Two years of flying

Another year has passed and this month marks two years of flying, so I thought it would be cool to recap what I have managed to achieve.
Shoreham to Cranfield

  1. Night Rating – I managed to achieve my night rating last winter. This allows me to fly at night (funnily enough) and means if you get caught coming back from somewhere and are late you can still fly.
  2. ATPL Exams – I have managed to pass 9 out of the 14 ATPL exams so far. It is a real struggle doing these around work but I am finally at the point where there just might be some light at the end of the tunnel.
    I really cannot wait until these exams are over and I can get my free time back.
  3. Flying from a new airfield – I started flying from Blackbushe and have been flying from there for the last year. It was nice to be based somewhere new and I am on the verge of moving somewhere new again.
  4. Booked my CPL ME IR – My prefered place to do my CPL ME IR course was Bartolini Air in Poland due to the good reputation and the cost. I should be heading there next summer!
  5. Buying a plane – Well technically 1/15th of a plane. If all things go well I should be joining a group locally in the trusty C150 and flying from a grass strip.
  6. Building Hours – It has been nice to spread my wings and travel to new airfields and increase my flight time. I still have about 70 hours to build before next summer so there is still lots of flying to do.

So I feel that I have achieved quite a lot this year building on from when I had completed one year of flying. I look forward to what the next 365 days has in store for me.

 


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Checkout on a C150 at RAF Henlow

So yesterday I had a checkout on a C150 at RAF Henlow.

As you know, I have recently been flying down at Blackbushe which is about a 1.5 hour journey each way with traffic. Driving 3 hours round trip for a plane is a major bummer, so I have been looking for something closer that didn’t cost an arm and a leg.
Not to long ago I saw a share in a C150 based just 15 miles away come up, so naturally I jumped at the chance. Ironically, after months and months of waiting two actually came along, but this one came along first.
Today I had a check out flight with the group instructor and all being well I should hopefully be able to buy a share in the aircraft.
The plane is a C150 but an older one so it has some uniqueness. For instance the flaps are manual on a handbreak type of lever, kind of like in the PA28. The speed is in MPH so that will take some getting used to as well.
All in all its a nice basic aircraft that is cheap enough to fly, which is about all you need when building flight time.
The checkout was simple, we went out into the local area and checked out some of the VRP’s. We did a stall and steep turns and came back for two circuits.
This was the first time I have landed on grass so that was nice.
Henlow has 4 runways and I am used to just one, so that is going to also take some adjustment and getting used to.
The prospect of having a 20-25 minute journey to the airfield as opposed to a 1.5 hour one is really a huge selling point.
Time will tell how it goes but after 6 weeks of no flying, it was great to be back in the air.

ATPL Theory Month 16: Gnav, Flight Planning, Operational Procedures & IFR Communications.

Another month down so this is my recap of ATPL Theory Month 16: Gnav, Flight Planning, Operational Procedures & IFR Communications.
I am planning to sit these exams in December 2017.
atp digital complete
So I have been reunited with the subject I  love to hate Gnav along with Flight Planning, Ops and IFR Comms. I have decided to leave the POF resist of this bunch due to the fact that I think four is more than enough and this is my fourth sitting, so I still have two more left after this.
Gnav seems to be making a lot more sense this time round and slowly but surely I am starting to understand what is going on and getting up to speed.
Flight planning has quite a bit of cross over with Gnav so I am glad that I decided to sit the both together.
I am hearing that Operational Procedures has been hit hard again with new questions so I am glad I have two months or so for the dust to settle on that one.
I am hoping IFR communications won’t have changed much, but I sat VFR communications on the Quadrant system this month and it was mainly new questions but I guess we will wait and see.
As things stand I am getting more confident with these subjects and I hope with two months to go that by the time I actually sit them I should be ready.
It does feel like there is light at the end of this very long tunnel finally however.
Anyways back to studying!

Class 1 Medical Renewal

The last year seems to have gone pretty fast and today I had my class 1 medical renewal.

I had been trying for a week or two to get hold of my AME only to eventually find out that he has retired which meant I had to find a new one.
I was sent the details of an AME by a friend so I went to see him today and thankfully he isn’t based too far from my workplace so I could fit it in a lunch break.
We went through all the basic tests, eye sight, blood, urine, checking your stomach, in your ears, if you can feel vibration etc. This was all fine thankfully so we moved on to the next section.
As it had been two years since my initial I had to have a ECG which thankfully was also good with no issues.
And that was it, £195 lighter and another year on my class 1. This is good as I actually plan to exercise the privileges for the first time next year on my course.

