Work being work and getting in the road of flying and after a short grounding due to a headcold and then an infected sinus , I was off to Wollongong for the first (real) nav ex.
As I look here at the form we used for our flight plan I can almost read the cat scrawl of revised times as I attempted to write numerals down that would be somewhat helpful for the next leg of the flight. Suffice to say that I do not shop at the Leftorium and am considering practicing using the pen in the opposite hand so I don't look like a pre-school drop out.
I was excited to be released from the boundaries of the training area but as soon as I left the area of familiarity and headed south that's when the fun began.
I'd gotten in nice and early last Thursday and sat down with the area forecast, my VTC, ERSA and whiz wheel and started populating fields in the flight plan form. People would come into the kitten and ask what I was up to that day and vice versa, and since it was my first nav, I was met with the common reply of you have fun with that. We looked over the plan and I grabbed a knee board and thought at least that will help with my first real attempt at cockpit management (yeah right). I suppose when you've done about 30 odd hours in and out of the training area, you can take it a bit for granted. You know where landmarks are, where your supposed to be and what to say on the radio without too much trouble. It was a choppers south departure (no hassle there), headed out to Ingleburn (again no real hassle there) and then head down to Appin. Oh crap none of this looks familiar, I'd also moved the flight plan on top of the map (problem no.1). Where are you and what should we be looking for? That yellow bit on the map...there should be a tower over there and I'm left of the highway...did you write your time down? No, but I could have just got the pen out, held it on the paper and while looking outside for features and trying to hold something that resembled a heading, height and speed, the cat scrawl basically could've been a number (both of us wouldn't have known any different). Can you see Wedderburn? I think it's over there, well you'd be heading in the wrong direction . Items like radio calls 5nm before a CTAF were jumbled as I kept going to say Hoxton Park (only cause I was used saying that as my only usual radio contact other than the tower at Bankstown). It was a bit frustrating more than anything else, as I expected better from myself and concentration was at a maximum.
We came over the escarpment near Wollongong and what an amazing view, I hadn't seem anything quite like it (with practice, hopefully I'll be able to enjoy a little bit more next time and take it all in). Initially we were to overfly but then we changed that and descended to make an approach, which was good but on my little YWOL sketch I hadn't put circuit directions down. Again I was noting to myself what other kind of preparations I would be including on future flights (BE PREPARED was already ringing in my ears). The approach was made and down the runway we went and peeled off while a twin made a departure. While taxying along we noticed an AW139 (rescue?) running up next to the HARS hangar. Kind of wished we could have stopped for two reasons, a) so I could grab a quick break and b) get a photo of the machine (I know nerd). We called to enter the runway again and did the checks, another call and off to climb over the rise again as we headed to Mittagong.
I'd scanned over the map early and thought I would have a better crack at the return leg. I saw features from the map to the ground and looked forward to confirm my heading. The instructor helped me out with some towers in the distance which told me I was looking ok. Past Mittagong (radio call slightly better) and heading for Picton (got to love the Hume Highway for some guidance), Wilton was coming up. And for those who don't know Wilton - drop zone, parachutes, you know those crazy people that jump out of perfectly good aeroplanes (although people have mentioned I'm crazy for flying something that bascially wants to crash!). Argh, first contact with Sydney radar, Sydney Radar, helicopter XXX, request... go ahead...um that place over there, anyone jumping, dropping, um is it active?? Must of thought who is this clown... need some practice talking to those all seeing, all knowing screen watchers me thinks.
I'd had a pretty good idea of where we were and once Picton was passed, it was back to 2RN (keeping an eye out for traffic that maybe approaching Camden and then home. On a hazy day I thought the strobe would be hard to see, but I spotted it out of the corner of my eye and once confirmed I was happy that familiarity was not far away (I think it was more luck than anything else). I was also reminded that controlled airspace lower level was not far away so a check of height was warranted. I was pretty keen on getting back to the school so my circuit was a bit tight (and probably rushed) and afterwards I thought about being too comfortable once almost back to base and reminded myself that concentration was for the WHOLE flight not just the new bits. After a chat back in the office I took a few things away with me that I will change for the next flight which will hopefully help.
Off to Warnervale next time (I think).
Until next time... good night Horn Island
Follow choppernut on his journey to CPL(H).
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