PPL diary

kit planes

kit car


PPL Diary Page Two

Vancouver delights

Following my progress from trial flight to Solo I wanted to try my hand at going further afield.

I hadn't meant Canada at the time, but here we were on hols and I was to have fours days to my own devices. Into a borrowed truck (thanks Hugh!) and off to CZBB it was then. CZBB is Boundary Bay, Vancouver's second airport. This is Canada's sixth busiest airport close behind Montreal. I had chosen to fly with Pro based on a personal recommendation.

Holiday Flying One: Culture shock

"C-GWCG yoor nahmba siyx, fahllo the twin johnin dahnwind" I'd never even seen six planes together before, let alone have them all in the circuit with me! In fact there were a number of differences with sleepy old Bourn back in the UK:

  • There was ATC
  • ATC had an accent
  • ATC spoke really quickly and had two different frequencies for me to use
  • ATC were to be obeyed, and now
  • I was flying a bigger, full airways IFR C172 with bonus dials, puzzling even the FI a little
  • Circuits were tight at 700ft
  • It was busy, busy, busy
  • Landing clearance (or not) could be very late in an approach
  • Looking back, the approach path was just a stack of incoming landing lights
  • It was land then get your plane off the runway fast
  • And oh yes, the ASI was in MPH. Much, much confusion until I realised this.

    We did five circuits and my FI said I flew well enough, but didn't look out for circuit traffic enough. Good point and very apt at Boundary Bay. My FI this day was Raeleen, since my expected FI Michael was stuck somewhere else due to weather.

    A case of wrong plane, wrong instructor one might think, but I really learnt a lot.

    22 June 2004

    Holiday Flying Two: Tailwheel Taming Time?

    "No, more other rudder!"

    Another day, another new plane, another new instructor. "I didn't give you the tailwheel notes last night? Never mind, jump in" Today's plane was the Citabria and my FI was Michael, an ex-pat I had got to know on the UK Flyer Forums. We had in fact just had a very good look over the airplane inside and out, which was very interesting. It reminded me a great deal of an old Land Rover I once restored - and that was no bad thing.

    Meeting the Citabria

    C-FSPH is a wood and fabric plane, and just running my hand over it conjured up a sense of history, quite unlike a Cessna. The ASI was again in MPH and I was wise to this trick now after yesterday's jaunt. Seating was tandem with massive elbow room and all instruments up front where I was to sit, with a view over the nose which was really good. I had a stick, a side throttle and an overhead trim.

    Lots of room!

    The Citabria taxied like a shopping trolley when I had a go. Oddly, it didn't do this for Michael. When all was going well, the slightest need to alter course was met by a delayed but very large swing of the tail in what seemed to be a random direction. We lined up and began the roll. It all felt really strange. Perhaps it wasn't going too badly until I lifted the tail, then the fun started. I made the mistake of not looking far, far ahead and Michael saved us from the runway lights.

    We went to Langley and back, stopping for lunch. We had joined left base from a lazy angle. This actually felt fine, although it's far from UK textbook. The landing fee was precisely zero dollars despite Tower control, which also felt better than the UK. Possibly a lesson for someone here. Getting into the three point attitude was fine, but once on the wheels and it was Tesco's time again for me. Langley was a lively field, as I would find they all were, with someone restoring a Harvard just outside the restaurant.

    Langley, with restoration in background

    Over at the training area at 2500ft we did my first steep turns of 45 degrees and 60 degrees followed by clean stall practice (there are no flaps). Michael was truly horrified that I hadn't done stalls myself before, although I had done slow flight. In Canada there is a checklist of items a student must have done before solo. It includes stalls with and without flaps and incipient spins. Later we got a Canadian training record for me to complete with this checklist on it.

    Much to my delight, steep turns went really quite well and I was able to hit my own wash on a 360 at each angle of bank.

    More shocks for Michael when we returned to Boundary Bay - I'd never done a touch and go either - apart from with Raeleen the previous day! Later, another tailwheel instructor, Bob. was chatting to me after the flight. I told him my steering woes. "Normal", he pronounced sagely. This was what 'tailwheel introduction' was.

