Thursday, September 16, 2010

Cessna 402

Im flying the Cessna 402 more and more now and am finally checked to line, and have been let loose by myself. Definately doesn't perform as well as the baron, and is less sports car-ish, but its really nice to fly something bigger, with a proper cabin, air conditioning and turbo engines. We operate 2 different types of 402, both the B and C models.

One of the check and trainers on my check flight.

I have done a few ICUS (in command under supervision) flights in it where i took some photos. Most of my ICUS was done in the 402B model. The B doesn't perform nearly as well as the C, and has dramatically less performance on take-off, less uplift and less range. Our B model aircraft have 5 different fuel tanks and a silly 1960's mentality of design where the more complicated the fuel system is, the better. We know this is not the case, and the 402C just has 2 fuel tanks, one per engine.

The B is essentially a big baron in terms of payload and range, but is able to take a lot more bulky items. The main difference in appearance between the B and C models is the big fuel tanks on the wing-tip. These are the main fuel tanks, and have 300lbs per side. The aux tanks have 180lbs per side, and we also have a wing locker fuel tanks with 120lbs. Sounds simple enough, but to use the aux tanks, you need to burn roughly an hour out of the mains, as the aux tank fuel pumps deliver twice the amount of fuel needed to the engine. The excess fuel is pumped back in the main tanks, and thus fills them up as you use the aux fuel. If you haven't burnt enough fuel then you end up venting it in flight. Not optimal for a max range, max payload, min fuel flight. To use the wing locker tank, you need to have at least 120lbs available to fill up the left main tank, and then use the cross-feed system to balance the tanks once its transferred. In summary far to complex and having a single fuel tank per engine is a much easier, safer design philosophy.

You can see the tip tank of the 402B in this photo.

So in contrast, the C has model is much more simple and straight forward, has about 50 more horses in the engines, can uplift an extra 300kg, with a lot more range. It is harder to land though in my opinion, but i might not be used to it just yet.

Anyway im sure i will have more stories to tell soon about it, but here are some photos for now.

Apparently this plane comes into Darwin regularly, but i have never seen it, or heard it! The biggest equipment Darwin gets regularly are A330's, and military C-17's.

Parked at Oenpelli.

Cabin shot in-flight. I have flown these guys in singles, barons and now the 402.

Monday, September 6, 2010

It's back!

Sunrise, again! It's really hard to capture just how red that sun is. And how scenes like this never cease to amaze me.

The 'wet season' is starting to happen again. This period is known as the 'build up.' Lots of humidity, big cumulus clouds, unstable weather with the occaisional storm, and of course rain. Nothing out of the ordinary, nothing really to worry about flying either as the cells and big clouds are usually isolated and its easy to navigate around them.

However, put yourself into a baron, at 5:00am in the morning, on a moonless night, with layer of cloud sitting at 10,000 feet. This makes the darkness feel even darker. One of the aspects of night flying in the Northern Territory, is that it's black and often hundreds of miles between seeing any civilisation on the ground. Couple all this with no weather radar, and i'm flying blind, on instruments. This isn't normally a problem, but i cannot see what's ahead of me, and on this particular night, it happened to be a storm. Not a big one, nor a fully developed monster that the wet season brings. But nonetheless was still an experience.

This baron has a light to show the leading edge, mainly to see if there is ice buildup. You can sort of see the streaks of rain over the leading edge.

So i took off from Darwin, on the Darwin 4 departure. This entails tracking runway heading till 900ft, and then turning to your assigned heading. As i levelled off at 8000ft, i set up the plane for cruise and did the paperwork, then settled in for the 90 minute flight to Kununurra. About 15 minutes into the flight i could see the strobes blinking in the darkness and everytime they blink, it looks like stars/particles around the wing. Now, i felt a little slow for not realising it was rain straight away, but i couldn't see it on the windshield ahead of me, and i couldnt hear it due engine noise/noise cancelling headset.

A photo in the bumps and in cloud!

Anyway i was a little shocked at first, and there appeared to be a lot of rain. (There was not much mentioned on the forecast of rain etc.) As i went a little further i ended up in cloud for a fair while, at which point i turned off the strobes as they are blinding at night in cloud. Soon though there was more flashing all around me, which was when i first got a little worried. When you fly close to a storm you hear the unmistakable streak of static in your headset as the lightning goes off. The bumps got progressively worse and worse at which point i was handflying as servos on the auotpilot don't mix well this amount of turbulence.

Once clear of the weather, looking back towards what i had come through. The main brunt of the storm was about 50nm behind this build up.

Long story short, flew through this for till about 100nm from Kununurra and all of a sudden it was clear! Good times. Interesting to say the least, and a good experience. Strangely enough, everyone in Kununurra and Darwin had seen it on the computer weather radar, and were asking if i flew through that area. Wasn't as bad as it looked on the radar though. And the be honest, the bumps i had to endure during the Alice Springs summer thermals, doing the mailruns low level, were definately worse.. i didn't even hit my head on the roof!

Arrival into Kununurra!

So i returned to Kununurra yet again, and this time had a coffee with the Chief Pilot of my old company there. He was actually the last guy of my season to be hired, but he has done well for himself there and seems to be running a good operation.

Part of the Ord River that runs between Kununurra and Wyndam. I hadn't flown over this area in almost 3 years.

The charter was flying some telecommunication blokes to a place called Forrest River, or Oombulgurri. It used to be a reasonably big/busy community, but as evident when i went there, it's virtually a ghost town, with only 50 people there at maximum anytime. It was actually a lot nicer to visit when it was like this, as for the first time ever that i have visited it, there was no trash all over the streets! I sat in the clinic and spoke to the nurse there for a few hours.

Oombie street scene - Clean and nice.

Overall was a great charter, enjoyed going to some of the old places and definately enjoyed the night flying/experience i had in the morning!

Anyway, thanks for reading, and thanks to all who commented last post.