Wednesday, 29 January 2014

IMC Written Exam Passed January 25th 2014

Last Sunday was always going to be a washout in terms of the weather (believe it or not it still rains non-stop in this country like there is no tomorrow). Therefore, for a pre-emptive salvage of the weekend in terms of an aviation fix I took the opportunity to sit the written exam on the Saturday (25/01). Get this exam out the way was the thinking, and I can then really enjoy the practical training. 

The exam went ok and I got 92% failing on 2 of the 25 questions. I was surprised that the ones I got wrong were amongst the easiest in the whole paper. It just goes to show you how easy it is to get things wrong when relaxed. 1 question required simply my reading correctly a CAA 500K map to quote the levels of controlled airspace and the other question meant saying which side of a VOR radial I was. Apparently I could do neither. I was a complete donkey.

Anyway, lesson learned!! Pay attention otherwise you will make mistakes. Luckily this was in in the safety of an exam room. The rest of the exam went well, even the laborious plotting of a Pilots log.

So then, this Sunday the weather looks good. Butterflies are stirring already. I hope the ILS circuits go OK and I don't choke it, and I hope my take off and landings are good and I hope my RT is good... ad infinitum. I don't want to let myself or my instructor down.

Cant wait!

P.S I really enjoyed the studying on the IMC theory. The book I used was Air Pilot's Manual 5 titled Radio Navigation & Instrument Flying. Published by POOLEY's Air Pilot Publishing Ltd (see picture) I would certainly recommend the book. There are some test questions in the back as well. It is really well written in my opinion.

Friday, 24 January 2014

IMC Rating - Lesson 10 an NDB Approach into Manston Runway 28

Last Sunday’s lesson was reserved for my first ‘live’ NDB approach into Manston (ICAO: EGMH). The weather was lovely… dry, cold and clear. It’s only a shame I wasn’t to benefit from any of this beautiful vista as I was clearly destined to be behind the screens,  heads down stressing over some needles. We have still been suffering from a lot of overnight rain which has meant that the ground is absolutely soaked. This has closed grass airstrips like Rochester for several weeks. I feel for the pilots essentially marooned in that situation. I suppose the wise ones relocate in the winter. I don’t know, I’ll have to ask a few!

All considered the actual approach went very well actually and Pete my instructor was kind enough at the end of my lesson to suggest I should be proud of how it turned out. Especially given it was my first one. The ADF behaved impeccably which clearly was pivotal to this most satisfactory outcome. Had it gone berserk or just plain lied it could all have been a different story of course.

Getting out from Southend down to Manston was obviously a straight forward affair. Leaving R24 and heading SSE to intercept the 000 Radial from the Detling VOR. Then tracking south until about 5nm to go before turning left to intercept the 085 radial. I was quite surprised that the ident for MTN wasn’t available until we were practically approaching the ATZ, and even then it was somewhat inaudible to us. Leaving Southend I was at 2100 feet going down to Detling where I had decided to climb to 3000 feet.

The radio work leading into Manston caught me out as it was completely new and for this reason I struggled understanding what came at me. The words coming toward me was a melody I had not heard before. I wasn’t expecting it. During the debrief at the end of my lesson Pete gave me an overview of the types of things to expect which I will look into. He also added that upon calling them the ATC person gave me a number of things at the same time which technically speaking he should have limited. I think if memory serves he cleared me to the MTN beacon and followed this at the same time with the clearance outbound as well as giving me the QNH and possibly asking me a question. I can’t quite remember how it came at me only that it was like Wooooaaah. Lesson learned I guess. Although I planned everything else meticulously I had not looked into what vocabulary I would be dancing with on the radio! I had forgot how distracting it could be.

So anyway.. the approach into R28. Well you can see from the screen shot it went to plan, so I was pleased with that. I had picked out the 10 mile long NDB approach not by design simply as it was the first one I came to in the UK AIP. This meant we went out quite far over the sea so Pete ensured we had some life jackets in the back.

I had been briefed by Pete that when on Final Approach, that I should call out the descent numbers (vertical profile I was following). For example : “7miles 100 feet high, adjusting”, “at 6m we should be 2140”, “6m 100 feet low, adjusting” and so forth. This was good advice and helped me ‘zone in’. Likewise he told me to talk out loud through the approach over the beacon and the outbound leg details before performing the landing checks etc. When in visual contact with the runway I was asked to do a non-standard missed approach. This appears to simply be a profile that differs from the one published on the approach plate.

On the way back to Southend I was given an SRA service (Surveillance Radar Approach) which I was so impressed with. Essentially some clever person in front of a radar screen telling me exactly what headings to fly so I end up nicely on final approach! Brilliant! What a service!

Confirmation Points – I find it reassuring to have as many confirmation mechanisms as possible. Why have a VOR unused when it could be doing something for you? An example in this approach was I had my VOR2 tuned to the DVR beacon and positioned on the OBI at 180. The theory being when I reached MTN I should be approximately centred on this VOR. I’m pleased to say I remembered to check VOR2 while I waiting for the ADF needle to fall over the beacon, and even more pleased to report it was centred!

So next week I think we are moving to the ILS. Although I had a nibble at this a couple of weeks ago I can imagine the first time going round a circuit doing 4/5 is going to fry me completely. We shall see!

Departure: 12:55 Arrival: 14:25
Total Time: 1:30 | IMC Rating: 1:20

Total Hours = 63:35 DUAL + 21:00 PIC [P1] + 2:10 [PICUS]
Total IMC Rating: 9:35

Total Time = 86:45

Monday, 13 January 2014

IMC Rating - Lesson 09 [Southend Flying Club]

On Sunday I was back at Southend for the continuation of my IMC course. It has to be said, the weather was OK when I arrived but as I will explain it had closed in considerably by the time we returned. This lesson was reserved for some ADF tracking around the Manningtree Mast in the north. I believe this is used by Essex Radio so when you ident it on the ADF you don’t get a Morse Code ident rather than some Alan Partridge type DJ!

