Towards the RA-Aus Pilot Certificate: @ruralflyingdoc
Looking back through some of the previous posts, I realised how often an early start is mentioned. Well it had to be this time! I jumped in the car to leave Wudinna at 5am to make the 300km trip to Port Pirie. The conditions were well and truly IFR on the way through Kimba and I even resorted to switching off the high beams as they just lit up the fog more. On the way over, I made a quick stop in at Whyalla to catch up with a client for an insurance medical. He mentioned that he had suffered a large burn to his leg on a motorbike a few years ago. The resultant wound was very impressive and I asked how the flight with the RFDS was. The client said that when the GP in town had seen it, they’d just prescribed some cream. Apparently it was reassuring that the burn was white and wasn’t painful. Thankfully the practice nurse recognised the full thickness burn and organised a road transfer to the burns unit at the RAH. Sigh.
It was then time to drive around the top of the Spencer Gulf and have a spot of brekky at the golden arches. Unfortunately the weather was looking slightly dicey on the 100km stretch between the two “Ports.” There was driving rain and low level cloud that ominously obscured the adjacent southern Flinders ranges. The flying gods (or Flying Spaghetti Monster even) must have been looking out for me hough, because the weather continued to clear as the odometer clicked towards Pirie.
By 10am, I had reached my destination and pulled my car next to the hut with no sign of the Jabiru. About 30 mins later I had my answer. Earl had been up and about with a local lad who had just had his trial introductory flight (TIF). From the time newbie got out of the plane until he drove away, there was an ear-to-ear grin plastered on his face. I remember my face hurting after the first day of flying too, must have had the same problem. Seeing someone at the very start of the process also made me reflect on how far I had come. Even though it was only 12 or so hours over 6 days, it felt like ages. In fact, it had been a good month since I had been over to Port Pirie for this flying training caper. And it may have been longer. On the 1st of May a few texts had come through asking if I was ok. Evidently a light plane had crash-landed at Port Pirie Airport that day and was on the Adelaide news. So I quickly texted Earl to see if Jabba was still OK (oh and if he was OK too!). He replied to say that it had been one of the light planes that had been hangared in Pirie before being sold. The plane was a Pulsar that I had looked at with a bunch of other flyers a few weeks prior to the incident. I remember one of the guys looking at it and remarking that they’d have to pay him a lot of money to hop in. The engine was very hastily attached and the whole thing just looked shonky. So it was the Pulsars first flight (after having crashed on the previous flight) when the engine decided to cut out over the airport. One of the local ambos and aviators, Col, actually had the video of it taking off before the final ‘touchdown.’ All you could hear over the video was the owner of one of the Jabiru 230’s off to the side going “s**t, oh geez, s**t” as the plane porpoised up and down after takeoff. The whole event scored Earl and the guys a spot in an article in the local rag (Port Pirie Recorder, below) explaining how safe flying really is. It proved to be a good into for the next few days of practicing for such occurrences!
Happy that Jabba was still flying safely, we both jumped into it and conducted a few circuits. The idea was for Earl to double check I hadn’t forgotten anything drastic in the past month before consolidating my solo training. After 25 mins of some fine-tuning (remembering to pull on carby heat prior to turning base), it was time to go solo again. This time it was for a good 1.8 hours, with a break of course. Most of the circuits were routine by now, but the biggest improvement and refinement came in the final stages of landing. I had up until this point been a bit cagey about handling the controls especially just before touch down. With the repeated practices came more confidence and this in turn led to more positive, direct movements of the controls. I was happy to flick the joystick around or kick the rudder pedals with gusto. This meant that the landings became more consistent. Which was good news for my nerves.
After a spot of lunch, it was time to tackle glide approaches. Basically, landing the plane without thrust or engine, usually if the engine quit. For the first part, we would simulate this above the airfield, lucky spot for it to happen right?! It meant climbing to 2500’ above the runway and cutting the power right back. The first step was to pitch the aircraft down to attain the best gliding speed, which in our case was 65 kts. Then going through a quick checklist that would hopefully diagnose and cure the problem in the case of a real engine failure. Fuel on, quantity sufficient, fuel pump on; mixture/choke full, oil pressure/temp in green, magneto switches and lastly pump the throttle (FMOST). Failing this, there would have to be a mayday call. However if you had a passenger on board, Earl taught me to conduct the briefing first before freaking them out when calling for help on the radio! This meant explaining the situation and that I was well practiced at this event, asking them to complete a few jobs, what to do when we landed and above all not to panic when I make the distress call. Earl seemed impressed at how I managed to run through this task easily. For me, it felt a lot like explaining a medical procedure to someone (e.g. removing a skin lesion) “Now Mr Jones, today we are going to remove this wart from your head. No need to worry as I’ve done this plenty of times. There’ll be a sharp sting with the local anaesthetic to start but you won’t feel anything in that area after. Just make sure you keep still and let me know if anything is bothering you.” Well that wasn’t what I practiced in the plane, but you get the idea! The mayday call was pretty fun too, I just had to make sure the push-to-talk (PTT) button was not actually pressed when practicing the calls. You could imagine the hullaballoo caused by a fake distress call. For those interested, the mayday call sounded something like this:
“Mayday, mayday, mayday. Jabiru 7265, 7265, 7265. Currently over the field at Port Pirie descending through 2000 feet. Jabiru 160-D, engine failure. Conducting glide approach to runway one seven. 2 POB, will call when on ground.”
