Sunday, 10 August 2014

PPL(A) !

On Saturday 9th of August I managed to pass the skills test !
No point writing up all the details, but it was quite a bit of fun. Here's the breadcrumbs.

And the chart with planned nav, and diversion (North or Rye to Heathfield).

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Qualifying Cross Country

So QXC time. It’s a sort of vanishing point, during last few years it was a point that never seemed to be getting much closer to reality.

I did all the planning two weeks before, in preparation for the big day. Two weather cancellations later, I got a go ahead. Took a day off from work to do this. 

Wind was calm, 5kt. And up North VRB/05 - So wind and such calculations were rather simple. 

It was a strange feeling, setting off in the aircraft by myself on this rather long journey. I never had a chance to take long trip by myself with landings away in the mix - that was a very new territory. I anticipated high gliding traffic west of Biggin - luckily there wasn’t anyone around. Take off was uneventful. Weather was slightly hazy - but visibility (apparently) 10k more. I set OBS to 270, with BIG tuned in. That should keep me out of troubles on the North side of things (Heathrow zone). By the time I got abeam Kemble (wouldn’t want to overfly it) - it was time to switch over to Farnborough West. I asked them for Traffic Service, which was given to me - with the provision that it might be reduced due to controller workload. No worries. 

Ten or so miles west of Biggin it was obvious that wind wasn’t exactly 5 knots. I drifted a bit to the north, so it was time to look at the chart and adjust my headings. My work load is always slightly increased when the inversion is up. The forward visibility isn’t as great and it takes me bit longer to spot and identify features on the ground. But no worries, I got the VOR tuned in and set up, in contact with FIR. Most importantly - I am always told - to trust my calculations - fly the heading and time. Minute or so before Guilford should have appeared in front me of - I had a look around to spot it and also use the Woking as a sort of secondary point. Problem was, with the inversion in place and sun above - the white buildings in Woking weren’t clearly visible as before. But I could clearly see Heathrow and Epsom race track (before, now far behind) and used ndb to double check my distance from Biggin. And there you go, 30 or so seconds later it was obvious that the larger town on my left is Guildford. Farnborough controller also made it slightly easier by giving me traffic information ‘unknown height’ 1m ahead west of Guildford - he said :-D . “Traffic not in sight, looking - G-FC” I responded as I turned to the South.
Once established on the southerly heading - I tuned in Goodwood VOR - but couldn’t identify it. Few more traffic reports, some of them I could see some I couldn’t. But it is always nice to have this additional level of support on the radio. Few minutes into the leg Goodwood VOR was identified positively - which allowed me to pin point my position and also make sure that I’m flying actually, generally - in the correction direction. 

About 12 miles out, I started preparing for the join at Goodwood, got the airfield chart out and also used VOR to turn correct heading towards it. I wasn’t far of the right heading anyway, so it was obvious wind was generally northernly - and not 5 knots. My time wasn’t off that much either. Again, because of inversion the airfield wasn’t easy to spot from 5 or so miles, but once I descended to 2000ft and got closer it was obvious. They asked me to report overhead, which I did. This was my second time here, however different runway in use this time. Very long one, tho - 014. 

So during brief my instructor warned me that landings might be interesting and I do have limited grass experience (thanks to DP) but this was to be my first solo landing there and on grass - exciting. Overhead join went uneventfully - not much traffic in the circuit, I’ve done tons of overhead joins at Ards before. The circuit height at Goodwood is 1200ft for fixed wing which is slightly higher then usual. I’m saying that, because that does make a difference. There’s also bunch of noise abatement procedures - but the general idea is not to overfly anything that looks like housing estate or such. So turning base - I decided to keep it so that I didn’t. 
That did put me in a bad situation, with speed still bit high and altitude still close to 1200ft. I think I dropped down to about 800ft on finals - but that was still too high. Once it was obvious that I won’t make it - I decided to keep the height and go around. The idea when you go around is not to climb back to 1000ft over runway - as other traffic joining overhead or crossing it to the dead side might be in conflict. So best is to climb up to half the height and stay there, turn crosswind - and climb to circuit height. I turned around, flew the circuit once again - and ended up slightly lower on finals - but still a tad too high. 

So no wind, possible slight tail wind (since it was varying), but runway long enough (014). 

