Browsed by
Schlagwort: Radio Navigation

Over the river and trough the wood

Over the river and trough the wood

I am back at the office building in the woods behind the airport. Easily one of the more odd location my flying has taken me to.

I have been here before. The last time I was excited and lost. This time I know what to expect. Like in the air, preparation is everything.

The local branch of the federal agency for telecommunication is holding the tests for the radio licenses. I was here a while ago to get „BZF“, the radio license required for private pilots. Recently I took a training class for the professional radio license. It’s a requirement for instrument flying. The „Allgemeines Sprechfunkzeugnis für den Flugfunkdienst“ is shortened to „AZF“. I know for a fact that their tests are better than their abilities to do acronyms.

The test begins with a written part. 40 multiple choice questions in 30 minutes. I have 37 correct answers, the worst result of the four pilots taking the test. Jan Brill once wrote in an article about this kind of test that every correct answer more than the minimum was a waste of time.

After the first part, our group has time to prepare for the practical test. We each get a „trip kit“ with departure and arrival charts as well as enroute maps and weather information. We fill in our flight plan forms and use the rest of the time to get familiar with the charts.

Delta Kilo Sierra enter holding

Time to „fly“. We each get to choose our call signs and aircraft type. In the preparation course it was recommended to us to take a call sign that we know, so that we would recognize it without thinking.
The first prospect starts his initial exchange with the controller. He gets his start-up clearance, then it’s the next pilots turn.

The examiner is an experienced air traffic controller. He is calm and collected, demanding but fair. Each of us has some little specialty in the clearance. Mine is „patches of ice“ on the taxi way.

During my enroute part, I arrive at my navigation point without further clearance. I don’t really know what to do so I announce entering the standard holding. In the de-briefing the controller asks me about this. He claims to have given me the clearance. But I don’t have it on my sheet and I’ll be damned if he did.

Go around

The last task of the day is the missed approach. My runway is blocked and I have to go around. There is a change of course given in the missed approach procedure and I almost did not catch that when the controller asks me for altitude and heading.

I don’t actually get to land. My „flight“ ends with the missed approach and the controller is happy with the group. We all passed and are ready for new adventures!

To be continued…



„Kennedy Tower, Delta Echo Kilo Kilo Sierra, good morning. Established on the I-L-S runway two-two right“

Did I cross the atlantic ocean in my old training ship „Kilo Sierra“ in order to do an instrument approach in to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York city? I may wish – but no.

I’m sitting at a desk at a flight school in Kyritz training for my next radio license. So far I have the regular radio license for private pilots. The next step will be the so called „AZF“ – a pre requisite for commercial pilots and for the instrument rating.

The instrument rating is something that has been tickling me for a long time. The radio license gives me a pretty good glimpse into the theory of instrument procedures and navigation. And who knows…

„Delta Kilo Sierra, you are number 2 behind a heavy Boeing 747, caution wake turbulence, cleared to land runway two-two right“

To be continued…




I bought a text book in order to prepare for the CVFR rating. I have always loved good text books. I know, that’s a bit weird, but I like to follow a well organized stream of thoughts on a specific topic.

CVFR is a very specific topic. Controlled Visual Flight Rule is a part of the qualifications of a private pilot. The rating will enable me to fly in controlled airspace and with guidance by ATC.

The big thing about CVFR however, is learning to make better use of the instruments and to use radio navigation.

VOR stations are the back bone of radio navigation. VOR is short for “VHF omnidirectional radio range”. The idea is very close to the idea of a light house. The VOR indicator in the cockpit shows me the bearing to the VOR station.

The VOR stations are marked on my aviation map. If I know That my relative bearing to the station is 090, I know that it is at 90° to the right. So I know that if I draw a line at 90° from the staion, my position would be somewhere on this line (called a radial, by the way).

This information alone is enough to get a pretty good idea about my position if combined with other VFR navigation skills (“this looks like the lake on the map”). At night or above the clouds however, I would need a second VOR station in order to do a triangulation. If I know that I am on radial 90° of station A and radial 200° of station B, I can draw two lines on my map and the point at which they meet is going to be my position.

Still with me? Great!

I have been taught to use the VOR from my first lesson for the private pilot on. My instructor knew that I was going to go for the CVFR rating eventually.

Today he means it. The flight preparation today is longer than usual. We have a very detailed flight plan. Up to the north and climbing up into the controlled air space over the city. Then a flight from the VOR in Löwenberg, via Tegel Airport to the VOR in Fürstenwalte. North to south over the big city.

I call ATC after take-off and anounce our big plan. After a bit they call back with bad news. The weather is bad, the airspace is full and they don’t need a green horn who needs extra attention. No clearance for me today.

Plan B is to clear the controlled airspace to the north and then climb to 7.500 feet and do our drills there. The day is rainy and other small aircraft ask for advice and divert right and left. My instructor is not impressed by a bit of rain on the screen and before long we are above the grey clouds. I close the vent as the stream of outside air is getting quite cold. The instructor hands me the IFR cap “Put this on”.

An IFR cap is a plastic visor that blocks the view to the outside. After I put it on, I can only see the instruments. What a difference!

