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learning to fly in bangkok

Discussion in 'The Pub' started by jasonw, Jan 14, 2008.

  1. i have a friend who lives in bangkok and is a keen flyer. he has been flying ultralights until now. this is an email he sent and its very piss funny/oh my god reading enjoy sorry its a bit long

    Had my first flying lesson in a Cessna 172 last weekend!! Only caused 2 major air traffic incidents...not sure if that counts as a successful lesson or not!

    It has taken 6 months but I finally got my student pilots licence last week, seems a little strange that after taking this long the aviation department was working last week when most of the government was still on holiday...I'm sure the flying school staff didn't delay giving it to me so that they could have a new year holiday!

    I arrived at the airport at 8am as arranged to be picked up and taken inside by the staff of the flying school, unfortunately it has been so long since I have been to the school that they had forgotten that I don't have a pass to enter the airport. Every other time I've just had a paper pass for one or two days to get me in for the theory lessons but that was a long time ago and everyone has forgotten since then. So major international airport...one tall white man...no security pass...what shall we do...I know, how about we borrow the security pass from that short Thai fellow over there and sneak the white guy past the security checkpoint...no one will notice the difference!! At this point I'm not sure what is scarier...sneaking past security into a major airport...or the fact that they were right and the security guards really didn't notice the difference. Security as Bangkok airport...about as good as the custom's inspections! Going past security the young girl from the flying school who's job it is to make sure I'm a happy customer has a very high heart rate and is breathing heavy...I guess its more likely they will throw her in jail for sneaking me in...can't hold the farang responsible! She is very relieved to make it past the security checkpoint.

    After the stress of sneaking past security its good to make it to the flying school office and relax, a glass of water at this stage helps. Everyone messes around for a while...we're only 30 minutes late for the lesson and by Thai standards that's still early and we can't have that, need to waste a bit more time first before we get into it. Eventually my instructor pilot grabs me and we begin our flight briefing. He's disappointed to hear that I have forgotten to bring my aircraft handbook with me (its been so long since I've been there I had forgotten what to bring with me) so I have to borrow one. We talk through the plan for the lesson, we'll pre-flight the plane, taxi out, take off, right turn and fly out to the training area, he'll demonstrate how to handle the plane, then we'll come back. Pretty easy and I recon I can handle all that without to much trouble. Grab my sun glasses and off we go to the plane.

    Ground crew think we will be flying HS-RSF but we want HS-RSG, that causes a bit more confusion. Golf is a Cessna 172, not a young plane by any means but in pretty good conditions and during my theory classes all those months ago I watched them over haul and repaint the entire training fleet. Looked like a professional job to my (not-so-)professional eye. Pre-flight inspection begins with us both going through the pre-flight checklist and walk around the plane. Check all the bits are bolted into the right places...are the wings still connected...that vertical bit at the back, is that still there? hasn't fallen off?...good. Check the fuel quantity, yep there is gas in the tank (for all you non-pilots out there, checking the fuel before you take off is IMPORTANT!) Checklist says we have to check to make sure there is no water in the fuel...engine doesn't run so well on water apparently...better for the environment, no nasty CO2 produced from an engine running on water but the plane will tend to fall out of the sky. Instructor doesn't check for water in the fuel...that worries me...did I mention that fuel is important...I stop him and look at the checklist asking about the water check. He checks with the ground crew...already checked and its OK they say...I'm a professional though and want to see for myself, the fuel is important remember.

    Pre-flight inspection finished we climb into the cockpit, I'm in the pilots chair, my new friend in the copilots seat...I like sitting in the pilots seat, feels good! We flick switches, pull knobs, turn dials as we work through the prestart and engine start checklists. Good to hear the engine turn over and start up nice and easy, one of the ground crew is standing by with a little fire extinguisher just in case we explode in a ball of flames...that's very reassuring! Engine running we let it warm up a bit, test the magnetos to make sure both circuits are working, plane has two ignition circuits so that we don't fall out of the sky if one should happen to fail, nice and safe. Engine warms up, oil temperature and pressure are are in the green, my copilot (boy does that sound good!) calls Bangkok tower for taxi approval which we receive, taxi via Tango, Delta for Runway 21Left. As directed by my instructor I throttle up a bit to get us moving then have to test the brakes to make sure they are working OK. throttle up to 1700RPM...park brake off...we're not moving...what's going on...ground crew is grinning at us and waving his arms around...oh yea, have to remove the wheel chocks don't we. Throttle down, ground crew remove the chocks and we try again...how about that we can move now and yes the brakes work fine.

