Saturday, May 31, 2014

Durban Skyye Open Day Sat 28 Jun

We're having an Open Day at Durban Skyye Flight School, aimed principally around the schools.. students need to be 15 for a PPL Student Licence and 16 for an NPL Student Licence so training to become a pilot can start before your 15th Birthday. At the Open Day we will give career advice and help you make an informed decision about your aviation career whether you are looking to become an Airline Transport Pilot or commercial pilot. Or maybe you just want the experience of microlight flight or to become a recreational pilot in Light Sport Aircraft... we can advise you of all the options. Sat 28 June is the first day of the July school holidays so come on down to Virginia Airport and taste the freedom of Durban Skyye. - Please like and share the post.

5th plane joins the Flight School

Our Flight School is growing with 3 microlights and 2 Sling aircraft. There is always loads of paperwork getting the aircraft on register and approved for training by the SA Civil Aviation Authority but in anticipation of this we applied the school's branding to ZDL today.

Brad (our Chief Flying Instructor) helps apply the decals to my plane

Saturday, May 24, 2014

"Yankee" gets our branding

Dave and Brad applied the Flight School's branding to our new fixed wing Sling ZU-FYA, named "Yankee" after Dave's purchase of the aircraft whilst standing in the Sling Airplane Factory's USA hangar last month.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Durban TMA and Special Rules - airspaces and routes explained

The Durban TMA or Terminal Control Area is controlled airspace around the Durban Metropolitan area and which is broken down into several zones, each with their own height restrictions. Similar TMA's have been designated over major airports in South Africa including Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London, George, Overberg TMA, Bloemfontein, Kimberly, Kruger Mpumalanga, Hoedspruit, and Johannesburg. This ensures that aircraft intending to fly over areas of high traffic taking off and landing at major centres are separated from each other and are controlled by airtraffic controllers at these centres. Generally the closer you get to a major centre you move from a further circle of control eg TMA E area which allows other traffic to fly higher, to a D, C, B or A area, the latter controlling all aircraft from the ground upwards.

Within and underneath TMA areas you also get CTR and ATZs - control areas, and aerodrome traffic zones which is a further control based at the airfield concerned in the control tower. Therefore as you get closer to Durban you pass either under or through TMA zones and then get handed over to the control tower at the airport or airfield you intend to land at. Most small aircraft or general aviation traffic are not allowed to fly in TMA controlled space and must fly lower and under the heights specified so as not to conflict with the commerical and airline traffic flying the busy routes to and from our major centres. 

Outside the TMA where air traffic is less busy you enter uncontrolled airspace and here the limitations are relaxed.

Radio Frequencies

Different radio frequencies are used for the different airspaces and control zones to avoid the airwaves being cluttered by pilots all talking at the same time. Each pilot therefore needs to know when to change frequency and what height restrictions apply for each part of his journey through the country. This can get quite compicated when one is flying cross-country through several TMA areas.


The blue circles with lines represent airfields on the map - there are about 450 airfields in South Africa. The orange lines represent routes aircraft must follow in controlled airspace. The pink triangles are reporting points at which pilots need to announce their position. GFAs are General Flying Areas where pilots from the various flight school may train.

This is the same TMA map shown above but with the terrain depicted. Here you can see the Drakensberg mountains to the west of Durban and the lighter coloured lower terrain adjacent to the sea.

Durban Special Rules depicted on an EasyPlan map

Special Rules set out Routes to be followed 

The routes to and from our controlled airports around major centres are further controlled in "Special Rules" that regulate the routes aircraft need to follow to avoid accidents. Usually one route and height is allowed for traffic going to the airport or airfield and a different route and height is used for aircraft coming from those airports or airfields.

The boundary of the Durban Special Rules area coincides with the TMA outer boundary, and the Special Rules are essentially a set of rules published by the SA Civil Aviation Authority setting out routes that need to be followed by VFR (Visual Flight Rules, as opposed to IFR Instrument Flight Rules) pilots operating within the area.

