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* Epic Sunday night sunset *
Given the lovely weather over the past few days you'd be forgiven for presuming the weekend would be the same. Sadly though that was far from the case and the rain, low cloud and reduced visibility returned to haunt us. Fortunately I had the weekend off which meant it wasn't quite as frustrating as it would've been had I been cancelled as a result. After a lie-in on both Saturday and Sunday I spent a few hours going over the core-techniques and knowledge that lacked in my first CPL profile. This includes revisiting the ATPL topic of meteorology as it was quite embarrassing how much I'd forgotten about the weather associated with each type of front / pressure. I also went over airwork items like stalling as well as reading the DA42 operations manual for circuits to refresh myself on VFR speeds and configurations for normal, flapless and asymmetric operations. There were a number of other areas I looked at including the VFR navigation techniques as some of those had escaped me too and with any luck this will help me when it comes to my second CPL Profile.
It wasn't all head in book though and I took the time to chill a bit too. As a number of cadets in CPs behind me were collecting keys to their newly built accommodation I spent Friday / Saturday evening at theirs over food and a few drinks. It's a nice setup they've got as unlike Clearways, which is housing enmass, the new build is four or so houses that back out on to the same courtyard. Each house is full of cadets at differing points in their training so it's quite a social mix too. I guess it's swings and roundabouts though as being in the city does mean it's a fair drive to the airport compared to our five minute car journey but regardless of that, a house would certainly have been more my cup-of-tea.
The flying stage of training has offered a chance to meet a whole host of new people - some of them I'd now consider quite close friends - and it's certainly going to be odd leaving them all behind when we eventually head home. That's just part of the process I guess.
* Under the Cowling: One of two Thielert TAE 125-02-99 2.0 litre engines *
With it being another day of poor weather it didn't look like I'd be flying anytime soon and as such my instructor booked me in for two hours of CPL classroom / whiteboarding / discussion work, otherwise referred to as Groundwork. In a way I've got to be thankful we've had some poor weather of late as it's really allowed me to focus on the theoretical stuff. The past weekend has been a great example of this and I've been able to spend some time absorbing the aircraft flight manual as well as revisiting the mass briefs covered much earlier in our training. It would appear as though reading the flight manual paid off to some extent with my instructor saying its' clear i'd studied the aircraft.
Part of the UK CPL flight test incorporates the class rating applicable to the type of aircraft and as such it's perfectly normal to be questioned on the Twinstar as much as the weather, air law etc so I'm thankful for having time to discuss aircraft systems today. With it being a public holiday in New Zealand - Labour day - there weren't any administration or maintenance staff in so we took the opportunity to look around a Twinstar in the hanger. While it's not a requirement for a cadet to know intricacies of mechanics or design, being visual learner it helped me join the dots between that written in the flight manual and the reality. We walked around the entire aircraft starting with the engine before then discussing the wings, winglets, pitot-static system, rudder, rudder trim, landing gear, etc etc. You name it. It was a great help.
After looking at the engines we then touched upon weather and NOTAMs but agreed to cover these in more detail during my next profile. We finished up by talking about the common traps within CPL flights and how I can work to avoid them as well as talking about what else I can read up on back at Clearways. Having had todays' session I feel a lot more confident that my aircraft knowledge is to standard which means I can work to focus on the actual in-flight weaknesses now. I'm hoping that a weekend of reading up on procedures will pay off in my second profile and that the weather doesn't get in the way too much.
With the end so close you can't help but want to just crack on with the CPL profiles and on checking the forecast the night before I spotted what looked like a small gap in the otherwise continuous bombardment of weather. Hoorah!! I may well get the opportunity to fly again, I said to myself, and made my life easier by planning as much of the flight I could the night before to maximise time in bed - as who doesn't love those extra few minutes!
On waking and looking out the window the sky was bright blue and I couldn't see a cloud in sight. I got ready, had breakfast, head into the training centre, pre-flighted the aircraft and then had a pre-flight briefing with my instructor. We discussed the weather at length and were of the impression the incoming weather was moving rather quickly. Nevertheless we were keen to go and give things a go and went to head out to the aircraft. It was at this point I could hit my head against the figurative wall as in the space of 30 minutes the sky had gone from bright blue to a dull grey. Visibility in the associated showers had also obscured the surrounding terrain. GREAT!!!! Just what I wanted given an early rise this morning.
My instructor and I discussed the possibility of pushing the booking back but as there was a CPL exam immediately behind me this wasn't an option and a cancellation was the result. You can probably imagine my frustration then when after a further 30 minutes the blue skies had returned. Today was a bit of a nuisance really and being so close to going home I feel rather drained of the constant delays / scheduling clashes / cancellations. I can't complain at the fact exams take priority as I'd expect that when I'm to sit one, but that exam booking then pushed back by an hour themselves meaning I may well have been able to go after all. Hey ho, just got to get on with it I guess.
To add to complexities, the run up to our CPLs happens to coincide with the majority of mandatory service work on the DA42 fleet and as such we're a couple aircraft down at any one time. Aviation loves to throw curve balls that's for sure and with everything considered of late there's a real possibility our group could well fly home in two groups although that remains to be seen. Three of my coursemates have their actual CPLs tomorrow and I wish them all the best of luck for that, although I'll sure be jealous if they head home a few days early.
