I had been meaning to take my daughter flying again for sometime, but with instructing and inspecting, time has been scarce!
Today was the day, but the wind was forecast to be gusting 15kts and 90 degrees across the runway, bang on the limit of the C42. However as I needed to practice my crosswind landings I decided to go, after all I could always go-around if I didn’t like it and have another go before giving up and bugging out!
At Chatteris I PPR’d (Called for permission to land, Prior Permission Required), this was granted, then the guy said to keep a good lookout as they have two different fly-ins happening today, I normally prefer a quiet destination.
The person who had our aircraft before me was late back, not his fault as he got caught by a couple of parachute drops, a hazard of flying from Chatteris.
The flight over was without event, PilotAware and SkyDemon were on top form and helped me keep the good lookout requested, which is also normal practice.
I joined downwind with other aircraft Joining crosswind, overhead, downwind and long final, this was going to be “fun”.
Silverstone Race track is adjacent to the downwind join for 09
As it happens the circuit was uneventful. I was high on final and with very little headwind I had to side slip to get down.
I must have had someone faster behind, as I heard them call going around as I was rounding out. This always use to worry me, but you just need to focus on flying and landing your aircraft. They are behind so its up to them to provide the appropriate separation and if they don’t or can’t its their fault not yours.
Santa Pod Drag strip on-route
On my three visits to Turweston I have always found the guys in the tower and on the radio to be excellent and very welcoming, as were the marshals and restaurant staff today. It has been a pleasure to fly there each time and I will be back for some more cake in the future!
On our return we had a Chipmunk push in front of us as we were waiting to go in the warm up area, but that’s fine he was burning a lot more fuel then us!
On-in-all a very enjoyable day spent with my daughter #FatherDaughterTime!
I had an exciting and varied day Sunday, first I taught lesson 7 from the new syllabus (climbing and descending ) ending up with a bit of lesson 6 (straight and level) revision in poor conditions, where the horizon was barely visible. The student did very well in difficult conditions and its always nice when they say they really enjoyed it.
Today was for me about PilotAware and Skydemon, regular readers will know I think that currently, this is the best possible combination; during the lesson in the haze it was difficult to see other aircraft but, with PilotAware and Skydemon I could see the other aircraft, which we knew was out there, as it was from our club. The indicated position on Skydemon allowed us to quickly locate it and ensure we remained a safe separation. +1 for the combo.
Next up was my opportunity to occupy the co-pilot seat in a Twin Otter. The Twin Otter has Mode S transponder but, no ADS-B Out and no ADS-B In, thus they wanted to see PilotAware in operation. The Twin Otter in question was Skydive one the parachute aircraft, the test was very successful, in part because most aircraft at our home airfield have ADS-B Out or PilotAware. On the first flight we got a traffic service from Lakenheath as normal and shortly after we were showing a contact on Skydemon, the pilot said it will be interesting if ATC reports the same or not, just as he finished speaking or the radio came traffic information relating to the aircraft. This was interesting and helped show how pilot aware could help. On the next lift an aircraft was showing ahead and, on the left, Skydiveone would have normally turned left but, an alternative routing was taken to maintain separation. Now the worth of PilotAware and skydemon was proving interesting! Then a little later in the flight we asked for clear drop and ATC came back with another aircraft in the zone, we had heard on the other frequency that an aircraft was leaving the circuit and with the traffic information we were able to positively ID the aircraft, thus there was no need to abort the drop. Fantastic news for both the safety and the cost of a go around!
There was few other contacts that helped too but, above was enough to convince them the effectiveness!
Then after a few lifts in the Twin Otter, I got to be the passenger in our C42A while my friend and co-owner did a few circuits.
What is EC or should I say Electronic Conspicuity or even ADS-B In and Out?
And why do we care anyway!
In today’s world of aviation, technology is becoming the norm and if that helps to increase safety then I for one am in favour of it and I hope you are too.
It was not long after I got my NPPL that I was using and EC in the form of the then beta product of an upcoming technology called Pilotaware. Fast forward a number of years and Pilotaware, SkyEcho 2, Stratux, Power FLARM and more are all affordable in cockpit EC devices. Add to these the traditional transponders which have various modes A, C and S as well as ADS-B Out and some systems having ADS-B In and then there is weather reception, TCAS and secondary surveillance radar (SSR) too!
