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* The Exeter route in reverse as shown on FlightRadar24.com *
After twelve DA42 simulator sessions and six flights the time had come for my mock instrument rating test. This is referred to within L3 CTS as the 170A which is a term remaining from the times when the Civil Aviation Authority held sole authority of pilot licensing in the United Kingdom. Nowadays, however, the term and the very requirement for a mock flight no longer exist under the new pilot body EASA, but L3 CTS still keep it as a way of proving we're actually test ready. In essence, a number of instructors at L3 are approved by both the academy and EASA as signatories to paperwork which declares us ready for test and as such prefer to witness our competence to a level required to then pass the real examination. I'm very pleased to say that despite the strong easterly winds making for a rather stressful flight, I went on to pass and receive the all important piece of paperwork I need to now hand to the CAA examiner. Things are sure getting real now and it's only this one flight that stands between me and my commercial pilot licence with associated instrument rating and multi-engine piston rating more commonly referred to as a CPL/ME/IR, Frozen ATPL or fATPL. Exciting stuff.
To keep me on my toes the instructor conducting the 170A asked me to plan for Cardiff, a destination I'd yet to visit in the real aircraft and as a backup the Exeter route in reverse, something else I'd also not done. Cardiff ended up refusing the flight once again so it was off to Exeter we went. Apparently Cardiff have a habit of saying no unless it's an examiner booking the slot so sods law i'll get Cardiff on the actual day of the test, but instrument flying is instrument flying and by now I'd like to hope my knowledge and flying ability is to a standard that means I'd cope with it without major issue.
Thanks to the easterly runway being in use the departure on this flight was a bit of a faff as it required I cross the path of incoming traffic. Liaising with ATC they didn't provide me the initial departure I wanted so we first leave to the North West before turning South again adding a short delay to the route. Once at our first way point I neglected to switch to GPS as I'd previously expected an instructor to say "You may now use GPS" but in the test this apparently doesn't happen so a simple misunderstanding here almost saw me enter Plymouth's military airspace without consent - Whoops!! - but at least I've now learnt not to wait for a prompt and simply switch to GPS regardless.
The remainder of the flight went incredibly well and it's certainly the best I've flown to date. In fact, with the wind back at Bournemouth pretty much straight down the runway at 19 knots gusting 35 knots, the approach was perhaps one of the bumpiest and toughest I'd ever flown! Even the instructor said "Rather you than me on this one George it certainly looks like a battle!". The constant changes in wind speed saw my airspeed increase and decrease all over the shop as well as lift increase on one wing more than the other causing the aircraft to naturally roll to one side. Despite the added workload it was incredibly enjoyable and highly rewarding having kept the approach stable all the way down.
After landing my instructor praised my flying in the debrief with only a few concerns. I was also asked several theory questions on various aspects of flying, air law, performance calculations, licensing and general DA42 questions. These sure kept me on my toes and I was caught out by a couple but this afforded the opportunity to discuss them in some detail. I was then handed the paperwork saying I had the competence for the test and that was that. A handshake, a well done and best wishes of good luck followed and it was time to go home. Eeeek... this test is very close now.
A summary of my instructors comments were:
You made some silly mistakes on todays flight but the turbulence was particularly bad and you were working especially hard. I thought you coped admirably with the conditions, especially during the ILS and a smoother day would free up more capacity. Pay attention to your rudder during asymmetric operations - remember if right throttle goes forward, right rudder should go forwards and if throttle inputs are large, rudder inputs will also be large - hence SMALL prompt corrections allow for an easier ride!
* Northwards moving band of weather (snow) on the weather radar as of 18.50 on 1st March *
With the "Beast From The East" wreaking havoc on the vast majority of the British Isles, the operations at Bournemouth Airport pretty much ground to a halt. With weather conditions way below visual flight minima for the foundation guys and also below that for an IFR departures inclusive of the airlines whom operate here, L3 took the decision to shut down operations until Saturday at the earliest. In some ways this was a little frustrating as I couldn't complete my Instrument Rating which was pencilled in for the Friday but then you can't help mother nature can you! Annoyingly that's becoming a phrase I've had to say far too many times throughout my training, but I digress.
A few of us took the opportunity to go exploring around Bournemouth during the snow fall and it looked quite idyllic. I have no idea why some people felt it'd be a good idea to venture out in their cars though and on our way to town we had to stop and push a few peoples' cars out of some rather tricky situations. It sure made me glad that I opted to leave the car on the drive!! After an hour or so wandering around we ended up stopping in one of the Weatherspoons for dinner.
It's likely my test will now be booked for the weekend in the hope the colder weather and snow subsides, although with another band of weather not far behind "Storm Emma" then I may not be able to complete it until the earlier part of next week. Fingers crossed though!
Here's a few snaps of Bournemouth in the snow: