PPL Lesson 36: Navigation and Diversions

I was up the school today for PPL Lesson 36: Navigation and Diversions. I am in the final stages of my PPL and actually have a week of work and I will be at the airfield everyday.
This week has been busy for me as I have been studying for my radio telephony practical which I was due to take after the the lesson.
The navigation was just a simple nav to bittersworth industrial estate. Once we got there my instructor did some aerial photography as he is a scout leader and the scouts were having a camping trip. This was SO much fun as I got to fly low, do steep turns and just generally have some fun!
After this we routed back to Northampton where I was told to plan a diversion to Bedford disused.
I did this quite easily using my 10 mile thumb (my thumb is basically 10 miles) and estimating the heading. I was actually shown a MUCH better way using what is known around the school as a “beer mat”, I will do a post on that at a later date.
After the diversion I was then told to head back to the airport where I negotiated my rejoin, was told to report left base runway 21 and I came in to land. I was a bit high on my rejoin which is something I can’t do going forward as you should be at circuit height (1000ft). It also meant that I was high on all the other parts (base, final) and had to sort it out.
I then landed and we returned to the school, however I was not done for the day! I had that RT practical that I had been worrying about for a while. The instructor for the test was one of the friendliest and nicest people ever. He gave us a through brief and even though I had been reading the CAP 413 for a long time this really helped.
I will do a post on how to pass your radio telephony exam but all I can say to you is don’t stress to much about this. I had also thought about taking an RT course before the test, but put it this way, I would have been annoyed if I did that as it really was not needed. Maybe it would be more use if you fly from a non controlled airfield but I’m not so sure.
I am glad to say I passed the test with a Level 6 and was told that technically I was very good I just needed to practice and pick up the speed a bit.
All in all a good day! …. oh, it’s also my birthday! 31 now, getting on a bit 🙂

PPL Lesson 35: Solo Circuits

So I arrived at the school today for PPL Lesson 35: Solo Circuits and there was more good news. My other instructor has got an assessment for an airline tomorrow so he won’t be able to teach my lesson. Not a problem at all! He is a great instructor and deserves it and I can just finish my final required solo time.
G-BOAC solo circuits
This will be a short post as I only needed 0.2 hours to get over the 10 hours solo minimum.
The circuit was empty today and there was a crosswind of 8 kts. I went out and did 3 circuits, a regular, a flapless and a short field. The circuits were all fine, the flapless was a little bit harder work as it had been a while since I had done one. I was out for a total of 0.5 which puts me up to 10.3 hours solo time.
From next Saturday I will be flying every day for a week in preparation for my test. We have 5 hours to go over everything before we are at the minimum 45 hours I need to be put forward for the test. My school has in-house examiners so hopefully arranging the test shouldn’t be an issue.
There are three of us (students) who have all done our cross countries in the last 2-3 weeks, so hopefully we will all be taking our tests in the next month or two.
It feels like it is all coming to a head quickly so I will just be thinking positive and paying extra attention to what my instructors have to tell me.

PPL Lesson 34: Radio Navigation and IMC

After not being able to fly last week due to having to work and the airfield being closed, today I had PPL Lesson 34: Radio Navigation and IMC.
Above the clouds c152

