Sunday, 4 December 2011

Lesson 36: My First Solo Cross Country

What a fab day for me today. I got up very early (it was still dark) and did my preparation for my lesson. I wasn't sure we would fly or even what we would do so I plotted a course down to Shoreham [on the south cost] as I thought that would be on the agenda at some point. 

Imagine my shock when I got to the flight school and my instructor said "Right Paul, we'll get you out solo today! I think something easy like Ashford, Sheerness and back to Rochester" 

I didn't have a PLog (Pilots Log) calculated for that obviously so we jumped into a room and plotted the course. I had forgot how to use the flight computer to manually calculate the drift so my instructor was on hand to advise. The wind today at 2000-3000 ft was forecast to be 275/30.

Before long I was out performing my checks on G-BNIV which is the "flagship" of the fleet (it has nice clean blue upholstery) and I was asked to taxi to the fuel pumps for a fill up while my instructor was busy getting another student ready.

As my instructor was out with another student, I walked down to the airfield and watched a couple of take-offs. The ground was very soft and wet so it was a case of being kind to the grass (no sharp turns or breaking) and using the eastern taxi way. The runway in use was Runway 20 relief. 

I went back to the fuel pumps and checked the tanks were full and tested a sample of the fuel from each wing. Everything was good and so I sat in the aircraft and awaited my instructor.

It wasn't long before my instructor had joined me and we were taxing down the eastern side, holding at point Bravo briefly to allow one aircraft to take off and free up some room down at the threshold area. It felt cold again similar to last week. The visibility was good though. Before long, power checks were complete and the vital last checks before take off were completed.

"Golf India Victor ready for Departure" ... After a short pause, I received the "G-IV - Take off at your discretion, surface wind 210/10 knots.."

After a good visual check I announced "Taking Off G-IV" and moved away applying full throttle. It had been some time since I had flown in India Victor but she went down the runway just fine and following rotation we were climbing well. Flaps up at 300 ft and a 15 degree climbing turn to the right at 500 ft saw me up to 1000ft above ground level in no time. Turning downwind I had to point to the left to keep the track parallel to the runway as there was quite a strong wind blowing me in to the circuit. After calling downwind (prompted by my instructor!) it wasn't long before I turned right onto base, applied carb heat and pulled back the power, as soon as the airspeed had washed off I put in two stages of flap and trimmed keeping a watchful eye on the runway.

Coming on to final I had to crab into the wind coming from my right until I was down to a couple of hundred feet where it seemed I could straighten up fine. Straight over the PAPIs (Precision Approach Path Indicators) onto the relief runway. The landing was very good and so after taxing right down to the bottom of the runway I vacated it and my instructor got out telling me in the process to enjoy myself. I smiled. It was probably possible to see my heart beating through my chest.

Well, I repeated the taxi request (this time for a local flight) and got myself down into the departure area. Then a strange thing happened. My nerves vanished. I felt really calm.

In no time I was off and climbing to the overhead at an altitude of 2000 ft. Heading 148 against a True Track of 131 . I reset the timer on my knee board and calculated my ETA at my first turning point Ashford.

The first leg was relaxed and flight wise very smooth at 2000 ft and the visibility was great. I passed Leeds Castle on my right and thought to myself how beautiful it must have been hundred of years ago, right there in the middle of the Kent countryside. Arriving at Ashford I was about a minute out on my timings (10.5 minutes not 9.5) but on track in terms of course over ground. I was feeling great. "Time -Turn-Talk" later I was headed up to Sheerness on a heading of 327 against a True Track 348. This was the slower leg of 13 minutes as there was more of a headwind. This well went and I was bang on time and track when I did my next "Time-Turn-Talk" and headed back to Rochester. Obviously at this point I was in very familiar ground and kept to the heading knowing exactly where I was. This was a 256 heading against a True Track of 244.

I called in to Rochester Information for circuit joining instructions (still runway 20 relief right hand circuit) and within no time was joining overhead at 1000 ft above ground level. The circuit went well (I called downwind!) and the landing was fine. It's different when its just you in the aircraft because it floats more but I managed to just ease down after going slightly aloft again with the help of a little throttle. The landing run was straight.

I was delighted and really so happy with how it all went. At the end, I got asked to move my aircraft for parking in the wrong spot but hey ho. It was no problem taxing again - I didn't want the time to stop!

This added an hour to my solo time making 5 hours 15 minutes but it was the first time away from the vicinity of the aerodrome. For this reason it will be a day I remember for the rest of my life.


36.04-12-11 C152 G-BNIV EGTO EGTO 09:45 10:00 0:15 1-1 EX12/13
*36.04-12-11 C152 G-BNIV EGTO EGTO 10:00 11:00 1:00 1-1 EX18A

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