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Flying with the big jets

Flying with the big jets

International airport in the middle of the city

Visibility: unlimited
Temperature: 25°C
QNH: 1021hPa
Location: EDDH (Hamburg)
Equipment: Piper 28 (D-EITI)

The second city is a little over an hour away as the Piper flies. They have a big international airport in the middle of the city. Not all of them are easily accessible to small aircraft. But this one has a good reputation in the general aviation community. Friendly and relatively easy to navigate. In fact I have been there by air once, many years ago with my flight instructor. I am qualified to go there, I am comfortable with the radio and I have current charts. How hard can it be, really! (Sounds like whistling in the dark? Maybe a little bit.)

„Follow the Condor 757“

Big Jets
International airports are the playgrounds of the pros. They fly the big iron, they do it all the time, they do it fast, and they sound cool on the radio. That can be a bit intimidating for piston scum like myself. But I’m on a mission. I want to visit my buddy before he moves away and I want to get there with as little ground contact as possible!

The day is gorgeous. I look over my flight plan and the approach briefing one more time, then I’m ready to go.

The flight is beautiful. I enjoy being in the sky again after spending a lot of time on the ground lately. The rain last night has washed the dusty heat away. The sun is out, the temperature is pleasant, not a cloud in the sky. When I get close to my destination, I listen to the ATIS, the automated broadcast about the current weather, runway in use and other important information at major airports. Then I call the tower.

Controlled airspace
I fly under Visual Flight Rule (VFR) and I typically move through the uncontrolled airspace. I can go where I want and although it is possible (and a good idea) to check in with air traffic control, I’m under no obligation to do so.
The pros fly under Instrument Flight Rule (IFR). IFR traffic moves through controlled airspace, typically at higher altitudes. The big airports are the place where these two worlds meet. They have an area of controlled airspace around them in order to deal with the IFR traffic. When I want to enter, I ask the tower for permission and follow their instructions.

On a clear day like today, the approach is easy. The friendly controller vectors me to the correct end of the runway and tells me that I will be number two for landing after a CRJ regional jet. I report the traffic in sight and have enough time to watch him land before it is my turn. The runway is so big in all dimensions that I could probably land the little Piper sideways. When I taxi off of the runway, a follow-me car is already waiting for me. It guides me to my parking position, then the driver gets out and marshals me in with illuminated wands and a huge smile on his face. What a great welcome!

I feel like the king of the world and will probably come here again, soon!

To be continued…

Follow Me
Plane spotters at the GA apron – not here to see me

Summer Night

Summer Night

Visibility: More than 10 miles
Temperature: 20°C
Wind: 260°, 4 kts
QNH: 1019hPa
Location: EDAV
Equipment: Piper 28 (D-EITI)

Summer has finally arrived. The sky is blue, the temperatures are high and the days are long. We are approaching mid summer, the longest day.

By definition that also means the shortest night. Not the most obvious of times for night flying and yet we are on the way to the airport while others are thinking about one more for the road.

My flying friend is working on his night VFR rating as a prerequisite for IFR training. I am more than glad to share the cost and get some additional dual time at night. I have gained my night rating a while back but have not practiced since then. And night flying requires even more practice than flying during the day.

The sun is already low when we arrive at the airport. We pre-flight „Tango India“ in the dusk of the warm day. Then we go over the flight plan once more. Our route today will take us right over the Big City that never quite sleeps. Then on to the old mining town of Eisenhüttenstadt for some pattern work before we eventually turn back home.

Night flying always requires a flight plan as well as radio contact to a radar controller. They don’t want you to get lost at night.



I am flying as a passenger in the back on the first part of the trip. The ride over the city is amazing. The air is glassy smooth the visibility is unlimited and the lights below look like from out of this world. When we cross over Tegel airport, the controller is friendly and talkative, but he will not let us make a low pass.



In Eisenhüttenstadt we are one of two planes making use of the night time operation. After a quick coffee break and a nice chat, we are trading places. It is my turn to guide the Piper through the night.

I am on guard, but I also enjoy the special atmosphere of flying under the stars. The relaxing cruise part of the trip is short and before long it is time to begin our decent into Finow.

We do pattern work in the familiar traffic circuit of our home airport and yet, nothing seems familiar about the impenetrable sea of dark below us. The distance to the impossibly small string of pearls that comprises the landing lights is hard to judge.

