I took on many firsts during this flight, the subtleties of many of them will probably escape most of you but I have to give a special shout out to the fine people at London Flight Services. Thank you so much for making my dealings with you a total pleasure despite my nerves.
My first dealings with flight services was the usual weather briefing, a cheerful flight specialist confirmed my interpretation that any lower ceilings and scud would stick to the west and not bother me too much, we discussed the strong north winds and commiserated over the frigid temperatures, “at least it’s keeping the parachutists away!” they joked.
The next horror to contemplate was the flight plan. I’ve never filed a flight plan before, Bob’s sneakily filed one on my behalf, but I’ve never filed one myself. It’s not that difficult, you fill in a paper form with various bits of info and then phone up Flight Services to file it. You tend to leave the paper copy with dispatch so they know what you intend to do.
Both Bob and RTH have taken time to go through filling the paper form in with me. I was relatively confident about what goes where. Unfortunately neither of them could prepare me for the worst bit of the process, actually having to talk to someone on the phone. I don’t like this. I’m sure I may have mentioned this fact before!
I met Bob early to go through my planning, as we looked over the flight plan Bob was happy with what I’d done. “Am I really going to file a flight plan for this flight?” I asked, desperate to find a way out. Hoping against all hope that Bob’d confess it was all just a training exercise.
I picked up my phone. I looked at it. I looked at the flight plan. I looked back at Bob “I really don’t want to do this, “ I try one last ditch appeal to his better nature.
“You’ll be fine,” fixing me with a steady gaze, the implication being I’m not getting anywhere near a plane until I make that phone call
So I reluctantly call flight services, hesitantly I open with “Good morning, I’d like to file a flight plan please”
First question I’m asked is the plane’s registration. This I can do. So far, so good. They helpfully inform me that they already have some info on file for this plane. I’m asked to confirm the name of the flight school as the owner. I do so and instantly realise that the person on the other end probably has a fair idea that I’m a student. Relief washes over me as they lead the conversation, asking me for the bits of info that they don’t have. Infinitely patient as I struggle through the fact that they are skipping some sections of the flight plan, they don’t seem to be too bothered by the fact that occasionally I suspect I’m answering a different question to the one they are asking.
Flight plan filled they chirpily wish me a good flight and I gratefully hang up. Actually it was relatively painless.
Onwards and upwards.
My next encounter is once I’m airborne and out of City’s control zone. I need to contact London Radio and confirm my flight plan has been opened and revise my time airborne. Once again I’m hesitant. Unlike my dealings with City Tower, I’m not sure how this conversation will work out. I’m used to City’s radio chatter. I know its forms and patterns. I know how it works, this is unknown territory. I stumble my way through the call without any major issues and once again am confronted by a polite and cheerful person on the other end of the radio. Again my relief is palpable.
At the half way point I brave another call, this time with a VFR position report. Once again, new territory for me and once again the radio operator infinitely patient as I blunder my way through the call, one eye on my knee board. On the ground my notes made perfect sense. In the air, wrestling with a laden plane in bumpy weather, the nuances escape me.
My dealings on the way back are similarly uneventful. The operators cheerful and helpful, prompting me for information when I neglect to provide it. At some point it occurs to me that maybe these people actually like talking to pilots, maybe they are genuinely pleased to be offering this service. Unlike the hectic control zone around City, where the more you shut up the more ATC like you, these people actually seem to want to talk to you.
Let’s wrap it up to say that I’m very grateful to everyone from LFS that I dealt with today, you left me with a very positive experience and it means that I’m not worried at all about dealing with you in the future. In fact I’ll actually try to match your cheer and good humour, please understand I was a little stressed out this time.
Still, I hope I gave you a little bit of a giggle when I got my radio frequencies mixed up and was still on your frequency when making a radio call that went like this “Simcoe traffic this is Golf Sierra Alpha Romeo, currently…….oh crap!”