Day one of my week of flying is over and it was an eventful one! I got 2.2 hours of flying time in and covered a lot of stuff.
The first flight of the day involved my first solo adventure out of the circuit as I wished; a flight around the Isle of Wight. I checked the weather and NOTAMs. There were two things of interest: south of the Isle of Wight there were oil spill trials being flown; at Sandown airfield there would be parachutists being dropped. Both of these would be in my direct path. I discussed talking to Solent Radar with my instructor. I would be asking for a basic service as I would be flying around the island. I was quite nervous about this part of the flight and I practiced my calls a few times before heading down to the plane.
I started up “G-BUJP” as normal and prepared and taxied out. My Dad – who was also flying – noted that my voice went from confident to nervous pretty quickly on the radio, something that I also noticed. The cause of my nerves was definitely the thought of talking to Solent Radar.
I ran through my power checks and sat there practicing my radio calls. When I was ready I made a move for runway 05 and was off.
I departed to the south and as I was climbing over Cowes I said goodbye to Lee-on-Solent radio and then changed Solent Radar. I listened to the radio for a good while before I could get a word in. I sounded very nervous compared to the cool calm and collected voices of other pilots. As I tootled around the island I took in the view: rolling hills on my port and a threatening blue murk that was the Isle of Wight to my starboard. I approached the south-east side of the island and made a turn to head north. I checked in with Sandown airport to see if I might encounter parachutists as I passed by; I had a five minute window before the drop.
As I passed by Sandown a Cessna appeared out of nowhere almost directly in front of me. I made an abrupt turn to port to give us some more space, but thinking back I believe there was enough space between my aircraft and the Cessna. There was no chatter on the radio to indicate anyone had seen me; but shortly later I heard an aircraft make a landing at Sandown. It was a close enough call to make me a tad worried. I have spent some time thinking back and tried to work out what might have happened.
- I changed from Solent Radar to Sandown to check on the parachute drop. I stayed on the frequency long after I needed to. I wonder if the other aircraft may have been talking to Solent Radar and if I had gone back to the channel I would have heard the other aircraft’s position.
- The weather was hazy and often there was no horizon. I wonder if I missed the other aircraft as it approached me.
Whatever the situation I quickly decided to head back to the airfield and get to terra firma. I cut between Sandown and Bembridge and across the solent. I said hello again to Lee-on-Solent as I passed over Newport and headed towards Fawley and made a standard join to land on runway 05.
Once I was landed I had a quick debriefing with my instructor and we then began planning a quick navigation exercise. The navigation exercise involved me flying a route with my instructor from Lee-on-Solent to Andover, Fleet and back. I spoke to Farnborough Radar a lot on the trip and it helped improve my confidence a little bit more.
It was interesting going from using my whizzy wheel in navigation ground school lessons to now using it for real to plan an actual flight. It was a lot of work to maintain my heading, speed and altitude for extended periods of time.
All in all, it was a great first day of flying for the week and I’m looking forward to getting more into navigation. It turns out that flying for a total of 2.2 hours in a single morning can be quite tiring!