Today I was with Ian, an instructor who I had not flown with before but who had given me tutoring. If anyone reading this happens to fly from Cranfield and need help with anything, Ian is a qualified helicopter and fixed wing instructor who is quite frankly a genius and there isn’t really anything he doesn’t know.
Anyways we took of and I was told to climb, not a problem but erm, there’s cloud up there. Fly through them I was told, wooo! Something new to experience. Not only did I get to fly through cloud but I got to climb to 5000ft, that is a record for me!
We also were using DME and VOR to practice the radio navigation. This was the first time I had used them and it took some getting used to.
You put the frequencies into the radio then you need to get the line on the instrument to go through the center which also gives you a direction to or from the VOR.
On the DME it will give you the distance from the DME, this allows you to know how far you are from it.
Using the two you can either navigate to the radio station or workout where you are.
In regards to clouds this was a weird experience. In all my flying I fly with reference to the ground, and use ground as a reference for just about everything I do.
When you go into cloud you cannot do any of this! It is easy to get disoriented and end up in trouble very quickly. You need to pay very close attention to your instruments and especially your attitude indicator.
You need to also remember to keep your turns under 20 degrees so you do not get disoriented. I am glad we have practiced this as I would NOT want to be caught in cloud without the proper training. My instructor gave me a high workload at one point so he could show me how quickly you could become overwhelmed.
I will be staying well away from the clouds until I have the correct training!
After this we headed back to Cranfield and on final we were at risk of having to do a go around due to an aircraft on the runway so we did slow flight before getting a land after clearance. My instructor always told me NEVER go under 60, so coming into land just about above stalling speed was an interesting experience.
I’m back up at the airfield again tomorrow.
In other good news, my instructor Martin has got a job flying for a private jet company! This is great news for him.

Standard overhead join

The standard overhead join is something that you should be taught during your training, I was taught it using this diagram about 1 lesson before doing my cross country qualifier with no practice at all which isn’t ideal. As the second airport was closed I got 1 go at it before I had to do it for real the following lesson.
For this reason I thought I would do a blog post for anyone who is in training or people who just want a refresher. If you look below you will see a diagram of the standard overhead join and I will explain what is happening.

standard overhead join

  1. Over fly (blue line) – Over fly the numbers on the runway you want to land on at 2000ft to get to the dead side (the opposite side from the circuit traffic). You stay at this height so you are well above the circuit traffic.
  2. Descend (yellow line) –Once on the dead side you need to descend from 2000ft to 1000ft to join the crosswind leg at 1000 ft as I am sure you know, this is circuit height.
  3. Circuit (white line) – From here you just do your standard circuit, something that you should have a LOT of practice on during your PPL training. Remember you always announce or report your position in the circuit so on the downwind leg you announce downwind then you do your standard checks.
    From here you then turn base when you are 45 degrees from the runway and turn base and do all the configuring of your plane you need to (flaps & power).
    You do your final checks and report you are landing or request permission to land depending on if you are at uncontrolled or controlled airport.

So that is pretty much it, just always remember you have to descend on the dead side and that practice makes perfect!

Preparing for your PPL cross country qualifier

Now that I have completed my cross country qualifier I wanted to write a post that would help anybody who is coming up to theirs and wanted some advice on preparing for your cross country qualifier.
en route gloucester
The most important thing you can do when coming up to your cross country qualifier flight is prepare the best you can. I will go through the best ways to do this with you.

  1. Fly the route with your instructor – My instructor did the flight with me the lesson before I did it for real, which luckily for me was just one day before. This helps you get familiar with the route and to practice the joins at the airfield. The runway at the first aerodrome changed and the second aerodrome had terrible weather and I couldn’t land, but it helped me to just be there and see the area.
  2. Fly the route on google maps – Look out for key features, know what you are supposed to see and when. Look at the approach to the airport, see what it is located between!
  3. Plan well – Double check your headings, make sure your wind corrections are on track, make sure you plan the best route, get all the frequencies for the people you have to talk to. Also make sure you put all information you need on your plog and make sure you have the airfield plates to hand. Call up and ask for the current runway and plan your join but remember this may have changed so be prepared to change last minute.
    Make sure that you study the airfield plate instructions, you need to know if you are heading to an ATC controlled airport or Radio. Will you need to contact approach before being passed of to tower? Is there ground control?
  4. Chair fly the route – Sit down in a chair with your map and ‘fly’ the route. Practice your radio calls, revise your eta, get your join right in your head etc. It really does help and being confident on the radio will reduce your workload.
  5. Fly your heading accurately- Make sure you keep on track and fly your heading! Do all your en route checks and set an area on EACH leg where you can work out how many miles of track you are and correct for it. Use your watch to time your legs and at the half way point give yourself a revised ETA. Also don’t forget your FREDA checks (Fuel, Radio, Engine T’s & P’s and Carb Heat, D&G and Compass and Altimeter).
  6. Get a good nights sleep – This will be a long day with a lot of flying, you need to make sure that you are well rested the night before so you can be fully alert.
  7. Take something quick to eat and some water – You do not want to be 2500ft up in the sky and dehydrated or hungry so have some supplies with you. A banana is the perfect food for some quick energy.
  8. Dress appropriately – You can always turn the heat on once you are up there but you can not take your clothes of when you are strapped in! It’s better to be cold and turn the heat on then to be hot and try to use the cabin air!
  9. Enjoy it and have faith – You only get to do this once. Your instructor wouldn’t send you up in the aircraft to fly across the country if he wasn’t sure you could do it. At this point you will have a few solo flights under your belt. I had two solo navigations and 3 dual navigations before embarking on mine, which when you think about it, isn’t a lot.

