Briefing – Shoreham
Today’s briefing starts with the words: “Are you ready to fly to Shoreham?” You fly and I take over navigation and radio. There will be more radio, very good exercise for you to just listen and try to pick up as much as you can.”
“That sounds absolutely awesome – let’s go!” I literally start to hop around in the briefing room like a small child.
“But, wait for a second, did he just say there will be more radio? However, I am sure he said that he will do it. I was just about to develop a kind of unconfidence on this part but I will talk about this “Black Box” a little later on.
I was really curious and looking forward to this flight to “Shoreham”. On the chart, it looked like it was quite far away.
During this briefing, he explains the basic principles of those confusing lines on the 250:000 Chart of South UK. They build those different airspaces of the famous London Air Zone. But, we are not really getting into those yet. Just a first warning finger for the future.
Then he tells me that this airport will have different radio frequencies for different steps. An ATIS Frequency to tune in first – Automated Information System – then an approach frequency when we start to fly closer and finally the tower.
From here, we study the “landing plate” of Shoreham – what runways do they have, what circuits are for the helicopters?
As usual, I try to memorize as much as possible and everything he explains makes perfect sense. But it’s again more than I can keep in mind, I just pick what seems very important to me.
Holding the Bird & Listening
My task is to fly, holding the direction and climb, or descent, to different heights according to his instructions.
For me, this is a huge challenge and a great feeling. It’s not difficult though, on the contrary, it actually feels like a bit of a rest. In the last week, we’ve made the most out of the weather conditions with two flights of intense airfield work a day. I love hovering and cruising around the airfield but, right now, I feel a huge difference and can sense how much concentration this absorbs.
Suddenly, I realize that I had started to continuously scan over the instruments besides watching outside. I don’t know when this switch happened. It was not really a conscious thing and was also quite random. It seemed to come out of the blue.
Every couple of minutes on leaving Goodwood he points out on the chart where we are right now, repeats some checks, talks to the radio, or explains something else to me. Actually, he is constantly talking, if not to me, then with the radio.
When we commenced, during start-up & climb out, I had the impression that I was starting to get familiar with this pilot’s language. But, from here it’s all those black boxes of really varying sound quality. The closer we get to Shoreham the traffic increases, the more voices start to talk and at some point, my ears just shut down.
The brain is a really interesting thing. Flight training and developing skills of a different kind, and to then sum them up on each other afterward, is not just huge fun it’s a sort of self-experiment.
I know I am repeating myself now but the view is even more exciting this time. Besides the always great reflections on the sea, I see the castle of Arundel, many impressive properties, horse tracks, some villages, and much more.
Since everything has become more and more serious, it’s the first time I have consciously looked around and enjoyed the view. “But it’s definitely an important part of flying helicopters”, I think at the same time.
At some point, I ask my instructor if he has ever seen that many sheep in one field like the one over there? He laughs a second, but reminds me, that now I have to turn into the long approach right now, I should up and turn. Now I am looking straight to the sea, just by looking where I am supposed to look at anyway – awesome. What an unbelievable job.
It happens 2-3 times during the flight that I suddenly think – will I really be able to handle all this alone one day? But there is no time to linger on this question.
Altogether a unique experience that can not be bought in any shop.After landing, we go to the C-Office where I pay my first landing fee. I proudly carry this receipt in my wallet to this day.
Then we walk and chat about the flight whilst we watch the activities on the runway. Shoreham is quite a busy aerodrome for small fixed-wings, especially those crossing the channel over to France.
A new dimension
Back in Goodwood, I am filled with loads of impressions of this amazing trip. My part of the flight after climbing out of Goodwood, and before landing in Shoreham, was actually not much more than a 15min one way but I felt as though I had just managed a major mission. This will be one of the flights that stay in my mind forever.
This flight took the journey of becoming a pilot into a totally new dimension.
During the last few days, I had been so focused on how to improve my handling of the helicopter during airfield work and studying every day that I had almost forgotten about this part of flying.
Now I started to realize that the dream of discovering the world from the sky would become a reality sooner than I expected.
From this day, I started to hang over that chart almost every night and built dreams about future flights.
At least once a week I found myself asking him or other pilots, “Is it possible to fly over here for example with the small R22? Or what about this area here?”
The answer was basically always the same, “you will be able to fly wherever you want. You can fly to France, back home to Switzerland, along the coast of Wales, over to Ireland …”
I am speechless. With this small machine? Amazing.