Thursday, January 08, 2009

Sqawk 7600

today i went for my very first solo navigation flight. and it was eventful to say the least. maybe in a year, reading back this post will look miniscule, but it sure did not feel like it in the air. this is gonna be a rather long post, with a bit of technicalities, and sweaty palms too.

before i start, for navigation aka cross-country exercise (though its purely non-crossing nation border), you basically plan a route and fly it. overhead each checkpoint, or more professionally called waypoint (which are usually towns), you transmit to inform current position and ETA (estimate time of arrival) of the next waypoint. the aim of the whole exercise is to fly the route as accurately as possible to ensure you reach on time as what has been planned.

yesterday i flew my nav 3 exercise with my instructor early in the morning. there was carpet clouds all over and it was impossible to identify the ground features. at some point, i made some really bad turns that got me a little off on my orientation. we were a little late on time but we managed to reach back safely.

this was my second take at nav 3. i had to repeat it because when i flew with 18 bout 2 weeks back, he wasn't impressed with my knowledge of the procedures like radio failures, dog leg, drift correction, and 1 in 60 rule. so he did not clear me for solo.

however, after yesterday's flight with 17, i finally was cleared. you have no idea how weird it felt. i was thrilled to go solo yet scared about the clouds. i was katy perry's hot and cold.

so off i went airborne around 1455 local time. the destination was around 50miles away from the airfield. and problem arose when i was about 15miles from airfield. i requested to descend from 3000ft to 2500ft due to clouds but was not given a reply. i thought the tower was just busy. i tried again, but still no reply.

soon enough i was overhead my first waypoint, and i calculated my ETA for the next. i turned next heading and gave my call, but to no reply yet again. then i started to worry. i transmited again, but silence returned.

i started to worry. a lot.

so i switched radio, and tried my back up radio, but that wasn't getting any replies either. i switched it off and switched it on. i hooked up my headset to the instructor's port but to no avail. so i transmited blind.

transmit blind is when you transmit a call, not knowing if anyone can hear you. its like waving a flag and hoping someone would see you, regardless of who they were. see, if you transmit blind and if another aircraft nearby could hear you, they could help relay your message to tower. this would at least ensure you still got positive communication with tower in case if anything happens.

sadly, although there were 2 aircrafts also flying nearby, but none heard my call. so i continued my flight while still trying to contact tower every few minutes. why i did not return back to base? because for navigation exercise, the tower assumes i will be completing my navigation route. then i won't jumble up their schedules of arrivals.

finally i sqawked 7600.

each aircraft has this device that can be set to a 4 digit code called a transponder. initially, i had to set mine to 5400. the guys at the tower, using radar, will be able to see on their monitoring screens a dot noting my aircraft as 5400. certain 4digit numbers mean something. like 7500 means an aircraft has been hijacked. and 7600 means an aircraft has radio failure.

so now officially i had lashed out to tower that i was having a radio failure and finally they could forgive me for being a rude and ignorant pilot, for not answering their calls.

from waypoint 1 to waypoint 2, i could hear nil on my radio. i got nervous but continued flight. after sometimes, i noticed there was bad weather ahead and i could not proceed. i had to return back. i had no choice.

i made two orbits in the air. i just needed to orientate myself to confirm position, and make sure my nerves weren't getting the better of me. it'd be disastrous if i got lost AND had no way of contacting base. so i took my map and made sure where i was. did my checks. made sure fuel was sufficient and engine was fine. then i headed back.

again i transmited blind, not knowing that actually nobody could hear me then (my batchmate told me once i landed). i thought i just couldn't receive. so i kept harping on the radio every few minutes to check if tower could hear me. no harm trying either eh?

about 25miles from airfield, i could hear transmissions from other aircraft, but no one could hear me. this was still worrying. i maintained on course and kept reciting the radio failure procedures in my head. i was rather unsure about it. you know when you're nervous you tend to jumble things up? about 18miles from airfield i descended to 800ft as per radio failure procedures and flew over the river just west of kb town. at that point i heard my instructor 17 who just took off.

i suddenly had hope again. so i tried to contact tower yet again. airfield was in sight. so very close. my heart was thumping as i pressed the transmit button.

but they gave a reply to a scheduled arrival instead and that sent me back to frenzy mode. it went something like this:

" ... cleared to enter control zone bla bla bla bla... break break APAC 1168 cleared to join right hand circuit, runway 10, right base"

i gleamed i tell you. APAC1168 was me! they could finally hear me in between transmission with an airline's call. i was so happy that i replied:

"cleared to rejoin righ hand...runway 10... say again sir???"

the controller was nice. he repeated it slower. i think he could hear how tense i was intially. first nav solo and radio problems are not pleasant. i was worried if my radio still had problems then once i was overhead the airfield i might crash into another aircraft taking off. i know its kinda far-fetched but it was really one of those REALLY unexpected things.

i'm thankful i flew with 18 and he made me a fool for not knowing enough. he didn't dare send me solo for my lack of knowledge and drilled me with procedures. kind of an irony how his drillings came crazily from books to reality. coincidence? or higher power?

so that was today. pretty shaking for me. although the tower was always monitoring me, but i couldn't just do whatever i wanted to make sure I alone landed safely and disregarded the rest. its my part to make sure of the safety of others as well. without procedures, things could turn out mortifying.
-please be advised APAC 1168 has divirginized sqawking 7600-


Kristie said...

omg, it sounded really scary when there were no replies! :p

sharman said...

uh huh yeaaaa... i was so worried about crashing into another plane... then also all the high high ranking flying instructors were in the air, so was worried i got my procedures wrong... if i went against laws, sure kena marah till ears bleed 0.o

F said...

Ohh this is my housemate :)
The last time I saw him,
eating koko crunch and watching bdtime stories..

sharman said...

babi... betul2 lu tak de kerja kan?!

Anonymous said...

Lol. Mr.Aeroplane.. damn panjang sia your post.. But weh.. now you sounded like a pilot :x

sharman said...

hahahaha once in awhile must rite panjang2 like me :P ...

how u miss airport???