By requiring general uncontrolled aircraft to follow certain routes within these busy centres of South Africa conflicting traffic can be avoided and our skies made safer for all. Commercial airliners and other IFR air traffic can be assured that random airplanes will not wander into their path. For instance if you are flying VFR to Pietermaritzburg from Virginia Airport in Durban, the Special Rules require the following:

Virginia to Pietermaritzburg

All VFR traffic is to route via the Durban CBD, then west of the Pinetown CBD, then south of the N3, to the right of the Alverstone Mast, then via the Nagle Dam. Cross the Durban CBD at or below 1500FT AMSL, but above 1000FT AMSL, cross the N2 at or below 1500FT AMSL to pass west abeam the Pinetown CBD at, or below, 3000FT AMSL, to the right of the Alvertone Mast at or below 5000FT. Remain clear of the Durban TMA.

A full copy of the Durban Special Rules can be downloaded off my skydrive if you click on this link.

Read more about my African aviation adventures on my blog here.

Day 1 - flight from Langebaan Cape Town to PE

The flights from Cape Town to Durban fetching our Flight School plane Sling FYA were broken down to 2 legs of 4 1/2 hours each - the first from Cape Town (Langebaan where we flew in the seaplane) to Hitgeheim inland of Port Elizabeth where we spent the first night.. these pics follow. Tomorrow I will post the second leg. Durban Skyye Flight School

Follow the blue line from the Cape in the West to the East coast following a route over the Ceres mountains, Oudtshoorn, the Klein Karoo and Hitgeheim, our first stop-over. then onwards on day 2 to the coast at Port Alfred and then through East London and continuing along the Wild Coast to Durban.

Leaving Langebaan our first set of mountains were the Paarl mountains climbing to 7500ft  and once over them we reached the valley of Ceres with more mountains to climb to get along our route.
The vertical navigation plan shows peaks ranging up to 7500 ft with the top peak along my chosen path at 6000 ft, with our proposed altitude selected at 7500 ft to clear them and avoid down and updrafts that are often found around the mountains. In the middle is Oudtshoorn we had to descend to for refuelling en route so that we could make the second day without stopping. The range of the 2 x 75 l fuel tanks is 7 hours.

Louis (left) and myself on day 1 on route to Oudshoorn. The weather was fresh at 12 - 15c deg and a bit of cold air was coming in through the closed vents.

There were a number of small dams quite high in the mountains

The Ceres valley, famed for citrus growing in the Cape, viewed from 7500ft  surrounded by high mountain peaks we were flying over.

At times the clouds were gathering but there were plenty of gaps so that we could maintain visual contact with the ground at all times according to the VFR (Visual Flight Rules) we were following

More mountains and clouds - a lot of the time the route I picked followed between mountain ranges so that the peaks on either side of the valley we were following were higher than our plane. You can see the winding river below in this photo.

FYA on the ground in Oudtshoorn where I put in R1800 AVGAS to refill the tanks and take a full 25l container with to our next stop. Avgas is able to be used instead of car petrol (Mogas) where there is none available but at R17 a litre is more expensive. Usually I fill the tanks using a 25 l container at the local petrol station.

Feeling good after our fuel and piss-stop in Oudtshoorn

The mountain ridge seen here was one of a number of long ridges running parallel to each other and don't look so high seen from the right side of the plane as we were flying quite close to the slopes, but to our left they drop away down to the valley 5500ft below. If you look over this ridge in the Klein Karoo you also can see another valley and ridge in the distance.

After Oudtshoorn I followed the ridges of the Klein Karoo which line the route through to the coast leading down after Port Elizabeth to Port Alfred. 

There is a bit of reflection in the windscreen here, but the clouds were gathering and we were needing to drop below the cloud base and fly under the clouds and had to check our vertical navigation carefully to ensure no mountain peaks would be ahead so we wouldn't get trapped with a cloud covering over and mountains in our path. It is critical to check the weather en route ahead of each flight and to continually assess the weather en route to ensure we remain VFR and able to reach your destination safely. Only last year 3 planes got caught up in cloud in this vicinity and only two made it home, the other plane getting lost in the clouds and ended up crashing into the terrain.
We experienced a strong headwind along the whole journey with winds up to 50 kts (90 kmh) which slowed us down and increased our fuel consumption. This took my landing at Hitgeheim to 5.30pm which was sunset and with only 15 minutes to spare to a legal landing time. This is due to our planned airfield not having landing lights, as I am rated to fly at night, and had it been later we might have had to divert to Port Elizabeth... one of the reasons why fuel management is important to ensure one has adequate fuel for a possible diversion such as that.

