Month: January 2008

Solo Navigation

The first solo navigation exercise went smoothly – there was no wind which made it easy. No need to correct for drift and everything went as planned. I was quite nervous initially but was fine as I settled into the first leg. The thing that hits you in the first navigation exercise is the work load! You’re flying the aircraft, navigating, keeping a record of what you’re doing (plogging) – for example keeping track of the fuel, doing a bit of mental maths… and you can forget how good you are at mental arithmetic on the ground, it’s a mission when you’re multi-tasking! Nonetheless, you do adapt surprisingly quickly, especially as you work out little tricks to help yourself as you go along. What I found most difficult was plogging and flying at the same time, as whilst you’re plogging you’re looking down and writing… meanwhile the plane is banking… diving down… or pitching up to stall….! Okay it’s not that bad, but you get the idea. The turbulence I experienced in the previous flight did make things more difficult though. This time I found that once the aircraft is trimmed (set up so you can take hands off the controls and it will stay put), it will pretty much fly and maintain heading and altitude as set, which makes it much more manageable. Also I found that it helps if you divide attention between plogging and looking out, rather than burying your head in the cockpit whilst you write. Write a little, look out, write more, look out, etc. This is especially important with VFR flying since you have to look out for other traffic, terrain, birds, etc as well.

Unfortunately I don’t have any photos of my navigation exercises yet, however I’ll have a few to show later, as a friend of mine will be taking some for me soon!

First Navigation Exercise

For the first navigation exercise, we went from a town called Jedula to Coripe, then to Alcalá and back to Jedula. The scenery was beautiful, especially near the mountains. Initially I head East at 3500ft and then climbed to 4500ft from Coripe onwards following the VFR (Visual Flight Rules) altitude rules. It was quite turbulent, but I felt no disorientation or discomfort so I was happy. The forecast winds didn’t match up to the winds we experienced so there was some good practice in using the various methods in assessing and correcting for track error and in addition it was quite a challenge to fly under turbulent conditions, navigate, plog (write in the pilot log), and do the radio calls all at once!  I’ve done some VFR navigation before but that was more than a year ago and Spain is a new territory, so it felt like I was starting fresh.  Also, the technique used here is based on flying a heading accurately and keeping track of time rather than “map crawling” where features are followed.  The map is used to confirm position and check drift and calculate ETAs at checkpoints along the route.

Next: Solo Nav.

Instrument Flying

I’ve now embarked on the instrument flying part of the course – lesson 26 in our syllabus here, so that’s just after 20 hours of flight time. Could be after a bit more flight time for some students depending on what lessons were skipped, as those with previous experience such as PPL holders may do. I was quite anxious for my first instrument flight, as I am sometimes susceptible to nausea in the air after maneuvers such as spiral dives, steep turns and moving my head a lot from focusing inside and outside, all in succession.

However, to my surprise I had no nausea or discomfort for this instruments flight.. which was a relief! So it is true that your body gets used to the air! It’s a bit hard to believe at first – nausea is very uncomfortable and incapacitating when in the air and it does make you anxious for future lessons where you’re going to be doing exercises that caused the discomfort. We’ve been learning in Human Performance ground school lessons that avoiding sudden head movements, believing in the instruments and other methods such as massaging the wrist or looking out at a stationary point outside the aircraft helps in losing the feeling of disorientation or discomfort.

Having said that, I did experience the “leans” – this was more interesting than uncomfortable. The leans is simply when your mind things that you are not set up straight and level and so you tend to lean towards where your minds thinks it is aligning your body up straight and level. So for example, my instructor demonstrated this by asking me to close my eyes whilst he very slowly banked the aircraft to the left. The rate of the bank was below the threshold of my senses (located in the balance organs in the inner-ear) and so I hadn’t detected the bank and still thought I was straight and level. To my surprise when I opened my eyes, we were banked in a turn and when I did roll back the aeroplane to a straight and level attitude, it felt as if I had rolled to the right, as my body had sensed the faster rate roll to the right but not the initial one to the left. These are some of the illusions pilots have to be aware of when instrument flying.

