Ledbury, Worcester and Wellesbourne again, solo!

The weather looked pretty good today, so I was hopeful that I would get to finally do the full solo NavEx I’d been waiting to do.

Arrived at Brize in good time as usual, only to find that ATC were on lunch from 11:00 to 13:00 (my slot started at 11:30!) so I had to wait before I could do my flight. Typically I didn’t have anything to read with me, because I’d emptied all the books out of my bag having passed the last exam yesterday!

So I had plenty of time to prepare the route for today, and do all the pre flight bits necessary. I went out and refuelled the aircraft, and did the full ‘A’ check while I was there.

Indi arrived and (luckily) I got her to look over my plan before I left. It was a good job I did, because for the route from Ledbury to Worcester (basically a North East track) I had written down a heading of 270! This would have taken me off out to the Welsh Mountains! I dare say I would have realised in the air, but it was good to spot it. It turned out that I’d calculated the correct heading as being 027, but managed to write it on both the chart and flight log as 270. Must be more careful in future.

Did a transit check on the aircraft, and then took my time getting in and getting settled ready for the flight. This would be the first time I’d been more than about 20 miles from Brize by myself, so I didn’t want to rush things and end up missing something that would later come back to bite me.

All the pre flight checks were fine, I taxyed out and did power checks as normal. Called for clearance and then announced

‘Brize Tower, student Golf Bravo Papa Alpha Foxtrot, ready for departure’

No turning back now!

Take off was normal, although the wind was a little disconcerting in that it was very variable and quite gusty. I really had to work had to keep everything together as I rotated and started to climb. Out to Burford, and then climb out to the start point at the Northleach Roundabout as usual.

Again had no problem following the A40 to the Roundabout, and once there set time for the first leg, and switched to Gloucester Approach (I would be passing just a couple of miles North of the field). Got great service from them on most of the route, warning me of other traffic and generally seeming to give that little bit extra after they realised I was a student. Good to know!

The first leg was uneventful, I passed Gloucester off to the left and saw aircraft in their circuit, then headed over the River Severn (been here before!) and crossed the M50.

One thing that was odd today was that I was convinced that I was flying too low on a number of occasions. Looking at the Cotswolds ahead of me on the way to Gloucester, the tops of them looked like they were higher than I was. This was obviously some optical illusion because by the time I reached them they were well below me. Perhaps it was caused by the low cloud (at several points I considered turning around, but the visibility never got any worse)?

Ledbury was hiding behind the hill as I approached, but soon came into view slightly to the left of where it should have been. Arrived slightly early, and turned for Worcester.

This leg is very short (just 7 minutes or so) and the first checkpoint at Malvern was already visible behind the ridge as I turned. Passed the ridge bang on track (was supposed to fly almost directly over the highest point) and over Malvern. Worcester soon appeared ahead, and I could easily see the large river running through it, with the M5 off to the East.

Turned over Worcester and headed for Wellesbourne. After a FREDA check (I was doing them much more regularly on this flight) I told Gloucester I was switching to Wellesbourne and thanked them for their service.

As I switched to Wellesbourne, there was silence on the radio. Every other time I’ve been near Wellesbourne it’s been incredibly busy, and sometimes very difficult to get in on the radio. At first I thought I’d selected the wrong frequency, but while I was double checking someone else made a call, so that put my mind at rest.

Had a bit of a chuckle as another aircraft announced their position as ‘several miles South West of Bromsgrove’. This put them fairly near to my track, so Wellesbourne made sure I’d heard that position report. I started looking for them, but a minute or so later the same voice came over the radio:

‘Wellesbourne Information, G-XX. The student has informed me we’re actually South West of Worcester

Nice to know that even flying instructors can make mistakes on their Nav!

Continued to Wellesbourne, Alcester appearing off to my left where it should have been, before Stratford on Avon appeared on the nose, and soon I could see Wellesbourne in the distance right where it should have been. I turned overhead Wellesbourne, letting them know, and set course back to Brize.

