The route I flew on Microsoft Flight Simulator in preparation for the real flight.

Yes I know I still need to write more about the flying I did in the States.  I can’t express well enough in written words how much I enjoyed the flying out there.  It was an incredible experience, even if there were many early mornings involved.  They were offset by the numerous breakfasts/lunches we had at the various airports we stopped at.  Instead of waiting to finish writing about flying in the States before writing about the flying in Oxford, I’ll just get on with it because if I don’t, it may never happen.

The majority of the flying in Goodyear was with reference to what you could see outside and a map.  It was a fun way to navigate: that mountain is there, that lake is just there and this road is just to my right, I’ll go this way.  In the built up areas of AZ this was an excellent way to navigate.  It was very easy to pick out the various town and other features to know where you were and which way you were going.  However, it became a little more tricky if all you had was a bumpy desert floor.  One small hill looked like another just west of it.  Which was the right one?  When flying at 30,000 feet or in cloud, the ground is either too far away to use for navigation references or you can’t see it.  That’s where radio navigation comes in.

Despite popular belief, it is sometimes possible to see the ground from the air in England (or to see the sky if you're looking up from the ground!). Since this is the case, it is necessary to use screens to ensure the trainee pilot cannot see out and so must fly with reference to their instruments.

Having an instrument rating qualifies you to navigate from one location to another with reference to instruments that receive signals from radio beacons.  In AZ, to know where I was going I had to be able to see the ground.  Now, with the help of these radio beacons I can takeoff from Oxford and navigate to another airport without seeing the ground again until I’m almost at the destination airport.  I haven’t done that just yet, but I will do.  Instead, I’ve just done routes around the Oxford area without going to other airports.

The route in the image at the top of this page started at EGTK, Kidlington airport.  I took off from Runway 19 and climbed ahead until about 1nm out.  I then turned right to heading 330 so I would head away from the NDB OX which is located to the right of Runway 19.  When about two miles from the beacon (measured using DME) I turned right again and headed straight to the beacon.  Once overhead, I intercepted a 161° course outbound towards a waypoint called BOTLY.  Waypoints can be anywhere and defined by a bearing and distance from one or more radio beacons.  BOTLY by definition is located at D43 (43nm as measured by DME) on the 161° radial from HON (Honiley) which is a VOR.  As you can see, I went into a holding* pattern once arriving at BOTLY.  This was a nice easy direct entry into the hold since I was arriving on the inbound leg.

After holding at BOTLY I departed to the north-east towards the Westcott NDB (WCO).  Here I went into the holding pattern again (left hand) this time using the ‘offset’ entry seeing as this time I wasn’t arriving on the inbound course of the hold.  Once done at WCO I headed back west to the OX to practice the NDB 100 procedure.  This is an arrival procedure used for locating the airport in low visibility conditions.  Some procedures will line you up with a runway and others will just locate the airport for you and then it’s your job to get to the active runway.  I’ll leave this here for now, I’ll be amazed if you stuck with me this far!  I flew this for real on Monday evening and it was a great experience.  I had forgotten how different flying was to using a simulator!  Simulators are great for practicing the procedures but they just don’t simulate the workload too well.  In the air you have constant radio chatter in your ear and an aircraft that just will not pause in mid air no matter how much you would like it to!

*Holds/holding patterns are used when you need to remain in the same place.  Since you can’t stop most aircraft once in the air, a holding pattern can be used to keep you in a safe place while you wait to receive clearance into an airport, diagnose a fault or setup for an approach.

Circuits – AP12 & 13

Staying in the pattern (flying circuits) is the best way to practice landings because you get a landing in every five minutes or so.  The video above shows one of those circuits.  It’s not me flying but it shows what I was doing moments earlier.


The basic left-hand traffic pattern.

The basic left-hand traffic pattern.

The traffic pattern is pretty simple.  It can either be left-hand or right-hand.  Sometimes both circuits run at the same time depending on how ATC are running things.  A normal circuit only takes about five minutes so you can get plenty of landing practice in a single lesson.  The pattern here at Goodyear is flown at 2000 feet above mean sea level.  On the ground you are already 968 feet above mean sea level so the pattern is 1000 feet above ground level.  You fly the upwind to 500ft and then turn crosswind, still climbing.  Upon reaching 2000ft level off and if you haven’t already, turn for the downwind leg.  The downwind leg is flown about one mile away from the runway.