I’m still too high on final - so I decided to try slight side slipping - which saved the day, popped third stage of flaps, speed dropped to 55kt, rounded out over numbers nicely. My side slip - importantly - wasn’t full - I added just enough input to both rudder and ailerons to keep me on the right descent path. Besides, full sideslip is not recommended when close to the ground. 
The roll was interesting as I looked down the runway and decided not to brake too hard when I saw a bump or hole - as I kept on reminding myself that I don't want to end upside down.

It’s a nice place (I love guys in tower saying to me "welcome to Goodwood", very warm welcome).

After shutdown,I paid landing fee and visited Tower to get the paperwork and then settled down to eat a sandwich and watch airplanes doing their thing. As I sat there for good 30 minutes, I counted 5 other airplanes doing well pronounced side slip on finals - which made me realise that maybe my approach wasn't that horrible since others had to side slip in as well. Some without flaps to assist them in slowing down, some with big engines and tail leg ( :P ) - so visibility and/or drag is increased by side slipping. But I’m sure at least one of these was a tricycle high wing and another one was a Robin DR400. 

It was time to go to Lydd. I checked out the aircraft, jumped in - and went off. Taxying to the holding point and power checks were interesting. No taxyways as such on grass, so it is jus taxying in the general direction of holding point, trying not to bump into any buildings and stay far away from the runway itself. After power checks I forgot to release park brake and I thought I got stuck - but I fixed it quite quickly. Yet another of these things that you learn by flying solo. Off I went, the leg was to be quite scenic (shore on the right) and straight forward (go east…). Wind conspired against me again and like a dumb pillock, I forgot to take that fully into account. So no wonders, I drifted a bit too close to the shore for my liking. Farnborough controller started calling out an aircraft ‘Farnborough west , G-PC’ few times. I realised that he got my call-sign wrong - so I responded with the full one. He was letting me know that I’m flying in vicinity of Shoream and if I want to fly closer I should call them up - as they were busy apparently. I decided to just correct my heading to the north - which would keep me far away from Shoream. Actually I only heard one aircraft taking off few miles ahead - and crossing from right to left - and whenever I looked over, couldn’t see anything on the runway, taxying or in the circuit. “Oddly” enough - no gliders on this leg either. 

Approaching Lydd, I was making sure every few minutes that I’m not getting anywhere close to the danger or prohibited area. And also made sure that my join procedure will be up to scratch. Lydd’s ATIS is very very very slow - so I did remember to tune in 15 or so miles out - to make sure I’ll have time to write it down. It is seriously being read out that slow. Dunno how jets manage it…
The join is interesting, but I managed. Winds however were having a party. I got some fast tailwind on base, more so then I expected, so I had to correct for finals quite a bit. Massive runway, so no rush - but with my experience at Goodwood - I made sure I’m on the correct glide path. Altho, go around at Lydd would be a nice experience. Some other time maybe :-)
Landed at Lydd, shut down and as I was walking to the terminal - I passed a nice guy on the way, who apparently was on his QXC as well - from Southend. I asked him, where do I get the paperwork signed - in case I have to wonder to the tower again. He said, this time I can do it in the terminal building, and also that I should check the dates the guys at Goodwood put in - as apparently they made mistake on his. And sure enough, mine was off as well. One date was correct, another one was month before. Go figure, as it was signed by the same guy. Maybe he was testing us…

Paid my landing fee, got paperwork sorted, and had a chat with the lady - who - as it turned out, was from Northern Ireland - at least her parents were. So we exchanged few stories about life in Belfast and I was on my way. Every time I go to Lydd, the place is rather deserted. Maybe because I’m always there in the late afternoon. Dunno. 

I checked the weather, and phoned up instructor. The last leg of the day was to be fun - as I was flying into the sun.

On the start up - another cock up. I forgot to put the mixture to fully rich. Seriously.. So no wonders engine didn’t start. I had a discussion with instructor, before I left Biggin - he asked me “So what will you do, if you cannot start the engine at Goodwood or Lydd”. I told him “I’ll phone you up, of course”. He asked me to give it few retries, before I do that - but agreed that it would be a good action to take. So faced with perspective of staying in this rather quiet place (not that I mind such places), I decided to wait a bit, go through the check list and try again. And of course - it was obvious what the culprit was. Doh !

Taxied out, they want us to do power checks at the holding point Charlie - because there’s not enough space to pass bigger aircraft elsewhere. I called in ‘ready for departure’ and controller told me “taxy to holding point Alpha for runway 03”. Bit mixed up, I looked at the chart, holding point A was on the other side. I started doing 180 deg to get there - but decided to check again. And of course, she did correct herself. We passed few non-standard RT calls around, like “that’s alright” “no problem” - it was nice. 
Meanwhile, I’ve heard a guy coming onto frequency - C172 (I think) was routing from High Wycombe back to High Wycombe around London and of course - all the way to Lydd and he was asking for ATZ transit - or something like that. This far away from Farnborough they want you to talk to Lydd anyway.

