Category Archives: solo

Lesson 36: Qualifying Cross-Country (QXC) Gloucester -> Cardiff -> Wolverhampton Halfpenny Green -> Gloucester

The day had finally arrived – it was time to do my Qualifying Cross Country (QXC) flight. The weather was great – sunny, good visibility and a high cloud base, so things were looking good.

I’d planned my route, Gloucester to Cardiff, Cardiff to Wolverhampton Halfpenny Green, Halfpenny Green to Gloucester using a direct straight line, as there were no NOTAMS, danger areas or airspace along the route that needed to be avoided.

Before leaving the airfield, I had a brief with my instructor, covering all the “what if’s”, such as radio failure, airfield closures, deteriorating weather, getting lost, etc. After he was satisfied with my responses, we signed the declaration form and it was time for me to head to the airplane.

I performed the A-check, everything looked good so I was soon inside the cockpit with the door latched and my harness tight. Runway 04 was in use today, so after departure I made a turn to the left to obtain my heading of 235 degrees. The navigation to Cardiff was straight forward, in part because I had flown the route twice before, and also because the route basically just hugs the shoreline the entire way down.

My initial radio call to Cardiff Approach went well. I was given a Squawk, they  identified me and gave me a basic service. A couple of miles later and I was cleared to enter their controlled airspace via the Published VFR Cardiff Docks Arrival route – the same one as I’d used in my previous two trips. Runway 12 was active, and on transferring to Tower I was told to join downwind. The landing went well (there was a fairly strong cross wind, and I landed a metre or two from the centre line, but given the runway is so wide it wasn’t a problem) and I taxied to Aeros for a coffee and to get my QXC certificate signed.

When Aeros phoned Tower to check they were happy to approve my QXC form, Tower did say that I had forgotten to report Downwind but apart from that they were happy, so my form was signed. Not sure how I managed to forget that – must of been the heat of the moment – but at least they were happy with everything else.

Selfie at Cardiff, see the departing plane in the background!?
Selfie at Cardiff, see the departing plane in the background!?

Shortly after, I was back in the cockpit and preparing to depart for Wolverhampton. I was given the Published VFR Wenvoe Departure, as before, which is basically a reversal of the Docks arrival. Again, the en-route part of the flight went well and was non-eventful.

En-route selfie
En-route selfie

I switched to Halfpenny Green Information about 20nm from the airfield, they then provided me a basic service until I was 10nm and asked for join instructions. They asked what join I’d prefer, and as runway 34 was active I took a direct join on long final. I was number 3, with the 2 ahead also joining long final. I was visual with them both so was happy to follow behind for a straight-in landing.

After landing, I went up to the cafe for some refreshments. They were as miserable and unfriendly as when I visited last, so I didn’t hang around very long! I walked up to the Tower, had a brief chat with the guys there and they signed my QXC form. No issues.

Wolverhampton Halfpenny Green Tower
Wolverhampton Halfpenny Green Tower

The flight back to Gloucester went smoothly, I made a standard overhead join for 04 and was soon back on the ground. I managed to achieve my QXC flight without any issues, so it was time for celebration. As it was the end of the day, a bunch of us from the flying club went to the Aviator (the airfield pub/restaurant at Gloucester) for a drink and some food. It was also my birthday, so I had two excuses to celebrate 🙂

Celebratory pint :)
Celebratory pint 🙂

Unfortunately, my GoPro footage lacked any cockpit audio for the flight. It looks like the USB connection cable in to the GoPro must have bent in my last flight, so the signal isn’t making it through. Very annoying, as I’ll need to buy a replacement cable and they’re not cheap! Still, a really great day and one that I’ll remember for a long time to come…

Here’s the SkyDemon logs for each leg:

Gloucester to Cardiff
Gloucester to Cardiff
Cardiff to Wolverhampton
Cardiff to Wolverhampton

Wolverhampton to Gloucester

Wolverhampton to Gloucester

Final Approach to Cardiff runway 30

Lesson 33: Solo land-away to Cardiff International

This week I’d be flying solo to Cardiff, landing, and coming back. Cardiff has full ATC and is within a Class D CTR , unlike Shobdon, making it a more complex approach.  The sun was out, the sky clear and I arrived at the airfield nice and early to prepare.

NOTAMs checked, Royal Flights checked, MET checked, weight & balance checked, fuel planning done, A-Check checked – everything checked! After a briefing from my instructor and some more paperwork (signing my life away, that sort of thing) I was in the aircraft on the apron, ready to taxi.

After a short taxi and hold, I was cleared for take-off and soon climbing out of Gloucester’s runway 22. Quite an ideal runway considering my destination, I barely had to change track to get to the magnetic heading I’d planned on my PLOG. As is usual departing Gloucester, shortly after departure Tower hands you to Approach, who provide a basic service and give you a reporting point. Usually when heading this way they ask you to report “at the bends” which means at the bends in the river – about 10nm from the airfield. Today was no exception.

After a top-of-climb FREDA check I did a quick gross-error check by comparing my expected position on the chart with what I could see, and everything was looking good. To be fair, it’s fairly hard to get lost on this route as you basically hug the shoreline the entire way.

After a few minutes I was at the bends and reporting to Gloucester Approach, who then suggest I freecall Cardiff. Before leaving, I obtained the Regional Pressure Setting (Cotswold) so that I can adjust my altimiter. When a radio change is prefixed with Freecall, it means that the current station have not passed your details to the next station, therefore you are calling them of your own free will. This is therefore not an instruction. Clearly, in this instance it makes perfect sense for me to talk to them, so I say goodbye to Gloucester and obtain Cardiff’s ATIS.

