Instrument practice at Cardiff and Exeter

Posted by

Three pilots sharing some practice Instrument Approaches

A plan to share some Instrument flight practice with a couple of IR(R) rated pilots at Bristol Aero Club was thwarted by the club aircraft going tech at short notice. So instead, we all took to the air in my shared TB20 G-CORB and flew to Cardiff and Exeter in turn. Since I can’t instruct, I was P1 throughout and flight time wasn’t loggable for either of my pilot passengers.

But they could take an active part in each flight, as well as getting the feel of using an autopilot and self-aligning DI/ADF. I dare say they were quite impressed at how much easier that makes it. The club PA28 does have a GTN650 fitted, so they were both reasonably familiar with that.

The weather was good VFR throughout and we enjoyed some good views, not enforcing any Foggles or similar constraints found in formal training.

Vectored ILS into Cardiff

First we flew a vectored ILS into Cardiff. ATC have a bunch of tools at their disposal to sequence traffic, including vectoring around and away for extra miles, asking aircraft to slow down and even deliberately flying through the final approach path to intercept from the other side. We had the lot thrown at us today, with a wrinkle of changing the intercept to the original side at relatively short notice. Well that’s my excuse for passing through it. John flew much of this leg manually, with me taking over on final approach to make quite a decent landing.

Gloucester to Cardiff
Gloucester to Cardiff ILS 12
Cardiff GA Apron
Plenty of space left on the Cardiff GA Apron, looking across the runway towards the main terminal. Glorious CAVOK

LPV RNAV into Exeter

After a quick coffee stop, we launched again with a VFR standard departure to the south to make the short hop to Exeter. We requested and were immediately granted the RNAV approach for 08. This is one of the very few LPV approaches available in the UK today, and it was nice to see the annunciator light up ensuring we could legally descend to 250 feet if we had been in cloud. Russ punched the buttons on this leg and was well ahead of the aircraft, driving the autopilot, identifying ground aids aurally and running through the waypoint sequence in a calm controlled manner. Perhaps I should have landed a bit further along the huge runway there, expecting to park on the south taxiway as I have done before.

Cardiff to Exeter
Cardiff to Exeter for RNAV 08

Here’s a speeded up video of the approach.

Haze at 4000 feet

LPV RNAV back to Cardiff

We paid our landing fee at Aviation South West and enjoyed a quick lunch before heading back to Cardiff. This was my leg entirely, wanting to hand fly the new RNAV approach recently published at Cardiff and one of the very few LPV approaches available in the UK.

A quick left turn after departure ensured we kept well clear of Dunkeswell and it wasn’t long before we were talking to Cardiff, who initially kept us high at 4000 feet outside controlled airspace to ensure separation with another aircraft passing behind us.

Unlike the ILS, ATC don’t seem to have nearly the same set of tools to sequence incoming traffic prior to final approach on an RNAV but we had no delay and were cleared for the procedure a few miles before the initial approach fix.

I was slightly distracted by ATC asking to handover to tower just after I was turning onto the final approach path and I did not compensate quickly enough for the 30 knot crosswind, resulting in a large crosstrack error which was duly corrected. Tower cleared me to land at this early stage and could see I was south of the approach track. The chaps at Aeros who collect the landing fees were surprised to see us drop in again, but remained their usual welcoming selves.

The cafe upstairs remains great value too.

Exeter to Cardiff
Exeter to Cardiff RNAV 12

Speeded up video of the approach below

VFR return to Gloucester

John flew most of the last leg back to Gloucester, who were quite busy with instrument training so no chance of a final instrument approach. As we arrived for our overhead join, another aircraft reported rough running engine problems so was given priority to land. ATC carefully directed several aircraft to keep clear and we were told to orbit in the overhead for a while which we did (with ATC approval, I climbed to 2500 feet to keep clear of another one also in the overhead).

Overhead Cardiff on our return to Gloucester
Cardiff to Gloucester
Cardiff to Gloucester VFR

With three approaches and four legs, we had all learnt a lot and brushed up on our skills. I think it helps to be a passenger (even in the back seat) sometimes and just absorb what is (and isn’t) going on. My passengers seemed quite pleased with their day out, especially since we didn’t lose out by the club aircraft becoming unavailable.

We retired to the Aviator for Tea and Medals, satisfied with our accomplishments for the day.

Comparison with a cloudy day

For comparison with what it’s like when it’s cloudy, and just in case you think I only do VFR instrument approaches, here below is a hand flown ILS into Gloucester with approx 700 feet cloudbase. I was a passenger for this one just a few days earlier, when I mentored the pilot unfamiliar with the GTN650 on another TB20 aircraft. Once on final approach track, there really is very little to distinguish between an ILS and RNAV procedure.

See if you can decide at what point you would be happy to declare visual with the runway.

PIC Today: 3:05
Total PIC: 444:25
Total Time: 588:05




  1. Well I can personally vouch for what a great day this was and how much I learnt. Thanks David for taking such trouble to record your adventures and your hospitality on the day. Looking forward to our next trip out

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *