Wednesday, 21 October 2015

APS Upset Recovery training! Cue Extra 300!

After a few days off recovering from PT4, a few of us went to Gateway Airport (uh oh, my favourite….) to complete the upset recovery module of the course. This was a part I was really excited about; I've always wanted to have a play with an Extra300! I felt pretty confident going into it having experienced aerobatics before with the cadets.

We completed the upset recovery training with an external company called APS and spent the first morning in ground school, mostly watching videos, studying a bit of PoF and learning about their ‘PUSH,ROLL, POWER, STABILISE’ technique for unusual attitude recovery. There were 6 of us in total on the course, two guys were from the American air force and were not with the academy, the rest were members of my course. The lessons were presented by a real life astronaut, which was so cool

In the afternoon we met with our instructors (they were all ex-military fast jet pilots who did this for fun!) and went for the first flight. It was amazing! Although we took off from Gateway, it felt very familiar flying around the same desert and same practice area that we've been used to this whole time. We just went a little bit (a lot) higher and had a bit more power than the Archer gave us. The cockpit was very simplistic in the front seat (the instructor is sat behind in tandem), I had only an artificial horizon indicator and an airspeed indicator, as well as a control stick, not yoke, and throttle. We couldn't take off or land (tail dragger and I'm not about to volunteer to take off and talk to Gateway tower....) but were given control after the instructor upset the aircraft and flew to and from the practice area to get a feel of it. 

During the first lesson I got to have a nice feel of the aircraft and do a few stall recoveries, the Extra stalls fantastically! You’ll go nose high, flying along fine and then all of a sudden it’ll flip a wing and you’ll be falling out of the sky with the ground above your head. It was so cool. The Push, roll, power technique is supposedly applicable to all aircraft and most unusual situations and it worked really well to solve the problem. The moment you gave it a little push on the control stick it relieves the angle of attack on the wings and breaks the stall. It was insane how well that worked; the only think that kept popping into my mind to compare it to was that scene in Avatar where Jake and his Banshee are falling, he tells it to “shut up and fly straight” and it rights itself straight away, know the one? Same deal with the Extra apparently, give it a tiny push and it’ll settle.

I've always prided myself on my iron stomach during flight and loved every second of the lesson, we did a fair few stalls in different situation; pulled some G’s and got some inversions in. Unfortunately not all members of the group faired so well and did have to reach for the sick bag during their flights.
At the end of the day we had to go home and complete an easy test (I think we all got 100%) on what we’d learnt that day, which completes the theoretical portion of the module, leaving just 2 flights left to complete.

Another early start brought us back to Gateway the next morning and it was straight into the air for our final two lessons. It was an amazing experience and I can see the practical use of upset training but mostly it felt like a reward of all our hard work so far and gave us a chance to play with an outstanding little aircraft. As my stomach had been fine the whole time, my instructor agreed to show me some proper aerobatics at the end of the final session.  I’d always wanted to try tumbling which I’d seen at air-shows before but he showed me a fair few and joked with the ground staff that he was going to try and make me ‘black out’. He did not succeed. We did +7G to -2.5G and I felt completely fine (And sort of proud that I did the most out of all the boys).

Mission objectives:
  • Stalling
  • Usual attitude recovery
  • Startle response – He asked me to update the QNH on my attitude indicator, as I reached forward he flipped the aircraft and let go, telling me to recover. The idea being that the recovery should be quick and become second nature as in real life you may not always get a warning e.g. wake turbulence.
  • Stuck Primary controls – This was really interesting. It was seeing how you could control the aircraft if one of the three primary controls (aileron, elevator, rudder) was jammed. We tried all three out and I found the hardest to work without was the rudder.

At the end of the sessions we were given a certificate for successful completion presented in a frame with a picture and poem, none other than Cpt. John Magee’s ‘Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds….’ My dad’s favourite poem! We also received a memory stick containing the go-pro footage of our entire flight's which is definitely for learning and refreshing purposes and not to be shared on Facebook to make friends jealous back home, ahem...

After that fun interlude, it’s now on to the Seminole and the home stretch of our time in Arizona!

Friday, 2 October 2015

An introduction to holds. Cross-country qualifier and PT4!

When you get to lesson AP64, you have an ‘introduction to holding’ brief and sim. It’s fair to say I felt completely lost and couldn't recall a thing about the hold entries we learnt in Air Law. Thankfully, Bryan had a few ways to make it simple and enough patience to go through it properly with me. It made a lot more sense actually flying it than it did studying it in ground school (I've found that with quite a few of the topics we learnt now). It did, however, take quite a while to figure out the type of entry I needed to use to get into the hold and I practised a lot of these questions with my house mate. For some reason I always guess ‘direct’, but I've gotten the hang of it now and can figure it out in a second using my house mates method of placing the CDI needle on the hold axis and just looking at where the tail is, as well as Lee’s POD method. Works every time! I also drew little diagrams to stick on my knee-board to use as reference. In Air Law we learnt 3 entries, there are 5 according to Oxford, I can see why but at the moment it just needs more to learn. 

The standards for PT4 are to get the holds within +/- 12 seconds of 3 minutes which is easy in null wind conditions but a little trickier if you have to correct for the wind. Luckily, we had lots of practice flights doing these and in real life it’s rarely calm, especially in the turbulent desert air. There are only two holds we do out here; Stanfield and Buckeye, we practice with them so it’s a bit of a head start for the PT and also gets us used to using the approach plates which, upon first glance, looks like a different language, with practice they do become easier to read though, I promise. The Casa Grande (Stanfield) approach is quite a simple one and the easiest way to do everything correctly is to brief the approach early and set up the cockpit beforehand so you only have to fly the plane (not fuss about setting minimums or frequencies last minute). Again, the RT takes a little getting used to but I'm a lot less nervous speaking now. 

The sims were always good fun and really good at getting used to the theory, briefing and plates with a few surprise emergencies thrown in and ‘moderate turbulence’ given by Bryan grabbing the back of my seat. He was due to take leave so decided he’d squeeze me and Josh in with quite a few flights that week to get us ready to take our test during his time off instead of having a long break. This meant more early starts and double lessons, which does get so tiring after a couple of days.

I also completed my Cross-country qualifier. This is a necessity for gaining a license, and includes a landing at Ryan then Goodyear before arriving back at Falcon, the trip is approximately 420nm and took 5 hours. The navigation is important and it’s important to stick with your due back time, however at this stage I knew the area so well it’s more a case of pointing the nose on my turning points and then relaxing, talking on the practice area frequency with my course mates and tuning in Disney FM on the ADF. I really enjoyed myself, though it was tiring and nearly unbearably hot in the cockpit; I was even starting to feel nostalgic that I didn't have many Archer flights remaining, I love how confident I felt with the plane, feeling I could do anything with it and it’s such a huge jump from how I felt only a few months before. I feel like a real pilot and I'm proud of myself.

PT4 time! I had a few days off  before the test but I felt pretty confident going into it, which was a first. I was with Amanda again and as I’d already flown with her before she gave me the option of Buckeye or Stanfield and said we could have a practice landing at one first before doing the assessed hold. I picked Buckeye for the hold as I preferred the circle-to-land approach and generally it tends to be a bit quieter (less radio for me!) than the Stanfield VOR which is always incredibly busy in the afternoon. I did the hold and approach to Stanfield pretty well, it was one of the best holds I’d ever flown so I was happy. 

We then didn't have time to get all the way over to Buckeye so created a GPS way point over Maricopa Mountain to simulate the Buckeye VOR and did the hold and approach over that instead. Maybe not the best idea as I got an up-draft from the thermal coming off the little mountain on every ‘inbound’ leg of the hold. On the whole it went pretty well; on the way back we did the Chandler arrival which I had to amend slightly to avoid traffic who thought they’d cut a corner on the approach. Not naming any names but I know exactly who it was and of course let them know back on the ground. Amanda was joking about it, saying they thought they could get away with it because there were two women flying.  The test couldn't have gone better, meaning I was finished with the Archer (apart from one last solo navigation) and ready to gain another engine and start my Seminole flying! I was also the first in my class to take PT4 so one up for the girls!

I had another few days off after that which felt so good to chill out and catch up on sleep from all the early mornings. Josh took his test the day after mine so we mostly stayed in, watched Sherlock and played Call of Duty, it’s too hot to even go and stay by the pool for too long and most other people were still in school.

As it was 4th of July which is a huge deal in America we were doing the most American thing possible and going to a Diamondbacks baseball game. We wore red, white and blue and decided we’d learn the national anthem so we could sing a long at the opening of the game. I’d been to a baseball game before in Chicago but this one was a lot more fun, probably due to the occasion (and the fact that I'm over 21 this time!). Diamondbacks won! After the game the stadium roof opened up and we could see the fireworks display over Phoenix, it was a great night and I was very glad I didn't have to get up early the next morning as Oskar did.

Monday, 7 September 2015

New Instructor and land aways

Once again I apologise for my lack of posting, so much has happened in the past 2 months but as always I've written notes and am more than happy to answer questions about my experiences!

 After PT3, I was assigned a new flying instructor. I was a little disappointed as I got on with Lee so well and it’s always a little intimidating flying with someone new. My new instructor, Brian, turned out to be just as fun and banterous (is that a word?) as Lee so I instantly felt at ease and we got on just fine. Though he did say my approaches to land were more like a space shuttle’s than an Archer! I always prefer to be a bit high with the impression that I can always get it down, it just needed to be a little smoother and a little more stable. My course nickname (call sign because we’re nerds) is now NASA as a result J

This phase was concerned more with procedure flying such as holding patterns and simulated IMC (under-the-hood) flights so it was a little more complicated and we had a few more sims and longer briefings to learn all the theory that didn’t really sink in when studying it during ground school. Actually getting to fly the holds really made me understand them much more than I ever did when studying Air Law. We had quite a few dual flights where there wasn't so much new content to learn, it was more hour building. I had one that was 5 hours long in the cockpit with Brian, you end up feeling tired and so hot the sweat is dripping off you by the time you land. No wonder this place is a desert... We did something called the 'Valley Rally' where we went the scenic route North of Falcon, which is more mountainous terrain so students are not allowed to go here solo. The Valley Rally basically consisted of any airfield we came across, we'd descend, join the circuit, do a touch and go and carry on our merry way. It was great for me to practice my landings and also see some new airfields I hadn't been to before. 

You also have a lot of hours to complete in the form of cross-country solos, the actual navigation isn't a problem any more as you get to know the area really well and pre-flight planning gets really quick and easy (and repetitive). As the weather is getting so hot here, ideal take-off time is about 5:30am which means a really early morning considering you need to check in with dispatch at least an hour before. After completing PT3 you’re also allowed to fly and land at other airports on your cross-country solos.

The first stopover was going to Ryan, which is down South and near Tucson. I had my doubts about going and landing somewhere other than Falcon and was worried about the radio, traffic, taxiing the wrong way, refuelling the plane wrong and generally mucking something up. It’s very comfortable landing at Falcon, but another controlled airport? Scary.

As it turns out I don’t think I had anything to worry about, there’s an ADF at Ryan, which is very reassuring for navigation purposes.  ATC were really friendly and helpful, ground offered me taxiing directions. We have a company credit card for refuelling the planes, the difficult part was parking it. I had to stop in front of the pump, then get the tow bar out and drag the plane forward into the correct position to avoid hitting a pole. Possible, but no easy task in the Arizona sun and I'm not the strongest of people; parking at Falcon someone will normally come over and help me out. I had about half an hour in Ryan to chill, feeling really proud of myself and I got to go in the ‘pilot’s lounge’ and spoke to a lovely couple who’d flown down from Michigan (I've been there!!). It was an awkward moment when I had tried to go to the toilet and saw the door was coded, I needed to go and check my flight log as I’d already forgotten the CTAF which I’d just used.

Taxiing back and taking off again were fine, ATC are very helpful if told you’re a student solo. On the way back I had both Lee and Brian over the radio telling me to be careful and not get lost. They were joking but I really love the friendly atmosphere here and how supportive all of the instructors are.

My second land-away was to fly to Goodyear; this is the airport which Oxford used to be based at out in Arizona, it also has a small air plane graveyard going on along the edge of the incredibly long runway. I felt much more confident this time although the weather was a little dubious on the day, the cloud was pretty low. My MFD also decided it needed an update and was purple instead of green and didn't show traffic any more. I decided to keep going as I had the traffic on an inset on the PFD and listened to the practice frequency carefully.   As I was entering Rainbow Valley, just beyond the Maricopa Mountains, I couldn't see ahead of me through the cloud. Definitely unsafe so I turned around and was going to divert back to Falcon. Upon nearing the town of Maricopa, I could see around the cloud and to the North of the valley, so changed my mind and decided I would go to Goodyear; it took me a little longer to get there because of the diversion so I called Dispatch and asked for an extended due-back time. You get a free sandwich and drink at Goodyear for refuelling and the guy behind the desk even recognised me from the Lee Owens movie. I was chuffed. 

On the ground at Goodyear, the MFD updated itself and functioned perfectly for the rest of the flight.
On the way back, the weather still wasn't amazing, I entered some rain which doesn't affect the flying at all, I then could see heavy rain and just sheets of cloud ahead of me right through my flight path. Another diversion, it’s a good job I'm familiar with the area and the frequencies, we just have to remain in VFR at all times, so I asked an instructor over the frequency if the arrival into Falcon was clear. It was and I got back okay, it felt like a really long day though and it turns out I was the only solo out there in that weather. I feel like a real pilot doing the land-aways.

Friday, 10 July 2015

A special post

I was involved in making a film with our instructor Lee Owens; it was for his foundation with which he's trying to raise money to fly a P51 Mustang around the world! He's doing this in honour of African American Aviators and the Tuskegee airmen missions. This man has changed my life, please give it a watch. I've also added a tab at the top of the blog which will link you to his foundation website :)

PT3 & Buck's university!

I handed in my PT3 form and had a few days off before the test was scheduled so my house-mate and I went to LA for the weekend; it was fun to see the walk of fame and Hollywood sign and the city in so many movies. Sadly, didn't see any stars whilst I was there though.

PT3 is all about manoeuvres, as in PT1 you do your 3 landings again and there’s a little bit of under the hood work as well as stalls and steep turns. The test went by really quickly, I went over to Coolidge to do my touch-and-goes and was given a PFL* in the circuit, I just managed to glide it over to the runway. It felt easier than the previous PTs, maybe because I felt more confident with the plane after doing so many solos.

We also had a Buck’s university day where we were back in the classroom for lectures and were given an assignment to complete in only a few days. It was a group assignment where we needed to make two presentations about the business model and marketing strategies of a selected airline. We did New Zealand air (I love them after their Hobbit liveries). The first presentation went really well and we were given a first, the second we only got a 50 on which I was kind of disappointed with, as with any group project it’s hard to motivate everyone to pull their own weight and I think my mark would have been better had I presented on my own. There was also a written essay assignment about environmental management systems, which I got a first for. I thought this was my worst essay as I did it pretty last minute (there’s a lot going on with the flying).

One the morning of the assignment I was woken by a phone call from Lee at 6am who wanted his students in to interview for a film he was making. I knew he needed me and I’d spoken to the cameraman the week before and got to sit in the sim with him and show him a little of what we were doing here. I didn’t know Lee wanted us so early! I had to put on a tie and get ready quickly then go and stand out on the ramp as the equipment was set up. It was actually really fun to be involved in the film and I really hope Lee raises all the money he needs to.  

*PFL = Practice forced landing, the instructor would pull the throttle to idle on the engine and as I was in the downwind had to cut my circuit short and land on the runway with a simulated engine failure. When we did this in lessons out in the practice area it was all about choosing the best field for an emergency landing. 

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Introducing SPICs

Supervised pilot in command (SPIC) flights are where you do the whole flight yourself but you’re in the cockpit with a different instructor than your own; I found these invaluable as everyone has little methods that are different and I found I learnt a lot from flying with new people. It’s always great to mix up the routine a bit. My first SPIC flight I was asked what I wanted to practice and I said “crosswind landings”. My wind limit was 7 knots crosswind and 10 total, Lee had been saying all along that I could handle more but I didn't want to go ahead and increase it until I felt confident I’d be able to do it by myself on a solo and so wanted more practice. After a SPIC doing touch-and-goes at Coolidge airport (smaller runway than Falcon and uncontrolled) I finally went and got endorsed for 10 knots crosswind and 15 knots total, more than most students at this stage so I was happy J

My second SPIC wasn't looking too good, I was doing manoeuvres like stalls when a cloud descended around us, I wasn't really worried as the rain doesn't affect the plane much and I had an instructor with me just in case. Then we saw lightning in the cloud which is when we decided to go and land ASAP. Chandler is an approved arrival route but was obscured from view and doing the AJ arrival would have taken too long. We decided to make a bee-line straight for Falcon by asking to transit through Gateway’s delta (I am still scared of Gateway after ATC told me off on my second lesson). This was the fastest way to get home but it did cut my lesson short. One of my classmates captured this picture on flight radar with the caption “Who just cut across Gateway’s airspace?”

I finished off the lesson on a different day with yet another instructor and as he was happy with my set up and flying he decided to show me something new. From the SE practice area he said we could go to the NE which is my first time going north of Falcon. We decided to do a Class Bravo transition over Phoenix Sky Harbour International! We got a really great view of the multiple parallel runways and slightly larger aircraft landing below us, it was cool. Phoenix approach were somewhat stricter than previous ATCs I’d spoken to and gave us a squawk* code, track and altitude to follow as well as flight following and traffic advisories. After the Bravo we did touch and goes at Deer Valley airport, it was a tricky one as it’s surrounded by little hills which in the afternoon heat give you thermals which gave a fun up-draft on finals.

I was on my second touch-and-go and was in the crosswind turning downwind when I heard/and felt a loud BANG. My instinct was that the glider tow cable had just been released as that’s kind of what it felt like…however I'm in a PA28 not a glider. The instructor instantly took control and requested landing immediately as we’d just hit a bird. Deer Valley ATC was great and offered assistance and gave priority landing. The worry my instructor had was that the undercarriage would be damaged so he took control to land as gently as possible, I think he also thought I might be worried as he kept asking me if I was okay (though I wasn't really worried). On the ground we inspected the plane and there was no trace of anything having hit us, which was incredibly lucky so off we went again (the instructor still had to file a bird strike report on the ground). We took the scenic route back over the mountainous NE terrain to Falcon Field. It was a good flight.

On Memorial Day everyone was given a day off as it’s a national holiday here, we went tubing down Salt Lake river, which is a really lazy day. You hire a big rubber ring and float down the river, it was nice as rarely do the member of my course actually get a day off together. It was going great until we hit some rapids and I fell out of my tube, some other kid nicked it and I had to swim to shore and wait to be rescued L Two of my lads walked back for me and one of the tubing employees gave me a deflated tube to give back to the hire shop so I wouldn't get charged the ‘lost tube’ fee. All in all it was a fun day and we’d like to do it again where we make it down the whole river.

*A squawk code is the 4 digit number on the transponder so you can be recognised, normally we just 'squawk' VFR which is 1200.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Day and Night mode switched to Night!