We landed safely at 5.30pm on a private airstrip called Hitgeheim on a platteaux and which serves the Addo Elephant Park lodges in the area. We overnighted at a fabulous little guesthouse called Fish Eagles Lodge along the banks of the Sundays River which runs through this area.

Wonderful little guesthouse right on the banks of the Sundays River in an area called Sunland, close to the Addo Elephant Park where we could hear the eagles cry along the river. Thanks Sue for an exquisite Kudu steak dinner followed by the best malva pudding and custard.. a real treat and by far the best meal I had that week. Highly recommended stop-over or base to explore the Addo region. Great hospitality from both of our hosts.
See my Aviation blog for more great Africa aviation stories and how I got my licence.

Day 2 flight from PE to Durban

We set off on our second day of flying after the mist hanging over the plateau and river had burned off around 9.30am only. I phoned the PE Met office and they re-assured me that the mist was inland only and the coast was clear. When we arrived after a hearty breakfast we couldn't even see half way down the runway and while we waited for it to clear we walked the length of the runway to check for animals - wildebees and buck roam freely there.

Taking off there was a bit of mist swirling around but by 100ft off the ground the air was clear and crisp and we were on our way to Durban heading for the coast.

Unlike my home Sling ZDL which has an autopilot, the Flight School plane is not equipped with one so on a long journey with mapwork and multiple airspace and frequency changes to deal with, a co-pilot is almost mandatory.. thanks Louis for flying to Cape Town to join me on the trip and help fly our "Yankee" home.

Above the mist/clouds hanging over the rivers, the sky was relatively free of cloud, the temperature nice and fresh as 14c deg and the mountains behind us as we took off from Hitgeheim, near Addo in the Port Elizabeth area. We were keeping a lookout for elephants, but did see some giraffe and buck.

We reached the coastline at Port Alfred

Westbank Cemetrary East London shares the spotlight of the lighthouse.. I have been there at night where the eerie beam from the lighthouse sweeps over the gravestones casting shadows under the full moon which rises up over the Indian Ocean. One of my "haunts" with a gravesite of a special guy.

East London Harbour as we bypased the Airport in the East London TMA airspace, reporting at several points along the coast to the airtraffic controller at the airport.

The "hole-in-the-wall" along the Wild Coast - we came down low over the waves to get a peep through the hole

The coastline of the Wild Coast on the east coast of South Africa - famous for shipwrecks and giving mariners a tough time

One of my favourite landing spots - Port St Johns runway which sits on top of the mountain to the left. This time we bypassed the runway as we hurried along the coast, the photo taken from the river mouth as clouds swirled over the mountain-tops to our left.

Port St Johns, showing the fall from the airfield to the river and the town below.

As quickly as the clouds positioned themselves over the mountains they were gone again

The Wild Coast Sun to the left with the bridge that took you over to the Transkei, once an independent country, and famous for it's casino

A welcome sight as we round the Bluff and see Durban Harbour with our new home for FYA "Yankee" at Virginia Airport alongside the shore stretching out in the photo

Safe on the ground at Virginia Airport (Louis left, Dave right) after logging 11 hours of flying to get Yankee to Durban Skyye Flight School, my NPL and microlight Flight School in the city
See my aviation blog - Do Eagles Dare - for more great aviation stories and our Africa safaris

Friday, May 16, 2014

Fetching our Flight School Sling from Cape Town

I took delivery today of our Sling ZU-FYA for Durban Skyye Flight School from Jandre at Morningstar Airfield in Cape Town. My pilot mate and fellow Sling owner Louis will be joining me for the flights back tomorrow and Sunday.

At first I took to the air to get the feel of the plane and flew "Yankee" to Stellenbosch where we are staying for the night. In the morning the intention is to fly to Langebaan to see Rainer's Seaplane there and at noon start the trip back from the Cape to Durban.

Jandre congratulates Dave on delivery of the plane for the Flight School

A view of Table Mountain and Signal Hill with clouds on take-off from Morningstar

Morningstar Airfield near the Blouwbergstrand, Cape Town

Selfie flying the plane

A view towards Somerset West on approach to Stellenbosch Airfield
Final Approach runway 19 Stellenbosch

On the ground at Stellenbosch with the Stellenbosch mountains in the background

Just a joke fetching my co-pilot Louis from Cape Town International so he could join me on the trip in ZU-FYA to Durban