    23 June 2004

    Holiday Flying Three: Wing Drop Stalls

    "Do you feel OK? You can't pick up a wing with the aileron when stalled"

    Too right. And what a scare if you try. I had been expecting the stall in landing configuration to be similar to the clean stall. Nope. What happened next was that the sea rushed up to meet me as the wing dropped about 60 degrees and we pitched downwards in well under a second. This scared me half to death. It took a while to regain my composure.

    I knew I would have to conquer this another day.

    We went on to do steep turns just like in the Citabria and a few different landing types, including soft field which felt really satisfying. The Citabria has no flaps hence our use of a 152 today.

    24 June 2004

    Holiday Flying Four: The Chilliwack Pie Trip

    "Ball in the middle, Captain"

    I bet any of Michael's students would recognise this phrase. I got to hear it a fair bit in the Citabria, which does actually require the pilot to use the rudder as something more than a foot rest.


    This was cross country day. I had the Vancouver quarter mil chart and the AD info book. Our objective was pies at Chilliwack, which are famous at least as far as MacKenzie Heights.

    I had not started too well. Reading the map for the first time whilst simultaneously trying to fly had me feeling ill by Langley and our planned touch and go became a stop to recover. To be truthful I was feeling a bit low after the earlier day and my abject terror at the wing drop. However Michael gave me a pep talk which worked well and we were off for Chilliwack.


    Nav really wasn't that hard on this trip. Too far off course and you would hit a mountain. Much more geography than back home in East Anglia. So we could do little else but arrive at Chilliwack under my guidance. The pie was blueberry and peach with ice cream. You'd have to be there.

    The home run was down the Fraser River at 500ft. Really.

    Fraser river at 500ft for home

    And onto the numbers at CZBB.

    On the numbers

    25 June 2004

    Holiday Flying Five: Wing drops again

    "You could do that all day now, couldn't you"

    I'm sure Michael couldn't see what all the fuss had been about, and now neither could I. But it sure had taken a lot of determination from me to get back up there and get so I could just do the wing drops one after the other. My wife had seen how important it was to me and took the kids off elsewhere to let me have an extra go at conquering this demon before we left Canada. I'm so glad I did. I even enjoyed the view of Pitt Lake at the foot of the mountains.

    Thanks to Michael for a good time whilst at Pro.

    Michael Peare, my FI at CZBB

    30 June 2004

    Holiday Flying Time 5 hours 40 mins

    Back in Blighty

    None of the Canadian flying counts towards the UK JAR PPL course time, I still have at least 45 UK hours to do in total.

    Lesson 20: Solo X-wind consolidation
    Another new instructor

    "Can you sit in for a few?" I asked the FI. My normal FI was away and I hadn't flown for some time. It was a bit x-windy too and I knew that a few trips with a new instructor could be good for me, having seen some new perspectives this way already whilst in Canada.

    Soon he jumped out and I did some solo x-wind landings I was really happy with. This FI did have a different attitude to my normal FI. Whilst I was clearly being taught the same thing, I did get few pointers for flying on a windy day which I hadn't fully appreciated before.

    23 July 2004

    Lesson 21: An out-and-out Jolly
    Old Buckenham Flyer Fly-in

    "Don't be put off by the giant haystacks on short final" I wasn't, but I was a bit put off by the hoards of assembled Flyer Forum people watching my approach. It felt too fast, but after a go-around and a tight circuit, I was able to put it down nicely.

    Arrival at Old Buck (thanks for photo Neil)

    Thereafter followed a very pleasant hour of meeting people from the Forum, none of whom I had actually seen before, although I felt as if I knew some of them already.

    Getting there had been a piece of cake Nav-wise, although my FI did do the radio for me across the Lakenheath CMATZ. This trip was purely a jolly which I felt like doing. Actually the aim was for students like me to be flown there by an experienced Forum pilot, but I felt more like arriving under my own steam.

    24 July 2004

    Lessons 22 + 23: Finishing Solo Circuit Consolidation

    Summer evening relaxation

    "Next, we get to leave the circuit"


    Lesson 24: Precautionary Landings

    "It's too bad to leave the circuit"


    "But we get to do some low flying instead"


    The low flying was fun, but actually quite difficult. Adding to the fun was my FI's new-found sense of the dramatic. Perhaps having done a few too many PLs recently, he was describing imaginary weather fronts beating us from all sides with great gusto. This was probably to keep him awake through yet another one, but I thought it fit the occasion.

