Friday, March 23, 2007

Learning to fly - a students PPL diary by Bob Dale

My Flight Diary -  Just to keep my none flying friends and family up to date ....

Introduction -
Learning to fly has always been a life long ambition. My first lesson was 1st October 2006 . I fly out of Sherburn in Elmet Aero club, North Yorkshire.

I started this blog in November by which time I had accumulated 7 hours. This was all spent in the training area; following the standard syllabus. To be honest it was pretty uneventful but very enjoyable. From here on it started to get interesting so I decided to share the experience!
All of my flying has been Piper PA28 aircraft belonging to the club.

The picture above is G-SACT.

10th NovemberMy first day of circuit training. Not a good start as we have to use runway 19 R grass. It’s the short runway, and you have to clear the coal mine just after takeoff. CR was provided along with a new instructor, He did a very useful pre-flight brief in the classroom explaining what was required at each stage of the circuit.
Take off was slow on the wet grass. In my hurry to gain altitude I forgot to watch air speed, approaching less than 50kt..Not good...  One approach over the threshold was at 100ft ! All of my problems were caused by speed control – I was too fast. Typically I was doing 35 deg turns at 70+ knots. It was difficult to lose height on the approach and I failed to set up in trim. On the final down wind set of checks I noticed that my right rudder brake linkage had dropped off leaving me with no RH brake. He took control of the braking on the final landing. Lesson learned – 19R is a tight circuit and I need more slow flight experience.

This is a good cockpit view of a PA28. Lots of goodies to tinker with !

If you click on the pictures you get a good enlargement. Use your BACK button to return

28th November
Not flown for 18 days so lacking confidence. Still got a head cold so not feeling 100%. Flew OE which is a PA28 Warrior. Nice instrumentation but different layout just to add to my confusion. I liked the auto DI synchronisation. My instructor decided to do a slow flight refresher session as I was concerned about speed control last time.
Flew from runway 11T R with a 90 deg cross wind of 7 kt. Take off not too bad, managed to control speed and climb trim. Cleared MATZ over Selby and carried out manoeuvres north of Goole. Once at 2,000 ft we changed to Barnsley QNH which was new to me – need to read up on this again.

Power Attitude Trim - trying to remember that attitude controls speed. Not sure it’s all sinking in yet – despite the “that’s very good” comments. Learned to add or remove small amounts of power to maintain height. At 4,000 ft, reduced power to 2000 rpm and pulled back to get airspeed to 50kt – stall warner sounded intermittently but no buffeting. Trimmed at 50kt and carried out slow turns – in the turn we lost height so added small amount of power to correct – once level power was returned back to original setting.
Repeated the above with two stages of flap set, this time we flew at 45 kts.

On the return to base Drax power station plume was blocking vision to the west, unable to see Sherburn. Flew through a gap in the plume and located Breighton – the runway runs approx 290 deg and is roughly due east of Sherburn. This is a useful land mark. Saw the white factories and called inbound Selby and requested airfield information. Runway still 11TR with QFE 1004. I remembered to change altimeter to QFE. Joined dead side and passed 29 end at 1500ft. 11R is tight as you have to turn downwind before Monk Fryston, then extend the downwind to fly west of south Milford. The final turn ends up too high – should be 400ft but not easy to achieve. Called Downwind 11T full stop. We were high and have to side slip to reduce height. The cross wind was from the right so full rudder was required until the wheels touched. Not a landing I could have done! Reading this back its sounds like I know what I'm doing, don't be fooled...

8th December
Runway 29 T wind about 6 knots and blowing 290 degrees. They were perfect conditions for an hour of touch and go’s. The instructor flew the first, talking me through each step then it was my turn. I was able to fly the circuit and do the checks at the right time but finals were an issue. Because I could not settle the nose on the centre line I kept banking left and right all the way down. For some reason I forgot to use the rudder so the approach was “slippy” to say the least. Overall though thought I did quite well. I really need to work on the last 20 feet of decent. When cutting the power over the threshold I was forgetting to correct for the nose down due to lack of power. Need to use the rudder more and pull back at the flare out.

11th DecemberToo windy to fly so we did 90 minutes ground school which went very well. Time flew by. We did instrument appreciation. This was the ground part of mandatory instrument flying. The flight exercise is to fly into cloud, perform a 90 deg turn and leave the cloud at the same height.

