Well it seems to go with the job. You have some time off and you don't just gently get back into it, it's full on and without time even think, let alone eat! After the past two days i have been so tired and fatigued from the flying. It has been really average weather in the top end since i got back, not just the usual storms and 'wet season' weather, but just lots of low overcast cloud, rain and instrument approaches everywhere was the normal. I did 8 sectors on Friday and did 7 approaches, all RNAV and ILS's into Darwin. Yesterday i did 9 sectors and 5 approaches. I have to say though, doing an approach in bad weather is better than going to an aerodrome that has no approach, which i also had to do yesterday.
I was scheduled to fly to Pepperminarti, which is south of Darwin, about 200km. It's a sealed strip, but with no approach. My alternate was Darwin, as the weather was really average, however, my first option was to divert to Port Keats, which is 40km to the west, and i knew planes were landing there. As we arrived at the lowest safe of 2300ft, it was solid cloud and rain. I decided to fly overhead the field and see what would happen. Magically, the sun sorta broke through the cloud so i continued on track another 3miles and found an opening in the cloud. I was able to do some spiral descending in the gap and get below some of the low cloud. At roughly 500ft above the ground, i was able to see the runway and managed to get in. Within about 5 minutes of landing the weather that i had just flown through hit the aerodrome. Was weird to think that i wouldn't have gotten in if i'd been 5 minutes late departing, but i guess that's the way it works in this business. It is a good feeling to get into a place like that, but it's also not the safest method, and with this weather, flying piston twins, it's no wonder that our minimums to fly them is as high as most of the airlines. Having said all this, the minimums doing an instrument approach is often more stressful as you are not visual, you are hand flying the plane, scanning, and also referring to the chart on your lap. Not the greatest situation, but definately an 'enjoyable' challenge. I say enjoyable, as there is a feeling of accomplishment when you do well executed approach in poor conditions.
So i will say i'm a master of doing the ILS into Darwin. Done a lot of them in the past two days. Descend from 3000ft at Howard Springs NDB, 257, on track 286. Final approach fix at the outer marker at 1380. Good times! Its good finally doing a lot of the RPT flying in this weather, i guess it forces you to fly to a higher standard. I have to say, if im flying these approaches and in this weather, it's also nice to be in the 404. There is one part of the 404 i don't like however, and that is company policy to leave the pitch and mixtures in their approach setting for landing. It is really bad for the geared engines to put them into fine pitch, and put the taps back on full, and so when a go-around needs to happen, it feels unnatural. I don't know if it's just for me, but a few of the boys had to do go arounds the past few days and all of them said it was a bit foreign for them. And it definately is an extra few seconds of thinking while you go through the procedure, as opposed to just power up, gear up, flap up.
Anyway, i would have loved to show you photos of wings and the grey background, but photos like that are uninteresting really, unless you were there. Plus my camera is still somewhere i have yet to find! It will show up i'm pretty sure.
All the best and thanks for reading.