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Diversion Failure in Skills Test

Old 17th Nov 2019, 17:42
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Diversion Failure in Skills Test

Hi,

I find planning a diversion the hardest part of the PPL course.

While taking my hands off the control column, looking down at my chart to plot the new course, calculate a heading and ETA I get disorientated or the aircraft veers off course. In training my instructor would take hold of the control column while I planned the diversion but in the skills test I had no such luxury. As a result I started from the wrong point, veered off course got lost and failed.

Does anyone have any tips on how to plan the diversion without getting disorientated in the process?
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Old 17th Nov 2019, 18:39
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Have you asked your instructor for advice?

What I was taught to do was to hold over a specific point (could be a VFR point or another prominent feature that you can also see on your map).
That way, it's much more difficult to get disorientated because you always have a reference point you can quickly and easily find on your map.

It's also really important that you have the plane trimmed as well as possible to minimise altitude changes. If the plane suddenly veers up or down when you let go, it's not trimmed.

I think it's expected that you may gain a little altitude, speed up/ slow down and not do the perfect orbit when planning a diversion. But you still need to know clearly where you are and the plane still needs to be relatively where it should be in terms of altitude and speed.
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Old 17th Nov 2019, 19:10
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I think it's holding over a specific point that I have trouble with. In order to do that I would need to circle over that point which I can't do when my hands are off the control column.

By the time I've drawn my line, measured the heading and calculated the eta approximately 30 seconds have elapsed. Although the aircraft is trimmed, most have a slight roll to the left or right which means by the time I've plotted the new course, I'm already passed my starting point and I've veered about 20-30 degrees off track.
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Old 17th Nov 2019, 19:48
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Press -D-> button on GPS and there you go... ok now seriously.

I have never seen something like that and I can not imagine what you are dealing with but it is only PPL. With all respect.

Do you really have to plot it? It is PPL. I have map. I'm here and I want to go there that means turn around this tree, cross this river and over this village and it is done.
If you can not make it that simple then do not plot it from your possition. During our early navigation flights we had to cut our route into 5 minutes long parts. Do not start where you are. Start at next point so you will not be delayed or just hold while you plot it but I think it is much more difficult.
Could you be more specific how long flight it is, how high you fly? I'm really not familiar with PPL in UK but it is not IFR. You are looking out of window and follow what you see. I do not think it is ok not to fly. Even for a while.
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Old 17th Nov 2019, 20:14
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Break it down into chunks and fly a ractrack of about 1 minute then 180 turn then another minute then another 180 turn puts you back to where you started. By chunking the planning you can a) keep a position and b) make sure the aircraft is within the datums and c) execute proper lookout while planning.
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Old 17th Nov 2019, 20:18
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Draw the line freehand, parallel it to a VOR for a magnetic track, measure its length with your thumb, do not overcomplicate it, it is a diversion!
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Old 17th Nov 2019, 20:34
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If you don't plot it, how do you know which heading to turn to, to make your destination?

The skills test requires me to arrive at the diversion point within +/- 3 minutes of my ETA. I need to draw the line so I can measure it and estimate the ETA based on my speed.

The south of England is all flat and looks very much the same. Fields, towns, fields, towns, fields, towns. You need to be more precise to find some disused grass strip in the middle of nowhere that the examiner wants you to find.
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Old 17th Nov 2019, 21:07
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I had the same issue when I was training. I talked to friends and instructors and devised the following to help me:

1. Trim the aircraft so it flies 'hands off'. Probably hard in the school's 152 that's had more bounces than your average space hopper, but get it as good as possible. Trimming accurately is essential for this exercise.
2. Hold the chart up as far as you can. Using a small kneeboard or clipboard gave me something to lean against. This way the horizon stays in your peripheral vision and you can detect any roll more easily and be quicker to correct it. Also reminds you to do a thorough LOOKOUT
3. Get the right tools and do the right preparation. On my marker pen for my chart I wrapped it in a length of white tape and marked on lines for 5nm, 10nm, 15nm etc. This made it really easy to measure, mark off and calculate my timings. I also had a small credit card sized straight edge that was around my neck, perhaps you have an air side pass/ID badge that might suffice? For the prep; my school taught the 'Max drift' and 'clock code' method of working out headings. I always had the Max drift, wind vector and clock code marked on my chart somewhere (usually out to sea).
4. CHUNK. Do one task at a time, for example: Circle your diversion point, fly the aircraft, circle the diversion destination, fly the aircraft, draw the line, fly the aircraft, estimate true heading, fly the aircraft etc etc, you get the picture.

Diverting using map and compass is as much an exercise in workload management as it is in map skills etc, so make it as easy as possible for yourself. When they ask you to plan a diversion don't think you must go immediately, manage your workload by going from the next sensible point such as your next "feature" (My school called them 'event cycle features'). Other posts have talked about holding over a known point, but i'd say this is false economy as you are increasing your workload and also you are likely to be drifted away from your planned track, further adding to your workload.

If you do need to turn immediately on a diversion track then use the "big to small" method; decide where you need to go and turn towards it as best as you can using big features such as towns, cities the coast and of course the sun. This is somewhat harder as you need to still do all the same tasks for diverting while also planning the diversion. However once planned you can parallel your diversion track and then regain it. (This is also where local knowledge comes in, have a look at all the airfields around your route and get a rough idea of where they are in relation to the big features in the area, possibly have in mind a rough direction to turn in for the likely diversions you will get)

I found that learning to do this well really set me up for instrument flying, as that is also all about managing your workload and being methodical in your scan. Good luck in the rest of your training.
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Old 17th Nov 2019, 23:03
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Many many years ago you could buy plastic rules which clipped to the VOR on your map, using two VOR and two rules you could find your position in a few seconds with one hand and one eye

Originally Posted by admuffin View Post
Hi,

I find planning a diversion the hardest part of the PPL course.