December to March.During this period I made several flights following the syllabus. I took the air law exam and also radio telecommunications. Passed them both at the first attempt.
Due to the weather I spent 10 hours in the circuit carrying out some good and some dodgy landings. Flap less approaches, glide approaches and a combination of both were regular exercises. Eventually it all came together, why did I find it so difficult?

12th March
Today we had Runway 29 with a reasonable headwind at 12 knots; ideal conditions for circuits. I did 4 really good circuits and landings, after the 4th my instructor asked me to land. I taxied back to the end of the runway where he told me he was getting out and I was on my own.
After a few checks I was lined up on 29. The moment I opened the throttle I knew it was all down to me, with no turning back. I talked to my self all the way around the circuit, calling out speed, attitude, turns and position – It gave me more confidence. I did all of the checks and calls. I was even trimmed ideally on the approach. The PAPI lights were working and helped me make what I felt was a perfect landing. The adrenalin was amazing! After landing checks I picked up my instructor from the threshold . He taxied back as I was shaking too much. So that was the big milestone I was working towards. It’s a fantastic feeling of achievement.

Solo - Circuits Friday 16th March 2007
I did 40 minutes duel with before he got out and left me to it. We were on 24 grass left hand. This was my first time in this circuit.
It was also my first lesson after my solo on Monday; I had been given 30 minutes flying time on my own. I decided to land on the third approach due to lack of confidence in the very turbulent conditions. When you need full aileron deflection on finals at 30 foot its time to give up... If I’m honest it was scary…But of course I gained some key skills, its not always a nice calm summers day.
Lessons learned today...

My self confidence was low
Loss of directional control at touchdown – made me go around twice
Overshot the 1000ft circuit height by 150ft.
Downwind speed too high at 120 kts
Each circuit was a different shape
Didn’t trim efficiently
Alignment on approach untidy
Over correcting on approach
Taxied too fast after landing

But –

New runway and circuit pattern to me.
No PAPI lights on 24
Turbulent in circuit with a cross wind
Wind gusting and variable strength
Remembered all my checks and radio calls
Final landing ok.

Monday 19th MarchIt looked like a nice calm day following an overnight frost. By the time I had checked the aircraft out the wind was blowing the wind sock horizontal. (here we go again) Runway 29 was favoured.
Take off and the first circuit was turbulent with lots of sink on low finals. After three circuits I made clear that I was not prepared to fly solo in these conditions! (Flying should be fun?)
On circuit four the wind veered across the runway giving me a 14kt crosswind. I did the touch and go after a long sideslip down the approach. It wasn’t pretty but the landing was survivable. My instructor requested a runway change to 010 right hand. This is a short grass runway with an “interesting” approach over the coal mine. I did four circuits before calling full stop. We had being flying with variable direction wind with gusts to 28 kts. To top this off the right hand PTT button was faulty, transmitting at will. This meant we could not talk on the intercom for more than a few seconds at a time. Overall, I learned lots about flying in poor conditions and I’m assured that its crucial experience!

Wednesday – 21st MarchA really calm spring day – Managed to get a last minute slot at 5pm. I did two circuits with the instructor before going solo. The conditions were almost alien to me; it was so calm and smooth! Sunset was 18:20 hrs so I had only a short time to enjoy the flying. Circuits were easy, trim on finals was spot on and so were the landings. All that rough windy weather with cross wind flying has really paid off. The best part was when the sun started to set, the runway lights were on and only me flying the circuit……..

Friday 23rd March
Time to get those solo hours clocked up. I did 1.7 hours in two sessions. (I stopped for a coffee after an hour) I would have stayed up longer but the weather was closing in, once I lost sight of the power stations I decided to land. All of today’s flying was off runway 060 which is grass. But, I did reach another milestone - Ive done exactly 3 hours solo. Total hours to date is 25.2

2nd April 2007

Now I have solo's sorted its time for more advanced skills to be mastered. Today its PFL's That's a forced landing without power in case your wondering... Basically you fly around at 3,000 feet and your instructor cuts the power. You have to identify a suitable field, plan a circuit, do some engine checks, a (practice) may day call and then approach your selected field. Well it sounds easy when I write it here, the first one was a bit iffy, mainly due to the row of wooden poles supporting a power cable which went right across my field. They are not easy to see from 3,000 feet.