Steady as she goes

The first task at hand is to hold course and altitude. The air up here is calm but I still need a lot of concentration for the task. After a bit, the instructor tells me to start going right and left, 10 degrees from the course. After this works, he pulls the flaps lever. Kilo Sierra slows down because of the added drag and climbs at the same time because of the increase in lift. I counter the movement and fight to keep the altitude.

Radio Navigation

The instructor seems to believe that I will not fall out of the sky. So we start with navigation. He tells me to fly to the Fürstenwalde VOR station. We had set the frequency before, so all I have to do now is turn the bearing indicator of the VOR receiver until the course deviation indicator is in the middle and the direction flag shows “To”.

The bearing to the station is 179, so I turn right onto the new course. After a few minutes, the instructor tells me to sink. We go down to 5.500 feet, 3.500 feet, then 2.000 feet. Finally I contact Strausberg and ask for QDM. That is the magnetic heading to the station. The controller on the tower can determine my relative bearing to him.

The heading to the airport is 250. So I turn right until I have 250 locked and ask again. 260 now. The runway is 270, so we are getting very close. The instructor tells me to sink to 1.000 feet and take off the cap. The runway is directly in front of me, I am on long final – wow!

After we are back on the ground and done with the de-briefing, I walk to the train station. There is a light drizzle and I enjoy the rain on my face. My head is pounding from the concentration, I’m exhausted but I feel great nontheless.

To be continued…


(originally posted on October 7, 2012 by tilbo at

Flight Radiotelephone Operator’s Certificate

Flight Radiotelephone Operator’s Certificate

Visibility: special VFR
Temperature: 9°C
Location: deep in the woods behind the airport

I am at the Federal Network Agency for Electricity, Gas, Telecommunications, Post and Railway today (this is the actual title, I looked it up!). The building is in the woods on the far side behind the cities’ airport. There is a lake here, a few military installations and the “FNAEGTPR”.

Today I am being tested for my radio license. We are a group of seven in the waiting room. One person is from my flight school as well. We catch up while we are waiting.

The test starts with theory. 100 multiple choice questions in 60 minutes. I get 95 points, everybody in the group is above 90.

For the practical test, we have an air traffic controller here. Everybody gets a map of a different airport. We can choose our own call sign and our destination. I am getting the international version of the radio certificate. So I do the departure in English. Everybody else sticks with German.

I have been training for today both at my flight school and online. I feel well prepared but I have also heard a lot of stories about traps build into the test by the controllers.

Either this is all exaggerated or I have a darling of a controller. He speaks slowly and clearly, the departure routes are demanding but not cruel. He asks questions to see if we are up to speed but no traps.

For the approach we get new airports. We have a minute to find approach routes and frequencies and then we go on. All goes well, we are all routed into the approach pattern of our respective airports when my neighbor loses his orientation.

His virtual Cessna is approaching Runway 25, so the runway heading is 250 degrees. He is on the base leg, one 90 degree left turn away from the runway. So his heading right now is 340 degrees.

The controller asks for his current heading and he says 160 which would be the opposite heading. He is turned around in his head and because of the stress of the exam, he does not manage to snap out of it.

The controller asks him again and then a third time. Then he asks him to perform a go-around maneuver and fly the approach again. The poor pilot checks his map, repeats the calculation of headings on his scrap paper and sticks with 160 degrees. He will have to be back in two weeks time and try again.

After landing we get our licenses and the others go home. I have to stick around a bit longer for the language proficiency test. It is part of the international license in order to make sure that I can say more than just the standard phrases in English. I listen to different tapes and answer questions. Then the controller interviews me – more of a chat, really.

On my way back to civilization through the woods I hear the deep rumble of a starting airliner behind the trees. I am one step closer to the private pilots license.

To be continued…


(originally posted on March 2, 2012 by tilbo at



Visibility: undetermined
Temperature: 19°C
QNH: 1013hPa
Location: subway
Equipment: the mighty iPhone

I am listening to American 142 heavy being cleared for take-off from runway 31 right by New York departure control. A Boeing 777-200 from JFK to London Heathrow. I understand about every other word of the fast exchange of information, carried out by trained professionals with a lot of routine on a less than clear connection.

The voices in my head are thousands of miles and half a dozen time zones away and are brought to me by on the mighty iPhone. LiveATC is a free service that lets you listen in on ATC, the Air Traffic Control.


I am working on my radio license at the moment. Every pilot has to have one of several levels of radio licenses in order to be able to participate in the elaborate system of communication in the air. With my sports pilots license I only had a small section of the theory test to cover radio communication. With this limited radio license I can not fly into the controlled airspace of larger airports.

Now I have to get the next license because flying in controlled airspace is part of the requirements for the private pilots license I am working on.

The trick of the efficient radio communication is standardization. There is only a limited number of things I can communicate to ATC. For this I have to use standardized phrases in a standardized order. If everybody knows what can be said, it is much easier to understand what is being said. This makes possible the rapid exchange of information despite interferences on the radio.

For a low time student, this means practice, practice, practice…

To be continued…


(originally posted on February 20, 2012 by tilbo at

roger, Roger!

roger, Roger!

Just back form a morning of radio training. My head hurts from reading back winds and headings and from avoiding traps like not requesting clearances to cross over virtual runways.

This is gonna be fun when combined with some flying!

To be continued…


(originally posted on November 2, 2011 by tilbo at