100th Hour Flight to Gamston

A Milestone in the Logbook

With University taking up my time and (mainly) lack of funds, it has taken what some may think as a long time, but a recent flight to Gamston meant I have now reached 100 hours Total Flight Time (TT). What an amazing 100 hours it has been- which has included training for and gaining my PPL (48 hours TT), after around 70 hours gaining my IMC rating, with the rest of the hours taking myself, friends and family around the North of the country!

The flight was planned for Gamston, a lovely little airfeild just south of Doncaster. My passenger was planned to be my girlfriend; who has flown with me before on a flight with my parents soon after gaining my PPL, but this was the first time she would be upfront with me. As usual I did all the pre-flight planning the day before, with only final weather related calculations and phoning for PPR to do on the day of the flight. The planned track was an easy one, routing direct using the VOR located at Gamston. I planned to fly at a minimum of 3500ft to avoid the military zones along the route.

Durham Tees Valley to Gamston

We got to the airfield in plenty of time  and filled in all the required paper work. Mine was the first flight of the day and so I completed the walk around checks carefully after which we settled down into the plane. I got the engine started and requested departure clearance and taxi. After a wave to my instructor, who was in another plane getting ready to take his first student out, we were on our way to holding point A1. The run-up checks showed no problems and so in no time we were in the air.

We were cleared to leave the zone to the south direct on track and so I took up an intercepting angle onto the VOR radial to GAM VOR. I tracked the VOR all the way down, which made navigation very easy. We were passed from Durham radar to Leeming Zone and then eventually to Linton Zone; who all pointed out a couple of other traffic, other than which all was quiet.

Me and my girlfriend on the way to Gamston.

Me and my girlfriend on the way to Gamston.

Approaching the town of Selby, Leeming advised us to freecall Doncaster; which I did requesting a zone transit direct to Gamston. After passing my details, I was given a basic service and then eventually clearance to transit controlled airspace not above 4000ft direct GAM. I read this back and was pleased to be given a direct route clearance. Soon after this I got a call asking if I’d copied, to which I read back the clearance again. This time Doncaster called asking the readability and cancelling my transit clearance. I orbited Selby to avoid the zone, while still hearing the controller fine but not getting them to hear me. I quickly tuned in Doncaster radar on the second comm radio and called them again. Thankfully this time the call was heard and I was re-issued the zone transit….phew!!

After passing overhead Doncaster I could begin to make out Gamston in the distance. When we were a little closer I requested frequency change onto Gamston radio. Runway 03 left hand circuit was in use and so I joined on the left downwind. It is quite a short distance from the threshold of 03 to the first exit of taxiway A, and so I decided to practice my short field landing technique; with the knowledge I actually had 1600m of runway, should I not get it perfect. I Slowed down nicely on base and deployed two-stages of flap, everything was looking good. I deployed the final stage on final and focused on my aiming point and ensuring the speed was in control. The touch down was very good; which I was pleased about after my recent heavy landings in the lighter Tomahawk plane (todays flight was in my usual Piper Warrior). I also managed to stop in time to make the turn off at taxiway A; so it was a good short field landing and certainly good practice.

I went to pay the landing fee, and then me and my girlfriend had a nice drink in the cafe which looks out onto the Apron. Perhaps slightly pricey, but I would say very worth it, as the food was very nice. We sat watching the coming and going for a while and then made our way back to the plane.

The plane parked at Gamston.

The plane parked at Gamston.

Return to Teeside

After starting the engine, performing the run-up checks and with “no known traffic” we backtracked on the runway getting ready to takeoff. After a final check that everything looked in order, we were soon taking off. My girlfriend commented that she loves taking-off and I certainly agree with her!! After departing the circuit I changed frequency back to Doncaster to hopefully get my second zone clearance of the day. Once again this was given direct track not above 4000ft and so I set about intercepting the 350 degree radial which would take us back to D.T.V.