    It was quite a high workload to keep the plane flying slowly but straight and level whilst looking closely at the ground for obstructions and turning blind 180's at the end of each run. The final approach was a short field, full flap affair. I'd already practiced these on hols, so found them quite easy. We stopped only a few hundred metres after landing on the numbers.

    02 August 2004

    Lesson 25: First Navex Proper

    "Why are we diving at the ground at over 100 knots?"

    It had been a busy lesson and I was tired. All that time ago when I began circuits it had felt busy too. This was not that bad, but it was a host of new things at once again.

    So we had found ourselves heading sharply downwards during my first attempt at an overhead join back at base after an hour's navex. The landing was poor too, since I completely forgot to tip us into wind on kicking off the crab. How bad is that? My mind was chock full of other things.

    There had been a lot of traffic to spot, including the Rockwell Commander who blasted through the ATZ at 1500 ft as I was climbing up to 2000 ft to set course overhead. Then it was glider city. It's my job to avoid them, no problem there, but they could have made life easier by not circling for lift slap bang over Bourn's runways at 2000ft. We avoided some more later too who appeared to be keeping a far better lookout. I was pleased to have spotted all the traffic in good time today.

    My main problem of the day was keeping height, not heading. I was just too keen to dip the nose to see the ground ahead. I hadn't studied this route, since I had thought we were going elsewhere. This made all the difference. It was like being lost, I suppose. I was looking at map features for the first time and trying to match the ground from that. Far better to have done what I did for Chilliwack and Old Buck and study the routes and waypoints first. That was much easier.

    I had waited through 4 weeks of bad weather for this day and I had enjoyed it, despite being a bit rusty. But as usual the bad wx had allowed me to sit another exam: Aircraft Technical. Very straightforward.

    Next time we would be going Bourn-Leicester-Sywell. And after that, some consideration would be given to sending me off to find my way around a short route by myself. Then it would be time for land aways and ultimately the QXC itself - a solo trip with two land aways, over at least 150 nm.

    26 August 2004

    25:50 UK PPL time, of which 3:40 solo.

    Lesson 26: Leicester-Sywell

    "Why are we diving at the ground at over 100 knots?"

    This had a familiar ring to it, but this time we had no engine either. "We've done PFLs before" "Erm, no". "OK, I have control" And so I was given my first PFL demo. It looked easy enough, especially using the 'engine warming' trick. But my turn would be next lesson, because this lesson was over.

    It had been a good day in the best wx for well over a month. We had first found Leicester...

    Leicester ho !

    ... and Sywell.

    Sywell yo!

    And it had not gone too badly at all. I had been a bit fluffy on my first real need to use the radio in anger, but the lady on Leicester Radio was very nice about it and Sywell Information was very helpful and patient indeed. Thank you both.

    I had looked over the route before and hence was able to keep height quite well, since I wasn't having to peer over it at the ground as if lost this time. The learning point of the day was to keep heading better and to do FREDA checks more often as the DI did drift away from the compass far more than I had expected over the course of an hour's flight. My checks were to be every 10 mins in future.

    Estimating the distance of ground features was getting better. By Grafham Water I could see I was about 1nm off track; best to correct it early. This was achieved by an old RAF technique - turning 20 degrees towards track and flying this heading for twice the number of minutes as miles off track. Hence one mile off at Grafham meant two minutes flying after a 20 degrees turn towards it. I had done the maths behind this rule of thumb and it is very approximate, getting much worse for larger track errors. But it did the trick, and would work as long as we were flying at 90 knots.

    We had arrived at all my check points at the prescribed minute, but under my FI's suggestion I had lessened the wind correction factor, since it did not seem as strong as predicted. A trial and error approach led to how much correction to remove on the first leg and this was carried over to the other legs - bearing in mind their direction relative to wind and scaling accordingly.

    After only an hour's flight we were back overhead Bourn and my overhead join was much better than the first attempt the previous week. Our arrival was 'firm', since I was tired after the concentration of the navex. But not nearly as tired as last time. Things were sinking in and becoming a bit more automatic, hence not overtaxing my short term memory quite so blatantly. My FI allowed me to forget flaps until I noticed things weren't right myself on the approach. It is good to be allowed to make such mistakes and correct them, much better than being told right away.