So as a member of both the UK Microlight and GA community what is best for me and what do all the TLAs (Three Letter Acronym) mean?
ADS-B stands for Automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast, for your starter (yes I know that is a four-letter acronym).
But first to set the scene, I would not consider myself an expert, but I do have some knowledge having researched the subject to enable me to write my transponder decode application which is available for free download from this site.
The short version of this blog is that I remain happy with my current combination of devices, which consist of ADS-B Out, and Pilotaware for ADS-B In and Pilotaware device reception including OGN (Open Glider Network) when near a ground station that is up-linking and all displayed on SkyDemon.
The transponder is a powerful device and comes with various modes depending on its age and capabilities. Older aircraft have Mode A & C with newer Aircraft/transponders having Mode S also
Mode A: In response to Mode A interrogation the transponder transmits an identity code for the aircraft in the octal range 0000-7777 the Squawk code.
Mode C: Transmits the aircraft’s pressure altitude automatically and augments mode A hence sometimes called mode A/C
Mode S: Mode S has over 17 million unique 24-bit aircraft addresses known as the ICAO number or mode S address allowing the unique identification of every aircraft, altitude reports in 25 feet increments and the call sign (or tail number) is transmitted along with other information also.
Unlike traditional Secondary Surveillance Radar (SSR) stations which elicit multiple replies containing the same information from all aircraft within their range, Mode S makes selective (Mode S is abbreviated from Mode Select) interrogations of each specific aircraft. ‘All call’ interrogations are also made to identify new aircraft to be interrogated. Mode S transponders are backward compatible with Mode A/C radars.
Civilian Mode S supports a number of different messages Each message has a particular purpose. The formats DF0, DF4, DF5, DF11, DF16, DF20, DF21 and DF24 are used in civil aviation at present.
Short Air to Air ACAS
Surveillance (roll call) Altitude
Surveillance (roll call) IDENT Reply
Mode S Only All-Call Reply (Acq. Squitter if II=0)
Long Air to Air ACAS
Comm. B Altitude, IDENT Reply
Comm. D Extended Length Message (ELM)
Now some people think as they have a mode S transponder it transmits their position and that their exact location is displayed to other aircraft, but this is not the case. Location information is transmitted in the ES (Extended Squitter) messages DF17 and DF18.
1090 Extended Squitter
1090 Extended Squitter, supplementary
For a mode S transponder to transmit ES DF17 (we will come to DF18 later) the transponder must be connected to a position source i.e. a GPS, and these come in different levels of certification from uncertified up. This configuration is known as ADS-B Out.
It is DF17 (and DF18) that devices like Pilotaware and SkyEcho use to show the exact location of other Aircraft. For non-ADS-B Out aircraft, they use the signal strength only to show proximity but, not location and they show altitude received too.
If only ADS-B Out gives the position how does Flight Radar 24 and 360Radar work their magic and show position of the other aircraft without ADS-B Out? Well, this is done by a system called MLAT which is out of scope for this blog as it requires multiple ground stations.
So DF18, this is essentially the same as DF17, however, it is the message used by a new breed of EC devices which are low power and low cost. They are regulated under CAP 1391. CAP 1391 (First published 2016) specifies Electronic Conspicuity devices that have the ability to signal their presence to other airspace users, thereby turning the “see-and-avoid” concept into “see-BE SEEN-and-avoid”.
It must be noted that CAP1391 states that they must not transmit if carried in an aircraft equipped with a Mode S transponder as this will result in mode S messages and DF 18 being broadcasted.
A system receiving DF18 implicitly knows it cannot interrogate that device, hence no aircraft can transmit DF18 if it has a mode S transponder as it will block or confuse SSRs (CAP1391 6.35). You cannot switch your mode S transponder off due to SERA.13001.
SERA.13001 requires the pilot of an aircraft equipped with a serviceable SSR (Mode S) transponder to operate the transponder at all times during flight.
Additionally, these new devices are intended for UK Annex II aircraft; non-complex EASA aircraft of <5700kg MTOM and for gliders and balloons. (CAP1391 Executive summary 7).
Lastly, they do not allow access to TMZs.
Mode S sends more information then just the location received from the location source, it sends information about how reliable that data is and if it were to fail, the size of containment that is required and more. The data that most advertisers quote is the SIL value but, this is just one of the parameters.
