It was a moonlit night, to be sure. And the clouds were few and scattered. The wind was calm. It was time to do a few hours of flying after sunset towards a night rating with instructor Nicole Carlse seeing that Russell Donaldson, my usual instructor, was laid up after back surgery.
I was flying ZS-CTP which, if you’ve read this blog, you’ll know its a brand-spanking new Cirrus 20. It’s equipped with a Garmin 1000.
Preflight concluded using red flashlight it was a matter of waiting for total darkness just after 19h00 local time. Nicole conducted the preflight patter, outlining the plan for the next hour and a half or so. Fly to the General Flying Area or GFA, conduct a few steep turns, rate one turns, stalls and go through emergency procedures. Then return to Lanseria and do circuits.
It was a calm evening compared to previous nights, no cumulonimbus, no lightning. Take off was smooth, the turn out uneventful. It was instrument flying through to the GFA which meant a steady climb from 4500 to 7000 feet. Levelling off, Nicole then put me through my paces.
The first steep turn was a little dishevelled – the artificial horizon on the Garmin 1000 primary display does take a few minutes to adjust to after the Avidygn system. After settling my eyes, I gave it another shot. Better.
Then on to stalls. The first was a little wonky, the Cirrus gaining 100 feet in altitude instead of holding steady at the new level of 6500. But the second go was fine.
After stalls in various configurations which went off without a hitch and a few more turns to the left and right, it was back to Lanseria for four touch-and-go’s and then a full stop landing. The PAPI lights are useful during the day – but critical during a night landing. Two reds and Two white lights and you’re on the glide slope. I felt comfortable with the plane and confident about the upcoming cross-country.
The one thing I found a bit difficult was changing the Garmin settings on the control panel. The soft keys immediately below the Primary Flight Display are easier to see than the dinky little buttons on the central panel.
I passed my night rating theory exam last month – now I need a night cross country including 3 full-stops. Pilansberg, Potchefstroom, Lanseria. Nicole will be instructing. Looking ahead its the night test and its on to the feared commercial exams.