    Mikey is in the divers seat as we taxi out, I left the turn onto the taxi way to late and we over shoot the yellow line...follow the yellow line Mikey, follow the yellow line, yes that one you just drove past and is not 5 meters off to the right. bit of a right time and we're back on track. Suddenly what has always seemed like a pretty quiet airport now has planes going everywhere. There are jets taking off, there are training aircraft all over the place, nothing has actually changed but once your in the middle of it all its seems be much busier than when your standing on the side watching the activity. Taxing is pretty easy once you get used to steering with your feet not the steering wheel, but its a bit different to my little plane, I've got independent left and right brakes now for a start, not only to I have to steer with my feet but have to concentrate on not pushing with my toes all I'll activate the brakes on one side and we'll spin in a circle...that would be embarrassing...don't want that! Taxiing out we report passing Victor as directed, before we get to Delta taxiway we're told to hold short of Runway 21Left so we stop and wait, there is a 737 waiting to go on the adjacent runway, a training aircraft just taken off on our runway, two more training taxiing aircraft behind me and who knows what else in the air trying to land.

    The 737 gets take off clearance, he's worried about the training aircraft that just took off though and asks for confirmation, Tower says he's good to go so he off thundering down the runway. After the 737 is off my instructor takes us out onto the runway...strange I think to myself, I didn't hear Tower clear us to enter the runway, I must have missed it though, so many radio calls its hard to catch them all, instructor knows what he's doing though so no probes. I do hear the next call though, aircraft on approach 21Left is instructed to go around because there is another aircraft on the runway...that would be us!!! OH MY GOD, we've entered the runway without approval and with another aircraft on approach forcing them to abort their landing...Oh shit, oh shit (sorry for the language mum, but I've heard you say that!) this is serious. I see the shadow of the other plane pass over us as it aborts its landing. Tower controller doesn't even bother to ask what the hell we are doing on the runway...guess they are used to this sort of thing happening.

    Take off clearance is given, pedal to the metal...hang on we're not in a car anymore, pedal to the metal would have us spinning in circles but "little throttle stick to the wall" just doesn't sound so good. We're off down the runway, not exactly thundering down the runway like the 737 the just took off but for me it feels a hell of a lot faster. The world seems to shrink to the runway stretching out in front of me and in cockpit instruments, everything disappears, all the other traffic is gone, the radio calls have gone, global warming is gone, there is just the runway and the instruments, my little brain can't handle nothing else. I'm concentrating 110% on trying to stay somewhere close to the centre of the runway and watching the airspeed indicator increase so that I know when to pull back and lift off. 55Knots, about 110kph and I start pulling back on the controls to get us off the ground and up into the air. Its a lot harder than I expected...not at all like the F16 on my computer back home!! We don't launch ourselves off the runway into a vertical climb with a 90 degree spin to impress the crowd...oh no there's none of that. I pull back on the controls, we're still on the ground, pull back more...more...more, instructor is helping me now because we're at 70knots (140kph) and were still on the ground. Ever so slowly and gently we eventually lift off and start flying. The world shrinks even more as I am now concentrating on trying to fly in a straight line, maintaining the right speed and climb rate. Can barely find the time to look out the window I'm concentrating so hard on those instruments.