When the touchdown point on the runway is about 45 degrees behind your wing, that is a good time to turn onto your base leg.  When turning base reduce power and set flaps to 25 degrees to assist with altitude loss and slowing down.  Turn onto final and set flaps to 40 degrees – maintain 70kts until over the runway.  When over the runway, reduce power to idle as appropriate and raise the nose (flare) for touchdown.  As you probably heard on the radio there was a quick chirp from the stall warner just before touchdown.  That’s pretty much how you want it to be.  You don’t want to stall any higher than just above touch down!

This is the view of the runway on the base leg.

This is the view of the runway on the base leg.

Turning onto final.

Turning onto final.

If you look at the full size version of the ‘final’ picture (by clicking on it) you will see the PAPIs (Precision Approach Path Indicators) on the left hand side of the runway.  These help in setting up the correct descent rate when approaching the runway.  What you want to see is white on the outside and red on the inside.  That shows you’re on the correct glide path.  Two whites tell you that you’re too high and two reds tell you that you’re too low.

Climb, Descent and Medium Turns – With Radio Calls! (AP4)

My flight on Thursday was history in the making – it was the first time I was let loose on the radios to air traffic control.  It was a good flight and when my instructor said ‘right, time to go back’ I couldn’t believe it.  The lessons always go so quick.  We covered climbs, power-off descents and medium turns (up to 30 degrees of bank).  I was looking forward to having a go at landing but we were short of time and the sun was getting low in the sky – and directly lined up with the runway we would be approaching which would make it difficult for anyone to land, never mind a first timer!

I downloaded and  compiled my radio calls to the tower from liveatc.net so everyone can have a good laugh.  You can tell from the calls that I am an absolute beginner.  That’s okay though, the tower controllers were patient and helpful.  Have a listen!  One of my friends was on the tower frequency at the time and had a good laugh at my ‘arrival’ call.

Everything up to that point was okay, a little hesitation here and there but nothing too bad.  Listen out for Warrior 271SG, that’s me!  I’m pretty inconsistent with my call sign, I sometimes miss bits off or give more than the tower was looking for.  Once they have addressed me as Warrior 1SG I can use that but I forgot!  Once I have my hold short instructions from the tower you can hear Airship Snoopy Two call up.  I had to leave that in there because if I had to pick any voice for an airship pilot – that one would be it!

Straight after that you can hear me call up the tower to state my position and tell them I want to land.  It wasn’t really that quick, I just cut out the bits inbetween.  Instead of saying ‘…two miles south of the gap with information sierra inbound for full stop’ which means I want to land I said: ‘…two miles south of the gap fooooooooor…arrival?’  Ha!  It sounds as if I was asking the tower what I wanted.  After that things start getting a little busy so my instructor takes over.  There are two aircraft in front off us to land so we have to listen and look out for where they are.

My radio calls on friday were a lot better from what I could tell, I’ll post them when I get them put together.  I’ve just discovered a problem with my keyboard – sometimes it prints the letter I have pressed twice and sometimes not at all.  That needs fixing quick and I have no idea where to start.

Thanks to liveatc.net for the recording.

Effects of Controls & Straight and Level

Me with the wee Warrior.

Me with the wee Warrior.

My next two lessons (AP2&AP3) covered effects of controls and straight and level as the title of this post suggests.  I was a little nervous about the second flight because of the nausea thing but it wasn’t an issue.  Both lessons were very smooth because they were the first of the day.  A favourite part of both of these lessons was taking off.  Even though the wee warrior doesn’t have the same acceleration as a passenger jet it is still really satisfying to push the throttle forwards and accelerate towards rotation speed (the speed where you lift the nose off the ground) which is 65kts in the Warrior.

B-E-A-utiful view! Kind of looks like Sim City from up here.

B-E-A-utiful view! Kind of looks like Sim City from up here.

