How everything began
More than 20 years ago I decided to become a pilot. I had just started my studies of mechanical engineering at the University of Braunschweig, Germany. Living in a new town, I met someone who was flying. He invited me to visit the local flying Club at the airport of Braunschweig.
As a child I was always impressed of the large letters “RR” on the engine nacels of the airliners, representing the AeroEngines produced by Rolls-Royce. This was on the flights between Germany and various destinations in Afrika with my parents and my brother. I always love to sit at the window and watch the world from above. No matter if I am a passenger or a Pilot in Command (PIC). I always see something different, even if I fly the same route several times.
My first flight
Yes, I wanted to learn how to fly. After clearing my bank account I went to the flyng school Aerowest in Barunschweig and signed the contract. This was in 1992 and it cost me a fortune. I had never been on board a sports plane before, and that was good as I found out later. I soon would begin with the 40 hours practical flight instruction and during additional 80 hours class-room training I learned all that theoretical stuff: The difference between Vx and Vy and what the “point of no return” in navigation is. Typical weather phenomena and why to avoid CBs (cumulo nimbus) during flights. Emergency procedures and transponder codes (77.. “falling from heaven”, 76.. “I hear nix”, 75.. “there’s a man with a knife”). Something about Radio navigation, how to talk to the controller in the tower via radio and about all the different air spaces that exist.
One day it was time to meet my flight instructor. It was going to be my first flight. The weather was ok, but it was a cold day in winter just after a low had passed. As I learned later, this typically means gusty winds combined with good visibility. The two-seater aircrft took off and up in the air I was – “your control”, the instructor said. It was great to see the houses below passing by, but my stomak later told me: “the gusts are too much!” So we returned to airport Braunschweig after one hour flight where the instructor showed me the first time, how to land an aircraft. – Good, that I had alraedy signed the contract!
Reaching 40 hours of practical flight training, the check-flight took place. I was commanding the single engine airplane according to my flight planning. Reaching cruising altitude, I started to lean the mixture. The instructor had already fallen asleep when he suddenly woke up and asked me, what that rattling in the engine was. – Obviously I had set the mixture a little bit too much on the lean side so the engine was running rough. No problem, I corrected and carried on flying. Finally we returned to the airport where I landed – a little bit too long, but it was still ok. – Yeah, passed!
The sky is not the limit
Flying has only a few boundaries. Aircraft have a limitation in performance which does not allow them to climb above a certain altitude and the fuel capacity of the tanks limits their range. Virtual boundaries are air spaces, which are restricted for example to separate General Aviation from Commercial Aviation. The beauty about flying is that I can more or less fly where I like and when I like. Naturally, weather conditions have to be good enough since I am flying according to visual flight rules (VFR). I have to see enough forward and the ceiling of the clouds has to be high enough above the ground. Wind and high temperatures can also be limiting factors. – But within these boundaries, the pilot has a very high freedom to decide what he wants to do.
Ever changing conditions
Every flight is different, even if you fly the same route several times. The weather conditions will be different and the landscape changes during the year. Sometimes you will have sunshine and sometimes it is cloudy. As a private Pilot I can also choose different altitudes. If the ceiling is low enough and broken, I can go “on top” through a hole in the clouds. Above the clouds I will see maybe some higher mountains and partly the landscape here and there below the clouds. Near my destination I will start the descent and fly through a hole again below the clouds until I land at the next airport.
Flying in the evening during summer, sometimes I pass hot air baloons. I greet my flying camerade by tilting the wings left and right a couple of times. This also indicates that I have him or her in sight.
View from above
I typically cruise at an airspeed of 110 Knots (nautical miles per hour). That equals to 200 Km/h. I have no real speed limitations or traffic lights in the sky. Thus I travel at a very high and constant speed, compared to ground travel (car/train). I see many different places in a very short time and that is why I typically know the area around my respective “home base” (airport I usually live close to and take off and land frequently) better from above than from the ground. This currently is Birrfeld (LSZF) as shown in following map.Geographical boundaries for me as pilot in Switzerland are for example the Jura mountains in the north of the country and the Alps in the south. I can fly over the Jura, but the Alps are so high, that I can only fly through valleys and cross them at a few locations. It is really impressive, if you are already flying high at 10’000 Feet (3’300 Meters) and the mountains beside you are still higher than you.
Flying naturally extends your horizon. With higher altitude you can see things, that are far away. But it is not only about the view. My attitude changed significantly since I am flying as Pilot in Command. I learned about many new topics during the class room training. For example, that 1 degree difference in longitude at the Equator equals to a difference of 60 nautical miles. Did you know that?
Flying is global. The rules are the same for all aviators in the world. For example flying according visual flight rules (VFR) east bound (heading 0-179 degrees) above 5000 ft msl, you have to choose flight levels beginning with odd numbers: FL55, FL75 and FL95 (=9500 feet). Flying west bound (heading 180-360 degrees), you select FL65 or FL85. This is to separate aircraft, which are in level flight, from each other.
Now I have a total flight experience of nearly 300 hours as Pilot in Command (PIC) and made more than 600 successful take-offs and landings. – During gusty weather conditions and also during times when there is almost no wind. This is for example often the case in summer during flights close to sunset, as you can see in the picture above.
Welcome on board
You are always welcome on board! If you like to get more insight to a pilot’s work, please come on board and sit on the co-pilot’s seat. You can contact me any time to arrange your personal flight experience.
The following Videos are a selection my most recent flying experiences.