Qualifying Cross Country Done!

03/03/2017 – Just two days after my dual cross country I was due to be back for my QXC. However the weather wasn’t suitable and I had to delay it. I asked for the next availability worried that it might be a couple of weeks away, but Gamston Flying School managed to get me in the following Monday, the 6th March. I was looking forward to completing another major milestone.

06/03/2017 – The day was bright and reasonably clear and I was still confident after my Dual XC just a few days previously. I won’t go through the route again as it was the same as the Dual XC but apart from quite a lot of cloud the leg from Gamston to Conington was very simple and my landing was much better than before. I also managed to get a lovely shot of Belvoir Castle as I flew over.

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Belvoir Castle

When I popped into the office to pay the manager at Conington asked where my QXC form was as he expected to sign it. Now there’s some confusion as to whether you still need this form signing, but I didn’t have it with me so we got Gamston to email it down, he printed it off and signed it for me and I was off again. Better to have it than not!

CloudAhoy debrief for first leg is at https://www.cloudahoy.com/debrief/?key=LxgeBamjqmqRE

Youtube video of the first leg at 8x normal speed

Then it was onto the long leg to Humberside. I turned at Boston as planned and headed for Humberside which I spotted from a long way out thanks to the quarry behind it and was asked if I wanted to come in on the 26 runway as the wind was better for me. But as I’d only landed on the 20 I decided to stick with that as I knew the circuit layout. There’s nothing like a huge runway for making your landings look great and I parked up and took the long walk to the terminal to pay, and get my form signed!

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Overhead Boston

When I got there I was reminded that I should have called first (I forgot to call from Conington due to the mixup with the form) but they couldn’t have been friendlier and I headed back to LB knowing I was almost home.

CloudAhoy debrief for second leg is at https://www.cloudahoy.com/debrief/?key=ANxqpDt26HsI0S1T0

Youtube video of the second leg at 8x normal speed 

When I’d walked in I’d seen a Thomson 737 filling up with passengers but hadn’t really thought much about it. However when I wanted to set off it had beat me and I was going to have to wait for it to set off first. Control asked me to line up at Bravo as the 737 was lined up at Alpha. However we then found out a Citation was coming in and I was asked to line up at Alpha as well, giving plenty of room behind the 737 to avoid any problems with the jet wash. Although this added about 20 minutes of delay in total is was very cool to line up behind such a big aircraft, it’s fun to mix it with the big boys!

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He’s not on his Qualifying Cross Country I guess
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And he’s off!

The 737 took off ahead of me and I waited a couple of minutes before being allowed to enter the runway, then another couple of minutes to ensure there’s be no turbulence problems. I then took off from runway 26 (opposite direction to the 737) and headed for home.

Youtube video of the third leg at 8x normal speed 

A nice easy landing on a bright afternoon at Gamston and I was yet another step closer to my dream of completing my PPL. Just the Skills Test to go and I was done! How long would I have to wait?

If you want to know more, the podcast, as always, contains an expanded version of the above.

Dual Cross Country Done!

01/03/2017 – After the lack of flying during January and February, only 1 hour solo in total over both months, March started with my Dual Cross Country. This is a practice for the Qualifying Cross Country, a flight you have to take solo before you can take your skills test. The route was to fly from Gamston to Peterborough Conington to Humberside Airport, then finally the short stretch from Humberside back to Gamston. For this practice run I’d be going with Leigh as Luke was unavailable.

The first leg would be from Gamston to Belvoir Castle, then turn towards Bourne, then direct to Peterborough. After taking off from Gamston we were immediately into some fairly turbulent air, however after five minutes it smoothed out, and from then on we had a very confutable flight, with just a small amount of rain. Visibility was good, though Belvoir Castle is surrounded by trees and not easy to see, and I made all the turning points on time. After Bourne we received a MATZ penetration over RAF Wittering so could head straight to Conington.

As we got close to Peterborough I had great difficulty spotting the airfield. Leigh could see it and I knew it was there but it turns out I wasn’t looking quite far enough away. Spotting stuff from the air is much more difficult than you might think. After I adjusted my gaze about five degrees up it was obvious! I took a standard approach over the second runway and turned into the circuit. I was a bit close on the downwind leg so the base to final turn came up a bit quickly for my liking. However I managed to get LB down onto the runway, albeit a bit bumpily. We popped inside for a quick toilet break, and to pay my landing fees of course.

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Peterborough Conington

After taking off from Peterborough my route was Boston, then Caistor, before landing at Humberside Airport. This is a pretty long, and quite frankly boring leg, 69 miles in total, over a mostly flat, featureless landscape. We had to ask for a MATZ and ATZ penetration over RAF Coningsby which was duly given, though not before realising they’d recently changed the frequency and we had to talk to the Tower to give us the new Approach one.