Best of luck!


PPL Lesson 33: Cross Country Qualifier

Hot on the heels of yesterdays practice cross country qualifier today I had PPL Lesson 33: Cross Country Qualifier.
I must admit the build up to this had filled me with nerves as it is such a big thing considering that I have only done 2 solo navigations before I set of on my cross country qualifier. It did feel amazing to actually be at the stage where everyone has enough faith in me to get this done however!
The route was the same as yesterday, Cranfield -> Leicester -> Gloucester -> Cranfield. I had been following the weather all day and it was forecast to be really good which it was, to begin with at least. I got to the airfield early to speak to my instructor and just go through what I need to do. After the briefing I was given the official cross country qualifier form which you need to get signed by each place you land to prove that you turned up.
G-BMVB has long range tanks so I had more than enough fuel for the planned flights and I would not have to pick any fuel up at all.
I started the plane up did my checks and then taxied to the departure runway of 21 and took off. I headed to Olney and then set my heading to head to Leicester. It was a very calm day or so it seemed!
As I progressed along my route I changed to Sywell before changing to Leicester and requesting my join instructions. As I was doing the overhand join on the active runway I realised it seemed a lot windier then the winds I had of 120/15.
Anyways I did my overhand join and landed and was actually told by the guy on the radio that I had done a good job, this was nice to hear as I thought it wasn’t my best join but hey, he knows better than I do.

Leicester cross country

I went inside and checked in and asked them to sign my form after I had paid the landing fee of £12.50. Unfortunately time was tight today so I had no time to hang around so I headed straight back out to get going to Gloucester.
I did all my checks as usual and announced my intentions as this is a radio so you tell them what you are doing. I took of and climbed to my cruising altitude of 2300ft and headed to Gloucester via Northampton.
This route has a bit more work to do, I first changed to Sywell before switching to Brize Radar. It is always comforting being under radar surveillance as they give you a number to put in your transponder and then they alert you to any nearby traffic. As I progressed on this leg I went by a glider site but there was only 2 in the air so it wasn’t a real issue.
As I got closer to Gloucester I switched to get the ATIS before contracting them.
I was told to do a standard overhead join for the active runway but on the approach to Gloucester I could see that it was much windier than I had planned. En route I was also being blown of course to the right and had to correct.
The overhand join was hard work due to the strong wind and when I landed it was I would say the strongest crosswind that I had faced! However I made it down safe with plenty use of the rudder.

Gloucester and my finger
Gloucester and my finger.

Due to my haste, you have a nice shot of G-BMVB and my finger in Gloucester.
Another quick run inside and paying the £14.50 landing fee and I was back in the plane and taxiing back for departure to Cranfield, I am starting to feel like an airline pilot at this stage. To all the low cost carriers, as you can see, I can execute a quick turnaround and be back en route within 30 minutes 🙂
The weather seemed to be getting worse and it was very windy on take of and my climb out. I reached back to 2300 ft and headed back home to Cranfield. The flight was more of the same, 10nm out I switched to Brize Radar and was given the same code of 3717 to put in my transponder.
When I got closer to Cranfield I switched to their frequency and requested a basic service as I flew to Olney. I then requested the join instructions and landed on runway 03 back at Cranfield.
I passed my instructor as I came in but he was heading out for a lesson so I waited an hour for him to come back and sign my form. We did a debrief and I had home to have a well deserved cup of tea and some food, as all I had eaten all day was 2 satsumas and some breakfast biscuits.
Unfortuantly the airfield is closed all week and on top of that I have to work this weekend anyways so I won’t be back in the air until the 23rd 🙁
Now all that is left is to prepare for my test! It feels like the end is in sight! I have written this post on preparing for your cross country qualifier.