My lessons are usually back to back with my two flying buddies so our instructor will do one flight after the other.  If the first two pilots go together on the first flight, we can land away at another airport, switch, and have the second pilot fly back to Goodyear and then the third pilot gets his flight.  I hope you followed that!  On AP3, we landed at Mobile which is about 20nm south/south-east of Goodyear.  It is insanely quiet out there, the airport is un-manned and the only other thing nearby is a landfill and I couldn’t even hear that.  I haven’t landed yet but I look forward to it.  It looks like quite the challenge!  Taking off isn’t terribly difficult, keep the nose on the centre line with the rudder (requires right rudder due to various forces acting on the plane) and rotate at 65kts.  Hold a slight nose up attitude to climb away but not too steeply.  Keep your hand on the throttle until 1000ft above the ground – that isn’t strictly essential in a single engine aeroplane, it’s more preparation for flying a twin.  If you have an engine failure on takeoff in a twin, you want to throttle back the live engine straight away.  You can’t do that unless your hand is on the throttle.  It’s fun and I’m looking forward to the challenge of landing.  Unfortunately it isn’t as simple as taking off – but then it wouldn’t be a challenge.  AP4 will be tomorrow morning – climb, descend and medium turns.

Straight and level was a good lesson for getting to know the area better.  There’s not much else you can do going straight and level for over an hour!  We did turn, just not very often.  The aim of the lesson was to be able to hold altitudes (using trim) and hold headings using references on the ground.

Who said there was a 'right' way up anyway?

Who said there was a ‘right’ way up anyway?

I was out at an RC flying club this morning – my first time ever to such a place.  It was a lot of fun too even though I didn’t get to fly.  If I was even allowed to fly the pictured aircraft above I would have said no right away.  The risk of messing up is way too high!  The pilot of the blue plane has been flying RC aircraft for about thirteen years and that is clearly visible when watching him do that flying thing.  He had it upside down, spinning, looping, ‘hovering’ and flying sideways.  The performance was a complete show stealer, everyone stopped to watch and for good reason too, it was very impressive!  He was just as good with RC helicopters too, I had no idea they were so maneuverable – or strong enough to withstand such insane flying.

Helicopter or lawn mower? Both!

Helicopter or lawn mower? Both!

Right, that’s it.  I’ll let you know how tomorrow goes.

Post Exam Debrief – or Relief?

My three-day weekend.

Last weekend was the run up to the first school tests, aptly named Test 1’s.  As previously mentioned (I think), these tests are to see how we’re doing and how well we’re receiving the ‘stuff’ being taught.  The three-day weekend was a life saver, I don’t know how I would have covered all that I wanted to without it.  Notice how there isn’t a book in sight in the picture?  No comment.

Runway parallel with the coast, crosswind due to sea breeze.

Super cool diagram.

Above is one of my super cool diagrams.  Probably one of the best I have ever done.  The thing is, they don’t really need to be so detailed.  I was trying to visualise which way the crosswind would be coming from when approaching in a particular direction.  Notice how I put the wrong approach on first!  Like I say, they don’t need to be so detailed, I was just looking for a way out of answering more questions.

Drawings help you out in a number of subjects – instruments, meteorology, and some systems stuff too.  I used drawings in many of my recent tests, I’m certain they earned me a good few marks.  I’m not quite ready to publish my results to the entire world, it is sufficient to say that I did well enough to not have to see the chief ground instructor or be thrown off the course.  I’m relieved, I worked really hard over the last six weeks.  I was worried that I wouldn’t get the grade I expected because I wasn’t sure what I would do differently to improve.  So, relief all round.  I’m going to have to keep up that pace to maintain (and hopefully improve) my score throughout the next six weeks.

Sunday Lunch

Here’s one I made earlier.

It’s important to eat well when you’re working really hard, hopefully that is common knowledge.  I don’t make a Sunday lunch everyday, but it does make a nice treat on a Sunday afternoon when there’s a bit more time to make one.  I’m a cheat, I think everything on the plate was frozen an hour before the photo was taken.  Everything except the gravy that is, that was still powder.

My family were down for the weekend, that was most enjoyable.  Had they been down the previous weekend I would hardly have seen them.  There was much good food to be had over the weekend too.  The weather was amazing and I had no studying to do.  All this combined made for a wonderful weekend.  Now…back to work!

Across the Atlantic – Part 1

I recently crossed the Atlantic to head over to Utah to catch up with some friends and attend a church conference before I crack on with flight school.  It has been three years since I was last over and it could be a lot longer before I’m back – saying that though, if I can pop up sometime during foundation flight training while I’m in Arizona that would be a real treat.