The flight back was much the same as the journey out (except no radio problems this time!!) and so was a good chance to take in the great views. I listened to the ATIS at Durham Tees some distance away and noted a change in runway from the one we had departed on. After calling up Durham Radar we were given clearance to enter the control zone for a right hand base join. By the time we had joined base, a jet was just landing and so we were asked to report final. Again the landing was a good one, which completed a very nice flight

After taxiing back and shutting down the plane we made our way back to complete the paper work and reach into my wallet. Getting back into the flight school office saw me enter my 100th hour into my logbook (100 hours 50 min to be precise). I didn’t imagine that I’d be doing that when I first entered that very same office ready for my first ever “trial flight”.

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Back In The Air

A Change of Plan

With my University exams finished the back end of May, I had planned and booked flights for the 1st June. I had managed to book one of the Warriors for a few hours on that day. The first of which was with an instructor and the remaining was for me to fly to Gamston. Since it had been a long time since I had last flown, I planned the flight a couple of days before, which I then went over again the day before the flight. The weather was forecast and eventually turned out to be almost perfect flying weather.

I arrived at the airfield were I was told that the plane I was booked in for and also the other Warrior had an oil leak. Being a Sunday, there was no way of fixing the issue and so all flights in the Warriors for the next three or four days needed to be cancelled. With my chances of flying looking less and less likely, I did manage to get an hour with my instructor in one of the Tomahawks. At least this would reset my currency and also meant I could get back up in the air which I had been thoroughly missing!

We planned on doing a small navigation exercise and then completing some maneuvers, before coming back to join the circuit. We booked out and set off on the ten minute walk to the plane. I completed the walk-around to check that everything appeared in order; which it did. It took a couple of attempts to get the engine to start. When it did everything again looking as it should. After a call to the tower to get the departure clearance and taxi clearance we set off. I remembered to check the breaks immediately after beginning forward motion and my instructor did the same. When we arrived at the hold to begin the run-up checks, we heard that parachuting had commenced overhead the airfield which was due to continue most of the day. This meant we would have quite a long wait, till all the parachutists landed safely, before we would get take-off clearance. I didn’t mind this though because it allowed me plenty of time to thoroughly go through all the checks; reminding myself of the layout on the Tomahawk which I hadn’t flown for over a year. Soon after we saw the last parachutist land on his target spot, I was given clearance to take-off.

Maneuvers and Into The Circuit

The small navigation exercise went well and it give me a change to get settled in the air again. For the maneuvers we went through stalls, recovery from unusual attitudes and advanced turns. These all went well, with me remembering the correct recovery techniques. Though I did have to remember to look out the window, since the last time I had done these maneuvers was during my instrument training. I do think its good to practice these from time to time regardless of how much, or in my case how little, flying has been done. With both me and my instructor satisfied we headed back for a standard overhead join. Thankfully, the next parachuting wave had just landed so there was no delay in rejoining the circuit. The overhead join went well, but my circuit was a little tight meaning I was high turning onto final. I managed to get rid of the excess height, but during the flare I pulled back slightly too much causing a ‘ballooning’ effect which made the landing quite hard.

My next circuit was much better, but again I ballooned on landing meaning another rather heavy landing. By this time another wave of parachuting was taking place. The tower give us two options, either taxi back round to the hold, or orbit at the beginning of a wider than normal circuit. We chose the latter. This give us time to talk about my landings; with us both concluding that I usually fly the Warrior which requires heavier control inputs that the Tomahawk. Though I did think to myself that I wanted to nail the next couple of landings!

We were eventually cleared to continue the circuit and report final as the last of the parachutists touched down. My next landing was much better. After taking off again we practiced an engine failure after takeoff. I remembered to immediately lower the nose to maintain best glide speed and found a nice field ahead of the nose. Satisfied I would make the field, we climbed out back to circuit height. The next landing was made as a glide approach. I again pulled back slightly too much during the flare, but recognised it quicker, meaning the touch down was OK.  My instructor was satisfied and so the next landing was for full-stop. I made sure this last landing was the best of them all and then taxied back to the apron to shut the plane down.