I had done some ADF tracking before (over the Rochester NDB) but my new instructor needed to cover this off. I presume (and quite rightly so) to make sure I could actually ADF track before we went somewhere that mattered! The conclusion from the lesson was in the words of my instructor.. ok so you can ADF Track!

How was the lesson organised? Well, after a briefing from Pete and my own aircraft checks we departed Runway 24. This which was a bit ‘cross-windy’ at 160/15 but the take-off was ok (no flaps) . At 500ft I did a climbing turn right and headed 060 to intercept 360 QDR from the Southend NDB. My estimate here by the way was I wanted to get a 45 Degree intercept but figured I would possibly be using 15 degrees of wind correction to the right (45 + 15 = 60). Maintaining this northerly track for approx. 10 miles I turned right and tracked North East to the mast. We ended up above cloud at this point so Pete downgraded our Traffic Service to a Basic Service. The wind was quite strong and I got blown north of the mast not really establishing a decent track. This knocked me out the outbound leg of the turn so coming back to the mast my instructor made me do this again. By this time I had a fair idea of the drift and the necessary wind correction angle and it went ‘text book’. His words not mine! It was good practice for me to experience the ADF go beserk at one point which appeared to be Coastal Effect. So then, all ok, ADF lesson completed it was time to head back.

Coming back to Southend there appeared to be some drama occurring with a Helicopter lost in cloud. This couldn’t have been good for the poor nerves of the pilot. I was assured by Pete we were quite safe where we were and he directed me to ask Southend Radar for a vectored ILS service. This was accepted and I was vectored onto the localiser of the ILS. Coming down the glideslope of the ILS I was coached by Pete into making little nibbles off of the heading and the height to maintain within half scale deflection. When I reached Decision Height Pete removed the screen and I could see the runway … considerably over to the right! This was because I had been tracking down the ILS with a good degree of heading into wind.

Coming into 24 it was a bit bumpy, cross windy and it was raining so new aircraft + bad weather = not a perfect landing. That said, Pete seemed pleased with it. Next time I get in that situation I’ll use a bit more rudder as I don’t think I landed perfectly straight. With a new aircraft you need to  develop a feel for the control forces needed. I’ve noticed compared to the C172, the PA28 needs a bit more force applied on its controls. Note taken.

Next week, weather permitting we are due to perform an NDB approach to Manston. With the prevailing winds this will probably be R28 we shall see. Time to prepare and sharpen up some things (From /To on the VOR checks, calling out the descent heights etc). Can't wait!

Brakes Off: 14:00 Brakes On: 15:30
Total Time: 1:30 | IMC Rating: 1:15

Total Hours = 62:05 DUAL + 21:00 PIC [P1] + 2:10 [PICUS]
Total IMC Rating: 8:15

Total Time = 85:15

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

IMC Rating - Lesson 08 [.. and a switch to Southend Flying Club]

It's been a while since I've had much positive to report but during my last lesson with Skytrek at Rochester my instructor and I noticed problems with the VHS-NAV1 unit. This was logged in the tech log as without it being resolved the situation would threaten our future capability to use the plane for precision instrument approaches. 

I'm sorry to report that following several calls to the flying school it transpired that they didn't actually own the aircraft and yet worse still there was no information forthcoming as to when (if at all) it was to be fixed. This left me quite gutted not to mention stranded in terms of next steps as effectively the situation ended my IMC course as no Plan B was on offer! Needless to say this was a huge blow and very disappointing as I was really enjoying the course.

So, following all this, I made the decision to carry on my IMC course but with Southend Flying Club. I had been there in the summer to do some aerobatic lessons in a C-152 and I had really liked the place. It has to be said, for me it's a bit of a trek (100 mile round trip) but in my opinion it is totally worth it. Being based at Southend should be great for continuity as well, because its H24 and the facilities are very good. Naturally it is ATC, not AFIS also, which means this should also keep my radio work sharp. The instructor Peter is also a really great guy and I am so looking forward to benefiting from his vast experience.

There is one slight adjustment I am going to have to make because the IMC course at Southend is done in a PA-28-151 Warrior. This basically means I need to become familiar with a new aircraft. This shouldn't be a problem though.

So on Sunday (5th) I headed over to Southend Airport for some general handling and (as it transpired) some IMC work in the new plane. She was really stable and a real pleasure to fly. The other difference at Southend is they use screens to obscure the view for the pilot not 'foggles' (special glasses that only let you see down at the cockpit and not up through the windshield). I was pleasantly surprised actually to find how much I preferred the screens!

During the last two weeks Britain has been battered by storms and flood warnings are everywhere. Many people in Kent were flooded over Xmas which couldn't have been nice at all. Despite this Southend was open and it was Business As Usual (no doubt helped by the fact that EasyJet operate out of there). I discovered yesterday that Rochester has been shut because of all this rain we have had. Understandable really but a reminder I guess of the advantage of switching to a different more commercial airport.

I have a lesson booked for Sunday and I can't wait to get back into the swing of things. 

Brakes Off: 13:05 Brakes On: 14:15
Total Time: 1:10 | IMC Rating: 0:35

Total Hours = 60:35 DUAL + 21:00 PIC [P1] + 2:10 [PICUS]
Total IMC Rating: 7:00

Total Time = 83:45