As I reported myself at the holding point D1, I was given a clearance to take off, wind info, and ‘turn left after 1nm’ - or something like that. Meanwhile - the guy from EGTB was reporting very close to my path. After take-off, I turned onto my heading, adjusting it a bit for the wind I did encounter earlier. I didn’t climb all the way to 2400 ft this time - because of the inversion, and flying west - the visibility would be legal - but too low for my liking. So I stayed around 2000ft. As I was doing the weaving turns to clear the space under nose on climb out - I noticed that guy from Wycombe just overhead. I was glad I didn’t climb any further, as we would end up rather close to each other. He did say he saw me on the radio - so all was good. 

So correction for the wind turned out to be a bit of a mistake, as wind decided to blow from reciprocal direction this time. I was asked to report abeam Tenterden. Instead, I ended up very close to it - and it was obvious that my correction wasn’t working. So I adjusted my heading 25 deg to the left - and that worked - I ended up over Bewl Water. I really don’t like flying here on day like this (inversion), in the afternoon with sun making it hard to see horizon clearly. So this leg was rather horrible has to be said. However, I ended up doing it in rather record breaking speed - probably because of the wind that was pushing me north. I think it took me just above 40 minutes to get from Lydd to Biggin. Take off to landing. With all necessary joining procedures etc. And that’s in C152. Instructor asked me to call Lydd and verify my take off time - as he could not believe. I was wondering as well, but my own notes didn’t lie. 

All in all, nice experience. But - apparently normal - I felt slightly terrified afterwards. The sort of healthy dose of terrified. I didn’t feel proud or happy with an achievement, as I did after driving to my friends after I got the licence - but rather - I felt this sort of feeling of “well, this is a huge responsibility”. Maybe if it was uneventful and without small cockups - I would have felt differently. Nonetheless I’m happy to pass this milestone. And all that after so many years of flying on different aircraft, with variety of instructors and in few places. To this day, I don’t know if it is just because of lack of absolute focus, especially financially - or because I’m - like one of my instructor would call these sort of types - not the brightest cookie. I was ready to do QXC in NI in September, but I had to move - so I’d say the former. 

Great experience and if I had to do it over again - things would have been done differently, starting with solo land away much earlier in the training process.

I can’t wait to get to fly by to these and other places - on my own. 

Bread Crumb

SVG Bread Crumb:

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Dual to Goodwoods and back

So we've been to Lydd, now it's time to go to Goodwoods. Weather was good Today and with few cancellations - instructor let me know we can go.
I planned the whole route day before, in the anticipation. We were suppose to go there on Friday afternoon right after work. But that was stretching it and the weather wasn't great either.

I was late on Saturday morning, somehow after the week at work - I felt very knackered and needed some sleep. I got on with planning quickly, there was virtually no wind (VRB) - but I took the Biggin wind, 060/10 for planning.

With everything done and quick preflight we were airborne in 20 or so minutes. From the start I was slightly behind the aircraft and going west there's a lot going on. I have to keep very good lookout, because I know the attitude of the glider pilots - and that they don't care about ATZs, controller airspace and propelled traffic. On top of that , radio was very busy, unfamiliar territory. I don't know, but in general it wasn't the best day for me either. and it did show. Instructor didn't scream or took over, so I was still safe - but if I was on my own on that day, I would have turned back. It did get better later on tho. Somehow I feel double pressure when I know that there are gliders in the area.
With the proposed airspace changes in the area - I think it will make things even more frantic in the air and less safe.

I had 270 radial tuned in on the BIG VOR, so I don't bust LTMA, and was aware where I was - but somehow still I felt like I'm behind the aircraft. To add confusion, even tho the day was nice - it was very bumpy. Everything that did heat up - was creating thermals - and I had to make small adjustments from time to time and some bigger ones when the aircraft decided to turn 20 deg due to the wind. Later on (towards the end) it was actually a bit grotesque like this. There were two fires/smoke sources on the ground about 20 miles apart. Each one was showing wind blowing in opposite - pretty much - direction. Never seen anything like that before :-)

We ended up pointing more towards Woking - so I did call in all the features around and pointed us in the right direction. The first hint was us being slightly closer to the Epsom Track - but again, being tossed around and not in front of the aircraft meant that I didn't got that hint. Another lesson learned.

