Flying plan today was to practice diversions as part of my preparation for a General Flight test. Weather was scattered cloud with a very strong wind from the east – indeed it was so windy I checked with Redhill that flying was even possible.
Doing the flight plan and the wind correction angles showed this was going to be an interesting flight and I would have to make substantial adjustments for the wind.
Anyway, off to Redhill, a briefing with the instructor, over to the aircraft and then the usual start up checks and radio calls. I was cleared to Runway 08R for a departure via Godstone South. Take off run was interesting as the Aircraft lifted off very quickly due to the strong wind. The wind was more or less straight down the runway so not real crosswind but it was certainly bumpy on take-off.
After climbing to 1400ft and heading for Godstone South it was then time for a radio call and to set a heading for Borough Green – my first waypoint. As we went along I realised we were too close to Bough Beech reservoir so my course setting was wrong. In fact I had turned onto my heading a bit late and was effectively running in parallel with my intended route but a few miles to the south of it. I then worked out a correction angle (40 degrees) and set a new course. By the time I arrived at what should have been my waypoint at Borough Green I wasn’t able to identify it and I couldn’t confirm my position. After looking around a bit, the Instructor took control and pointed out I was actually overhead Sevenoaks and I hadn’t recognised it as it was directly underneath the aircraft. It turned the aircraft again over Sevenoaks and got me to resume my original plan and this time I found Borough Green without any problems.
Next stage was to Mayfield. As this was due south and the strong wind was from the east I needed a correction angle of approx. 18 degrees. This time I more or less arrived at Mayfield more or less on time. I was slightly to the east but reasonably within range.
Next the Instructor asked me to plan a route to Cranbrook he also took over flying the aircraft in circles while I planned the route. Once I was ready I set a heading and set off. I had problems finding landmarks and eventually noticed I was heading towards the coast – not a direction I should have been heading. Eventually I recognised Battle (near Hastings) so I had gone approx. 90 degrees off course. I eventually worked out I hadn’t checked the Direction Indicator (DI) when departing Mayfield and consequently made a gross navigation error. After resetting the DI and re-planning my route to Cranbrook it was off for a second attempt. Again at my designated arrival time I couldn’t identify Cranbrook. Eventually I worked out where it was and that I was a few miles to the east of it. The strong wind was making navigation complex – or at least that’s my excuse anyway.
Instructor than asked me to plan a route to Bough Beech and from there to Redhill. This time I got to the correct place and as I could see Redhill it was time to descend and get re-join instructions. Again the strong wind made things difficult and I was being bounced around the sky a bit which made it difficult to hold a steady altitude. I was cleared for a downwind join and to land on Runway 08R. Again the wind made it difficult and also the runway slopes downwards to I flared a bit early and ended up floating above the runway. Eventually I managed to land it with a bit of a bump and then it was taxi back to the hanger and shut down.
Despite my poor navigation the Instructor was OK with my flying and he hoped I had “learned something” from the flight and the weather conditions. I had – turn at the correct time, make sure you are heading the right direction and check the instruments – especially the Direction Indicator.
I was a bit peeved with my performance but I did learn a few lessons for it all – which is the point I suppose.