ATPL Theory Module 3 Results

A whirlwind week for me as I tried to get 4 exams done here are my ATPL Module 3 results.
en route gamston

I tried to sit these exams in quite a short period after my last set due to the upcoming uncertainty with the new quadrant system and the CAA’s track record of badly implementing new changes.
I had a lack of holiday so I sat every exam at 11.30 then went back to work till 4.30 every day.

Performance – 80%
Quite annoyed with myself on this as one of the graphs I hadn’t seen the variation on the style of question they asked before so it threw me and cost me 3 points.
However, it seems like I must have got the other graphs right which is good as I didn’t spend a huge amount of time studying graphs. I just used the examples on the graphs we was given to get to what I believe must have been the correct answers.
I got one graph I hadn’t seen before.
After knowing that I got a 3 point question wrong after I came out and looked it up I was worried about this but I am glad that I passed.
I didn’t really get any “matter of fact” questions in fact I only recall getting one.

VFR Communications – 79%
I am a little frustrated as I tried to sit these communications exams ages ago well before quadrant and was told that I couldn’t until after the revision week. On the revision week we spent a grand total of 0 minutes on communications but that meant that I now had to sit them on Quadrant.
I am not sure if this is a CAA rule or a Bristol rule however.
There was a lot of new questions I would say 60% or more and at least 2-3 questions that I thought were more suited to the Radio Navigation exam rather than VFR communications.

Mass and Balance – 75%
Borderline pass here! But to be honest I am just glad that I don’t have a resist in this subject because I have to work very hard at maths.
The test was similar question styles to what we have seen before with different numbers.
I had next to no theory questions in my exam and it was basically a pure maths tests. To be honest, I thought I did better than this but it is what it is.

Principles of Flight – 70%
My first fail! I walked out of this with a bad feeling and that proved to be correct. I found doing 4 exams in a week quite difficult and that coupled with the shorter study time probably led to this.
I am not going to rush into a resist on this, I am going to leave it till my 5th sitting as I still have 3 left.

In my next sitting I am going to sit General Navigation, Flight planning and monitoring, Operational procedures and IFR communications. I have a lot of things coming up and I know I struggle with Gnav so it is going to require a lot of practice. I am going to aim to sit this next set in December.
I do still have till July next year to finish the remaining exams so there is no rush.
Also I predict that maps will be banned from Gnav at some point as they are now being printed in the workbook.

9 down 5 to go.

ATPL Theory Month 15: Mass and Balance, POF, Performance and VFR Communications

Another month down so a quick recap of ATPL Theory Month 15: Mass and Balance, POF, Performance and VFR Comms.
atp digital complete
So it’s already exam time again, next week I will be sitting the above four subjects. The reason for this is to try to avoid some of the new changes that are coming in the Quadrant system. I mean even if I pass all of these I still have 4 exams left that will be on that system but I didn’t see the point of sitting exams in their first month on the new system, especially as we all know how the CAA tend to mess things up.
Note – VFR Communications will be on the Quadrant system.
So it has really been a month of trying to cram as much knowledge as possible in my head and try to get up to speed on these exams.
Quite frankly, I am not sure how these exams will go. I am doing my best to be as ready as I possibly can and will give them by best effort of course.
I have heard VFR communications is nothing like what we are used to so that is a bit worrying to say the least.
I have Mass and Balance on Monday, Principles of flight (POF) on Tuesday, Performance on Wednesday and VFR communications to round things of on Thursday.
If every thing goes ok then I hope to sit the final exams of General Navigation, Flight Planning, Operational Procedures and IFR communications in December.
Finger crossed and all that 🙂

Hour Building: Blackbushe to Gamston with Radio Failure

Yesterday the forecast looked good so I attempted to do my CPL qualifier but it ended up being Hour Building: Blackbushe to Gamston with Radio Failure.
The route was going to be Blackbushe -> Gamston -> Shobdon -> Blackbushe.
I got to Blackbushe nice and early did all my checks and booked out and set of for Gamston. This was to be the longest flight I had ever done my far and this leg was to be the longest leg.
As the flight was progressing I thought what a nice day it is, winds were calm and sky was clear (until about Leicester).
As I routed up and under the london TMA, to the west of Cranfield, the west of Sywell and to the east of Leicester all was fine.
en route gamston
I was then heading towards Gamston with a service from East Midlands Lars who notified me that my readability was 3 and they were having trouble hearing me. I tried all the usual things, take the plugs out and back in, change the side they are in, use the other transmit button and restart the radio to no avail. Then the worst happened, the radio completely died, nobody could hear me at all. I tried for about 5 mins to raise someone before I realised that it wasn’t coming back so I squawked 7600 (radio failure).
As I wasn’t that far from Gamston I decided to continue routing there. As I was squawking 7600 it turns out that Doncaster had already alerted Gamston that I might be diverting and were also worried that I might possibly infringe their airspace as obviously nobody could raise me. (I was aware of the airspace).
We actually managed to raise Gamston on the telephone also.
I arrived and did all my blind calls as I would normally but I’m sure nobody could hear me and landed and taxied to park.
It’s stange how alone you feel when you are not able to talk to ATC or other aircraft, it’s a bit of a weird feeling tbh.

