Newton's laws of motion as applied to me.

General Aviation focused journal, recounting the process of learning to fly and of achieving the private pilots license.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


Apologies for lack of posting.. life has been hectic to put it mildly. Since my last post on 11th May I have been flying a fair amount, accumulating 43 more hours to my log book. I have found since achieving the pilots license, a whole world has opened up for me to explore, at the moment I have barely scratched the surface but have managed a trip accross the channel to Ostende in Belguim and have flown above clouds over the mountains in North Wales.

My IMC training is completed albeit the final skills test which is scheduled for next Wednesday, which I am half excited about and half dreading. The IMC has proved to be an exacting course but enjoyable and has improved the accuracy of my flying enormously.

Over the next few weeks I will attempt to get some updates on here with some photos of the highlights of the past 43 hours.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

IMC Lesson #4

Today was unusual attitude recovery on partial panel, also climbing, descending, timed turns etc. The weather was amazingly smooth and cloudless, which makes a change! It makes it one hell of a lot easier flying on instruments when you havn't got continual thermals and turbulence to throw all the needles around. The only downside was again the lesson was spent under the hood as no actual clouds to screw around with, over all the recoveries went well although I still need to be more gradual with pitch changes. We also looked at ADF tracking which so far worked out OK, next lesson we will be doing more of that with VOR/DME holds and NDB holds.

Afterwards, I took a back seat ride with another student on IMC lessons, he is further ahead than me and therefore is practicing ILS approaches and missed approaches. Was really cool to watch how it all came together, and I wondered if I would be able to cope with the huge workload of managing the instruments, radio and precise descents on the glideslope. During these practice approaches the student was asked to hold to allow other traffic to come in, therefore I got to see him perform a near perfect oval holding pattern over the Ockham VOR.

Friday, May 05, 2006

IMC Lesson #3

Weather today was gorgeous, sunshine and few clouds around and fairly warm... damn. I was hoping for a nice low overcast to get more actual instrument time.

Today we did more maneouver's under the hood, James said he was happy with full panel so on to partial panel, placing post-it notes over the artificial horizon and the directional indicator. We did all the usual maneovers such as climbing, descending, rate one turns which is taught on the PPL course (an angle of bank which allows the aircraft to turn at a rate of 3 degrees per second, therefore taking 60 seconds to turn 180 degrees), all without the use of the vacuum instruments. We also covered turning to headings using the compass and timed turns. All in all I was fairly happy with these, although the concentration level required when the turn co-ordinator is bouncing around in the bumpy air was immense. It is really satisfying to look at the compass take a reading, work out the time needed to turn onto a given heading and then roll out after that time to nail the heading.

We also practiced unusual attitude recovery using instruments, also tried flying the aircraft with my eyes closed just by feel. Every time I opened my eyes we had got into an unusual attitude, highlighting how easy it is in IMC to get into strange attitudes due to distractions etc.

All in all I was happy with the lesson although I need to stop being lazy with adjusting trim, what I tend to do is rush through the basic Power - Attitude -Trim for straight and level etc without then re-trimming after the aircraft has settled at it's airspeed. This sloppiness is making the workload higher on myself later when I deviate off an assigned altitude.

Next lesson will be more unusual attitude recovery using partial panel and some other stuff which I now forget.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Another ferry flight

Yesterday in the evening I did another ferry flight for Cabair, taking an AA5-A to collect Matt and Angela from Biggin Hill Executive airport who were in turn taking a Piper Warrior to maintainence.

The route is really easy as it is pretty much straight East from Blackbushe, however the London class A is very close by so I would have to make sure I don't infringe their zone and with the TMA above I have to remain under 2500AMSL. I dial in the VOR at Ockham and also the VOR at Biggin Hill itself on NAV2, the AA5 I am flying this time has no DME so I take a stopwatch to time the legs and work out the planned time over first the Ockham VOR and then arrival at Biggin Hill.

After departure I get Flight Information Service from Farnborough who ask me to climb to 2400AMSL to avoid a jet passing below coming into Farnborough, once clear I descend back to 2000. I follow the VOR radial to Ockham and then change course slightly towards Biggin Hill. I call up Biggin Hill ATIS on COMM2 and listen to both frequencies. After a short time I request frequency change to Biggin Hill approach who ask me to report at 4nm to run. Approach frequency is extremely busy, with mainly jet traffic in and out.