One of the highlights of the course so far: night flying! You only get 4 lessons of these, so tempting as it is to just sit back and look at the pretty lights, you’re actually supposed to learn something.  

  • The first night dual we went to Chandler and managed to get in about 14 touch and goes. The air is so calm at night (without the thermals from the heat of the day), it felt like I was flying the simulator! The plane stayed where I’d put it, it was also very quiet at Chandler with little other traffic, meaning I got priority clearance and the longest runway. The ATC controller also demonstrated the light display to me on a final. The main difference at night is the perception of where the runway actually is, giving you the illusion of distance (and heavy landings) but I didn't think mine were too bad. Lee also demonstrated what would happen if the instruments didn't work by dimming the avionics and panel lighting. It was really cool.

  • The second dual was a cross-country, which is just surreal. I did the normal departure I was used to and had to rely on the VOR to know when I’d got to my turning points as I really couldn't see anything that wasn't lit on the ground. Did you know you can turn on runway lights from the ground? Airports which have lighting but are uncontrolled at night (so lights are off) can state pilot operated lighting meaning you can turn them on by dialling up the radio frequency and pressing the PTT (push-to-talk) button multiple times. This was great, we did this to a few airports in the area and did a touch and go at Coolidge. As with any nav, I was then given a diversion to try and find somewhere off the route, I wasn't so good at this, not that it was any different than during the day but it felt like there was certainly more to concentrate on at night. Nevertheless, it was amazing to see how everything looked in the dark and I snuck in a few back-seats with my house mate so I would have more than 2 lessons in the practice.

Sadly, we’re still not allowed to take cockpit photos; I really wish I could because the view was absolutely incredible. But here’s a picture I took from the ramp of the taxi and runway lights:

SOLO NIGHTS! You get two night solos, both of which are just in the pattern at Falcon practising landings, this was a little scary initially but my departure time was at twilight so I could pick out my ground reference points for turning and then know where they were for the time it was fully dark. It’s easier than it sounds, everything with lights looked so bright and there was a nice cross road on final just in line with the runway. I was the only person in the pattern so the ATC was extra nice and I got about 7 full stop and taxi backs in (no touch and goes due to noise abatement). I also got to hear the tower closing at 9pm which was strange.

The second night solo went as well as the first, though I did get asked to extend my downwind (eek, mountains!) so used the terrain mode on my MFD for the first time; this gives colour indications for the proximity of the terrain, red means less than 100ft away, thankfully tower asked me to perform a 360 so I wouldn't be getting to close to the superstitions.  I felt night flying was a huge achievement, like I could handle that plane in any conditions. It’s also something I’d like to show my dad, everything just looks so different at night.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Solo cross-country navigations

Time for my first solo cross-country; unfortunately I had to cancel my first one. Everyone has their own wind limits, mine was 7 knots crosswind and 12 knots total so you cannot be signed off for a solo if the wind is reported above this. I rescheduled and was a little apprehensive about going; staying in the pattern at Falcon is one thing solo but doing a navigation route is a completely different one, it also gets really turbulent in the afternoons here so I definitely wanted to go in the morning.

The navigation part was easy enough, the problem I had was the cloud! I had to cut my route a bit short as it was coming lower and lower and I was getting rained on, this is no problem to the plane but reduces visibility. I ended up descending to about 3000 feet because of the cloud base which in mountainous terrain isn’t ideal and I was questioning whether I’d be able to make it back to Falcon or would have to divert to Chandler (my favourite).  However, I felt a huge sense of achievement as I landed and felt more like a real pilot being able to go places by myself (it was a two hour mission after all).

To get signed off for a cross-country solo is a little different, there’s much more prep work to be done before the flight and then you present your work to a duty instructor (not your own) to authorise the flight.

  1. (At home) Draw the route on the map and fill in distances, true track headings and VOR radials for the points on the route.
  2. Check in with Operations
  3. Get the weather and work out winds aloft and calculate headings on nav log to compensate for drift then apply the deviation from the map to get magnetic headings which is what I’d set my heading bug to for the route legs. I work out my drift and ground speeds using the compass face of my CRP-5 (thank you gen nav in ground school!) to give me ETAs for each turning point.
  4. Mass & balance sheet
  5. Pre-flight plane
  6. Get fuel – Solo students must take off with full tanks (48USG)
  7. File a VFR flight plan – This is a CAE policy for students going solo and is something I’d never done before. The plan needs to be filed on the ground and then opened in the air by contacting Prescott radio, you have to close it within 30 minutes of your ETA otherwise they’ll be calling dispatch or sending search and rescue to find you! So far, I’ve not forgotten to close one but I know a few students have.
  8. Make copies of everything and take to the duty instructor – explain your route and give a weather briefing to show you’re ready for the flight. 
During the flight I keep a track of my ETAs, revising any times as necessary and write down any observations such as what the winds are doing and which tank I'm on. Here's an example nav log post-flight. 

I have 6 cross country solos to complete (as well as other duals) before my PT3 and the only place I’m endorsed to land is Falcon Field until after the next check ride.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Progress Test 2!

After three navigation flights going around the SE/SW practice area with an instructor is the next progress test. This came around so fast for me because of how often I’d been flying and I didn't feel that prepared for it, although I did feel less nervous than I was for PT1. I went in early on the day (4:30am start) and did the aural part of the test which just covered some features of the map, answering questions about air spaces and then gave a weather brief.

However, the weather on the day did not look good with KIWA (Mesa Gateway airport which is our local alternate airport) was reporting gusts of 25 knots and there was a NOTAM for CBs in the area; I decided it would be best to cancel my PT and schedule it for another day as you’re expected to perform as if it was still air. This was a ‘pilot’s decision’ as if I was solo I certainly wouldn't want to go out and all the instructors respect it if you don’t feel up to going. So although I was disappointed I think I made the right choice.

For my test I didn't need to do the questioning again and just got on with the flight after a normal weather brief. I had planned a navigation route to perform and you’re supposed to work out the ETAs to within two minutes of the actual time you get there; mine were pretty good and I didn’t have much difficulty locating the checkpoints (most of them I had already seen before). You’re then given a diversion en-route so have to alter your plan mid-flight whilst maintaining altitude and heading. For this you also need to work out a heading, VOR radial, speed, distance and ETA and then arrive at the actual place. I adjusted my heading a few times for this leg but found it close to my ETA so I was happy.

Back on the ground at Falcon I was told I’d passed and I was delighted; this now means I get an endorsement in my logbook which means I’m allowed to do solo Cross-countries!

