PPL(H) – Cross Country Qualiflying Flight

PPL(H) – Cross Country Qualiflying Flight

Well prepared & Simply great Fun

The Cross Country Flight combines all the learning about proper planning and experiences built during the previous navigation flights. During those exercises I have approached and landed at both foreign aerodromes twice before.

There is one leg – or better one flight – the one between Stop N° 1 and N° 2 from Blackbush to Thruxton – that I will fly for the first time.  So there is gap on the route I never saw before, but I am confident that this won’t be a problem.



It’s been only a few months since I had no clue how to start the engine and looking at this chart produced an immediate headache. On the other hand, this all seemed like daily business. I have studied the route in detail and prepared my chart, all frequencies & radio talks, also the circuits at the destinations etc. Everything is mentally ready and written down on my knee board. When I arrive at the Helicopter Academy, the only remaining task is:

Checking weather & winds, calculate headings, times, fuel and complete the Full MATED Briefing – my Flight.



First day out with Lady G. – Enjoy!

When I returned from Switzerland after my break over Christmas, the Helicopter Academy just got a “new” helicopter. It was not new from the factory, but had come back from a complete overhaul. They rebuild the helicopter from scratch so it‘s like “new” – it even smells like a new car inside.

However, the helicopter had pink stripes before and they used to call her a lady. I was the first student flying “her” when she came back and I did all my solo navigation flights with her. And, as mentioned in Daily A-Check, you start to build a relationship with the helicopters and there are some you like more than others. Obviously Lady G. was my darling.

Before leaving, my instructor reminds me to enjoy my trip with her – “We will – I am sure!!”

3x “Take-Off, Navigating & Landing”


Flight #1  – The Black Box finally gets a Face

The first flight leads away from the sea view, over the hills towards the more closed-in area of the London Airspace Jungle. I know this route quite well. There is an airport to transit overhead, so some radio, but that’s not an any issue any more.

But, it’s the first time after landing that I‘ve walked up to the tower in order to get my signature on the X-Country Qualifying form. Besides the fact that they have an amazing view up there, it was good to finally have a look at a tower. I should have done this before but always forgot during training. If you get a chance, do it. It explains a lot.

It is interesting to see how they work. Every flight they “handle” is handwritten on to a small plate, including the information you passed over to them over the radio. They manually move the plates around from “approach” to “circuit” and finally to “landed”. This gives them an overview of what is going on in their airspace, very old fashioned but efficient.



Flight #2 – Landing in the middle of an ongoing car race

During the X-Country flight one new duty comes along. It is to call up to the tower of the destination by phone and announce our arrival. Doing this, they tell me not to park to close to the car circuit surrounding Thruxton Aerodrome as there is a car race going on.

Even though I acknowledge the information I am not really aware what awaits me. In Goodwood there are always some cars driving around and after a while I stopped noticing them.

The flight itself follows a route through a beautiful countryside and the closer I get I forget about this car race. I am so focused on reading the chart, listening to what‘s happening on the radio and, of course, enjoying the trip with Lady G.

But, as soon as I approach Thruxton it starts. Firstly, with a Royal Airforce Super Puma Helicopter that crosses my path quite closely and makes me feel like an absolute bee in the air, a great bee though! Next, the Air Ambulance Helicopter crosses my path, lands in front of me and then a Lear Jet takes off. It’s really great and the word circuit feels more like a circus.

During my own “final” I suddenly see TV camera teams standing in all turns of the race track. “What the heck … – ah right, he told me there was a race …” Quite amazing – the prior feeling of being just a bee only two minutes ago directly turns into a full grown kingsized eagle!






Flight #3 – Suddenly Clouds and 15kn Wind on the Ground

Up in the tower I have a longer chat with the “Black Box Face” and continue watching the race from here, while he signs the paper etc. Until I can hear him talking to another plane on approach “Surface wind 15 knots …” This really shakes me up, as we are not supposed to fly in winds stronger than 15 Knots. I really don’t want to get stuck in Thruxton and jump off.

It’s nothing special that the weather changes – this has happened almost every day since I started the training and those changes are even quicker in Switzerland. But, during flying back I am still surprised that only a few hours ago I started in blue sky and now I am sneaking back home just below cloud base. One of those little reminders for future flights.

But it feels great, back to the beloved sea view & its shining lights, a warm voice that welcomes me back home to Goodwood. Fantastsic. In the meantime, I had started to talk with Lady G. as no one else was around. Congratulating her during our approach“Well done – Lady G.”. We instantly agree that we will continue common journeys during the next following steps – Constructive Hours Building for CPL.



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5 Years Phoenix Helicopters in Goodwood

5 Years Phoenix Helicopters in Goodwood

Happy Birthday

Today is a big day for the Academy I am attending to get Helicopter Pilot “From_Zero_To-Pro.

It’s only fives years ago they started with one instructor and one leased Helicopter.

