So much fun

I'm still trying to look at that new thing to do to expand my horizons and to keep myself on that learning curve.  This time it's a type rating in the Alpha R2160.  While I have flown them previously in forced landing competitions, it wasn't really a type rating sort of flight.  Most of the important stuff was done by the instructor and all I had to do was fly the plane.  This time I wanted to learn the aircrafts systems and actually be able to take one out myself.

First up the preflight.  The good news of only having a single fuel drain was quickly nullified of the sheer number of blanks you have to remove before flight.  There are a lot of bird sized holes in the aircraft where birds love to nest, so they must be covered (and a thorough inspection done).  It was interesting to note that the Alpha has its stall warning on the right wing (all of the other aircraft I'm rated in have it located on the left).  The 160hp Lycoming O-320 was familiar to me so nothing new there.

On the inside the two person cabin is both spacious and tight.  Spacious in that it feels like you are sitting on the plane rather than inside it.  The visibility is second to none.  Tight in that the seat and 5 point harness makes you feel like you are trussed up like a roast chicken.  Useful for Aerobatics I guess.

Engine start sequence was pretty straight forward, as was taxiing around the airfield (nosewheel steering!).  It has a stick rather than a yoke but it's funny how you transition between them seamlessly.  It never felt awkward or un-intuitive, you put pressure on the stick and the aircraft responds.  In one respect I felt made things easier but I'll talk about that later.

Take off was unremarkable, we had some fairly strong wind to contend with but the Alpha's wing cut through a lot of the bumps.  Once we got some altitude it smoothed out and we headed east to start our upper air work.

I demonstrated to instructor Bailey a couple of turns.  The aircraft is so responsive in all 3 axis it just invites you to throw it around.  Medium turns were a walk in the park.  With the steep turns I had to restrain myself from adding more bank and going to the max rate, not that Bailey would have mind.

We did the 3 stalls, clean, power and flap and wing drop stall.  The clean stall was interesting because you begin to see how slippery the Alpha is.  Even with 10 degrees of flap and power on it was reluctant to sink, I was easily able to maintain my height.  With full flap it was like applying a hand brake in a car.  I distinctly remember leaning forward against my shoulder harness as the airspeed dropped away.  The wing drop was tame compared with a 172.  The uncommanded roll and yaw was moderate and easily corrected with that huge rudder.

We then did a forced landing.  What was fun was that it was something I have done before so I did a pretty decent job.  Bailey kept asking me if we would make the field.  I knew we were high but I had not added flap yet so once I did down we came.  I would have made my landing spot with no drama whatsoever.  I was pleased with that one.

Then it was back for some circuits.  Crosswind circuits.  I've watched plenty of aircraft land in crosswinds as part of my alter ego as chief ground judge, so I knew that the Alpha is really stable in crosswinds.  I was not disappointed.  We had enough crosswind so you had to be careful but I managed 3 decent enough landings before we called it a day.  Bailey noted I am flaring a little too much (my Cessna background showing) but my landings were safe for the conditions which were not quite up to my personal limits but getting there.

I need to do some circuit emergencies then a written test before I'll get signed off.  This is one aircraft I think I will be flying a lot more.


PropellerHead said…
I confess I am a bit jealous, mate. As you probably know I did my PPL and night rating on the Alpha 2160s and they are such fun to fly - amazing visibility and the rest!! Trouble is, they only take one passenger and if you have more than one person that wants to come up with you..... So, unfortunately I have not maintained currency having concentrated on 172s and Cherokees. Maybe one day (if I find time and the weather isn't c**p) I will get back into them. BTW, what's the story with JGP - how long has the venerable old bus got to go (I have some happy memories with that plane - such performance).
Flyinkiwi said…
Hi Barry, from what I've heard JGP has been parked indefinitely while the owners consider their options. It is now out of hours which means its not covered by insurance so the club (i.e. us) cannot use it.