We took a route most of us had never done before – Manchester-Paris-Salt Lake City.  My sister had done it before and the rest of us were none the wiser.  The mammoth journey started not long after I woke up at 02:30, only two hours after I went to sleep.  It reminds me of the time I went to Ireland a few hours after a Muse concert.  The drive to Manchester was fine, nothing to report there.  We checked in at about 4:45.  After spending probably thirty minutes in the line we got to the desk and were told that we had to use the electronic check-in at the back of the line.  Fortunately they said we could skip back down the line to the desk.  I would have been ever so slightly irritated had it been otherwise.

The electronic check-in machine didn’t work because we were connecting in Paris to the USA so back to the desk we went.  All sorted.  Time was short, we went straight through security, walked to the gate, sat there for ten minutes and then boarded.  The flight to Paris was fine, very quick with not much to look at.  The fun started when we arrived in Paris.  We had a couple of hours before boarding our next flight and so were looking forward to a bit of breakfast.  Thanks to the French security we had to pass through we had to say goodbye to breakfast.  They were so slow it was untrue.  No-one was in a hurry.  There were as many people going through as there were in Manchester only much much slower.  I wonder how many people the caused to miss flights.  And how many breakfasts they caused to be skipped.

A few hours into the Atlantic crossing lunch was served.

Sir, do you know how to operate an emergency exit?

On Wednesday I blasted off runway 14 at EGNM headed for EIDW (Dublin International).  I was heading to Ireland just for the day with my sister.  We couldn’t pass the opportunity by at £16 return.  I was able to meet up with some good friends and visit one of my favourite restaurants.  As you can see the weather was overcast in Leeds, it was the same in Dublin.  It took the Ryanair 737-800 about twenty minutes to get on top of all the cloud and haze – we reached 24000ft and about 400mph, stayed there for a few minutes and then started the decent.  The flight is barely forty minutes.  When we did finally get to those clear skies, it was fantastic.  Not far above us there was a magnificent layer of cirrus clouds, it looked wafer thin from where we were.

I could really get used to seeing views like this on a daily basis.  Even though I had flown in December I’d forgotten just how thrilling takeoff was.  We lined up on the runway and moments later you could hear the engines spool up, stabilize, and then roar into takeoff thrust.  The acceleration was phenomenal, seconds later the ground was getting further and further away.  I enjoyed pointing out all the places I could recognise from the air and made the most of it as we would be arriving back in the hours of darkness.

My favourite place to eat in Dublin is Eddie Rocket’s – an American style diner.  There are a few in Dublin, Galway and Cork and even a couple in the UK.  I had the ‘cheese please’ burger with a chocolate malt and it was well worth the wait, the quality was fabulous.  I could have really done with a nap afterwards but there are few places to sleep at the Dundrum Shopping Centre.

While we waited for a friend to get out of work we just browsed the shops.  I found a stunning new tie in M&S – it’s most colourful.  It was getting colder by the minute on the outside so we were staying put.  My good friend finally got out of work and we went up to the tram station to meet her.  If you know much about court reporting you’ll know how much she has on her plate.  I was grateful she took the time out to visit with us.  Being absolutely frozen and having a liking for fine hot chocolate, we went to Butlers Chocolate Cafe for the best hot chocolate money can buy.  I love it when they serve it at drinking temperature, it’s too good to wait for it to cool down if it’s not.  It was so good to chat and catch up about the events of the past nine months.  As it usually does after a reunion with a friend or family member, the time in between seemed to disappear and it feels like you were never apart.

All good (and bad) things come to an end.  In what seemed like a few minutes (it was over an hour) we were back on the tram heading to O’Connell street to pick up the 747 express to the airport.  The journey back was as swift as ever – sailed through security without delay, a quick look at the shops and a short wait at the gate.

When we boarded we were fortunate enough to get an emergency exit seat over the right wing.  The leg room was excellent.  I forgot that you can’t put your hand luggage under the seat in front of you at emergency exits and the flight attendant promptly reminded me of this.  She then went round each of the eight or so passengers at the emergency exits and specifically asked them if they would be willing to assist in the event of an emergency – a legal requirement.