I am tracking the radial OK and shortly pass what looks like a grass airfield.. thinking this is the gliding site at Kenley I inform Approach that I am approximately 4nm away, I am told to remain clear of their ATZ for a moment, so I circle here until they tell me to join on right base for runway 21. I can see the airfield ahead. I join for right base however see no other traffic, which is strange, checking my stop watch I confirm that I have flown the requisite time so this should be Biggin Hill ahead. I descend to 1000 on their QFE and make for right base.

Approach soon advise me that they don't have me in sight and ask me to confirm my position, I am working this out and realise that the airfield is in fact Kenley, with it's long tarmac runways it is deceptive. My mistake was basically not to pause the stopwatch during the hold earlier, therefore I forgot to factor in that time into the ETA. I continued on towards Biggin Hill and approach asked me to contact tower, they basically assumed I was totally lost, which I wasn't but I was happy to accept their detailed instructions to bring me onto final.

On final I received clearance to land so read back the clearance and thanked the controller for his assistance. Flying down final seemed to take forever, I practiced with holding a 300fpm descent rate to keep the PAPI lights with two white and two red. The runway was huge and the two taxiways either side had several large jets waiting for me to land, I thought of the poor pilots at the hold watching me descending at 70knts, must have looked agonizingly slow.

I landed nicely and was asked to take first exit onto taxiway Alpha, from there was given taxi instructions to hold at Alpha 4. Matt and Angela landed behind me so after a long taxi round this busy airport they dropped off the Piper and climbed onboard the AA5. The return to Blackbushe was uneventful and splitting the workload with Matt doing radio gave me more time to get familiar with the area, I had never flown out this way before so lots of landmarks to learn.

Anyway good flight and a reminder to double check everything!

IMC Training and ferry flight

Yesterday I started training for the Intrument Metelogical Conditions (IMC) rating, James is to be my instructor for the IMC so we met up early at Blackbushe. There was also a need to stop off at Denham airfield to pick up another pilot who had taken one of the club aircraft over to there as a ferry flight.

After a briefing we got airborne into rough conditions and low cloud, due to the route being under the London TMA we couldn't climb above 2500AMSL and therefore had to remain VMC, so I had to don the hood restricting vision to just the instruments. The hood went on right after take off and the first lesson focussed on climbing and descending, turning and airspeed control with sole reference to instruments. James also asked me to close my eyes whilst he threw the aircraft around alot to illustrate how the inner ear can decieve the brain as to movement. The instrument scan was also practiced, using the AI (Artificial Horizon) as the primary instrument and scanning out to the other instruments in turn, each time returning to the AI between checking individual instruments. The instruments in the scan differ according the maneouver being performed. Later on in the rating the training includes partial panel, simulating failure of electric or gyro instruments, but for now it is all full panel.

After a short while I was vectored on to the approach for Denham and was allowed to remove my hood as we crossed the lakes on base. We stopped and picked up Nigel and then departed back to Blackbushe, again under the hood. More of the same stuff on the way.

Back at Blackbushe we decided to go up again for another hour, however this time I hoped to use Lima Sierra, partly because of the cost factor and also it is the aircraft I fly regularly. This morning was in G-CCAT an AA5-A cheetah.

Having A checked Lima Sierra, we took her up and again on with the hood, before long we climbed into real IMC and I was able to remove the hood. Flying for extended periods of time in total white-out conditions was a new experience and at first slightly disconcerting, the cloud was dense cumulus and was pretty bumpy air. I found just flying the aircraft to require alot of concentration, with each adjustment requiring thought before action. Again we practiced climbing, descending at specific rates of descent, i.e: 90knt descent at 300fpm, or 90knt at 500fpm, turns onto headings and also tracking a VOR radial. All turns were rate one turns which varies according to the airspeed and is indicated on the turn coordinator. James handled the radio through-out and I carried out FREDA checks between scans, for example I would focus on the AI then glance at the fuel guages then back to AI, then heading, then back to the radio to set next frequencies, then back etc.

Finally we descended below the cloud back into VMC and so back on with the hood. Approaching Blackbushe, James made me keep the hood on until 300ft from the threshold on final, vectoring me there with headings. There was a fairly strong crosswind but an OK landing resulted.

The IMC will be hard work but alot of fun I have decided, later on will come unusual attitude recovery in IMC and ILS approaches, holds etc.

Cornwall again

Posting this a little after the event due to time constraints in the past couple of days. Monday was May day and therefore a public holiday, so we decided to head to Cornwall, this time to visit a WWII airfield called Perranporth which was hosting a fly-in and BBQ for pilots and the public.

