Ab Initio 56: “Radio Practical”

In which I fly an imagainary aeroplane for an hour talking to various (almost) imaginary air trafficers.

This was the exam I was finding the most daunting. The prospect of getting utterly tongue tied in the middle of it seemed far too probable.

Because it needs particular kit, it also meant a trip down to Haverfordwest midweek. I took the following day off work and decided to stay over at my mum’s afterwards.

The way the exam works as I understood it going in is that you ‘fly’ an imaginary route making the appropriate calls on route, while your examiner sits in another room pretending to be the various air trafficers.

The r/t examiner is one of the Pembrey instructors which removed on level of stress through familiarity, but all the bits of paper handed out at the beginning looked a bit daunting to me to at first!

Bit of paper number one was a chart-a-like of a made up but, vaguely realistic sounding, bit of county, with various bits of airspace and a route drawn by someone apparently determined to go through every single bit of it.

Bit of paper number two was a plog to go with the route

Bit of paper number three was a list of frequencies for the various bits of airspace and airfields on the chart along with a translation of what that meant in terms of the kit which had a dial with “A, B, C..etc” on it instead of a real frequency selector.

Bit of paper number four was the list of instructions, it included reminders of a couple of the things you could infer from the route like, “Your route crosses the bla-di-blah MATZ–make the appropriate calls), and a couple of ‘extras’ like, “Somewhere between point X and point Y you are uncertain of position and want a VDF service from So-and-So”.

One of the notes involved a description of a problem my imaginary aeroplane developed at a point along the route and asked me to make the appropriate call.

The instructions also warned that I ‘might’ heard another aircraft in distress and be required to relay a message. (Actually I’d been tipped off by at least four other people at the club that there was no ‘might’ about it, so was poised with pen to scribble details!)

I was given half an hour to prepare with these four sheets and made quite a few notes on the chart bit of where and who I was going to talk to. Because I had the nature of my emergency in front of me I decided on the call I was going to make and noted it down so I wouldn’t leave out something crucial.

The timing didn’t have to be realistic as long as it wasn’t any longer than the time on the plog, so I just gave myself enough time to gather my thoughts and prepare what I was going to say. I rather blatted through it I think!

Once I got into the swing of things I rather enjoyed it. The examiner was pretty helpful, I got handed over on several of my frequency changes so didn’t have to recite the whole pass-your-message every time. And when I forgot to read back and squawk I got a little prompt in the form of him asking me whether I was transponder equipped.

I did pass, the only comment made was that when relayed the mayday call I could have spoken to the other aircraft as well to let them know!

Very nice to have that one out of the way.

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