In the meantime they have two branches and it does not need any more words to explain that their approach, advantages and pricing to train new pilots is obviously very successful – “Why learn to fly in UK and at Phoenix Helicopter Academy”.

Today everyone on this pictures works for the company.

Some as flight instructors, others as apprentice to get commercial helicopter pilot and perhaps future instructor themselves. Of course there is also an efficient administration back office that makes all this possible.


But – Pictures say more than thousand words.







PPL(H) – Full MATED Brief

PPL(H) – Full MATED Brief

Full MATED Brief

One of the most important steps in puzzling together all the different parts that I had learned during the 1st Moves and 2nd Steps (taking over the full responsibility in order to fly solo, achieving and completing the Private Pilot License) was creating the full navigation planning in short time and with high accuracy.

MATED stands for: Meteo / Aircraft / ATC / Exercise / Duties

As mentioned, my instructor had introduced me to flight planning at a very early stage. We started to practice and talk about plans in detail during all the following steps. This way, we added more and more parts until we reached the full MATED Brief. All parts of this planning play a significant role in maintaining the constant learning curve and highly satisfying, enjoyable flights.

The first part – Meteo – changes all the time and no-one would ever question repeating it before each flight. Other parts, like the weight & balance calculation or checking the insurance policy etc. feel a bit unnecessary to be repeated every time. But, if continously repeated, they take only a few minutes. It is definitely a good habit to fit it into the routine without even thinking about it. Simply: Good Airmenship & significant help to concentrate on more important things.

Practice & Speed up – it is worth it

It’s all the small things and none of the steps are really difficult, but, altogether they sum up to several hours in the beginning. Practicing them on a regular basis reasonably reduces the time needed and with higher accuracy at the same time.

It is possible to postpone the full MATED, do it sloppily or only do parts of it for a while. However, I can only recommend and repeat what my instructor trained me to do – start to train early and practice the full programme. It’s worth the time.

The result is a full & proper preparation before each flight. This is also key to the start of the day of the PPL exam flight, quite relaxed and just as the usual routine. There are many other things to think about on that day anyway.

Added Note

On the day of my PPL(H) Exam Flight, I was able to write down the Full MATED Brief in 30 minutes. I was totally relaxed and had the confidence that there were no major errors or stupid calculation mistakes.


Ready to go and enjoy every flight – exam flight included.

Continued Practice Development …

During the period of puzzling together all steps from planning and the first navigation flights to the X-Country Qualiflying flight, I started to create a blank online form – just to make things quicker.

It‘s not very special and it’s best that every student develops it by himself. It’s through creating that the skills improve. But, if you would like to use mine as a base to start building yours – copy it form here





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PPL(H) – Flight to Maintenance Company

PPL(H) – Flight to Maintenance Company

First flight to the edge of the “Jungle” of London’s Airspace

This flight is the first full day trip during PPL training. It is the navigation flight that “puzzles” together all the parts trained towards the upcoming X-Country Qualifying Flight. Many radio stations to contact, constant chart reading, airports & airfields to cross and accurate flying to navigate legally around London‘s controlled airspace.


As for every navigation flight, it all starts with detailed planning. The Destination Aerodrome in Denham is situated inside the CTR of London‘s, just on the edge to be correct. So we do not really fly around in the CTR of London for long, but we have to sneek inside the airspace under a given altitude to be legal and approach Denham from there.

A trip to “Disney Land” – HQ Aviation Ltd in Denham

Flying into Denham does not feel like being in the most congested airspace of the globe at all – it looks like a totally remote place flying over some lakes in a beautiful landscape.  But also, it does not look anything like a helicopter‘s paradise – I do not see a single helicopter on approach – just a few closed hangars.

My expectations are completely slammed, until the doors open just wide enough to let us get in with our Lady Helicopter.

From here, I am walking around bright-eyed for the next few hours and can’t stop wondering where we just entered.

I have never seen so many helicopters before and I am surprised how close you can squeeze them into such a small space.

It’s also the first time I realise how small the R22 actually is. Smaller than the original Mini Cooper. It looks like a bee standing next to it’s bigger brother, the R44.



Look inside Helicopters & inside parts of Helicopters

For a novice helicopter pilot this place is absolutely stunning. To see opened and ripped apart helicopters and, to see even deeper inside opened parts for maintenance, is really interesting. The mechanics are very proud of their job and are happy to explain what they are working on. My personal respect for their amazing work and the fantastic engineering that lets us fly those birds increases even further.




The Turbine Helicopter in the Robinson Family – R66

We are happy enough to arrive on the day that the company gets back its first R66 helicopter to maintain, the turbine of the Robinson family. An impressive machine. Perhaps one day? The mechanic tells us that it has an additional fuel tank and the owner flew it over from Frankfurt in Germany on a non-stop flight. Really? I am bluffed … But not enough …


World Record – Around the globe in R44 Helicopter

Before we fly back, we talk about the flight in the maintenance company’s office. Again, a fantastic place with pictures of impressive helicopter trips they did from here. I can literally smell the groove & spirit of true adventurers.


