Life’s Better Inverted

On Easter Monday this year, I was hanging out at home and looking at the beautiful blue skies when the phone rang. It was Nico asking if I wanted to go flying today. HAH! What a crazy question :)

I grabbed my gear, picked him up and we headed off to the Royal Victorian Aero Club at Moorabbin Airport (YMMB). We had been contemplating flying their Seminole out over Phillip Island and back, just for some fun. Turns out that was booked out over the weekend for a run up to Queensland. Fortunately, the club’s Alpha was parked on the ramp and just itching to be taken out for some aerobatics. Woo hoo!

The Alpha is a two seat side-by-side fully aerobatic trainer from Alpha Aviation in New Zealand. The aircraft at RVAC (VH-VCF) is an R2160 model with a Lycoming O320D (160Hp) engine, bubble canopy and a sporty look to it. Originally made in France as the Robin 2160, the rights to the design and the construction jigs were purchased by Alpha Aviation when Robin went out of business. Sadly, Alpha went out of business in 2007, which is a shame as these are beautiful aircraft and a lot of fun to fly. Alpha R2160a
Nico is an aerobatics instructor and certified to fly the Alpha from the right seat, so I got to log the flight as an intro to aeros. W00t!

Getting into the aircraft was easy with a step behind the wing then onto the wing itself. It’s then a simple matter to step in, sit down and start adjusting everything. I’m over 187cm tall and there was about 1cm between the top of my headset and the canopy when we closed it. I’d say it was a perfect fit but the stick kept hitting my right thigh on full deflection. With a bit of experimentation we found places I could arrange myself when not flying so Nico was comfortable with the controls. Still, even when I was on the controls I would whack my right thigh when rolling. Oh well…

Instrument panel The cockpit is well laid out with the standard flight instruments on the left hand side, Garmin gear on the right (including a GPS) and engine temp/pressure gauges (and the G Meter :) along the bottom. The instructor has the joy of looking left to see all the instruments but hey, they’re used to that :)
After a quick preflight we fired up and taxied over to the run up bay to verify that everything was ready to go. There was a lot of movement on the ground and busy circuits aloft, as is typical at Moorabbin when the weather is beautiful and it’s a weekend or public holiday. We taxied out to the hold point for the runway and were cleared to go after a couple of landings and touch-n-go’s went before us.

The aircraft was quickly off and into the air, heading out from Moorabbin over Frankston and then to the training area. The Alpha is quite responsive and the view is great everywhere except just below the wing. We reached 5,000′ about the time we arrived at the aerobatics part of the training area. It’s conveniently located above a line of high-tension power lines which help to mark the area AND give you something to align yourself with during manoeuvres.

After doing a few steep clearing turns and waiting for one aircraft to transit the area, we were ready to begin. We cinched down the harnesses, verified everything was stowed and started off with a simple barrel roll. Yeee haah! From there we did a loop and then another barrel roll. After that we progressed to a stall-turn at which point we confirmed that yes, I am much heavier than Nico as the aircraft wanted to break left instead of right as Nico wanted. A bit of effort on the rudder and it did as it was told.

I’d been following through on the controls and so after another barrel roll we went through a loop and then it was my go to do it with Nico guiding and following me. Works well when the instructor is guiding you and nudging at the right time :)

Life's better inverted
We took it pretty easy through all this (+3G to -1G) but it’s been *ages* since I last had a hit of Vitamin G, so by now I had the fresh air vent blowing right on my face and was apparently going a little white. I was smiling and loving it but yeah, time to head for home. Oh well :)

We headed back to the reporting point (over the GMH factory) and had just called in when another aircraft called that they too were at GMH and on the same altitude. Yikes! Visions of the recent mid-air collisions at Bankstown and here at Moorabbin flashed through my head as we both looked everywhere for the other aircraft (stupid, I know, but you can’t help it some days). We finally made out the other aircraft a very long way off from GMH so we relaxed a bit. It was annoying that they were calling in at the wrong spot but understandable as, thanks to an increase in houses and factories in the area, the GMH factory is no longer such an easy to spot landmark.

After calling in and being acknowledged by the tower, we were cleared to make our way over Sandown race track where the Easter Nats car races were going on. From there, we were lined up on base for 17L and cleared in behind another aircraft that was already on final. The bubble canopy certainly made for a great view as we turned onto final and came in for a beautiful landing (yes, that was Nico – not me – there’s a reason I use the handle Falcon124 :)

We taxied back to the RVAC ramp and shut down. A fun flight in a great little aircraft. Good for getting from A to B and also good for throwing around the sky. Ya gotta love that!

I’ve loaded all the photos from the flight into a gallery on my site. Now to figure when I can next get chance to go fly with a friend once again as that seems to be the only way I’m getting off the ground lately…

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