The night before I carefully performed weight and balance calculations as we were flying with four of us, Tris & Vicky, Mike and me. Luckily the girls are both light! So we were within limits, I decided to reduce weight further by only taking 3/4's of fuel on board, giving us more margin. The plan was to depart around 9am, which would mean we would have lots of time in Perranporth, however in the morning the skies were overcast with a weather front moving accross the South East of England. The wait for the weather to pass gave me time to prepare the aircraft and the fuel and then we grabbed breakfast at Blackbushe.

We departed at around 11:40am with the plan to route accross to Bridport and from there follow the coastline all the way round to Cornwall. Once in the air it was pretty bumpy with a stiff headwind, I wondered if anyone was going to be ill, especially in the back. The visibility however was amazing, so was pretty nice flying aside from the rough air, I couldn't climb to find smoother air as by this time although the sky was now blue there were scattered clouds at 4000AMSL.

Nearly at Bridport we decided to stop for a break at Dunkeswell airfield, this was approximately half-way so planned and flew a diversion direct to Dunkeswell. This airfield is on a hill surrounded by woodlands and hills, with the strong wind it was obvious landing here would be challenging. We joined overhead and entered the circuit, one other aircraft was on her second attempt to land so we fell in behind her on downwind, at circuit height the air was very rough. There was a 25knt crosswind straight accross the runway which was gusty and the other aircraft had to go around again, she told ATC she would try one more time before departing for somewhere else.

I kept 10mph more speed than usual to counter the windsheer on final and followed a gusty descent towards the runway, only 10 degree of flap also and prepared myself to go around if needed. As expected windsheer caused us to drop which required a burst of full power, I managed to keep Lima Sierra on the centreline just and touched down on one wheel as a gust picked up the other wing, she soon settled onto both mains.. phew hard work.

We stopped here for an hour, and got a few teas, we watched other aircraft landing or going around again, everyone was having the same problems we did. The leg to Dunkeswell from Blackbushe had taken almost two hours flying time due to the headwind, I anticipated another hour and a half until we reached Cornwall. Take off was again challenging, and was pretty hard work as soon as we were airborne the wind was trying to push us way off the centreline.

We climbed to 3000ft and headed straight for the coast, over the water the air was smoother but still rough. The coastline looked spectacular in the sunshine so we followed that around. At Exeter I was asked to descend not above 2500AMSL due to inbound 737 for Exeter, I complied and before long we watched the 737 pass us at 3500AMSL on our left hand side. The Captain/FO was looking out for us but couldn't see us, so I called and mentioned I had him in sight.

The trip from this point went very quickly despite the slow groundspeed as there was a whole lot to look at. We crossed over the coastline again heading for Perranporth. Perranporth is right on the cliffs on the West coast of Cornwall and alot of other traffic was either inbound or outbound from there, we descended a touch and joined the circuit overhead. So far so good, however I missunderstood a simple instruction.. aircraft landing were to use runway 27 and aircraft taking off runway 23.. so I managed to line myself up for runway 23 doh! Another aircraft was lined up ready to take off as I turned onto final, I proceeded slowly until asked by the controller to confirm I was lined up for 27.. I apologised and went around. Then in a feat of amazing stupidity I managed to make the same mistake again! This time I realised my error as I turned final so called that I was going around again. Third time lucky I lined up correctly for 27 and heard a comment to other traffic from the controller "Take off blah blah blah.. look out for the Cessna 172 on final.. again!". The landing here was thankfully unchallenging.. so at least I didn't get the opportunity to embarrass myself further. As we taxied we noticed a small crowd of people (the public and other pilots) next to the tower, I asked Mike to don the hi-vis vest and carry the kneeboard hoping that they would think he was the insane pilot that had just been fooling around overhead. He laughed and declined so I kept my dark sunglasses on for the walk of shame towards the crowd.

We had missed the BBQ sadly as it was now late on, but managed to get burgers. We relaxed here for awhile in the sunshine before going for a walk towards the cliffs. The walk was past some old antiaircraft gun emplacements with bunkers just below, and along the cliffs the scenery was stunning, great way to relax.

After a time we walked back and I carried out the planning for the return to Blackbushe, as time was now getting late I decided to go direct to Blackbushe and we would now have a tailwind so the return home would be much quicker. I also took on more fuel here to be safe.

We departed at around 6:30pm having spent around two hours enjoying Cornwall, it really was a pity we couldn't have got here earlier in the day. The flight back was amazing, very few clouds were now evident and the air was totally smooth, allowing for hands off flying. I climbed to 5000AMSL to make better use of the tailwind and our progress was much improved. Very little other traffic was around also so the radio for the most part was silent.