I don’t have a picture for this post (and I hate too much reading and no pictures) so here, Mass and Balance sheets galore! 

Solo Circuits

After the first solo, you have a few consolidation lessons just flying solo patterns around Falcon Field. These were so helpful in building up my confidence with landing and using the radio; without having someone next to you who is also listening you really pay more attention to what’s being said by everyone else on the radio.

  • AP16 – First solo
  • AP17/21 – Solo circuits

My parents were visiting Arizona to come and see me and the school so came on a day when I'd be doing a solo in the afternoon. Normally visitors are not allowed on the ramp but as Lee agreed to escort them it was okay and although I couldn't take them for a ride I showed them the cockpit, switched on all the 'fancy' glass displays and they then get to see me do a circuit and a landing. It was slightly more pressure than a normal solo as I knew they were watching and my dad has a PPL so he'd know if I was doing well or not. It didn't help that I had trouble starting my engine, to the point that Lee was half way to my plane to help me out before the engine finally caught; I was relieved. That would have been so embarrassing for the first time my parents had seen me fly. My mum was really moved and cried apparently when she saw me taxiing; it was really emotional and I'm so happy I could make them proud as I definitely wouldn't be doing this without their support. Lee said I did a good job too! 

Having my parents in Phoenix for the week was lovely (although so tiring), I was flying everyday that week, some days having more than one flight and then would go and do something with my parents in the evening; it was so nice getting bought dinner and eating out all the time. We visiting the museum, Scottsdale, Phoenix botanical gardens (a lot of cacti) and Rawhide which is a themed cowboy town. It left me worn out and I didn't have much time for studying for the next PT rapidly approaching but it was nice to see them and get to show them around my school here in Arizona. 

  • AP22 - Instrument flying sim session. In this we learnt an exercise called ‘pattern B’ first performing it under VFR then IFR conditions in the simulator. It involves steep turns, climbs and descents and timed legs to hopefully make your flight path look as it was planned. I didn’t think mine came out too bad for my first time!

  • AP23/24 - Flights with an instructor using sole reference to the instruments. I learnt so much doing it this way and how the needles on the CDI actually respond as opposed to learning about them in ground school where it didn't really make much sense. This picture is an example of the VOR (green) and ADF (blue double arrow) CDI display as shown at the bottom of the PFD. These are the types of instruments we use and the radials we work off are normally given from the Stanfield VOR, though we can set it to any radio station within range; similar to how you tune up the radio only you need to 'ident' the beacon before use and try to match the morse code to that displayed on the map. 

You also have to wear a hood to stop you from looking outside which is a little scary at first but your instructor and backseater keep a look out for you. The MFD is also really great at showing terrain, traffic and air spaces so it isn't too difficult. It’s a good way to get used to instrument flying but is so tiring just focusing on the screen.

Friday, 15 May 2015

First SOLO flight!!!

After only 16 hours, they let you go solo. Your first is just one circuit and one landing around Falcon but it feels like a crazy amount of responsibility; it’s really scary starting up the engine, taxiing and even just having to close the door by yourself. I have to get the ATIS, contact dispatch (who wished me luck and told me to pay attention and be careful, they were so nice to me), contact ground and then contact tower during the long taxi to the runway. At this point I was so impatient to get off the ground but what I did not expect was how fast; without the weight of my instructor and flight partner I rotated so early and reached circuit height in the upwind!

Here's what my little circuit looked like (I had a practice with Lee before I could go alone on the day): 

As I declared it was my first solo over the comms, I think the controller spoke extra slowly to me and gave me an easy pattern, and cleared me to land number 1 on the longest runway. After I landed I got a “good job” from the tower, something which Lee said made him sick how I “flirted” with them. He makes me laugh all the time but stayed out on the ramp to watch my solo and had a little handheld radio to listen in. The landing wasn’t perfect but I was so proud of myself and was literally buzzing for the rest of the day, I think that’s why they only let you do one circuit on your first solo.

As is tradition after a first solo you get to be thrown in the pool, in your uniform. Throughout ground school I’ve appreciated how supportive the staff and other students are here and I love that we can all celebrate with each other. I’m proud of how far we’ve all come in such a short amount of time J

Progress test 1

The next set of lessons is just going round and round the circuit with the instructor, practicing different types of landings. The theory behind them is fairly simple; you perform 90 degree turns around the runway to get back onto final, do a normal, flapless or glide approach then make it a touch and go by drop the flaps, throwing the throttle forward and taking off again. I found it really hard to judge where to turn and what the ‘runway picture’ should look like however. 

AP13 is the last practice you get before the first progress test and this lesson for me went horribly. I had one terrible landing where I bounced it and I felt so frustrated with myself. I did not feel ready for the test and so went to speak with a senior flight instructor about getting more practice; this is available to students under the skills plus guarantee but only after interrogation to see why you’re asking for it and if you actually know the theory. My instructor thought it was a confidence thing (which it probably was) but that it was my decision so I took the extra hours and was to repeat AP13 the next day.  On the plus side I hardly think about the radio anymore and listen out for my call sign, I can now hear what other people are saying and can recognise the voices of my fellow students over the radio so it’s definitely something that just comes with practice; I needn’t have worried so about it.

As we went early in the morning, touch and goes had to be performed at Chandler Municipal airport (about 5 minutes flight time away) as opposed to Falcon Field due to noise abatement before 8am. I felt much happier with my landings after the extra practice and my instructor was so supportive that I said I’d be ready for my test the next morning.

The test is with a different, unfamiliar instructor and so is a little intimidating as you don’t know how harsh they’re going to be. The briefing and theory questions went okay, I didn’t know everything but I knew most of the questions he asked. He also said my walk-around and knowledge of the aircraft was very good, which I was happy with as I’d just visited maintenance the day before for a talk through the Archer’s engine. Everyone here is so friendly! The test was early in the morning so guess what? We went over to Chandler! I felt really confident for this as that’s where I’d done my practices. My landings weren’t amazing (still a confidence thing) but I passed everything and couldn’t contain my grin for the rest of the day. Passing that test means I’m able to fly a circuit solo something which I was so looking forward to and that also terrifies me. I felt really proud of myself and my instructor that day and I was later to find out that everyone else in my class apart from Lee’s students (my instructor) failed theirs the first time!

My goal is to work on my landings; I have the habit of coming in slower than the approach speed of 76 knots or flaring too early, both of which results in a slightly harder landing than is necessary. I hope I can improve on these. 

