Thursday, September 3, 2009

Flight of the Nanchang

Just arriving at Colin's hangar is exciting. You know there are going to be cool planes and plane pieces as far as the eye can see, but you never know exactly what projects they are going to be working on until you get there.

At Christmas, the hangar was full of sea planes. This time, there were not one, but two T-28s - both with equally beautiful paint jobs.

They were also working on a Mosquito, which has an all-wood frame. Once it's completed, it will be the only one flying in the world. Stripped down with the engines removed, it was hard to imagine it ever flying again. And yet, you know it will, because Colin and his boys are *magic*.

The second T-28 was outside and Colin said that her owner flies her quite a bit. It is SUCH a HOT plane. I think I may need to make a new friend...

Colin pressurized the engine on the Chinese built Nanchang CJ-6 we would be flying, pre-flighted and talked mechanics with Gordy. I forced myself to be cool -- literally -- until Arlene finished taking pictures of me with the planes and Colin had gotten a chuckle out of my Osh Kosh "I FLY PLANES" tank top, before I put back on the hoody I had brought with me.

Then I said a hasty goodbye to my Godparents and asked them to give Liz a call so she would be down on the dock waiting for our fly-by over Shawnigan Lake.

Next came the flight briefing. Colin walked me through the instruments and pointed out some noticeable differences. Manifold pressure in milliliters, inverted blue/brown horizon, intercom on the throttle, trim tab on the left with wires exposed, switches to turn on the turn coordinator and attitude indicator, brake on the stick, and the list went on.

Really, though, it could all be summed up pretty easily:

I sat in my seat vibrating with excitement as Colin buckled in and called Tower for a squawk.

The military grade harnesses were pretty snug. So snug, in fact, that I was glad that my hoody protected my neck from the scratchy material. I also quickly realized that my necklace had to go.

I latched my canopy as Colin finished listening to weather and hailing tower.

We waved goodbye to Arlene and Gordy, and taxied out to the runway.

Colin trusted me to take up both of my cameras, and although it was a bit of a challenge to hold onto the one, while sitting on the other, while rolling the plane with my free hand, I was very glad I had both. One for photos; one for videos. A girl has to have her toys, after all. And yes, that includes by Garmin 396, Richard.

Colin latched his canopy, accelerated down the runway and we were soon able to see the Tsawwassen ferry terminal as we climbed to 2,500 feet and left the airport behind.

The CJ-6 just sounded cool as we flew along. It wasn't long before ATC advised that we would be overtaking another plane at 3,000 feet. At 140 knots easy cruise, Colin said the plane burns 12-14G/hour.

Within minutes, we were approaching Shawnigan lake, where I had spent the previous five days drinking and relaxing with Lance, Liz and Celeste in the lake house they'd rented. Liz had requested an "Empire of the Sun" moment, and Colin definitely delivered. We could see her jumping up and down on the dock as we buzzed by. According to Liz, babies cried and a neighbor nearly fell off his dock as the sun went dark, but surely she exaggerates...

Once we had put the fear of G*d back into Liz, Colin gave me a two-part roll refresher, which I listened to with one ear while capturing the whole thing on video (below). It's good to be Gen Y, eh?

Afterwards, we headed out toward Duncan to a local "practice area." Colin gave me the controls as we left Shawnigan, and encouraged me to play around with the plane's capabilities as we climbed higher. It's no wonder Colin says he always feels motion sick when he lets a backseat driver fly.
My flying improved remarkably, however, after I was reminded that my turn coordinator and attitude indicator were switch controlled ....

The views over Duncan looking West were incredible. I practiced steep turns while holding altitude (more or less), got a feel for the pull of the plane, and then it was time to practice rolling.

We agreed that loops were less exciting than rolls, so I rolled some more. Then Colin took me on a backwoods flight through the mountain valleys before climbing again and contacting ATC.

As I flew home, Colin talked me through the landing. We agreed to come in "aircraft carrier style" and slid the canopies all the way back on final approach. It's a good thing I was not actually in charge of landing the plane as my hair, even tied back, further reduced the visibility experienced by the backseat passenger. I suppose that's what I get for forgetting my WTF flying hat!

Colin touched down lightly and we taxied back to his hangar. It was hard to believe that an hour+ flight had passed so quickly. It was hard to resist hopping up and down and crying, "Again, again!!"

We put the cover back on the plane - military camouflage, of course - and Lance soon arrived to pick me up. Back in the hangar, I thanked Colin profusely for letting me, once again, play with his planes and I foisted upon him the only form of payment he seems to accept.
After all, it may be eight hours bottle to throttle, but it's zero throttle to bottle.


At September 8, 2009 at 4:33 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK! I officially jealous!
"Bob" Hawkins CFIAI-A&P/IA

At September 8, 2009 at 5:46 PM , Anonymous Rob McMaster said...

Wow! I could just watch the video without feeling queasy! As for the "real thing", how long can a person hold their breath?!
Way to go, MY girl!! Love, DAD

At September 9, 2009 at 5:27 PM , Anonymous annemcmaster said...

Way to go, Amy! The views of Vancouver Island, (even upside down!) are awesome. Can't wait to hear you describe it all in an unedited version!
See you soon! XXXMum

At October 6, 2009 at 4:49 PM , Anonymous Rich Cairns said...

WOW!!! A hanger full of planes to play with...Can you say kid in a candy store:)

At October 27, 2009 at 11:14 AM , Anonymous Tamlyn said...

It looks like you had an amazing time Amy!! I would have loved to have been in Nanaimo waving up at you!


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