I was very pleased with this flight overall. Some of my landings were heavier than I’d like but thats to be expected given both the length of time since last flying and also not flying the Tomahawk in quite some time. It was great to get back in the air and I should be able to fly more now that I have a little bit more time.

Quick Update

It has been quite a while since I posted, so I thought it would be a good idea to give a quick update. I haven’t flown in quite some time now, so am out of currency and passenger currency. The lack of flying is because it has been a very busy few months with my Masters course and my exams are now rapidly approaching in a couple of weeks. My flying has had to take a back seat, which is a shame, but I must focus on my Masters. But, my exams are finished by the end of May and things should start to become less busy. So I plan on getting lots of flying done after that. This is great timing since it should be good weather!

The first flight will obviously be to get up with my instructor and get current again. The plan after that is to visit Gamston airport, as I enjoyed flying there with the fly-away from the club and so it would be nice to visit again. I then would like to start visiting airfields on the Southern chart. This was one of my goals for the year and it would be great to do some exploring. This plan should be helped into the long term, since, in September I will be moving to Manchester to start a job. Manchester Barton airport will probably become my home airfield and so this opens up more chance of flying further south on my tight budget! I also think that moving home airport to Barton will be good since it is quite a large GA airfield.

I hope to be able to fly once a month after May and so the blog should start to become more interesting. Anyway, back to revision for me, and all things going to plan I will have another post in a months time!

 

A Flight to Reminisce

After arranging a flight in the warrior, the next questions was who to take and where to go. Since I had done my IMC rating over the summer it had been a while since I had taken my parents up with me.With my passengers agreed, the destination was the only decision left to make. As a child my parents often used to take me to the local seaside towns of Whitby and Scarborough, on weekends, for day trips out. We used to spend the day walking the seafront eating fish and chips and (probably slightly too much) ice cream. I thought it would be nice to visit these places again from the air. I had seen Whitby from the air before, as it was the first place I had flown to after I gained my PPL; although this was solo and so would be nice to share the experience with my family.

Planning

I planned most of the flight, the night before. On the morning of the flight, I made a note of the NOTAMS and used the forecasted winds to calculate headings and ground speeds. I checked I had everything in my flight bag and we set of to the airport. After filling in the pre-flight paper work, booking out with ATC and getting guest airside passes for my parents, the three of us set of towards the plane. Once there, my parents spoke between themselves. Having flown with me many times now they know that I like to concentrate on the pre-flight walk-around (especially seen as this was the first flight for many days).

Once I was done, we bundled into the plane and made ourselves comfortable. It was quite a cold day and with the plane having not flown in a while it took quite a long time for the engine to warm up. The wind favored runway 23 and so, after calling and reading back the departure clearance from the tower, we were given taxi clearance to hold at A1. I performed the run up and pre-take off checks before reporting “G-TF ready for departure”.

Amazing views on departure

After take-off I made a right turn onto my first heading. We cleared the zone boundary to the south east and climbed while doing so to 3,500ft. It was a very clear morning which made the views fantastic. D.T.V radar provided us a basic service and we quickly overflew the towns of Guisborough and Loftus. Soon we began flying down the east coast. I always think that the views along the English coastline are some of the best views, especially on a clear day like this.

It wasnt long before Whitby came into view. I did a few orbits of the bay and then continued on towards Scarborough.

Overflying Whitby bay

Overflying Whitby bay.

I planned to route well away from Fylingdales HIRTA; even more than the recommended 1.5 nm clearance. When I was certain that my flight path would route well clear I turned to head towards Scarborough.

Overflying Childhood memories

As we approached the seaside town, we all started pointing out features which we recognised; the park which we used to walk around, the 1.5 mile walk along the seafront and even the Fish and chip shop we used to go to. It was a lovely experience which brought back many found memories.

Scarborough just coming into view.

Scarborough just coming into view.

A section of the 1.5 mile walk we used to do, with a view of the castle.