6th April
Today was all about advanced turns - These are great fun, basically a tight turn either left or right at a bank angle greater than 40 deg. Keeping attitude and height is a challenge but I seemed to get it from the start. Not quite aerobatics but good fun.

9th April - 25th April
I took some time off work so that I could fly every day. The objective was to get as much navigation experience as possible. I flew eight times in this period and realised that the passenger has more fun than the navigating pilot - its very busy and really put together everything learned so far. It starts with the trim, if its not sorted you have no chance. So far Ive manged to arrive where and when I should. The weather was poor with low cloud so we could not get above 1,500 ft most of the time which makes it difficult to navigate. Of course while you are wondering where you are, the radio is constantly requiring your attention.! The cockpit is full of instruments for navigation but it seems that the most important is the clock, timing is everything if you want ot be sure of your position.

26th April

Another Nav exercise From Sherburn to Market Weighton, then to Keadby, nr Scunthorpe and back to base. It went well and the cloud base was around 3,000 feet. When we landed I was asked to re plan the trip in reverse.... and then fly it solo.

My first flight solo away from the circuit, would I do ok, would I get lost, would I ever get back to Sherburn? Well, the circuit departure went Ok as did the contact with RAF Church Fenton. Once south of the M62 near Eggborough I changed to Doncaster Radar for the transit east at 2000ft. All looking good until I crossed the M18 when Doncaster radar asked if I had visual with an Airbus in my 12 oclock at 4,000 feet. I had, it was heading north. I was told that he would turn left and pass down my left hand side for his approach into Robin hood airport. No problem then, so on I continued, 3 minutes later Doncaster announced, "all aircraft on the frequency, An Airbus has declared an emergency - all aircraft to clear the area to the north, acknowledge" So, my first solo and I have to plan a diversion. First things first, establish exactly where I am, estimate a new northerly heading of 020 deg towards my second way point (Market Weighton) and then turn. Now its time to inform Doncaster radar, Once I was over the river near Trent falls I changed to Church Fenton and resumed the trip. The rest went really well and gave me a huge confidence boost.

27 April
Another navigation exercise, we planned to land at Humberside airport but the weather was poor so an unplanned diversion was given by my instructor. That went Ok so we did some more PFL's - You cant do too many of those.

So far Ive clocked up 37 hours in total. I need to do 10 hours solo Nav and really must get those ground exams done.

9th May
Went on a Nav exercise to Worksop. The chart shows an airfield which is disused but suitable as a visual reference point. No one told the farmer about that detail. There was no sign of it, just nice green and yellow fields . Yes, I was in the right place.... So onto Sandtoft airfield. We decided to land. All went well but the approach is very unusual, the threshold is displaced as the approach is almost between buildings on an industrial estate, complete with very short lamp posts just in case...

12th May
Land away at Humberside airport. This went very well and had the added interest of a thunder and lightning storm just off to the west during finals. We parked up just in time for the torrential rain to arrive. Paid £16 landing fee and returned back to Shurburn by following the Hull to Selby railway line. My next flight will be a solo back to Humberside.
17th May
I had planned a solo Nav to Humberside but the weather was poor with low cloud. I decided to sit the Nav ground exam instead. 90 minutes of hard work achieved a pass so I was pleased. I think the Nav exam is the hardest of them all. Just Meteorology, Human Performance and Aircraft technical to do now.

20th May 2007

At last, the big day.. Solo land away at an international airport!

This is me, safely on the ground at Humberside. The problem with Solo flights is you have to take your own photos!

To be honest it went really well and was uneventful. Humberside was very quiet, in fact Sherburn traffic was far busier. I really enjoyed the trip and felt like a major milestone has been achieved. Ive got 5.5 hours solo now.. Only 4.5 to go, Oh, and of course I still have those ground exams to pass.
Just look at the length of that runway !

Drax Power station is a great landmark, as is the River Ouse. This is the view heading west with Goole in view.