Humberside is very easy to spot and has a huge runway, even bigger than Gamston. The landing was smooth and we parked up on the GA apron with some much bigger aircraft. One of the problems of a bigger airport is the long way to the terminal to pay the landing fees! It’s over 10 minutes each way, luckily it wasn’t raining. They do offer a reduced landing fee for students which was very reasonable.

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LB with some bigger boys at Humberside

Then from Humberside I’d head over Brigg then straight to Gamston. By this time I was starting to get tired and it was nice to, effectively, come home. As it was late afternoon and there was no traffic I asked if I could do a straight in approach. I’m pretty sure it was the first time I’d done that. Leigh says it always makes him feel like a airline pilot and I knew exactly what he meant.

After getting back in the office Leigh mentioned a couple of things I needed to just tighten up on, but was pretty happy with how I’d handled everything. I couldn’t wait to do my Solo Cross Country next. I hoped it wouldn’t be too long!

I did a video of the run from Peterborough to Humberside at 8x normal speed on YouTube at

If you want to know more, the podcast, as always, contains an expanded version of the above.

Getting Frustrated Now!

February 2017 – Well after a barren January for flying I was hoping that February was going to be the month I got it all done! However it wasn’t to be.

I had a great start. On the 3rd Feb I did a couple of circuits with Luke then I was off to Blyton disused airfield and Goole Docks on a solo navigation. This is a pretty simple triangular route, but does involves getting permission from Doncaster to pass through their airspace. If you don’t get permission then you’re not allowed to enter.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the organisation which controls general and commercial aviation in the UK, is having a campaign to stop the number of airspace infringements. The vast majority of these are caused by people not using GPS, or having it and not being able to understand how to use it. I always feel it’s a bit sad when people say how they’ve never felt the need to use GPS, and they only ever use charts, as if that’s something to be proud of, and that they’re better than anyone else. These are the people who cause the infringements, and they are the pilots who give everyone a bad name, and cause the CAA to introduce even tighter regulations.

Of course when training you are taught to use charts and calculate where you are from dead reckoning, plus of course spotting towns, lakes, rivers etc on the ground. However when you’ve passed I believe you should use every available means to make sure you are a safe and accurate pilot. This meant for me a blog calculated with the latest wind speed and direction, and being able to fly in a straight line. Basic skills every pilot should have!

And so it was, the old Blyton airfield was found and I turned to head towards Goole Docks. I called Doncaster up on the radio and the friendly controller there gave me permission and I flew on my direct route to Goole.

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However when I arrived the controller then asked me to turn right, rather than left which would have been my natural turn to head straight to Gamston, due to current traffic. After avoiding the airspace as requested he then gave me permission to take a straight line back to Gamston, directly through his airspace and in sight of the runway at Doncaster.

IMG_4033.jpgIt’s quite possible to fly around the UK and talk to almost no-one (so long as you stay out of controlled airspace), and some people do find it difficult and try and avoid requesting transits and would rather fly the long way round. However my training has shown me that air traffic controllers are very helpful, and will always allow you access to their airspace if they are at all capable. Don’t be frightened of talking to them!

So it turned out to be a simple exercise, and another solo flight crossed off my list.

My CloudAhoy debrief is at http://www.cloudahoy.com/debrief/?key=Tid5vS1ooOGGsfLjImIb (not sure why it cut out at Goole)

And there’s a video of the flight at 8x normal speed on YouTube at

That was all the flying I managed in February. I had lessons cancelled on the 6th, 12th, 14th and 23rd due to weather. There was one highlight though.

One the 7th Feb I went into True Airspeed Training to do my Radio Telephony test. To fly as Pilot in Command you need an RT licence, and so I had Graham give me training, then airline pilot Tim Darby took my test. The test is done using a computer to simulate a flight with a virtual plane on the screen, and headphone with Tim sat in the other room acting as ATC.

The training proved to be more stressful than the test itself. There was something about being sat with a headset on that made me feel more comfortable, like I was actually flying, and therefore the phraseology came to me more easily. There were MATZ Penetration requests, Mayday calls, zone transits etc. but it all went pretty smoothly and I passed.

Only some flying left to do now, Would March prove to be my month?

If you want to know more, the podcast, as always, contains an expanded version of the above.

A Zero Hour January

January 2017 – Well this entire month is going to be easy to deal with in one blog posting. I didn’t manage to get a single hour flying in January, and although you have to pretty much expect that, it was still frustrating for me. I was on 45 hours and just had my Cross Country and Skills Test to do to finish off, plus some revision flights as well of course.

However, due to my remembering what had happened during the winter of 2015 (no flying at all) I’d already planned to use this time to get on with my exams. And so it was to be. 11th and 12th of January I had my Navigation and Flight planning training and exams.

