As some of you may know I changed employer a few months back after deciding I had grown tired of being a bean counter. As a thank you for 14 years of service I got a gift certificate that among other things could be cashed in for a "Try to fly on your own-Experience".
Guess what, I decided to cash it in to go flying!! And last night it was finally time to go flying, and it was a blast even though the cockpit was a tad tight for a guy of my length... Sadly I was to caught up in the moment to even consider taking any photos whilst in the air, and to be honest I don't think I even could have fished my phone out of my pocket while strapped into my seat, but at least I can share the tale of the flight.
After a day of worrying about the weather (in true April fashion in Sweden we had had a mix of warm sunshine and local showers of hail/snow/rain during the day at home) I arrived at Västerås Airport (ESOW) around 1830 Local time. I was greeted by the guy that would be my guide on the flight, and after a very brief chat about my previous flight experience we headed out to the plane. At this point I had no idea what I was going to fly but had assumed it would be a C172 or a smaller Piper. Turns out it was an Ultralight ATEC 122 Zephyr 2000C with an empty weight of just 265 kg powered by a 80 hp Rotak engine...
Sleek looking thing ain't it! I shall have to find a model of it for FSX.
The cockpit was undergoing some renovation, having the old steam gouges replaced with digital instruments. I was pleased as I prefer Glass Cockpits when flying in the sim.
We had a brief look around the outside and then strapped ourselfs into the seats, with me on the left hand side. The preflight checklist was done in just a couple of minutes, and the engine fired right away. After listening to the non-exciting ATIS (tower had closed for the day) my guide released the parking brake and told me to taxi to the runway (He did offer my some pointers as to where we should be heading as well). Just a fraction of an inch of throttle was needed to get her rolling and after some initial issues with finding the brakes (no toe-brakes on this, just a handle on the stick to pull on) I managed to find my way from Parking G9 out to Apron 4 and onto Taxiway A heading south.
A short taxi later we were holding short of runway 01 on Bravo, full flaps were set for takeoff and then we lined up for takeoff after reporting our intentions over the radio. .
With full throttle the take-off roll was short, but man did it need a lot of rudder input to stay on the center line. Not sure, but I think we took off before passing the exit at Taxiway C.
At 300 feet we retracted the flaps, turned to a heading of about 350 to avoid some clouds and climbed through some bumpy air up to 3.500 feet. As we climbed out we noted that the cloud we turned to stay clear of had started to form into the anvil shape of a Cumulonibus incus, but my guide didn't see it as an issue. After we leveled off I managed to trim her out and we continued north while discussing how to proceed. I got to do some slow sweeping turns and couple of 360-turns. The lasting impression of this was how sensitive the controls were compared to the Sim. On my first attempt at a turn I gave way to much rudder input becoming completely uncoordinated for a brief moment. Might have to tune down my dead zones on the controller settings a tad
The real certified pilot then took over the controls to show the slow speed capabilities of the model. The specifications says the stall speed in clean configuration is 36 knots, but he got us down to 25-28 knots and it was still flying in a very stable manner, at least with an experienced pilot in control.
With the demonstration done we started a circling descent and preformed 2 traffic patterns with touch and go's at a grass strip about 20 nm north of Västerås called Salanda (not present in FSX as far as I know). Most of this I managed on my own with just some minor support. My guide did however provide some control input to time the flare in a proper manner and called me out when I let the airspeed bleed of to much.
With that out of the way we climbed back up to the calm air at 3.500 feet and headed back towards Västerås cruising at about 115 knots IAS.
In contrast to the traffic patterns and approaches at Salanda the approach and landing into ESOW was done with no flaps to make sure we got in before other inbound traffic got in our way. Final was made with significant cross wind so I got some help with the controls to master that as well as with the timing of the flare.
About and hour after we took off we parked in front of the hangar, turned everything off and climbed out of the aircraft..
After the experience I had a big smile on my face for the whole drive back home!