This post has been split into sections. Click/tap a heading to get started.
* The early morning 5am face - I'm genuinely love my sleep too much! :-( *
Having had a nice relaxing weekend back at home seeing the family followed by a glutenous Monday eating a Nando's for lunch and a TGI Friday for dinner - I know... even I was shocked - it was time for me to return to Bournemouth and continue training. With the schedule released at 6pm I was down for a report time of 6am and a small part of me died at the prospect of such little sleep. Realising I'd forgotten to wash my uniform I chucked a load in the machine, planned the route to Oxford and got myself off to sleep. Or so I thought. Living in a flat converted from the loft space means the wind can sometimes really whistle around the exterior of the property and with winds upwards of 40mph I sure was kept awake! Being incredibly tired on waking up, all I'll say at this point is: Swiss Cheese. Bare with me on that bizarre reference.
Arriving at the training centre for 6am alongside my coursemate Paul we both completed the walk around of the aircraft and reviewed the mornings weather, NOTAMs and other pertinent information. Here came the next few slices of Swiss Cheese. The 2nd being the wind being over the Twinstar's published crosswind limitation, the 3rd being a reduction in radar service across multiple air traffic control regions, the 4th being an incredibly low atmospheric freezing level likely to lead to adverse icing on the airframe, the 5th being reduced airport training capacity, the 6th being a significant meteorology warning out for severe turbulence and, need I go on? Essentially, all the holes on the Swiss Cheese Model were lining up quite nicely and therefore it didn't seem at all sensible to go flying today.
Paul was up first so his flight to Exeter was cancelled and we both sat with our instructor to go over theory for the instrument rating test instead. This was very beneficial and has certainly given us both direction as to the types of things we should consider studying. A couple of hours later my own scheduled time of departure approached but Oxford were unable to accept training flights and sadly it was the same story in Cardiff. Given I'd already flown to Alderney and Exeter I really didn't fancy going to either of those again so was rather reluctant to attempt it. Frustratingly though out of all of the airports we fly to only Exeter were willing to take us. I agreed Paul could have the slot given he was to fly their in the morning and it'd have been the most beneficial to him, but it ultimately no difference in the grand scheme of things as the weather failed to improve and he cancelled for a second time.
Hoorah for British Weather!! With any luck we'll have better flying weather later on in the week.
* Returning from Exeter during Paul's flight. Rather hazy out there. *
Following a failed attempt at flying on Tuesday, Paul and I were rescheduled to complete our flights today. It was another early start so I was up at 5.15am to get into the training centre for 6am. On arriving our instructor asked us both why weren't in even earlier to which we both replied we thought the place didn't open 'til 6am. Unbeknownst to us our instructor had actually been in to open up the building at 4.30am expecting us to be there 2 hours before our flight. Thankfully he had pre-flighted etc for us to allow us to get away on time, but at least we now both know it opens up even earlier if needs be.
The first flight of the day Paul flew us down to Exeter to complete the GPS approach. Having flown this route once before and having already back-seated it, albeit at night, I was loving the view. The Exeter flight takes you directly over the Yeovilton airbase where my Dad works I was sure to send him a video of us overflying it. I also got quite a good view of my hometown Yeovil and its' neighbouring town Sherborne too which was rather cool. The weather was very calm today compared to the two days prior and with extensive visibility I could see all the way up the M5 to Taunton, Weston-super-Mare and even Bristol. I got a few video clips here and there and I'll no doubt combine them with my Alderney footage to produce another Vlog at some point - watch this space.
Paul flew the GPS approach into Exeter as I had the week prior and, just like I did, soon discovered how quickly everything happens once you reach Cardiff's controlled airspace. He managed it well overall and following the approach and holding we head back to Bournemouth. With the sun now rising into the sky to wake up all the 9 til 5ers beneath us, the sky soon became rather hazy and general levels of turbulence increased. To make today's flights all the more interesting, Radar was unavailable at Bournemouth so standard position reports and increased pilot lookouts were required.
