Learning to fly, or thinking of learning? Post your questions, comments and experiences here

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By Milty
FLYER Club Member  FLYER Club Member
#1894767
I'm aware that I waffle a lot and it's not of interest to everyone so feel free to toddle on by if you wish.
I just enjoy using this as a bit of a de-brief and have found the feedback very useful from king contributors.

Todays lesson was an absolute belter for fun and learning!!

Small dual Navex from Glos to Witney (in the Brize zone) to Chipping Norton (overflying Clarksons Diddly Squat plot) to Glos. Last leg was intersected with a couple of PFL's.

Planning was OKbasically on my own with a cross-check with the instructor. Bit of a brainfart again on using the wiz-wheel but once I recalibrated it and me, it was all good. I'm going to prep a few pretend flights and cross-check them against SD during the week as I want it to be instinctive rather than having to think about it too much.

Up in the air is something completely different. I feel lost from about 700ft onwards. The world looks so different at height and without roadsigns :D . The first 1/3 of the first leg I really struggle to know where I am, keep height and direction - it's just overwhelming. Then the sense of being lost makes it all the more stressful. Instructor is brilliant though - as cool as a cucumber. Gentle nudges and once back on track, it all settled down. Looking back on the flight log on SD afterwards (I just used a chart in flight), it wasn't as bad as I thought it was so a lesson to learn from that to just stay calm and sort things out and don't necessarily expect things to be perfect (or my perception of what perfect should be).

Radio calls into Brize zone all good and I'd pre-planned them before we left without being told and just checked all was OK with the instructor.

Had I been on my own, I would not have remembered to leave Brize zone radio and go back to Gloucester. I guess I would have done it eventually, but it just didn't pop into my head as we were bimbling along. I just need to join the dots of what's going on a bit better - I already had Glos in the radio from the previous FREDA check but then forgot about calling. I guess it comes with practice.

PFL's were good. I like the technique I am being taught (trim for best glide, put wind direction in bottom of DI while doing restart checks, pick a field, pick a 1000ft point at 45 degrees to field, mayday call, tell instructor/examiner that at 300-400ft, open door, harness tight, everything off). It seemed to make logical sense and I was fairly calm with both and found them quite exciting. On both attempts, I chose a field that when we got closer, actually had telegraph poles in so one, I chose a different field last minute but it was all OK. Did some practice EFATO's on climbout and one was particularly challenging to find a field.

Once on the Glos frequency, I've never heard anything like it. Having flown on civil aviation this week for the first time in 2 years and found it strangely quiet, I'm sure that Glos was busier than LHR this morning. Took an age to just get a slot to request joining instructions so held with a self imposed orbit above Tewkesbury. Was then given an instruction to join the overhead but not break it - never heard that one before. Good job instructor was with me as visually I was doing a goldfish impression. Approaching the airfield, it was still very busy so we stayed up at 2000 in the overhead. During an orbit on the deadside, another aircraft was asked to join us so it was a bit nervy knowing we were both in the same bit of air at the same height. We were asked to do a left orbit away from the airfield then join on the crosswind. Whilst challenging, I felt roughly in control and aware of what was going on which was a nice feeling but not something I am getting complacent about - you don't know what you don't know so I was still very alert. Landing was OK - no prizes, but landed short so that we could get off quick and help out a bit with all the traffic.

Still nervous about getting lost but I think that will wane in time - it's just about getting setup right for the first part of the first leg and I think after that, it's all good. I was pleased that I spotted a lot of my gross error check features.

Next week is a short solo Nav all things being well with the weather and my confidence. I plan to chair fly it first with the instructor as best I can.

I was a bit nervous about today for some reason - felt a bit of concern that I'd lost my mojo having had last week cancelled. But an uneventful planning session and once in the aircraft, it all fell into place and was just great. Waiting now for the wheels to fall off and me to get taken back a peg or two but today is a good day!

Lesson 19, 22h total, 19h50 dual, 2h10 solo.
By TopCat
FLYER Club Member  FLYER Club Member
#1894769
Milty wrote:Up in the air is something completely different. I feel lost from about 700ft onwards. The world looks so different at height and without roadsigns :D . The first 1/3 of the first leg I really struggle to know where I am, keep height and direction - it's just overwhelming.

Great account.

FWIW, the overwhelming nature of navigation at the beginning is absolutely nothing to worry about (and @T6Harvard , this is aimed at you too, as you'll be here soon).

I was much the same when I started nav. For me it was by far the hardest part of the course, and everything else went to hell in a hand cart for the first few hours navigating. I actually spent about 3 or 4 lessons desperately worried that I would literally be incapable of getting through that part of the course, and have to give up completely.

It settled down after a few trips - as the mental workload level decreased to a manageable level again - and then became brilliant fun. Map reading became my favourite thing on A -> B -> C type trips, and I got pretty good at it.

Just ride out the storm of mental chaos, as it won't last very long - it will all come good, just as it did in the circuit (remember when that was a complete blur and seemed like you'd never be able to fit everything in?)

One thing though: if you're anything like me, the temptation to unwittingly fit the ground features to where you imagine you are on the map, when actually you're somewhere else, will be very strong indeed, and makes small nav errors into big ones very quickly.

I had to beat that tendency out of myself before my map reading became really reliable, so do as much as you can to avoid that particular pitfall.
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By T6Harvard
FLYER Club Member  FLYER Club Member
#1894774
An excellent write up, @Milty , thank you. It sounds like real fun and a lot of big elements were covered! You must be very happy :thumleft:
Were you very tired afterwards?? Will you sleep tonight?? (I was re-running my lesson at 3am today :roll: )

It sounds like your instructor is doing a fine job. Not to take anything away from you, of course! Keep it up!!

["I'm aware that I waffle a lot and it's not of interest to everyone so feel free to toddle on by if you wish. I just enjoy using this as a bit of a de-brief and have found the feedback very useful from king contributors." As you know I am also in this camp but reading others' experiences contributes to the whole and I appreciate the effort :mrgreen: ]

@TopCat , thanks for the tip about map reading. I've been warned that one should always look ground-then-map for that very reason but whether I will or not.... :lol:
Last edited by T6Harvard on Fri Jan 21, 2022 2:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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By VRB_20kt
FLYER Club Member  FLYER Club Member
#1894776
I don't understand what "join the overhead but don't break it" means.

With regard to getting lost, there are a couple of things that might help.

The first is to mentally picture where your first leg will take you before you take off. It does look different from the air, but check on the chart before you're airborne for the major features you expect to see - head West and the Severn should be on your left, head East and expect to see Cheltenham etc. Just picturing those first few minutes may help you to get your bearings and give you gross error check,

If you manage to keep your heading reasonably well then 1.5 miles per minute in that direction will give you a good idea where you are. Have something with you (I have a pen) with masking tape wrapped round it and marked with 5 and 10 minute marks (7.5 and 15 miles). Even if you only manage 80 kts it'll give you a good idea where you are.

Sounds like a very positive lesson. Well done!
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By Milty
FLYER Club Member  FLYER Club Member
#1894791
Thank you all for the feedback. It is highly welcomed and appreciated and good to know at least some of us are all in the same boat...

@VRB_20kt I didn't understand what 'join the overhead but don't break it' was either, which is why I didn't read it back. ATC then came back on and repeated it (which was good of them I suppose but I was still none-the-wiser). Had I been on my own, I would have reverted to 'I don't understand the instruction not to break the overhead means, for safety sake, please explain'. As it was, the instuctor jumped in and told me to respond with something like 'will maintain the overhead' then explained that it was to join in the overhead at 2000 like I normally would for a SOHJ but don't descend on the deadside. This was confirmed again when reporting at 3m when they asked to report deadside but don't descend. I also couldn't report deadside as it was so busy but did hear ATC point us out as traffic so we knew that they knew where we were. In fairness, it may not have been the exact terminology used, but it was something similar to that and not a term I have heard before. It was definitely much clearer when I reported at 3m to join the overhead but don't descend deadside.

I think I may be expecting to be a bit too perfect. I had a reasonable mental picture of where I needed to be at the start. I was generally aware having taken off on 27, done a left turn out and gone south a bit over Gloucester before turning East. I actually planned to start Nav from the x-roads on the A417 which on the map, is as clear as day. From the air, I just couldn't see it. It seems I was close but couldn't see it exactly so it just set me off from the wrong point. From SD, I basically tracked parallell for a while until I corrected having realised on a later gross error checkpoint where I was.

@TopCat indeed I will do as I have throughout and ride out the storm. I just tend to wear my heart on my sleeve and spout all of my experiences out on the keyboard (I find it helps and prompts good feedback). I would be happy to be at the stage of matching ground features to the map. As I mentioned, I'm struggling to keep S&L at the start of the leg so 10 seconds comparing ground and map also has me going up, down, left or right (or sometimes a combination of all 4). I used to enjoy orienteering as a young lad and I do enjoy the nav part so far which I'm sure will improve with practice and familiarity. I will keep an eye on trying to avoid fitting features to my imaginary position. I used to do an orienteering exercise in the air cadets where someone would lead us to a place, then give us a map and compass and we had to work out where we are. I was quite good at that, but it's a bit different at 90kts and 2500ft :lol:

@T6Harvard lord help us if we ever get nattering in the same postcode district. Likewise, I get a lot of benefit of reading other's experiences and also comfort from 'not being alone'. I also have to vent on here as Mrs M is a little less enthusiastic than I over my flying experience so you are my therapy group.

I understand your question about being tired. On many of my previous lessons, it's been so mentally draining that once the prop stops turning, I switch-off too and am absolutely shattered. This lesson, I was absolutely buzzing afterward - maybe an indication of progress I hope... or delusion.
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By TopCat
FLYER Club Member  FLYER Club Member
#1894796
Milty wrote:As I mentioned, I'm struggling to keep S&L at the start of the leg so 10 seconds comparing ground and map also has me going up, down, left or right (or sometimes a combination of all 4).

Yes, I was like this at the beginning. It does pass.

Make sure you're trimmed, with only a loose hold on the yoke before you go head down. That will lessen the effect, but there's no substitute for practice.
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By lobstaboy
#1894805
OK here's my notes on breifing vfr nav (abbreviated)
- use a mix of DR and visual aka map reading
- unless you are lost, read map to ground - identify feature on map then spot it on the ground
- look much bigger picture than you're tempted. You don't need to know the name of each village!
- good landmarks have at least three distinguishing features
- good ones are the coast, high ground, cities, roads, rivers, railways, lakes, tall masts
- note that grass and disused airfields can be hard to see
- poor features are disused railways, small rivers, woods and anything else that can change its appearance easily.

Choose features about 5 minutes apart. Look for the next one after the correct time has elapsed. Don't look at the map in meantime, get on with other tasks.

At a turning point note times, actual arrival and new estimate for next before doing anything else (or you won't remember to do it). Then turn. Then get on with other tasks for that leg.

Summary
- aviate, navigate, communicate
- navigate by 'time, map, ground'
- keep up freda checks
- think ahead
- field selection for forced landing.

Remember if you're not busy doing something then you've probably forgotten something - check what's going to be next, look for fields etc.

(Reading ground to map is what you must do when lost, but that's different and needs to be part of a rehearsed sequence)
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By Milty
FLYER Club Member  FLYER Club Member
#1894818
@lobstaboy thanks. Some great advice in there.

One thing I have picked up on that you mentioned is looking at bigger features rather than details. I was getting too focused on finding small villages and roads or other small features. For example, I was looking for a grass strip that I had marked on the map but was struggling to find it. My instructor then said look at that big wood over there - that should be green on the map. It was. Instructor then said look, there’s a grass strip in the middle of it to help identify it’s the correct wood. The lesson being, don’t look for the needle until you’ve at least found the haystack.

I like the mantra of ‘if not doing something, you’ve probably forgotten something. Naive student comment coming up now but I thought that this flying lark would be a bit of excitement at the start and end and a relaxing bimble in the middle. I’ve learned now that’s definitely not the case but still great fun. I guess it’s a bit like driving too - on a driving lesson, it’s all compressed into short distances around towns with all manoeuvres compressed into an hour. Similar I suppose to flying lessons and when you start going a bit further, it chills out a bit but you still need to stay alert.
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By Rob P
#1894825
Milty wrote:One thing I have picked up on that you mentioned is looking at bigger features rather than details.