All of a sudden, the owner of the company walks in – Mr. Quentin Smith aka “Captain Q”. He is a famous helicopter pilot who flies really weird manoeuvres like a ballet dancer – Example Video – and constantly travels to amazing places. He also holds the world record for the fastest circumnavigation of the globe in a piston engine, in a R44. “What – really – around the world??” Well, he did it more than once …

My original questions – after the first trip to another airfield –  about where I could fly to with the R22 gets completely pulverised. Perhaps I should plan to fly a newbie‘s record during hours building – maybe from Goodwood back home to Switzerland and land on the Matterhorn?



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PPL(H) – Farm Spotting and Confined Area Landing

PPL(H) – Farm Spotting and Confined Area Landing

Hovering is “Devine” – Spot-Landing is “Heaven”

One of the major reasons for flying a helicopter is the amazing ability to just land wherever you want. Almost.

And that is what I always saw, back through my childish eyes. Those birds would suddenly appear from the sky and just sit down somewhere on the mountain. And as they came – start to hover and disappear in exactly the same way. All my life, this has been a sight that I‘ve held on to and it is all I could think about – just observing them and dreaming about how cool that must be.

But now, the big difference is to sit inside the helicopter! Of course, it’s even more magic. Appearing in the sky, the amazing view over the landscape and just diving down into a specific spot. Back to the usual view on the ground, then hovering around on the magic carpet, just to get back into the sky shortly afterwards and continue the bird’s eye view.

The exercise, Landing in Confined Areas, started much earlier than the first attempts. It builds up on some other exercises that come before. The connection of them is so obvious that I pulled them together into this single post.

Farm Spotting

While planning my 3rd navigation flight, my instructor was sitting on the other side of the table. All of a sudden he printed an A4 page, handed it to me, and said: “This time we will add a new bit – first you fly a Track Hold & then a Track Crawl. You already did that, do you remember?”

Yes. Track Hold involves following the calculated heading on the compass – I should never veer off that heading by more than 5° degree. Track Crawl is following some features on the ground. In both scenarios, I tell you where we are every few minutes by checking our position on the chart first, I am not allowed to look at the chart for longer than 3 seconds. Besides, I shall fly accurately: max. +/- 100ft in altitude, +/- 10kn in speed and to make sure there is enough of a challenge, handle the radio – correct?

“Exactly! You got it. After that, you fly me to this farm. He points to a circle he had drawn on what looked like a piece of paper. It is actually a very detailed chart that shows only a very small bit of an area called an Ordnance Survey Map ( OS Map – 1:25’000 ),

With a smile, he adds: “And you are really lucky, it is quite windy today – perfect conditions for you. Otherwise it is too easy.” – “Great! So we go farm spotting – I love it & can’t wait. Let’s go!”

It’s this kind of jovial approach that had accompanied us since -my first radio-first navigation flight-first practice forced landing – go and more. During all those steps, I got really used to the fact that it constantly gets more and more even though I had only just got a slight idea of the last bit.

It is part of the steep learning curve. Part of the self-experiment of training the brain that all together builds up to an awesome satisfaction and the necessary self-confidence.

This Farm Spotting flight ended up being one of the most challenging, memorable and bumpiest flights of my entire training. It was really uncomfortable in the helicopter. My brain was running at 300% whilst trying to find my way, manoeuvre in these conditions, trying to fly with somewhat acceptable accuracy, handle the radio and finally spotting this farm. But I found it!

After landing, my brain immediately started to review the flight and store every little byte & bit in that new brain capacity I call dreality. Absolutely amazing.

“Landing in a Confined Area”

This is one of the last exercises we are doing. Not because it is so extremely difficult, but, we just kept one left for the end on a day we couldn’t fly any navigation exercises. They are more important at this stage. Like a joker you could say.

In the meantime, I have completed almost all the exercises of the PPL training. The ones most relevant for landing in confined areas are probably  -Circuits & Approach, -Power Check, -Limited Power Knowledge and -Farm Spotting.

It sounds ridiculous if I say I liked this flight the most because I say this to almost every flight! The full Helicopter PPL Training is simply great and brings along loads of adventures. But it’s for sure not wrong to say, it is again one of those flights that stay in my mind forever.

We take off in really lousy weather but there is good visibility over the ground. We cruise along the clouds, see a spot, fly two recce circles while descending closer to the ground and finally hop exactly into the spot. It’s once in the corner of a river, then in a wood glade up on the hill and so on. Can’t believe those views – FANTASTIC.

I always wanted to do exactly this. And finally doing it, feels even better than I imagined.

I love it that much, that from here we will spontaneously do a confined area approach on many other flights on the way back home – just to practice.

There is one important picture you have to bear in mind, develop and adapt it to each approach – and you are all set.


Please share it – If you liked this Story, it would mean the world to me, if you help me to spread the project by sharing this story with your friends & comunities. Just one click – on one of the  icons on the left side. Thank you so much!