* Climbing into London's airspace on the way to Alderney *
After Paul's flight it was my turn to fly. Oxford was the planned route, Alderney became the reality. I was a little frustrated it has to be said but unfortunately it was outside of my control. At L3 cadets have to request with the operations department that slots be booked with the airfields we wish to fly to. For those unaware this slot is essentially a period of time to which the air traffic control service at that airfield agree to handle our training requirements. I requested this as I had done for Tuesday's flights but annoyingly the only airfield able to accommodate training during my flight was Alderney. With only five opportunities to fly routes in the Twinstar before your mock instrument rating it's less than ideal to fly the same routes over and over but as the weather was so good I couldn't not go. I'm sure i'll be less keen next time now that I've only 2 routes lessons left, but to make it more worthwhile my instructor managed to book both a GPS and NDB approach which was certainly helpful practice.
Departing at 10am the weather was beautiful at around 11° compared to the 2° of the week previous. The one caveat to this of course is the Twinstar canopy is literally like a fish bowl so the time we spent on the ground setting up the aircraft, taxiing and waiting for departure at the holding point had us in a bit of a sweat. Thankfully once we had some forward momentum the cabin filled with some much needed fresh air. The first point of the flight today was a bit of a mess as I completely turned passed my first assigned heading and busted the assigned level by 200ft. I'm starting to learn that humans can fall into habits of 'the norm' and when this changes it can very easily distract you. Today is a prime example as the radar outages mentioned earlier meant we were very quickly passed to Southampton's radar controllers prior to then being passed to London's controllers. Getting this radio call in promptly caused the slip up which, if in test conditions, would have cost me my first time pass Instrument Rating!- ARGGG.. it's so so so so so easy to mess up it's a joke! Don't get me wrong I can totally get why things are so strict though.
* Yours truly flying the GPS approach into Alderney *
The en-route phase, like most of my flights, went without any noticeable issues. My instructor did comment to say I could have asked him about icing a few more times and I'll admit the fact it was so so sunny outside distracted me from the need to even do this. But then the test is carried out in simulated icing conditions so even if it was a summer heatwave you have to convince your instinct that you're actually in cloud and continue to pretend by asking every 3 to 6 minutes "Are we in any ice?". Just as well we weren't today though eh as the icing system on the aircraft was unserviceable and it could only be flown out of visible moisture.
When we arrived at Alderney I flew the GPS approach which i'd previously only completed in the simulator which went very well EXCEPT I remained 100ft too high the whole way down the final approach. This would have been another fail point in the real test as I failed to recover a stable approach by the point we make a decision to continue to land or go around. Now... while in reality this is less than ideal and i'm sure an airline would frown upon it if it occurred, you could simply carry out a missed approach and reposition for another try at the approach. This is fairly standard and i'm sure for one reason or another many of you might have seen this first hand on your holiday flights with the pilot opting to go around for some reason. Unfortunately, however, we're not allowed to this in the instrument rating test and must get the approach right first time. Thus, i was rather frustrated with myself. Thankfully I managed to do better during the NDB approach which I'd previously made a hash of during my last trip to Alderney but still, I felt a bit deflated after this flight.
The return to Bournemouth was fairly standard although the lack of radar meant we had to report our positions at various points and instead of completing a vectored ILS approach air traffic control required we took up the hold above Bournemouth to re-position our aircraft for the procedural ILS approach. You could really tell that the controllers were earning their salaries today as every few moments they were asking aircraft to report their altitude, position, expected time at the hold or airfield etc. It was clear they were building a mental picture of where everybody was and even airlines had to hold above the airfield with a Ryanair aircraft being number two for the approach behind us. It was quite busy for an airfield the size of Bournemouth so I imagine radar outages in busier airports would be mental.
All up my instructors summary of my flight was as follows.. but it's clear i've got some work cut out for me. A bit annoyed at my ability to say the least but then again, I have had a whole week between both flights due to weather at the moment which isn't ideal for continuity:
George, all the elements of route flying are in place but you need to work on the detail and accuracy now. Ensure that you have a clear plan of what needs to be done and when, work to stay ahead of the aircraft throughout the flight - which you did, but you'll need to have a clear overview of the approach you intend to fly in more detail than you'd understood it. More awareness of your groundspeed on the GPS approach would have ensured you would have the correct rate of descent needed. If necessary make small adjustments to pitch and power to regain a profile and maintain speed control. You could have descended down to 1,500ft at Alderney much sooner to be level before the start of the final approach, there was no need to descent at a constant rate at that point. Being level earlier would have helped you out quite a bit. It would appear your scan of the instruments is slipping a little bit, but I appreciate this is something that comes with continued flying which a weeks break in your flying hasn't helped.