PPL Lesson 32: Practice Cross Country Qualifier

After the weather looking a bit dodgy for most of the week, today I had PPL Lesson 32: Practice Cross Country Qualifier.


I did most of the planning the night before so when I got to the school I only really had to correct for the wind and put my heights and corrected headings in.
The gap in the weather was scheduled to last till 2pm so we got going quite quickly.
My instructor and I got the plane ready and then we headed to runway 21 to take off. I took off and headed to Olney, this is our normal start point for most navigation flights.
This would be the first time I have headed to another airfield to land so I was excited to see what it was like to land elsewhere.
The flight to Leicester was uneventful, I had to switch to Sywell and do my position report and let them know where I was going. Not much later I had to switch to Leicester which is a radio. This means that they cannot tell you what to do, they can only give you advice.
I did the standard overhead join and landed on runway 08 and taxied to park. We then had to go and pay for a landing which is something I am not used as they are included at Cranfield. The cost to land at Leicester is £12.
I did not stay here for long, maybe 15 minutes in total because I wanted to get back up and get on my to Gloucester. On this leg it was going to be around 55 minutes in total with a turning point at Northampton.
On this leg I needed to talk to Sywell, Brize Norton Radar and Gloucester. The most eventful part of this flight was talking to Brize Norton as I had never talked to radar controllers before. The main difference is that they give you a number to put in your transponder so that they can identify you, I was 3717 today. The thing you have to remember is to put the transponder to standby before changing and then putting it back to Alt.
I also had to pass an area of intense glider activity, but luckily there wasn’t many gliders out today, I was prepared to go around that area if I needed to. We hit a major problem when we got to Gloucester. There was grey skies, low clouds and poor visibility. My instructor asked me to do what I would normally do if he wasn’t here, I told him I would do a 180 and turn back to which he seemed happy with.
As he was with me he flew in a bit to show me what it was like to be in those conditions, it then started to snow, these conditions are most definitely not fun. I would have liked to land at Gloucester before doing it for real tomorrow but hey at least I saved the landing fee 🙂
My instructor then asked me after a while to plan a diversion to Cranfield, which I did with my protractor, ruler and CRP-5. My instructor told me that he was going to show me a much faster way.
The flight back to Cranfield was uneventful, we hit Woburn Town requested the join and was told to report downwind runway 21. From here I did a standard circuit, landed and then taxied to park.
The most important thing to remember when flying solo is to remember your checks to make sure that your plane is performing like you expect it to.
Tomorrows plan should the weather hold up is to do it again myself, I must admit I am excited!

