Saturday, February 28, 2009

New job, new house, new flying club

Near the end of last year we moved to Sydney, about 1000km down the Pacific Highway from Brisbane. New place, new job, and very little time to think about flying. I didn’t even use the flight simulator on the home computer a single time in the last three months. The fact that our new house is only fifteen minutes walk to the beach and that this is summer didn’t help either.

With the new year though the flying bug came back biting. It was time to find a new club to hire aircraft from, and hopefully also get a bit more flying training under my belt. A retractable undercarriage endorsement and a Night VFR rating are definitely on my list for 2009. We'll see how it all works out. The new job thankfully comes with a lot less overseas trips than the old one, so I won't spent a quarter of the year either away or jetlagged at home.

For someone who lives in the inner suburbs of Sydney, there’s unfortunately only one option: Bankstown airport. Sydney’s main airport is, well, the busiest in the country by far so you can forget about flying training or GA flying there. Camden sounds great but is too far for me and Hoxton Park just shut down. Which leaves us with Bankstown, about 45 minutes drive from where I live, and 35 minutes from work. Not too bad considering it used to take me about an hour to get to Redcliffe from my house in Brisbane.

Before leaving Brisbane I asked around for recommendations. Two instructors at my former aero club pointed me to the Schofields Flying Club. I also performed an exhaustive search of all the flying training organisations in Bankstown and came to the same conclusion: Schofields was the one for me.

It is the only organisation I found that seems to be a genuine flying club, as opposed to being a flying school with some social activities thrown in from time to time. I heard that Camden as a much better atmosphere than Bankstown, but it's just too far for me to drop in and have a chat or meet up with people, so that social aspect would be lost on me anyway.

So I went to Schofields on a Saturday afternoon, looked around the brand new clubhouse, sat inside a couple of their aircrafts, talked to a few people, and before I knew it I had applied for membership and booked a date with an instructor called Olivia for the next week-end for the obligatory club checkride. I chose a Piper Archer III, VH-SFR. I sat in the aircraft for a while to become familiar with where everything was and how everything looked and felt. I think I'm going to like it.

Schofields is mostly a Piper joint. Seven Warrior, four Archer, two Arrow and two Seminole. They also have a Duchess, a couple of Cessna 152 and even a 150 VH-JGJ, but that's about it for the non-Piper side of the world. I think I will miss flying the 172SP, but I'm also very much looking forward to learning to fly new types of airplanes, and forming my own opinion in the age-old debate of low wings vs high wings.

I think I'll need to hire VH-JGJ, the Cessna 150, and go for a local flight one day, just for fun. In the words of a former instructor of mine, going back to a 152 after flying larger airplanes "feels like driving a go-kart". At the other end of the range is this beautiful Piper Seminole below. It's pretty much a twin-engined version of the Piper Arrow. The club has both an Arrow III and Arrow IV. The Arrow IV, just like the Seminole, features a T-Tail. The T-tail does not require a separate endorsement, it just comes with the checkride for the type of aircraft.

I left the club and drove into Bankstown airport proper to have a look around. I noticed the Concept Aviation shop and walked in just to have a look. I bought the VTC chart for the Sydney area and a belated Christmas present to myself in the form of an Icon IC-R5 multi-band radio receiver. More on that later once I've finished exploring all the features.

In conclusion, my head is back in the clouds and for the foreseeable future my feet will be resting on rudder pedals very similar to the ones above.

1 comment:

Chris said...

Welcome to Schofields Julien - I don't think you will regret it.

Post me a comment at my blog if you're stuck for a right seater some time.