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Flying lessons at Falcon Fields :)

There’s a mission objective for each lesson and here are the missions so far:
  • SIM1: For practising the start-up checklist
  • AP1: Familiarisation
  • AP2: Effects of controls
  • AP3: Straight and level
  • AP4: Straight and level 2
  • AP5: Climbing and descending and medium turns
  • AP6: Climbing and descending 2 and steep turns
  • AP7: Slow flight & stalling
  • AP8: Stalling 2 (I LOVE stalls and the HASELL check list!)
  • AP9: Ground referenced manoeuvres (basically performing S bends over and road and circling a tree at low altitudes)
  • AP10: In flight emergency drills and emergency descents

Up next week are circuits!

I forgot to say before but I bought a Jeppesen flight bag so I didn’t have to bring the leather ground school case with me (also everything’s cheaper in dollars so why not?). This is a bit of necessity when moving out here but everything else like our headsets, log books and maps was provided by CAE J

The PA28s that we fly are fully glass cockpit and equipped with a traffic alerting system which is exciting as although we studied them in Instruments I’d never seen one of them in action. As Falcon Fields has two parallel runways this brings your approaches surprisingly close to the aircraft/helicopter for the other runway when you’re coming into land and it’s normally accompanied by a “traffic, traffic”, which I think is pretty cool (as I'm frantically trying to spot the closing traffic). I've never flown from parallel runways before but I guess it makes circuits more interesting as you’re never quite sure which runway you’ll get placed on and it is practice landing on a shorter or longer runway with VASISs or PAPIs* to guide you in.

One thing our instructor has tried to do is to get us used to the local area and flying by landmarks we can see. This has involved learning the various mountains around Phoenix (excellent landmarks as the visibility is always phenomenal). We normally flew for an hour, stopped off at a local airfield for coffee and breakfast then switched over with my flight partner, taking it in turns to fly each leg. I really liked getting a feel for landing at different airports and it was great practice using the radio.

Radio is definitely not my strong point, I feel really nervous every time before I have to speak and although my instructor normally tells me what to say it doesn’t stop my ‘telephone nerves’.  It especially doesn’t help that on my second lesson ATC at Gateway wouldn’t give me a taxi clearance as they said I was passing my message in the wrong order, whereas most airports around us know that we’re student pilots and are slightly more lenient towards us. At Gateway I was getting confused with the message, as the ATIS** information was Kilo and I was to hold at point Kilo on the taxiway. I really couldn’t wrap my head around the message and still find they speak really fast over the radio. I’m not in too much hurry to go and visit Gateway again because of this but they are a busy airport normally dealing with larger jets and not archer students so it’s understandable. One day I’m going to conquer this airport and ace the radio.

This week I squawked my first plane! We had an issue in the starting of a plane in that the starter motor was just turning the propeller but it was refusing to start. We would have been stuck at Chandler had my instructor not tried to start it for about 15 minutes; eventually he succeeded but I don’t think I would have been able to do it by myself. When we got back to base, we ‘squawked’ this in the book, I then took it over to maintenance to explain the problem and that’s how things get resolved over here.

For those interested:

*VASISs consist of two lights whereas PAPIs have four; they help you stabilise your approach and tell you if you’re too high or low to land on the blocks if you maintain your current attitude. If there are two whites and two reds then you’re right on the targets (one of each for VASISs), more white’s means too high and more reds means too low. Look out for them, a lot of airports have them to guide you to the blocks, I’d just never really used them before.

**ATIS stands for automatic terminal information service and is a frequency you should tune into in flight to obtain the current weather/runway conditions for that airfield before making your initial call to the tower. It’s really useful for knowing which runway is active and what the current winds are like, you can find this frequency on your aeronautical chart next to the airport you want to visit, although not all of them have an ATIS.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Our first week of flight training and first road trip!

Everyone has a flight partner from their class and I'm lucky enough to be with one of my house mates, though it’s a little intimidating as he’s already got a PPL and I'm an absolute beginner on the PA28, nether-the-less I was excited as I went in for lesson 1 on Tuesday 31st March. We got to meet our instructor and completely lucked out; he’s an ex-military fast jet pilot with so much flying experience on all kinds of aircraft. And he’s absolutely hilarious; I definitely won’t be bored being in the cockpit with him!

For our first day we performed the start-up check-lists in the simulator which was a bit of fun without being in anyone’s way on the ramp as we were pretty slow at doing them at first, as with anything this will come with practice. After doing the check-list 3 times each, Lee (our instructor) let us take the simulator off and have a little ‘fly’ around with it. Those things are pretty difficult to land and pretty easy to taxi off the side of the runway. Bodes well for my first flight the day after….

This is our daily schedule before a flight:
  • Check in
  • RMS form for the individual aircraft. This just shows when maintenance or oil changes etc. will be due. We have to print it off and check it’s all up to date.
  • FRAT form – This is a checklist of safety factors that may need to be regulated for us as student pilots like wind conditions or not carrying enough water with you.
  • Pull the weather; METARs and TAFs just like we learnt how to read in ground school Met J or listen to the Falcon Field ATIS but this is only active after 6am (Yes, sometimes we are in earlier than that).
  • Mass & Balance (again, ground school skills, our instructors would be so proud!) this also has the performance graphs in to calculate take-off and landing distances needed. This will be especially important during the summer as the heat will increase all the distances. 
  • Pre-flight the air-plane and do the walk-around to check it’s airworthy and has enough fuel for the flight. We have a check-list for this one but it’s been pretty easy to learn by heart.
  • We present the paperwork to the instructor to sign it all off and have a quick briefing about what we’ll be doing that day.
  • Report to Dispatch to hand in the paperwork and collect the book, this is to record the Hobbs and Tach time for our flight and has the keys, squawk sheets (this is how you report a problem you've found with the plane) and a credit card for fuelling at other airports.

We’re going to fly five days a week with two days off at the moment though this could easily change when we need to fit in more solos and check-rides. It’s been pretty tiring even for the first week as it’s a very fast-paced environment to be learning in and just getting used to the aircraft as well as the check-lists is mentally tiring.

