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Wheelies with Wings Course Nov. 2011

By Michael Alston

Greetings from Sunny Temora!

My name is Michael Alston, I’m one of the lucky few chosen to participate in the Nov. 2011 Suzy Duncan Scholarship flying course, and I thought I’d write an update regarding our exploits thus far.

The three intrepid prospective flyers, Brad Smith, Mark Page, and myself, along with our wily instructor, “Super” Sheldon Jones (from Moruya Aero Club), arrived on Sunday afternoon, and had dinner together at Temora RSL (across the road from Goldtera Motel where we are staying), building a rapport.

Monday morning bright and early we headed over to Temora Aero Club, our gracious hosts for the course, and met Rob Maslin, who made us feel most welcome.

Of course the star of the show had to be the aircraft we were to learn in, the Aeroprakt 22LS Foxbat.

The Foxbat (or Foxy, as it is affectionately known) is a single piston engined, 2 seat monoplane. She cruises at approx. 85 kts, but is quite happy at all speeds within her design limitations, and has a stall speed of 36 kts, which gives her a wide range of performance; the plane is also equipped with a “glass” cockpit, advanced technology that allows us to monitor her systems efficiently.

It is a very stable, forgiving aircraft, perfect for beginners such as ourselves.

Our “Foxy” is quite special, however, in that it has been modified during construction by Aeroprakt engineers so that its rudder is connected to the throttle control, therefore the aircraft may be flown without the use of legs and feet.

This Foxbat is the first in the world to utilize this modification, and we are the first WwW course to use it (the plane had only some 100 hrs on it upon its arrival at Temora!).

Our first day was certainly an eye opener for us all. I’m not sure what the other boys’ experience is with flying, I had traveled in countless commuter aircraft across the globe, but never had been up in a light plane.

By the second flight, however (that afternoon), I felt quite a bit more relaxed, as did the other lads, and really began to enjoy it.

Sheldon also started teaching us the theory of flight, incl. such interesting subjects as types of drag, angle of attack, lift, and other important information; we eagerly soaked up his wisdom.

By the second day we were well into utilizing the practical aspects of the knowledge we were taught (incl. usage of control surfaces, in-flight checks, approx. rpm for various speeds/attitudes, etc.).

We also learned about types of decent, rates of climb, turning, and the limits of the aircraft.

We were unable to fly in the afternoon because of storms, so continued with theory.

Wednesday morning was our 4th flight, by this stage we were all quite comfortable in the Foxbat, but still struggling to deal with multitude of actions that are required throughout the flight.

We had a short theory lesson regarding ground effect, then after lunch we went up again, (I had control during take-off for the first time, with some timely advice and “mothering” from Sheldon of course…).

Thursday there was rain and high winds in the morning, precluding any flights, however the front moved on quite quickly, and by 11am we were going up, practicing ascending and descending turns (still quite windy though, fair bit of turbulence throwing us around).

We had a theory session on stalls, and learned about radio calls; we also learned the order of priority when flying (Aviation, Navigation, Communication, Administration!).

“Foxy” needed a wash by this point, so the four of us set to and gave her a good bath, made her nice and pretty for us again.

Following this there was a considerable amount of turbulence in the sky, so we took the opportunity to head over to the Temora Aviation Museum (the Aero Club’s neighbours), which welcomed us in, and gave us a tour. We were able to see (and hear) a Dragonfly jet fighter’s J-85 engines being tested, next a Spitfire’s Merlin engine was warmed up, wow what a beautiful sound! 

We also took in the other aircraft within the hangar, lots of pic’s (photography is happily accepted).

Thanks very much to Temora Aviation Museum for inviting us in, we will be enjoying very much the annual Temora Air Show to come weekend after next.

In the late afternoon we resumed flying, and completed our first stalls in the aircraft.

Friday was a beautiful day weather wise, clear, barely a cloud in the sky in the morning, so we were able to enjoy a very pleasant flight (8th “sortie” by this time). By this stage we’re regularly in control of the aircraft during take-off, and our flying skills rapidly improving (compared to Sheldon, however, they still leave a lot to be desired!).

We also started flying approaches, but none of us have the skill yet to actually put the aircraft down without assistance, that will be one of our goals next week.

After lunch we began learning circuits (and all they entail…), we will be practicing them in earnest on Monday.