After we have put the Piper to bed, we are making our way back to the Big City in flight level 0. We are all exhausted but also full of adrenalin and excitement from the great night.



When I arrive back home, the sun is confident about her impending victory over the dark of night already. I have a cold beer on the balcony before I go to bed for a short nap.

To be continued…

A long day of flying

A long day of flying

Visibility: More than 10 miles
Temperature: 5°C
Wind: 150°, 10kts
QNH: 1021hPa
Location: EDAV
Equipment: Piper 28 (D-EITI)

We are on the way to the airport. My flying friend and I are full of excitement. Our passenger is eying the sky with suspicion. It has been gray and drewry for days and the sun has a difficult time to break through the clouds now. Neither one of the pilots is worried though. We have the been studying the weather for days and today is going to be gorgeous!

Our schedule is tight. We are planning a nice and relaxed summer day all crambed into the few precious sun hours of this short winter morning has to offer. The trip is about flying and about scouting the destination for future reference. The pilots are looking forward to the trip – the passengers have yet to understand the extend of our craziness.

On the way there we practice old fashioned visual navigation. My flying friend has made a detailed flight plan. GPS and auto pilot stay off and we are consulting over the map and try to identify the landmarks. We reach our destination within two minutes of the flight planned time. Not too bad!

Our trip today takes us to Moritzburg Castle. The sunlit beauty holds what the view from the sky promised. We have time for a harty lunch and a strol around the grounds before we need to think about the way back. The tour through the inside of the historic place will have to wait until the summer.

Schloss Moritzburg


Schloss Moritzburg

We will turn into a pumpkin at sun set + 30 minutes. This is when the airport will close. No time to waist, he takes care of the paper work while I preflight „Tango India“.

„Tango India“ patiently waiting for us

The return trip is my leg as pilot flying. We do a radio navigation excercise. EDAK to KLF VOR, then on to the FEW VOR before we make our way home on its radial 326. We have a strong tail wind which lets our ground speed peak at 139 knots. Not bad for the little Piper!

The sun is low already and we are past enjoying the last evening rays before we touch down – right at sun set. We even would have had a few minutes to spare. But you never make a plan that includes the last drop of fuel or the last minute of daylight.

To be continued…

Almost home

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…



Visibility: about 10 miles, sunny
Temperature: 28°C
Wind: 100°, 8kts
QNH: 1019hPa
Location: southwest of Heringsdorf, 3,000 feet
Equipment: Piper 28 (D-EITI)

The weekend promises to have some of the last hot days of the summer. My flying friend and I are taking his Piper for a spin. EDAH is the destination for the day.

The sky is blue and so is the forecast. So we are a bit surprised to see a dark storm frot looming to the west when we come closer to the coast. Loks like we found the only patch of bad weather in a 500 mile radius.

Approach into EDAH
Approach into EDAH

An unmotivated rain shower makes for a nice atmosphere under the sun shades on the terrace of the airport restaurant.

War bird approaching
War bird taking off


Airplane museum at EDAH
Airplane museum at EDAH

When we are ready to leave, the weather radar shows a thin but long storm front almost completely stretching along our way home. So we decide to fly west at first and turn south as soon as we are behind the front. „Tango India“ is equipped with a storm scope. An antenna that can detect electro magnetic pulses (EMPs), their direction and intensity. These pulses are caused by lightning, so the system can put lighting strikes in the area on a map.

This is the first time that either one of us is flying close enough to a storm cell to see the system in action.  We navigate along the back side of the storm and the storm scope is lighting up. After the initial excitement of seeing the new gadget in action, we start referencing the information on the screen with what we see outside. What a great learning experience.


When we get close to the Big City, the last bit of weather is still between us and our destination. So we divert to EDBF for a cup of coffee. The sun is shining but the runway is still wet. We are told that the storm here was short but strong.

Back at EDAV later that evening we move the other airplanes out of the hangar to clear the path for „Tango India“. Her spot is in the very back. This morning, when we had to move the same planes in order to get her out, we discussed for a moment if we should just leave them outside for the day. I’m very glad we spent the couple of extra minutes to put them back into the shelter.

