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Flight Time

A visual history of my experiences as a private pilot

Aeroclub de Genève

Aeroclub de Genève

Aeroclub de Genève

Today was my first flight with the Aeroclub de Genève. It was amazing!

Actually, not only was this my first flight with the club, but it was also my first flight in Switzerland, first takeoff/landing on a grass runway and my first time flying a Cessna 172 with a FADEC engine using Jet-A fuel.

FADEC stands for Full Authority Digital Engine Control. What this means is that instead of having a mixture lever to control the fuel-to-air mixture the computer handles it. In fact, it does it so well that instead of burning around 8 gallons per hour it burns only around 5! Other things that are gone are the primer, carb heat and magnetos! The run-up was as simple as pushing the FADEC button while the computer handled checking everything, even cycling of the variable pitch prop. Oh, by the way, there’s no prop lever either. Simply amazing. But, this post is not about FADEC, even though it was probably the single most different thing about this flight in a seemingly standard Cessna 172. The other major difference, of course, is that it was in Switzerland.

The instructor and I took off from Geneva airport and almost immediately were cleared to cross the parallel concrete runway (to our right). This put us on a straight course right over the lake, towards the VFR checkpoint SE (SE stands for South East, but it’s called “Sierra Echo” using the NATO phonetic alphabet).

I had seen on the chart where “Sierra Echo” was, but I didn’t know exactly over what landmark it was … until of course we flew over it. So, “Sierra Echo” is over the public swimming pool of Geneva, which is Genève Plage. We also flew over some of the other VFR reporting points so that I could see them from the air:

  • S - “Sierra” is over a major freeway intersection near the Swiss-French border
  • E - “Echo” is over a beach that I’ve been to in France
  • N - “November” is over a small lake
  • NW - “November Whisky” is over an even smaller lake
  • W - “Whisky” is over a shopping mall

There are also two others, but we didn’t fly over them. All of these VFR reporting points should be flown at a minimum of 3,000 feet ASL (Above Sea Level) and a maximum of 3,500 feet ASL. That leaves just 500 feet of error, but it wasn’t a problem. By the way, the ground here in Geneva is about 1,500 feet above sea level so all of this is flown about 1,500 feet above the ground.

We flew North, away from Geneva, and then climbed up to 5,000 feet so that we could do some maneuvers. We practiced steep turns and stalls. Everything went fine and the instructor said I did very well.

We then practiced a descending left turn at exactly 30 degrees of bank, 80 kts and a sink rate of 500 feet. I had never done that before so it was a bit new to try to get everything just right, but it worked out OK. I had one eye on the horizon, the other eye scanning the airspeed indicator, the VSI (vertical speed indicator) and the attitude indicator (to check the bank angle) … one hand on the yoke and the other on the power lever … and my left foot on the rudder pedal to keep it all balanced. It was quite an exercise, but fun too. We circled down from 5,000 feet to 3,500 feet right over Lake Geneva. It was really fun.

We flew back to Geneva and then landed. The approach to the grass strip was a bit strange. It’s not at all what I’m used to, but I will learn it with practice. I did lose a little airspeed on the base leg, but made up for it by dropping the nose slightly and putting in a bit more power. By the time I was on final everything looked right and I made an uneventful landing (which is good). Did I mention it was my first on a grass runway!

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