    My instructor tells me we'll do a left turn...I can spare just a tiny fraction of my little brain to listen to him...got to concentrate on those instruments...that's all there is in the world...but hang on what happened to the right turn to 280 degrees we had planned??? Somewhere along the line air traffic control has changed our plan, we can't do our right turn but have to fly a circuit instead...I didn't hear ATC tell us that, I was to busy with my instruments! My instructor wants a left turn so I give him one...hang on, hang on he says, we have to be above 500ft before we can turn...oh yea good idea, back to straight and level until we pass 500ft then I try again. Nice turn to 210 degrees, world gets a bit smaller as I now have to concentrate on accurately flying that heading while climbing to 800ft at 70knots...so many instruments. There could have been a plane in front of us, hell there could have been a mountain or a flying pink elephant in front of us and I would not have known, way to busy with those instruments!! My instructor asks for another left turn to 030degrees and we're now flying the downwind leg of the circuit. We're flying straight and level again so I have time now to be aware of the noise from the radio, I don't have time to understand most of the radio calls that are being made by the 5 million aircraft who now seem to be in the air around me, but I can at least notice that the radio is making noise that sounds vaguely like people talking to each other...that's a good sign isn't it??

    My instructor asks for a decent and left turn onto base for landing, it's only now that I realise that we are going to land...what happened to our plan?? We start descending, flying base leg now, seems like we're very low, but everything is OK, my instructor is talking me through what we are doing and I'm following his instructions but I'm so overloaded trying to do it all that I can not remember much of what was happening. We land, nice a smooth, my instructor helped a lot with that I think. Tower asks for a stop and go so we stop on the runway and let the tower know we're sitting there ready to go. Very quickly we are given take-off clearance again, this time cleared for the right turn to 280 degrees that we had planned to do at the start. Of we go again, bit easier and not so over whelming this time, but I'm still fixated on those instruments, trying to fly the right heading, the right altitude, the right speed, so many instruments to check. If that pink elephant went winging past again I still wouldn't have noticed.

    We head out to the training area which is about 10 miles west of Bangkok airport. Visibility is really bad today, only about 4-5 miles, I quickly lose track of any landmarks I know...not that I have much time to look out the window anyway...the instruments are calling me, drawing me into them, I can concentrate on nothing else. My instructor points out a large island in the river below...oh yea, I remember seeing that on the map, we are nearly in the training area. ATC ask us for a left turn because someone is returning from the training area to the airport and everyone would be happier if we didn't meet unexpectedly in the air. Its a good thing for the ATC instructions because with the visibility so poor its really hard to see any other aircraft up here, they blend into the smog/smoke and I can't see very far, especially seeing as I've got my head down in the instruments 99.99% of the time. My instructor calls my attention to the fact that the slip and turn indicator is telling me that I'm slipping left a bit, must have a bit of left rudder applied...damn it ANOTHER instrument I need to look at!

    After we are in the training area I'm asked to do a left 360 degree turn with 20degree back, so I do. I'm pretty proud of myself, it wasn't perfect but pretty damn good. we sink a bit due to the loss of lift in the turn but I was expecting that, knew it was going to happen, pull back on the controls and climb a bit. oops to high, sink a bit, climb a bit, sink a bit...bit of an over correction problem but we are only about 50ft high or low and that's a pretty damn good effort, angle of bank is pretty good to. Coming back to our original heading I start to level off...oops to soon, have to bank back into the turn a bit or we'll be here the rest of the day trying to complete the turn. Good job my instructor says, he's smiling and nodding, giving me the thumbs up, try it again the other way he says so round we go to the right this time. Better but still not perfect. Concentrating on trying to stay at the right level this time I forget to watch my heading as we complete the turn, we are almost back to our original heading before I realise it so have to quickly level off...I'm not happy with that but in the debriefing after the flight my instructor said it was much better than the first one!

    Now we go to full throttle, stay level he says...that turns out to be hard work. With the extra power, we accelerate, as we go faster the plane wants to start to climb so I push on controls to try and keep us level, I push hard but its not enough, we are still climbing, trim the plane the instructor tells me, so I spin the trim wheel and it becomes much easier to keep us level, the trim helps to take the weight off the controls. Now we throttle back to 1500RPM, that's decent power so now we start slowing down, I pull back on the controls to keep us level, trim again as we continue to slow down, I'm not really sure why we are doing this but I'm starting to worry as we slow towards stall speed, I ask my instructor what he wants me to do, keep us level? Descend? He is happy that I've noticed we are getting close to stalling, he hits the flaps leaver giving us 2 stages of flaps, that delays the stall a bit. Start descending he says so I let the nose drop and we start to go down, we are in approach configuration now, this is what it feels like when we are approaching to land, we start into a left hand turn as well as that is the normal direction of turn onto the final leg before touch down...right now though we are still in the training area at more than 1000ft so we are not actually landing yet. Power on and climb back to 1500ft I'm told. Throttle goes in, we start to accelerate, the decent stops, I hold us level while the plane accelerates to climb speed. As we start to climb again my instructor retracts the flaps, I know what effect that has but I'm surprised by the sudden reduction of lift, we actually start descending again for a while until the plane accelerates a bit more.

    We are back at 1500ft my instructor is very happy, lots more grins and thumbs up for me...what a good student. I've gotten used to things a bit now, its not taking all my concentration to simply fly the plane now, I can hear the radio calls and even look out the window every now and then. Not much of a view though because of all the smog/smoke. Time to start heading back to the airport now, my instructor gives me a heading and altitude to hold, we have to get to the right place so that we can enter into the airport traffic area. With so many planes flying around you have to follow the right path in and out of the airport or it would be chaos (more than it currently is!!) I'm consistently drifting right, have to work on control that. We arrive at the entry point despite me drifting right, reporting point is 10miles west of the airport so with all the smog we can't see the airport yet, but we can see a university which my instructor tells me is approximately 5miles west of the airport, its a very distinctive building so an easy landmark to remember, fly over the dome he tells me so we make a right turn and head that way.

    6 miles out ATC ask us if we can see the airport yet, nope still not visual but as we fly over the dome my instructor points out the airfield to me as it begins to emerge from the haze, no way I would have noticed it without him showing me, really is bad visibility up here. We notify ATC that we have a visual on the runway, they apparently tell us to enter a left orbit so they can get some space between us and the plane in front. I didn't hear that call, the world is starting to shrink again as I'm concentrating on trying to fly accurately so I don't cause a problem, of course not looking out the window to see the other planes could cause a problem as well (a pretty big problem) but I can't handle that at the moment, its just me and my instruments again now. I start into a left turn for the orbit as instructed, as we are getting to about a quarter of the way through the turn my instructor tells me to fly 030 degrees, that is downwind for the traffic pattern, seems the orbit has been cancelled and we are going in to land...I didn't hear that call either.

    I fly downwind until the turn point which my instructor points out to me, then turn right onto our base leg, we're starting our decent now, 1500RPM, 2 stages of flaps, just like it was when we practiced. This is feeling more like my little plane now so I'm not worried so much about the instruments any more. Royal Sky 01 (that's us) cleared to land runway 21R...I actually heard that call...bit of a problem though we are already adjacent to 21Right on our way to 21Left as per our plan. Not sure if it was my instructor or I who heard the call incorrectly but he confirmed back to ATC cleared to land 21L as we had planned. Descending through 400ft, 300ft, starting a right turn onto final when.... .... OH SHIT (sorry again mum) out in front of us off the left side of the nose is another aircraft, its in a left turn to land on 21L as well !!!!! That's BAD, really really bad. I saw it out the window, yes I was actually looking out the window for a change and it looked huge, it was a trip propeller low wing job, landing gear down all ready to land, I had heard it call ATC moments earlier and request a practice go-around (aborted landing) as a training exercise but had no idea where it was or what runway it was landing on. With the other aircraft in a left turn and being a low wing it probably didn't see us, we were a little bit behind and the wing would have been in the way. I could see him though! I had no idea what to do at that point other than to point and say very loudly that there was another plane just over there..strange how hard it is to get words that make sense to come out of your mouth at a time like that.

    My instructor got onto the controls as well at that point, the aircraft ahead was instructed by ATC to go around so they started accelerating and we slipped in behind and below them. I was completed stressed out by this point, unable to think much and just following instructions from my instructor as we landed. I don't know if I was flying the plan or if he was. He called for full power for us to take off again, then ATC instructed us to stop on the runway (again I didn't hear that call from ATC) we cut power but again I didn't know if I was flying the plane or if he was, started swerving across the runway, that was pretty dangerous, we were going fast because of the full power then cut the throttle again and with the confusion over who was flying the plane we were a bit out of control. We got it together though, stopped the plane then taxied off the runway when instructed by ATC. The ground controller called and in Thai very politely asked what the hell we were doing on runway 21Left when we had been cleared for 21Right, I don't know what my instructor told them but it didn't appear to be a big problem!!

    Taxi back to the flying school and shut down the engine, switch everything off and climb out. My hands are shaking, everything was shaking, I don't think I've had that much adrenaline shot into my system since I went skydiving in Townsville. It affected me in the same way...I was SO excited. My instructor and I grabbed a drink and relaxed for a bit then had a debriefing session, we talked through the flight, he was very impressed with my flying, that made sense to him after I told him about my ultralight flying. I explained to him that a few times during the flight, particularly after our near miss when landing I didn't understand what he wanted me to do, didn't know who was flying the plane. Told him he needs to explain a bit better for me in the future and make his expectations clear. Next time we'll be better I'm sure.

    So that's it, my first flight. Think it has taken me longer to write this than the actual flight took!! Two serious traffic incidents but no one seems concerned about them to much, I'm sure there would be an investigation launched back in OZ if that happened!

    Went shopping with a friend after the flight and couldn't talk about anything else, I was so excited. Can't wait until the next flight, have booked my next lesson for Thursday morning before work...might be a little late into the office !!


    Michael Heggie
  2. What an absolute Buzz...
    Your friend writes very well...
    I noticed several times when reading it i was holding my breath with adrenalin running just reading it.

    One day I'll get some theory behind me and get back behind the controls of a plane for some proper instruction.
  3. :eek: Thank God I didnt do my training at bangkok, archerfield was so much easier, far less traffic etc., That brought back some fond memories (such vividly written) of my training experience, landing and tacking off, and deffinatly the foot controls on the runway at speed that was interesting to say the least. Just wished i had the money to finish. Maybe i should go to bangkok??
  4. Awesome, thanks for posting!

    SE Asia is such a cowboy part of the world... That's what makes it such an awesome place to travel!
  5. the reason it took him 6 months from sitting the test to then being allowed to fly they had to do a terrorist check on him (white man wanting to fly in another country could be sus)
  6. Thanks for the story... it's a big contrast to my first flight though!

    I started learning at Kyneton which is one little tarmac strip and one even smaller grass cross strip and there's seldom more than one plane in the air :)

    Ballarat where I finished my training is a bit busier but nothing like what you've described LOL.
  7. great story, hopefully your friend will start getting more "heads-up" time instead of "heads-down on the instruments" the more lessons he does. Looking out the window at bangkok would be pretty awesome.
  8. I wouldn't be flying at that flying school again. The pilot should be reported entering a runway when not cleared and landing on the wrong runway. Seems like a ticking time bomb if its true.
  9. And that's why the SE asian carriers figure so highly in the major airline accidents.............

    Regards, Andrew.
  10. Or come to Australia to train because of our high standard. I feel sorry for the air traffic controller pulling their hair out because of this incompetent pilot.
  11. Many, many years ago ... in Broome ...

    Flying lesson finished, the Cessna 152 with instructor and yours truly is coming home down the coast. Beautiful day -- clear as a bell.

    We come to the nude beach section of Cable Beach (no resorts or rules there in those far-off days). Lots of (mainly German) girls in the nicky.

    Instructor takes over, and drops down to fly along the beach, crabbing so we can get a better view. :grin: (Broome was uncontrolled then.)

    To our consternation, a Navy Grumman Tracker (told you it was a long time ago) suddenly passes beneath us, flying the same course.

    No problem -- except the pricks dobbed us in to the authorities!!