To be continued…

Europe on a wing strut – Part 3

Europe on a wing strut – Part 3

My flying buddy calls: „Do you remember the Europe trip we planned last year? Are you still up for it?“
Me (wondering if he can hear my smile on the phone): „Sure! When?“
Him: „Two days from now, I’ll come pick you up!“

I had planned a few days off with the family. The pilots wife roles her eyes at me when she hears about this and then gives me that smile that touches my foolish heart.

The day before the trip I go through my preparations from last year. The route has changed a bit because we only have four days to spare. This trip will be about flying and about learning new routes and seeing new countries. There will not be time for sight seeing – the view from above is all we really need anyway.

We have ambitious plans! The first day is going to take us from The Big City to Millau in southern France. On the second day we plan to cross over the Mediterranean with a lunch break on the island of Corsica and on to Florence in Italy.

For the third day we plan to cross the Alps and fly back home. Sunday will be our extra day for bad weather or nice places that invite to stay.

EDAY in the morning


I am at the airport early. I have packed light but I am sure that I will still bring things back unused. The doors of the small terminal building are open but the staff clearly does not expect anybody yet.

My ride is wheels down at 6:01 Zulu, one minute after the official opening time of the airport. We have no time to loose, there are a lot of miles in front of us. After raised eyebrows and well wishes in EDAY, we are off to EDGF, the home base of the Rocket Ship. It is on the way, makes a good fuel stop and we have a few more things to pack before the trip.

The Rocket Ship is a FlightDesign CT LSA. She is small but very capable, well equipped and she has a lot of helpful details. For example, the two luggage compartments aft of the cockpit which are big enough for our two backpacks, my headset bag, our two life vests for the Mediterranean crossing as well as two empty 20 liter fuel canisters in case we need to go to a gas station for refueling somewhere.


The goal for today is LFMC, Millau-Larzac in the south of France. We have a stop planned at Besançon, about half way. The Rocket Ship makes its way towards France. The clouds could be higher and the visibility could also be better. But there is nothing but improoving weather in the forecast and we are confident. Crossing the border is a non event. We are asked to contact a new controller on a different frequency but that is pretty much it.

The VFR maps of France look intimidating. There are a lot of restrictions. Neither one of us has been flying in France before but we have heard positive things about flying here.

The controller in charge of us is also handling some IFR traffic on the same frequency. Her English is flawless and full of routine and we only have problems understanding her when she talks about waypoints that we are not familiar with. The Jeppeson Navigation software on the trusted iPad is warning us of one restricted area after the other and the controller clears us for all of them. We only have to deviate from our course to go around the airport of Lyon.

Before we know it, it is time to plan the approach into our half way stop in Besançon. Both of us are surprised about how quickly time passes. So we decide to skip the stop and continue on to Millau. There are plenty other airports on the way in case we should need a break after all.

Passing Be

We reach the Causse du Larzac in the golden light of the mid afternoon. The scenery of the plateau is spectacular. The airport comes in sight and there is no traffic and no controller on the frequency. We state our intentions and land with a strong, warm head wind on the long runway. Both of us need a moment before we have a full grasp of the day.

We spend the evening with friends and fresh sea food on a terrace overlooking the city of Millau. In the evening sun, para gliders are pirouetting over the hills across the valley.


We use our fuel canisters for the first time to fill the Rocket Ship up. The miracle of technology lets us file the flight plan online before we take off. After departure we contact Montpellier information and ask for our flight plan to be opened. Then we enjoy the spectacular scenery and speculate whether or not the glittering on the horizon is the Mediterranean already.

Ready to cross some water

The rude awakening comes in the form of Camarque Information. Over Marseilles the friendly controller tells us in no uncertain terms that he has a problem with us. Our flight plan did not go through and we are not allowed to cross over to Corsica without one. So he tells us to find an airfield and land to file a proper plan for the trip.

Le Castellet (LFMQ)

Le Castellet is on our way and proves to be our luck. Rarely have I been treated as friendly at an airport. We get coffee, a flight plan form and all the advice we could ask for in an air conditioned lounge with view of the smart looking Global Express.

The misunderstanding is cleared up quickly. Our flight plan made it to Touluse but we were probably in the air before it had time to make its way through the system. No problem, we file a new plan and thanks to the recent training at the AZF class, yours truly masters the task in no time.

