Saturday, 14 April 2012

Grounded on an Olympic scale

Ickworth ....down to earth

Yesterday Lizzie and I went to look around Ickworth house, a visit inspired by my flight around it with Steve Wison. I loved the gardens and the sheep, but I do have to say that the view of the house from the air was a heck of a lot more impressive than the house itself, once you went inside it.

Shooting light aircraft down

No mention of what will happen if you fail to turn away from London. And the control zone comes up as far as north of Colchester!

Interesting that they don't seem to intend calling the pilot up on the radio (at times like this, maybe they will reconsider the decision not to have an en-route frequency in this country, as they do in Canada!).

(you can only circuit your own airfield within the zone if you have a transponder and contact ATC for permission before and after flying! Who the hell has a transponder? ...and that goes for gliders too - what the hell does a transponder weigh?!)

If they start shooting light aircraft down over Colchester do you think that the general public will stand for it?

This brings out the belligerent in me

Thursday, 12 April 2012

pilot to pilot comms

I have been thinking about the efficiency...or inefficiency...of communications in the air. I don't think I am alone in avoiding talking to air traffic control, etc.....deliberately flying the long way round to avoid having to do the tricky exchange with controllers. (It is a confidence barrier I need to get through, I know)

If I want to let a car out on the road, I flash my lights. He knows I have seen him and will slow down to let him out. Imagine the insanity if I had to call Road Traffic Control, tell them where I am, what car I am driving, what its registration is and where I am going; and Road Traffic Control then calling the other car to let him know that I am on the same road and to watch out for me.

We aren't supposed to talk to each other, even when we can see each other and Controllers can't. It'd be great, it seems to me, if there could be a universal channel with a limited range, so that if you talked on it, only someone within relatively close proximity to you could receive you. It would be similar to using the prefix "Traffic" when making a call when a ground radio isn't manned, allowing others to know your intentions.

I don't know anyone in microlighting who changes frequency from airfield to airfield as they move from one area to the next, each time alerting controllers to the change. It would strike non-pilots as absurd that at any one time there could be numerous aeroplanes in the same cubic mile, all on different frequencies....often unable to raise anyone on the ground, and each completely unable to communicate with others in the sky, except by flying in circles and flapping their wings.

Yes, arguably, it could lead to confusion if pilots were to use their own discretion in communicating, but I'd rather have too much info than no way of alerting other aeroplanes to my presence and intentions... particularly in the open sky outside controlled airspace.

70 today

A quick calculation shows I have now flown 70 hours solo!

Clucking Bell!

Last night, with all kit checked and packed, and all set for a morning's flying, I checked the NOTAMs and to my disgust found that on the first day this month when I was to be free and the weather looked favourable, Wattisham had fast jet practice from surface to 9,000' out to a radius of 5nm, which would be too close for comfort 9nm out in the panhandle.

Then I saw that it started at 9a.m., so I decided to fly early.

I was up at 5.30 this morning and at the airfield soon after 7. I flew for an hour. Visibility was not great; cloud was low and it rained. But it was just wonderful to be flying again, after a month.

A flying friend has asked me why I worried about the NOTAM, given that all the activity would have been for a few short spells, and only within the MATZ anyway. But I tend to feel that jets cover a heck of a lot of distance in very little time and I don't know how restricted pilots feel by the imaginary boundaries around airfields. Certainly, at Rougham Tornadoes bust straight through the circuit without warning, and the Red Arrows came straight through the Great Oakley circuit without calling up first, when I was taxying last year. And, because I am afraid of calling ATC, I didn't want to call them to let them know I was nearby, not least of all because when I was monitoring the radio, reception was not brilliant, so that an ordinaily tricky call could have been made a lot harder.