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.

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