Sunday, 15 April 2012

Test Flights

It was soon time to run the engine up, Michael asked me if I wanted to go for a flight test with him? Did I ever! Bob and Rob had also arrived and we decided that we all wanted to go, so Michael said they would just make three (3) test flights. 
Private Flying in Bahrain was not generally allowed as Sheikh Isa bin Sulman Al Khalifa the Amir was a very bad flyer, even though he had a personal Boeing 727 and two Gulfstream Executive jets. He once told me at his private beach that all his family would go and get their respective driving license(s) from their cousin at the Police Traffic Department without taking a test and he was not going to let them do the same in aviation terms and fly around and crash into his palace! So I had informed Michael of this and he said he would inform air traffic control that they needed to do a few “test flights” to check some adjustments, which allowed Bob, Rob and I to get a flight each. 
I was first to go and Michael went through the pre-flight checks with me and we asked for start-up and then taxi clearance. We taxied the Mooney out to the runway which is extremely long at Bahrain International airport and this took about 10 minutes as we needed to get to the eastern end for take-off and the maintenance facilities were at the very western end. We went along with the doors open to get some air inside as it was around 38c outside and there was no air conditioning in the plane. At the runway holding point, we closed and secured doors and windows and then were given take off clearance. 
The first thing I noticed about the Mooney was how quiet it was inside on full power. Numerous Cessna and Piper aircraft I had flown previously were all very noisy and there was an eerie silence in this aircraft. A typical light aircraft engine of this type usually had three (3) controls; a throttle control, a mixture control and a carburettor heat control, which the Pilot worked in conjunction with each other. However the Porsche engine was fuel injected and therefore did not need either a mixture of carburettor heater controls, simplifying the system enormously to just one control a throttle. Porsche patented this single lever system and an explanation of this is shown below.
Michael said I could take the plane off and he would follow through on the controls, which he did. When I applied full power the plane burst into life and gathered speed quickly. The main overriding noise was not the engine but the air vents rushing fresh warm air into the cabin. I had never thought that a piston engine aircraft could be so quiet and smooth as this was, and to say it was impressive was an understatement! We climbed out and turned right over the sea to the north of Bahrain and Michael was on the radio to air traffic all the time whilst I monitored their conversation through my own headset. We then went off to the north east towards Iran and Michael had asked ATC to do a few turns, climbs and decent manoeuvres, which was all part of the “flight test”, which in fact was just an excuse for us to go for a flight. During these descents and climbs, we buzzed a few oil super tankers that were in the channel, rather like in a movie.
We returned after forty-five minutes, and all I can say was I was really impressed with this aircraft and wanted one myself. After landing we kept on the runway until near the end and cleared left into the maintenance area and parked up. Bob and Rob were waiting eagerly for their turn and both of them were eager to speak to me on how it had been. 
I made a mental note to log my flight in my Pilots Log Book.
Bob went off next and then Rob followed some while later. 
Michael said later at our workshops that the ATC controller had known what he was up to but had just gone along with him. 

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