It is time! You have completed your solo GF Hours, you had a good dual check with a Grade II Instructor, you are nailing all your landings, you know the area and your radio work is “tip-top” with your introductory flight into your first controlled airspace next door. Now it is time to get you to some new areas beyond Delta 69 and further up past Voëlvlei Dam. This is it, this is what it is all about, flying from A to B. Here are a few simple tips that will help you have a good first Dual Short Navigational flight with your instructor.
Tip #1: Try Early Morning Navigation.
The airspaces are a little bit more quiet, it will not be so bumpy in the air and the scenery is somehow just more spectacular. If you are departing early, make sure your aircraft is filled up the night before. The winds that you have calculated will also be more stable and adjustments for accuracy will not be a big deal. At noon, the winds are more volatile than in the morning and the headings and speeds you have worked on may be needing a large correction. Also, have a good meal and have water and a snack with you on-board.
Tip #2: Be Organized.
Don’t have paperwork and maps lying around in the aircraft. The last thing you want to do when flying “map-to-ground” is to have to reach for your whiz wheel that fell and disappeared under your seat. Your pre-flight log contains a lot of info, you do not need all of that for keeping an accurate in-flight log. So transfer the pre-flight planning info to your In-Flight Log. Have a big enough area to write in where you don’t have to zone in so much to squeeze info into a small block. You don’t want to be staring down at your knee-board for more than 4-5 seconds at a time. On your first recording of time and endurance, you will soon realize that the aircraft is drifting away from heading and you might even be descending or climbing. Let’s avoid a spiral dive recovery at all cost!
Tip #3: Clouds? Don’t Panic.
You can not see through all the clouds to see the coverage. Looking from the side it may look like Seven Oktas, but have a look at the shadows on the ground… it’s still less than Four Oktas. If they are in your way, simply request a lower flight level or broadcast that you are descending to a new altitude. If that prevents you from completing the route, you might have to divert and make a plan to return home. When you have to turn around, look at the six o’clock position on the DI, this is the heading you need. Do not guess or ‘eyeball’ it. Do not panic and have a look around at the landmarks around you and you’ll soon find your way home. Your instructor will show you numerous other techniques to find your way.
Tip #4: Stay ahead with the plan
Do your FREDAS every 15-20 minutes, but also before each way-point. Make sure the DI is properly aligned. You’ll see your next way-point in the distance, so you are not relying on the DI as much. Make sure it is still aligned when you have the wings level before you reach the “set-heading-point”. When you do “A” for Altimeter, make a mental note of what level you’ll be climbing or descending to for the next leg. Do not wait until you are at the way-point to read it off your plan. Also, have the standby frequency set-up. You don’t want to be turning dials while turning the aircraft. It’s all about reducing work-load during critical stages of the navigation.
Tip #5: Ensure you see it all.
On your first Dual Navigation route, your instructor will ensure that you are on the correct route and passing all the way-points. It’s important to have a look at the surrounds for the smaller, harder to see way-points, like Kenilworth Racecourse to the West of FACT. A lot of things are happening and you will be easily distracted, but try to soak it all in and record what it looks like exactly. This route is to be flown solo soon, so you don’t want to be looking for something that could have easily been found.
Tip #6: Get yourself orientated.
Flying to FACT or any other new aerodrome can be overwhelming at first as we are only using FASH, FAFK and Diemerskraal for most of your flying to this point in your training. In your FACT intro, you probably joined on a left DW for 19 or a right DW for 01 at FACT, now that you are flying inbound from the west, you’ll be on the other side. So, make sure you see the whole picture in your head and on the airport plate so that you are aware what side is the down-wind and base. It sounds like a very basic thing, but in the air things happen quickly and there may be a startle effect that could have been avoided. Again, it’s all about staying ahead of the plan.
Tip #7: Enjoy!
Did you know that less than 0.1% of the world’s population are able to fly an aircraft? And the number is even further reduced for active private pilots. And to reduce that number even more by a large margin, very few people get the opportunity to fly next to Table Mountain or around the dramatic beauty only to be found in the Western Cape. So prepare for your Navigational flight as much as you can, and it will be easier to soak in the breathtaking scenery around you. I would go as far as to say that 80% of a successful Navigation is done on the ground.
Thank you for your time and see you next time,
Written by Alwyn Vorster,
SFC Flight Instructor