She asked a man in front if he knew how to operate an emergency exit and he told her that he did.  She wasn’t convinced and said: “Are you sure you know how to operate the exit?”  He was a little annoyed at this and informed her that he was a frequent flyer and that he was sure he could manage the emergency exit.  I was quickly trying to think of what to say incase she asked me if I was sure if I knew how to operate the exit.  The only thing I could think of was a little cheeky – ‘I know how to read and follow instructions.’  She does have somewhat of a point though, you could read all the instructions and look at all the diagrams you want and still have no experience of opening aircraft emergency exits.  I’m sure no-one wants experience in this regard.

The flight home was very much the same as the one out, only darker.  I love it when they turn off the cabin lights, the view is so much better.  I’d have them out the whole flight if I could.  Even though it was dark, on approach to runway 14 we flew down the gorgeous Wharfe Valley we could pick out landmarks such as the Cow & Calf and the park in Menston village.  All in all it was a fantastic trip.  Number one highlight being catching up with my friends accompanied by my sister, number two being the flying – then the food etc…

Introduction – Part 1

I’m not entirely sure how to start a new blog, it’s been a long time since I last did it and my last one had nothing to do with flying.  If you look carefully, you’ll find my name.  Currently I’m 21 years old.  I wear glasses – don’t let anyone try and tell you that you can’t fly because you wear them too.  The CAA has clear standards on eyesight here.  I’m not sure what the reqiurement for the RAF are, I heard that they don’t accept people with corrected vision (glasses and contacts).  Not sure about laser eye surgery either.  Don’t take my word for any of the RAF stuff, best look it up yourself.  For as long as I can remember I have watched planes come and go from the local airport.  On the odd occasion Concorde would visit which was a must see.  Every time I hear a plane pass over I can’t help but look and see what it is.  I imagine what it’s like to be in that front seat.

I first flew when I was around three but I couldn’t remember that so I had to wait until 2002 when I was fourteen.  We went on a family holiday to the USA and of course, had to fly.  Standing in the departure lounge I had my nose pressed against the window looking at the planes only a few feet away.  I remember thinking how cool it was to be so close.  The long wait finally ended and we boarded.  My brother and I were in on the right hand side and were right over the wing.  The time for takeoff came and I couldn’t believe it!  The force was incredible, I watched in amazement as the ground got further and further away.  I was fascinated as I watched the flaps on the wing retract and the ailerons move to bank the aircraft.  A total of five flights later, we’re back in Manchester after a fantastic holiday.  I was hooked.  Flight simulator became much more important to me, so did my choices in schooling.

I did my GCSEs, I took all the standard ones and chose Systems and Control for my technology option. Between History and Geography I chose the latter.  The choice wasn’t really influenced by my desire to fly, I just disliked History and so had to take Geography anyway!  I chose French over German just because I’d done it longer.  I can’t remember if it was a choice between two but I also took I.T. becuse of my interest in computers.  Not long into the course I realised that I had made a mistake, it was all about using computers for publishing – posters, documents and spreadsheets.  I thought it would be all about the workings of a computer, both hardware and software, interesting stuff like that.  It was too late though,  I was on the course.  I tried to make the most of it and I succeeded, I got another GCSE out of it.

I went on to start my A Levels – the first year being A/S.  I took Maths, Physics, Geography and Religious studies.  I found the Maths and Physics quite challenging and after the first year found out that they definately weren’t for me.  I wanted to keep studying so I found a course at a local technology college and studied computer technology for a year.  I already knew 90% of what was on the course but I didn’t have any paperwork to prove that.  The course allowed me to put my skills on paper so I was more employable.  By the time I had finished the couse I was tired of education and wanted to get a full time job.  I was fortunate to secure a job at a nearby hotel in their I.T. department.  It was a great place to work, it was enjoyable to work with each of the departments and my manager was fantastic to work with.

I worked there for a year and then I left to do two years as a volunteer missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I spent my two years around Ireland.  The bulk of my time was spent in the suburbs of Dublin.  I also spent time in Northern Ireland – Coleraine and Belfast, Dundalk and a summer on the west coast in Galway.  I throughly enjoyed those two years and now look upon Ireland as a second home.  Since my return in September 2009 I have been looking for work and looking at my options for flight training.