Sunday, 18 December 2011

Lesson 37: Driving Snow ! Rochester, Hastings, Canterbury

A great day today, it was a dual cross country not a solo but that doesnt matter. It all clicked and it felt really great. And I flew in driving snow! Good experience.

The course was Rochester to Hastings, Hastings to Canterbury and then home again. The weather was marginal in the morning so when prompted by my instructor [in the face of Snow Shower warnings!] I said I would be happy for him to stay in the aircraft and pretend he wasnt there! How it turned out to be a good call!!!!

On the way back approaching Rochester we hit a bank of driving snow and very poor visibility. It was 50/50 (on wether to push on) but on talking to the airfield behind the dark clouds it seemed to be passing through. From here I flew around it until I got sight of the airfield again and then cut back.

Leaving Rochester was via Runway 20 Relief (the runway behind the PAPIs - Precision Approach Path Indicators). The taxiways were being saved so it was a "backtrack" situation. The ground was wet and frosty and so there was no braking on the grass and gentle taxing turns were the order of the day.

So then.... the flight, just going to ramble here for my own note taking benefit!

...Firstly I took my wind forecasts from the Metform Low Level wind charts and also the Sky Demon Flight Planing Software however they were slightly different to the ones for the South East Air Met forecast. In speaking to my instructor he relies on the latter so going forward I will check these as well and see what the average is between all of them.

Taking off on Runway 20 relief there was a 70 degree crosswind at 15 knots but it was ok, climbing out I called Rochester to request an overhead departure at 2100 ft heading south to hastings. I was told to call overhead which when I climbed round and circled back over the airfield I did. Heading down south on a 183 degree bearing from a 174 true track I got just past Maidstone and requested a frequency change to Farnborough Radar. I got the OK for this and then after a short delay checking my heading was still OK I called Farnbourough Radar and requested a basic service. They told me to Standby so I shut up and carried on flying the aeroplane! They came back to me and asked me to contact London Information who cover the whole south of England. I acknowledged and contacted London requesting a basic service informing them of my callsign, aircraft type, people on board, route, turning points and altitude. London gave me a squawk code for the transponder, acknowledged the basic service and told me to report turning Hastings. I went to acknowledge but he got very busy so I left it. He didn give me a QNH either. He later got back to me and reminded me to report turning Hastings which I acknowledged.

I got down to Hastings fine on track and on time, passing Bewl Reservoir on the right (which you can see for miles!) and turned NE heading up towards Canterbury. Time Turn Talk, meaning recording the time of the turn, turning onto the new heading and talking to London.

At this point my instructor told me to do some VOR and DME tracking by getting a position fix. I tuned a VOR into the DETLING VOR and got the bearing, and then did the same with the LYDD VOR. I went to measure the track (as if doing a detour) and my instructor reminded me to just use the compass rose around the VOR which makes it very easy of course! Where the two lines intercepted was where we were, and where I expected us to be. I remembered to think about a sensible heading before swinging the needle. My instructor recommended using the FROM not the TO as it was easier to read (good tip).

Next one was tuning into the DME and getting the distance from the beacon and then tuning into a VOR to get the radial. Where the curve and the line intercepted was where the position would be. We looked at the ADF (Automatic Direction Finder) but its not a very accurate instrument and we were also not getting a proper signal.

Passing Ashford I called London and requested a frequency change to Manston Radar. I then called Manston Radar giving them my full message when prompted... G-CEPX, Cessna 152, From Rochester to Rochester on a Nav Ex via Turning points of Hastings and Canterbury, Presently south of Ashford at 2,100 ft on QNH 1015 request basic service please...

I was given a squawk code and told to report turning Canterbury. I repeated back the squawk code, QNH and acknowledged the request to turn at Canterbury.

My instructor got me to do a call to the emergency and distress frequency for a mock pan pan position fix.

It went something like this ...

Firstly I informed Manston I was temporarily leaving their frequency to do a training fix. They told me to confirm back when on their frequency

Setting 121.5 on the radio and listening to see there was no real emergency. I called "Training Fix, Training Fix, Training Fix, G-CEPX, Training Fix".

After a short delay somebody got back to me with a position asking if there was any other assistance required. The position was wrong as I was east of Ashford not West of it. Upon my second transmission to ask them to confirm the position they corrected their reading.

So wow, that was simple - if ever lost thats a darn easy way to get help! Coming back onto Manstan Radar frequency I confirmed "G-PX back on Frequency".

Turning at Canterbury then, I was pretty much on track and time and headed home to Rochester. Calling Manstan Radar (Time, Turn, Talk) they asked me to confirm passing Faversham.

Passing Faversham I called Manston Radar to inform them of this and to request Frequency Change to Rochester Information.

From here on in I was half way home, the Ground Speed was slow as I was in a headwind and there was some bad weather ahead. It started to get darker and I called Rochester for joining instructions. After this the snow started coming horizontally and I had to come down to 1,500 feet on the QNH. My instructor called Rochester and asked about the weather. He also got permission to ask to speak to another pilot who he knew to be in the area. After a short dialogue it was agreed we would push on as it was passing through. I headed left towards Maidstone and avoided the worst of the squall. Snow and ice started to form on the wheels but nowhere on the wing leading edges or struts. My instructor told me to carrying on with the frequent carb heat checks but not to leave on for too long a period. Engine RPM was kept just shy of maximum. The outside temperature throughout the flight was zero.

When I regained sight of the airfield I called Rochester to inform them of this and that I would enter the circuit via an overhead join. "G-PX Airfield in sight, will join overhead". They told me to report downwind in the circuit which is the standard join. I acknowledged.

The landing went well (albeit with a slight skid I felt) and I let her run the length of the runway, vacated gently and did the shutdown checks.

My instructor did the debrief and said it all went very well. He said it was a pass today! He said he couldnt find fault in anything. A slight altitude loss on the second leg he said but he wasnt too fussed about this. This trip did wonders for my confidence because it had so many different things. Lots of radio work, some VOR tracking, a position fix on 121.5 and of course some horrible weather between me and my home airfield. I loved it, it was great.


37.18-12-11 C152 G-CEPX EGTO EGTO 10:55 12:20 0:15 1-1 EX18 VORX, 121.5

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