POB stood for persons on board. So once the routine tasks surrounding the engine failure were taken care of, it was time to land the sucker. Earl demonstrated that the aim was to get to the ‘low key point’ which was 1500’ up and abeam the runway being aimed for. For the life of me couldn’t help but think of Loki Johnk at this stage (those that used to drive up to Baxter Detention Centre in first year med will remember!). Then once turning onto final approach and absolutely sure that you could make it, some flaps could come down. Earl explained some nifty little tricks at this point in case the approach was still too high. These were sideslipping and s-turns. Sideslipping is fa technique that enables the plane to rapidly lose height while pointing in the same direction. You effect this by kicking the rudder pedals one way, while ‘twisting’ (thanks Curtis) the ailerons the other way, called crossing the controls. The Gimli glider, an Air Canada 767 that ran out of fuel in 1983 and made a forced landing on an old air force base, famously used this technique. An explanation of the landing event is below. The reason for fuel starvation was that the Canadian ground crew had forgotten to convert from pounds into kilos. Oh those crazy Canuks eh?! Sideslipping in Jabba proved very fun and I’m sure something to practice more in the future. S-turns were slightly simpler and involved making sweeping turns from side to side thereby losing more height for the distance travelled directly towards the runway. The space shuttle used these manoeuvres when attempting to reduce speed after entering the earth’s atmosphere.
In the afternoon, it was time to do some medium level turns. Up until now, I had only been turning at 15 on climb and 30 in the circuit. Being able to reef the plane over to 45 deg and watch the ground spiral around the low wing was fantastic. Entering these turns also meant careful use of the rudder in the same direction of the turn and a substantial amount of back pressure on the stick to hold the nose up. It took a few to get these feeling comfortable. Earl then showed why it was important for the back pressure to stay on as he flicked Jabba into a few early spiral dives. These happen when the nose drops in a tight turn. They are characterised by a very low nose attitude and increasing speed. If left unchecked, the speed could increase to a point that the airframe wasn’t built for and well, you know. The way to recover was to reduce power immediately, bring the wings level and gradually pull out of the dive. Of course the better way to recover from a spiral dive was not to get into one in the first place! Careful judgement of the horizon when turning could certainly achieve that. Safely back on level ground, it was time to call it a day after one or two ‘ankle juices’ as Earl calls them. Something to do with peripheral oedema I guess….
Sitting listening to the local “woo” birds, I discovered that my homework was to read up on glide approaches, the checklist associated with them and general aviation theory. Tomorrow would be the Basic Aeronautical Knowledge (BAK) exam. Before that I was lucky enough to catch up with a mate from college, watch some netball and listen to an acoustic cover band at the Portside Hotel. Some late night theory reading was the last effort for Friday before another two days of flying and exams.
It’s 7am. You are just walking to the shower to start the day and a little melody or beat pops into your head. For the whole shower time you can’t help but sing along with made up words as you try to remember who sang it. Even by the time you are out the door, the details elude you as you get more and more frustrated.
That was me just this morning. In the past, the artist name or track title has eventually come to me. But no, not this time! Perhaps the old dementia is setting in early. Quick, its time for a MMSE! Somehow I’m sure the same conundrum has plagued many others too.
Previously I had always looked through the Triple J forums to see if someone had found the song. The main issue being….how do you actually describe a song that doesn’t have any stand out features? The one I was thinking of had a normal drum beat, some keys and a “na nana na” chorus. If I wrote that somewhere, you’d probably point me in the direction of the Good Guys ad (or for those born before 1985, the Beach Boys hit ‘Good Vibrations.’
Shazam is another great tool for find out which song is which…only when the actual song is playing though. I tried singing the song I couldn’t work out into my iPhone and I dont think Siri was impressed.
So perhaps there needs to be a website that you can post a quick 10-20 sec grab of you singing a melody or beat. Then others can listen to it quickly and help with the answer if they know. In the meantime, here is a quick Audacity edit of me *trying* to beatbox then overlaying the chords and melody of the damn tune I can’t work out. PLEASE HELP, reply below if you know the song!!
Thank you to Clare who solved the mystery. The song is ‘Pieces of the People We Love’ by The Rapture. What is more disappointing is that I actually have the song on my iTunes. It obviously came on one day and got stuck in my head! Im glad the rendition was enough for her to recognise it. Enjoy!
Towards the RA-Aus Pilot Certificate: @ruralflyingdoc
The next day, Earl had us out bright and early at 7:30am as usual. The aim was to try to get some good flying in before the winds really picked up. Even though I was only 5 mins late, Earl had got the plane out of the hangar with the engine checked. This needed to be done every morning prior to the first flight and would involve checking the cylinders, looking for any wet spots of oil, the oil level itself and cabling and hoses for wear. Given that this was all set, I did my walk around and got to taxi Jabba over to near the hut by myself. It was even a strange feeling checking the outside of the plane solo. It had become a ritual, and much like an physical examination in medicine, there was a set order so as not to overlook something. “Oh, so I should feel everyone’s pulse??” Thankfully patients don’t present with ‘REMOVE BEFORE FLIGHT’ tags hanging out of every orifice, well at least most don’t. Earl jumped in and we got the engine started. It was the usual game, taxi out to the gravel strip and line up in the middle. Similarly to the day before, Earl said that he wanted to just sit in the co-pilot seat and not have to interfere at all. It would be like flying with a deaf and dumb passenger, or your garden variety Port Adelaide supporter. *ducks head as West End cans fly my way*
After a couple of circuits, Earl asked me to bring the plane to a full stop on the next landing. I turned the plane around ready to taxi back to the parking bay when I heard an exciting and dreaded question “How do you feel about going up yourself?” I had to think for a bit and eventually my response was “yep, if you think I’m ready…” Earl said that I had been doing all of it myself for the last few lessons and that things were looking stable. If he was confident in my ability, I was. So he got me to taxi back up to the end of the runway and pulled out his handheld transceiver which I hadn’t seen him bring! We went over a few quick points: if you don’t like the final approach = go around, any other problems just call over the radio…or keep flying! Haha, great. So with 10.8 hours in my logbook, my instructor hopped out of the plane while it was on a runway. I waited til Earl had made it over to the side of the runway and managed a feeble little half wave/salute. Not much of a Top Gun moment, perhaps needed some “Highway to the Danger Zone” blasting. As I pushed on the power it was strange not having someone sitting next to me. A few nerves crept up as the plane sped up down the gravel. Then pure exhiliration as I lifted Jabba’s nose at 55 kts and climbed up and away. Then it hit me. Crap! I have to land this thing all by myself now. Of course I had been doing that the last few hours and lessons, but Earl had been sitting right there. 500 ft below with a small radio in his hand to talk me through it, or to help me plan a will. To elaborate any further and to wax lyrical about the circuit would be misleading as in fact the time flew past (unintentional pun). Before I knew it, the plane was lined up on final approach and I could just make out Earls figure standing just to the left side of the runway near where I should touch down. Slowly but surely the ground got bigger and bigger and it seemed I was on a good glideslope to land. The throttle was closed at windsock height and it took forever and a day for the plane to settle and decide to land. A small bounce on one wheel before the lift washed away and Jabba was firmly back on terra firma, emphasis on terror. Phew, all done. I returned to Earl who smiled and gave a big handshake. “A little bumpy” I offered, but he said it looked good from outside. All a matter of perspective I guess. The reluctance of the plane landing he said was the fact I was used to 90kg of human sitting in the right hand seat. I would have to remember to pull the power off a touch earlier in the future. So my first solo effort consisted of one whole circuit before heading in for a morning tea break. One of the local fliers had kindly driven in his speedy Nissan Z to the supermarket and bought some jam donuts and caramel slice. Earl explained that your first solo is usually quite costly as you have to buy the bar and shout everyone drinks. Lucky it was still mid morning and we would have more flying to do, so no beers this time. Eight hours from bottle to throttle of course. With the alcoholic option off, I settled for an appropriately named soft drink…..
