Today I completed my first ever solo journey out of the local airfield vicinity. I have done a fair amount of solo flying but up until now, only in the circuit at Sherburn. This means plenty of take-offs and landings but not much radio and navigation work. Today was the day when instructor Jonathan felt confident enough to let me out of the circuit on my own.

Incidentally it was my main instructor Jonathan Anderson’s last day at work today as he has procured a job with Ryan Air. I was slightly sad that we wouldn’t be flying together for this last time, as he has been teaching me for nearly three years. But what better way to say so-long than to send me off on my own. Haha! Good lad. I wish him all the best, he has been a super, level headed and concise teacher and I have learned a heck of a lot from him. Once again – Thanks Jonathan and good luck to you.

Instructor Jonathan Anderson & Mr Phil

Instructor Jonathan Anderson & Mr Phil

Another chap that was really helpful today was our Fireman, Dave. Always up for discussion of iPads and iPhones which suits me. And offered to clean the bugs off the windscreen before I departed today. Mega helpful and great moral support. This is the same guy who gave me 7 out of 10 on my flapless approach video. Hopefully I would have got at least a 9 out of 10 today. Hehe.

Dave & Phil Discuss Jonathan's Camera Technique

Dave & Phil Discuss Jonathan's Camera Technique

Back to the flight. I spent all day Thursday preparing. Not just the regular stuff but I got it into my head that the Pilot’s Log could be done really nicely on an Excel Spreadsheet. Especially with applications like Google Docs and DocsToGo for the iPad and iPhone, enabling the spreadsheet to be edited and viewed at any time. Of course in the actual flight, a paper PLOG is all that is really needed. But I found it great therapy working through the equations and also a good way to double check my calculations.

Phil's Excel PLOG

Phil's Excel PLOG

If anyone would like to try it out, please drop me a line. The RED areas are equations and should not be edited. The ORANGE areas are for entering data. The YELLOW areas are for hand written text if required. The wind calculations are taken from the 2000′ wind velocity and angle (entered at the top left). there is a space for 5000′ Wind V/A but this is not used in the calculations.

So that’s the therapy out of the way – Now let’s go flying!

It was windy today. Not enough to stop me going but I knew that the flight would not be straight forward and that the navigation training would have to be used. It would be no use just pointing the nose at the destination and flying. Another concern was the runway in use 24 Grass – Not as direct out to the east as 29 and a slightly lesser known circuit (for me). So it appeared that much of the training would need to be used today and indeed it was. Here’s a Memory Map screen-shot of the planned course. (If only we could fly like that).

Selby - Driffield - Brough - Selby

Selby - Driffield - Brough - Selby

Pretty straightforward really but with the wind today being up to 25 Knots it was constantly taking me off course. Luckily the training had worked and I managed to correct for wind and get back on to where I was supposed to be quite easily. The radio work went fine. The Flight controllers at Church Fenton are very helpful especially when you mention you are a student.

After I had been under way for a few minutes, relaxed and aware, trusting the aircraft and trusting myself – It felt great to be in the skies alone.

It’s one of those once in a lifetime things that I am luckily enough to be experiencing more than once.

Everything went perfectly. The landing back at Sherburn was one of the smoothest I have ever done and I admit to punching the air and shouting a huge YES! After vacating the runway of course.

So here’s the usual GPS record of the actual track I flew. As mentioned, it is part of the training NOT to fly direct (Homing). I had the iPad with me, using Air Nav Pro and it would have been all too easy to ignore the training and simply follow the GPS but that is not the object of this exercise. Incidentally though, when I did glance at the iPad, it seemed to be tracking me perfectly, including the slightly early turn over Brough. Haha.

Altitude AMSL
Ground Speed

After the lovely landing and then checking the above track I was super pleased and Jonathan was happy too. So next week I’m heading out solo again: Selby – Hornsea – Bridlington – Selby. It’s a longer flight and I’ll be hoping for clear skies and low winds. Another one or two of these and then it will be time to start “landing away” – i.e. landing at Humberside / East Midlands.

It will be super cool when I can start officially using this technology and integrate it into the manual navigation techniques I am learning now. I do feel it is a shame that learning GPS Navigation is not at least part of the official PPL Syllabus. Especially as many pilots will use a GPS the minute they gain their license. There is no doubt though that using a map and a watch is essential technique to know and to be honest it is great fun when you realise that your paper calculations are actually working in the real world.

Until next time – Thanks for reading.