View from the Other Side of the Table

I have been instructing on Microlights for some time now, and for reasons of personal development, I decided to start my journey from NPPL to PPL. Early this week I did a dual cross-country flight with my instructor. It’s been a long time since I navigated by chart and watch alone. Typically when instructing I have my trusty Skydemon on to help with situational awareness, you would be surprised at how many instructors with students infringe airspace while flying, and I don’t want to be another statistic.

Planning of the flight wasn’t an issue, I correctly planned the flight avoiding overflying a parachute drop zone and my timings etc were correctly calculated too. Before the flight, we talked about closing angles, not something we normally teach so it was new to me, and other lost procedures which were more familiar, none of which was an issue. The issue came on flying the first leg, my flying was somewhat erratic as my instructor upped the workload by asking where on the leg we were and how I was confirming it. I struggled to avoid just saying “we are here”, I needed need to avoid the trap of confirmation bias. I gave my location and he immediately asked for the name of another town closer and for me to show him on the chart where the places were, roads, forests, rivers and towns and villages. I struggled, I knew where we were and I knew out of the window I could see a disused airfield and a large town, but if that was correct where is the small village I should be near? as I looked and looked my heading changed as did my altitude, but still I could not confirm my exact position as I was missing the village. Eventually, it was pointed out to me as being just to the right and below, it was in my blind spot. I was off track by 5NM and it was time to use the closing angle for my airspeed so I turned 15 degrees to the right and was to fly that for 10 mins, all while talking to an ATC to get a MATZ penetration and having to reboot the AVMAP Ultra EFIS as the screen had gone blank. I ended up over my turning point a small airfield often frequented by the instructor, but a new one to me. I found that was like looking for a needle in the preverbal haystack! well, this isn’t going well, I thought to myself and I knew I can do better. I could not spot the airfield but trusting my time and heading, I turned, after all the city and river were there, it was just the airfield I was missing, as I turned there was a small airfield under the wing, what a relief. Determined to hold heading and altitude better I said to myself, what would I tell my students, well the first thing would be to look out of the window and fly towards something on the heading I wanted, not to follow the heading bug on the EFIS I had set. This worked much better and my next two legs were acceptable. Part way through the last leg my instructor said the destination airfield is closed, divert to Boston. I knew where we were an I knew where Boston is too, pulling the chart out I drew a line and measured the angle, I turned and flew that new heading, no need to allow for drift as it we were directly into a light wind. You can’t miss Boston it sits on the corner of The Wash, I could almost fly there with my eyes closed, but that wasn’t the point of the exercise, I needed to confirm where I was currently overhead not just where Boston was. With the diversion successfully flown and now heading back to the airfield the instructor pulled the throttle closed, we are a sadistic lot! I found a field glided us towards it and called the 500ft rule and going around, that all worked out well.

Back on the ground, the debrief was what I was expecting. but overall it was ok. so now to plan and fly the QXC (Qualifying cross country). You really don’t realise how much Skydemon lessens your workload until you have to fly without it.


My route was going to be Fenland to Beccles and on to Conington before returning to Fenland. The route was just over the minimum 150nm if flown point to point and I had a small dog leg in there as well. I planned the route and the instructor checked it, I had a few additional waypoints on the route too. I set off after refuelling and flew my well-trodden route to overhead East Winch, getting a basic service and MATZ penetration from Marham. Then on to Beccles via the mast near Old Buckingham, with a basic service from Norwich Radar. The mast was easy to find and meant I was on track, so I made the turn towards Beccles, I spotted it to my right so I was a little off track but close enough to see the airfield. I landed paid my fee and jumped straight back into the aircraft and got going as time marched on. next a due west heading to Conington and a zone transit through Lakenheath. I readied myself and called them. Lakenheath zone G-XXXX, G-XX squawk (whatever it was) Zone transit approved stay clear of the ATZ. Wow, I have not even asked for the zone transit yet! As I got closer they called me back “Are you familiar with Santa” (well that’s what it sounded like) came over the radio in a deep American accent, resisting all my normal sort of replies and playing it with a straight bat, I replied “negative”, back came the reply “remain at your current altitude, fast jest will be operating up to 2,000ft”. I confirmed the message and was somewhat disappointed not to see any fast jets. The rest of the QXC went to plan. After landing back at Fenland I could not remember a time when I had been so drained by flying, but I enjoyed it and on my next flight I’m going to have Skydemon on but navigate primarily by the chart.

Just one more short flight home to go, a 20 min ish flight back to East Winch, I thought I would call Marham but it was late they would have gone home, Back came a reply, they were there, and I got a basic service. I then heard another aircraft ask for a MATZ penetration and they were refused due to launching fast jets! my turn and I got a penetration for a straight-in approach, all was good, time to wash the plane and then go home after a long tiring but satisfying day of flying

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