Monday, 16 August 2010

CPL training, part 3

More CPL navigation!  I was given the destination of a small village near Montgomery, in Powys.  It turns out, looking on Google Maps, that it was Weston Madoc though I did not know or need to know this at the time.  In keeping with last time, Liverpool were operating on runway 27 so we left the zone at Chester and the navigation was planned from there.  Much like the previous session, with the preparation done in advance, the flight went according to plan and saw us arrive at the halfway point slightly east of track.  I made a small correction to the course, but was admonished for doing this by feel rather than calculating a heading correction and applying it.  Sometimes experience isn't a good thing, and I must calculate headings for corrections in future.

Nevertheless, with a suitable heading correction applied, we arrived overhead our destination at the expected time.  It had been easy to see it coming - a lesson learned! - and be prepared to point out where it was.  As the town was close to Welshpool airfield, we talked to them and gave position reports to let any local pilots know that we were there.

Earlier, while I had been preparing the aircraft, my instructor had called an airfield to check that the cafe was open.  I knew the call had taken place (it was in fact my suggestion to do it while I checked the aircraft) but not which airfield it had been to.  This was so that I would not know where we would be diverting to with the planned navigation complete.  Above Weston Madoc, I was told to divert to Wellesbourne Mountford, a lovely airfield that I have been to several times.  As before, this involves guessing a heading from the chart, setting course and then planning the diversion  We turned east and I got to work with the protractor and ruler, finding that my original guess had been within a few degrees of the subsequent result.  With the small correction made and timings calculated, we were on our way

It quickly became clear that we were some way south of the intended track, and that my heading keeping had been well below my usual standard.  I plotted a new course and turned slightly left onto that heading, doing a much better job of holding it this time.  Even so, after a short time I noticed again that we were south of the intended track.  To confirm this, I was asked to make a quick position fix - no problem with a couple of VORDMEs around.  I used the HON to fix our position, confirming that we were indeed south of track.  Another correction and allowing some more for the wind saw us proceed to Wellesbourne without any further difficulties.  On the ground over a cup of coffee for my instructor and something soft for me we agreed that the northerly wind had been stronger than forecast and that by noticing the effect of this, I had done sufficient to satisfy both my instructor and the examiner.

On the return flight, after being careful not to climb above 1500ft and infringe Birmingham's airspace - runway 36 departures from Wellesbourne are the no. 1 infringement in the UK - we did some more general handling.  A few PFLs on the way west, before we could get high enough to do some steep turns and some stalls.  Nothing really to report, other than continuing to practice using rudder in the steep turns to maintain altitude without looking like I'm doing so.  Examiners apparently do not like this standard technique for aerobatic pilots!

Some way south of Liverpool my instructor was happy to just say "take me home" and let me get on with it.  I  have plenty of flights from and to there, so liaising with the controllers and getting home isn't a big deal.  We entered the zone at Oulton Park (as we were VFR) and proceeded along the usual set of clearances to Helsby, the south bank of the Mersey and then onto left base.  Again we had some fun squeezing in between airliners and were offered the chance, while orbiting over the south bank, to fit in between two 737s.  Hauling the aircraft round to point at a short final and keeping the speed up ensured that we made the gap without difficulty and I rounded off the day with a very smooth landing.

As we got closer to Liverpool after entering the zone, there was a chance to chat - the flying at that point is routine and easy and the conditions were easy VFR.  My instructor declared that I should do an instructor rating when I'm done with the CPL.  Easy for him to say; it's me that would have to pay for it!  It does interest me though.  I've always enjoyed taking other people flying and helping fellow pilots in situations that I have more experience with.  Maybe it'll happen...

Thursday, 5 August 2010

CPL training, part 2

The second session of my CPL course was to focus on the other part of the required flying.  With general handling not a problem, navigation was next up.  Since getting a PPL, I've been navigating simply by following ground features and the magic magenta line on the GPS, largely in conjunction with the Direct To function.  I've always kept tabs on my position on a chart and by this (to my knowledge) have always got where I wanted to be and avoided infringing controlled airspace.  When the IR flying began, navigation got easier - a case of following the magenta line being the proper way to do things, with some tracking to and from beacons and some letting ATC tell me which direction I should go in.