The Foxbat needed an oil change, which Sheldon and Rob completed after lunch.

In the afternoon we were treated to an impromptu air display, as aircraft from the aviation museum were being warmed up for the air show, of particular note was one of the Spitfire’s running in a new engine, with barrel rolls, loops, and a nice pass on the museum’s Cessna O-2; also a Kittyhawk flown in for the event doing low level passes over the runway kept us entertained!

We aren’t flying over the weekend (Sheldon will be kept busy by a multitude of pilots, however), so the other boys are headed out of town.  I’m staying to check out the Riverina scenery, and all the interesting things to do.

All in all it has been a very enjoyable week, with the prospect of more challenging, but rewarding flying in the coming days, I’ll write another update at the end of the 2nd week to post on the WwW website.

Until then keep your angle of attack right and your wings level…




Hello again fans of wheelie flight, I’m back to give you an update on the progress of our course.

As of the end of the first week the 2 other boys (Brad and Mark) were heading out of town, whereas I was staying on to do some sightseeing.

I moseyed on over to Junee on Saturday, where I visited the Brooklyn Museum (many interesting artefacts and stories from the local area), and the Roundhouse Museum (all about trains, with real locomotives and rolling stock, right up my alley!), had a very pleasant time.

I headed back via Cootamundra, where en-route I got a view of the Bethungra Loop (a large railway loop built in the 1940’s to ease the gradient on the Main South Line).

Whilst in Cootamundra I took the opportunity to have a look at their airfield (couldn’t resist!).

Saturday night Sheldon and I were invited over to Sam and Carol Richards’ home, where most of the local Temora Aero Estate community was gathered for a live music event, very enjoyable. I was able to meet many fliers too, and chat about my experiences from the previous week.

Thanks Carol and Sam, it was a pleasure meeting you both.

Sunday I went down to the Aerodrome, and said hello to the skydivers, watching one of their jumps from the LZ, then drove over to Wagga Wagga in the arvo.

Monday we were straight into circuit preparation in our morning flights, with a multitude of skills to learn, including using flaps, correct angles of approach, and crosswind landing technique (particularly challenging for the novice); we also had to put the circuit theory we had learned on Friday into practice.

By lunchtime the wind was quite strong, making everything that bit more difficult.

I found I was struggling to do my HHSS and BUMPFICH checks in time on my downwind leg, it was clearly going to take quite a bit of training.

In the late arvo we went around to see Quincy, one of the aero estate locals, who was kind enough to give us a tour of his hangar, showing us his “toys” including a Thruster ultralight, a powered paraglider, and his shiny new Eurofox light sports aircraft, in the same class as the Foxbat.

The Eurofox differs in some respects to the Foxbat, in that it has a stick control (as opposed to a yoke), and a Vernier throttle, so we were excited to have a go, although we would struggle to use the rudder, as it isn’t modified like the Foxbat of course.

Another thing possible in the Eurofox is that you may open the doors during flight, as long as airspeed is under 60 kts. This would improve photo/video quality, and as Brad has a very nice camera, we suggested he go up with Quincy, whilst Sheldon and I went up in the Foxbat.

We formated with the Eurofox, Brad taking some shots of us while I took some of them with my camera, then did a slow pass over Temora.

Quincy then took Mark up for a spin, afterwards it was time for dinner, but I’d have a chance to enjoy the Eurofox on Tuesday arvo.

Tuesday we were practising circuits again, but had a late start, as Stephen Jacobs from the Today show was doing the weather at the aerodrome, whilst one of the Spitfires was doing flypasts and aerobatics (we were ready and willing to substitute the Foxbat though…).

I tried my first landing on tarmac, have to be honest, it wasn’t very neat!

By this stage I was making all ground radio calls (Sheldon was still taking care of the majority of calls whilst airborne, however).

Considering the heat during the middle of the day (and subsequent turbulence) we decided to have a “siesta”, and continue flying later on.

In the late arvo Quincy dropped by in the Eurofox, and I went up with him, having the opportunity to try out the stick control, fine little aircraft.

Wednesday we flew more circuits, all of us improving significantly today. I was making more radio calls in the air, to let traffic know of our intentions (I still left it to Sheldon to respond to other aircraft).

Brad and Mark both completed their cross country flights during the day.

