Sunday, 28 August 2011

Visit to the RAF Manston Spitfire and Hurricane Memorial Museum

No flying yesterday so my aviation fix was a trip down to the Spitfire and Hurricane Memorial Museum at RAF Manston.

What a lovely place. It takes about an hour to go around the small building but there are so many thought provoking artifacts to look at, ponder and generally absorb. As you may expect there are many personal items so generously donated by the widows of our brave airmen. It's everything a memorial should be. Humbling, inspirational and yet sad in parts. One can't fail to be moved by the magnificence of it all.

My "goodie bag" consisted of a Spitfire Pilot Handbook and a wonderful DVD called "Supermarine SPITFIRE - The Pilots View" [which I watched while the family were equally absorbed in X-Factor]. Its a wonderful first hand account by pilots who flew them and one who still does for airshow purposes. In one part of this, this modern day pilot is doing an annual test after some work on the ailerons and puts it through some aerobatics. There is a wide angle camera looking forward from his left shoulder area. It's absolutely great.

I'll sign off now by adding that while sipping our mugs of tea outside the cafe afterwards we also had the privilege of watching a Spitfire where she belongs .... roaring overhead.

A fantastic day. Please visit if you have time and donate generously. This memorial runs entirely from donations from the public.

More photos can be found on my corresponding blog page 'RAF Manston Spitfire and Hurricane Memorial Museum'

To The Figher Pilot

The Poets & The War XXXIX

By Greta Briggs.
The War Illustrated, Volume 3, No. 66, Page 616, December 6, 1940.
He is so young and joyous, yet he bears
The fate of nations on his shoulders now.
His roaring Spitfire thunders up the sky;
To him the drone of engines seems a song.
He rides the cloud-pavilioned lists that lie
Between earth's surface and the evening star;
His feats of arms are such as men have not
Dared heretofore. His brief reports can vie
With all the ballads of those knights and kings
Whose deeds were red-hot news in Camelot.
He has a threefold England in his charge:
The old-world England we have loved so long,
And then the splendid England of today,
And finally, the England yet to be!
We pass him in the street – a knight who wears
Not golden spurs, perhaps, but shining wings.

Daily Telegraph

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Lesson 30 : My Second Cross Country Nav Exercise

Mission: Rochester to Hastings Pier to Ashford and back to Rochester - 70 nm in 43 minutes ...

Today saw me attempt my second cross country navigation exercise. I got up early and checked all NOTAMs and Weather sources. I noticed SkyDemon for some reason couldn't include the weather for all my course legs. There appeared to be a problem in the software. No problem anyway, I simply took the low level (2,000ft) wind forecasts from the met form 214 and plugged them in manually to the route which I had drawn.

Btw these forms can be found on line at the met office briefing service here...

 I printed out my plog (Pilots Log) Weather and Route Plan and I was done.

Click the image below to see the route in better detail.

I was in G-CEFM today, which is one of the 152 Cessna's. It seems to be pretty responsive, good on its climb performance and the Radio has no "behavioural issues" at all. A nice plane.

I noticed driving up to the airport that Runway 34 was active. Hmmm I was surprised because all my wind figures were saying it was from 250 degrees at 15 knots. OK, I wondered what that would do to my heading forecasts!

So then first leg was from Rochester to Hastings Pier. Second Leg was from Hastings pier to Ashford. The last leg was from Ashford to Rochester.

I made it around this circuit + or - a minute on each leg which was OK I thought. Half way down each leg my ETA for completing that leg was correct.

However.. there is always a but... right...

Take off was OK, climb to overhead departure was OK (basically I went out off of runway 34 to 2,100 ft - orbited right to come back across the airfield heading 184) and set the timer overhead. RT was OK throughout but my instructor deliberately made that easy for me. The next one will be a baptism of fire I'm sure.

First leg was 30 miles ETA 19 minutes, I took 20. The second was 21 miles ETA 12, I took 13 and the third was a 19 mile leg ETA 13 minutes to which I was there or there abouts!