A section of the 1.5 mile walk we used to do, with a view of the castle.

A nice view of Scarborough Castle.

A nice shot of Scarborough Castle.

An easy return

The route I choose back to D.T.V routed around Fylingdales HIRTA. It was a relatively straight forward route, which overflew kirkbymoorside. By this time we were in contact with Linton who provided a basic service. I did a lot of my PPL training around the North York Moors, but one recent addition is the mast which goes to an altitude of 2,300ft. Although not a worry for us at the altitude I was cruising at, I still decided to route to the right of it towards Stokesley just to be safe.

Once overhead Stokesley I contacted D.T.V radar asking for a rejoin into the zone. They cleared me for to join left base for runway 23 and give me the QNH and QFE; which I put into each of the two altimeters. Joining from the south it is fairly easy to spot the airport from a distance. I started descending to circuit height and began the pre-landing checks. I made a scan of the downwind to ensure no traffic (even though ATC would have mentioned if there was) and joined left base. The tower asked me to report final and I began the decent. I started descending to late on base, which meant that I was slightly high on final. My speed was fine though and so I added an extra stage of flaps which sorted the height issue out.

After touch down and clearing the runway we were cleared to taxi back to the apron. I shut down the engine and secured everything, then made our way back to the office to complete the paperwork (and pay).

The planned route.

The planned route route.

A very nice flight which brought back some very found memories. The views were stunning, which always helps remind me just how fortunate I am to have  a PPL.

2014 Aims

It has been a while since I have posted and this is mainly due to lack of flying. I was home from University for the Christmas break and did hope on completing a few flights. But with a mix of lack of availability and with the horrible weather the UK has seen over the last few weeks, meant this didn’t happen. On the plus side of things, I have now received my new EASA PPL with IR(R). It took quite a long time due to my logbook going walkabouts around the CAA office, but thankfully it eventually turned up.

With the end of 2013 it was time to reflect on the years flying. The main achievement was completing my IMC rating (aka IR(R)). It was a course that I found both enjoyable and very interesting. I did two “social” flights with the club, which was a new and highly enjoyable experience for me.  I moved away from ‘local’ flights by visiting new airports; including Gamston and Blackpool.

So moving forward, I wanted to set some goals for 2014, to further develop my flying. Here are the main ones;

  1. Visit an airfield (maybe several) on my southern England or Scotland chart. I want to start visiting new airfields further away from D.T.V and so making the most of these charts is a good way to do this.
  2. Use my IMC (IR(R)). I think it is important for me to start gaining experience in real IMC conditions and complete instrument approaches.
  3. Take part in more “social” flights. The ones I did in 2013 were highly enjoyable and a great way for me to learn from more experienced pilots as well. So doing a couple more of these in 2014 would be good I think.
  4. Add the night rating to my licence. 

I think that these are achievable goals for the year, given that I must concentrate most of my time into my masters. I had a really good years flying in 2013 and hope this continues this year.

IMC Rating Flight Test

Once I had completed all aspects of the course (including the ground exam) and my instructor and I felt I was ready, I booked a date for the flight test. I sat my IMC flight test on the 9th September 2013. I was a little nervous on the morning of the test but this turned out to be unnecessary. I found the experience much more enjoyable than my PPL skills test (I have heard a few people say the same thing).

So after the pre-flight briefing and planning we headed out to the plane. Due to quite a bit of low cloud to the North of the airport the examiner had chosen for me to head out to the south east to do the general handling part of the test. The wind at the time of planning meant that I had also planned for the departure and subsequent approaches to be on runway 23. After refueling the aircraft and performing the walk around checks I struggled into my seat (anyone who has flown in a PA28 will know that it is quite awkward to climb over to the left hand seat, with the only door being on the right) and settled down. I performed the start up checks and started the engine. I tuned and made sure to identify (a certain fail if you don’t do this) the navigation frequencies that I would need. I also tuned in the ATIS (the automated weather observation for the airport) and in true aviation style the wind had changed and now arrival and departure was on runway 05. I asked the tower for the departure and taxi clearance then taxied out to holding point C to perform the run-up checks. After receiving clearance to take off I taxied onto the runway- some final checks of the instruments- and applied full power.

