Not so far-flung and quite local, however, Geeky Flyer and I – having discovered that we are flying out of the same place and obtained our PPL’s within a few weeks of each other – set out for the Isle of Wight – Sandown. We thought that this brief write up may be of interest to some of the new PPL’s in terms of what can be done in the immediate period after passing your test. There may also be some suggestions from the more experienced members of the forum although this flight is probably as basic as it gets for you compared to your normal flights so perhaps not so interesting!
This was our second flight together and we had discussed prior to the first flight how we would divide responsibilities both in the instance of an emergency and during the “normal” flying. I initially felt a little over-serious raising this (we are flying in a light aircraft, not an A320), but we agreed that there was good sense to chat things through to avoid ambiguity if something did arise.
We had previously flown to Old Buckenham in a PA28 equipped with two Garmin 430’s which gave us a good opportunity when in the RHS to play around with them in flight. On this occasion, it being a Sunday, and perhaps to remind us what we trained in, we were allocated an under-powered C152 with the bare essentials.
We set out from EGLD (Denham) in northwest London with Geeky Flyer as PIC.
As Wycombe tends to deny transits on weekends due to gliders, our plan was to route between Wycombe and the London TMZ and then Reading – Odiham MATZ – Portsmouth – IoW. We were “recommended” by the school to swing the long way round via the western side of the Wycombe ATZ which, in hindsight and given that we had Airspace Aware was a bit of an overkill. Once abeam Stokenchurch mast, we turned south towards Reading.
We asked for a Basic Service from Farnborough West who came back with a MATZ Penetration approval which was handy as we did not need to switch to Odiham Zone to request this. Of course, it was a Sunday and Odiham was not active, but it was good that Farnborough managed this proactively. Having said this, I remembered that a MATZ was 3,000 feet high, but had forgotten that the ATZ itself was 2,000 feet as for other airfields, despite being military. Given that we had a MATZ Penetration approved and we were at 3,000 feet, I believe we could have routed directly overhead Odiham itself, but we skirted around it in any event. I need to confirm that it is possible to route directly via the overhead of a military airfield. Intuitively, it feels wrong as it is military (I guess I think they will shoot me down), but this is not Russia or the Ukraine so I suppose it is possible if asked.
Skirting around Odiham’s ATZ meant that whilst we managed to avoid the Wycombe gliders, we were heading almost directly for Lasham which made up for it with a number of them spiralling up even above our 3,000 feet. Despite a brief moment of admiring the graceful spirals as they climbed in thermals above their airfield then streaked across our front at an impressive velocity, we were then quite busy looking out for gliders (3-4 in front of us and another two at lower altitudes to the west and these were only the ones we spotted). Having a second radio on which we could listen out on other frequencies as we had done in our Old Buckenham trip might have been useful as well. We skirted around the Lasham ATZ but perhaps could have routed differently, as we were then avoiding the Oakhanger HIRTA. Again, Airspace Aware was handy.
We were then handed off to Solent Radar which went smoothly and changed to Sandown Radio as we crossed over Portsmouth.
The crossing was fine and with altitude and the numerous ships and sailboats, being over water did not cause concern. I suppose that my limited experience shows here as it did not really occur to me to be concerned that we were over water.
Perhaps I am also a little complacent as the school’s planes appear quite reliable which is likely a misplaced optimism. If I were flying in another aircraft from a different source, I would probably be more sceptical.
Things became interesting on the downwind join to Sandown’s Runway 23 as we could hear several aircraft downwind and on finals but could not see any. In any event, Geeky Flyer gave a good show of being very cool and collected and we finally spotted the main aircraft we were concerned about. I have noticed in this and other flights, that position reports by aircraft in the circuit can be quite approximate (or even completely wrong). Hopefully, I do not do the same.
After a good landing on the undulating grass runway, we were directed by a marshall to park behind a lovely Great Lakes Sports.
We paid our landing fee at the top of the tower and ordered lunch, enjoying the sunshine and plane spotting including a pair of TB10’s, Aeromarchetti .260, microlights and so on. It was quite busy.