Le Castellet


From Le Castellet we are routed to the St. Tropez VOR (STP) to start our crossing of the Mediterranean. There are a number of mandatory reporting points on the route so that no small plane gets lost. We venture out onto the open waters with a bit of a weird feeling. We have both not flown over open water before.

The engine does not quit; however, the trusted iPad does! Just before passing the first of the reporting points, the Jeppeson app shows a loss of GPS signal. Fortunately, the build in Garmin also knows the points. Finding them with compass and stop watch alone would have been a challenge!



Long before we can see the island of Corsica, we see the thunderstorm that is drenching its hills. The clouds are towering high over the land mass.

The controller informs us that our destination of Corte reports rain and strong winds. We decide to try our luck anyway and see how it develops. Corte is located on the central plateau of the island and we are greeted with rain long before we are there. After some consultation with the controller, we decide on Bastia (LFKB) as alternate.


We did not plan on landing on a towered airport but the controller at Bastia is friendly and the airfield by the sea is in the sunshine. We are number two for landing behind a commuter twin and have a difficult time loosing altitude fast enough. The last mountain we cross is about 4,000 feet high, the threshold at Bastia is at 26 feet and not far away.


The service in Bastia is friendly but the staff is clearly more accustomed to airliners than to piston scum like us. Our handling agent is young, speaks Excellent english and is breathtakingly clueless in a very charming way.

I file our flight plan to Italy with him and when we are ready to go, the tower does not have it. A few moments later, our friend comes driving back out to us to retrieve the flight plan form from me. He needs it again as there has been a technical problem with the transmission. I don’t say anything but suspect the way the paper was facing in the fax machine as root cause of his ‚technical problem‘. We leave with a warm feeling for him in our hearts.



Bastia is on the eastern coast of Corsica and it does not take long before the island of Elba comes into view. The controller of Roma information does not seem all that interested in us. We both are happy when it is time to switch over to Firenze approach. The controller there is familiar with our destination aerodrome of Collina and double checks if we are, too. It will take a landing on the wrong field before we understand his concern.

On the northern border of the Firenze control zone, we cross a mountain range and then descend into a valley on approach to Aviosuperficie Collina. At the GPS coordinates from the webpage, we circle and look for the runway – but nothing. After a few minutes we see a field that looks promising. A low pass confirms our hopes, an airstrip with runway markers. So we fly a small pattern, radio our intentions and land. Italy at last!

Wrong airfield but welcome break

We are on the ground safely but it does not take long before our sneaking suspicion becomes certitude – this is not Collina. A farmer tells us that Collina is only a few miles away to the west. Hard to miss as it is right next to a racing track. So we are off again and after maybe five minutes we arrive at our destination for tonight. And we are being expected. A dry spot for the Rocket Ship is prepared and the dinner table is set. The warm welcome extends into a delicious meal and good company.


The next morning begins relaxed for us. The weather is not great but a high pressure area is coming from the west. So we are not planning on leaving before noon. Time enough for a tour of the hangar and the exchange of some pilot stories.

Tour of the hangar

After a good Italian lunch, we feel ready. We leave Tuscany for the Emilia-Romagna region. The city of Bologna is in the sun and we can cross midfield over the airport.

City of Bologna

The Alps are coming closer fast, so we start climbing while we are still over Bologna. The next controller wants us to go via the Bolzano VOR. That is actually a bit further east that we would like to be but we go with that routing for now.

Clouds over the alps

The clouds are towering high but they are clearly defined. In between them, the air is clear and the visibility is good.


We pass Bolzano to the west and go on north towards Merano on the lookout for a pass that is clear. We are high enough so that terrain is not a problem. To keep it that way, I am busy checking position, our flight level as well as the minimum safe altitude. My flying buddy is navigating around the puffy towers and looking out for a clear path.

As a team, we are safe. Alone I can see how a pilot could loose track of one or more of these factors.

The atmosphere between the clouds is very special. The sun gives the perfectly white barriers a stunning glow. My four-year-old has asked me before if one could land a plane on the clouds. I told him no but looking at them now, I am not so sure anymore.

With all of their beauty, we don’t forget for a moment how dangerous clouds can be to the untrained pilot. I did some basic training in flying after the instruments and I know how hard it is to keep the aircraft straight and level if you don’t see the horizon any more.

is there a path?

After a few circles, we realize that there is not going to be a clear path for us to sneak through. We finally turn west and see how far that high pressure area from the forecast has come. That’s okay, it was worth a try.

