Discuss the problems and solutions to all of the situations that Pilot X finds himself in.
By Echo Delta
Double Drifter

This month, Jonathan Mitchell’s Pilot X is a student flying his qualifying cross-country, whose waypoints mysteriously go missing…

After what seemed like a summer full of false alarms, Pilot X’s flying instructor was smiling. The weather was at last good enough for Pilot X to attempt his qualifying cross-country (QXC) flight. And what’s more he would get to take his favourite Cessna 150 training aircraft. Although the practice sessions with his flying instructor had gone very well, the thought of flying more than 150nm with two full-stop landings still set off the butterflies in his stomach.
The first leg was to be flown north across the Midlands to a small grass airfield. After this, Pilot X would need to take off and head east into Lincolnshire for a second landing, before finally heading southwest for home. Having spent most of the previous day planning and plogging his route, Pilot X completed his preparations, carefully marking the notams on his charts and calculating how the northerly wind would affect his flight. After a final briefing from the Chief Flying Instructor, he slipped his CAA QXC form into his kneeboard and completed Check A on the waiting C150.
‘Let’s get this right,’ he thought, as he pushed in the throttle and started the take-off roll. The first leg began well. The sun was shining and, as he levelled out, the fluffy, white clouds stayed well above his chosen flying altitude. Familiar waypoints quickly passed by and Pilot X felt his confidence growing as he positioned himself for an overhead join for the grass airfield. His landing was not the best, but the kindly CFI at the airfield smiled and marked a ‘satisfactory’ on the form, quipping that it was lucky that the airfield was offering a two-for-one landing fee that week. Nonetheless, Pilot X was pleased. He was down safely and he had even arrived substantially
earlier than he expected. A celebratory cup of tea was in order.
Thirty minutes later, the sun was still shining as the aircraft started its second leg. Somehow, Pilot X missed the cooling towers that formed his first waypoint. He was a little surprised at this unexpected development, but his direction indicator and compass were perfectly aligned. Since the first leg had gone so well, he figured that he must have flown directly over the towers. With mounting confidence, he resolved to trust his plog and so he continued.
His next two waypoints looked vaguely familiar, but as time drew on, he started feeling a little uncomfortable. He didn’t recall the large lake now below him from his practice session.
Twenty minutes after departing, he faced his next major obstacle: crossing a large military MATZ. Pilot X was ready for it. He had practised the radio script numerous times; both with his instructor at the flying club and even at home with his pet dog, which usually granted a crossing clearance with a small bark. He knew that he needed to be absolutely sure of his position before requesting the MATZ penetration. He recalled that knowing his position should be no problem because there was a large racecourse, next to the town that formed his next waypoint. As the town eventually came into sight, Pilot X started looking for the racecourse. The town looked familiar but no racecourse could be seen.
Repeatedly staring at his chart and the buildings below, he tried to convince himself that a set of playing fields on the wrong side of the town might be the landmark he was looking for. He even wondered whether the course might have been ploughed over since the practice
flight he flew with his instructor six weeks ago. Having now passed the town, Pilot X started a slow orbit. The wise words of his instructor were ringing in his ears. “If you get into trouble, then panic SLOWLY.” So he did. Several circuits later, each of which added another knot to his stomach, he realised that he was comprehensively lost.
This wasn’t the right town and there was no racecourse. Without a GPS, he knew he quickly needed help.
Plucking up courage, Pilot X made his radio call to the nearby military zone. When he was asked what service he required, he replied, “A MATZ penetration, but I believe I may be lost.” The lady RAF Controller promptly gave him a Mode Charlie code to squawk and instructed him to be ready to copy a QDM to her airfield. Hastily keying the squawk code into his transponder, Pilot X waited with bated breath. After what seemed like an eternity, the radio crackled back into life. “Golf Charlie Delta is identified 18 miles northwest of the field at 2,500ft.”
Expecting to hear a bearing of 090, Pilot X was horrified to hear the words, “...and the bearing to our field is 129°”.
“Oh, and be aware that the gliding site below you is active,” she added helpfully.
Glancing out of his window, Pilot X spied the ominous sight of a field full of gliders and feared the unseen winch. His stomach now had more knots than a supersonic airliner. The controller continued, “MATZ penetration approved. You may route directly through my overhead, not above 3,000ft on QNH 1021. Report overhead the field.”
By now he’d calmed down enough to continue on his way. He dutifully read back the instructions, marked his position on his chart and set the new course. Leaving the gliders behind, the remainder of the leg was uneventful, but he was morose. Not even the sight of a neat row of sleek, brand-new Typhoon jets parked on the apron of the RAF base cheered him up.
He reached his home field and, after another less-than-perfect landing, he climbed out of his aircraft before kissing the ground and resolving to call his instructor. As he walked towards the clubhouse, he realised that his clothes were completely soaked with perspiration.
The waiting ATSU grinned. “Glad to see you. You’re late. We were beginning to get worried. And you look like you could do with a cup of tea.” Pilot X tried to smile in response, but somehow it looked like a grimace. ■

1 What may have caused Pilot X to become so badly lost, despite an apparently good first leg?

2 What could Pilot X have done to prevent the problems he had encountered?

3 What did Pilot X do correctly once he knew he was lost?
By riverrock
1) The clue is in
He was down safely and he had even arrived substantially earlier than he expected.

His first leg was to the north and in his preparation the previous day had included a northerly wind. Arriving substantially early suggests that the wind was different from predicted (lets say, southerly).
When Pilot X set off on his second easterly leg, his predicted bearing would have taken into account wind drift from the North, so would have taken a more northerly heading to compensate. The (say) southerly wind and his wind correction will have combined to push his track further north. When he used his calculated heading, he ended up being pushed North by a significant amount, potentially putting himself and other in danger near a gliding field.

2) He could have planned with the correct wind for the time he was flying, either by using the next days's predicted wind (if he didn't already) or complete the preparation on the day of the flight.
When he arrived early on his first let, that could have sent alarm bells ringing, warning him that the actual wind was different from the predicted wind.
He could have had waypoints / mid-leg fixes closer together. He could have confirmed his cooling tower waypoint (then when he didn't find it, look to see what the problem was, then correct for drift).
He could have used a Nav Aid to help with location / direction.

3) He asked for help!