After the first instrument flying lesson, I went into the FRASCA simulator for two sessions practicing flying by the instruments – straight and level, climbing/descending, radial intercepts (radio navigation). The FRASCA is a bit tricky! It’s much more difficult to fly than the real plane, but it gives you good practice. The simulator sessions are quite tiring because you’re constantly concentrating hard for the entire session, as opposed to flying the real aircraft where you have time to relax in between busy periods. There’s no taxying, etc – straight in there flying and concentrating for the whole session. It does go fast though.

What’s next?

The first VFR  Navigatin exercise!

Solo Certificates, Epaulettes and Spouts!

So after Phase 1 of training which included 20 weeks of full-time groundschool, 6 JAA exams, then Phase 2 – going solo after 8 hours, I got my Solo Certificate, epaulettes and did Spouts today! I don’t drink, so I opted to go for Aquarius! I went solo on 14 December 2007, not my first solo, but my first solo of my training as a professional pilot.

We all gathered by the bar, outside around 5pm today and the presentation started out with a brief speech by the Chief Flight Instructor (CFI). The certificates and epaulettes were then presented and our course mentor gave a speech. I managed to get in a few photos of myself and some of my groundschool instructors before the Spouts. Unfortunately my flight instructor wasn’t there as he is on leave for the week. Nonetheless, I will get him to sign my certificate and get a photo with him when he gets back!

Receiving my solo certificate, presented by our course mentor:

With one of my groundschool instructors, showing off the new epaulettes!

Spouts involve filling up a container with a drink of your choice and it is poured into one’s mouth from a height. Suffice it to say that I won’t be enthusiastically touching a can or bottle of Aquarius anytime soon! Someone did, despite pleading for it to not happen, managed to get the hosepipe and spray water all over us! As every course has done so before us, we then strolled over to the pool and jumped in! It was great fun and it’s fantastic to finally have some epaulettes!

A Solo Flight

The weather did improve, which allowed the remaining to go solo to do so last weekend! That means we’ll be presented our solo certificates and be doing the spouts tomorrow.  A friend of mine took some photos of me on one of my solo flights in an aircraft – doing pre-start checks and taxying.

I’ve now done just under 25 hours of flying here – next week I’ll be starting instrument flying and then around 20 hours later, I’ll be taking my first flying test.  Before that, we’ve got groundschool progress tests coming up!

Bad Weather

We’ve been hit with very low visibility and low cloud this week, which meant a lot of flights had to be cancelled.  Hopefully, this won’t continue for too long!  I’ll be fitting in two solo flights tomorrow which I’m looking forward to!  We’re starting VFR navigation soon, so myself and a couple of my friends are getting together tonight to help each other mark necessary details on the maps and get them laminated.  My instructor’s off this week, so I’ll be flying with another instructor that I know, weather & schedule permitting – by reputation and he acknowledges himself that he’s quite strict, but fair!  Unfortunately the weather is still holding two people on my course back on their first solo, so at the moment it looks like the solo presentation will be delayed till next week.

Though bad weather is frustrating, it’s left me with some time to catch up on groundschool and study for the progress tests which will be in about a week’s time.  So, I’m not complaining, so long as I can make good use of my time when I’m not flying!  It’s even more frustrating to wait around for the weather to improve and waste time.

New Year

Happy 2008!  The Christmas break flew by, and like everyone else felt it was far too short!  It was great catching up with friends and family and eating home cooked meals once again.  I just missed the snow in England; it was snowing in parts of UK the day after I got back and it was something I wanted to experience before I got back to Spain!

Unfortunately the first night back didn’t go very well – I found my car had been broken into at the car park.  They had smashed one of the windows, stolen the contents and the radio and managed to damage the boot lock and air controls.  Having only just picked up Spanish since I got here, it was quite difficult trying to communicate to the insurance company over the phone!  I eventually ran out of options in terms of getting transport back to Jerez – none of the car companies were hiring cars, it was too late to take the train and I even considered flying to Jerez!  Still, I thought the best option would be to stay overnight in a hotel and sort things out in the morning, in daylight so I could determine what damage had been done and if I could drive back.  I did manage to drive back to Jerez and at the moment my car’s getting the window replaced and will then be dropped off at a garage to get the rest fixed!  What a nightmare!  Could have been worse though – could have turned up with no car in sight and the car is insured so that’s a relief.

Things on the flying side are going well, I’m really enjoying the solo flights and we will soon be getting into VFR navigation.