February/March 2015; Solo Navigation, Progress Tests & A New Addition

My last blog post was in January just after my first solo flight – a lot has happened since then!

I passed my next progress test and I am now flying solo cross country flights around the UK, I have temporarily moved out of my London house to a house in Abingdon (South Oxfordshire) and the biggest news is that I am now a Dad!

Millie Not long after writing my last post my daughter, Millie, was born which lead me to take a few weeks away from my flying training. I don’t really like to use this blog to talk too much about my personal life so all I will say is that Millie continues to brighten our day and it is a pleasure to come home from the amazing experiences of flying to the equally amazing experiences of being a parent.

When I returned to Oxford after a few weeks getting used to being a Dad I started with a few additional hours to get myself back to the solo standard I was at before I left. PT2The weather at the start of February was pretty bad so it actually took a bit longer than I thought it would to get me back on track. After the additional training and a few more hours in the circuit I started navigation and preparing for the next progress test. Navigation exercises use a lot of the theory we used in General Navigation in ground school combined with the general handling we did early on in our flight training.

After around 5 navigation flights with my instructor i was put in for the next progress test to asses whether I am able to fly navigation sorties solo. For the progress test (which I did on my birthday in March!) I had the usual preflight briefing of weather, mass & balance and general information about the aircraft. We then departed Oxford and headed to the north West towards Ludlow. The examiner didn’t give me anymore information about the flight beyond Ludlow so this was as much as I had prepared. CountrysideOnce we approached Ludlow I was told to divert to Newent and then to carry out a further diversion to Gloucester airport where we would carry out a touch-and -go and then head back towards Oxford. On the way back we simulated an engine fire which turned into a practice forced landing drill and was followed by an engine failure after take-off. I was also asked to use the radio beacons around us to provide a position fix on my way back to the airfield. Once we landed I was told I had passed but there were a few minor points that needed work (the same is said to most people after a progress test).

South CoastSince this test I have been doing quite a lot of solo navigation including trips to the Bristol Channel, Brighton and The Wash (near Norwich). I have also been doing dual instrument flights, which cover quite a bit of the material covered during the instrument rating.

The next step of my training will be night flying and PT3.


Week 2 – Transformers, Magneto and One Direction.

Week two of ground school phase one is now complete and the pace of the course is starting to increase!

OXF RampThe start of the week felt much more settled and we are starting to feel less like the new kids (a feeling that won’t completely go way until AP359 start in two weeks). It has been a relatively straight forward week as we continue to work through the EASA syllabus and get ready for Test 1’s (a progress test after 6 weeks).
In Aircraft Instruments we continued to look at the pressure instruments, focusing on the Altimeter and the Mach Meter. Both of which are relatively simple, although they will involve a bit of maths in the exam. The importance of understanding the pressure instruments became apparent when we watch a documentary about Air France flight 744, which disappeared over the Atlantic in 2009. During the flight the pressure sensors became blocked and therefore the pilot was receiving incorrect information from his instruments. As he was unable to spot the problem the aircraft stalled and ultimately crashed. In aviation an incident is never caused by one single element and this is also true of AF744, however it really shows how important our ground school training is!

In piston engines we began looking at methods of cooling and lubricating an engine as well as the fuel it needs to run. In Airframes we began looking at aircraft hydraulics, which play a massive part in the automation of modern aircraft. In Electrics we looked a fuses and batteries, which is much more basic than my degree knowledge (at the moment!). In Meteorology we looked at Pressure Systems, Density and Temperature – yes it is as interesting as it sounds! In Principles of Flight we looked at how an aircraft stays in the air – this time it wasn’t due to PFM (Pure F*cking Magic). And finally in Human Performance we continued to look at the effects of flying on the human body. All in all a busy week!

photo 1-1Next week is going to become a bit more intense as we ramp up the hours of Principles of Flight and Meteorology.

The week wasn’t all work – its really important to take some time out of studying (as our instructors keep telling us). Tuesday night was our usual 2-4-1 pizza night in Kidlington. Its always a nice relaxing atmosphere and so far we have had a different group of people turn up each time. This week we banned anyone from discussing the course as we had already had a pretty intense day. That didn’t quite go to plan, however the balance of conversation worked well!
We aso discovered that someone on our course (who shall remain nameless) has an obsession with penguins… This has lead us to create a course mascot – a penguin in a pilots uniform. He has been named Captain Cam (after our Piston Engine instructor who has an obsession with cam shafts!).

On Thursday it was Happy Hour in school – an evening for all courses to get together over a few (free) beers. Unfortunately a lot of our course decided not to come along so we were only a small group – we still had a great time though. That night we went into Oxford with AP355 (who had just completed phase 1) and AP357 (the course above us). It was a great night!!!

Night in OxfordThis weekend should be relatively relaxed again before another intense week of ground school.