Circuit rejoin was OK, landing was not as I was a too fast especially for Runway 34. I'll just put that down to not thinking properly. My mind was probably still on completing the Nav Ex. Lesson learnt though, you're not home until you are home!

So then, Round the circuit I drifted right on the first leg. This went wrong because of an initial overload leaving the Rochester area. In other words I let some drift happen when I was preoccupied on the radio. Apparently a common beginners error. I noticed the error upon the approach to Hastings (which I could clearly see) and made a course correction coming round left to about 120 degrees for the last couple of minutes. From there on in (leg 2 and 3) was fine. My instructor said we ran parallel to the track on the second leg which was because we may have been a little late turning. Track 3 was pretty much on the mark.

I have a couple of weeks off now as my Instructor is away and then it will be some more circuits or another nav ex. Apparently the next nav ex will be using VOR tracking and I can see the Radio work is going to be like I said above, a baptism of fire. The route should be
  1. Rochester to Southend
  2. Southend to Whitstable Pier
  3. Whitstable Pier to Manston
  4. Manston to Dover (VOR Tracking)
  5. Dover to Rochester (VOR Tracking)
Anyway, it's all about learning and experience. I was hot and sweaty when I finished but I had learnt some good lessons thanks to my instructor.

Next time I need to perform, in other words ... more Map checking, nail that Heading, keep the Altitude, learn some new RT and concentrate right up to the end (that's when powered down, not before landing).

So then. in rapping up I have to say it was great today - this flying thing is amazing. It's a good personal test and it certainly beats the hell out of lazing on the sofa on a Sunday afternoon!

30.21-08-11 C152 G-CEFM EGTO EGTO 12:35 13:40 1:05 1-1 EX18

03:00 SELF

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Lesson 29 : Any chance of some Circuit training? :

After last weeks shock to the system doing circuits again and what was just a nightmare week at work, I was just gagging to get back into an aeroplane and forget everything. So much so in fact, that I even called my flying school at 5:30 on Friday evening asking them to call me the next day if there was to be any cancellations.

Sure enough my day was made when one of the instructors called up at 8:30 AM and said there was a cancellation. I just wanted to do some circuits again and practice landings and there was a slot!

So, I dropped the wife's car off for its MOT and headed up to Rochester Airport on a bus. Within 5 minutes of arriving I was out performing checks on G-BNIV again.

Weather was good, temperature about 20C, visibility fine and the wind was 210/8. Better than last week.

So chocks off 11:05 for a few circuits with my super instructor Mike. They all went well and the landings were good so he decided to jump out and let me carry on.

First one was a bit of a slammer, and then the second one wasnt much better. Typical - I had just pulled off three really good ones and now with the lighter plane I was a muppet. I did a couple more landings (where I was porpoising) and so decided to take off straight away calling a go around (I had never done a solo go around so good experience).

Apparently, I could have got a way with them (my instructor informed me afterwards) but I was more comfortable in throttling forward and trying again. A while back I had a bad landing and so now I think I'm not shy in throttling in and trying again.

After two cancelled porpoises, I landed on the third one after about 35 minutes solo.

I felt good because being back in the circuit again was a really nice change and challenge. I never thought I would say that, but I needed it, and it was good for that. Going round the circuit was comfortable, as was the RT. My ALT control was better than last week and the speed coming in 'over the hedge'  (that's the threshold) was good. The trim control was also better. I think last week was probably non existent! I guess the only thing then was the solo landings. They could have been much better!

Keep learning, keep improving, keep practicing. Its all great experience and I absolutely love it.

I do have still my original lesson booked for tomorrow. This is meant to be my second cross country navigation. This I think should be down to Hastings Pier, back to Ashford and then return to Rochester.

Hopefully the weather will be good, we shall see though. I'm very excited of course but I wont be too upset if it doesnt happen because I had a lovely Avaiation fix this morning.

