Thursday, 6 January 2011

Pilot's licence revalidation flight

Even though my ancient Civil Aviation Authority-issued (1979) Private Pilot's Licence is 'for life' (unlike the later EEC Joint Aviation Authoruty - JAA - licence whicn replaced it and is renewable for a fee), under a rule introduced by the Authority several years ago it now has to be 'revalidated' every two years. There is a requirement to have completed at least twelve hours of flying and a flight of at least one hour with a flying instructor in the last year to revalidate 'by experience'. If these conditions have not been met, revalidation can be by flight test.

I met the 'by experience' 12 hours requirement and by a happy co-incidence had also met an old friend, Bob Knight, who came on one of my Nimrod tours late last month. Bob used to have a share in our dH Chipmunk and is a flight instructor and examiner; and he readily agreed to do my revalidation flight which, as our flight would be for at least an hour, would then include the 'one hour flight with an instructor'.

The weather forecast was good for today, so I'd arranged to meet Bob at Liverpool John Lennon airport at 11:00 this morning. The intention was to leave the Liverpool Zone at Kirkby, then route east towards Lancashire Aero Club's airfield at Kenyon Hall Farm near Wigan for some practice forced landings, then south into the Manchester Low Level route to re-enter the Liverpool zone at Oulton Park. However, when we got airborne off Liverpool's runway 27 and turned north towards Kirkby, it became obvious that the weather was not in co-operative mood!

The cloudbase was variable but never above about 1,200 feet and in some places almost down to the ground, especially over the ridge near Skelmersdale which was on our track. So I routed south of east, calling Liverpool to ask if it was OK if we re-entered their zone due adverse weather. This was not a problem to them, and as we crossed the M6 abeam St Helens I reported clear of the zone.

We groped about in the murk at a few hundred feet, but it became obvious that any meaningful forced landing practice at Kenyon Hall, even if we could reach it, would be out of the question. We therefore turned south to pick up the Low Level Route through the Manchester Control Zone where the weather looked considerably better. I flew across to my sister's house at Hatton, and while Bob flew the aeroplane I took some photographs.

The house just off the wingtip, tennis court to the foreground.
The plumes from Fiddler's Ferry power station are visible in the background.

If you click twice on this image to maximise the size and resolution, you can see the grotty weather to the north, behind the power station, that we endured before turning south.

The house from the front, showing the small lake in the garden.
The larger lake at the top left of the picture is Appleton Reservoir

The house from the east.
The tower of Daresbury Laboratory and the Mersey Estuary can be seen beyond

We continued south in the Low Level Route passing Northwich and Winsford before I called Liverpool for a zone re-join via Oulton Park. After holding at Delamere and Helsby we touched down on runway 27 one hour and ten minutes after we took off.

Job done! We hadn't managed to do anything instructional, such as those practice forced landings or polishing aerobatic maneuvers, but the main objective had been achieved. My licence is now valid for another two years!

Southbound in the Manchester Low Level Route. The plumes in the distance are from the chemical works at Winnington near Northwich.

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