We cleared the airport zone to the south east while climbing to 3500ft. I was asked to perform the recovery from unusual attitudes. First recovery from a spiral dive, then recovery from approach to the stall (high nose and speed decreasing). The examiner then covered the attitude indicator and direction indicator to start the Limited panel part of the test. After a bit of flying straight and level I was asked to perform climbs, descends, turns and recovery from unusual attitudes on Limited panel.

After resuming full panel I was asked to plot my position on a map using navigation aids, then I was asked to turn to intercept and track the 320 radial from Ottringham VOR. At this point I felt like the test was going well but I knew that the most workload was about to come in the approaches.

The two approaches we had planned to do were the procedural NDB followed by a missed approach into a radar vectored ILS. After the change of runway at departure, I had expected runway 05, but, after asking D.T.V. radar for clearance to enter the zone and track to the TD NDB for the first approach I was given runway 23. After a quick change of approach chart and another recap of the approach I began to track towards the NDB. Once overhead the NDB I began flying the holding pattern. We flew a couple of holds and then I declared “G-TF ready for the procedural NDB”. I felt like I flew the approach well and made sure not to descend below my minimum decent altitude (another big fail point). At the missed approach point I went around. I turned onto the headings that ATC passed to me in order to intercept the ILS.

A radar vectored ILS and bad weather circuit later I was back at the apron shutting down the aircraft. My ILS had gone well, despite the variable wind which made tracking interesting. Once the engine was shut down the examiner told me I had passed and words cannot describe how happy I felt. That was the last flight of the day for that aircraft so we tied it down and put the cover on, then headed back to the flight school for the de-brief.

All the forms (and money) were posted to the CAA soon after the flight test. So hopefully I should have my new EASA PPL(A) with IR(R) very soon.

I hope this post and my last one  are useful for anyone thinking about or currently doing their IMC rating. I have found flying on instrument to be far more enjoyable than visual flying and I intend on using the skills I have learnt even in visual weather conditions. The sense of achievement after completing an instrument approach and breaking through the cloud is amazing.

Thanks for reading.

IMC Rating / IR(R)

The nature of the weather in the UK  means that there are many days in which flying is not possible due to the weather not being VFR conditions. As a result, I always intended to add the IMC rating to my PPL, once I had gained the necessary hours to start the course. It was a few years after gaining my PPL that I decided to start the course; since I wanted to build up my confidence flying VFR first. The required hours are as follows:

  • 25 hours experience as an aeroplane pilot since date of application for PPL(A);
  • the above hours must include 10 hours as pilot in command (PIC) of which 5 hours must be on cross country flights;
  • a Flight Radiotelephony Operators Licence.

Note: the 15 hours flying for the IMC rating course may be included in the 25 hours total experience.

For those reading who perhaps don’t know what the IMC rating is; it’s an ‘add-on’ to my PPL which allows me to fly in bad weather. The basic PPL only allows the holder to fly as pilot in command when in sight of the surface and with flight visibility of at least 3km. With the IMC added to the PPL, the flight can be conducted with flight visibility reduced to 1800m for take-off and landing, and can be flown out of sight of the surface i.e in cloud.

There is an ongoing discussion concerning the future of this rating after April 2014, which i’m not going to discuss in great detail here. But, what is known is that pilots in the UK may add the IMC to their EASA-FCL licence, in which it will be named IR(R) which has the same privileges as the IMC rating. They may then exercise the privileges indefinitely, as long as their rating remains current (by sitting a flight test every 25 months). At the time of me writing this, it is not yet known if new IR(R) will be issued after April 2014. What I will say is that I really hope that the rating is preserved after April 2014. In my opinion, it is an excellent rating and is something that pilots flying in England really need, since the weather is so variable. I have read and heard countless stories from PPL pilots saying how the IMC rating saved their lives. Perhaps you have your own similar experiences of this?