Where you are, start with The Malverns

Rob P
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By Milty
FLYER Club Member  FLYER Club Member
#1894835
They’re in the non existent rear view mirror when heading to Brize though :lol:

Hopefully they’ll help next week which should be solo to Hereford , Worcester and back to Gloucester. Or it could be pot luck.
By ericgreveson
#1894905
Big fan of the "waffle", it's always good to see what others are up to, and get some ideas of what lies ahead! I'm sure I'll pick up some handy tips and ideas from reading these posts too. Getting to the nav stage feels like a long way in the future to me right now, but I'm sure it will creep up faster than expected... and it sounds like a lot of fun!
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By VRB_20kt
FLYER Club Member  FLYER Club Member
#1894915
Milty wrote:Hopefully they’ll help next week which should be solo to Hereford , Worcester and back to Gloucester. Or it could be pot luck.


Ah yes. River to Hereford, railway to Worcester and M5 back home. If you start getting shot at, you’ve gone too far on your first leg. :lol:

I hope the weather improves a bit - low vis forecast for the next few days.
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By TopCat
FLYER Club Member  FLYER Club Member
#1895054
lobstaboy wrote:OK here's my notes on breifing vfr nav (abbreviated)
- use a mix of DR and visual aka map reading
- unless you are lost, read map to ground - identify feature on map then spot it on the ground
- look much bigger picture than you're tempted. You don't need to know the name of each village!
- good landmarks have at least three distinguishing features
- good ones are the coast, high ground, cities, roads, rivers, railways, lakes, tall masts
- note that grass and disused airfields can be hard to see
- poor features are disused railways, small rivers, woods and anything else that can change its appearance easily.

Much as I usually agree with @lobstaboy , other than with his appalling spelling :wink: , I don't agree with the bit above that I've bolded.

Reason being, you won't know when you make that crucial first mistake. You're blithely flying along, time check comes up, you look at the map, see the lake, so you expect the lake when you look down. And presto, there's the lake.

Except that it's the wrong lake. There's a slight niggling voice in the back of your brain that says "that's not quite the shape I was expecting the lake to be", but you don't listen to it, because as a species we are unbelievably good at fooling ourselves.

Map reading isn't a one-way thing, whether you're lost or not. You have to look, and compare, and look again, and compare. If it doesn't fit, you aren't where you thought you were. Simples. Ground to map or whatever is just a shorthand for developing the ability to look, and really see.

This isn't trivial, or at least it wasn't for me. I was absolutely atrocious at it in the early days and I had to put considerable effort into fixing it.

But I fixed it well enough that for 25 years I flew happily around the country without GPS, and without ever drawing a line on a map or flying a calculated heading.

lobstaboy wrote:- good ones are the coast, high ground, cities, roads, rivers, railways, lakes, tall masts

Not sure I agree with rivers, by the way, either. They have to be pretty wide to be reliable. Obviously the Severn Estuary is pretty good, and the Thames at the QE2 Bridge is ok too. But often you can't see the river at all, but just know it's there because of the trees all along it.

Masts are all very well too, but they have a nasty habit of becoming invisible at the crucial moment, invariably when you're under maximum stress. Kingsclere Mast for instance. I guarantee that the only time it's possible to see it is when you're not looking for it. Even Stokenchurch mast has the ability to erect an infinite improbability field over itself in poor vis.
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By lobstaboy
#1895060
@TopCat it's very much a case of what works well for you once you've got the experience of course.
But I'd refer students to the AFE guides by Jeremy Pratt for a good explanation of how to (learn to) do practical navigation. He gives more detail on what I'm saying p71 onwards of the Navigation book.
The point is that the reference point is chosen to be unequivocal, easily identified and only five minutes or so away. We aren't talking about flying for half an hour and being ten miles off track.
Getting it right depends on good planning - like most things in flying :)
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