When I got there the weather looked a bit better, the clouds had lifted, there were a few sunny intervals but it was very windy. Just in case, I had planned my navigation exercise which was Redhill, Bough Beech, Hawkhurst, Ashford, Maidstone, Bough Beech and back to Redhill. Instructor said we could go so I quickly transferred my flight plan to my VFR log and we were ready to go. Instructor had already done all the checks so it was start up and head for Alpha 1 which is the holding point for runway 26L. This time I was flying G-BXPD which had just come out of its annual service and hopefully had no overheating problems. After power checks I was cleared for take-off and was soon in the air – then things started to get bumpy. The strong wind was bouncing us around the sky and I had to put a fair amount of concentration into just flying the aircraft and trying to keep a sort of constant height. I turned downwind and left the circuit for Godstone. My altitude was bouncing around and at one point I briefly ended up at 1000ft some 400ft below where I should be. Normal height in this part of Gatwick airspace is 1400ft and I elected to fly at 1300ft to give me some room in case the wind blew me above 1500ft – which is the upper limit. After Bough Beech I planned to climb to 2300ft where hopefully the air would be so smoother. When I got there it wasn’t.
By now I was talking to Farnborough Radar and was on course to Hawkhurst. Navigation was going fine except for having to concentrate on flying at lot because of the strong wind. Even so, I soon arrived at Hawkhurst and found it without any trouble and even arrived at the correct time. – so so far so good. I was just about to set a heading for Ashford when Instructor said it was a bit bumpy and that I should plan a diversion direct to Maidstone. I reckon the Instructor had planned this all along. I asked the Instructor to fly the aircraft while I planned the diversion. I could have done both but it would have taken a while as I would have to spend quite a bit of time just flying. Anyway, I soon had a new plan and due to the wind my correction angle was 22 degrees and my ground speed was down to 72kts. I took control again, worked out where we were (overhead Hawkhurst) and set course for Maidstone.
I must have calculated things correctly as we ended up over Maidstone, exactly on time and almost exactly where I planned to be. This enabled me to resume the next stage of my planned route to Bough Beech and on to Redhill. Approaching Bough Beech I transferred back to Redhill ATZ and received joining instructions for runway 26L – I was given a straight in approach which was welcome as we were still being bounced around the sky by the strong wind. Approach was “interesting” needing a lot of power adjustments and course corrections just to stay lined up on the runway. There was more turbulence near the ground but I managed to keep control of it and then even managed an almost perfect landing. As we taxied back to the hanger I was feeling reasonably pleased with my flying – I had managed to navigate and plan a diversion and fly in the strong wind. OK my altitude control was a bit flaky but I can blame that on the weather conditions. Instructor seemed reasonably happy as well.
That was not the end of the day and after flying I headed off to the Café for a tea and to cram some last minute revision for my Aviation Law exam. I needed to re-sit my ground exams as the previous set were only valid for two years and have now expired. I’ve asked the CAA to confirm if I need to do them all and am waiting to hear back. Either way I will need to do Aviation Law before I can fly solo again. As I started the exam I was feeling nervous but soon got into the swing of it and finished in 30 mins out of the allowed 60 minute slot. I handed my paper to the examiner and headed home.
At 3:45pm I got a phone call from Cubair saying I had passed with 85%. Just time to head for Waitrose for a bottle of bubbly to celebrate.
A good day – successful navigation exercise and I passed Aviation Law as well. Yippeeeee.