Knocked out another goal on the way to my PPL yesterday – the Controlled Airspace Endorsement. This is one of the things that separates the PPL from the recreational certificate, the ability to request entry through various kinds of controlled airspace.
For yesterday’s flight, we treated it the same as the other lessons – I plan out a short cross country trip, do my weight and balance and performance charts, get the weather and winds so I can calculate my heading and ground speed and times. Then at various points on the trip we practice other things such as stalls, steep turns, forced landings, diversions, instruments, etc.
For this particular one, we added in a couple of new elements – Low-Level Navigation (which I’d done in Recreational) and Controlled Airspace.
First off, we planned a trip through the northbound lane of entry in Richmond military airspace, then over to Warnervale for a touch and go, then down to do the “Harbour Scenic”, which is a procedure for requesting entry into the airspace around the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge to do a couple of orbits for the beautiful photo ops.
Weather was not great, but it was serviceable for the trip. Most of the cloud was well above my planned height of 1,500′. More on this later.
So before the flight Chris briefed me on the procedures which mostly involve radio calls for requesting entry then complying with whatever the controller tells you. The key he says is in preparing early and sounding professional – if you sound like you don’t know what you are doing or are unprepared, they may just tell you “clearance unavailable”.
Anyway, we decided to add a short field takeoff to the mix so I requested a 15 second delay to line up, brakes on, 2 stages of flap and full throttle, then let off the brakes and leaped off the ground at best angle of climb until Chris was satisfied we cleared any “obstacles”. Lowered the nose to best rate of climb and departed the area towards Tadpole Lake and Warragamba dam as normal. It was quite windy so got a little off track, but corrrected early and made those waypoints within a minute or 2.
Got the weather info for Richmond over Warragamba and made my first call a few miles from Nepean Bridge – “Richmond tower, Piper India November Hotel, 2 persons on board, one thousand five hundred feet approaching Nepean Bridge with information ‘Golf’, request northbound lane of entry”
The tower immediately responded with my clearance and a “squawk” code to put on my transponder – so they can identify me on radar.
After this it is just a matter of following the published procedure for entry, reporting where required, and reading back any instructions. Once I was out of the area, the tower lets me know they are terminating service and I confirm I am out of the area and I can go back to VFR code 1200.
So that went reasonably well, though I did get myself a bit lost trying to find Wiseman’s Ferry – one of the hard parts of low-level navigation is its a bit harder to see things from down low, and so easy to convince yourself you’ve seen something you are looking for. Anyway, Chris gave me some more pointers there, and we were close enough to get there and set a new heading for Warnervale.
Here is where it got very interesting indeed.
I had wanted to cruise at 4,500 to Warnervale, but the cloud base was reported to be more like 3000, so that was out. To make it worse, it looked like in the areas of rising terrain, it was getting lower than expected! So visibility was crap and getting worse, and the doors were shutting behind me.
To be clear, on a day like this, I would not have chosen to fly – my personal minimums are way higher than that. But Chris, being an IFR instructor, and a pragmatist, wanted to use this as an opportunity to put me in a real-world situation.
I could see the coastline, so I knew if I continued east I would at least be able to fix my position over the coast where it looked a bit clearer. As we got closer, I found Warnervale which was good. I made some mistakes in identifying the right runway to use – they have 02 and 20 – and I got them backwards in my adrenaline-addled rush to be clear of the weather.
Finally got myself sorted and did a touch and go at Warnervale and it was time to set my heading for the next waypoint – Long Reef for entry to the Harbour Scenic!
I was still a bit addled at this point, so we headed over Tuggerah Lake and did a bit of airwork with the hood on to get some more instrument time in and get me back into my comfort zone – if doing climbs, descents and turns with a hood on in the rain could be called comfort 🙂
So he was happy with that but we still had the weather to contend with – my proposed track looked pretty grey. So as an initial plan, I thought, well let’s just go down low and follow the coast until I can pick up my original track. Plan B was to head back to Warnervale and wait it out, since we knew we were good there.
Plan A worked fine, and just a few minutes directly south at low level, we found that the weather cleared nicely and I was able to identify Lion Island and get back on my original track. A few miles from Long Reef, I made my next call to Sydney Terminal who then passed me on to Sydney Departures for clearance to Harbour Scenic One! This is another case where if you do not sound like you are prepared, they will not let you through. But we made it, and did 2 (well ok 3) glorious orbits around Sydney Harbour, to the east of the bridge. I concentrated on flying at my assigned altitude of 1,500′ and gave Chris my phone to take some pics:
After that, back up to Manly then cut over to Brooklyn Bridge to hop on the Bankstown southbound Lane of Entry.
We did a few circuits to cap things off, of course my brain was fried and I could have done better, but they were safe enough and I achieved the objective for that flight:
So that is it – the entire country unlocked! All I have left is the pre-licence flight wherein I hope to brush up on those things that caught me off guard but that I know i can do, and hopefully be scheduled very shortly for my test!
Watch this space, its about to get busy!