Into the real world…

The plan for today was for me to do some solo GH work in the morning, then in the afternoon to do my introductory Nav flight, from Brize to Droitwich and Banbury before returning.

All week the weather had looked good for Saturday, but as per usual the forecast on the day itself was less promising. While starting out OK, the conditions were set to deteriorate from around 11:30 or so.

So Asma decided that we’d try to get the Nav flight in as early as possible and see how things went. I arrived at Brize around 10:15, and went out to get the plane out of the hangar and checked out. Realised I’d forgotten my checklist, so after doing the A check had to trudge back to the club to pick it up. By this time Asma had arrived, and we headed out to the aircraft.

All 3 aircraft were going out around the same time, but we took our time because Asma wanted to go over my flight preparation. The wind forecast I had used was different from the one Asma had been given, so we re-did the calculations using her wind forecast. Once this was done, we did the pre-flight checks and headed out to the hold.

It was a very cold day, and we had to sit at the hold for a while to allow the engine to warm up sufficiently to be able to carry out the required power checks. Unfortunately, just as we started to do the power check, another heavy aircraft took to the runway and took off, so we then had to allow 3 minutes of spacing to allow for wake turbulence.

We headed out to Burford, and I allowed my height to get a bit high. We reached Burford, and then began to climb up to our cruising altitude of about 2300 feet, and headed out to our start point. This was the middle of 3 small towns at a distinctive bend in the railway.

Once there, the Nav exercise proper began. We set up for the first leg, heading towards Droitwich. Once on the leg it’s simply a matter of maintaining height, airspeed and heading, while keeping the usual lookout for other traffic (which was a real factor today). This high workload meant I was continually drifting away from my required heading and had to keep bringing it back on track.

By the time we had reached our first checkpoint (Moreton-in-the-Marsh) were were about a mile off track to the right. So it was time to use the Standard Closing Angle method to get back on track. This involves having a pre-calculated turn (for the Warrior at 100 knots this is 36 degrees) to get you back on track in a known time (1 minute per 1 mile off track). Once back on track you resume your heading.

We continued, and were eventually (I thought) approaching Droitwich. However, due to the corrections we’d done on the leg, the large town I could see and had decided to head for was actually Worcester. This outlined the importance of having some identifiable features for the town you’re heading for, and not just assume that some large town you can see is actually the one you’re aiming for.

At Droitwich it was time to make our turn towards Banbury. I made the turn, and was distracted by Brize Zone asking us to recycle the transponder as we had dropped off radar. This we did, but they still couldn’t see us, so we’d obviously just got out of the range of their radar. However, this distraction meant I had neglected to restart the leg timer at the correct time, and it was about a minute late.

Our first checkpoint on this leg was Alcester, and when we arrived we were too close to it (it should have been a couple of miles off to our left, when we in fact passed about a mile away from it). This was due to the fact that when I turned over Droitwich, by the time I actually made the turn we were a mile further on than we should have been.

So we applied the correction as before and got back on track. The next checkpoint I’d chosen (three small towns with a distinctive road pattern linking them) turned out to be a mistake. I never spotted them from the air, and in fact the only way we knew were we were (well, I’m sure Asma probably knew exactlywhere we were!) was by passing Wellesbourne off to our left (which was difficult for me to spot). In hindsight, this would have been a better checkpoint to use.

We approached Banbury pretty much on schedule, and then made the turn for our final leg back to our starting point. The checkpoint on this leg was abeam Chipping Norton. We were pretty much on course when we passed this, and headed to our finish point.

Again I had trouble spotting this, but Asma pointed out to me the distinctive turn in the railway and the river running alongside.

We then made the call to Brize to rejoin, and began our descent to 1000 feet QFE before Burford. On reaching Burford, we transferred to Tower, and headed to make a base leg join. The wind was straight down the runway, but its effect on our progress toward Brize was obvious, as it appeared we were virtually travelling sideways on our way in!

The approach went pretty well, but the wind was quite blustery as we got lower down and required frequent corrections. Began the flare as normal and the plane just didn’t seem to want to land! Eventually we plopped down the last couple of feet rather quicker than I had intended, but it was another acceptable landing.

We headed back to the club and shut down, then reviewed how the flight went. In general it was OK, but there were a number of times where I really didn’t have much of an idea where we were. Obviously I need a bit more practice of relating what I can see in the air to the map.

Other than that, I was relatively happy. We were never too far from where we were supposed to be, and my flying was generally OK. Asma did have to take over at one point when we encountered a relatively slow moving microlight manoeuvring ahead of us, and I obviously wasn’t giving it enough of a wide berth.

We headed back to the club and talked about what I needed to do next. I’ve got a couple of Solo GH sessions coming up, after which (according to the Brize lesson plan) I have to pass 3 further exams (Met, Nav and Pre-flight) before I can continue on to Nav proper.

Asma asked how I was doing on the exams, and I told her that I was ‘almost ready’ to do the Met one. At this point John (another instructor who I hadn’t met before) piped up ‘Well, I can do that for you if you like, I’m an examiner’.

Gulp.

So…on to the next blog entry 🙂

Total flight time today: Dual 1:25 – Solo – 0:00
Take-offs: 1 – Landings: 1

Total flight time to date: Dual 20:45 – Solo 3:10
Take-offs to date: 73 – Landings to date: 68

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One Response to “Into the real world…”

  1. Vulcan hunting « Andy’s Blog Says:

    […] Droitwich off to the right, and assumed that was Worcester. I’d been similarly confused on one of my very first navigation exercises to Droitwich, where I spotted Worcester and ended up headed for […]

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