29.20-08-11 C152 G-BNIV EGTO EGTO 11:05 11:30 0:25 1-1 EX12/13
29.20-08-11 C152 G-BNIV EGTO EGTO 11:30 12:05 0:35 6-6 EX12/13 SELF

Total Log Book Time

03:00 SELF

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Lesson 28 : Plane not available - back in the circuit!

Nice day today but with a plane out of action from the fleet my nax ex was cancelled and I was back in the circuit in G-BNIV. I was on runway 20 (right hand circuit) and the wind was 270/8.

This means of course upon landing I was to have a slight crosswind and no headwind component. On the downwind leg I was obviously to be forced inwards reducing the circuit.

I did several circuits with my instructor but I was not very good. My general circuit handling was rusty. Downwind leg a couple of times my altitude needed addressing.

I didnt need reminding on the carb heat and the radio comms was fine, as was the take-off. Speed was generally there on landing. However, the general approach though I didn't nail (the feeling you get when its flying itself in balance).

In talking afterwards..I need to not rush it, and flare better. Wash the airspeed off earlier, and keep the nose up on landing. I was too flat.

The last landing was good according to my instructor which was a flapless landing. This followed a full flap landing which was not good. This was a clever move by my instructor because going from one extreme to the other was done so to make me appreciate the attitude better. Clever instructor.

Rudder on landing needed to be a little left. Was OK but I needed to keep it on a little longer as the wind was from the right although not strong.

One other observation was the landings just 'sounded' hard. There must be something with G-BNIV as it sounds hard. My instructor said its fine but also said as its just come back from its annual. With this, the tires are probably fully inflated which also makes a difference on a bumpy grass circuit.

Maybe flying is like Golf which is renowed for being frustrating. You know you are better than your performance. Apparently this is a well known cycle in the journey of learning to fly.

When all said and done... I was flying today which makes it a great day. Another lesson next week! I only wish it was tomorrow morning.

28.14-08-11 C152 G-BNIV EGTO EGTO 12:15 13:15 1:00 1-1 EX12/13

02:25 SELF

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Lesson 27: My First Cross Country Navigation (Exercise 17)

A great day!!!

.... I had been looking forward to today so much as it was to be my first dual cross country navigation exercise. Since I found out about this on Wednesday, I had done some prep work plotting the course and thinking about visual reference points. I also flew some of it on the simulator.

The course we were to take was to go from Rochester, to Canterbury, to Ashford and back to Rochester. Looking at this I thought that perhaps on the return leg back to Rochester it would be good to avoid a couple of private airfields which were for paragliding and microlites. To do this I added on my route plan, another turnng point (waypoint), which was Royal Tunbridge Wells. In speaking to my instructor before the flight he said that wasn't strictly necessary but we would fly it anyway. I calculated the route to be around 74 nautical miles (nm). With an IAS of 95 knots taking around 48 minutes.

For the flight I took quarter mil and half mil charts and took the recommendation from my instructor that he prefers the quarter mil ones. These are avaiation charts which have a scale of 1:250 000.

For preparation I got up this morning and checked the met office website for the briefing bulletins Form 214 (low level spot winds) and Form 215 (synoptic chart). I also checked XCWEATHER.CO.UK. Yesterday, I setup SKYDEMON (Flight Planning Software) and spent some time both getting used to the application and also setting up my route. I have to say, I am really impressed with the way it lets you plot your route and for it all to come together with weather information (TAFS and METARS), and relevant NOTAMS. What a great piece of software and I look forward to using this in the future as it has so many useful features. As a precationary measure I also plotted the route manually to make sure all was well.

OK then, in terms of how it went, well, the wind was very strong which made it interesting. Forecasted to be around 25 knots it was gusting quite a bit more and the turbulence was noticeable at times. I kept fairly well on my headings despite being blown about abit and was pleased to go round the circuit pretty much on time. I had planned to keep to 2,100 ft altitude across the whole route but oscillated from 2,000 to 2,300 at times on a headwind leg. Mike my instructor was OK with this and was encouraging.