In June 2013, after saving up money I started the IMC rating course hoping to complete the whole thing in around two months. The course is basically split into four sections; Full Panel Instrument Flying, Limited Panel Instrument Flying (which simulates failure of Attitude and Directional indicators), Radio Navigation Aids and Instrument Approach Procedures. On my first few lesson, I was taught to perform; turns, climbs/ descents, straight and level flight and recovery from unusual attitudes on instruments. This was done using both Full and Limited Panel from the onset so that they aren’t learnt as two separate skills. At the beginning of the course, I began to appreciate why some PPL holders (including myself) would find it difficult to perform the 180 degree turn, which is taught as part of the PPL course, should they find themselves inadvertently enter real IMC. During the first couple of hours I found performing turns and holding altitude accurately quite challenging. However, it soon began to feel quite natural with practice.

All turns in IMC are done at what is called Rate 1. This is a turn of 3 degrees per second. So to perform turns on Limited panel (without the AI and DI) there are two methods which can be used. Either apply an under/over correction on the magnetic compass based on the direction of the turn. Or (the method I was taught) divide the total turn in degrees by 3 and begin a turn (in the shortest direction) for that many seconds. For example, a turn from due North 360, to a heading of 150 is left 150 degrees; 150 divided by 3 is 50. Therefore, turn left at rate 1 for 50 seconds. My instructor also taught me to make a mental note of how many seconds the turn should take even when flying on Full panel to help build up the speed of my mental maths- particularly for heading changes which don’t divide by 3 exactly.

At this point we then started to travel further away from my local airport. The first flight was a trip to Carlisle in order to complete an NDB approach. We tracked away from Durham Tees Valley using the NDB situated just to the north east of the airport (TD) and then at the halfway point switched to track towards the NDB at Carlisle in order to complete the let down. The runway in use at Carlisle was 25. The approach plate says to track out from the NDB at Carlisle on a track of 083 for 7.5 miles, descending to 2600 ft. At 7.5 miles turn left in order to intercept the 251 track inbound to the runway, descending down to the minimum descent altitude, until you are visual with the runway. The cloud on the day of the flight was down to around 900ft, so it was very good practice. We broke through the cloud and began the visual landing. After a nice touch down I taxied into the apron, parked up and paid the landing fee. As a side note to any pilots reading, I have visited Carlisle a few times now and have always enjoyed each visit. The landing fee is reasonable, the staff and controllers are very friendly and the cafe is reasonably priced, so it is certainly worth a visit. On the return journey, navigation was again achieved using the NDB’s. Me and my instructor decided that the approach at Durham would be a radar vectored ILS. This is where the controller passes heading and altitude information in order to intercept the ILS. Overall this was an extremely enjoyable flight. I felt that I learnt a lot from going further distance and landing at another airport- since this is exactly what I will use the rating for!

A second, longer trip was to Blackpool. This time tracking was achieved by using a VOR paired with distance measuring equipment (DME). At the flight planning stage, radials from the POL VOR were drawn towards my desired track from Durham Tees to Blackpool together with the distances. In flight, as each radial was approached, the distance was checked. For example, on the radial due North of the POL VOR the distance to my planed track was 30nm. If, in flight, as the 360 degree radial was centered the distance was greater than 30nm, then this indicated the plane has drifted right of track etc. I found this a very good way of navigating. The approach was an ILS into runway 28 at Blackpool. The landing had a bit of a cross wind, which made tracking the localizer more difficult, but it was a great experience. We taxied to the “Loop apron” and then went to pay the landing fee. The return followed a similar pattern, this time entering the holding pattern at Durham for the ILS. The holding pattern is a way to “park” airplanes in the sky. It’s a racetrack shaped pattern which has some sort of ground navigation as the holding fix (an NDB at Durham Tees). We flew a couple of holds and then proceeded into the approach.

Thats it for now and in the next post I will talk about what happened in my IMC flight test.