There is something special about watching the sunset from a vantage point in the air, the sky was a mix of orange and pink shades. We landed back at Blackbushe at around 8:30pm, just before the last of the light disappeared.

Everyone enjoyed the flight, and we all agreed that this was an excellent way to spend a holiday Monday.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Late flight

On the spur of the moment I decided to go flying again yesterday, the weather was beautiful so figured I couldn't let it go to waste. I called a couple of friends of ours, Mike and his wife Vicky and asked if they wanted to come along. They did so we all met up and headed to Blackbushe.

Vicky had to yet to fly in a light aircraft, and she is coming along on tomorrows trip to Cornwall therefore it was a good chance to see if she likes it before tomorrow, as the flight time will be a couple of hours each leg.

We departed at 6:30pm after the airfield tower had closed for the evening, so all radio was to "Blackbushe Traffic". Matt an instructor I know was doing a PFL with his student so we waited at the hold until they landed. Then we went.

I had not planned anything other than checking the weather and the NOTAMS so headed out to familiar area over to the west and just flew around for a bit. Vicky enjoyed it, she was sitting in the front right seat with Mike in the back, Mike took some photos. The weather was equally as good in the air, with superb visibility and only some scattered cloud at around 4000. There was also little other traffic which surprised me, I had expected it to be really busy on a day like today.

The fuel pumps were closed before we left therefore I didn't have as long as I would have liked in the air, so we headed back after around 45minutes of flying aimlessly around. The landing was a fairly good one and an improvement on my last couple.

Afterwards we went for a beer at the bar and got talking to another couple of pilots, one of whom is another forumite on the forums. After awhile we went back for a BBQ after collecting Tris.

Nice way to spend an evening.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Test flight

Spent this afternoon at the airfield with our engineer taking a look at the oil problem, the problem was a gasket on one of the magnetos (which have just been replaced with new ones). The engineer was excellent and fielded alot of inane questions from me, as he fixed the plane.

After the work was done we went up for a test flight and she flew beautifully so no further problems need addressing.

Whilst at the airfield I booked my first IMC lesson with James an instructor for next week, I intend spending the next few months getting the instrument rating. Also if this good weather holds out the 1st of May trip to Cornwall now looks possible to go ahead. :-)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Isle of Wight again

See previous entry for this mornings flight.

This afternoon I took Lima Sierra for a sight seeing flight around the Isle of Wight, the weather remained good although convective activity as the sun warmed the earth made flying a little bumpy. Mike brought his video camera along and was able to capture some excellent footage.

The flight down to Isle of Wight was amazing for the fact that there was very little radio activity from Farnborough radar, I expected due to the weather that every man and his dog would be flying but it was eerily quiet. This caused me once to ask for a radio check from Farnborough just to make sure that I hadn't suffered a radio failure.

I followed the coastline round the island, descending fairly low over the water to give a good view of the white cliffs and the 'Needles', Mike was smiling and was amazed by the experience. Mentioning that it almost seemed surreal. The waters of the English channel below looked almost tropical and the trees inland are starting to turn from winter brown to the greens of summer. Once again over the water the air was smooth and therefore flying was easy with a couple of fingers on the control column to steer us round the contours of the island.

Circuiting the island takes a good amount of time, therefore after one trip round I headed back to Blackbushe. The route back was totally different with many aircraft on the frequency including several French pilots who had flown from Le Touquet, for the most part they struggled with our very quick and busy airwaves. They also spoke with heavy accents which the controller tried to understand but often had to ask them to repeat.

Approaching Farnborough was interesting, I requested clearance to transit their zone, however the controller was on two frequencies and was clearly running at max load. He had several aircraft under his control (IFR commercial jets), to which he passed heading and altitude changes. The controller asked me to route to the North West of the airfield and maintain my present altitude of 2500ft, to which I accepted and complied. The controller continues to pass directions to his departing aircraft. Shortly Mike points out that the aircraft is too our right, I look and he appears to be climbing and passing behind, he then whilst I am watching turns in an intercept course conflicting with us and is nose down. He is less than a mile away and now heading directly towards us! I carry out an emergency descent which leaves Mike's stomach floating about a 1000ft overhead. All this happens pretty quickly and it is only by taking this action that the risk was avoided. The controller had descended the aircraft onto our altitude explicitly and I wonder if their TCAS had warned them that we were in conflict. Anyway no harm done.