PPL Lesson 31: Solo Navigation

Following on from yesterdays lesson I had PPL Lesson 31: Solo Navigation.
View from the sky
I was back with Martin, my original instructor and we decided that it was time to get another solo navigation in.
He gave me the route, Cranfield -> Olney -> Grafham Water -> Chipping Warden -> Olney -> Cranfield.
I then set about planning my route. I wont go into much detail as it’s always the same.
Next I walked out to the plane and went through my checks, I got a taxi clearance to E1 and then was told to back track and take of from runway 21.
I took off cleared right turn VFR towards Olney and climbed to my cruising altitude of 2000ft (doesn’t sound as fancy as 36,000ft does it?).
From Olney I turned heading 069 towards Grafham Water, I estimated that this leg would take 10 minutes and had the check points of Bedford disused and Poddington along the route. I arrived at Grafham Water bang on time and then turned 247 to head towards Chipping Warden.
This was the longest leg and I worked out it would take 25 minutes to arrive. The halfway point was over flying the tip of Northampton and could see that I was going to be slightly late. By the time I arrived at Chipping Warden I was 5 minutes later than I had planned, that leg was pretty rocky. The wind I had planned was 190/20 but it might have changed and this might explain the extra 5 minutes. When I arrived I was slight to the right of my point but it was still within my view.
I then flew the heading of 100 to head back to Olney, this was a 13.5 min leg. This leg was uneventful and I arrived at Olney again bang on time. From Olney I requested the join for Cranfield and was told to join right base runway 21. I reported right base and was told to report final. I then report final and landed and taxied back to park on Echo after doing my after landing checks.
All in all it was a good day, my instructor told me that over the next two lessons we will practice the cross country qualifier route which will be Cranfield -> Leicester -> Gloucester -> Cranfield.

Edit – A closure of the M1 due to a lorry spilling it’s load on Saturday and the weather not being good enough on Sunday put an end to my flying. The new plan depending on if the weather is good enough is to fly the cross country qualifier with my instructor on Saturday and then to do it for real on Sunday! At the moment the forecast isn’t looking great but we shall see.

PPL lesson 30: Navigation


I was back up at the school for PPL lesson 30: Navigation today.
First of all the weather was amazing!  Few clouds at 2300ft but apart from that clear blue skies.
The winds were 010/10 and visibility was over 10km.
Neither of my instructors were available today so I had a new instructor called Gino who is also a first officer at Ryanair, that makes two.
I must admit Gino was great,  easy to talk to,  really easy to get on with and most importantly a great instructor.
I had been told last Friday that the route would be Cranfield – > Conington – > Sywell – > Cranfield.
When I got to the school it was empty as the instructors were out checking the plane. I just got cracking on with my planning which was pretty much done I just needed to I adjust for wind etc.
We then sat down and had a chat before heading to the plane and taking off.
It was an amazing day for flying, in fact it was the best that I have had so far by a long way.
We set of towards Conington and my instructor taught me not to look at the map all the time. He said to trust your planning and look out for your waypoints. My waypoint this leg was Grafham Water which is a huge reservoir.
About 10 nm from Conington I did my first frequency change which goes like.

G-BOYB, freq call, Conington,  127.85.

The reply is –  G-BOYB freq call approve,  goodbye.

Next I contacted Conington and when they replied and asked me to pass my message I gave.

G-BOYB type 152, 2 Pob, 10 miles SW at 2000ft, will be transiting your overhead and departing to the west. QNH 1015

They then replied report overhead QNH 1002.

To which I replied report overhead, QNH 1002.

I was surprised how well I did with the calls and we actually hit Conington and every other way point exactly on time. I won’t go into much more details as it is pretty much the same as the first leg I did.
On the way back I did my first diversion which is another high workload time in the cockpit You need to plan you diversion, work out your ETA all while still flying the plane.
My instructor offered to do some aerobatics to which I declined, straight and level flight for me at the moment 🙂
After this we came back to Cranfield  where I was asked to join left Base and land on runway 21.
All in all it was a great day of flying and I really enjoyed flying with this new instructor. I have a few things to read about and brush up on tonight before I am back up at the school tomorrow.
In total we flew for 1.5 hours.

PPL Exercise Numbers

Navigation planning
If like me, you may have a few gaps in the remarks section of your logbook. Instead of always asking my instructor what the PPL exercise numbers should be, I decided to get a list of all the exercises. Using this you can fill in the gaps or just look it up for reference.

PPL Exercise Numbers

Familiarisation with the aeroplane


Emergency drills

Preparation for and action after flight

Air experience

Effects of controls


Taxiing emergencies

Straight and level flight




Slow flight


Spin avoidance

Take-off and climb to down-wind position

Circuit, approach and landing

Emergencies (on take-off/landing)

First solo

Advanced turning

Forced landing without power

Precautionary landings


Navigation at lower levels and reduced visibility

Radio navigation

Basic instrument flight