Once over Guildford we turned roughly South. Called some features, again - completely new area to me. Instructor started asking me about some features around me - but I couldn't point them clearly on the chart. This part of the world is littered with features on the chart - it takes me half a minute or a minute sometimes to locate clearly a mast, or such and confirm that it is the one. On top of that, I did feel a bit agitated knowing that I wasn't ahead as much as I would love to.
After identifying all the features, we tuned in Goodwoods VOR, I did nicely identify it, etc. It was obvious that we need to track slightly to the left to reach Goodwoods. I asked Farnborough for frequency change, which took a bit - the frequency was very busy. Next time I'll do it about 15 miles out - otherwise it might be hard.
Once in sight of Goodwoods we planned an overhead join at 2000ft, and then drop down to 1200ft circuit level (QFE). It has been a while since I talked to non-ATC - so it was bit odd. Things were very busy at Goodwoods as well.
On finals for 06 I ended up rather high, so I had to go around. Altho calling go-around is the last thing on the list, it helps people around to get the picture more clearly. The next circuit was extended slightly - due to other traffic - and we ended up just right on finals. We were to use short field take off and landing technique there, since it's grass. I did however let aircraft slow down on its own on the ground, didn't want to brake too much on grass. That was pointed out to me later, as something I should have done much earlier.

Once we landed, I got confused on the radio. For some reason I thought controller said 'stand 13 to the left of the tower'. But I couldn't spot anything saying stand 13. Turned out, he said 3rd stand to the left of the control tower. Oh dear.

Once we parked up nicely, we went to pay the landing fee and have something to drink. I've been to Goodwoods before, albeit drove in - so it was nice to see the other side of the airfield for change.
I did quick check on the chart, as to the way we need to take to the 06 and where to do the power checks.

The landing fee was reasonable, but price for a can of fanta - has to be said - wasn't. £1.20 - that's rather steep. Tap water is free tho!

We went back to the aircraft, started up. It took a bit power to start rolling - I think wheels got a bit buried in the soft soil, they looked alright from outside.

We took off 06, and turned east. I mocked up on the radio (again), and had to ask Goodwoods Information which frequency I should talk to next. They suggested Farnborough West. It was very busy again, so I got on with navigation. We used VOR and NDB few times to fix our position - I misallocated Brighton (doh!) - again - slightly behind the aircraft, curses. I was only able to get my call in, once we were abeam Shoream - so controller asked me to switch over to Farnborough East pretty much as soon as I finished passing my details.

About 2-3 minutes later as I was trying to identify my half way point - we spotted a glider ahead - doing turns - well into the Gatwick zone (we were at 2400ft, he was at least 400ft above). So I did a sharp turn to the right to avoid it - as it was pretty much going at us. The guy was well above me - so it took me a bit of effort to keep him in sight - due to the high wing configuration. But I think they spotted us at some stage too - and turned to their right. That was a bit of a blood pressure raiser. You'd think that if you're close enough to the edge of the zone - Longitudinally - there should not be anything trying to descent down on you. Well, gliders are apparently exempt from zone clearances.. (sarcasm implied).

So after that nice distraction - I had to come up with our whereabouts - knowing that instructor can pretty much identify the area no problems. Turned out that we weren't much off our course in the end. The town ahead - Uckfield - was pretty clearly identifiable with all the towns and roads, railways in the area. I then turned towards Tunbridge and Tonbridge. Confusing to me, two separate towns - with very similar name. We were suppose to do some PFLs and such around here, but since we were running slightly behind - all we did is just track towards seven oaks using Biggin VOR - this time - intercepting a radial 330 - which would let us over to Biggin pretty much. Again, I did fuck up few things here - that sort of a day... Instructor did however pull power on me, to see what I'll do in simulated engine failure scenarios.

Once about 5 miles south of Sevenoaks we requested frequency change, tuned in ATIS and I asked Biggin about the rejoin instructions. Did a bit of a mockery on radio there too - as I forgot to mention that we are coming from Goodwoods - but I don't know what significance would that have.

The airport was clearly visible, runway 03 this time in use. One thing I did wrong on base tho - apparently - was sudden nose drop to maintain airspeed. I pulled power, put the flaps on - in the mean time the speed decayed to about 50 kt - so I quickly pushed the yoke to recover. Too quickly it seems, instructor did mention that and said that I should make the gradual change in anticipation there - instead of reaction to speed drop. Dully noted.