    It was just another navex for my FI, but I felt quite thrilled at having been to Leicester and Northampton in the hour.

    As I drove away, I was already wishing for good weather to do more of this.

    08 September 2004.

    Lesson 27: Stalling with Style

    "Those are fine"

    Good, I had banished my stall demons with Michael in Canada already.

    21 September 2004.

    Lesson 28: Steep turns and more PFLs

    "That was our own wash we went through"

    I knew that. A nice 60 degree bank complete turn pulling 2g for fun to finish the lesson. Also, PFLs had gone well which meant I was judged ready for first solo navex. Time next to leave the airfield alone!

    24 September 2004.

    Lesson 29: First Solo XC

    Silence. And the right hand seat was free for my map etc !

    All set for departure on 36...

    cry Freedom !

    As usual I had needed to pick my day and hour carefully to get flyable weather. Yesterday the forecasts had borne little relation to the actuals, but today was closer. Cambridge were saying a cloudbase of 2500ft, but my FI said he had already found it was 1800ft. Did I want to do the little solo xc (cross country) course at 1500ft. Of course I did!

    twin drain landmarks, Chatteris on the nose, Alconbury, Chelveston on the nose

    In the event I found I was OK at 2000ft on the QNH, i.e about 1800ft above ground level. It really was a straightforward flight and I didn't have the slightest trouble holding heading or height. I had my PLOG strapped to my right leg and this was much easier without the FI in the right hand seat. Landmarks came up spot on time and I was able to read from map to ground and get a match in all forward directions. When I had first flown this course I had found it hard and a bit barren as East Anglia is so flat, but this time I realised that there were lots of visual clues, once you'd had a bit of training of the types of thing to look for and an idea of what 5nm looks like from 2000ft. It was also easier without my FI reminding me to do things in a different order to what I was remembering myself. Clearly he has taught me well. It seemed like a classic day for carb ice, so the carb heat was used without fail on regular FREDA checks. This time the DI didn't seem to be drifting away from the compass, but this may have been because I was making more regular, smaller corrections.

    Chatteris came up on the nose and I could see the no-go area of the parachuting site over on the far side. I turned through over 300 degrees onto my next heading, noted the time, calculated my next ETA and called in to Bourn. Alconbury disused was the next unmissable landmark, but after that there isn't really anything major, so I had to look at the pattern of the clumps of villages and maintain a good heading, if I was to find Chelveston disused airfield. Even with its current use as a truck park, it could be quite easy to miss. It's not much more than a few patterns in the grass of a large field.

    At this point the cloudbase has decended a little, so I dropped down to 1800ft, in order to remain clear. In fact my eyes were on the route home to Bourn behind and to my left, but that continued to look OK.

    Top tip for better viz on bright, overcast days - yellow shades, ask any skier.

    yellow shades for viz, rain on windshield, overhead Bourn, final 36

    I had other traffic at Grafham, having seen no other GA up to that point. This is such a major landmark, it was to be especially expected. This other traffic was a Piper a few hundred feet below out to my right going in the opposite direction. On a whim, I decided to look around for a hard to spot small strip and purposely deviated from my course. Having found it I regained track and went onto St Neots, through a little light rain, which made me jump when it started.

    I was only a minute late at St Neots and called up Bourn for rejoining information. Bourn had got busy since I had set out. To be number three in circuit was busy for Bourn. I joined overhead, called, and descended on the deadside of the circuit towards my next report of downwind. I had the other two aircraft in sight by late downwind. Number one appeared to be on a downwind leg of cross-country proportions, so we all had to follow him. Perhaps there was someone with less experience than me! That small excursion meant not needing flaps until well into final.

    And finally, a rather better landing than of late.

    Next will be a longer XC, given good weather; Leicester-Sywell solo.

    29 September 2004.

    Lesson 30: Hovering the 152

    "Well, I'd say we're stationary.... perhaps just about moving backwards."

    He was right too. I had been concentrating so much on balanced, slow flight at 45 knots, that I had not registered the countryside slow down and begin to go the other way.

    Actual surface wind had been 18 gusting 28, so winds aloft could easily have increased above the forecast 40 knots. We were doing more of the 2 hours of stall and spin awareness required for the PPL. Stalls in each config were good, but hovering with the stall warner chirruping away was something else.