After noting down the ATIS information, I call Cardiff Approach. Their ATIS announcement says to report your aircraft type on first contact, and I forgot, but they didn’t seem to mind this time. Maybe they were going easy with me as I was a student?

After their “pass your details” request I launch in to the full CARPACER call. Shortly after they give me a Squawk for the transponder. I had noticed in the aircraft’s techlog that the previous pilot had noted ‘possible faulty transponder’ so I was unsure whether it would actually work or not (there was some debate in the office as to whether or not said person had actually had the thing switched on). After a minute or so, Cardiff ask me to check the Squawk so I tell them I think it’s faulty. No problem, I’m given a basic service and tell them my position so they can identify me manually on their radar.

Here’s a clip of me reporting to Gloucester, obtaining Cardiff’s ATIS and the subsequent calls with Cardiff Approach:

After a few minutes, as I get closer to the expected “VFR Cardiff Docks” arrival entry route, Cardiff Approach call me to give me my clearance to enter their control zone. Here’s a clip:

Runway 30 was in use, the opposite to what I had used when I flew here with my instructor. Landing at runway 30 involves flying along the coast and then turning right to approach the runway from over the sea (it’s right on the cliff edge). I’d been told by Tower to join right base, so as I start to position to join the circuit I do my pre-lander checks BUMFFFICHL.

As I turn on to final, I hear a Thomson commercial airliner flight given take-off clearance and I’m asked to orbit. Well, that’s a new one for me. Being told to orbit when you’re at 700ft on final approach (‘low and slow’). Nothing like something new to keep you on your toes! So I increased power, climbed a little and made a right orbit over Barry Island. After ending my orbit and reporting final, I didn’t have much time to get the approach speed and attitude right, but luckily as Cardiff’s runway is so massively long I didn’t need to worry too much about landing on the numbers.

At about 1nm on final, I’m given traffic information that a Cessna is passing behind me, routing around the coast. Bit distracting as it got me looking for the traffic, but I suppose I need to get better at multi-tasking. The landing was fairly uneventful, and I was soon parked on the south apron outside Aeros, and – more importantly – the airport pub/cafe.

The cafe was busy and had a 1.5 hour wait for food, so I had a quick diet coke and headed back out for the return leg. After doing the usual checks, I was on the radio to Cardiff Tower asking for permission to taxi. The return flight back to Gloucester was very straightforward, with an exit via the VFR Wenvoe route (to the East of the mast, near Cardiff Docks), followed by handover to Gloucester Approach who cleared me for an overhead join.

The landing was smooth and I headed back to Aeros for a debrief (and coffee!) with my instructor.

Lesson 31: Solo land-away to Shobdon and back

Several weeks of bad weather had passed since my previous lesson (in which I flew with my instructor to Shobdon) but finally this Saturday it cleared up and I was able to fly the route solo.

After creating the PLOG, calculating weight and balance & fuel, checking NOTAMs, weather and plotting the route on the chart, my instructor reviewed everything and we filled out some paperwork. All ok, so I headed out to the aircraft and did the A-check. Everything was fine, so I was good to go.

First, I needed to get some fuel, so I taxied to the pumps. My instructor met me at the pumps, then I was back in the plane – alone. So, go through the checklist and request permission to taxi. When flying solo, you need to prefix your callsign with STUDENT when making your first radio call to each station. It doesn’t hurt to say it in subsequent calls, and I am of the opinion that I’d rather keep saying it (especially when on approach) to make everyone aware that I’m a student and I’d like to hope they might be a little more forgiving and/or cautious!

Without much waiting around, I was cleared for take-off and climbing up from runway 27. A small turn to the right for noise abatement, then I turned on to my heading from the PLOG. So far so good. People on the radio were feeding back reports of gliding and parachutists around the Malverns, so I was paying extra special attention in my lookout in that direction. I didn’t see anything though. Not sure if that means I was being blind or whether they were further away from my track than I first thought.

The journey proceeded as planned, it was fairly uneventful. At Ledbury, I changed frequency to Shobdon Radio and obtained the joining instructions. Runway 27 was active with left hand circuits. Gliding in progress (they use the grass runway) and have a lower circuit height.

After passing Hereford and crossing over the Cotswold ASR boundary, I switched to Barnsley’s QNH (which I obtained from Gloucester before leaving them). Soon enough the airfield was in sight. I still find it a little funny listening to Shobdon on the radio, as being an Air/Ground or FISO it’s less controlled than the ATC at Gloucester and some of the transmissions seem a little verbose at times. I’m glad I am learning at an airport with ATC, as I’m sure it’d be harder to learn with an A/G and then get used to the formalities of ATC.

The circuit at Shobdon was pretty busy, with lots of radio activity. I made an overhead join and had one aircraft ahead of me. Shobdon Radio did a great job of asking the aircraft ahead of me to expedite their exit from the runway, they really went out of their way to make my experience as straight forward as possible (I guess they were trying to avoid me having to go-around).

After landing, I taxied to the grass parking area, and went to the cafe to get some fresh air and a rather nice hotdog and chips! I met quite a few people in the cafe, including a nice chap who is based at Shobdon who has a share in a microlight. He had never landed at Gloucester so I encouraged him to do so – especially as he had the same microlights as they use at the Flying Shack.

Here’s the full video of the flight, incase you’re interested:

After lunch, I waited around a while. There was a planned airshow display near Gloucester (I saw this in a NOTAM) so I had to time my arrival at Gloucester to be after the airshow had finished. Soon enough, it was time to leave, so I headed back to the plane and worked my way through the checklist.

The flight back to Gloucester was again fairly uneventful (thankfully), so after landing it was back to Aeros for a well-deserved coffee and debrief with my instructor.