Map Reading Dual - Monday 13 March 2006 1pm

A gorgeous day dawned on Hamilton and the start of my time off work I had taken to get the cross country flying requirements out of the way. I thought it was a good omen because the decent weather is expected to continue for the better part of this week so at least I will be well advanced along getting the required hours so I can start getting ready for the PPL checkride.

I was to fly from Hamilton airport to Piarere (a small town due east of Lake Karapiro) then up to Ngatea then across to Taupiri (18 nautical miles north-northwest of Hamilton airport) then back to Hamilton.

Fortunately I was not going to be alone, instructor Greg came along for the ride. I did the basic flight plan although we were not going to file it, it was just part of the exercise. I calculated that the flight would be 52 minutes in duration with 102 nautical miles covered over the 4 legs. My trusty steed ZK-WAM only had 85 useable litres of fuel in the tanks which gave us a touch more than 2 hours endurance at nominal fuel burn.

I preflighted, got the engine going and received new taxi instructions on a new frequency to a new holding area for a new runway. And I thought it was the same old Hamilton airport I know and love! Eventually after a short delay due to traffic we got airborne. I put WAM into a climb, looked for the heading I had bugged and away we went.

Well, trying to fly a plane can be a fairly concentration intensive task, but when you have a clipboard sitting in your lap with a map and flight log attached to it just piles on the workload. It is at this moment where I realised the vital importance of planning and keeping ahead of things. First mental note of the day, always refold the map to suit your track. You don't want to be up there alone doing the mix of origami and panic that I was doing to organise my paperwork. Second mental note, read from the map to the ground. Greg said people will easily get lost doing it the other way around is because you convince yourself that the thing you see on the ground corresponds to the squiggle on your map when that is not always the case. Third mental note, always look for at least two features to look for, but the more the better to triangulate your current position. The earlier you pick up you are off track the easier it is to correct. Fourth mental note, time is an incredibly accurate tool in assisting navigation. I miscalcuated my ETA overhead Piarere by 2 minutes, but I got the leg to Ngatea (the longest leg I might add) bang on the ETA once I had adjusted my paperwork. If you make a visual fix on a point enroute you can use the elapsed time to determine what you should be seeing outside based on your position on the map.

The leg to Taupiri went a little astray because I had made a mistake somewhere in my calculations in the flight plan and the actual route differed greatly to the magnetic headings I had worked out. It was on the last two legs that I came to realise just how important map reading skills are because I could discard what I had calculated and map read my way to the next waypoint with very good accuracy (I was one minute late).

Apart from a slight mistake on my part (not keeping my altitude right during the return through the control zone - very very naughty of me and I will not allow that to happen again) we made it back to the airport and I did a passable landing after carrying too much airspeed across the threshold and floating down the runway. Another flight over and 1.2 hours dual in the logbook under cross-country time.

I hope tomorrow dawns as nice as today because I have to do the same flight again in reverse with no Greg to help me out. He said not to worry too much about the errors in my navigation math because my map reading ability is the point of this exercise and I demonstrated a fairly well developed ability to read maps. I will of course go over what I did and find out where I went wrong.

Will post again tomorrow after my first solo cross country flight.