As we had two days off for the weekend (well, our weekend is Sunday and Monday) my house mates and I decided we should go for our first road trip. Number one item on the agenda is the Grand Canyon, something I've always wanted to see. It was incredible and definitely didn't disappoint. We stopped at a small aircraft museum on the way back before stopping at some cheap, the movie Psycho springs to mind, motel in Flagstaff for the night. After living in Gilbert, it was surprisingly cold in Flagstaff due to it’s elevation and we had to rush to Wal-Mart in the evening to buy a hoodie! I'm not sure how much use I’ll get out of it but I really needed it! One the way back we took the scenic route through the mountains and forests instead of just staying on the free-way, I'm really surprised about how green it actually is here, amongst all the sand and cacti of course.  We ended up stopping and going for a walk in gorgeous Sedona, I was almost more impressed with the views than I was at the Grand Canyon, probably because I didn't know what to expect. It was gorgeous; I’d definitely recommend it and am very up for suggestions on placed to go next time J 

Just a short one for the first two weeks in Arizona!

Only a short one as not much happened in the briefings week apart from, well the briefings, exploring, sleeping (jet lag!) and chilling by the pool. It definitely still feels like a holiday and it’s such a great feeling after all the ground school.  

We had the weekend off to relax, explore our apartment complex (mainly lounge by the pool and soak up the rays) and recover from jet-lag. Then we were in school on Monday for…more ground school?? I know we need to learn this stuff and know all the safety operations and regulations but it is tortuous sitting inside when we know it’s 90 degrees outside and after 6 months of lessons we just want to fly! There’s a minibus that picks us up right outside our apartment complex and it’s about a 20 minute drive to the school at Falcon Field airport.

We have two weeks of briefings in school, always followed by coming home and going to the pool of course, with trips to Wal-Mart, five guys and going to get our FAA class 3 medicals and student pilot certificates.

The class 3 medical was so much easier than the class 1, we just went in had an eyesight test, urine test and blood pressure check and a general chat with the AME. Who was very informative about my skin and how I'm going to burn in the summer months, it is something you have to be really careful about here. All of us passed the medicals! 

I also had to knuckle down and do my first Buck’s university assignment. I wasn't in any hurry to start as it’s very easy to get stuck into a routine of going to school and chilling with our classmates by the pool afterwards. We also got an Xbox and TV for the apartment which is definitely going to be detrimental to our studying….

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

FSF Week and I've arrived in America!!

After all the excitement of receiving EASA results, we still had another week of lessons in school before we could jet off. This is Flight Safety Fundamentals and in it we go through some basic procedures of flight, rules and accommodation information for Phoenix and teamwork exercises (these were easy as we’re such a small course and are all pretty close now).

We were also introduced to the Buck’s University degree that we are doing, it’s a BSc in Airline Transport Management and we had some lectures on the topics and were set our first few assignments to keep us busy in Arizona. While I’m not a fan of doing more studying, the subject is relevant to the airline industry and it can never hurt to do more research, I’m seeing potential topics to talk about during the interview.

This week was pretty chilled out though compared to normal ground school, it was a bit of fun and we were pretty excited as we received our information packs, plane tickets and headphones to take out to America with us.

Bring on the next stage of the adventure (after a week at home to catch up with family and friends and recuperate our energy)!

The day finally arrived on Friday 20th March, I got up early to get the train to London, the tube to Heathrow, meet up with my classmates, check in to find we weren’t sitting together (this was rectified as we got to the gate and asked to switch seats). We were flying BA on a 747 for a 10 hour flight to Phoenix, I couldn’t sleep a wink and we ended up talking most of the flight. We were lucky enough to be invited into the cockpit after landing and had a brief talk with the crew. After a 25 hour day (it took ages to get through customs) we were greeted by a driver who’d come to pick us up and taking us to the apartment complex where we’d be staying. We were in Serena Shores and requested a 3 people apartment to allow for the odd number on our course. Our other flatmate was due to arrive a few days later so we had time to get the place ready for him.

Home sweet home for the next 6 months, we have a huge living room, two bathrooms (mine is an en-suite!), a balcony and it even has walk-in wardrobe!

EASA week!

On the Monday of our study leave week we had to trek down to the American Embassy in London to get our new M1 VISAs for America. We decided a taxi would be cheaper for 6 of us and we had to be there at 7am! The actual interview was easy enough but it takes a long time to get through security and then wait for an appointment time. We all got through and got the train home as we needed ti study and couldn’t afford to have a day of fun in London (that will come in the IR phase after America I imagine!)

Sadly, after school finals, one of the EPST members on our course was told he couldn’t continue with us after re-sit results and had to return to Holland to discuss his training. I’m really going to miss him as he was my flight planning partner in class and we are all pretty close being such a small course. We’re down to 7 now!

On Tuesday, I had my Mass and Balance re-sit. I felt fairly confident with this one, I’m not even sure how I failed the School Final as I’d had no problems with any of the lessons and consider it one of the easier phase 2 modules….The re-sit went well and I passed with no problems which meant I had the rest of my study leave to smash Av exam and hope to pull up the marks for the rest of my subjects. I decided to go back to Sheffield to get some peace and quiet and really get on with studying.

  • Monday – Mass & Balance morning. Flight Planning – Afternoon
  • Tuesday – Performance morning. Ops – Afternoon
  • Wednesday – Air Law morning. Gen Nav. – Afternoon
  • Thursday – Radio Nav. Celebrating in afternoon as this was the last one!

We had a busy week. The actual exams were not as hard as the School Finals, thank goodness, though I couldn’t say for sure how any of them went. I was worried about Air Law and Ops in that the figures we learn for one are different than for the other so I was always worried about mixing those up. My performance exam I felt went horrifically and I’m not sure if I’d gotten the answer I was supposed to with the graph questions. Then you’ve got Gen Nav and Flight Planning which are 2 hours long and so, so tedious, though I didn’t find the questions particularly difficult. I was an idiot though and forgot my Jeppesen route manual before the Flight Planning exam, which is the one subject you really need it for! Luckily a friend in 366 was able to run me home to pick it up in the hour I had between the morning and afternoon session. On the plus side I felt pretty confident with Mass and Balance this time J

I passed every exam!! My average for ground school is 87% and I’m going to Pheonix!  I’m so relieved that part is over and we can actually get to flying!!!!

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

School Finals: 3 weeks ago!

School finals; what a disaster! I felt fairly confident, well I never feel confident before an exam but at least somewhat prepared as we’d done a fair amount of practice. I was not. For a start having 2 days for 7 exams is exhausting, we had about 20 minutes in between each which barely gives you time to think which one you’re sitting next and some of the exams are two hours long. I’m pretty sure I’d lost all focus half way through Flight Planning which was the last one on the first day. I think this is where getting a good night’s sleep is definitely more important than staying up late to study, you need to be on your toes for these exams as they are tough.