It’s not long before we call the Austrian controller. He is upbeat and friendly and does not seem very busy.

free of clouds

We finally meet the high pressure zone around St. Anton. As we turn north, the controller is very interested in the exact weather conditions. We can see the high pressure pushing the clouds. To the east, they are towering high over us, to the west, everything is clear. We are on our way home.

Version 2

We are flying north over a patchy layer of clouds. The controller lets us stay up here so we enjoy the sun for a bit longer. We have done it; we have crossed the Alps!

Home stretch

North of Kempten, the cloud cover ends and looking ahead feels like looking over the edge of a table. We descend further and Italy and the Alps feel like a distant dream. This region used to be my flying buddies home, he knows every tree and every runway. Our thoughts start drifting off. We did it, what a trip!

End of the cloud cover

After a bit, my focus comes back to the plane and our fuel. The search for the hole on the clouds took quite some time. We have a pretty strong head wind now and the „Time Remaining“ on the fuel computer and the „Time to Destination“ on the GPS start getting uncomfortably close to each other. So we decide for a fuel stop after all.

We get into EDGF just before it starts to rain. We move the Rocket Ship into the hangar and go to the hotel where a cold beer, a hot shower and a soft bed are waiting for us.

Close to 3,000 kilometers, more than 20 hours in the air, eight legs in four days, three countries, many smiling faces and a wealth of experience. I can’t wait for the next trip!

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…


Marginal conditions

Marginal conditions

Visibility: about 2 miles
Temperature: 19°C
Wind: 290°, 4kts
QNH: 1019hPa
Location: EDAY
Equipment: Cessna 152 (D-EMFM)

I have booked a small Cessna for this afternoon. The sky is grey, the ceiling is low. When I call the flight school around noon, they tell me to come later rather than sooner.

The airport is calm. A LSA is getting ready as I preflight my old friend „Fox Mike“. She is yellow and must have been pretty spiffy at some point. Memories of the Czech Republic and of the coast are connecting me with her.

The ceiling is very low today. But there is not a clear cloud base. The haze is just getting thicker with altitude. These are very dangerous conditions for VFR pilots. It is very easy to loose sight of the ground.

I climb out to the east and set course 080 direction EDON. The weather to the east is a bit better. After a few touch & go’s, I feel right at home with „Fox Mike“ again.

I don’t see much improvement. So I leave the pattern to the south and do some quick navigation training with the FWE VOR. Before long I have reached my way point and change my course back to EDAY.The GPS is on and I enjoy knowing it is there as a back-up. But I don’t need it.

Back at EDAY I see the runway when I am about 2 miles away. This is legal but on a day like today I would not feel comfortable flying somewhere new.

To be continued…


Night flight

Night flight

Visibility: CAVOC, more than 10k
Temperature: -9°C, clear and cold night
Wind: 070°, 7 knots
QNH: 1027hPa
Location: EDAY
Equipment: D-EKKT (Cessna 172)

It is one of the sunniest days in weeks and while everyone else enjoys the sunshine, I anticipate sun set.

Dusk is turning the clear sky to shades of dark blue when I arrive at the airport. I have double checked the batteries of my pilot flash light, I will need it tonight. The office of the flight school is packed. Pilots are standing around in groups, chatting, laughing. It’s like a cocktail party but without the booze.

Night VFR is a separate endorsement to the private pilots license in Germany. The airport has longer hours for night training once a month. I will have my second or third lesson tonight.

The apron is illuminated by flood lights and I don’t really need my flash light for the preflight check. But I’ll be damned if I don’t use it tonight! A student pilot asks if he can come for the ride. Of course he is welcome.

Night at EDAY


On my first night flight, the full moon was reflected by the full cover of snow. Easy conditions for starters. Today there is neither moon nor snow – but stars.

The plan for tonight is a trip north to the Friedland VOR (FLD), close to the coast. The tower opens our flight plan and we are off into the night. The air is cold and glassy smooth. The large Lycoming takes big, hungry bites out of it and we climb fast despite three people and a big load of fuel.

The radar frequency is busy with coordinating airliners for evening flights into the two major airports. They don’t have much patience for us and seem glad when they can hand us off. The new frequency is almost silent and the controller is chatty. The lights on the ground are getting fewer and further apart as we are leaving the perimeter of the Big City. And all of a sudden I realize that the black void under the stars on the horizon must be the Baltic Sea. Magic.

