Cross Country Correspondence

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Following my recent article, a lady was kind enough to write to me to advise me of her Qualifying cross country mishap.Don't be too concerned madam I shall preserve your anonymity. My own navigational cock-ups are too numerous to mention. However, we aviators never admit to being lost. We have all from time to time acknowledged that we are "Unsure of our position" but never more serious than that. So it is generous gesture that she should share the occasion with us.

Then read on for a very good description of what it is like to be a budding Aviator and unsure of one's position.

First you have to remember that all this took place well before the advent of Satellite navigation. It was a line dawn on a map a compass and a stopwatch for us.

She writes:

Cross Country Correspondence

Reading Anne and Geoff's Hair raising flying experience while landing in Calais reminds me of my experience whilst doing my qualifying cross country in March 1976. I successfully found my way from White Waltham to Shoreham then landed and took off to land at Thruxton and feeling fairly relieved and more confident started out on my journey back to White Waltham.

But on the way back I missed my way and became fairly lost (Not so Madam. Unsure of your position). I did a few 360° turns saying to myself "Don't panic don't panic", and then proceeded to contact Heathrow information so they could establish my whereabouts. But owing to some inattention in my radio training I had not turned my radio on properly and though I could hear them they could not hear me (No madam, it is called FINGER TROUBLE). The problem being that White Waltham is situated in Heathrow flying zone and there is only one way in and one way out and I did not want to inadvertently fly into the Heathrow Zone. What to do? All the time flying round and round so I didn't get further disorientated (Yes Madam, they are called ever decreasing circles that can have only one end, this technique is practised by OUSAL OUSAL bird and is often accompanied by the bird's alarm call which is repetitive and sounds like oshitoshitoshit).

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So, I decided to look for the M4, knowing that it went towards Reading where I could pick up the railway that I had to follow to reach the airfield. (That technique, Madam, is well known and is called navigation by Bradshaw's railway guide. Well done). Luckily the motorway was easily visible and I pointed myself East until I saw Reading and the railway line which was my pointer towards the airfield, I was so relieved that my landing was very bumpy and should have merited a Go Around. I got out of the aeroplane to be greeted by my instructor who wanted to know where the hell I had been (Yes Madam I am familiar with that kind of landing. My instructor called them an arrival, sarcastic bugger).

Tears were very close but being one of the few women in the club I knew that I would never live this down, So I went to the bar and had a large drink (quite right too Madam) and drove back to London.

I achieved the licence on 25th May 1976.

A magnificent effort Madam, and I guess you will remember every detail of that adventure as long as you live, I know I do.

To obtain a pilot licence it is necessary to make three or four cross country trips each being a little harder than the last. Also it is usual for a flying instructor to make the trip first with his student followed by the same trip solo.

The final qualifying cross country is what you see described above and usually consists of a 150 mile flight calling at two other airfields thus making a triangular course.My aircraft had no radio. Madame's had one which she could not work. We were therefore about equal.

My own experience was that my instructor without giving me a clue as to his intentions had me climb out to 2 thousand feet above the airfield (at Wolverhampton) and then without preliminary planning "Now take me to lake Vyrnwy".

I found lake Vyrnwy but not without a struggle. It was good practice.

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This all stood me in good stead when I was sent off solo to Castle Donnington, Sywell in Northamptonshire then to Leicester and back to Wolverhampton.

At each stop I had to ask the CFI (chief flying instructor) to sign my log to say that I had been and add a comment on the airmanship displayed by me.
At Leicester I approached the CFI's office Log book in hand and asked him to do the honours.

He looked hard at me and said "How did you get here". I pointed to my aircraft. "I didn't see you arrive" said he. "Pass me your log" where he wrote 'airmanship exceptional'.

A pal of mine got as far as Sywell where the CFI said due to deteriorating weather I cannot allow you ( a student pilot) to proceed. You must telephone your base and advise them of my decision. Wolverhampton said they would send two pilots in another aircraft and one of them will take command of each airplane for the interesting return trip to Wolverhampton.

However the two pilots did not do that, they said to my friend "Just Follow us back" and both got into their airplane and left.

My friend climbed out and became disorientated and continued to climb through the cloud layer.

Eventually it dawned on the two pilots what had happened so they went up to look for him and having found him proceeded to lead him home. Reaching home with the aid of their superior navigation kit they had to now lead him down through the cloud.

Waggling wings they descended out of sight to a position under the cloud and hoped my pal would understand and follow them down. After some hesitation he did just that and was mightily relieved to see the ground again. Needless to say that was a fail and so the whole flight had to be repeated on another day.


Another of my oshitoshitoshit moments was when arriving over Sywell, Northamptonshire, and receiving a terse air traffic message. "Will you expedite as we are expecting the Red Arrows in thirty seconds."

Flying instructors are a special breed. They have to be, to send green pilots off on first solos and solo cross countries. They have to be really courageous in their judgement. They stick their necks out very far every day.

I Salute them.

I salute you too, Madam.