For the CPL course, it's back to the age old method of dead reckoning.  In this, before flight I am required to calculate the headings I should fly, taking into account forecast winds.  When airborne, I follow the headings and note down the times at which I will be arriving at my waypoints.  These waypoints I have to identify from the air, so I need to know how to look for at least 3 identifying features of what I can see out of the window.  These can be things like a canal running through a town, a road running to the north of the waypoint where another one meets it at a certain angle or the like.  Essentially, anything that I can see on my chart and can also see as a feature of whatever it is I'm navigating towards.

I was instructed to plan a flight from Liverpool to Hanley, a small airstrip to the west of Birmingham.  When there, I would be given a diversion and we'd end up landing at Shobdon for refreshments before returning to Liverpool.  As runway 27 was in use, I planned to leave the Liverpool zone at Chester and from there make straight for Hanley.  This would involve a MATZ crossing so I would be talking to Shawbury for most of the route.

If flying the IR has taught me anything, it's how to hold height and heading.  With a bit of trust in dead reckoning, at the halfway point between Chester and Hanley we were less than a mile off track, despite a fairly strong crosswind (290 at 15-20 knots), so only a small correction to the heading and ETA were required.  20 or so minutes later we were were I was expecting Hanley to be, and I managed to convince myself that it was off to our left and I had over-corrected at the half way point.  As I was about to turn and search for it, my instructor told me to have a bit more faith in my planning - the strip was just to our right, exactly where it should have been.  As the pilot sits on the left, it was hidden from me and had this been a test (and not my second lesson) I would at that point have failed.  Looks like I'll have to be a bit less eager to make what I see on the ground fit what I see on the chart next time.

With our position at the strip confirmed, I was asked to divert towards Hay-on-Wye ("I haven't read a good book for a while...").  The procedure for the diversion will be familiar to anyone who has taken the PPL skill test or has theirs coming up, but essentially you set heading roughly towards the new destination, then draw a line on the chart, measure it and work out the direction with your handy protractor, then fill in the diversion line on your plog, calculate an ETA and get on with it.  I'd managed to be remarkably accurate with my initial heading guess, and onwards we went towards Hay.  It has a good few features leading up to it so this time there was no doubt that we were overhead the right place.  A quick orbit for my instructor to see the town and we set heading for Shobdon.

Simple overhead join, paying attention to their noise-sensitive neighbours, a good landing and in we went for a drink.  There wasn't much to talk about in reference to the flight - it had all gone according to plan - so we just chatted away about other things for 20 minutes before heading back to the aircraft and back to Liverpool.

On the climbout, we did a practice EFATO (Engine Failure After Take Off), highlighting the lack of options if anything were to go wrong shortly after getting airborne to the west of Shobdon!  I elected to turn about 90 degrees to the right as that's about the only option there was.  Generally, one would try not to turn too far from straight ahead but an EFATO is not a time for hard and fast rules.  We'd likely have survived and got into the nominated field but I'm certainly glad it was just a practice!

After a couple of steep turns (one either way) cunningly chosen to disorient me (it didn't; I was expecting it!) I was asked to make a position fix.  This is done using a couple of navaids - radio beacons on the ground - which pilots can check their direction and/or distance from.  Choosing the BCN VOR as we were heading almost directly away from it, and then the HON VOR as we were heading roughly on a tangent to it meant the lines would meet at something like right angles, allowing an accurate fix.  Later on, we repeated the position fix using just the SWB VOR and it's DME, which shows the direction and distance from a single point.

I was then asked to plan another diversion, this time to Bunbury, just under the 2,500ft section of Manchester's airspace.  Having flown in this part of the world for my entire PPL holding life, it wasn't much of a stretch to plan the descent to remain below controlled airspace.  With Bunbury located, we rejoined the Liverpool zone at Oulton Park and made for the field.

The controller tried to get us in before an Easyjet 737 that was being vectored on what amounted to a wide circuit.  Able to hear that this was their plan, and after telling my instructor this was my plan, I kept our speed up all the way in to final.  We landed slightly long and slightly fast so that we could be clear of the runway quickly and avoid delaying the orange holiday tube.  Despite my instructor's doubts, this all worked out very well, getting both aircraft down in the most expeditious manner.  We both thanked the tower over the radio and made our way to the parking area to shut down and debrief.