I felt fairly confident on both subjects, they were both pretty interesting for me. Navigation includes such topics as Charts, the Earth’s Magnetism, General and Radio Navigation and Calculation. So how to track a VOR, what a Q code is, different map projections, crosswind components.

Here’s a typical question: When taking off from a runway 22 you are given a wind reading of 240/20, what is the approximate crosswind component? I’m sure you can do that one in your head.

The Navigation exam proved to be tricker than I thought it would be. In fact I would say it was the hardest one so far. However I’d studied hard for it and I managed to get 100%.

Flight planning is especially important for when you’ve qualified. Covering such subjects as Weight & Balance, Flight Plans, Performance etc. it’s the subject that when you’re a student you rely on your instructor to know for you, but when you’re P1 you need to be making the decisions. Weight and Balance is especially important I always feel. So many accidents are caused by overloaded aircraft the correct calculation is vital.

Here’s a question for you: When doing the weight and balance calculations for an aircraft, Mass x Arm = ???

Again I’d studied hard and got 100%, and it was certainly easier than the navigation exam, although there is some crossover in the subjects.

Two weeks later on the 25th January I was back for my Principles of Flight training and exam. I was really not feeling very well this day, I had a heavy cold and felt quite achy and tired. However this was my last exam and I was keen to get it over with.

Principles of Flight could be described as “How do aircraft fly?”. Covering Lift, Drag, Stalling, Stability etc. you’ll find out such things as what does the shape of the wing effect, planes of movement and variable pitch propellors. A lot of it is theoretical stuff but the knowledge you gain will have a practical benefit.

Last question of this blog: With a clockwise rotating propellor on the take off roll the slipstream effect would cause the nose to yaw in which direction? You’ll learn that pretty quickly in your flight training!

Anyway I managed 100% again so I’d crossed the ninth exam off my to do list! all I had left was a few more hours flying and my RT test.

So January had come and gone, and despite the lack of flying hours, I’d completed all nine of my exams, and felt that much closer to getting my licence. Let’s hope February would turn out better for flying.

If you want to know more, the podcast, as always, contains an expanded version of the above.

Chatsworth House in the Cold!

28/12/2016 – I managed to get one last day of flying in before the end of 2016. Luke wasn’t available so Leigh was going to check me out in the circuit, then I’d be off on my solo navigation to Carsington Water and Chatsworth. I’d done the trip before with Luke and was looking forward to another flight over this beautiful part of the country, and of course Chatsworth House is one of England’s finest country homes, well worth a visit, even if just from overhead.

Lima Bravo was out on the apron when I got there but the sun was so low in the sky that it was still parked in the shade of the hangar, and had quite a lot of ice on it. Leigh went and found some deicer and cleared the majority of it off. Though it wasn’t warm day it was clear and the direct sunlight would soon clear the rest.

We went up for one circuit and Leigh was satisfied that I was still capable of managing the aircraft, and the sun had cleared the last of the ice so I was off on my own. I’d already had the flight planned and it was a simple triangle. Track the TNT VOR at Carsington Water, then turn for Chatsworth and then home. It was still cold on the ground and you can see frost where the sun hasn’t been on the picture below.

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I thought I might go a little further over Carsington Water to get an orbit over it and a proper look, but when I reached the VOR there was quite thick cloud to the west of me so I decided not to. It was quite odd that I was in clear sunny weather but just a mile or so to the west was an absolute wall of cloud. Obviously I wasn’t going to get any nearer to that!

The run up to Chatsworth saw me skirting the worse weather to the west and I was quite lucky that my flight path was fine. Certainly if the weather had been 10 miles further east I would have been turning back. As it was there was some wispy cloud right overhead Chatsworth House so I didn’t get a very good view for picture taking and was glad to head back towards Gamston.

I flew back directly over Chesterfield and managed to get a great picture of the famous twisted spire. Then it was back to a, by this time, very hazy Gamston.P1000329.jpg

You can see more pictures in the Flickr album at https://flic.kr/s/aHskTrdKgU or below

2016/12/28 Carsington Water and Chatsworth Solo

And there’s also a Youtube video sped up to 8 times normal speed. 

And a CloudAhoy Debrief as well at http://www.cloudahoy.com/debrief/?key=I8PEIqJA5YRmxP0VU

I was very organised that day 🙂

If you want to know more, the podcast, as always, contains an expanded version of the above.

Take it to the Bridge!

01/12/2016 – I’d been to the Humber Bridge before, more than once, but this was the first time I’d been up there solo. It gives me practice in getting clearance from Doncaster but apart from that it’s a very straightforward flight.

And so it proved. I flew up there, I flew back. It was pretty sunny coming back and of course the sun was in my eyes but not a particularly challenging flight. Of course any time you spend solo while training is amazing anyway, wherever you get to! And the Humber Bridge still impresses me despite the hundreds of times I’ve driven over it.