A trio of Auster’s came in a loose formation and proceeded to land in sequence – it looked like one was touching down before the other had reached halfway down the runway. Given that two were camouflaged, it would have been interesting to spot them in the circuit!
After lunch, we did a transit check, noting that we had consumed more fuel than we had expected. We were not surprised by this as we had had to maintain quite high power throughout the outbound, likely due to the combination of heat and an underpowered engine. Nevertheless, we had enough for the return plus 1 hour reserve although I neglected to check what was left when we got back to Denham which I think would be a good habit to get into as part of the self-debrief. I was flying for this leg and forgot to make the call after start up, having been distracted by the engine struggling to start and then struggling to get the plane moving in the first instance as the ground was quite soft.
Having made the call, we crossed the runway (the south taxiway was closed and also having asked whether the runway was clear as the hump in the runway prevents sight of any aircraft which may be starting their take-off roll). One note to self is that when I turned around to do my running up checks, I should have proceeded right to the end of the available space first – it looked a little rough so I did not want to get stuck which was probably not a real risk. By not doing so, only one or perhaps two aircraft could do their running up check behind me which was not very considerate and effectively delayed people unnecessarily on a hot day.
I also felt slightly rushed with 2-3 planes behind me at the hold so almost did a rolling start. Sandown’s runway is longer than Denham’s, but slightly long grass with an (slight) uphill slope and an underpowered engine made it feel like it took a long time to reach rotation speed. Just as the initial thought of whether to abort or not started entering my head, we became airborne. Keeping the plane level to build up speed, we then climbed away.
We continued straight ahead to the south coast, changing frequency to Bournemouth Radar and putting a listening squawk of 0011 which I had seen in a radio frequency chart I had printed from the NATS website.
We had discussed whether we would go clockwise around the IoW on the land or sea-side but having briefed on an engine failure over water and ditching procedures, we proceeded at 750 feet in smooth air around the island over water. There is a sense of travel when seeing water and cliffs rather than just fields and towns.
We then switched to Solent Radar before being handed off to Farnborough West who again organised a MATZ Penetration for us.
The return was largely the same as the outbound with the benefit that Lasham appeared quiet but noticed a glider landing at Odiham. We came close to the Oakhanger HIRTA and discussed whether we still wanted children. I find it interesting that people can live within a HIRTA-zone, but if one flies through it, images of the instruments or myself being microwaved to a crisp by radio waves come to mind, ok, an exageration.
I did struggle to maintain a consistent altitude, something which I have not had to do as much with a PA28 which really is quite stable. Geeky Flyer kindly suggested that it was the thermals and lower altitude as we passed Reading which may have had something to do with it, but it was somewhat frustrating. I need to increase my scan rate. We decided to route between Wycombe and the London TMZ which went fine using good visual references (Henley on Thames, Marlow, Thames) and Airspace Aware. I think my landing was almost a 3-pointer but whilst being smooth, this is not good as it means it was a flat landing and we were not in a tail-dragger!
All in all, I enjoyed the flight and it is good to fly with someone of around your level as you can learn from each other. Whilst we trained at the same school, we both had different instructors so there are some different tips which were interesting for me. By sharing costs as well, it does mean that the budget goes further. There are only so many places you can fly to for the cost of 1 – 1.5 hours from Denham – we are effectively doubling the distance.
A note on Airspace Aware which was running off Geeky Flyer’s Nexus (Air Nav Pro was not working); it is a very useful tool as we were able to ensure that we were not straying too close to any CAS (or identify when we were about to fry ourselves in the HIRTA). It is a no-brainer that a navigation software of any sort is more certain than a chart and stopwatch. As I only have a wifi giant ipad, I cannot use that so for the moment am restricted to the way I was taught (except when I am with Geeky Flyer or a Garmin 430 ). I am OK with this, but would like to try using VOR’s and DME more. Whilst the ADF is more for IFR, it seems like a useful instrument to help keep bearings. My concern would be having an instrument in the cockpit and having a problem which I could have avoided if I understood how to use the tools available to me. Twiddling dials without knowing exactly what I am trying to do whilst flying does not seem very clever.
