that we would extend our downwind for inbound traffic. Shortly after that someone announced that they were on downwind to land on runway two five so Dave made our base turn as soon as the jump plane went by.

Dave lined up nicely and landed just a little fast. I pushed him to get off the runway as soon as possible because I didn't know how far the second plane was behind us. I did not hear him announce turning base or final.
We had taxied for quite a way before he touched down. Dave and I were both a little rattled by the experience.

We debriefed about the radio work and the flight, called flight service for an abbreviated briefing and did our run-up.

"Lompoc Traffic, White Gyroplane Two Mike Golf lining up for takeoff runway two five for a right down wind departure with a turn to the north over highway one departing over Harris Grade, Lompoc."
The takeoff was nice as could be with a little confusion about where the downwind was followed by a second call: "Lompoc traffic, white gyroplane two Mike Golf turning north over highway one departing to the north over Harris Grade." Dave had left out the altitude and, just as though I had ordered a teaching aid, a Piper reported over Harris Grade inbound for runway two five. He also left out his altitude. Dave came back with our altitude (one thousand seven hundred feet) and our position (three miles to the north of the Lompoc Airport) and the Cessna responded that he would remain above 2,000 feet. It was a perfect demonstration of the value of (what I feel is) good radio communication and in stark contrast to our experience coming in to Lompoc. Shortly after Dave caught sight of the inbound Cessna and reported traffic in sight, no factor.

We cleared the grade and checked the ATIS at Santa Maria and called Tower inbound eight miles to the south at one thousand three hundred feet. We were to report the Orcutt Y.

This is the flight back from our practice area so Dave is familiar and it felt like an old friend. We were cleared to land on runway three zero over the Orcutt Y.

It was getting a little gusty and Dave’s control inputs were smooth as could be.

As we descended I suggested we land to practical test standards which are plus two hundred feet, minus nothing. Dave touched down about eight feet short of our mark.

I could almost feel Dave's relief as he pulled up in front of the hangar and worked through the shutdown checklist.

We were exhilarated and exhausted as we debriefed.

Dave is going to do a more detailed debrief and share with me, what went well and what went less well, and we will go over it the next time we get together.

I felt it was a wonderful demonstration of the application of the aviation fundamentals we had been working on.
 

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Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
16,570
Location
Nipomo,California
Aircraft
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
I am so glad to have you along Jay.

Writing about the experience helps me to experience it again and improve my teaching skills.

I feel I have only touched on the joy we both experienced because I haven't found a way to express the emotions without sounding like a nut.

Some of my close friends feel I sound like a nut anyway.

It is nice to know that some of that joy touches others.

People wonder why I work so hard at instructing and this flight is a part of it.

We have been building skills for ten hours of flight instruction and probably twice that in ground. Dave lives about five hours away and has a very demanding work load so we have dragged it out longer than either of us would like.

This flight was an exercise of many of those skills and a demonstration of Dave thinking as a pilot and making decisions that help to mitigate the inherent risks of flying a gyroplane.

I just had a friend that I signed off (a 150 hour fixed wing pilot rather than a primary student) fly from Florida to California with very little solo experience. Because he had a rating we did not do this cross country exercise but we did spend some time going over cross country planning in emails before he left because in my opinion a cross country in a gyroplane is very different than a fixed wing cross country.

He was kind enough to share the experience on Facebook and I loved riding along.

I hope to fly with you someday Jay and see what you have learned from reading these posts.
 

JEFF TIPTON

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 17, 2007
Messages
2,945
Location
DICKSON, TN
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Grumman AA5
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Many would say that we pilots are nuts and that is OK. They know not what they are missing. That is there loss.

To me these stories help others to become better pilots and for others to remember those day’s so long ago.
 

Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
16,570
Location
Nipomo,California
Aircraft
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
Glad to have you along Jeff and to stir up old memories for you.

If I had wanted to create a learning scenario about radio communications at a non-towered airport I could not have written a better script.

On our way into Lompoc we were assaulted by bad radio for no reason and on the way out we avoided a potential conflict over Harris Grade that I had warned Dave about.

I often thank people for giving good radio.

As we were leaving Santa Ynez a fixed wing flight instructor complimented us on the good radio and particularly liked the slow moving, sixty knots part. He flies a two hundred knot airplane and a part of his challenge is figuring out how to manage the spacing. He knows how fast a Cessna 172 might be going but has no idea how fast a gyroplane flies.

In my opinion one of the areas many pilots could stand improvement in is their radio communication. It is not just gyroplane pilots. I often hear; "The AIM is not regulatory" when radio work and pattern entry are discussed.

Since I posted about this flight I have heard I am not the only one who finds the jump pilot’s radio at Lompoc unreadable and his pattern entry awkward. It appears it is not a radio problem.
 

Tyger

Active Member
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Germantown, NY
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Magni M16
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Vance;n1141657 said:
Since I posted about this flight I have heard I am not the only one who finds the jump pilot’s radio at Lompoc unreadable and his pattern entry awkward. It appears it is not a radio problem.

With regard to jumpers, last summer I landed at Tunkhannock, PA (which I had only visited once before), and was astounded to see four jumpers landing on the field within about 10 minutes of me parking. I had heard NO calls over the CTAF as I was coming in, landing, and taxiing! I'm hoping they made a call right after I took my headset off, but I am not convinced of that.
 

Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
16,570
Location
Nipomo,California
Aircraft
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
I feel your pain Tyler.

It is not unusual for the jump plane to not have good communication and descend into a non standard pattern.

At Oceano they announce on Santa Barbara Approach frequency and I am listening to either San Luis Obispo Tower or the Oceano CTAF.

The landing zone has them flying directly across short final for runway 29.

After speaking with the Jump pilot at some length and taking him for a flight he is much better about announcing on the Oceano CTAF.

San Luis Obispo Tower will usually give me a heads up if they have seen the jump plane flying its somewhat unusual flight path.

At Lompoc years ago I had a near miss with the jump plane and after talking to the jump pilot and hearing that pattern entry and radio work are not regulatory I call the Van Nuys Flight Standards District Office and after telling me he could not do anything he talked to the pilot and things improved for several years.

It appears there is a new jump pilot at Lompoc and I plan on having a talk with him.

The landing zone is my right down wind for runway two five.

The Jump plane basically keeps the FBO in business so I will be stirring up bad feelings.

It is a wonder to me there aren’t more jump mishaps.

I feel it is a real safety issue and will try to get the pilot to see it from the standpoint of inbound traffic.

Santa Maria to Santa Ynez to Lompoc and back to SMX makes for a nice cross country so I don’t have a good way to keep clear of Lompoc.
 
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