Flying Lesson # 36 – 2nd Navigation Flight

February 23, 2014

The day looked gloomy with overcast skies and scattered showers. I awoke early to get started on the day’s flight plan. I’m still getting used to the process of constructing a flight plan. There’s so much to consider and it’s difficult to develop a methodical approach. I started by drawing up the planned flight path on my newly created world aeronautical chart (WAC). The plan for today was to depart from Archerfield (YBAF), fly via Dayboro (DBO) and Kilcoy (KCY) on our way to Chinchilla (YCCA). From Chinchilla we’d fly to Kingaroy (YKRY) then back to Archerfield via Dayboro. On the WAC, along the flight path, I marked 10nm marks to aid in navigation in the air. I also added marks for changes in radio frequencies and spots that I need to consider making radio calls. After writing all over the map, I started the actual plan by writing in all of the destinations and waypoints, their distances and track. After that, I started checking out the weather. As I’m still not completely familiar with all locations, I used another WAC to mark out the areas affected by weather and appropriate cloud heights. Once I knew the wind direction and speed for each area, using my trusty ‘Jeppesen E6B Flight Computer’, I worked out the required heading and the ground speed that can be achieved. From there I could work out the time each leg would take and the fuel required for the journey. After loading my flight bag with everything required for the flight, I headed off to the flying school.

On arrival, Robert was just finishing off a trial instructional flight (TIF) so I went over my flight plan checking for any obvious mistakes or oversights. Once completed with the TIF, Robert had a look at my plan and found some errors. I had overlooked a few key points in the weather forecast and my fuel calculation was out a little. After some assistance, I rejigged the plan and we were ready to set off into the great unknown.

Outside, the weather hadn’t really improved any and was marginal at best. With the cloud base forecasted, we would be lucky to achieve a cruise altitude of 4500 feet, which certainly isn’t ideal. I’m not sure if it was the weather or the mistakes I’d made in the flight plan, but I felt a little flustered and couldn’t get in the right headspace. I forgot a few key points in my pre-flight checks which really disappointed me. After take-off, the altitude indicator didn’t move, we quickly realised that I had not set the QNH correctly. This was rectified and we continued the flight, I also forgot to change to the required transponder code which very well could have ended up with some dirty words from an Air Traffic Controller, thankfully it didn’t, and again we rectified the issue and continued. I guess I could have just given up at that point, though as Robert taught me early on, if you make mistakes, correct it and move on. Stressing over it will only cause more mistakes. I did move on and the flight did improve from that point.

On the way out to Chinchilla, the turbulent air was probably the worst I’ve experienced so far in my training. It’s a good thing I don’t get sick in planes and no one else was along for the ride. Not only was the rough ride spew-invoking, it also made it difficult to hold the plane on the correct heading and at the desired altitude. My leg from Kilcoy to Chinchilla wasn’t the best and needed a bit of assistance from Robert. The weather still wasn’t ideal and we didn’t know exactly what to expect at Chinchilla, so we decided to touch and go and continue on to Kingaroy. Chinchilla doesn’t have a very large runway, so I did my best to put it down on the numbers with a lower than usual approach. After touching down and taking off again, we continued on to Kingaroy. The countryside around this area is vast, though surprisingly beautiful. Robert again assisted me with the flight to Kingaroy to help me develop a more consistent approach to navigation and cockpit organisation.

On arrival into Kingaroy, I was presented with a beautifully constructed lengthy runway in the middle of nowhere. I’m not sure why such an airport is required out there, though I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that the ‘Johannes Bjelke-Petersen Airport’ is conveniently located next to the property of an incredibly controversial former premier, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, and the Bjelke-Petersen Research Station.

After landing at Kingaroy, we parked next to a nice C310 and exited the C172 for a little rest and bathroom break. Feeling a little more refreshed, we headed out to the runway, back-tracked a little (which still feels a little weird after flying at Archerfield for so long), then took off for home. From Kingaroy, Robert left me to navigate my way home. I tried my hardest to put Robert’s teaching into practice and stay on top of the flight. Success! We arrived over Dayboro within 1 minute of the time worked out on the flight plan.

I’m definitely feeling more confident now and know soon I’ll be wondering why I once found navigation so hard. My mission now is to develop a checklist both for pre-flight planning and in-cockpit tasks. I think it’ll go a long way to helping it all sink in and become second nature.

After arriving back at Archerfield, Robert let me in on the plan for our next trip; it’s an exciting one and needs a 2 hour briefing beforehand. I’ll let you remain in suspense for this one.

Until next time.

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