One of the big flying tests you do towards the end of your NPPL training is your Qualifying Cross Country flight, a 100km solo that includes landing away at two other airfields. One of our members, Stan Shires, completed his on Bank Holiday Monday and today he shares his experiences of this milestone in his flying career.
Last Sunday I took my big penultimate step in my quest to gain my flying license. It was time for my Cross Country test. I had planned it all out in my head and had chosen the first leg to be from MotorGlide’s new base at Long Marston to Enstone. I chose Enstone as it has a lovely long runway, I did my first solo there and knew the airfield and circuit well as I had my first few lessons there. The second leg was going to be from Enstone to Shobdon. Its runway was aligned with Enstone so if the wind was right I was all sorted. I had not landed there myself but I had flown in with my dad.
I awoke early thinking about the flight and started working on my plog, checking the weather and for NOTAMs. All was going well until Lee sent me a text saying the wind was in the wrong direction so it was time to through my plans out and pick two new airfields. I could feel my tension rising as I started from scratch again and tried to get my head around visiting two new airfields.
This was going to be a day of firsts:
- Flying away from Home for the first time alone
- Making a PPR call
- Speaking to London info
- Landing at new airfields I had never been to before
With advice from Lee I chose Halfpenny Green near Wolverhampton for the first leg. Then it was a long leg, into wind, down to Kemble. Then back home. I planned the route again and got myself all set. Wilhelm was full to the brim and we were ready to go. However before I could start up I had to make my PPR call to Halfpenny Green to tell them I was on my way. Isn’t it funny how making a phone call about something new requires a bit of thought. I rang them up, passed my details and answered their questions. I made a point of telling everyone that I was a student pilot, which seems to make people more understanding. Even just knowing the runway in use and the direction of the circuit calmed my nerves a bit as I made a note.
The flight to Halfpenny Green passed without note. I changed frequency and started listening to the traffic, which confirmed the info I had from my PPR call was still valid. After a while I made my call, told them I was a student, used the radio script in Wilhelm in an attempt to sound professional. Standard overhead join, call downwind, call final and I was down. The tower then advised me on where to taxi and I parked up.
As I walked to the public area part of me was thinking, “Blimey I am a pilot!” Halfpenny Green is an old World War 2 airfield. Maybe I should visit as many as I can as a nice little personal goal with my flying? Anyway in the tower I gave the two guys there my form to sign and paid my landing fee. While I was there the Air Ambulance flew past and landed, which added to the occasion.
Time was pressing and I had a long leg down to Kemble and it was all into the wind. I phoned Kemble and the lady who took my details was very encouraging to this student pilot but told me not to hang about as they closed at 5.
After a while in the air I thanked Halfpenny Green and changed frequency to London info. Like the first PPR call speaking to London info got my heart racing a tad. I listened for a few minutes before finally calling them up. I thought I did OK but they then asked me for my current location. Oops I forgot to say I was over Worcester. They were fine and very unthreatening to the student pilot. I needn’t have worried. Squawk was set. As I listened to the other pilots asking for basic service I noticed with some reassurance that I was not the only one who left an item or two out of my information.
After an hour into wind I spotted Kemble and all was quiet. I joined downwind and made all my calls. The runway is massive, which made the landing easy to sort out but meant a long taxi. Up in the tower I met the lady who had been so nice on the PPR call. I would have liked to have enjoyed the stop more but she pointed out it was 16:47 and they close at 17:00.
After a quick toilet stop to make sure I was comfortable I was quickly back on the radio and ready to taxi. By the time of my power checks Kemble came on the radio, passed their final info and signed off. So there I was all alone with my own airfield. Time to get going and head back to Long Marston.
Back at Long Marston I must have been more tired than I thought with all the concentration of take-offs, landings and radio work. I made a pig’s ear of my first approach and went around for another go. This time I was on the numbers and taxied back towards the clubhouse. Rachel & Lee were waiting for me and Rachel even took some pictures so I have some nice shots of me to go with the ones I took with my iPhone.
So my day of firsts went well and I had passed my Cross Country without incident. 2.1 hours of solo time to go in my logbook plus two new airfields too. Now I just need a couple more hours solo then it is time for my General Skills Test with Matt Lane. So with a bit of luck and some decent weather I will have my NPPL-SLMG very soon.