We landed, filled er up - and that's it. I did notice that instructor wasn't as happy about the lesson as one would hope, but he said that I was safe at all times - and didn't do anything that would raise questions.  I was told that next thing on the list will be the solo QXC - so I'm looking forward to that. It probably won't happen this coming week tho - will see. I think the aim is to do it during week, when it isn't as busy around. So I'll need to take a day off for that.

I'm looking forward to that. And in the mean time - I have to speed up my theoretical exams. I have 4 that I have passed in NI, but I'm still waiting for instructor there to send those over.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Long solo nav

I'm rather short on solo time, either because guys at UFC weren't so happy to send me solo (because I did fsck up too many times ?) - or for whatever other reasons.
So the instructor at EFG is rather happy to send me solo as much as can, and as much as it makes sense. He was keen on letting me do circuits on the other day - when weather enroute wasn't so great to do a nav, but with the circuits cost at Biggin - I had to say no. Nearly £100 just for landing fee and touch and goes is rather steep for few circuits - £21 landing, £8 per t&g.

It's been few days since my last lesson - dual to Lydd, so I was rather looking forward to a solo nav, that would get me nearly as far as Lydd and back. The route is Sevenoaks->Bewl Water->Fairlight Cove (east of Hastings)->Ashford->Maidstone->Sevenoaks.
Since I got in rather late, due to horrible traffic queues on the way - I got quickly into the planning.

Instructor went through the 'before solo' checklist, went through my planning and praised me for rather neat lines on the chart. That's thanks to my new pen - much thinner then the previous one. We went through all the possibilities in case weather goes bad, or donkey quits, etc. The usual brief before flight.

Off I went to the aircraft, that odd feeling when you get to do all of it yourself - like an adult. Yay.
The airfield was rather quiet, some jet doing engine testing in the middle of one of the taxyways - so I was asked to do my power checks at A1 stop (last stop before runway). Off I went again, to Seven oaks. Very nice and clear day so far. This time I decided to plan from the intersection at Sevenoaks, not the town itself. Switched over to helpful as always Farnborough East. Nice female voice greeted me, and since the frequency was rather quiet - I requested Traffic service. Which they were nice enough to give to me. Despite the lack of traffic on frequency controller insisted for some reason to repeat full call sign prefixed by 'student' all the times.

Approaching Bewl Water

As I approached Bewl Water - I would get the only traffic information on the whole nav. Some guy was doing some manoeuvring 7 miles to the right of my track.
After that my service was reduced down to Basic, since that's where the radar coverage ends. I was happily tracking down to the coast. Hastings on my right. I did some nice tight turns over Fairlight and set onto the course to Ashford. It was funny to approach the edge of land and stare into the blue sky and water ahead. Part of me did wonder - what lies ahead. One of these days I'll just carry on :-) Of course once I get licence and prepare for crossing.

My turning point on the coast

This was rather interesting leg, I got blown off the track a bit. And again, the fact that there's very little in a way of standing out features here - it wasn't easy to find myself. But I knew I was going in the correct direction roughly - so trust the planning - was my motto. There's a nice canal that stands out and Ashford was visible clearly from the distance with the white roofs over terminal there. So I corrected my heading nicely by 10 deg to the left - and that turned out to be spot on.

Rye and wind turbines in the distance. Visible for miles. 

Sun and taste of what's to come when I'll route west
Approaching Ashford, with the white building visible for miles

Over Ashford it was time to turn towards Maidstone. At this point sun was already lower on the horizon and straight on. So this part of nav was rather shabby - but I kept the heading again and made sure that the motorway is on my right. I could have done better probably - but it's hard to do it when you can't see as much ahead as you would love to.
South of motorway - right sort of towns to my Left - check.

I did check my heading using Biggin VOR (identified) and the distance made sense as well - so I wasn't much worried. But I have to say, there was part of me doubting my position more then on the other legs. Lesson learned - if possible, don't route direct towards sun (west) in the evenings. It's rather harder to do in practice in this part of the world - due to the relatively small gaps that I can use for navigation. Plenty of small and larger airfields below (Headcorn, Rochester) - LTMA above at 2500ft, will need to discuss options there with my instructor. Also, note to self - set the Skills test time for mid-day-ish. To avoid any of these corner cases where my performance might not be at its peak.

