Well prepared & Simply great Fun
The Cross Country Flight combines all the learning about proper planning and experiences built during the previous navigation flights. During those exercises I have approached and landed at both foreign aerodromes twice before.
There is one leg – or better one flight – the one between Stop N° 1 and N° 2 from Blackbush to Thruxton – that I will fly for the first time. So there is a gap on the route I never saw before, but I am confident that this won’t be a problem.
It’s been only a few months since I had no clue how to start the engine and looking at this chart produced an immediate headache. On the other hand, this all seemed like a daily business. I have studied the route in detail and prepared my chart, all frequencies & radio talks, also the circuits at the destinations etc. Everything is mentally ready and written down on my kneeboard. When I arrive at the Helicopter Academy, the only remaining task is:
Checking weather & winds, calculate headings, times, fuel, and complete the Full MATED Briefing – my Flight.
First day out with Lady G. – Enjoy!
When I returned from Switzerland after my break over Christmas, the Helicopter Academy just got a “new” helicopter. It was not new from the factory but had come back from a complete overhaul. They rebuild the helicopter from scratch so it‘s like “new” – it even smells like a new car inside.
However, the helicopter had pink stripes before and they used to call her a lady. I was the first student flying “her” when she came back and I did all my solo navigation flights with her. And, as mentioned in Daily A-Check, you start to build a relationship with the helicopters and there are some you like more than others. Obviously Lady G. was my darling.
Before leaving, my instructor reminds me to enjoy my trip with her – “We will – I am sure!!”
3x “Take-Off, Navigating & Landing”
Flight #1 – The Black Box finally gets a Face
The first flight leads away from the sea view, over the hills towards the more closed-in area of the London Airspace Jungle. I know this route quite well. There is an airport to transit overhead, so some radio, but that’s not any issue anymore.
But, it’s the first time after landing that I‘ve walked up to the tower in order to get my signature on the X-Country Qualifying form. Besides the fact that they have an amazing view up there, it was good to finally have a look at a tower. I should have done this before but always forgot during training. If you get a chance, do it. It explains a lot.
It is interesting to see how they work. Every flight they “handle” is handwritten on to a small plate, including the information you passed over to them over the radio. They manually move the plates around from “approach” to “circuit” and finally to “landed”. This gives them an overview of what is going on in their airspace, very old fashioned but efficient.
Flight #2 – Landing in the middle of an ongoing car race
During the X-Country flight, one new duty comes along. It is to call up to the tower of the destination by phone and announce our arrival. Doing this, they tell me not to park to close to the car circuit surrounding Thruxton Aerodrome as there is a car race going on.
Even though I acknowledge the information I am not really aware what awaits me. In Goodwood, there are always some cars driving around and after a while, I stopped noticing them.
The flight itself follows a route through beautiful countryside and the closer I get I forget about this car race. I am so focused on reading the chart, listening to what‘s happening on the radio and, of course, enjoying the trip with Lady G.
But, as soon as I approach Thruxton it starts. Firstly, with a Royal Airforce Super Puma Helicopter that crosses my path quite closely and makes me feel like an absolute bee in the air, a great bee though! Next, the Air Ambulance Helicopter crosses my path, lands in front of me, and then a Lear Jet takes off. It’s really great and the word circuit feels more like a circus.
During my own “final” I suddenly see TV camera teams standing in all turns of the race track. “What the heck … – ah right, he told me there was a race …” Quite amazing – the prior feeling of being just a bee only two minutes ago directly turns into a full-grown kingsized eagle!
Flight #3 – Suddenly Clouds and 15kn Wind on the Ground
Up in the tower, I have a longer chat with the “Black Box Face” and continue watching the race from here, while he signs the paper etc. Until I can hear him talking to another plane on approach “Surface wind 15 knots …” This really shakes me up, as we are not supposed to fly in winds stronger than 15 Knots. I really don’t want to get stuck in Thruxton and jump off.
It’s nothing special that the weather changes – this has happened almost every day since I started the training and those changes are even quicker in Switzerland. But, during flying back I am still surprised that only a few hours ago I started in a blue sky and now I am sneaking back home just below cloud base. One of those little reminders for future flights.
But it feels great, back to the beloved sea view & its shining lights, a warm voice that welcomes me back home to Goodwood. Fantastic. In the meantime, I had started to talk with Lady G. as no one else was around. Congratulating her during our approach“Well done – Lady G.”. We instantly agree that we will continue common journeys during the next following steps – Constructive Hours Building for CPL.