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!