Gamston were amazing, very helpful and refused to charge me a landing fee. They even tried to contact a radio engineer for me but unfortunately he was away. If anyone is planning a flight in that area please go and visit the good folk at Gamston!

Anyways after a while we fueled the plane again and tested the radio, it worked first time. Weird!
I then decided to head back up with the agreement from the guys at Gamston that if it failed within about 30 mins I would return.
We made it up and all seemed to be going well for 15 mins but then bam, it went again nobody could hear me so it was back to Gamston again.

gamston
Me looking disheveled at Gamston. The state of me ha!

I got on the ground thinking, I am a long way from home, even further from my car, this could be a very expensive day.
I started talking to another pilot about my predicament and he put me in touch with a guy who lent me an air ground radio. The guy who lent me it is Tony at Skytrain. I offered to leave a deposit etc but he wouldn’t hear of it. What a guy! To trust a stranger with £200-£300 worth of equipment is just an amazing thing these days and I couldn’t be more thankful. This will be going back to him first thing on Tuesday special delivery with a thank you!
Now that I had the radio I tested it and set of again for a third time. By this point it was too late in the day to finish the CPL qualifier so it was straight back to the bush.
I took off and the radio was working again, so I stuck with that, I made it all the way to the airspace of Farnborough North when yes you guessed it, it failed again. At first it was a complete failure so I tried the hand held radio on which Farnborough couldn’t hear me, I guess I was out of range for that.
Then a few mins later it came back to readability 3 which was just enough to get me back. Farnborough were understanding and got the join instructions from Blackbushe and made them aware of what was going on just incase the radio went again.
So all in all a very eventful day and definitely a lot of learning for me.
Even though I never got my CPL qualifier done, I did manage 4.4 hours of flight time, which is the most I have ever done with two very long legs!
I guess the CPL qualifier will have to wait for another day.

Module 3 revision week at Bristol Ground School

So I have just returned from my module 3 revision week at Bristol Ground School.
Bristol Ground School
Being a good 5.5-6 hour round trip I must say I am glad the this is the 3rd and final revision week that I have to attend.
Normally when I have attended modules 1,2 & 3 have been run at the same time, however this time we were the only ones in the school.
First thing I want to say is that there was a guy who was 51 on this course. I point this out as I get a lot of mail from people asking if they are too old, some are only in their mid 20’s!
This course was a 5 day assault on the brain, with non stop facts, figures and graphs being presented in Priciples of Flight, Performance and Mass and Balance.
There is no revision of communications done on this course, which I find weird as I tried to book VFR communications as part of my mod 2 exams but was told to move it till after this revision week, where we did nothing on it?
We had a good mix of people with military, PPL’s and conversion. 1 of the guys converting was flying the A320 in Brazil and another had worked for Boeing for years and was now the technical pilot for an airline.
Day 1 was all Operational Procedures, then day 2 was Mass and Balance and performance. Day 3 was all performance, day 4 was all Principles of Flight and day 5 was Principles of Flight and Mass and Balance.
My the end of the week my brain was bogged down.
My exams are booked for the first week of September and I have Mass and Balance on Monday, POF on Tuesday, Perf on weds and VFR communications on Thurs.
These exams will be the last ones on the currently multiple choice system as at the end of September they will be moving to the quadrant system.
This weekend will be spent doing Mass and Balance as it’s gotten neglected this week. Going forward till the exams I will get up at 5am to do Mass and Balance and then alternate Performance and Principles of Flight daily up until the exams. I will do 1-2 VFR communications practice tests a day as they don’t take too much time.
If this weather ever changes, I might actually get to build some hours too!