Anyway - Maidstone identified, at this stage few people started talking on the radio - this time controller has changed to a guy. It wasn't the usual guy with Scottish/Irish accent, some new fella. He did not upgrade my service to Traffic - and I didn't thought of asking. Perhaps I should have. I was rather hoping it will be upgraded again automagically once I'm back in the range of the radar. I was also surprised that the controller didn't hand me over to any other station earlier on - like London Area, or Manston, etc. Lydd was of course closed by the time I routed west of it - so no point even talking to them.

After Maidstone there's a nice junction to the north visible clearly and I started seeing clearly Sevenoaks (well, as clearly as you can into the sun). Time to let Farnborough known where I am and request frequency change.
The aircraft I flew doesn't have dual radios - so I can't listen to ATIS and monitor frequency at the same time unfortunately. ATIS at Biggin hasn't changed much, I gave them a call - screwing up less then previously. They were rather quiet as well.

Reported 3 miles out, dropped down to the circuit height. The usual. Joined downwind - nobody in the circuit, so took few photos. It was a rather long nav, very quiet - so I took few photos to keep some memories. Also, by now - I'm rather less stressed during solo flights - leaves me plenty of mental capacity to take few photos every so often. And there was tons of opportunities on this nav - which took bit over an hour flight time. Very happy with myself. Ended up higher on finals again, but nothing I couldn't fix - and requested taxy down the end of runway. Someone else was told to line up and wait - so I nicely told the ATC that I have vacated the runway - so they could let the other guy go. Parked and put the plane "to bed". Not much to debrief about, instructor wasn't unhappy about my radio work - said that it has improved, nice. That's the point.  I was grinning for whole day next day. Dunno why.. :-D

Still plenty bright - but sun decided to hide behind the cloud - I could see terrain for miles now!

And the party is over.. Go west.. 
Approaching Biggin
Short finals 21

GPS breadcrumbs

To Lydd and back

So as part of the QXC in this school, I will have to visit Goodwoods and Lydd. However, instead of flying the actual QXC route with students dual - the instructor instead flies to each destination separately. Whether that is for educational purposes, or just to get instructor more hours in his log book - dunno. But I like that approach. Lessons are shorter and cost is spread bit more. Also, weather requirements are not as tough - so progress and currency are better.

I was rather looking to it, since we as students don't get to do many land-aways per curriculum - every little adventure like this is really good. If it was up to me, I wouldn't mind to do a solo land away at a single airport as part of curriculum before embarking on QXC, but well, - I can't change it. Unless CAA is reading this and will agree.

It's a rather simple nav -> Sevenoaks -> Bewl Water and then over to the Lydd. I read the Lydd's AIP - but the information about VFR arrivals is rather well embedded in remarks and such. Very strange overhead join procedure there, no idea why - one has to arrive over circuit height over the runway, and then turn downwind - and only then descent to the circuit height. If someone knows reasons - please email me or comment here.
Another difficulty is the danger area and nuclear power plant to the south. The latter being very close to the airport, so base and finals are rather short. No worries, the runway is rather massive.

The first time we set off to do this, one of mags was running rough - so possibly power checks saved us rather interesting flight. Next time everything was working ok - and we set off.
The day was rather hazy, and it was already late in the afternoon. Lydd closes at 7, so instructor insisted that we take off in rather expeditious manner. As luck might have it, as we set off to taxy to the runway hold point - so did about 5 other aircraft. Radio became very busy. This is where not being very precise on radio on that day, bite me back. I forgot to mention to the ATC that we're departing to Lydd, and he I think assumed 'local' flight, meaning - we will be landing here. Almost right. ATC asked me that question as a follow up, but then radio becomes so busy with incoming traffic and other aircraft trying to depart before us - that it took good 10 minutes before I could answer that question. Note to self, do it next time per CAP413 - and give all that information on first contact, for instance: "Biggin, G-CPFJ, C152 at EFG VFR to Lydd ,Information V, QNH 1022 request taxi information". So far I've been doing the 'short' initial call, like 'Biggin, G-CPFJ at EFG requesting taxi information'. Followed by 'G-FJ pass your message'. I think I can do better next time :-)

Anyway - we did set off nicely into the blue yonder. Day was a bit hazy, which always makes navigation rather tricky - but departure to Lydd wasn't that bad - mainly due to the fact that sun was behind us. 

Past Bewl Water the landscape becomes rather flat - and there isn't many features to go about really. Plenty towns and small roads to confuse. However, west of Lydd between Rye and Lydd there's a large wind turbine farm. And also, coast line is rather uniquely shaped. So finding the relevant place was rather easy. Instructor suggested I should report over town north of Rye - which wasn't as easy to spot to me. But I think 'between rye and whatever' was enough to the Lydd controller. Btw, if you want to listen to their ATIS first - tune in about 15 miles out - it is veeeery slow and takes rather long to get the important bits, like runway, frequency and qnh. We used NDB at the airfield and VOR next to it to fix our position even better - which is always helpful.