On leaving Wellesbourne’s frequency to talk to Brize Zone, I again thanked the FISO for his help. I’d commented a couple of weeks earlier how well the FISO at Wellesbourne had responded to a student on his QXC while I was in the circuit there. It was very good to know that I got the same service as a result of my own ‘Student’ prefix. Very well done Mr. FISO at Wellesbourne!

The leg to Wellesbourne had taken slightly longer than I thought, so I decided that the wind must have been slightly less strong than had been forecast. I decided to add a 10 degree correction to the right of my original course for the last leg (more about this soon!)

At Shipston on Stour I was slightly right of track, so used Standard Closing Angle to get back on track. However, I soon became aware of Little Rissington being directly ahead of me, when it should in fact have been off to my right at something like the 1 O’Clock position. As a double check, I tuned the ADF to the Brize NDB, and this showed Brize in my 11 O’Clock, when it should have been on the nose.

While trying to work out what was happening, I spotted the railway slightly below me. This meant I must have been 3 or 4 miles off track to the right. Rather than try to correct this, I simply followed the railway to the end point of the route (which is where the railway makes an obvious turn).

I did notice after all this that I’d lost about 200 feet in height. Again an indication that I’m neglecting the actual flying a little in preference for reading the map and working out where I am. Definitely need to work on that. 

On the ground later I realised the mistake I’d made. I’d corrected for a lighter than expected wind by turning into it (the correction you should make if it’s stronger than forecast) so this was just putting me further and further off track to the right. I was quite pleased that I’d spotted this while in the air (albeit not the reason for it) and took appropriate steps to get back on track before ending up in completely the wrong place (Little Rissington was active today for example).

As I put my map away and started to head for Burford, I heard one of our other aircraft calling that they were at Burford, and climbing out to the North. I reported

‘Golf Alpha Foxtrot is 3 miles North of Burford and descending’

This got me a response about the other aircraft as being on a reciprocal heading from Burford and climbing. Ideal conditions for a collision! I reported that I was looking, and looked from Burford out to the North before spotting the other school aircraft climbing away to my right. I reported I had it in sight, and turned the landing light on just to be safe.

Headed into Burford, and switched to Tower. They told me to join right base as usual, and I asked for a wind check. The wind they reported was straight down the runway, at 10 knots gusting 20.

Again the approach was quite busy, but this time I remembered to call final! As I got lower it was obvious that the wind wasn’t straight down the runway after all, but was significantly off to the right, blowing me to the left. I corrected on the approach, and kicked off the crab as I flared, putting the into wind wing down to maintain the runway centreline.

This didn’t quite work, as I drifted a foot or two to the left of centre before heading a gentle squeak as the mains touched down, right first, soon followed by the left for one of my best landings in a while!

Taxyed back, refueled the plan and pushed it back into the hangar with a huge grin on my face. After my last attempt at solo Nav to Wellesbourne I’d been a little uneasy about this flight, but in actual fact it had gone very well. I was particularly pleased that I’d realised I wasn’t where I was supposed to be, and managed to take steps to sort it out (albeit losing a little height in the process). An excellent day!

2008-03-02 - Ledbury, Worcester, Wellesbourne route and track

 Sadly, the GPS stopped at about the time I switched to the Brize Zone frequency (as it often does) so there’s no log of my error on the return leg from Wellesbourne. This is a bit of a shame, as I’d have liked to see if my analysis of where I went wrong agrees with the GPS log. Oh well.

Next flight is a Nav progress check, and because I haven’t landed away much yet, we’re going to combine it with a landing at Wellesbourne. Might even try to persuade Luned to come along too if Indi is agreeable.

Total flight time today: Dual 0:00 – Solo – 1:20
Take-offs: 1 – Landings: 1

Total flight time to date: Dual 32:30 – Solo 7:50
Take-offs to date: 93 – Landings to date: 88

One Response to “Ledbury, Worcester and Wellesbourne again, solo!”

  1. leiafee Says:

    I made a similar mistake with headings not long after passing, I used 030 when I wanted 300. Spotted my “screamingly obvious landmark” in the wrng place and very quickly worked out what I’d done. Those “gross error checks” really do serve a purpose!

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