Monday, 5 August 2013

Whose bright idea was this?

I’m finally finished with my epic conference, so my mind is back in flying mode. Bob had given me various choices for today’s flight. I could solo back out to the practice area and do some steep turns, or we could dual out to the practice area and do some slow flight and stalls, in prep for me soloing that stuff next time. Or, we could do something totally different and do a “mini cross country” involve three local-ish airports.

Now I knew that this was going to be our last flight for a couple of weeks due to us both having vacation plans, so I was up for something a bit different. It sounded like a sweet thing to round up with. The day before I dutifully pulled out my charts, looked at routing, looked at the runway configurations, noted the relevant frequencies and started going through the actual flight in my head. I was cautiously optimistic, I thought that it would be ok, hard work for sure but doable. I was a little unsure about joining the circuit at unfamiliar* airports. I tried hard to visualise what my approach would look like for various joins.
Fast forward to the next morning. I got down there early, Bob had a previous student so had beaten me to the school. We agreed that I’d do my walkround then meet upstairs to go over the details.
Good, because I had a burning question. One that had been bugging me since I started looking at this flight,

“What the hell do I say to ATC?”
I mean I’m used to “to enter the circuit” or “local flight east” or even “VFR flight to x.”

What do I say? I have to let them know that they need to hand me over to the next zone to the north rather than clearing me enroute to the east.
As usual the answer is easy, “tell them what you are going to do WMAP, a flight from City to Buttonville to Oshawa returning to City,” this lets them know your exact routing and the fact that you will be coming back.

Ok hurdle one out of the way, let’s look at the routing. Problem two.
What I thought would make life easier, the fact that City’s Control zone touches Buttonville’s is actually a bit of a challenge. You effectively need to get the ATIS from B’ville almost as soon as you’ve taken off. Ditto Oshawa, as soon as you’ve left one zone, you’re needing the ATIS for the next.

As the enormity of the workload finally hits me I wail “whose bright idea was this?”  
Bob was his usual steady, reassuring self. “I’m here to help you, you’ll be fine.”

As usual I swore and cursed my way through the flight and as usual Bob was right. I needed some help with swapping the radios around (nothing I haven’t done for RTH when we are flying together) but I coped.
I anticipated my joining instructions, Buttonville airport is kind of hard to spot from the south, but I know what I’m looking for now. The chart doesn’t quite reflect the road direction and I was looking on the wrong side for it initially. Oshawa is dead easy to spot.

I made some good choices out there. Giving the traffic I was following in some space, widening it out on one leg. After leaving Buttonville I was a little overwhelmed with map reading, I spotted a very obvious landmark.
“That’s the 407 highway. I can follow that straight to Oshawa.” Ok so it takes me a little out of my way, but it is a good solid landmark. Bob nodded approvingly “excellent choice”
So I made it, there and back. Intact and not sweating too badly.

I’m starting to think that I may be able to manage this cross country stuff after all. I will totally admit to a feeling of such intense pride when Bob logged in it my PTR as such. Beautiful way to wrap it up for a couple of weeks. A feeling of total accomplishment and the desire to do more and more and more!
* Ok technically I have done touch and goes at Oshawa before but this time is so different. I'm the one in control this time. Hard to explain to non pilots. Flying people will understand!

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