Sunday, 25 September 2011

Autumnal Fog

I was up at 6:45 and really looking forward to go flying. Unfortunatly flying heavily relies on the weather, and the weather in this country is well sometimes ..... unpredictable and frustrating.

So you can imagine how I felt when I left my home in bright sunshine only to reach the airfield and be subject to what you see here in the photos.

Where I live it was absolutely fine. However, as is the way the weather works this time of year there can be heavily localised haze , mist and fog. The airfield I am learning to fly from is about 430ft above sea level. What had happened was the fog had lifted from the surrounding valley and had shrouded the airfield. Visibility was poor, say about 1km (it was barely possibly to see the end of the runway). A couple of cups of coffee and chat with the instructors and then it was time to quit. Shame. It was for me really quite a downer. I had been looking forward to it all week. I heard on my radio scanner a couple of hours later that flights had resumed. Today though was just one of those things. Given the timing of my lesson, it was not to be my day.

Oh well, I've booked for next weekend and I'm praying (like always) for some good weather. I can't wait to fly again.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Lesson 32 : 4 Good Landings and ... Thanks Mr Rainman!

I was up about 6:50 this morning and feeling like a 5 year old on xmas morning. I was just raring to go on another radio cross navigation. PLOG (Pilots Log) printed, 215 & 214 printed, virtual radar (SkyDemon route) printed, METAR and TAFs printed, and even a new route meticulously and neatly drawn on the 250K chart. Oh also Manston Air Plate printed (just in case). I was looking forward to the usual highlight of my week. And then .......the weather went all yukky.

OK, no problem my aviation fix was to be circuits then. I've done 3 hours solo and I need to do 4 hours so today's lesson was more about doing a circuit with the instructor and then continuing on my own.... all in aid of completing this part of the syllabus.
I did one circuit with my instructor followed by a simulated Engine Failure and everything went very smoothly. We were watching an ominous wall of rain headed our way [travelling to the north west] while downwind and so my instructor told me to keep an eye out for it when doing my solo. My instructor then jumped out (we had landed by that stage by the way which is always recommended) and off I went.

First circuit went great (landing was lovely - aided I confess by the fact that the wind was 210 degrees and I was on runway 20.... so right down my throat). On my second circuit I caught the very edge of the rain cloud so was going to call final for landing when the tower called and told me that my instructor had asked me to come in. I must admit, it was quite exciting while turning onto base leg to suddenly have the windscreen covered in rain. 

Once on base leg the wind was behind me and I avoided the rain cloud turning on final approach with once again a dry windscreen. Landing was good (all 4 landings were spot on today thanks to the headwind).

Although it was only 20 minutes dual (with the instructor) and 20 minutes solo I felt elated, I really enjoyed the flight and the good landings were a great confidence booster. As I was walking back to the flight school I passed another student doing his external checks and we exchanged smiles. I beamed "Beats work doesn't it!".  "Doesn't it just!" he replied. He was to do his first cross country solo today... now there's something.

Logbook Entry:
32.17-09-11 C152 G-CEPX EGTO EGTO 08:45 09:05 0:20 2-2 EX12/13
32.17-09-11 C152 G-CEPX EGTO EGTO 09:05 09:25 0:20 2-2 EX12/13

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Lesson 31 : Cross Country III and some Practical Radio Navigation

I woke up at 6:50 AM this morning to the sound of an absolute torrential downpour. However I knew from studying the weather reports the previous night it was probably a just a local summer shower. Sure enough when I got up to make some tea and went outside; half the sky was clear and the other half like a scene from a horror movie.

I logged onto my computer and ran up Sky Demon (Flight Planning Software)  to print to off my Pilots Log (PLOG) and then I went to the Met Briefing section of the Met Office website and printed off the weather report and low level spot wind report. A quick check on some other weather websites (I like and I was good to go.

I arrived at the airport about 8:30 and performed my checks on G-BNIV. My instructor arrived soon afterwards and after a chat informed me we were 'a go' for my 3rd navigation exercise. This was to be different than the previous two 'NavExs' as it was to use radio navigation. Previously the lessons were more about plotting and flying a course than using radio navigation techniques. Today was to be different. Aside from the use of a VOR and DME, there was also to be more radio telephony work although as it transpired this was only to be asking (Southend Approach and Manston Approach) for a basic service.

The course was to be Rochester, Southend, Whitstable, Manston, Dover, Detling and Rochester.

