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* The RANT software typically used on Radiotelephony tests. Source: Oddsoft Limited *
My new CP and I were brought into the academy today for a mass briefing on the UK Radiotelephony exam to learn more about what's involved. We learnt that as part of the UK Civil Aviation Authorities remit over EASA licences for pilots in Britain, it is a requirement that L3 assess our radio telephony skills in the form of a verbal speaking test. While each of us have already studied radio telephony as part of the VFR and IFR Comms ATPL theory exams, trainees are to also carry out an in-person assessment in which they act as a PPL pilot on a VFR navigation flight.
The test itself is carried out with the trainee sat in one classroom using a headset and a computer program which outlines an aircrafts progress along a route. The examiner is sat the in the adjacent room acting as Air Traffic Control. Ultimately, the test is run as a scenario in which the candidate is told what to expect at various points of the flight and, as you would expect in the real world, we are to respond with the appropriate radio calls. Given this flight is VFR, we won't have the luxury of automatically being cleared through controlled and/or military airspace and thus would form part of the expected script. In essence, the exam aims to test our knowledge of the structure of radio calls in-flight as specified in the appropriate CAA legislation. We'll be expected to complete all calls from departure to landing, including entering both controlled and military airspace as well as expecting to call for Pan Pan / Mayday situations. The scenario itself may well vary on the day, however.
We've been told to expect to be booked for this test at any-point within the next fortnight so I best start refreshing my memory and learning the order to which things must be said.
* Short final for Bournemouth's Runway 26 *
After what seems like an eternity, it was finally time to swap the DA42 sims for the real deal and boy... how much I missed it! I mean... call me melodramatic, but having not flown since my CPL flight test in mid-November where emotions weren't quite so relaxed, taking the real machine for a spin again was so much fun. The feeling of lifting off that runway brought back memories of my first flight at the controls of the Cessna out in New Zealand and it's certainly true what they say... once you've caught that flying bug you can't get rid of it! To my surprise, the ins-and-outs of flying all came back quite naturally just like riding a bike or driving a car. The Twinstar really is a pure delight to fly - when she's serviceable - and I can certainly see why former trainees now sat in their shiny multi-million dollar jets wish they could take her for a spin once more time. Sadly though, they're known to set you back up to £400 an hour for private hire.. ouch!.. but I digress.
* DA42 wing illuminated by the ice lights with a bright Bournemouth in the background. *
This lesson is designed to get us used to flying the Twinstar in airspace local to Bournemouth Airport and to re-introduce us to flying the actual aircraft given the obvious fact it's not a fixed-base simulator. With the majority of this lesson taking place overhead Bournemouth utilising the NDB beacon the flight has somewhat become known as a "Beacon Bash" as the precursor to the real routes flights that follow it. While there's nothing in the L3 syllabus that states this flight has to be scheduled at night, both aircraft and instructor availability resulted in that being the case. I was kind of happy with that really as night flying is still somewhat new to me and not "samey" like I imagine it'll become a few years from now and it provided additional exposure to the variations in flight - particularly during the VFR circuits. The ultimate goal of the flight was to complete the following:
* The outline of my flight as provided by FlightRadar24.com *
Despite having not flown for some time I felt incredibly at ease during the flight. This was helped by the fact the wind at altitude was pretty much bang on the forecast, which I've heard from peers is somewhat of a rarity. This made my two NDB holds relatively straight forward although with that said the first we flew using the GPS as the aircraft we were using was known to have some NDB issues when outside of a certain range. We humoured it for the second hold though and it ended up playing ball all the way down to the approach minima which was good for practice sake. With the DA42's in Bournemouth being a little older than their counterparts in New Zealand and considerably older than the NG variants previously used in Phoenix it initially threw me when the instrument readings went all over the shop upon lowering the gear. "Relax, that's normal" said my instructor as he proceeded to tell me that something during the gear deployment temporarily messes with read outs for a few seconds. Oh the joys of the antiquated NDB I thought to myself. What I wouldn't give to have a country reliant on the more modern technology... but heck, this is Britain we're talking about after all and we love to remain in the dark ages sometimes. That said, it's positive to see the UK employ more and more GPS procedures which will make every instrument pilots life that much easier!!
Post-flight my instructor asked me to first criticise my own flying before he'd continue with his own thoughts. On the whole I was incredibly positive about the flight bar one or two smaller points to which I knew were mistakes I'd made the moment I'd made them. One of these was doing the "Gear Up, Flap Up" check in the wrong place during the Engine Failure drills and another was failing to consider flap deployment to slow the plane down on final. Having initially expected some negative comments it was to my delight that my instructor described the flight as "Above Average" for what he'd expect at this point in training. *Phew* What a relief!! The smile on my face at that point I can't even describe to you. Things are finally improving and it's so great to hear this of late. I was also commended on keeping the aircraft within the limits expected of the Instrument Rating test itself with the remark that doing this early on will cement them in the brain come the real deal. Everything appears to beheading in the right direction at the moment that with a little study over the coming weeks and a few more flights I'll - with any luck - be considered a competent enough pilot to hold an Instrument Rating. Keep those fingers crossed eh!
Until next time,