After the break, our plan was to pop out before the wind got too strong for a few dual circuits before Earl would jump out and I would go again. Prior to getting back up there, I decided to go an empty the bladder post sugary-carbonated-beverage. The toilets were located in a little lounge/museum that had a bunch of photos from World War 2 when the strip was a bombing and gunnery school (BAGS) for the RAAF. In a very poor move by the Port Pirie Museum group, this is picture closest to the toilet door, right. Hmmm, didn’t exactly inspire confidence when about to embark on my second lot of solo flying. Bladder empty. Check. Plane powered up and ready to head on to the runway. Double check. However as we did our pre-takeoff checklist (TMPFISCH) at the holding point, three aircraft called almost simultaneously that they were inbound for Port Pirie. There was an Evektor SportStar from the previously mentioned Natfly, a UniSA Cessna 172RG and a Robinson R44 chopper needing some fuel on the way to Ceduna. Earl and I decided that we would cut a few more laps with all of the traffic so that I could get used to making the right radio calls and looking out for the planes in the circuit pattern. So after a call from the SportStar, I would scan around the sky where he should have been and would say “got him” to let Earl know that I had made visual contact. Sometimes Earl wasn’t able to see them so I’d say, “10 o’clock high” and felt as though I should have turned in to face the bandit and open fire in true Biggles style. Unfortunately Jabiru 160-Ds aren’t fitted with Browning machine guns, something that would certainly have to change if (ok, ok, when!) I buy a plane of my own. “The traffic pattern is full? Well we’ll just have to see about that!” Dukadukkadukkadukkadukkadukka, a poor attempt at machine gun onomatopoeia. I have since mentioned to Scott that following the addition of a camera bracket, the next move must surely involve some of his rifles mounted to the wings of the RV-6A (artist impression below, note: AK-47s used in place of high powered rifle).
As was usual practice for Port Pirie, the regular 3-4pm sou-westerly blew up and started making life difficult on landing. Earl demonstrated a few flapless approaches, which involved a lot more speed at a very shallow angle. But the wind got stronger and bumpier so we decided to call it a day. He said it would have been good to consolidate some of the solo practice with a bunch more circuits, but the weather wouldn’t have helped my confidence. Fair enough too, I was kind of hoping that anyway! So my total solo hours amounted to 0.2, that’s right…..12 minutes. Lots of consolidation to go, stay tuned and thanks for reading.
Towards the RA-Aus Pilot Certificate: @ruralflyingdoc
It had been two whole aviation free weeks since my last flying lessons and not quite at the 10 hour mark. It was the day after our two piece garage blues dubstep rock band Stomp The Orange played at the Ed Castle Hotel as part of a band pub crawl. This had been the brainchild of local Adelaide band The London Road Poets before they did some travelling overseas. To stick with the local music scene for a bit, it was also the debut gig for Yankee Machine. A band made of some great guys who I had met through college (currently helping them recording two songs for a quick demo). The drive up from Adelaide was uneventful and decided to go up through Bute and Port Broughton. Triple J was playing some great Easter Sunday tunes as the sun came out heading up the Copper Coast Hwy. It was also nice to not have much traffic on my side of the road. That was all on the other side, getting an early jump on the Easter traffic jam that always ensnares the Port Wakefield intersection at those times of the year.
Finally made it to Port Pirie airport and saw one of the other local Jabirus (this one a 230) trying a few landings. It seemed to handle the weather nicely. However, when I stepped out of the car, a nice lashing 15-20 knot wind was blowing up. Earl was in the office and came up to say g’day. Without much stuffing around we walked over to Jabba who was sitting patiently with his wheel spats (the little coverings on the wheels) off. The plane was quivering slightly which may have been either the wind it was facing into or the fact that I was about to take the controls for a few landings! So Earl and I danced the plane around the sky and got buffeted here and there for a good hour or two. It certainly made the landings a bit trickier, but I felt that gradually my control and response to the pushes off course became more natural. Before taking off for these circuits, Earl had said that he didn’t want to have to touch any of the controls or say anything while I flew. It would be a good test for me to remember all of the radio calls, checklists and actually landing the damn thing.
I was also getting the hang of bleating out small phrases over the radio to let any other planes in the area know just what I was doing. So the second last turn to landing for the north south runway (usually made just over the rubbish dump off Three Chain Rd) would sound like; “Port Pirie traffic, Jabiru 7265 turning onto base for runway 17 touch and go, Port Pirie” Soon enough, we got sick of bumping around in the wind and decided to call it a day. So we landed and Earl got me to do my first solo…..taxi that is. It was still quite a buzz slowly ‘driving’ Jabba by myself over to the hangar to sleep for the night. Kind of like the first time you get to drive a car when you think “awesome, I get to go anywhere I want….might just drive home I guess.” I parked him in the hangar just in front of a glider that in fact looked as thought it already belonged to me. Ah, if only aircraft ownership was as easy as branding the tail with your initials…
During our obligatory end-of-the-day red cans back at the flying school hut, we heard a radio call for a Bush Caddy flying in. Interestingly, I had seen this Bush Caddy in the hangar and the plane housed the same breed engine as my car, a Subaru! It was being flown by one of the local guys who had gone over to Temora for the annual NatFly conference. He had hopped from Temora to Hay to Mildura to Waikerie then to Pirie. I asked whether the scenery over Hay was as dreary as when you drive it. His face said it all. On the last leg over, he had actually heard a distress call over the VHF that was near Strathalbyn somewhere. Earl thought that it may have been a ‘Death Dart’ or ‘Meat Bomber’. Perhaps the blank stare I gave him requested an explanation about what they were: ultralight and parachute plane respectively! There was so much new lingo to brush up on and going over a few of the old Biggles books may well help in the future.