Once overhead, I turned right for runway 03, very tight base and finals. I slowed us down on late downwind and then quick descent on finals. I think the landing wasn't too bad. 

Bit of a confusion on the radio, as I thought the controller said 'apron Charlie One', but it was obvious that there's no such place - so I vacated via Charlie to the Charlie Apron. 

I shut down the beast and requested a photo should be taken of me in front of the aircraft. Why not. It does not identify the place as Lydd, but nice to have. 

The Chariot and Me

Once inside I paid the landing fee and since the shop was open - purchased another whizz wheel - 3rd one in my long career as a student pilot - as the last one I had got misplaced somewhere. Once all things got paid, we went on a quick tour of rather quiet and deserted terminal and dived into the supply of small sausage rolls I purchased few days before. It was really nice to have something to eat after the 30 minute flight :-) 

No need to book out apparently, so went back, quickly checked the aircraft and off we went. As per AIP remarks - power checks are need to be done before hold point Charlie, so that's were I did them. Then quick taxy to Delta (one ?). No need to backtrack, strong head wind and massive runway. Off we went. 
This leg was rather untidy, due to the wind, sun and inversion. For some reason, whenever I fly in the evening into the sun my navs become very untidy, with my heading all over the show and height holding issues. I blame it on the wind too in this instance :-) 
Despite the difficulties we got over to the Bewl water and then Sevenoaks fine. Another 'interesting' landing, due to the wind. I am ending up rather high on finals and have to bring it down quicker by pulling power almost to idle and nosing down to keep the speed. Dunno, I think it is safer that way - but if there's a cross wind - it makes my feet rather busy. But I did it. My instructor doesn't like that - because he does not get a chance to land it - but hey, that's the whole point - innit :-) 

Shut down and debriefed nicely. Next one, long solo nav. Looking forward to that one ! Almost as much as to the land away. 
GPS track

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Solo nav Biggin->Bewl Water->Maidstone->Biggin

So following the solo rejoin - the instructor was happy to send me on a solo short nav. It was our second lesson I believe - dual nav between Biggin, Bewl Water Maidstone and back to EGKB.

This time I was to do it on my own, so no pressure :-) Day was nice, I booked the lesson for early morning. Planned everything very meticulously, asking tons of questions, etc. I was aware of all the little airfields on the way, including Rochester and Headcorn. Day was nice, so I did expect fair amount of traffic.

Went on with the aircraft checkout, everything looked fine, 3/4 fuel tanks - so plenty of fuel if something goes wrong. That's the way we like it.

That day Biggin were using Tower and Approach frequencies. This is the first time I've seen that happening since I started flying here. No worries, I do note both down in my plog anyway.  Just a matter of putting the approach frequency in the standby instead of the Farnborough West.

I went off, and as soon as I changed frequency to LARS - it was obvious, every man and his dog with wings was out flying. Few airplanes around Sevenoaks, so I decided to drop down to 1800 ft and climb out upon departing to the south. Around the Bewl Water there was a cessna 172 doing exactly same route I just done the other way - at the same level. I did spot it rather early, however it was nice of the Farnborough to tell us that we should alter our courses - unless we want to be united. And personally I like to have a dinner at least first, before close encounters. So again, I dropped down to 1800 ft.

Almost nailed the altitude

Next leg was rather uneventful. I advised Farnborough that I'll be climbing up to 3000ft. This is due to all the traffic underneeth from Microlight sites and Rochester, Headcorn. LTMA boundary here goes up from 3500ft, so plenty of headroom. As expected, there were quite few aircraft routing west underneath me - so I think this was a good call. There was another aircraft on the frequency with the same last two letters, and it took controller few requests to realise that he was indeed not talking to me, but other guy. So when approaching Maidstone I had to start using my full call sign.

Overhead Maidstone, I turned west - and noticed a R22 or R44 hovering over the city, not talking to the controllers - and pretty much in my way. I had the right of way, however I decided to turn right anyway, just in case. Well, he did go the same way, so we had this dance for a while - until I finally had to descend and do a weird turn to keep him in sight. This is a downside to flying high-winged aircraft, but on the plus side - I could clearly see everyone underneath me. This of course screwed up my nav completely - but this is the easiest leg - just follow M20, M26 to Sevenoaks. Besides, I had the biggin VOR tuned in - so I did orientate myself pretty quickly using it and DME. I was still on the good track - so all good. Joined back overhead for 03, and went back to the club. My instructor was flying a trial lesson at the same time - and I caught him joining over Sevenoaks at the same time. So I just did follow his aircraft back to the club. Overall, nice 1h and few minutes solo nav.

