Well, the last few days have been relatively crazy. To start with, I have some good news to report. Both my friends James and Matt have passed their flying exams (known as check-rides). James passed his with only a few days to spare, and by all accounts he had a tough flight (and a fairly tough examiner). But he was happy to have passed. He then sat his R/T (Radio Licence exam) the following day, after two attempts.
Matt sat his check-ride two days ago and had to endure a two hour debrief from the examiner to find out that he too passed. It seems he also had a tough flight, but not as tough as James'. He also has to sit his R/T exam, but with a week to go before he returns home, he's lounging by the pool and revising before he sits it on Sunday.
And what have I been up to? Well, apart from the copious amounts of beer drunk in celebration that two more of my friends have earned their wings, I have been busy revising for the Navigation exam and also doing my duel x-country with Kevin. I have to pass my Nav exam before I can do the long x-country solo. But I sat the exam this evening and will have one of the examiners mark it tomorrow. Kevin has booked the plane for the flight already, such is his faith in my abilities to pass the exam.
It's rather a tough exam.....and if I pass it, I'll have the three heavy hitters (Aviation Law, Meterology and Navigation) out of the way and have easier ones to look forward to at the weekend. The Nav exam consisted of planning an imaginary route on the UK aviation maps and then calculating distance, time, speed, fuel, ETA and taking wind into account for everything. And then they ask you lots of questions on the route and also on radio navigation (using radio beacons to navigate with). I think I've passed, given that I did the mock exams until 2am last night, but we'll wait and see.
The x-country flight with Kevin was lots of fun. I had to plan a trip from our airfield to teo other airfields taking into account the winds, terrain, obstacles, restricted airspace (of which there's a lot with the U.S. Military around every bloody corner here) and of course things that are easy to spot from the air to determine my position. But we also cheated a little. We flew the flight using the in-built GPS in order for Kevin to play around with it but to also put to test my calculations. Since we didn't route exactly like I'd planned we were a little earlier than plotted, but my groundspeeds, when compared with the GPS, where EXACTLY on the money.....pen and paper still works ;-)
When we got to each airport, Kevin showed me where I'd need to go when on my own in order to get my log book signed by witnesses to say I was there, which is used by the CAA when they issue my licence to confirm I complied with the requirements for the PPL course. We did touch and go's at the airports and then flew back to our airport.
Matt and I also went to this seedy bar, with some very strange characters the other day. There was this weird guy who came into the bar with his girlfriend at about 23:30 and he looked REALLY odd because he was wearing a yellow helmet that you'd find someone wear on a building site. Matt and I just laughed to ourselves and continued chatting up the bar maid. She called us "fly-boys"....a first for me :-) We were chatting away to her through the night and got invited to go clubbing with her on Friday. We'll see how it goes tomorrow with my x-country tomorrow and if I'm up for a long night.
Today's flying was a bit of a non-event. I was supposed to go up for 4 hours, but in two seperate planes. The problem with the first plane (Alpha Juliet) was that it was basically f*cked!!! The pilots door wouldn't close and only stayed shut because the wind when flying kept it closed. The window on the passenger's side would close either because the latch used to keep it closed was missing, the transponder (which helps ATC see the plane on radar) only worked 50% of the time and there was something else wrong with her but I can't remember what it was. So basically I had no plane. Kevin used the two hours to prep me for the questions I'd get asked during my check-ride....looming for next week. I then took "Foxy Girl", otherwise known as "Golf Foxtrot" up for a spin on my own and worked on my landings, steep turns, stalls and slow flight. I have developed a bad habit since going solo of flying my approaches too shallow and consequently needing power to maintain speed before landing. This is a bad thing, because if the engine were to fail, then I'd land short of the runway. So we worked on fixing that problem and I did some more practice today. I think I've got the hang of it again. My landings in general are pretty damn good, the odd one being a bit heavy, but I just wanted to get the "proper" landing nailed again before the check-ride. When I came in after my flying, I was positioned behind a Citation Jet :-)......it was pretty cool, flying behind a jet plane coming in to land.
Well, I'll let you all know how I did on my nav exam when I get the results in the morning, and wish me luck for the solo x-country too.....keep your fingers and toes crossed that I passed the nav exam.