Well if the weather had been better the plan was for me to do a solo navigation to Boston, however it wasn’t and I didn’t. Instead we did a dual navigation to Fenland Airfield via Whittlesey Train station thus creating a dog leg.
It had been 2 weeks since my last flight and it would seem my mind has been erased to the point that even though I blogged about how to draw the triangle of velocity I was stood staring at the white board clueless! Still with some help from Mike on the first leg it slowly came back and I completed the flight sheet (here is a blank flight sheet (PLOG) I put to together based on the one we use in the club, feel free to modify/use it), I called Fenland as its PPR (prior permission required) and they told me the runway and conditions at the airfield. Mike asked how I would make a standard overhead join from the south direction and I drew this on the white board ok. Next Mike asked how I intend to leave Chatteris and the runway I would use again this was ok.
So into the C42 and let it warm up while we waited for the parachutists to descend. We departed on runway 01 and flew the circuit but kept climbing to our cruise altitude of 1,500ft and set course to Whittlesey, we arrived overhead bang on time, but a little to the right of track. I had some trouble spotting the train station as it’s only a small single platform one. After spotting it with the help of an approaching train we set course to Fenland. About 5 miles out from Fenland I made a call and requested an overhead join, this was the first time I have been to airfield with a control tower and getting the flow of messages in the correct format was all new to me but Mike guided me through what to say and when. We joined overhead descending on the dead side and landed on runway 36 the landing was not my best and Mike then informed me that when I do my solo cross country flights I have to hand in a form and have it signed, on this form one of the things they do is rate your landing!
At Fenland we had no time to stop for fear the weather was closing in, so I paid the landing fee and we set off back to Chatteris. It was the return navigation that fell apart! I took too long to set my course so we were away from where we should be and then I miss read the heading and somehow set the course of 350 and not 315, when asked where we were I struggled to correctly identify the position on the map, but after a while I found our location and corrected it buy flying over where we should be and resetting the course. At Whittlesey Mike ask if I was over the station and my reply was that “I thought we were“ thought was not good enough so we did an orbit and I was correct so we set course for Chatteris. I seem to keep drifting off course especially when reading the map and by the time we had got to Chatteris we were not approaching it from where we had planned. To make matters much worse I could not see the airfield Mike told me to turn to the left which I did and if he had not I would have over flown it, which as it’s a parachute club it is not allowed or safe to do. So we flow around the airfield in a wide circle and Mike enquired how I was now going to join and land. I was now disorientated and concerned over not having seen the airfield and was explaining how I would join 01, but talking about 19, eventually it click and we joined on the base leg and I landed. Mike commented that I would have got a 10 for that landing and it was one of my best. But during the debrief it was clear that I not ready for solo cross county with the lack of location awareness and the ability to fly a consistent heading in doubt too.
The day left me thinking on the way home, have got what it takes or if I should cut my losses and pack it in.
I love flying, but learning to fly, for me at least, is a rollercoaster of ability and emotions of which I’m current at a low point again!
I need to learn to read the map more frequently and relate it to where we are while keeping us on the correct heading and at the correct altitude; I hope over the next few weeks this will become easier and I become safer as the thought that I could have over flown the airfield while there was parachutists in the air concerns me greatly.