I did hang around the club, as I we were suppose to fly to Lydd that evening. However, after refuelling turned out that the engine was running rough on Right magneto - the engine wanted to jump out of the cowling. Instructor tried to clean plugs, etc. - and I think was waiting for me to say something - so I just said to him "If I was solo doing this, I wouldn't leave." I think he was rather pleased that I said that, and told me "We're lucky it didn't happen at Lydd, there's nothing out there - not even McDonnalds".

Didn't take as many photos this time and no GPS track. Sorry.

Biggin, Southend ATZ Transit Nav

Southend airport is the default alternate for EFG students. This is a bit odd, even to me - since there's few alternatives closer by - but I can understand why it would be useful to low hour students. Southend has big runway, lights, radar, etc. Other alternatives, Redhill, Rochester, Headcorn - grass, A/G, shorter runways. Etc.
So as part of the training, I knew I'll be going over to Southend at some stage. Turns out, we didn't went there to land - just to see the place, and also as an excuse for me to practice diversions, position fix, and just to talk to a different controller. Throw me out of my comfort zone a bit.

I planned a nav to Hanningfield, Southend ATz transit and Faversham. I knew that at some stage, the instructor will throw a diversion at me. But he won't do this before ATZ Transit, so it was obvious when it is going to happen really. But that's ok.
I did embarrass myself a bit, because I came rather unprepared - the morning was bit hectic and I forgot my wizzwheel (turns out, I did lose it somewhere). Did I mention that I have a very nice instructor ? The guy is really a temple of zen. So I borrowed his, he was very patiently waiting for me to finish all my planning - and off we went to do the preflight. As a matter of precaution and also good practice - he is always checking things like fuel and oil himself, even tho student has done it. I like his approach.

We went off this time to the east, so not via Sevenoaks as usual - but through Swanley. Of course doing a big circle around Orpington first.

Routing to the North East is rather simple. There's a big bridge on Thames - that you cannot miss out even if you're as blind as Ozzy Osbourne. After that - I adjusted my ETA a bit, I think by 2 minutes - and kept same heading. Turned out my adjustment was just fine - as we were overhead Hanninfield reservoir exactly at the time. There was a temptation to call it - when I saw it, but we had quite a head wind, so it took us a bit to get from seeing edge of it underneath cowling till we were just overhead.

After that, I just turned dead East. I didn't plan this leg. The goal was to report overhead South Woodham Ferrers and then turn south east to cross ATZ. Controller asked us if we are happy to drop down below 2000ft (even tho it is class G) - due to departing traffic and we were happy to oblige. We had their DME tuned in already. Controller asked us to climb back to 2000ft and report overhead. And then told us to resume navigation. Pretty cool. Southend's frequency was rather busy - but the controller was extremely helpful - can't complain. There's a gas venting site on the south bank of Thames - so I asked controller if it's active. I did screw up the D number, but I think he got it - and said that the gas venting danger area is not active. Good :-)

Instructor told me to plan diversion from Sheerness to Swanley. I expected diversion at this point, so no worries. It actually went rather well. Altho C152 is not as stable as C172, so flying with just a rudder for prolonged periods of time is not possible - but I did manage. Due to the wind, I had to make a small adjustment - but we ended up very close to our destination.

After that, I just asked Biggin for rejoin from Swanley - and we landed nicely on 21. We ended the whole thing rather late - lights were already on at Biggin - so as a bonus I got fully lighted up runway, even tho it was pretty bright still. Unfortunately taxy ways are not lighted - so it is a bit more confusing at dusk, with the night vision trying to kick in, and the day vision still on the edge of it's capabilities on the ground. I remembered the taxy ways at Prestwick lit nicely blue. Oh well, Biggin doesn't have 737's traffic and such, so I suppose they don't need it.

Nice lesson, I was rather chuffed with the progress - and I think a lot of it is thank to the instructor and his patience. Not a shred of rushing or judgmental attitude on his side - even tho I can see few other instructors I know doing it in the same situation. Sometimes even a grim face for few seconds is enough to change atmosphere.

This time I did record a nice brad crumb for all of you's. Yay.