Despite the conditions, all my route plan legs flew well, and went something like:

Rochester - Canterbury (12 mins), eta = ata
Canterbury - Ashford (9 mins), eta = ata
Ashford - Bewl (15 mins) eta <> ata [Actual was 17 mins]
Bewl - Royal Tunbridge Wells (4 mins) eta = ata
Royal Tunbridge Wells - Rochester (8 mins) eta = ata

Basically all went well. I was a little out in the Ashford to Bewl leg but I think that's because I took a wider berth around the Headcorn ATZ upon advice from my instructor.

So then, things I learned and [need to think about] was

1) Learn about the new Radio Telecomms
2) get better cockpit organised (Knee board, maps etc)
3) plot the half way point and associate a visual marker to look for.
4) mark 10 degree lines on the chart route
5) maybe transpose key info from the plog to the chart.
6) keep doing those FREDA checks and keep a good lookout
7) keep listening to the radio comms for situational awareness.
8) plot your course in a good flight planner beforehand (like sky demon). Opening up the plan on the day of the flight wil refresh all the headings based on the current weather. All the other items like NOTAMS will also get refreshed!

For more information about Air Navigation here is a link on Wikipedia.

I did use my iPhone Motion-X GPS Lite App but it appears for some reason to have ended the route just before the final leg was about to happen! Anyway, the route is above, from Rochester back to Rochester. Brakes Off/On was 1 hour ten minutes in the end.

I have booked a lesson for next weekend which may (weather permitting) also be another Navigation Exercise (Rochester, Hastings Pier, Ashford and back to Rochester).

Today was a great day in my course because it was my first jolly out across country as a student and a valuable learning experience.

27.07-08-11 C152 G-CEPX EGTO EGTO 13:40 14:50 1:10 1-1 EX17
02:25 SELF

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Lesson 26: Practice Forced Landings Cont.

Phew! What an absolute scorcher! A sweltering hot day today. I had a lesson in Papa X-Ray for 11AM but my instructor was just seeing his previous student into his first solo so we eventually took off around 11:35.

With the vents open cruising along at 2,300 ft it was lovely and cool. The vis was not too good today but good enough to head off for some more PFL (Practice Forced Landing) work over Grain and then Sheppey again. This time we did some engine fire touch drills as well, going into a descent of about 100 Kts IAS and simulating the situation prior to picking that field and hoping we could make it in time.

One thing today which was quite a shock was the impact the humidy had on the take off distance to G-CEPX.  It took us ABSOLUTELY AGES to rotate and was a not a good feeling. This is due in for some work soon and I hope they find someway to bring the power back!

On the subject of fire drills here below is a really interesting article on wikipedia concerning BOAC Flight 712 which resulted in British Airways Overseas Cooperation changing their checklists for Engine Fires.

The article mentions "The actions taken by those involved in the accident resulted in the award of a George Cross, a British Empire Medal and an MBE. " You can read it at

I think it's facinating.

Coming back into Rochester I did a glide descent but on crossing the threshold at 1000ft kept a bit tight in turning onto downwind which subsequently took a bit a mastery from my instructor to pull off the perfect landing (using full flap and weaving to wash off the airspeed on base). Hmmm I hope I have the confidence to do that one day soon.

Really looking forward to Sunday and pray the weather will be OK (also Papa X-Ray behaves) as I will start my proper Nav work with a course set from Rochester, Canterbury, Ashford, Bewl and back to Roachester!

It will be great to get a way into new areas and with this I better start getting up-to-speed with my Radio work. I was not very good today to be honest, pausing when repeating back the rejoin instructions to Rochester Information ... silly boy.

Great to be flying though... absolutely loved it.

26.03-08-11 C152 G-CEPX EGTO EGTO 11:35 12:35 1:00 1-1 EX16

02:25 SELF