Much is made of some of some of the new devices having a SIL1 GPS in their ads, however, most have an SDA of 0 which means they are not trusted!
SIL (Source Integrity Level) field is used to define the probability of the reported horizontal position exceeding the radius of containment defined by the NIC value. 0 is unknown integrity or untrusted!
SDA (System Design Assurance) field defines the failure condition that the ADS-B system is designed to support.
NIC (Navigational Integrity Category) is reported in conjunction with the SIL, NIC of 0 is unknown integrity or untrusted!
Can I be seen on TCAS?
Yes, if you have a mode C transponder because most TCAS system utilises an aerial array to determine the position of other aircraft using mode C transmissions.
TCAS II has to be linked to a mode S transponder if fitted so its presentence is encoded in the mode S messages. But TCAS systems below version 7.1 don’t use the ADS-B out messages from other aircraft.
TCAS II Hybrid Surveillance does use Mode S messages but currently has limited adoption.
Hybrid surveillance is a method that decreases the number of Mode S surveillance interrogations made by an aircraft’s TCAS II unit. This feature, new to TCAS II version 7.1, may be included as optional functionality in TCAS II units. TCAS II units equipped with hybrid surveillance use passive surveillance instead of active surveillance to track intruders that meet validation criteria and are not projected to be near-term collision threats. With active surveillance, TCAS II transmits interrogations to the intruder’s transponder and the transponder replies provide range, bearing, and altitude for the intruder. With passive surveillance, position data provided by an on-board navigation source is broadcast from the intruder’s Mode S (ADS-B Out) transponder. The position data is typically based on GNSS and received on own aircraft by the use of Mode S extended squitter, i.e. 1090 MHz ADS-B, also known as 1090ES. Standards for Hybrid Surveillance have been published in RTCA DO-300. The intent of hybrid surveillance is to reduce the TCAS II interrogation rate through the judicious use of validated ADS-B data provided via the Mode S extended squitter without any degradation of the safety and effectiveness of TCAS II.
What to buy?
Should you buy a CAP 1391 device such as a SkyEcho 2? Well that’s up to you but, if you have a Mode S transponder you will need to disable the only feature it has over Pilotaware, which costs less and has mode compatibility with other systems.
If you don’t have a Mode S transponder then Yes, it is an option and will increase your visibility, but not to most TCAS equipped aircraft including military jets and helicopters as they are looking for mode C transmissions.
Finally, for me a proper transponder with ADS-B Out (certified GPS or uncertified) is also essential in the increasingly busy skies for your visibility and Pilotaware as your ADS-B In device gives you the best low-cost solution currently.
Today I was told a story of an instructor doing a PFL and they got a Mode C alert on Pilotaware but, at first could not see the other aircraft. Then at a low level saw a chinook below them. The instructor’s aircraft also had a transponder with Mode A/C and S also with ADS-B out, so the TCAS in the Chinook would have been going off too. “see-BE SEEN-and-avoid” in action.
The Isle of Wight was a trip I have long wanted to do and was also a standby option a few weeks ago when I flew to Le Touquet with my friend Jason, Jason and I were to make this trip too. Compared with Le Touquet this would be a breeze, no flight plan to file, no GAR to file either and far less airspace to transit.
We set off about 10:30 and flew down south and over my old hometown of Reading staying below 3,500ft to avoid the London TMA, in fact, we stayed around 2,000ft as we were close to a part of the TMA which started at 2,500ft and didn’t want to risk an accidental infringement.
Next was Odiham MATZ, we called and asked to a MATZ penetration and this was granted and they also suggested we switched to Farnborough West Lars on 125.250 which we did, calling them they confirmed our MATZ penetration and advised us of intense gliding at Lasham, so we routed to the west of Lasham and gave them a wide birth! this was also a good test for Pilotaware and Skydemon which showed us lots of other aircraft including gliders.
Clear of the MATZ we switched to Solent Radar, I must say the guy on the other end of the radio was great. We crossed the Solent at Portsmouth with our declared routing as “direct to Sandown”, but we decided to do a lap of the Isle of Wight and take in Cowes and the Needles. As we turned the guy on the radio came back to us and asked if we are intending to fly around the Isle of Wight, we said if that was ok, yes, it was so we carried on. We were not within controlled airspace at the time so it was ok to change the routing.