We are planning on going to Le Touquet this week (the school requires the first cross-channel flight to be with an instructor) so the cost sharing and experience should open some possibilities for flying to the Continent. My relative flies out of Dreux near Paris and suggested that we meet up somewhere in Northern France which would be quite nice, but I am getting ahead of myself – also not sure that the school can let me have a plane for a weekend…
Geeky Flyer, feel free to correct or add to this!
It is good to see another report of a typical VFR flight here. Two things I see confirmed:
CKN & Geeky Flyer, keep up the good work and keep up telling us!
This looks like a great report, but the flickr pics don’t work, CKN. They take me to an HTML page, not to a jpeg image so e.g. if I paste one of them into a browser (the real test) I see this instead of seeing just the image.
Might I suggest that flickr is not the best method for this (even if you can get the actual image URL) partly because if you later delete that flickr folder, the trip writeup gets trashed for anybody who finds it (e.g. on a web search) and wants to read it. Imgur.com is a better method; they claim to auto delete pics 6 months after last access which in practice, for a web forum, means they should last a long time. Don’t bother to create an account with Imgur; just upload the pics anonymously and use the links – see Posting Tips for usage details.
this is not the easiest forum to post images to, and I am glad I am not the only one to struggle time and again
I don’t think there is any way to enable someone to post an HTML URL and have the server (or the browser) extract the intended image from that page, because a typical HTML page is full of images anyway. That’s why you have to provide the bare URL to the image file. I think the Posting Tips link above contains the clearest description I can manage to write.
Even if we had an image upload facility here (i.e. stored the image files themselves on the EuroGA server, which may come one day) you would still have to come up with the image file itself.
Hi Jan – thanks for the encouraging feedback! I know that it is a basic VFR trip, but it helps to build the confidence. I am sure that if I were in Belgium, I would not know where to start – UK airspace is OK once you get used to it – and the deathray HIRTA’s
Peter – I will try Imgur, flickr seemed easier but I understand now about the HTML URL. Let’s see if I can get this to work.
I think the pictures may be too big, but I understand how it works now.
If you run out of the 2 hour edit window, just get me the pics (somehow) in the correct order and I will drop them in for you.
Brilliant, trip reports. As much as I like the IFR ones people write, the VFR ones are more interesting to me as that’s what I generally do, and there is much more I think to learn as you can do the same route 5 times, and each one will be a different experience in itself.
I will confirm that Imgur works really well for those trip reports. Yes, it’s not for free if you want unlimited storage capability, but in the end it’s little money if you factor in the positive feedback one tends to receive for a good trip report…
Nice report. One thing to remember is that as a civilian pilot a MATZ is essentially just advisory. While I too accept an Odiham MATZ penetration, it is not really needed, while not good practice you could fly through without asking or talking to anyone. Clearly this doesn’t apply to the embedded ATZ which is the same as any other.As you say, 3000ft right over the field is outside or above the ATZ and perfectly fine.
I certainly struggle with the way charts display this area. It is actually less complex than it appears but early on caution makes a lot of sense.
Nice report. It’s good to see you starting to stretch your wings (pun intended) a little at a time.
I’m Denham-based too and always have been. I used to think that learning to fly in such tricky airspace would benefit me in the long run in that I wouldn’t find other similar congested airspace a problem. The reality is that it’s only of limited benefit as you still have to study all new areas carefully to keep yourself out of trouble. It probably does make you slicker quicker on the radio.
Have you tried SVFR Burnham/Ascot yet? That’s a nice little “difference” that I certainly found exhilarating at first.
If you see a white Falco at Denham come and say hi.
Incidentally, I went to North Weald on Saturday and met the owner of G-MACH there. A really nice chap who has owned that bird for 31 years and still loves her!
CKN – I have fixed up some of the pics, from the flickr links in the original post. If you can let me have the still-missing images I will put them in. This is a bit of a mystery! My guess is that Imgur is messing around… It may help to reduce images to no more than 1024 pixels wide before uploading them to Imgur. I did yours simply by going to the flickr album and screen-shotting them with Hyperdesktop, which automatically uploads them to Imgur and is a very quick way of inserting images into web postings.