Month: March 2008

Studying on the beach

Now that the second set of JAA exams are approaching, I’ve started to devote more time towards groundschool.  The great advantage of being in Spain, is that you can do this:

I needed a change of scenery, so drove over to the beach to relax and study.  Also, I hadn’t had the chance to watch the sunset at the beach, so I set off a few hours before sunset and took my camera with me.

Now that it’s getting much warmer outside, I’m more motivated to start palying Tennis again.  Goodbye Winter… for another few months at least!

Flying Post-PT1

Now that the first progress test is done, I’m getting more into the instrument flying. I’ve done a bit of holding (i.e. flying a race-track pattern in the air) and completed my first IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) flight today! It started off with filing an IFR flight plan and then requesting start up, something that is not done for VFR flights. Then a set of clearances are requested, given out and readback to ATC. For the first flight we just requested an altitude of 5000ft and then a direct routing to the Jerez VOR. With our take off clearance, the controller asked us to maintain runway heading and climb to 5000ft, so we took off and complied with the instruction/clearance and when we contacted Sevilla Approach, they gave us the clearance to turn directly towards the beacon and we practiced VOR holding there. The wind was quite strong – forecast at 30 knots, which made holding a bit more complicated, as it would blow us off track had we not compensated for it. It was a short flight, but the difference between IFR and VFR in terms of radio calls was immediately apparent – IFR required many more clearances from ATC compared to VFR.

Also a few photos from my flights are below

The Jerez Racing Circuit:

Circuito de Jerez

Gibraltar in the distance:

The coast:

Easter Break

We got a whole.. 3 days off!  May not seem much to some of you that are spoilt with long one or two week breaks!  However, it’s a luxury to even get a full two-day weekend off at this stage of flying.  I was surprised by a family visit – my dad and my sisters came around which was great!  I showed them around the local area, and even managed to take a couple of sunset photos of Jerez!

Arcos:

We then decided to check out Granada and Sierra Nevada.  It was a beautiful, scenic drive and as we were going I was pointing out all the places I have flown to.  Here are a couple of photos:

Granada:

Me sitting on the side of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range:

PT1 Passed!

I’ve passed the mighty PT1!  The test started off with being given the navigation route to be flown by the examiner and one hour was allocated to plan it.

I did all of the performance calculations the day before to save me some time, which worked to my advantage.  I planned for the worst case scenario for performance – so a 5 knot tailwind, ATC asking us to take off from an intermediate point on the runway that gives us the shortest distance for take off (take of distance available).  In addition to calculating how much runway required for landing and take off, I also got the mass and balance calculations out of the way.

After planning the navigation route, I met up an hour before the flight for a briefing.  The examiner outlined what was to be expected on the flight and exactly what we were going to do.  I was told that we would do the navigation part of the test first and then the general handling.  After checking the aircraft, we set off and navigated West of Jerez initially and then North  towards Seville on our first leg, and then for the second leg we flew East just after reaching a reporting point that is South of Seville Airport.  I was asked to divert South on this leg, to a town called Algodonales.  So I chose an appropriate point on the leg to divert from and planned the diversion in the air.  I chose a checkpoint on my second leg as my diversion point, as it was a town that can be easily identified from the air and it also left me a few minutes to plan the diversion as I flew towards it.   There were some challenges and problems to be overcome during the flight but the diversion worked out fine – I reached Algodonales on my ETA.

The wind was not as forecast and so it set me off-track, which I corrected – otherwise I would have drifted into a danger area.  This happens sometimes, as the wind is not always as forecast, it can be slightly different and not affect the planned headings by much but sometimes there difference is quite significant and so the new situation has to be taken into account and headings have to corrected and adapted to the actual wind.  The other challenge was the cloud forming on my diversion, the current weather and the forecast made no mention of this layer of cloud at about 3500 feet!  I was forced to make a hazard avoidance, and decided to descend below the clouds, as I would not have any reference to the ground if I was above them, which would make navigating a challenge (by map at least)!  Another hazard avoidance had to be made when there was a peak on track.  Workload during the diversion was high and it was a challenging one due to the weather and terrain, but I came out of it, a more experienced pilot.

We moved onto the general handling part of the test after a the diversion, which again was a challenge due to the cloud layer!  There must be 1000 feet vertical and 1500 metres horizontal separation from cloud, so we climbed through a clearing in the cloud and above it to do most of the general handling.  This tests the ability to carry out steep turns (turns at 45 degrees of bank), stall recoveries, practiced forced landings (PFL e.g. if there was an engine fire or failure), slow flight, climbing at different speeds, etc.  The PFL was a challenge due to the cloud, I had to go through the drills, and at the same time keep track of my position relative to the cloud to keep adequate separation and it also hindered my efforts to pick a suitable field – the clouds got in the way!  Still I’ve practiced engine failures from different altitudes on my practice solo exercises so I felt prepared, even if I had to start from a low altitude.  In the end the PFL went fine and I went around at just above 500 feet.

After some circuits, where we did flapless, glide and normal landings, we landed and as we taxied back to the apron I was congratulated on the pass!  The test in total was just over 2.5 hours – the longest I’ve been up in the air for one flight!  It is tiring but it doesn’t hit you during the test itself, only after.

I’m looking forward to the instrument flying, we’ll be doing plenty of that now, and also I’ll be able to plan my own navigation legs, rather than choosing from set routes!

Flying Progress Test 1 Due!

Progress test one (PT1) for flying is now due! Just completed my last solo flight before the test. Everything went well on the flight so the same should happen on the test. The winds are due to calm down, so that will make things a little easier, though I’m not betting on that! This last solo flight was the last chance I got to practice everything and get it polished before the test! Having gone well it has given me a confidence boost. I’ve found that spending time debriefing myself and analysing how the flight went step by step really helps. I’ve started to use google earth as a tool to debrief myself on how my navigation exercises had gone and it helps to write a report for myself so I can look back on it and remind myself of what went wrong, what I need to do next time, etc.

The process to get to PT1 after the last pre-PT1 solo flight is to complete all paperwork in the your file, ensure your logbook’s up-to-date and then your name goes up on a board where an examiner will allocate himself to you. A few people on my course have already done their PT1 and from what I heard it’s a lot of hard work and it’s intense!

The plan after PT1 is to get as much flights done as possible to get a little ahead so I can later concentrate on groundschool, for the next phase of exams which are due in about 2 months. It feels like we’re in a time bubble here – a lot of events are compressed into a small space of time! You hear family and friends saying “oh you’ve only got 6 months left now!”, however, to me that’s a long 6 months, as there’s a lot of hard work to be done between now and to the end of the course! When you’re looking forward time periods appear long, however looking back you realise time really has flown by.  Don’t know if that makes any sense!