As we approached Cowes we asked for clearance to enter controlled airspace and this was granted. As soon as we passed into the CTA we were told we were now under Radar service and cleared to follow the coast, I guess they get a lot of us pilots doing this!
John Cleese or the Fonz!
Our landing was uneventful and we parked up and went into the cafe, where we were made to feel welcome; we ordered the traditional bacon roll each and two coffees. This is where things took a comedic turn as the lady started hitting the coffee machine as if she was the Fonz. Fonzie was clearly not in the house as the coffee machine silently took the hits without giving up any coffee, eventually, a guy turned up and took over giving the coffee machine a beating (this was now more John Cleese then Fonzie)! At last, it gave up and two coffees were dispensed.
The journey back was a reverse of the flight down and we arrived safely back at Chatteris a little before sundown.
Some of the views of the on our trip to the Isle of Wight
I had been wanting to fly an aircraft from the UK to another country for some time. Almost a year ago when chatting to Jason an AFI at Connington I met while doing my AFI (or FI(R) ) training I mentioned this to him. Jason had already done the trip once and thus he knew what to expect.
We planned to fly on the bank holiday Monday 27th August 2018, but the weather was not looking good, the day before it had improved to be around the limits of the aircraft. We decided to proceed and plan the trip in the hope it would in improve further and we would get to go. We met up with Paul who was going to follow us over with Tom in their C42, as they had never done the crossing either.
Buy a life jacket
The first thing to do when thinking about doing a crossing is to order a life jacket. I went for the Crew Saver N180 form the Marine Superstore. I found it comfortable and not bulky; also the guy there was helpful when I called them and it arrived promptly. The main things to check when buying a life jacket is that it MUST be manually operated and the buoyancy is at least 150N.
We met up in a Costa coffee (other coffee shops are available!) to plan our route from Chatteris to Le Touquet. We decided to route across and down to South End and then on to Dover and across the channel at its narrowest to minimise the risk. It can get congested in the skies over Dover, however, as we were leaving early it should be ok.
Next was the form filling this was so simple using SkyDemon. Simply buy some flight plan credits, I think this was £5 for five.
Do your route in SkyDemon and hit file plan, you need to add a few extra details and the flight plan is done for one leg, Reverse the route and resubmit for the return, flight plans filed, yes that’s it!
Next, the GAR wait, SkyDemon does that too, just go into the warnings and click on the spanner next to the warning re needing a GAR, complete the form and hit submit, I LOVE SkyDemon. Last bit of paperwork was to send a letter to Le Touquet customs, there are plenty of examples online. But basically, give them the reg, date, ETA, and the passport numbers of all people on board.
On the day the wind had dropped a knot or two and now was just under the limit so we decided to try the flight. If the cloud looked bad we would divert and stay in the UK. Nothing good ever comes from pressing a bad situation.
We set off at 07:50 with Jason on the radio and me at the controls, we climbed to 2,000 feet, this allowed us to call London Information and activate our flight plan. The call was as simple as “Call sign, London information, request basic service a flight plan activation” and then the normal pass your message and its response.
A little while later we were asked for our ETA for our arrival at South End airspace, this threw us a little but a quick look at SkyDemon’s Plog gave us the information we needed.
As we were getting nearer to South End’s airspace and thinking about changing frequency, we got a call from London Information advising us to change frequency and to call South End and that they would speak to us again once we have left South End’s airspace. We called and asked for a zone transit and this was granted and squawk allocated, back came the call to squawk the same code as we were already squawking! Apparently, it was still transmitting the last squawk, we recycled the transponder and all was ok. We flew straight through with a radar service, out the other side, they downgraded it to a basic service and they advised us to call London Information. This was all very simple!
As we approached Dover the cloud was driving us down from 3,000ft to around 2,000ft and the crossing was beginning to looking in doubt. However, as we cleared the coast it was brighter and we crossed at 2,500ft with good visibility. The French coast soon came into sight so we continued, at around halfway we called London information and requested a frequency change to Le Touquet which was approved. The call was made as we approached the boundary as marked on SkyDemon.