    Landing with such a headwind was a new experience too. It really did need to be dragged in with way more power than normal. Fortunately there was no major crosswind component, so the gustiness could be tackled by adding half the gust factor to the approach speed and watching the airspeed closely, ready for mainly pitch attitude corrections. We came in at 70 rather than 65 knots and about 2100rpm, just 250 rpm below cruise power. For all that extra power and speed, which might ordinarily have caused some float, we were down with the shortest ground roll I've ever done and quite a greaser it was too.

    Top marks to my FI for going up today, he had been really surprised that I had turned up in this weather. We'd had to avoid the big black CB's, but that was all useful experience for me. It was a bit chilling to feel the powerful up and downdraughts from even miles away and the clear realisation that our little 152 could never be used to try to outfly or outrun them. All this was already learnt for the Met exam of course, but nothing beats feeling the theory working.

    "What's it like up there?", said someone back at the club, watching the trees bend over. "Oh, not too bad - he landed it" replied my FI with a grin. I decided I'd take that as a compliment.

    06 October 2004.

    Lesson 31: Navex Landaway and some Feature Crawling

    "The viz is too poor for your next solo xc, so let's go dual to Wellsbourne and get in some low level nav."

    It was cold enough for fleeces, and the dew on the plane rolled and spilled from the ailerons as I did the walk around. The cloudbase was quite low, but that had been expected, so I had PLOG'ed Wellsbourne-Leicester as plan B if it was too bad for a solo xc.

    My FI had already pointed out that one of my waypoints was a poor choice and we probably wouldn't be able to spot it today. This was 'abeam Daventry', not a very precise choice at the best of times. We started out at 2000ft, but soon had to drop down to 1800ft and my FI's prediction was proved right and guesstimated viz fell from 10km to 6-7km. I wouldn't have flown on in this solo, since it was the worst viz I have ever seen on an unfamiliar route. It was probably typical for the UK though and hence something to get used to.

    Cranfield gave us a FIS, especially comforting as we were to pass the end of their instrument approach, which is outside controlled airspace. Waypoints loomed up ahead and soon it was time to call Wellsbourne. I had already PPR'd and knew 05 would be open - a better choice for today's Easterly than their North-South runway. I had already read their noise abatement and knew that join and land for 05 was normal, but that we would have to turn left 30 degrees on departure.

    After the work of getting here, my concentration lapsed on short final and I got a ticking off for not hitting the numbers. Still, we were down OK and easily able to turn off on the cross runway to taxi over to the tower and restaurant. R05 was pretty close in length to Bourn's runways, although apparently some people consider this short. I did notice that the Cessna behind did use a lot more tarmac than me and had to backtrack the runway to get onto the taxiway. But I still had to pay a tenner, just like he did.

    Off again towards Leicester and talking to Coventry. They were busy and I had to stand by a couple of times. Upon calling to drop them and change frequency at the reporting VRP, I got the rather strange reply 'continue approach'. I wish I hadn't heard that. My FI made comment.

    After turning for Bourn at Leicester, my FI passed on the surprisingly bad news that Bourn had mysteriously closed, so we would have to divert to Stoughton. New stuff. So I guessed a heading and flew off on that. But that really wasn't nearly good enough, so I was passed pens and a plotter. Eventually I managed to draw a line whilst flying, got a wind corrected heading and an ETA. We did get to Stoughton when I said we would, but it wasn't an impressive performance.

    Next my FI showed me what he really had wanted me to do: Let go of the yoke with both hands and use the chart and ruler on my lap to measure heading and distance. A demo just in time it turned out, as Stoughton's runway also suddenly became unavailable and we had to divert to Willingham. This was to be at low level to simulate the wx closing in - the irony being that viz had just jumped up to the best all day. Low level was 1500ft and safe slow flight at 75knots and 10 degrees of flap was used. This made for rather slow progress into the 30 knot headwind, but that gave plenty of time to look around.

    Today's bumps were the sort when holding the yoke seemed a good idea, but I let go and fluffed my way through the procedure. I did get a better line and ETA, but the flying was a little haphazard, although we did get there. Note to self - get a shorter ruler or a wider plane for next time.

    Presently we were back at Bourn and a good debrief followed. I needed once again to maintain a heading consistently, even when distracted and not forget to complete FREDA checks regularly, although my radio work had been very good. All familiar feedback, although the distraction level had increased dramatically during the diversions. More practice needed until some actions become more automatic even when the cockpit workload increases.

