04 February 2011

CPL X Countries

I'd been told by many different people that CPL cross country hour building was to be the most enjoyable part of my flight training, and so far, it definitely has been.

To get the 30 hours required for the CPL license, I had to do a few flights with my instructor on various pre set routes, practicing EFATO's, FLWOP, diversions and lost procedures along the way.

Most of the time however, I got to take up mates or other AFS students and go exploring around the country, visiting distant aerodromes for overpriced cafe snacks! Lots of flying in long straight lines, rather than continually busting out max rates in the training area, was also lots of fun, getting to see the spectacular landscape scenery New Zealand has to offer.

The pre flight planning stepped up a notch from PPL days, with the map drawing, distance/headings/wind/time/fuel burn off plan, the pre-flighting and fueling of the plane, as well as a new booklet with center of gravity and performance calculations for the most challenging airport on the route- all expected to be completed within one to one and a half hours before take off!

Diversions and Lost Procedures were also new additions since PPL crossies..

For Diversions, the instructor will 'surprise' you enroute between two planned aerodromes, saying he wants to go somewhere else instead. I'd then have to pull out my giant folded up VNC map, ruler and compass- draw a line from my estimated current position to the new aerodrome, calculate a new heading, distance and estimated time of arrival, and then repeat the whole procedure from the diverted aerodrome back to an aerodrome from your original route! This is all whilst flying the aircraft, making sure you are not busting controlled airspace, or if transiting to/from controlled airspace, radioing an air traffic controller and following their instructions. Intense multitasking!

Lost Procedures were hard work too- the instructor usually has to 'simulate' getting lost in bad weather by taking the controls, telling you to close your eyes, then fly around in different directions off track for 5 - 10 minutes, before saying 'Right- open your eyes and carry out lost procedures'... and this is what I had to do:
  1. Align the Directional Indicator with the Compass
  2. Turn back onto my last known heading
  3. Bug the reciprocal of that heading and make a rate 1 turn 180°, looking outside for noticeable terrain*
  4. Bug the original heading again, and continue another rate 1 turn to it, continuing to look for noticeable terrain
  5. Read 'Ground -to-map' and establish an area of certainty of your current position
  6. Mark that position and carry out a diversion
*On a fine day, this was a pointless exercise as Mt Ruapehu is usually viable from everywhere in the central North Island and you can easily identify your position to this!

It would take me forever and a day to input all cross country tracks I've done into google maps like I did for my PPL blog update, so I've just drawn them on this map above. Click on it to see a larger version.

However, because I keep a backup logbook in a Excel spreadsheet, I can easily copy and paste all the CPL cross country flights I've done into this post. Each had to be a minimum of 200 nautical miles, with at least 2 landings at aerodromes more than 25 nautical miles away from Ardmore. An underlined airport code means that I made a landing there, otherwise I just flew overhead or made a missed approach, with the exception of AR where I began and ended every flight:

That's a total of 4118 miles flown, and 31 different airfields visited! The codes above are abbreviations of the full ICAO code, that usually have 'NZ' appended in front of the two identifying letters. For example, Ardmore is NZAR. The rest are listed below:

Most of these flights were on lovely calm days, there's nothing like cruising around the countryside and being under a big blue sky with light winds and few clouds, cruising high enough to see both the Tasman and Pacific coasts.. however, my instructor was pretty tough on me, and got me to come out to Ardy many times at 7 in the morning to plan a flight, when I knew the weather was well below average, just so I could practice my flight planning skills.

We also went up dual a few times when the conditions were barley legal- to fly VFR below 3000 feet, you need to remain clear of cloud and in sight of the surface with 5km vis. I remember making a full stop at Te Kuiti, thinking the rain showers south towards Tauramanui were much less than 5km away, only to be shown on a map that they weren't and we were to continue. We did, and my instructor ended up having to take over, put us in the poor vis config and navigate through the mountainous terrain to Taupo. All I could see ahead were clouds, and out each side window, forested hillsides, with a small creek running along the valley floor... There was a long tense silence in the cockpit, but all of a sudden, we popped out into the sun on the shores of Lake Taupo and everything continued as normal.

I've also visited a few other aerodromes as a passenger/navigator for other students. Most of the 50 odd photos in the slideshow below were taken from the right hand seat, otherwise, I got my own passenger to snap any interesting pics on my own camera whilst I was PiC.

The day of my CPL Cross Country Flight Test, I was told to plan AR-HN-TO-RO-TH-AR for my route, but once airborne, just south of the Bombay Hills, I was diverted to Matamata, then continued on TO-RO-TH-AR. However, with a strong North West headwind that day, our groundspeed between Rotorua and Thames was just shocking, so the instructor told me to just head back to Ardmore direct to save time.

I bungled a glide approach into Matamata, and the instructor told me to go around and demo'ed one for me. At this point I thought I'd failed the test, however he told me to continue on, and I made my way to Tokoroa. I had to go around again there too, although my decision this time, due to a strong crosswind- but made it down second time. We popped over to Rotorua, the controlled aerodrome for the leg- in and out no worries. 

Back on the Hauraki Plains near MA again, the instructor gave me a FLWOP, and there were plenty of nice paddocks to choose from. Climbing out from that, I was given an EFATO, again, plenty of options and I passed ok! Big relief!

Another part of the CPL cross country syllabus is completing a 300 nautical mile flight with landings at three separate airports. Most students go up to Cape Reinga or down to Gizzy and Napier for the day, however, I was fortunate enough to be part of a small group of students that got to fly down to the South Island. I've got so many photos, videos and stories from that trip that I'll have to put it into a new post.  

I easily clocked up my 300 miles on my flight from Nelson down to Queenstown, full stopping at Christchuch. Two international airports on one day, it was wicked! But yeah, I'll tell ya all about that on another day. Cheers for reading!

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