“Kilo Sierra” is a lady with a lot of experience under her wings and not a lot of upgrades since she left the factory. She is kept up very well but her condition is pretty original. So I know exactly how a pre-GPS student in the 70s felt. The illumination on the control panel is pretty minimal. Some of the instruments have dim lights. Others – like the artificial horizon – have no illumination of their own. There is a small, adjustable map light with a red bulb close to my head. I use that for the instrument panel and after a period of adjustment, it works surprisingly well. I keep my flash light on the seat. It makes me feel better but I only use it once or twice.

Night VFR
Night VFR


On the way back we fly towards the lights of the Big City. A different kind of magic. Suddenly we encounter light turbulence and the lights disappear. We are flying into a cloud that I did not see in the dark. I was trained to focus on the artificial horizon when I loose visual contact to the ground. It is quite amazing how difficult it is to keep the airplane straight and level once you don’t see the ground any more. I am grateful for the training with the IFR cap I have had.

Back at the home base, the pattern is still busy. It is both important and difficult for a novice to build a mental picture of the positions of everybody in the pattern. I will need a bit more time for the night VFR rating and a lot more until I feel comfortable flying at night. But I’m very much looking forward to the process!

To be continued…

Apron at night
Apron at night


(originally posted on April 18, 2014 by tilbo at aloft.blog.com/night-flight/)

Navigation training

Navigation training

Winter is time for training. With low visibility and unpredictable weather, long trips in VFR are uncertain business. Staying on the ground is not an option, staying close to the airport is a compromise. I’m using the occasion for some navigation training. My plan today is a simple triangle to a near by VOR and back.

The air is cold and the plane is light. “Kilo Sierra” is eager to get of the ground.

The first leg is easy. I have dialed in the VORs frequency in the navigation radio. On the “Omni Bearing Indicator” (OBI), I turn the dial until the indicator needle moves into the center at around 140°. That is the course to the VOR.

03 Anflugkarte

The way is not very far and after about 15 minutes I am near the VOR. Directly over it, there is no reception. The NAV flag on the instrument comes up to indicate bad reception, so I know that I have reached the waypoint.

Now comes the second part. I turn the OBI to my new course, bank “Kilo Sierra” to the left and watch the directional giro turn slowly. The “to” flag on the OBI switches over to “from” and I am on my way. On this leg I don’t have a physical way point. I will request my bearing from the airport to determin the turning point.

I’m flying a triangle. From the airport I flew south-east to the VOR. From the VOR I’m flying north-east to my next way point. And from there I am planning to fly south-west, heading 230° for approach into runway 23. So my next turning point will be when my bearing to the airport is 230° (or a bit before as the airpane needs time to turn).

Todays flight is a training mission. I know the area and I have a pretty good idea of where I am. After the calculated time I see the town that is close to the mark on my map for the turning point. I start calling the airport “Delta Kilo Sierra, requesting QDM”.

“QDM” means the the magnetic heading from the aircraft to the airport. There are many “Q-codes”. Their origin is marine morse code, when brevity was key. The most common one for aviation is “QNH” which is the local atmospheric pressure calculated to mean sea level.

“270″ is the somewhat expected answer from the tower. I am 40° away from my desired course. After a few moments I ask again. “262″ is the instant reply. The radio operator at the airport has a large display for “QDM” and its counter part “QDR”, the magnetic heading from the station. With every transmission from an aircraft, the display lights up and shows the direction the aircraft is in. A very helpful tool for the small airport which does not have radar vectoring.

I am close to the airport so the degrees go fast. I decide to start my turn onto the desired course of 230°. When I am on course, I ask again for the “QDM” to confirm the heading. “226″, almost perfect.

Back on the ground I taxi to the apron and park “Kilo Sierra” next to another Cessna. An instructor I know is near by, his student is doing the pre flight. He smiles at me “I was wondering who it was requesting ‘QDM’ on a clear day like today”. I smile back “It was hard work trying not to see the airport from where I was”. The instructor looks at his student “Beautiful day for some navigation practice, don’t you think?”

To be continued…


(originally posted on March 13, 2014 by tilbo at aloft.blog.com/navigation-training/)