Sunday, 1 April 2012

Solo Navigation

Weather today was sunny and warm with a light wind and a few high level clouds.  I had a flying lesson booked but wasn’t sure what I was doing so hadn’t planned anything.  When I arrived at Redhill, Instructor told me I was going to fly solo and he wanted me to create a flight plan from Redhill to Bough Beech, Sevenoaks, Gravesend, Bewl Water, Bough Beech and then back to Redhill.  Normally when I plan a flight I take my time over it and make sure directions, distances etc are all correct.  This time I was doing it in a hurry and when the Instructor checked one of my routes it was a bit inaccurate.  Still, Instructor knew I can plan a flight so corrected my schoolboy errors and I was cleared to go.  Then Redhill ATC changed the Runway from 36 to 08L so another quick re-plan was required.  Instructor was of the view the Runways were going to change anyway as the wind was variable so basically advised me to work it out at the time.  All good practice.

So off to the Aircraft, usual checks, start up and then go for fuel.  It only had 1/4 tank so needed to fill up before going anywhere.  After filling up, it was on to holding point Golf 1 for runway 08L.  After next set of checks it was line up and take off.  Once again, as I climbed to 1400ft and turned towards the departure point at Godstone South it registered that I was on my own in control of an aircraft with nobody there to dig me out of trouble.

Onwards to Bough Beech and then estimated my turn as my flight plan was for a different departure point.  Soon on track to Sevenoaks, climb to 2,200ft and then on to Gravesend, so far so good, flying to time and track.  View over the Thames was fantastic, Dartford Bridge on my left and Southend airport ahead (last time I was there I couldn’t find it – see earlier post).  Overhead Gravesend turned right onto a southerly heading for Bewl Water.  Passed over Paddock Wood and arrived bang on target at Bewl Water.  Farnborough East Radar advised me that another Aircraft was approaching from my right and to take avoiding action.  I was turning to the North in any case and informed ATC of my intentions.  Despite looking around I couldn’t see the other aircraft but by now I was clear of the area so not a problem.

Now on track to Bough Beech and a descent to 1,400 ft, transfer from Farnborough East Radar to Redhill ATC and request joining instructions.  The runway had changed again and was now 26L so a swift re-plan of the approach was required.  Fortunately this was an easy one to do and I was cleared for an overhead join at 1,500ft.  After joining I was cleared for an early tight turn and descent to circuit height and downwind to land.

After turning onto base it was start the descent to land.  At this point it went slightly awry, I was looking at the airfield and sorting out my approach and wasn't watching the airspeed indicator.  When I did glance at it I was down to 40kts which is a bit close to stalling speed so a quick burst of power to recover and then back on track.

I did a reasonable approach and even a fairly good landing  then vacate right and back to Hanger 8.  After shutdown it was back to Cubair for a debrief with the instructor.

All in all I was pleased with my flying.  My flight plan was a bit rushed but was OK and I got to where I wanted to be more or less when I wanted to be.

It was fantastic to fly solo again – a little scary after a gap but a great feeling to be in control of an aircraft on my own again.  Looking forward, I’m really looking forward to my next flight and moving forward to getting my PPL.

When I filled in the Tech Log for the aircraft I noticed a friend of mine (Richard T) had managed a trial flight the pervious day despite the poor weather.  Haven’t spoken to him – hope he enjoyed it.

Flying time approx 1 hour.

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