I had hoped this flight would have been an improvement on the last but it wasn't and the opposite was true. My departure from Hamilton went well and I'd regained track to continue to the first destination without issue. Trying to spot the destination was my first mistake as I'd not accounted for the speed of the aircraft. In covering 2.3 miles a minute, I was looking for something still 3 minutes away. While I may have an eyesight worthy of a Class 1 medical, I've not yet the ability to zoom my vision and with low cloud and reducing visibility it was near to impossible to spot the destination from 6 miles away. Take away one: Wait until just before your ETA before looking, not 3 minutes or more prior!
I was happy with my diversion on my first profile but sadly the technique had left my brain on this one. I worked out a track but must've forgotten to take off variation as was 20° off. To add to that, I'd then failed to calculate a heading / groundspeed in time and subsequently got a bit flustered. In a nutshell, I'd have failed my CPL on this section. It was very poor and not to standard. Take away two: Go home and study diversion after diversion on the map to get the non-technical skill nailed before even attempting it in the plane. It frustrated me I couldn't do this, especially having done rather well in the first profile.
After completing the diversion (albeit poorly) we then completing some inadvertent entry into cloud, compass turns and limited panel before flying to Tauranga for circuits. The circuits weren't the greatest if i'm honest. There's something about Tauranga's circuit I've never got on with but I'm not blaming that on my performance as both of my approaches were far from stable. In other words I'd configured too late, or was simply too fast on approach. The same can be said returning to Hamilton where my crosswind technique had also left my brain.
You can imagine I was asking myself at this point: - WHERE HAS MY ABILITY TO FLY GONE?! - The thing is, I know I can do it as i've done it so many times before. So that was another takeaway: Go and read up on circuits. The final takeaway was simply the cleaning up from stalling, when.. and in what order.
All in all it was a terrible performance on my part met with a comment from my instructor saying:
To be frank with you, you'd have failed your CPL in three places there. Would you rather I put you in for remedial training now, or allow you to mull it over and do it after the next one if you're not to standard?
*Gulp*. Lot's to think about. We agreed I'd go away and read up on stuff and try again in my third profile. With most airlines seeking freshly qualified pilots who pass their CPL first time, or what's considered a first-series, there's no excuse for poor performance. In fact, if I'm unhappy after my next flight I might hold my hand up and ask for an extra hour or two myself. There's too much at stake otherwise. I know I can do it! In fact, I have done most of this recently with next to no issues so god knows what's happened.
One thing's for sure.. I'm determined to smash this CPL. No one ever said this flying malarky was going to be easy and I don't blame them as if you can breeze through an integrated course like this one - with no prior experience - without at least one hiccup here or there then hats off to you.
From the start of this week I'd noticed a tickle in my throat, some sneezing and a horrid stuffy feeling. Perfect, I thought, a cold is just what I want at perhaps the most critical point in my training. In fact, in hindsight I probably shouldn't have flown my second profile on Wednesday as I'm convinced I wasn't my best. Nevertheless, I felt it'd be best to postpone my final profile until I'd be able to perform to my full potential.
Waking up with barely any voice on Thursday was enough a reason for not flying on it's own, but I also had a banging head and blocked sinuses which would certainly have impacted my thought processes in the air. Unlike jobs I've held in the past where a cold simply means carrying a packet of tissues to blow your nose, flying brings the magic of 'pressure differential' along with it and thus feeling stuffy and having blocked ears can lead to complications in flight. Granted, these complications aren't as pronounced when your flight remains below 10,000ft, but they can still cause discomfort when climbing or descending should you not be able to naturally equalise pressure or complete the valsalva maneuver (holding your nose and blowing through it to clear ears). I spent most of the day in bed watching TV and in feeling a little better in the evening revised some non-technicals, including diversion planning, stalling etc in the hope of improving in these areas next time.
Waking up on Friday I felt a lot better so an early night and various medicines appeared to have helped. Or so I thought. Getting out of bed, showering, having breakfast etc and heading into the training centre ahead of my flight I felt as right as a rain. Then it hit me. I started to feel like I was getting a temperature and even when stood outside I was still warm. It wasn't long after that the sneezing returned. Brilliant! I guess my body was playing tricks on me. I found my instructor and explained I still didn't feel ready to go flying. He questioned why I'd come in in the first place as apparently I looked and sounded unwell but hey, your body can play tricks on you can't it! He cancelled the flight and I head back to Clearways after a quick trip to the pharmacy to stock up on some decongestant.
If a positive can be taken out of this situation though it'd be the weather. Now, as frequent readers among you know too well, I'd normally be the first to moan about marginal / poor weather conditions but the low cloud / rain we've had over the past couple of days couldn't have been more timely with this cold. Thursday's skies were marginal and pretty much all of Friday was a no go as far as flying was concerned. While it could be seen as selfish saying it in this manner, very few coursemates have been able to fly either and i've not fallen behind which is a positive. With any luck I'll be feeling better by the start of the week and back on track to fly home on the 2nd! Keep your fingers crossed!