We routed down the coast and call Le Touquet, back came a pass your message with a heavy French accent! The normal response was given back and then we got “report passing November”, passing November, it was only August! a quick look at the plates we had printed out to see if we could find visual reporting point (VRP) November didn’t yield anything, then we saw that SkyDemon have these on their map, which again made it very easy.
At November we called and was told to report November Bravo. NB was close to the downwind leg of runway 31 the runway in use. Using the SkyDemon approach helper, we entered the runway, direction and downwind join, this shows you the circuit, which again at an airfield you don’t know is very helpful. I would and I did a quick sense check to ensure it seemed correct.
As we got to November it started to rain, 10% chance the weather report said, I’m not that luck normally! It continued to rain on the downwind leg, but bizarrely it stopped as we turned on to base leg.
The wind was now gusting 20kts, but only about 30 degrees off the runway. I decided to use a single stage of flap and we landed without issue, funny how nobody ever sees your good landings and doubly so in difficult conditions!
After clearing passport control we went to the reception and paid our landing fees and purchased 20lts of Avgas.
We walked into town and found a nice bar to eat, the place, in general, seems to be friendly and there are a few places even flying the Union Jack flag! A nice little town and I will go back at some point, next time as the radio operator!
The return was nearly without event the takeoff was with a crosswind and gusty too, it was very bumpy on the climb out.
The crossing was fine and the white cliffs of Dover welcomed us back home. While crossing South End’s zone we were controlled both by altitude and direction to allow for an incoming jet, this was the first time I have been given a heading and altitude to fly while crossing. A little while later came the call to resume self-navigation, unsure if this meant if we could now climb or not we asked and was told to remain not above 1,500ft and they would call us when we could climb, another jet passed by and then we were called and allowed to climb not above 4,500ft.
We were soon near Chatteris so we called for a frequency change and to close the flight plan, frequency change was approved but we were told the plan cannot be closed while we were in the air.
My landing at Chatteris was odd a little before the threshold I put a little power on as I was a bit low, but just as I did the aircraft went up as if it had ballooned, I landed fine and said to Jason it was odd as I had not pulled back on the controls. Later we watched another C42 returning from somewhere and it did the exact same thing, then Paul said he had seen it happen to me so was ready for it but it caught him out too!
In summary a very enjoyable experience, but a very long day and very tiring too!
Being an I.T. person I like nice new shiny things so when PilotAware announced their Rosetta version needles to say I wanted one! As I already had a classic which I had “improved” on by drilling out a Stratux case and using the Stratux low power SDR (software defined radio – used to receive the ADS-B transmissions on 1090Mhz) I restrained myself from buying one until PilotAware announced an upgrade path for us classic owners, now the lure was just too great to resist. So on the first day of the upgrade becoming available to Joe public I ordered one and sent my classic bridge board back special delivery to speed the exchange up.
Two days later my kit arrived and is pictured below. Essentially it is what I had already achieved: Stratux case, low power SDR which identifies its self as a PilotAware, but then so does my Stratux one when I plug it in, so the main difference for me is the bridge board, which now fits the case and thus gives support to the aerials (technically its one aerial and one antenna, I have known this all along as I hold a G6 amateur radio licence and I’m also a BMAA inspector for avionics, but recently I was corrected, so if anyone is interested an aerial only receives where an antenna transmits and can also receive). So a new bridge board and I also took the opportunity to upgrade the Raspberry PI to a 3B (note the 3B+ is not supported as type this) the advantage of the PI change is more speed, quicker boot times and intergraded WIFI, one less USB dongle.
a couple of minor changes I made during the build were to cut the label so as to not cover any ventilation holes and I kept my 5dbi 1090 aerial, the kit includes a 3dbi aerial.
A PilotAware forum post states that there are external screen and an attitude and heading reference system (AHRS) on the horizon (pun intended!), I’m assuming, but I don’t know, that the new bridge board may be needed to support the AHRS, although other systems are doing this from GPS data, I guess time will tell.
So its all put together now and I will be test flying it later this week, weather gods and work allowing!
Well it’s been a long time since I have blogged, for that I apologies. The reason has been I have been studying for my Assistant Flying Instructor (AFI) rating, I was going to blog during the process, however a lot of people fail or so i’m told and i wanted to keep any such failure private. this was further compounded with being made redundant during my training, thankfully I’m now gainfully employed once more.
