Thursday, August 17, 2006

This is what I have been waiting for

Yes, this is what all the fuss was about. On the same day that the postman was delivering A level results to anxious students, he also delivered my Private Pilot Licence.
It is the sort of milk chocolate brown (that’s the polite description) colour that I had been expecting.
In this picture you can see the PPL(A), my knee board with the log for my last flight and my Log Book.

OK, it did take the CAA 24 days to get the licence to me after I had personally delivered all the documentation to them at Gatwick. However I have got it now and can begin to forget the hassle of the last few weeks.

Tomorrow, I am planning to go (drive) to the Flying for Fun event at Kemble. If I see some interesting aircraft, I will photograph them and put the pictures in my next post.

A happy Peewit
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Sunday, August 13, 2006

Peewit versus the weather

The weather won

Today being Sunday I went to visit my mum in the morning and in the afternoon I went to see my mother in law who has just come out of hospital. At about 4pm it was time to return home and it started raining. As I drove the short journey home the rain was getting worse and I started to encounter flooding. The nearer I got to Bisley the deeper the floods were. I just about made it home and was worried about my driveway. I already knew that after heavy rain that the surface water washed down my sloping drive and if it did not drain fast enough it would go into the garages.
I quickly parked the car and dashed indoors and got my welly boots and an umbrella. I emerged outside and set up a syphon using a hosepipe. The water was almost at the level where it would flood the garage. The rain just got harder. I grabbed a large broom and tried to sweep the torrent in the roadway into the drain. I was loosing the battle and the rain kept intensifying. I was thinking, if only I had got back a bit earlier, if only Mrs Peewit wasn’t lying on a beach in Barbados and could give me a hand. Just as the flood was getting worse and I was getting soaked whilst wielding my broom, a car pulled into the road and parked nearby. The occupant got out of his car and walked over to a bedraggled Peewit and whilst he was standing their holding a bottle of wine in one hand he had the gall to ask me where number 5 was. So much for helping the needy.
My garages were now 2 inches deep in water and I decided to start bailing out water in the driveway by filling a large 2.5 gallon bucket from a smaller one used as a scoop. I was still struggling to do all this whilst holding the umbrella. I took each large full bucket into a low point in the back garden and poured it out. I must have done this over a hundred times over the next hour and at one point the water was no longer gushing into the garages. However the weather decided it was not going to be beaten and just rained even harder. I had lost the battle and after an hour and a half of unequal struggle I gave up. The garage was already flooded and there was nothing I could do to improve the situation. I went into the house, removed all my soaking wet clothing and had a hot shower. Having put clean, dry clothing on the rain eased off. Eventually my syphon drained off the flood around the garage. After another half an hour the rain started again and as soon as the flood started to build up I went and got the syphon working again. This seemed to be the trigger for an even more torrential downpour. I was annoyed having just seen a weather forecaster on the tv talking about the showers dying out. This definitely not a shower and it was not dying out. This time the flood was even worse and a level of about 4 inches above the garage floor was achieved. Because the garage floor slopes slightly, once the water has gone in it does not come out again but just remains as an enormous puddle. My job for tomorrow will be to sort the mess out.
I had been complaining about my garden being too dry but now my garage interior is too wet. I bet the hosepipe ban is still in place in the morning.

A weary Peewit
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See my last flight route with Google Earth

If you have Google Earth and want to see the track that I flew from Blackbushe to Devizes and back last Thursday then right click on the following link and choose 'Save Target As' from the menu. Then change the name of the file being saved from prw.xml to prw.kml and click on 'Save' to save the file making sure you know where you are saving it to.
Lastly locate the saved prw.kml file (you can search for it if you cannot find it) and double click it. This will launch Google Earth and fly to my route.

Here is the link

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

Dropped in the claggy by BA and the CAA

In my last post I mentioned that my wife was due to fly from Heathrow to Manchester in the morning. Well at 9:30pm that evening BA cancelled the flight due to the security problems caused by the terrorist threat. Plan B was for us to get up at 4am and for me to drive her to Manchester Airport so that she could catch her onward flight. At 04:30 we set off and I dropped her off at Terminal 2 departures at 7:45. As I had also got my dog in the car I made a couple of stops at service stations on the way back. We got home at 12:15 having done the 420 mile round trip in seven and three quarters hours.

I had been expecting my PPL licence to be delivered that day, but when I got home it was clear that no delivery had been attempted.
If you recall, I personally took all my documents to the CAA office on the 24th July. However the person who copied my passport did not certify it (mistake 1). When I found out two weeks later, I rang the CAA and explained the problem and a lady said she would sort it out and that it would be sent out within a couple of days. So when I rang them this time it was to query what had happened. It seems that nothing had been done (mistake 2). I asked the person on the phone when it would be sorted out. He said they would have to find out who was on the rota at the time when I made my visit, but he seemed not to care very much and would not give any timescales for resolving the problem other than a vague as soon as possible. If I had to describe the service desk staff at this office, the only word that comes to mind is ‘incompetent’.
To try to get back control of this situation, I sent them the original of my birth certificate. I do hope they can expedite matters now.

Yes, Friday 11th August was a long day for me.

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

“Pleasure flight” ???

