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PPL Skills Test

Old 23rd Oct 2016, 12:50
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PPL Skills Test

Hello All,

Well, my instructor thinks I'm prepared for my skills test, so I have it booked for the 8th November. I feel fairly confident with everything, but it's been so long since I've done a nav flight, I feel that I may make a silly mistake or something. There seems to be conflicting reports of what to expect in the test, and one of those relates to the diversion. On the 2nd leg of my planned route, I will, apparently, be asked to divert to a different place. Do I have to draw on the map my new route, or will it just be a case of guesstimating which heading and how far away it is? Or do I also need to do a time calculation in my head etc?

Has anyone got any tips on the test, because it would be great to hear from various people?

Many thanks

T
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Old 23rd Oct 2016, 13:46
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Join Date: Aug 2016
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For my skills test I had to plot a route from East Mids Airport (the start) to Thrapston (east of Kettering) then to Chipping Campden (about 20 miles due south of the BHX NDB).
Note there's no Chipping Campden back to East Mids Airport

First leg was straight forward - just fly to Thrapston. Did that, no problem.
Then start on second leg, fly towards Chipping Campden...

Just after passing Northampton my examiner asked me to do a position fix, which I did using the DTY and HON VORs.
And very shortly after that he asked me to divert to Nuneaton Disused (aka Mira - halfway between Leicester and Birmingham).

As part of this I had to mark it up on the map, calculate the heading (accounting for wind) and ETA (and fly the plane at the same time :lol: )

I got it all spot on, which was nice and ended up passing the test.

So, recommendations from me

- make sure you've got your wind star prepared and know what your ground speed will be at various headings
- have something with you that has a time / distance matrix (if I'm travelling at 90kts then it will take me x minutes to do y miles) - the PLOG forms at the school I learned with had this printed on the back
- get good at using one hand to draw on the map while the other hand's flying the plane (or using the rudder to steer). I'd seen things on forums where the students had asked the examiner to hold the controls while they worked out the divert, but I asked mine a month or so in advance what his thoughts were on that... He said it would reduce his confidence in the pilot...

And good luck!


Example of the wind star and speed matrix on the back of the PLOG I use...

Last edited by Nick T; 23rd Oct 2016 at 13:52. Reason: Added image
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Old 23rd Oct 2016, 13:52
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Thank you both. NickT, you had to have an exemption from the CAA, if I remember correctly? They took payment for mine on Tuesday, do you know how long it took to get it to you after that?
Thank you
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Old 23rd Oct 2016, 14:04
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Hi - yes, I did. IIRC they took payment when they actually sent me the exemption as a PDF via email. That may be because I'd been calling them every other day for an update and 'reminding' them that my skills test was in a few days and I needed the exemption beforehand though :lol: It was definitely 7 or 8 working days after I applied that I got the exemption back, anyway.

And yes, what TangoAlphad said too - all of that very valid, including the bit about making sure you're not diverting off into controlled airspace. My examiner didn't do that, but I'd heard a few like to... (so I made a point of saying 'looking at the track we're not going to be in Birmingham's airspace, but I'll be careful because we're not a million miles away').
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Old 23rd Oct 2016, 15:37
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Hmmm, I still haven't had anything from them, which isn't really a surprise, but, I am a little concerned. I've never seen a PLOG like that, how does that wind star work?
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Old 23rd Oct 2016, 16:04
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As part of your pre-flight prep you calculate the magnetic heading (or drift correction) to achieve a track corresponding to the compass headings in the outer ring. You also calculate your groundspeed for each of those headings.

Here's a website that explains & automates the process. After calculating your diversion track & distance in the air you use the wind star to estimate heading, groundspeed & ETA to your diversion.
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Old 23rd Oct 2016, 16:58
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Sounds a bit complicated. Can't you just use max drift and the 6ths rule? Close enough for a diversion.
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Old 23rd Oct 2016, 17:08
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It's not complicated in the slightest
It's just the same as you planning your usual route at the start, although you're doing it for a few more headings...

Completely takes away the guesswork of the whole thing.