In the arvo the wind was reversed, meaning we would be landing on Runway 18 instead of 36, and placing our circuits on the other side of the aerodrome, good practice.

I also did my first 60 degree turns, which was fun.

In the evening after the finish of flying for the day we were invited by Quincy and his wife, Janice, to join them for a BBQ in their hangar, good food and good company, all had a pleasant time.

Thanks must go to Quincy and Janice for their continued hospitality to us, I’m sure we’ll all drop in on them again when next in Temora.

Thursday was my turn for a cross country flight; I flew the same course as Brad and Mark.

The first leg was to Junee, using a map and trying to pick out landmarks, I found it quite difficult.

We climbed to 5500 ft, over broken cloud, which was amazing, once above the cloud the air smooths right out, once trim and direction are set one could literally let the plane fly itself!

Once at Junee we flew over the Roundhouse Museum, great to be able to see it from the air.

Next we headed over to the Bethungra Loop, very impressive from the sky. We were just about to leave when a freight train came through, so I got some excellent pics, lucky!

Following this we flew to Cootamundra, where I did a touch and go on their airfield, then back to Temora.

The whole flight was just over 2 hrs, I was quite tired upon landing.

In the arvo I (finally!) did all the checks from memory, memorised BEMFPAMS, ROVAR, TMPFISCH, HHSS and BUMPFICH, I’ll never forget them ‘til the day I die now….

Friday we packed up and left for the airfield, special thanks to Goldtera Motor Inn for taking such good care of us during our stay.

We flew some more circuits in the morning, and Rob Rickards, Chairman of WwW, flew in with his wife Sian and 2 former WwW scholarship pilots, so we finally were able to meet in person.

In the arvo Brad drove me over to Griffith for the Disabled Pilots Association fly-in, whilst Mark went with Sheldon in the Foxbat (we took Mark’s chair and bag).

We were introduced to everyone at Griffith Aero Club, and had a nice steak and beer.

Saturday Sheldon and I flew back to Temora in the Foxbat, while Mark and Brad drove, quite a bit of traffic in the sky that morning (the other disabled pilots also coming across).

We all then enjoyed the Temora Air Show, seeing a multitude of different aircraft doing displays.

Brad, Mark, and I were presented with our certificates for completing the WwW flying training course in front of the air show stand by David Lowy, patron of WwW, with our disabled pilot comrades alongside us, quite a moment, really proud actually!

Sheldon graciously gave us three scholarship pilots our very own Logbooks, and had filled them in with our hours, here’s hoping I will be able to enter many more in the coming years.

We all made our way back to Griffith in the arvo, Brad flying this time, with Mark and I driving our cars, respectively.

Saturday evening we attended the Disabled Pilots Association dinner at Griffith RSL, where we had a lovely meal, and listened to some interesting tales from members.

Of particular note was Army pilot Maj. Glenn Todhunter’s presentation, what he was forced to endure to return to active service following the loss of both legs in an aircraft crash is quite amazing, my hat goes off to you mate.

Sunday morning we went out to Griffith Aero Club for breakfast together in the hangar, before saying our goodbyes, and everyone began heading home (some having to work around the weather, however).

Sheldon managed to give quite a few a go in the Foxbat, to try out its controls, I’m sure they were impressed.

I dropped Brad off at Temora Aero Club on the way back to Sydney, we took the opportunity to duck in and say hello.

What an incredible experience it has all been; more than that, it’s been an adventure.

I feel like we have achieved something marvellous, and the stories I was able to tell my friends and family upon arriving home were fantastic.

My favourite part was being able to show them video on my camera of flying a circuit, saying to them “That’s me flying the plane!” as I make my approach and land, spectacular!

There are so many people to thank for this opportunity, chiefly among them Rob Rickards (and the rest of the WwW Board), Sheldon Jones, Rob Maslin (and Temora Aero Club), and the whole Temora community for being so welcoming.

Also I’d like to thank my fellow scholarship pilots, Brad and Mark, as it was a delight to complete the course alongside 2 such decent and personable men.
I’ve definitely got the flying bug now (many pilots told me of how addictive it is…), and will be applying for the WwW Solo Scholarship. If I am fortunate enough to be given the chance, I will be most grateful, and “Foxy” and I will dance once more!


Michael Alston





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