I was still outside Farnborough's ATZ and so orbitted while I gained clearance through their zone, I was told to observe and follow the helicopter on the left hand side which was passing through en-route to Odiham. I turned and slotted in behind him, keeping him in our 10 o'clock position and a good distance away, although I had to 'S' turn a bit to avoid overtaking him. I soon left him to join the adjacent Blackbushe ATZ.

On final I did a terrible unforgivable landing! I bounced on the front wheel... duh! I have actually never done this before.. and although it was a very soft bounce it reminded me of my capability of screwing up basic things. I recovered it after a short hop and the final touch-down was good.

Anyway aside from these events had a really good flight and Mike loved it also, we spent the next hour or so discussing flight training.

As a side issue, Lima Sierra has recently developed a problem with leaking oil which appears to be worsening. I checked the oil and topped up to around 7/10ths full before we set off after landing and flying two hours she had lost 1.5l so was reading just under 5/10ths. I calculated that she was losing about 0.7-0.8L of oil per hour and the evidence was dripping onto the front wheel pant. This sadly means she will now need to be grounded until the problem can be rectified, also there are suspicions she is not producing full power. Our engineer is coming to take a look at her on Friday and I have volenteered to take him for a test flight and to be on hand to assist the inspection. I am hoping rather optimistically that a flight I had planned to Cornwall again on 1st May is able to go ahead and the problem can be solved before then.

Lots of flying

7.10am I get a call from Cabair asking if I could get there as early as possible to do a ferry to Cranfield, I managed to get down to the airfield for 8am as promised. Unfortunately I had yet to plan to actual flight so spent the next 10 minutes writing a VFR flight log and examining the route. The Wx reports looked excellent although it looked likely I would have to remain around or below 2000AMSL due to cloud and also to skip under some controlled airspace.

The aircraft to ferry was another AA5 although this time the more powerful 180hp AA5-B 'Tiger', which I have limited time on (read two hours). Cranfield wanted to use the aircraft at 8:30am however due to having to refuel before departing I didn't leave until 8:44am!

The Tiger leapt on the ground eagerly with just me aboard and once in the cruise was happy at 125knts at 2300rpm. Flying this aircraft was fun. The route itself was simple enough and after 35 minutes I was near to Cranfield, the problem was I was not confident that my assesment of my position was entirely accurate, I could see a large town ahead but was unsure if it was the town I thought it was. There are two other large towns nearby therefore I decided rather than just assume my planned course was right I would dial in the VOR based at Cranfield and check with that. However at this point I realised this simple task was not proving to be as simple as I expected as G-JENN had a different set of instruments than I had ever used before. After several futile attempts to pick up the VOR radial I decided to just ask Cranfield Approach for a QDM which I could use to verify my exact position. It turned out I was where I had hoped to be so was therefore a wasted exercise, however at least I had allayed my fears.

The weather was gorgeous this morning although kept me under 2000AMSL the whole way with scattered stratus and a few cumulus. I could have gone on top but the altitude was also restricted in various places on the route by controlled airspace above and I figured be better to stay well clear of it.

After Approach passed me to Cranfield Tower I was asked to join on downwind for runway 24, lots of aircraft were in the circuit as this is a training college for commerical and airline pilots. At late downwind I was number one to land, on final I could see a queue of around 5 aircraft waiting at the hold for me. The runway is long here and I knew I would want to be towards the end of the runway in order to avoid taxiing for miles so I decided to deliberately land long, however I stupidly allowed myself to pick up a bit too much speed therefore making the landing longer than intended. I suspect my landing was condemed by many pairs of critical eyes of all the commercial pilots, bastards that they are! ;-p

Anyway enjoyable flight and I was satisfied that it went well despite my long landing. After dropping off the documents for G-JENN another aircraft had arrived to pick me up. J another instructor had also taken a ferry to Cranfield to drop off another aircraft so E picked up both up. I elected to sit in the back on the return to Blackbushe.

E took the aircraft above the cloud layer and J handled the radio, was fun just sitting in the back appreciating the sun on the clouds. At one point J had to grab controls to take evasive action with steep right turn to avoid another light aircraft on the nose. E had been checking instruments at the time and therefore missed seeing it, easily done. Evasive action was to be a theme for me today as it turned out, but more on that later.

At Blackbushe I grabbed a coffee than headed back home, I had another flight planned this afternoon to take a friend flying. Mike is interested in taking flying lessons himself although had yet to fly in a light aircraft, so I figured we could take a sight seeing trip down to the Isle of Wight (my favorite place), which I will post later about.