End of Year Review 2023

Posted by

This year seems to have followed a similar pattern to last. My time as a full time flight instructor is dominated by flight instruction as you would expect, at every level from one-off “trial lesson/air experience” up to to the full Instrument Rating. This is delivered in a variety of formats from in-aircraft, supervising solo flights on the ground, ground school, flight simulator sessions and remote coaching online. This last format has expanded to include more setting up of student’s flight simulators and expanded into running FRTOL radio-telephony courses.

The flying highlight of my year was again a two week European tour, this time to the north east making a wide circle through Scandanavia to the Baltics and returning via Poland and Germany. I flew less when not instructing than last year, partly due to technical issues with my shared TB20 aircraft.

Flight Instruction

PPL instruction at the flying club in Gloucester was less busy this year, with fewer new private students signing up. I think this reflects the economic situation and have heard of a similar downturn at other clubs. The improved avionics (both club aircraft have dual G5s and GPS navigators) has helped to attract IRR students, both first timers and those renewing lapsed ratings.

I regularly spend a couple of days a week at Kemble, and completed a full PPL course with our first student. A few others have the potential to finish the course during 2024.

I’ve taught several IRR courses, both initial and renewals, trained foreign students in the quirks of UK operations and completed three Night Ratings (one in just two evenings). Several commercial students were taking their ATPL theory exams and hour building, wanting to get ahead by completing a Night Rating and IRR before their commercial training.

Aircraft prepped and ready for instruction on a good weather day at Kemble

I’ve also flown with several students in their own aircraft, and the wide variety of avionics from the most basic to advanced can be quite a contrast.

My interest in adopting flight simulators for PPL training continues, and I have invested time learning Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. I’m still of the view that X-plane is the better choice for flight training, but the scenery graphics on MSFS2020 (especially with Googlemaps) is very impressive, and many of the missing features are under development.

Touring

If you instruct four or five days a week, there can be less appeal to fly privately on your days off. You certainly want to do something different than the shorter landaways, and so I try to go a bit further.

Our Baltic tour this year again ticked that box, departing Gloucester for the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. There was quite a lot of advance planning involved, and even more during the trip itself, but we averaged only 1.5 hours flying per day, leaving plenty of time for sightseeing.

Other TB20 trips involved a couple of overnight trips: one to Rotterdam so my friend Adam could do a Parkrun; another to Belfast Aldergrove so I could tick off all the licensed airports in Northern Ireland. We also tried to fly the new RNP instrument approach at Leeds East but were unable to land due to bad weather. I searched for suitable National Trust properties close to airfields, and visited Powys Castle near Welshpool, first on my own and again in the summer with my wife. Sadly a trip with my co-owner Nic had to be cancelled due to technical issues with the aircraft when one of the oleo seals had to be replaced.

Other Highlights

I managed to attend the PPL/IR annual conference in Bremen, an excellent event this year, and was kindly flown there in a member’s PA46 Mirage Matrix. It was very comfortable and capable, completing the flight from Gloucester in less than two hours.

I tagged along on a visit to the AAIB (Air Accident Investigation Branch) at Farnborough, which was very worthwhile.

I visited the Shuttleworth collection at Old Warden, a new airfield for me, sharing the flight with a club member.

I flew a Cessna C208B Grand Caravan, the single engine people-carrier workhorse found in many remote parts of the world. It’s a very capable aircraft and seemed quite easy to fly, but there are a lot of differences to master and engine gauges to pay particular attention to.

Regulatory Changes

I can’t think of any really significant regulatory changes during 2023. There is promise of long overdue licensing simplification in the next year or two, but this will develop at CAA timescales. The CAA moved many of their standard paper forms online and made it easier to comply with providing documentation. Most students report fairly good turnaround for the most common applications. After a huge amount of effort over many years, the CAA approved a couple of new RNP approaches at Leeds East and Sherburn-in-Elmet, but with so many restrictions attached that they seem to me to be almost worthless.

Thank You!

A word of thanks to all those I’ve flown with and those who have supported my flying activities throughout the year – whether ATC, Firecrew, groundstaff, maintenance engineers, committee members, club volunteers, instructors, examiners, pilots or students – too many to name individually. Equally to my wife/lifelong partner who tolerates my obsession with good grace and joined me for our European adventure.

Progress against objectives

Yet More Instruction!

No complaints here despite 318 hours dual flight instruction being down from 353 the year before. That excludes supervised solo, remote and in-person simulator time, groundschool and theory exams. A combination of weather and less demand at some clubs. The alternatives of simulator and groundschool understate the wider scope of my activities. The wide range from first flight to IRR/IR and real-world vs simulator provide for quite a variety.

Another longer trip into Europe

My two week Baltic tour more than ticked that box. The few overnight trips were brief but enjoyable.

Remote Flight Instruction

There’s more to be done persuading prospective students (and real-world pilots) of the value of disciplined simulator time. Some are already converted, and I’m pleased to have helped a number of remote students setup and configure their own simulators to match their own aircraft, then conduct them through specific training scenarios.

I’d add in the FRTOL Radio Course I have developed and delivered online, plus contributing as part of the operations and competence working group in PPL/IR that produced over a dozen training videos aimed at IFR private pilots this year.

Raw Statistics

  • Total Time: 2528:30 PIC 2314:45 Instruction 1509:30
  • This Year: 367:40 (of which 8:25 night)
    • PIC  366:05 (of which 318:55 instructing)
    • Dual 1:35
    • G-CORB 44:50
  • 365 flights (of which only 3 IFR Airways flights, plus some IMC/IFR outside airways)
  • 5 different aircraft types
  • 2 logged European trips
  • 11 new airfields (Total 279)

Next Year

I’m tempted to say it’s more of the same:

  • Similar flight instruction: No big change required – I seem to be busy enough and have plenty of variety.
  • Another foreign tour: No specific plans yet. I’d really hope to have more foreign trips and more IFR airways.
  • Further enhancement of simulator use: perhaps developing some specific scenarios for IFR procedures
  • Some professional development, yet to be determined.

Some photos of the highlights

Powys Castle, Welshpool
Rotterdam Parkrun
Texel cafe has great views of the airfield
View of the Aalborg GA parking apron, with us at the far end.
Hässlö Flying Club, Västerås
Turku Castle, Finland
Tallinn City Walls
Spilve, Riga
Lübeck
Shuttleworth Collection

Leave a Reply

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