Precision Flying – First Try

Take a stopwatch and a map then fly a given route as precise as you can. My father and I tried our best at a training event of the Precision Flying Association. This day taught me a lot. The first lesson was learned before even taking of.

In the morning there was freezing fog at our airport. To be ready if it opened up we taxied to the fuel station to top up. After shutting down the engine, we taxied for about two minutes, there was ice on the prop. Clear ice covered the leading edge of the blade, about 15 inches from the spinner outward. Temperature and dewpoint were about -0,-1 Celsius. I have never seen Ice build up on a plane in real life. Even though I read a lot about icing – to see it on my father’s airplane urged me to understand that nature is faster than I believed. Looking straight up there was blue sky while forward visibility was not even half a mile. If you pick up ice after two minutes of taxiing, how much ice would build up during climbout? I don’t know. But we were certain about having a cup of coffee until the fog was gone. Our departure was conducted special VFR but visibility improved so fast the tower probably switched to VFR Class Delta shortly after us. Want to read about icing?

An hour later we were in the air working our way eastbound. The Jura mountain ridge and whole Switzerland was covered in snow. After enjoying this view for a short time we  approached Birrfeld where the training would take place. The pattern there is crazy. I mean, look at this:

Airport_traffic_pattern birrfeld-pattern-26

Being used to the American standard pattern the circuit on the picture looks slightly weird to me. 😉 Note that in a standard pattern airplanes never cross their ways. Only on downwind everybody must have a sharp eye on inbound traffic. Circling to check the wind is great but if everybody has to circle…. I don’t know. Too many planes doing too many maneuvers. Anyways!

In the classroom my father and I got a quick refresher on traditional navigation. The teacher handed out a map and few pictures. On the map five waypoints were depicted and the pictures were taken anywhere en route. We determined a slow speed which would aid to have more time and to accurately know how far we flew with time (Dead Reckoning). We figured out the magnetic heading and estimated time en route of each leg. After lunch we installed some kind of GPS-Box to record our flight path. Our navigation tools, by the way, were our eyes, a watch and a compass.  Normally we have a fancy Garmin 100 (last zero intentionally missing) installed but it was at home for an update this weekend. There was no way to cheat! My father was pilot in command (PIC) and I helped to become disorientated. This was not really my job but I was fairly good at it. haha 🙂 Nevertheless, we found all waypoints and the locations of the pictures. I was surprised, as many times before, how I could fool myself when I believed I was certain about my position. My lesson learned: Even if you know where you are, don’t stop to compare the map and landmarks.

The flight was big fun. Although I learned all the navigation techniques as part of my pilot’s license I realized that Isaac was right when he told me: Your PPL is a license to learn. With this in mind I would love to fly more often with the Precision Flying Association. Maybe my father and I even attend at a training camp in April.

After the de-brief we flew back to our home base. This time my dad let me fly. It was the first time to control his Cessna on both takeoff and landing. The approach to land was really funny. As the airplane had no floats attached it felt like a racing car. It couldn’t be slowed down easily and my father repeatedly told me that I was much too high. Somehow I made it to short final and was nice and stable on the glidepath. The roundout was really nice and nose up despite the 215hp Franklin up front.

This day was eventful and stuffed with aviation. It still makes me smile. 🙂 Also I highly recommend to do something like precision flying and use it as a timebuilder towards the CPL. If you need hours, spend them learning something!


PS: I will add the GPS log to this post as soon as I get it.

PPS: There you go! We were pretty much on course! 🙂


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