24th May 2007
Another solo navigation. I planned a Selby, Castle Howard, Driffield, Humber Bridge, Selby route for 2,000 ft. Got to Castle Howard with out any problems but only managed 1,500 feet due to cloud. Driffield was where it should have been too. I never did see the Humber bridge though, the cloud was getting lower and 4 miles south of Beverly I decided to run for home, oops, I mean I planned a diversion set a revised course and calculated my new arrival time. I got clearance to reduce height and flew at 1000 ft for 8 miles before visibility improved. I was able to maintain 1,500 ft at Selby and back to Sherburn. Did one touch and go landing a practice circuit and then landed. I was airborne for just over an hour.
Just out of interest, its 29 miles from Selby to C. Howard by road and takes 46 minutes according to google maps. Flying, its only 21 miles and takes 11 minutes.
1st June,
Having read the meteorology books for ten days I decided it was time to take the exam today. Another success ! 90% pass which was a surprise.
5th June
Dual qualifying cross country navigation exercise today. My route took me from Sherburn to Ferrybridge where the exercise started, then onto my first way point, Trowell services on the M1 motorway. This is a VRP (visual reference point) for East Midlands airport. Once there things got really busy, flying down the correct corridor. ATC gave me an easy approach left base to runway 03, number 2 after a Thompson airbus. Once I found the parking stand we were welcomed in by a marshaller who parked us in position. Having paid the landing fee and asked for departure clearance we were on our way, next stop Humberside airport. Ive been there before but just as I was feeling confident I learn that the approach is from the end Ive not used before. Not a problem, get overhead Brig and join left base... almost like a professional ! Landed, paid another landing fee, then departed for an easy retrun to Sherburn.
I have a navigation skills test with the CFI at the end of June which is the first time he's available, then I have to repeat the whole East Mid, Humberside trip on my own. Assuming that all goes to plan I have to do the final flight test with the CFI and its all over ! Oh, except I still have two exams to sit..
8th June
Took another exam today - Human Performance and limitations.. Passed it, so there is only one left to do.. Aeroplane technical.
27th June
Navigation skills flight test today. Its the week of the floods and the weather is changeable with rain and wind off and on. After an hour waiting to see how the weather developed we decided to give it a go. My mission was to fly to down Mansfield then north east to Hornsea and return to Selby. The Chief flying instructor is looking for accurate flight and an established navigation method. Generally the run down to Mansfield went well despite there being lots of misleading lakes (floods) on the ground which were not on the map! The radio was busy with numerous helicopters looking for clearance to overfly the dodgy dam at Sheffield - they were all carrying TV film crews.
My track to up to Hornsea got off to a poor start due to a heading miscalculation which I made on the ground at the planing stage. Once that was sorted the rest went well, arriving back at Selby and landing at Sherburn. I was keen to show off my landing skills to the CFI, big mistake, I bounced three times, much like a skimming stone..... Once the engine was shut down I was given the news I wanted to hear - a pass.! My next flight will be "qualifying cross country", which is a solo to East Midlands then to Humberside and back. Taking a deep breath for that one...
10th July 2007
Qualifying Solo Cross Country - I took hours to plan and double check the navigation for this one, It paid off too. My flight to East Midlands was exactly as planned. I recieved immediate clearance to land. The ground handling staff marshaled me to my parking stand and then drove me to the tower where I got my paperwork signed to state that my approach and landing procedures were correct. After a chat and a coffee ( and a fee of £40) I set off for my next destination - Humberside international. I was very surprised that my Nav was perfect, the wind must have been exactly as forecast as I arrived directly overhead the Elsham VRP on time. I found it hard to get a visual on the runway at first as its in a dip when viewed from the west. Once near the quarry I saw the piano keys. Landing, taxi and ATC signatures all went well as did the return to Sherburn. So at last Ive done my 10 hours solo flying and can now apply for the big final Skills test with the QFI.
18th July
Took Aeroplane technical exam today and passed with 90%. That's the last written exam thank goodness. Just a Communications verbal test to do next week.
I also booked my final skills test with the QFI for 7th August. If I pass I get my licence ! So watch this space !
2nd August
Coms practical test taken today, its quite a memory test, with Mayday, and VDF bearings etc. It takes over an hour but thankfully I passed, so now I have my radio operators licence.
7th August
The big day - The skills test. I could write lots about how it went - I won't ! I will say it was stressful, dry mouth, sweaty palms, and some really iffy landings all due to nerves. Still it must have been good on the day because I'm now a qualified pilot at long last!

Looking forward to some relaxing flying now ! Thanks for reading and following  my experience.
Cheers, Bob