Today was the day for my planned pleasure flight. If you read my previous post you will know that this was postponed from last week due to bad weather.
I had been hoping to have the ‘pooh brown number’ (my new PPL licence) for this flight. I had taken all my training documents in person to the CAA on 24th July. Last Saturday the expected recorded delivery package arrived from the CAA. Whilst it had my logbook in it, there was no licence and instead a letter saying that the copy of my passport had not been certified. This was quite annoying as the purpose of my visit in person to the CAA was to avoid this sort of problem. I had taken my passport with me and it was the CAA staff that copied it. I waited until Monday and rang the CAA to explain. The lady I spoke to apologised and said that the licence would be sent out today or tomorrow (Tuesday). Well it is now Thursday and it has still not arrived !!!!!!!!

This morning when I got up the sky was a beautiful blue and completely cloudless. My flight was booked for 10:30am. I checked the weather and there was quite a brisk 25 knot north westerley breeze at 2,500 feet and cloud was due to pile in together with rain showers. It still looked good enough to go although I would have to reduce my planned cruise altitude to 2500 from 3000 ft. I worked out that my ground speed towards Devizes would be a slow 73 knots and a leg time of 38 minutes. When I returned with the wind off my tail my ground speed would be 114 knots and the leg time was just 24 minutes.

Today was the day that the security problems at all UK airports kicked off. Great because my wife is due to fly from Heathrow to Manchester tomorrow and then from Manchester to Barbados. Much repacking of bags and cabin items was necessary and if the worst happens, I will drive her to Manchester Airport, a 7 hour round trip with a 4am start.

I set off for Blackbushe at 10am and the sky was already overcast. The A322 was slow where it joins the M3 but I made it to Blackbushe in time. My aircraft today was G-BLWV and I checked the tech log that indicated that there was plenty of fuel on board. Next I had to check the Notams as there could be new airspace restrictions with the elevated flight security situation. My flight was through uncontrolled airspace and there were no new problems on my planned route. After booking out, I checked out the aircraft and could feel the strong breeze blowing the aircraft about. Luckily the breeze was only at a slight angle off runway 25.
I had brought my ultraportable laptop with me and a bluetooth GPS unit. I was going to run this as a backup to my nav. log planning. I got it started up on the passenger seat and it showed the aircraft position on the edge of the airfield. I was using Memory Map software and it would give me a moving map display with the aircraft at the centre of the map display. I had already plotted my planned route on it, together with some avoid areas.
After the aircraft check, I started the engine, called up Blackbushe Information on the radio and got the taxi information. At 11:10 I started taxiing and after the warm up checks, I took off on runway 25 to depart to the west. Whilst climbing away from the airfield, Blackbushe Information gave me permission to call Farnborough Radar. As soon as I got to 2000 ft I gave them a call and they gave me a Squawk code, etc. I continued climbing to 2500 feet and then levelled out. The moving map display was working well and I could see that I was to the right of my intended track and so altered my heading slightly. Obviously the wind at this height was not quite as forecast. It was slow progress with a significant headwind but eventually I reached a turning point where I was going to dogleg around a glider launch site at Rivar Hill. Here they cable launch gliders and the cables can go upto 3,800 feet. I completed the dogleg and was soon overhead Pewsey with only a short time to run to Devizes. I was asked to change to Lyneham Radar on the radio and I did this. The weather was not great and I flew through some showers. Here is a picture over the aircraft nose as I approached Devizes.

TIP If you click on an image your browser will display a larger vesion of the picture.

I had chosen to fly to Devizes as I used to live there thirty years ago. I expect it has not changed much and the 6x (a Wadworth beer) is just as good at The Bear in the market square.
Here are some more pictures.

I was trying to spot the house that I lived in but could not quite pick it out.

After a couple of overhead circuits, I turned for home. I took a picture of the White Horse on the hillside just outside the town. It is quite small in the photo and you can see one of the rare places where the sun was breaking through the cloud.

After my flight I took a photo from my laptop screen that shows the route that I flew when overhead Devizes.

My return flight was much quicker and after changing back to Farnborough Radar, it was not long before I could see the airfield. I got permission to change the radio frequency to Blackbushe Information. I joined overhead from the deadside at 800ft and was soon cleared to land on runway 25. I touched down at 12:30 and was applying the brakes and shutting down at 12:33.
It was not quite the pleasure flight that I had intended but I did enjoy it. My next challenge is to try to get to fly at the same time as we are having good weather. It is proving more difficult than I expected to do this, even though it is August.

Let’s hope I get my ‘pooh brown number’ soon and that BA are back to normal in the morning.

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Friday, August 04, 2006

Sorry Caroline

Well you know I said to look at my blog at the weekend because there would be something interesting on it. I was planning to fly solo to Devizes and back on Thursday 3rd August, but didn’t.

You would have thought that booking an aircraft for a slot in the first week of August would be a sensible thing to do. After all it is the first week of the school summer holidays and the weather has been very good lately. I did my route planning and even prepared my laptop pc with some software so that it would provide a moving map display of where I was with the help of a bluetooth GPS unit. However when Thursday morning arrived it was raining and the cloud was low and covered the entire sky. So even if I could not fly to Devizes, I would be able to do circuits. No, even this was unlikely because the wind was from the north (at the worst possible angle across the runway) and was gusting above the maximum allowed for crosswind landings in a C152.
At 9:45 I rang up the air-school and cancelled my slot and booked another for a week’s time. Surely I cannot have a weather problem twice in a row in August ?

Although there has been a heatwave in England recently, I have never actually been flying whilst the weather is at its best. Maybe there is a warning here, so do not book the day off next Thursday or plan an evening BBQ.

Accrington Stanley FC have their first match back in the football league tomorrow.

From Your dad - Peewit
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