After the disappointment of not flying yesterday, we were scheduled for an early start today, for a ground briefing in Navigation.† Mike was back from his trip to Arizona, so we had an 8 AM start in ground school, for a 2 hr briefing on how to draw up a Navigation Log. The exercise we did was for a flight between Ormond Beach, and Palatka, which is a town about 40 miles North West of Ormond. We would fly the route later in the day. Jens, Andreas and I attended this briefing; we are all at the same stage of our training, so tend to do all the exercises together. So that we could follow the navigation exercise in the air, Mike suggested that while one of us was flying, it would make sense for one of the others to back-seat, so we could observe the lesson, without having to fly the plane. As always, this proved very useful, as it also gave us a couple of chances to pick out the VFRís (Visual Reference Points) along the way.
After the briefing, I did an hour revision, before I sat the Flight Performance and Planning exam that I had hoped to do yesterday. The format of this, is that you are sat in a room, without any notes, calculator, phone etc. the only thing you can take into the exam room is a pen, and the dreaded whizz-wheel (circular slide-rule). This last item takes a bit of getting used to, but is actually very helpful in converting from one unit to another (feet to meters etc.). One particular area of this subject I had difficulty with is Pressure and Density Altitude calculations; I just couldnít seem to understand the logic. When my exam was cancelled yesterday, I asked Jacob, one of the Instructors, if he could help me, and he very kindly took me to one of the classrooms, and gave ne about 30 minutes one-to-one tuition, which is just as well, as one of those questions came up in the examination. As I had previously done in the exams I took in England before coming out here, I did a trick passed on to me by one of the guys on the PPRune Forum (a pilotís forum on the web). He suggested that I write the answers to the questions on a spare piece of paper, fold the paper in half, then go through and answer them again. You then fold out the paper, and if you have matching answers to a question, you can be reasonably confident in your answer; where there are discrepancies, you can spend more time on those questions, deciding which answer you want to go with. At the end of this exercise, you then fill in the real answer sheet. I found this tip very useful in my previous exams, and more than once it saved me from misunderstanding a question, or entering the wrong answer first time around. I still finished in plenty of time (I am told it is only the Navigation Paper where you need all the time allotted), and handed in my sheet. I should get the results tomorrow.
Whilst Jens and Andreas were still in the air on the first navigation flight, I decided to nip back to the house, to change my shoes (I had inadvertently come to the school in my slip-on loafers, which are not ideal for controlling the brakes and rudder in the aircraft, I prefer my trainers).
As no-one with a car was around, I thought I would have to make the long walk to the house and back again. However, I noticed that one of the school bikes that one of the guys (Chris) used to cycle between the houses and school was outside, so I considered Ďliberatingí it for half an hour. In fact, when I asked the Dispatcher to let Chris know if he came looking for it, he told me Chris had left the school that morning, so it had no owner at the moment. I decided to see if the old adage about never forgetting how to ride a bike is true, as I havenít ridden a bike for about 30 years! And guess what, it is true! After a couple of wobbles, I set off for the house. I have to say that this bike had seen better days, it had no rear brake, and the gears keep slipping on it, but it definitely beats walking there and back. I donít know how long it will take my backside to recover though.
After a quick shoe change, and the ride back, I was ready to join Jens, as I back-seated on his Navigation Exercise. As I said before, this really helps. On the trip up to Palatka, we encountered some cloud, so had to do some cloud-dodging, to keep flying VFR. Once Jens arrived back at Ormond, it was my turn for the Navigation Exercise. Andreas would normally have back-seated with me, but as he had already done his exercise, and he had a ground exam coming up, he decided to stay on the ground and study. The Navigation Exercise is quite complicated for us student pilots, as you have to write lots of stuff down along the way, whilst continuing to fly the aircraft. However, I found that the straight and level flight I had found so difficult only a few lesson ago, seemed to come naturally this time, meaning I could take my hands of the controls when I needed †to, to pick up my Nav Log, or write in the waypoint details. I wish I could say I found the Navigation Log as easy, but maybe that will come naturally after a few more lessons.