It was almost 18 months ago that it first crossed my mind that I would like to become a flying instructor (FI). I spent some time surfing the net looking for information and pricing and two things quickly became clear, first I would not get rich as an FI and second the cost of training is quite high. The average for a 3-axis microlight being in the order £5,000 (as of 2017), this includes the entrance exam, 15 hours of flying and 40 hours of ground school, but excluding the exam at the end and lastly and most importantly finding a school to serve as an AFI while training.
I decided to try and find someone local to help keep the costs down and Gareth Aggatte was both local (ish) and recommended so I arranged to meet him at the flying show in December 2016 and we talked it through, yet again I was told it will not make you rich!
Unfortunately, the school where I learnt to fly was unable to offer me the opportunity to train there so I approached the person who took my GST with (Chris Hasell at Boston Airfield) and we met up. He echoed what I had read on line about not getting rich and the costs and the work involved. However, getting rich is not the driving force behind my decision and my understanding wife saw it as an investment for our retirement if nothing else!
So I booked the entry exam for the 14th October 2017 and turned up at Conington Airfield. Gareth was out flying when I arrived and I sat and waited nervously, like many I’m not great when it comes to exams and there is very little on what to expect on the internet. I had done some limited revision before the day by rereading my own exam notes from my blog. The weather was not looking great and I assumed it would be called off, I was wrong! First up was the written test, this is 50 question in the same style as those taken for the NPPL, there was 10 questions per exam previously sat. There were no triangles of velocities to do, which was a shame as I had revised these. The questions seemed slightly harder than the original ones, but that could just be down to me not having revised to the same level. Next came the flying test, this was essentially the same as a GST. I’m pleased to say even though it was at an airfield I have never flown to or from in a Microlight before I passed the ordeal.
So now the hard work begins, my day job made it impossible for me to get all the time off in one go, but Gareth was accommodating and my work too and we agreed on me doing a Thursday Friday and Saturday over 6 weeks, this commenced 26 October 2017.
Each day was a mix of ground school and flying (when the weather allowed) receiving pre-flight briefs, writing them up and then reciting them, all of this was being fitted around the schools normal flying and student lessons which on occasions worked well as it gave me time to study, but other times it meant progress was much slower. I think in hindsight I would have preferred the days to have been dedicated to the two of us that were on the AFI training course, it was due to this approach that I ran out of leave from work and did not complete my training until February.
Every cloud has a silver lining and this delay has meant an opportunity at my home airfield has opened up for me.
On the day of the test I had an idea of what to expect, but it doesn’t prepare you for the intensity of the day. From an overview point of view the day consisted of:
Receiving a briefing about the day and how I was to know when he was and examiner and when he was acting as a student.
Then the remainder of the day was composed of:
Giving a NOTAM briefing and talking about the types and how to review them (SkyDemon is allowed for this)
Giving a weather briefing and talking about weather fronts
Talking over a chart of the area and what all the symbols mean
Then I was given a briefing to prepare and present, I got 10b Stalling , this was a surprise to me as I had been told by more then one person it would only be an exercise selected from the first part of the syllabus! You have 20 mins to prepare and then you need to present it to the examiner.
Once presented we walked out to the aircraft and he watched while I did my prefight check.
Next we flow the exercise and then we done some of the other manoeuvres including PFLs, steep turns and recovery from dangerous attitudes.
Back on the ground and time for a quick cup of tea, you don’t get any feedback on how you are progressing, which is very unnerving!
Now to the last part of the day a nice gentle warm down, wait I got that wrong, in fact it is a 2 hour question and answer session.
Following this you get feedback on how you did and your result, I failed, well actually I got a partial pass.
The part I failed was the briefing, it lacked content, I was surprised by this as it was very close to what I had been taught. All I can assume is that there is a big mismatch between what I had been taught and what was expected. I sat down with Katie one rainy day and we spent many hours reviewing and improving my notes (thanks Katie). I booked up my retest and represented a new briefing of the examiners choice, this time I passed. You have 30 days to complete the retake in and yes, the retest costs too!
In summary it is a very big commitment in time, money and effort, no wonder there are so few instructors.
I please to say that I’m now working as an AFI (sorry but FI(R) just doesn’t sound right) at Chatteris for Cambridgeshire Microlights under the CFI Katie Denham or I will be when my license is returned by the CAA, 30 days and counting!