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The full CloudAhoy debrief can be found at https://www.cloudahoy.com/debrief/?key=XTqi1jXj4yijSrJ6H69Y

My lesson on the 21st December was cancelled. However that wasn’t to be my last opportunity to fly this year. I’ll tell you about my final flight of 2016 in the next episode.

If you want to know more, the podcast, as always, contains an expanded version of the above.

Here comes the Weatherman!

28/11/2016 – The next exam I was due to take was Meteorology. This seemed to me to be one of the toughest subjects, and in fact I had two days of tuition in a row, though on the second day I’d also fit in the Human Performance and Limitations exam.

Meteorology is, of course a fancy name for weather. Areas covered include Atmosphere, Charts, Clouds, Winds, Icing and much more.

There aren’t many more important things for a pilot to understand than the weather. You need to know it’s suitable to take off, suitable for the length of your journey, and of course suitable at your destination. What is suitable depends on your qualifications, your experience, and just how comfortable you are as a pilot with less than perfect weather.

If you have an Instrument Rating you can fly in lower visibility, and in and above cloud, but for the standard PPL you have to fly in Visual Flight Rules (VFR) condition. The most basic part to remember about this is you must be in sight of the ground. However even if you meet the technical parameters of flying VFR on a particular day, you might just not want to fly. After all if you’re taking friends or family up for a joy ride you’re going to want it to be nice, with great visibility. If you’re a pilot for the airlines planning a route across the Atlantic, you’re going to accept much worse, but still safe weather.

Part of the tuition is learning to read the Met F214 and F215 briefings. In fact when you are training to be a pilot you’ll probably end up reading these every day. The F214 is the Spot Wind Forecast, often called the Winds Aloft. This shows you for various points around the UK a table of Altitude (in thousands of feet), Wind Speed and Direction, and temperature. So for example looking at the briefing below, at 52 degrees 30 minutes North, 02 degrees 30 minutes West, at 2000 feet the wind speed is 30 knots coming from 210 degrees (it always show you where the direction from, not to). The temperature at 2000 feet is reasonably warm +8 degrees C.

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You’ll need this information during navigation so you can work out how much your track is going to be effected by wind so you can set a heading to offset the effect. It’s also good to see what the weather is coming from.

The F215 is the UK low-level forecast chart. This splits the UK up into areas A, B, C etc. with some of the areas possibility split into sub-areas, So B1, D1 on the example below. The map shows where each areas covers around the UK, and the table shows the Surface Visibility and Weather, the Cloud, and at what altitude the air temperature will be 0 degrees C.

Reading the information on this chart is one of the skills you’ll need to have to pass Meteorology. It’s written in an easily understandable code, but only easy after some practice.

In the example below you can see in area C the visibility is 30km with no significant weather (NIL). There are Isolated areas of 7km vis with Showers of Rain in the Far South (ISOL 7 KM SHRA FAR S) and Isolated areas of Hill Fog (ISOL HILL FG)

There are areas of Scattered or Broken Cumulus and Stratocumulus with moderate icing and moderate turbulence with a base at 1500-3000 feet altitude extending up to 5000-8000 feet, and extending up above 10000 feet in the far South. The air drops to 0 degrees C at around 6000 feet altitude.

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Phew! Even now months later reading and translating that in my head was an effort. And I do it every day. One basic rule of thumb is the longer the text in an area, the worse the weather is likely to be. Not always true but worth remembering!

If you think you can read and understand all this, then you’re well on your way to understanding Met. I could go on for hours about Meteorology but I won’t. Just be prepared to put quite a bit of effort in, both when you’re a student, and afterwards when you are qualified.

Here’s a typical question for you “What is the ISA (International Standard Atmosphere) temperature at 5000ft?” Let me know if you can work out the answer.

I’d put a lot of effort into Met, and I had over a day of solid tuition from Graham on the subject, so even though the exam was very technical, and the hardest I’d had so far, I managed to get 100% I knew that wasn’t the end though, more than any other topic Meteorology is something you need to keep up to date with.

After passing the exam we moved onto HPL. This covers The Body, Health, The Mind, Crew Management etc. This is a much simpler subject, and many of the questions are based on common sense (not always the case in aviation). For example a typical question might be “in a cockpit, how should a set of controls that operate different systems ideally be designed?” And if you can’t work out the answer are you sure you want to be a pilot?

Of course I’d relaxed when doing my HPL exam, and I rushed the test a little. I got what I deserved as I got one question wrong, and one so obvious I could have kicked myself afterwards!

Well at least I had six down, and just three to go, and a two week break before my next exam.

If you want to know more, the podcast, as always, contains an expanded version of the above.