Ok, I have to divert. The map says I need to go a heading of 330. Let's see... the windstar says that if I want to go 330 I ACTUALLY need to go 315. And my ground speed for 330 is now 70kts.

And as it's 20nm away I'll be there in 17 mins.

Really easy, because you've prepped beforehand and are just reading it off a sheet. One less calculation to worry about when you're stressing in the middle of your test!
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Old 23rd Oct 2016, 18:54
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True, but it strikes me as something you'd be likely to ditch as soon as you have passed the test and have GPS and/or Skydemon to hand. In which case, it's learning for the test, not for real life.
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Old 23rd Oct 2016, 20:10
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Some may see it like that (along with how to use a whiz wheel etc, do a manual plog etc.) but for me, as a computer programmer / software development manager / tech early adopter I see it as learning the skills you'll need to rely on when the iPad with Skydemon and Garmin GLO fails

I'll always do a manual plog / wind star before I fly - then I'm prepared
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Old 23rd Oct 2016, 20:23
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Sounds a bit complicated. Can't you just use max drift and the 6ths rule? Close enough for a diversion.
As an instructor I would say it is a bit late to be learning a new method when you have a good method that works, stick to the Max drift & 6th.
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Old 23rd Oct 2016, 20:48
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True, but it strikes me as something you'd be likely to ditch as soon as you have passed the test and have GPS and/or Skydemon to hand. In which case, it's learning for the test, not for real life.
So why bother to learn how to navigate at all?

Last edited by Council Van; 14th Sep 2018 at 08:14.
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Old 24th Oct 2016, 09:41
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On my skills test it was all a bit cruder than this, on the divert as mentioned above I found a landmark (a large town I could identify) drew a line from that to the divert destination, measured it with my pencil, rounded the numbers for speed/distance/time calculation and made an educated guess at the drift.

Just a little bit of mental arithmetic, at the end of the test the examiner isn't going to say you've failed as on the divert you were a minute or a degree out.

I hate the GPS bashing that goes on, "children of the magenta line"... "why bother to learn how to navigate" is all a bit patronising. People refusing to use modern technology like GPS, refusing to talk on the radio to anyone or use a transponder are the real danger.

Yes, we all need to know how to read a map and do dead reckoning etc, but why on earth talk down GPS systems? Years ago you'd pay thousands to have this technology, now there's no reason why every pilot wouldn't have it, other than their own arrogance.
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Old 24th Oct 2016, 10:45
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Sounds kinda complex, but I guess nice and simple when you know. So, if I'm told to divert, I don't have to divert straight away, I can orientate myself by flying to a nearby large town or something that's easy to identify, before diverting?
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Old 24th Oct 2016, 12:00
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Yes, always divert from a known visual reference point, mark it on your chart and the time you were there before you set off on the diversion (having estimated the route by whatever means your instructor taught you).
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Old 24th Oct 2016, 12:32
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My point was more that you would have to have a double failure to acquire a day version and also have your GPS go down. By all means use dead reckoning as a fallback technique for GPS failure.
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Old 24th Oct 2016, 21:07
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Has anyone got any tips on the test, because it would be great to hear from various people?
I take it that you have read and digested CAA Standards Doc 19 Notes for the Guidance of Applicants taking the PPL Skill Test (Aeroplanes) that your instructor should have given to you!
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Old 24th Oct 2016, 22:12
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Indeed, Whopity!

Quite how a student pilot have reached the PPL Skills Test stage and not have been correctly taught how to cope with a basic VFR practice diversion is also something of a surprise....

I feel fairly confident with everything, but it's been so long since I've done a nav flight, I feel that I may make a silly mistake or something.
Just what are the standards at this RF/ATO? Who would recommend an applicant for a PPL Skill Test if he/she hadn't flown a navigation exercise for so long?
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Old 24th Oct 2016, 23:01
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Hmmm might be an idea to do a Nav flight before the test....
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Old 25th Oct 2016, 10:07
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I think I will. C'mon guys, I'm not saying I'm totally incompetent, just trying to get as many words of wisdom as possible before I sit it. I wouldn't be willing to pay the test fee if I didn't think I wasn't in a position to take and pass the test, but as I say, it's nice to have some helpful advice before I sit the test.
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