My results were as follows and I felt pretty disheartened, I had hoped to have a slightly better foothold on the subjects at this point and the reason I’m sharing is that maybe some of you have been in the same boat before and know how that feels.

Operational Procedures: 88%

Flight Planning: 80%

Gen Nav: 72%

Performance: 72%

Air Law: 72%

Radio Nav: 72%

And the icing on the cake, Mass and Balance: 64%

The pass mark for school finals is 65%; anything below this has to be re-taken. I found Mass and Balance okay during classes as there’s not too much new content to learn and it reminds me of Physics with a couple of formulas, I definitely underestimated it as this exam was tough. Quite a few people had to re-sit so I’m hoping they’d given us the tough questions to make EASAs feel easier, or to make us pull our fingers out. Disappointed as I was to have to do a re-sit it definitely made me focus that weekend and do a lot of mass & balance practice questions which I’m hoping will pay off in the long run.

Having the re-sit is one this but I wasn’t too happy with my other results either which makes me seriously question my abilities for EASAs, I only have a week to really crack on and bring these marks up. I also felt really guilty speaking to my instructors about them afterwards, like I’d let them down. They have been so helpful and encouraging all the way through and I’m so happy we can have that personal one on one help here.

On the Friday we were in school for de-brief day and it’s become a tradition here that classes dress up for the last official day of ground school. My class was going to be 8 Snow Whites as we couldn’t decide who should be the princess. We were there to go over the exams; it’s so frustrating seeing what you got wrong as some of the marks were such stupid ones to lose. We did get a fair amount of wolf-whistles and pictures taken that day, including one by the marketing team to go on Oxford’s page, here it is as promised:

The Super-girl is because his costume hadn't arrived yet and had to borrow a costume of mine last minute!

Sorry it's very late and written by past Emily

(I’m so sorry about my lack of posting, it’s literally been so far from my mind this past month and I’ve just been hoping to pass my finals! I tend to jot things down on word before I ‘publish’ the blog post on here so I’m going to upload what I’ve got, sorry it’s a little past the time I meant for it to be. I think this one was about a month ago; time flies!)

At only 8 teaching weeks long phase 2 definitely seems too short, I’m genuinely getting a little worried about the amount of information I’m going to have to cram in before School Finals, which are on Wednesday! We’ve had our last full teaching day at school and it’s actually kind of sad, I’m really going to miss seeing our instructors every day; they’ve all been brilliant! It’s scary that we’re now the top of the timetable list and therefore the next course to sit exams, you never feel like it’s going to come around but 6 months really does go fast.

We have a couple of revision sessions on Monday, Tuesday off, Wednesday & Thursday school finals then debriefs on Friday. It’s sort of an Oxford tradition for people to dress up on their last day of ground school so we’ll be going with the Snow White and the Seven dwarfs theme (as there’s still only 8 of us) though it’ll look a little different from the classic. Pictures next time ;)

After that we’ve got a week off for study leave before EASAs, I’m debating whether I’ll get more work done if I go home or not. It’s a little annoying that our Visa interviews fall on the Monday which means a trip down to London (for 8am?!) when we could be studying. Needs to be done I suppose…. There was a lot of paperwork for the VISAs, part of it meant putting down everywhere you’ve lived in the past 5 years for more than one month. I realised I have had 8 different addresses; with uni and summer camps in America I’ve really not been too settled. We also had to register for the different types of aircraft we’ll be flying whilst over there which is kind of exciting. We have the PA28s and PA44s whilst we’re out in Phoenix. I still can’t believe I’m actually here in Oxford but it’s getting more and more real by the day now!

My EASAs start on Monday 2nd March and I’ll be doing two of the same subjects as my little brother who started at CTC in January but they do ground school in a slightly different order. Just in case I wasn’t feeling the pressure before let’s add a little sibling rivalry into the mix!

There was an open day last weekend so of course I volunteered. It was less busy than normal as it was only a short day but BA made an announcement about their new FPP program. I even got to see some familiar faces who I’d met at previous open days and a couple of people who actually read this blog, I was so thrilled J

My plan for the rest of the day is to hammer out questions on Aviation exam. I think the most difficult subject is Performance and the one I like least is Air Law (way too many numbers and figures to remember). I was wrong about my prediction with Flight Planning, it’s actually one of the more fun subjects. Wish me luck for exams, I definitely don’t feel prepared!

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Phase 2 is going way too fast!

In week 4 of phase 2 (much sooner than with phase 1 and we had 2 weeks off at Christmas) we began our Test 2s! I'm now about to start week 6 and still have Ops to do but so far I've passed all of them and have an 86% average. My worst mark was in Flight Planning (79%) but I felt it was more because of the length and time of the exam as oppose to my actual ability. Flight Planning is a subject where there are a lot of different sections and calculations to do, as well as using the graphs in the CAP. During the 2 hours exam going over and over different graphs was rather tedious and a few of the mistakes I made were silly ones. Oh well, that’s what de-briefs are for, I find them really helpful and now I'm just hoping I can improve a little between now and school finals.

The mark I was most disappointed with was Radio Nav, I got 83% but expected higher as I thought the test went really well and that I knew most of it. Again it seemed to be silly mistakes and not reading the question properly. The instructors here have a saying they constantly remind us of: “RTFQ!” it stands for ‘Read The Full Question’ and it is so true. So many times do I think I know the answer without properly understanding what the question is asking for.

For G.Nav I needed to go out and get these special pens for use on the CRP-5. They’re the only ones which show up on the back AND are easily removed. I’d definitely recommend them, absolutely essential for working out crosswinds and drift.

(For those who are interested the CRP-5 is currently displaying a TAS (true airspeed) of 590kts and that with a heading of 360 degrees there is 5 degrees Right drift and a ground speed of 650kts. Swizzle the inner circle round so the little cross moves down to the 180 position and you are given wind direction of 224 degrees at 80 knots).

Another essential item I had to pick up would be those extendable pencils with the really thin lead. My normal HB pencil just wasn’t cutting it. Most of the graphs in the CAP have a really small scale but it’s important to get the numbers right so even the thickness of your lead can affect your answer.

We also started using the Jeppesen Manual that we were given way back on the first day. It contains loads of charts and maps and looks pretty cool. So far it doesn’t seem to be as complicated as it was at first glance; we’re using it in Flight Planning for finding aerodromes. Everyone recommended borrowing someone else’s to highlight the useful information which will save time looking for it in exams, it’s a really good idea. I just don’t particularly want to mark it as it looks so pristine at the moment.