    Diversions were to be covered thus in future: First, ring the diversion on the map or it will be lost on looking away. How true. Set an approximate course immediately. Then use both hands to draw a track and slide the ruler over to a nearby VOR rose to measure the magnetic track directly. Check the track for obstructions, airspace etc. Adjust for wind mentally to get a heading and ground speed. Calculate an ETA mentally - and update it regularly via ground features. 'Feature crawl' is expected, after all we are simulating low level nav in poor viz. Yet the priority remains to fly the plane, of course.

    These nav trips really do build up the hours, I now had over 33 hours towards the 45 hours minimum for the PPL. It was easy to see how at least 12 more hours would be burnt by another dual nav, solo nav and the QXC itself, plus instrument flight, radio nav and finally practice for the skills test itself. But this did feel like the home run.

    Once again, Leicester-Sywell solo xc is planned next, given the weather for it.

    11 October 2004.

    Lesson 32: Leicester Sywell Solo !

    "Don't get lost and if you do call me first"  Said the FI.

    This was a very uneventful trip with plenty of time to look around and spot traffic, of which there was a fair bit.  Plenty of FREDA checks, and height and heading keeping were good.  Viz was excellent and Leicester came into view not quite on the nose, but very close.  I had made a small correction at Thrapston for a little less wind than predicted and this appeared to be about right now.  Sywell came up spot on the nose.

    After avoiding traffic at Grafham by making sure I passed well behind, it was soon time to land at Bourn.

    As I landed the carb heat stuck hard on, I couldn't shift it.  'Ah yes' they said as I filled in the log. 'Someone else already had trouble with that'.  I thought I should have been told - and why wasn't it in the log?  It later turned out that the cable had broken on me - so that full power had I needed a go-around would have been impossible.

    Otherwise, a grand day out.

    04 November 2004.

    Lesson 33: ... and some you lose

    "Well, what would you do if you were flying solo?"  Said the FI, as I pressed the case for a 180.

    Well, that was easy - I would have already turned back.  Getting to Nottingham regardless wasn't such a pull.  We had already made use of his IR to get us up and out of Bourn and we were mixing it with the wispy stuff more and more as we passed Corby.  Off to our right it was blacker than black and we had heard Cottesmore Zone talking to a pilot flying down at 800ft to avoid the clouds.  They were concerned that this pilot should know he was responsible for his own terrain separation.  How many more clues did we need?

    My FI said he could probably have made it round our route.  I thought that was an odd thing to say.  We weren't here to show off his IR skills.  My aim was to get the lie of the land for later solo trips and I certainly wasn't doing that in these conditions.

    So, I made a gentle 180 watching the turn needle and back on a reciprocal heading to Bourn.  We could do this another day and get a lot more from it.  My FI was apologetic as he had turned back only once before on a student navex.

    On the way back we diverted to Bedford for practice and it went a whole lot better than last time.

    10 November 2004.

    Lesson 34: Second time lucky

    "That landing was good"  I said as we touched down at Nottingham.  It had gone well.  We had taken the plane with the working transponder specifically to improve our chances of getting a class D airspace transit - my first.  I had been a bit flumoxed when East Midlands Approach couldn't see our squawk.  It turned out we had a dodgy transponder switch which we needed to 'recycle', which meant turning the unit to standby, reselecting the squawk and turning the unit back to 'ALT' to send out the encoded information again.  This worked, but in concentrating on this, I had drifted off heading slightly.

    Coming back over the MATZ had me flying by the needles for a few seconds from time to time as we flited in and out of cloud.  Strictly not VFR I thought.  This bothered me not so much as it would have without a FIS, but more that we hadn't made a VFR suitable plan.  I wouldn't have done scud running solo and I wasn't being shown what I should have done instead, although I suspect the alternative was to stay on the ground.   However, it didn't last long and soon we were out into clear blue sky.

    I had enjoyed my day.  The view during overhead join and land at Nottingham had been superb.

    11 November 2004.

    Lesson 35: High cockpit workload

    Details coming...

    19 November 2004.

    Onto the next page ------->

    You are visitor number

    Home | PPL diary | Kit Planes | Kit Car | Links