ATPL Theory Month 14: Mass & Balance, Performance, POF and VFR Comms

Another month down so this post is just a quick recap of ATPL theory month 14: Mass & Balance, Performance, POF and VFR Comms.
atp digital complete

As you can see I have completed the theory requirements in the app, however I still have 8 exams to sit 🙁
This month I finished the material in the ATP digital app which is a prerequisite of attending the brush up courses at Bristol. I am actually heading down to Bristol tomorrow as the mod 3 course starts on Monday.
This month has been full of question practice and googling things trying to get my head around some concepts.
Maths  is not my strong point so mass and balance is taking a lot of my time but thankfully my exams are not until early September so I still have over a month to get my head around what I need to.
In regards to POF and Performance I am getting better and it just seems to be a case of keep working on questions, looking things up and googling till the concept comes into my head.
VFR communications is going well so far, I am still making the odd silly mistake but this would be the exam I am feeling the most confident about at the moment.
I have more time than usual to study this month due to the poor weather. Hour building is proving to be a real slow process in the UK this year. As I sit looking out the window it’s grey skies, overcast and raining, useless for VFR flight.
I am hoping the school has some tips and tricks to share with me next week to make processing this easier, time will tell.

SkyDemon Review

So I am late to the game on this one but this is my SkyDemon review.
Skydemon Android
Now I am sure most of you are familiar with this software and most likely have used it a lot more than I have. I also know that there is a large group of people who are about to scream “children of the magenta line” or “maps and CRP”, however this is 2017 and not 1950 when the skies were clear and you could fly where you like. Both GPS and old school navigation techniques are needed.
I recently changed my home airport from Cranfield where there isn’t much restricted airspace around to Blackbushe where Heathrow, Gatwick, Oxford, Southampton and RAF Odiham are both literally on the door step along with all the restricted airspace that these airports bring not to mention danger zones etc. So as you can see it is a much busier restricted environment and you run the risk of airspace infringements more easily.
For these reasons I decided to invest in SkyDemon, a product that I have heard so much about and that I have never heard anyone say a bad word about. The cost is £139 for the first year and then £89 for subsequent years. I also brought a dedicated iPad mini 2 with LTE which is only for my flying apps so it doesn’t get fill up with the other rubbish. It is only 16GB but when you use it like I do that is more than enough. The 4G part is important as it is only these cellular devices that have the inbuilt GPS in the iPad’s. If you have a non cellular iPad then you will have to buy an external GPS receiver, but with Apple being Apple only certain (expensive) ones work.
NB – SkyDemon supports iOS, Android and Windows so you are not limited to an iPad. However, SkyDemon themselves state that the iPad is the best device to run it on and it also seems to have the least issues. I am an Android fan but I believe every pilot needs an iPad anyways.
In the cockpit I use a kneeboard mount which works great as I only need to glance at it every so often as my eyes are outside or on the instruments the majority of the time (as they should be). My mobile phone (Android) has it installed as backup but I haven’t actually used it on this device in the air.
NB – I always have my map with me.
So what makes SkyDemon so great? Well it is its ease of use. Planning a trip is as simple as clicking your start point and your endpoint and then adjusting your route as you see fit (to avoid airspace, dangerzones etc). From here SkyDemon does the rest, it gets all your NOTAMS, TAF, METAR, Winds and the weather for you to check before you go airborne. SkyDemon can also do your mass and balance however I still do this separatly at the moment.
Next you can print out a plog that will have your legs, the time it should take etc along with all the radio frequencies that you should need en route. I really can’t even put into words how simple the whole thing is and in my opinion these programs are becoming essential in our ever crowded skies. However yes I do agree that we should all still practice the conventional methods as no system is infallible and should my tablet and phone fail I will still need to be able to navigate using my map.
In the air SkyDemon will warn you if you are drifting of course, if you should change frequencies, of obstacles and most importantly of airspace. It really does allow you to concentrate on flying the aircraft as even when navigating with your map an accurate position is simply a glance away. Now of course we as pilots are never lost so to say but occasionally we can be “unsure of position”. This takes the high workload of flying the plane, holding the map and trying to work out where you are away and changes it to a “oh I need to go left a bit”. Anything that reduces workload in the cockpit and allows you to focus on flying is a positive thing in my opinion.
One of my favourite parts of SkyDemon is when you approach your destination it pops up and asks you what approach you want then draws handy arrows on the map so you can see visually what you need to do and circuit direction.
When you land you can pull up the Aerodrome information which will help you with your taxi etc, I mean SkyDemon even has fuel prices.
SkyDemon can also do your flight plans, give you estimation of leg times, warn of traffic, provide airfield layouts and information and probably a lot more that I haven’t even managed to dive into yet. The maps are updated frequently and they seem to have maps for most of Europe as well as places such as South Africa, USA, New Zealand & Parts of Africa.
With the amount of money we spend on aviation I must say in my opinion SkyDemon is probably one of the best value bits of software you can possibly buy and I would not hesitate to recommend it. 5/5.