Today we thought we would be brave and visit it a predominantly GA fly-in our C42 Microlight!
The Fly-in was at little Snoring an ex RAF base for the Mosquitos (and other aircraft) opened in 1943, sadly only one of the runways remain operational. The fly-in was hosted by the McAully Flying Group who are celebrating their 60th anniversary. Two C42 aircraft from Chatteris flew over and that was 66% of all the microlights there, the other was an EV97 Eurostar. I guess due to the weather there was not as many as was hoped for but there was sufficient planes to make it worthwhile and as with my last two flights and blogs there was more changes in PilotAware and SkyDemon to test, I think I’m get obsessed with this combination now!
So there are a number of changes too both pieces of software, but the main items of interest for me today was the PilotAware’s native connection in SkyDemon and a PilotAware patch to fix the issue with not being able to access the internet while connected to PilotAware.
The native PilotAware connection in SkyDemon connects a lot quicker the old method of Flam, which took a few seconds and would show “seek satellites” while it connected, the new method seems to connect instantly!
And the patch also worked fine allowing us to use live date while navigating.
The whole setup for the third consecutive flight remained rock solid.
Below you can see the combination showing an aircraft near us (we both took off from the same airfield) it is showing in the main screen and on the traffic radar.
The actual flight to Little snoring was uneventful, however the return was to be a fun trip the first C42 return back to Little Snoring so we decided to wait before leaving, eventually a break in the weather came and we confirmed on a couple of weather radar sites that we could fly out and down between two fronts. In a couple of places we were down to 650ft but as the radar had shown we were soon through the worst of it and flying back to Chatteris behind the front that moving through.
We were not operating at minima, but the training we had for that was certainly a help as was SkyDemon confirming the presence of obstacles on route well in advance so we could make certain we had good visual contact and this helped lessen the workload in the cockpit. As it turned out if we have wait 3 more hours we would have had a perfectly fine flight back, however in many ways the practice of navigating in low visibility and at low altitude was quite satisfying and Simon who was flying that leg did a great job ably assisted by myself!
This Sunday Simon and I followed Colin and John over to Brookfield Farm for their annual Microlight fly-in. Well when I say followed we were some 20 mins behind them.
We took off from Chatteris and planned to route via Coningsby’s MATZ and pass through their overhead, however after a few unanswered calls we decided to divert around as the cloud base was not sufficient to go over the top, this added around 10 mins to the journey and we had already considered this as a backup route. One of the many great SkyDemon features is while in flight a simple tap on the route line unlocks the currently planned route and then we simply dragged it wide of Coningsby’s MATZ and we were all set.
I’m pleased to say PilotAware held firm again for the whole trip showing traffic around us, the only time we had to change our plans was on the return but more about that later.
On arrival at Brookfield Farm there was some confusion as we heard an aircraft call right base and the plates showed all circuits to be left hand, a radio call and someone confirmed 31 was a right hand circuit, as we joined and called joining 31 RH an apology was heard and a correction runway 31 was indeed LH so we changed and joined 31 Crosswind. The approach looked good coming in over some lakes but my touchdown was a little long and the runway a little short! Time to play it safe and do a go around needless to say it was actually a planned flypast, I wanted to buzz the tower (honest)!!!
On my second attempt I was down a lot soon and made the first exit with ease.
The fly-in hosted by Phil Read and Jin Wiles who greeted each and every pilot with a warm welcome they also laid on a good spread of food including a wide selection of cakes and hot and cold drinks all for free!
After spending a few hours there we decided to depart and flew back to Chatteris via the same routing. As we approached march we made our call that we were inbound and a few seconds later we heard Pat call that he was inbound from a similar position, we looked but could not see him. We zoomed out a little on SkyDemon and there Pat was 600ft below and a little off to our left side, we then managed to locate him visually too, we made radio contact with Pat reporting our position and intent, we went around to the north west and joined downwind while he went to the east and joined on the base leg. I’m sure we would have seen each other eventually without PilotAware and SkyDemon, however having that early representation on the map is a great help.
Unfortunately, not all aircraft are equipped with ADSB Out we added it to ours and Pat’s for around £50 each. I just don’t understand why the CAA don’t mandate it or why people won’t spend £50 on adding ADSB Out to their existing Mode S transponder!