Ok, so I’d better make it clear. The “Radiology Department” in Wudinna consists of four radiographers. That’s a GP, GP registrar (me), the Director of Nursing and the CNC. The radiographs are taken in the A&E and then developed in an old broom cupboard with a fan. I thought that I would reflect back after taking my 20th x-ray tonight. It has been almost 3 months since completing the course that enabled us rural registrars to fire off energized photons into the atmosphere. My first x-ray (below) was of an old bloke who’d fallen onto his hand. I know now that I should have asked about any previous damage/operations to that wrist….”sorry, where exactly did your scaphoid bone go?!?”
This blog will document some of the good, bad and ugly radiographs that I have taken for educational purposes. It may also prove to be a repository of settings and views to call back on in the future.
So first up some tips I have learnt/gathered over this time (updated as required):
- Only a brave radiographer packs away the x-ray machine prior to developing the film.
- Take off all jewellery from the patient. Think also about watches, phones, metal zips and buckles, forgot for my first CXR (right)
- Always load fresh film into the cassette as soon as the exposed film is removed, nothing worse than taking an x-ray with a filmless cassette.
- With 15 room changes of air per minute, the developing room is the best place to fart.
- Don’t take the developing room/film cupboard key home with you.
- Label your film with patient name, DOB, body part and put L/R markers on.
- Check for pregnancy, always use gonad shielding for patient and lead apron/lead shield for yourself (don’t want children looking any more strange than they already will).
- Make sure the collecting hopper is clear of previous x-rays
- DON’T TAKE THE KEY HOME, GERRY!!
Today one of the films came out completely black. Stunned at the first x-ray that hadn’t worked out, I tried to remember the five reasons for such an occurrence (but had to look them up again):
- Film overexposed
- Processing times too long
- Ambient temperature too warm
- Film exposed to another light source
- Red safelight in developing room cracked
Checklist: the right settings were used, the machine was set up the same, the day wasn’t super hot and the film hadn’t been opened or exposed to white light. What had happened? So like any good doctor or engineer, or possibly any male, I took the x-ray again without changing anything! This time when putting the second film through the machine, I realised the first one had only just come out. The black film I’d pick up initially was a test film that had been run the day before by someone else and left in the hopper for an unsuspecting registrar. Another tip!
When it comes to evaluating a film there is a helpful acronym (PACEMAN) that radiographers often use for quality control. Note that this is not to do with interpreting an x-ray for diagnostic purposes, its more about working out how to improve the actual picture.
- P – Position
- A – Area covered
- C – Collimation
- E – Exposure
- M – Marker
- A – Aesthetics
- N – Name and DOB
So an evaluation of an x-ray make sound like “this is an AP view of a tib/fib. The ankle through to the knee is visible and collimated to the skin edges. The film is possibly a little over exposed, but good bony detail seen and the film is otherwise diagnostic. There is a left marker in place. The leg is lined up well on the film and the name/DOB have been removed for confidentiality.” It is important to think about the exposure especially as you may need to repeat the film and change the settings accordingly.
At the moment, Wudinna like many other towns around SA, use x-ray film and an automatic developing machine to produce images. Crystal Brook still has the old, old, old school method of manually dunking the film in each step of the process with a timer to help. Computed Radiology (CR) is a method of producing x-ray images straight to computer without film. This technology has been used at the major hospitals in the city for a few years now. Soon CR will be available at most small country hospitals in South Australia (already available at Jamestown, Ceduna and others?). This will certainly improve the quality of film, speed of referral and even the accuracy of reporting. Although there is a high initial cost for the system, running costs are vastly reduced as there is no need for ongoing purchase and disposal of hazardous chemicals or film. It will also mean that I can stop using the hospital camera or my iPhone for taking pictures for this blog and/or my friendly orthopaedic surgeon in Whyalla.
If you have any further pearls/gems/basic tenets of rural radiography…please comment!