Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Lesson 49: Qualifying Cross Country

September 18, 2012 - Today was a big day for me as it was my Qualifying Cross Country (abbreviated as QXC). I guess there are three milestones in the PPL course really. Of course the first one is the time you fly solo. Well, thats a massive one, or was for me anyway. The second I guess is this - the QXC and the third is the final Skills Test. This is the final test with the examiner. Of course there are many things in between like the exams but I guess if I had to pick three memorable key events I would pick those above. To most people the QXC is the biggest step in the whole ppl course.

I was up at 5AM thanks to my 11 month old son Oscar. I then dozed off and woke up again at 6AM. Upon waking up this time my mind started racing about the big day ahead and so I had to get up and make some tea and start my flight planning. This involved looking at the weather and plugging in the wind direction to the true track directions in order to calculate a heading. I did this for all three tracks.

Rochester - Goodwood (Chichester)
Goodwood - Lydd
Lydd - Rochester

I was prepared well and I double checked my headings as there was a strong wind at 2,000 feet of around 280/23 knots. I then triple checked it by plugging into Sky Demon to see what it made of it. I was pleased to see it agreed with my whizz wheel calculator and off I set for Rochester airport. I wasn't sure if I would be allowed to fly and I said to my wife "I'm not sure if this is going to happen today."

Upon arrival I had a chat with my instructor who copied my plogs (pilot logs). The wind was touch and go (in terms of cross wind limits for a student like me) so after speaking with my instructor it was the green light and in preparation for the worst scenario I took extra aerodrome plates in case I couldn't get into Lydd. This is the airport below on the bottom right. It has two directions 210 degrees and 30 degrees approximately. This means if the wind is blowing from the west 270+ or East 90+ then you have a cross wind to contend with. This is not good when trying to land an aeroplane. Lydd suffers this more than most especially as its right on the peninsula and gets a sea breeze to content with. My other two airports of the day have two runways which means you have four possible directions in which to face off to the wind on.

Rochester to Goodwood to Lydd to Rochester
I was in G-BNKV today, a tidy little C-152 with (what turned out to be) a little tetchy radio.

Visibility was fantastic today, upon departing Rochester at 2,100 ft heading for Heathfield I smiled when I saw the whole of West Kent and Sussex laid out before me bathed in glorious clear un-hazy, un-misty sumptuous sunlight. It was beautiful.

I headed down over Paddock Wood and was just the right side of Bewl Water. I was pleased the headings were holding up true in the wind as I was on track perfectly. Upon approaching Heathfield I could easily see the radio tower as clear as anything so I turned on to a new heading and called Farnborough Radar (E) to give them a position. The journey across the south downs down to Goodwood was lovely, it was a beautiful day, the headings were holding true and the traffic service I was getting was first class. Calling Goodwood I was given Runway 32 which I had not used before. I joined overhead at 2,000 ft and descended on the deadside coming crosswind at circuit height 1,200 ft. Turning downwind and onto base was good (the wind direction was blowing me away if anything which meant I was under no time pressure). I was nervous on the final approach but I nailed the landing on 2 stages of flap (20 degrees). It was a great feeling. I popped in to pay my landing fees and get my form signed by the radio tower and headed back to my chariot to make a couple of phone calls. About 50 minutes after landing I was trundling down 32 taking off for Lydd!

The journey back to Heathfield was equally as lovely. I didn't use VOR radio navigation as its a simple track to stay on with the coast just a few miles away. Again, I saw the mast at Heathfield and made a slight right adjustment to head East to Lydd. The journey passed without incident and I was guided in to Lydd by Lydd Approach. Runway in use would be Runway 21 which was to be a left hand circuit. I joined at 1500 feet overhead, descending down to the 1,000 foot circuit height for the turn downwind. The wind was quite strong and I could feel the plane being blown about. I managed to keep it together for the turn on to final. As I proceeded down the radio then decided to cut out and I lost communication with the tower. I landed on what was quite a bad crosswind for me but just managed to keep it on track. I vacated the runway, parked on Apron C and proceeded to do a radio check with the tower. It was working ok! When I got back to Rochester later the flying school confirmed somebody else had issues with the radio which seemed to exhibit these intermittent problems. Not good and very frustrating!

At lydd I grabbed a cup of tea and some food and prepared for my flight back. Again about 50 minutes later I was cleared to line up and wait on Runway 21. After clearance to take off I proceeded down the runway and could feel a very strong wind from my right. When I rotated the plane veered to the left completely off of the runway. My airspeed was good so I felt in control, but it was definitely the strongest cross wind take off I've experienced solo.

Coming back from Lydd was a walk in the park and by this stage I was enjoying myself. I called in at Ashford and was asked to free call Rochester which I did. From this point it was plain sailing. Back at Rochester I joined overhead at the 1,000 foot circuit height for runway 34 left hand circuit. It was gusty and I didn't feel too comfortable. Upon final approach I added 30 degrees of flap to bring her in and halted before the bump in the runway for (as it turned out) a nice landing).

Back at the school I completed the necessary paper work and my instructor said "I'm glad that's out the way Paul, congratulations". 

It is a big relief.

So then now, it is the final skills test. The examiner who will be doing this is away until early October so I have a break. In preparation I have booked a couple of hours with my instructor for next Thursday 27th September!

What a fantastic day. 

*49. 18/09/12 C152 G-BNKV EGTO EGTO 10:30 11:40 1:10 QXC Goodwood
*49. 18/09/12 C152 G-BNKV EGTO EGTO 12:30 13:30 1:00 QXC Lydd
*49. 18/09/12 C152 G-BNKV EGTO EGTO 14:40 15:20 0:40 QXC Rochester
HOURS = 40:50 DUAL + 13:10 SOLO

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