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Mar 14

Solo Nav 1

The weather today finally co-operated and I was able to do my first solo navigation flight. My original booking was for the 9am slot, however it was clear that the visibility probably wasn’t going to improve sufficiently for me to get it done (and due to one aircraft being in maintenance I couldn’t extend beyond the slot), but the 2pm slot was free, and so I was booked into that. We did however get the ‘dual check’ done, which was a single circuit just to prove I could still take off and land safely.

I was keeping a close eye on the various weather reports throughout the morning, and fortunately things went as forecast (or better in some cases) and so by 2pm things were looking OK.

Because I’d already done the dual check in the morning, I could go straight out, which as a new experience for me (normally at least the first circuit is with an instructor). After a bit of a wait for taxi clearance due to lots of other traffic on the frequency, I was cleared to taxi to the holding point, so off I went, remembering to note down the time.

Once airborne and clear of the city I headed for point alpha (a useful landmark at the A14/M11 junction) to begin the route. This turned out to work quite well as I only had to make a slight adjustment to my heading once I got there. After noting the time and doing a gross error check, I started looking for my first checkpoint. The visibility was very good which meant I could see all my marks nice and early, and had plenty of time to identify them and make sure they were what they were supposed to be.

After I was confident I was on track I changed frequency to Marham, as they provide a LARS service covering the area I was going to be flying, and I was going to have to talk to them later for a MATZ penetration anyway. I asked for a traffic service (where they inform me of any traffic they can see on radar that is going to be near me) – at first they couldn’t pick up my transponder, so they just gave me a basic service. As I proceeded on the leg they kept gaining and then losing the transponder, and so were ping ponging me between a basic and traffic service, until they eventually got fed up and just left me on basic, asking me to report at my first turning point (Spalding)!

On the first leg I did have to descend a bit to stay out of cloud (or more accurately out of the small amount of snow that was just under the cloud) – I was a little concerned at first that if this carried on I’d have to look to divert back, and so said to myself if I have to go to 2000′ or below then at that point I’ll divert. Fortunately the lowest I had to go was 2200′, so all was fine.

Spalding arrived pretty much dead on time, and I was only about 1nm left of where I was supposed to be, which over a 34nm leg isn’t too bad (the 1 in 60 rule would suggest I was within 2 degrees of the correct heading). I then turned and started on the leg towards Downham Market. There were slightly fewer landmarks this time, so I was a little less confident of my heading, however everything worked out OK. Marham asked me to tell them when I was abeam Marshland in order to get the MATZ penetration – clearly they had got me on radar as they asked me to report my position just as I was about to do so anyway once I got there. My MATZ penetration was approved, and so I headed to Downham Market and made the turn onto my next leg back to Cambridge.

Once clear of the Marham MATZ I needed to change to talk to Lakenheath as I would be passing through their MATZ, this was accomplished, and other than finding it slightly harder to understand the controller (Lakenheath is a US air base and the controller was clearly from the US by the accent), this was all fine. I started making my preparations for landing once I got to Ely (collecting the ATIS etc), and once I was clear of the MATZ Lakenheath instructed me to freecall Cambridge, which I did.

Cambridge became visible nice and early which is always good (not finding the airfield again would not have made for a good day!), and I asked and was approved for a right base join. I started my descent to circuit height a little later than ideal so needed to do a fairly steep descent, but other than that the approach and landing went well, and I was able to vacate by Charlie.

All in all a good 70 minutes of P1 time for my log book – positive things from it being that my control of heading seemed good, landmarks all appeared pretty much when they were supposed to etc, and I did remember to do some FREDA checks along the way. I still need to work on my altitude a little bit (I was oscillating +/- 100 feet of my target altitude most of the time, which isn’t disastrous, but not ideal), but other than that I was very happy with the flight.

Next up is solo nav 2, though this won’t be until the week after next at the earliest as I’ve got some work next week meaning I can’t do any flying (so I imagine the weather will therefore be glorious!). I also hope to set up my iPad on the back seat for the next one, and have it capture my track so I can compare it to the planned one afterwards to see how accurate my flying was (I would have done so today, but the battery was flat)…