So then.. How did it all go? I took off on runway 20 fine (it was a bit gusty on the climb out over the M2 motorway) and circled back to depart Rochester overhead the aerodrome at 2000ft. On the climb out I called Rochester Information to let them know it was an overhead departure at 2000ft.  On circling back my instructor hinted that I should use just a shade of (left) rudder to accelerate the turn which worked a treat. I called Rochester Information to request frequency change to Southend Approach when I was entering the Isle of Grain. This was granted fine. However when I made contact with Southend Approach the Radio reception was really very poor. We could only hear every other word and then it was very strained.

At this point my instructor had a go trying different tricks but to no avail. We just about struggled to get rid of Southend and tried contact with Manston but after a brief promising contact the radio went beserk again.

So then, after making radio contact again with Rochester we skipped the Manston turnpoint and headed to the Dover VOR/DME. From this point forward the lesson proceeded well and after reaching Dover I headed North East and tuned in to the Detling VOR/DME.

It was interesting to fly "on the needle" but as it was explained and then demonstrated to me, it is coupled with the need to have positional awareness and be able to fly a sensible heading. Obviously the further  you are from the VOR then the greater degree of latitude you have. If you flew the needle too early then that can send you off track, albeit temporarily. As you get closer the tolerances become less. My instructor guided me with suggested 5 degree tweaks on both VOR tracking legs which gave me a good practical appreciation. I had already done the Navigation exam but this was a great practical exercise.

The landing back on Runway 20 had a 15 kt headwind from 190 degrees so the conditions were fine. It was good experience though, because as I was landing I got hit with a gust which sent me slightly aloft again. However with a suggestion from my instructor I just momentarily throttled in and then back again and gently landed. A nice recovery. That's something I'm glad I tried because it worked beautifully.

My instructor was pleased with today despite the radio problems and so was I. I didn't see many aircraft around today. The weather in the south of Kent was not that good with a cloud base around 2000 feet. Towards the north of Kent though it had became very clear by the time we had returned.

I have another lesson booked for next week..... which I am already so looking forward to. It was great to be flying again today. I loved it.

Logbook Entry:
31.11-09-11 C152 G-BNIV EGTO EGTO 09:30 10:40 1:10 1-1 EX18
03:00 SELF

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Grounded - Bad Weather

I had to cancel my lesson today due to the weather. Shame - yesterday was so nice. The 215 Met Briefing Form extract is enclosed. The south east cloud base is too low resulting in poor visibility. I was to fly within the area marked [D]. There is no way I was going to be able to do a Navigation Excercise in that. When I phoned the school I was told it wasnt even good enough for circuits.

As I'm studying for my Radio Telecomms Exam I treated myself to an Airband Scanner yesterday. For this I jumped on a train and popped up to Victoria Station in London. The Transair shop is very closeby so I was back home and listening to lots of (actually quite bad!) RT by early afternoon.

This neat little device will scan across three bands : Aeronautical, VHF and FM. I opted for the Uniden UBC30XLT. It has some good faeatures and in my opinion is well worth the money. The SQUELCH control is good and I like the PRIORITY Channel feature which will ensure the scanning goes back every second to the channel you mark as a Priority. You can set one channel per band. By default it is the first one. Scanning can be done across the whole frequency range in the band or it can be across the memory channel bank you programme. I set my priority channel up to 121.5 Mhz and caught a MAYDAY event. Thankfully it resulted in somebody landing safely in a field. A happy ending.

Earlier on in the week I took delivery of a flight timer for my cross country work. I went digital in the end (the analogue ones look lovely though) and opted for the ASA Digital Flight Timer. I was hoping to try this out for the first time today but it was not to be. This device clips onto my kneeboard and is packed with features.

In summary, it has :

  • Large  LCD backlight display
  • Multi-function clock (AM/PM, Universal Coordinated Zulu time, and military time options)
  • 3 simultaneous timer options
  • Exclusive digital notepad for squawk codes or frequencies
  • Approach timer which can store up to 12 different approach times
  • Audible and visual alarm modes
  • Fuel timer
  • Stopwatch with 1/10th and 1/100th second digits
  • Push and rotate dial for quickly and easily setting times
  • Multiple mounting options

  • The route I was supposed to do today I did on the simulator this week (twice!). It takes about an hour. With the VFR scenary loaded I had a good look at the track afterwards and made a mental note of some mid leg visuals ready for when the time comes and I need to estimate my leg arrival times.

    I suppose I better sign off now, and get on with the rest of Sunday. I really can't wait to get up into the air again and be in an aeroplane.