While taking my hands off the control column, looking down at my chart to plot the new course, calculate a heading and ETA I get disorientated or the aircraft veers off course. In training my instructor would take hold of the control column while I planned the diversion but in the skills test I had no such luxury. As a result I started from the wrong point, veered off course got lost and failed.

Does anyone have any tips on how to plan the diversion without getting disorientated in the process?
icemanalgeria is offline  
Old 17th Nov 2019, 23:37
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Join Date: Nov 2000
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Based on my own experience, I would say that you are keeping your head down for too long. You need to look up every few seconds to check the horizon.
I remember in my cross-country training I became obsessed with the paperwork and when I finally looked up I discovered the aircraft had gently rolled into a 30 degree angle of bank. I blurted out an obscenity, my instructor laughed and said he'd been wondering how long it would take me to realise what was happening.
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Old 18th Nov 2019, 03:44
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Originally Posted by admuffin View Post
Hi,

I find planning a diversion the hardest part of the PPL course.

While taking my hands off the control column, looking down at my chart to plot the new course, calculate a heading and ETA I get disorientated or the aircraft veers off course. In training my instructor would take hold of the control column while I planned the diversion but in the skills test I had no such luxury. As a result I started from the wrong point, veered off course got lost and failed.

Does anyone have any tips on how to plan the diversion without getting disorientated in the process?
..Your primary task is ALWAYS to fly the airplane..(Any day, any condition, any plane, anywhere in the world)..My guess is that you failed, because you got distracted and didnīt do that..

..As far as diversion is concerned, I would use any VOR compass rose on the map, to get your orientation / magnetic heading to your new destination, and use the latitude lines (1 minute equals 1 nautical mile) to get the distance..Just slide your pen over the map to get these, works good enough..Then use your head to calculate a rough wind correction for heading / groundspeed / ETA to your new destination..
..I would also have an 2-3 alternate plans prepared before takeoff, just in case..Up in the air, flying single pilot, is not a good time to start replanning, plotting and making complex calculations..Distractions can have life changing consequences in an airplane..Good luck !!

Fly safe,
B-757
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Old 18th Nov 2019, 12:05
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Join Date: Oct 2004
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You need to have most of this in the back of your mind already.

Do the work on the ground. Tidying up the fine points during the flight is easy.

Give yourself a long holding pattern if need be, well trimmed, and with decent knee board or writing board itís easy.

but always work from having the big picture on where to go.

In your preflight planning, note your diversion fields, list their bearings and distances from each appropriate point on the back of your plan or somewhere else handy.

This will be relevant for the rest of your career....

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Old 18th Nov 2019, 12:26
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If you are having trouble with the Aeroplane not staying wings level when you release the yoke, try using the rudder. Remember secondary effects of controls?
if the left wing drops whilst you are hands off drawing a line on your chart, use sufficient right rudder to stop it dropping and resume wings level . You can use your peripheral vision and rudder to fly wings level whilst otherwise occupied.

Your instructor should have shown you how do do this anyway. If not ask him how he would do it!

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Old 18th Nov 2019, 12:44
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Take an easily reachable and identifiable reference point and start your diversion from there.
While navigating to the reference point find out the correct heading from the reference point to the alternate airport. If you overshoot, go off course or anything else, come back to the reference point and start diverting only once reached.
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Old 18th Nov 2019, 15:48
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Originally Posted by admuffin View Post
..... In training my instructor would take hold of the control column while I planned the diversion but in the skills test I had no such luxury. .....
You must be kidding me when you say that, up until the Skills Test, your instructor had control of the aircraft every time you did this in Training! Yes, in the early days but, very soon, my Studes were plotting and flying so, when it came to Test Day, it was all routine to them! To try to bring both together for the first time on your Skills Test is barking mad! If I were you I'd be chatting to the School about a substantal amount of free training as you were put forward for a Skills Test essentially with a training gap! Go to the CFI and ask for an explanation and ask what he plans to do about it!

As an aside, the suggestions above seem sensible - particularly those who have suggested switching between the two tasks rapidly and often so you get the plotting done but never let the plane head off on its own. But any self-respecting Instructor must ensure you can do the lot before even thinking of Test! Honestly, "that's a cracker" - and one you should not be paying for!



And just to add, you don't even need to fly the Diversion every time. Quite often, if I knew studes were strugglling a bit with this, en route back from somehere doing something else I'd just say "Blogs/Blogette, the weather ahead is rubbish/I'm not "for exercise" feeling too good, please plan a diversion to XYZ for me". Once plotted I'd check that it looked sensible and we'd continue en route to our initial destination. For formal Diversion training flights you'd fly it to the revised destination to prove it works but you can practice the "difficult" bit a lot more at the end of any flight so you'd just pay for the 0.1 or 0.2 doing the "fun bit" with charts, routes, MSAs etc while keeping the plane in check while heading home.

Last edited by Hot 'n' High; 18th Nov 2019 at 16:39.
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Old 19th Nov 2019, 00:20
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Having a "correct" technique to make your instructor or examiner happy is one thing, but the most important thing is that you have a technique that you can rely on to keep you safe when bad stuff is happening and you're under the pump. Diversions in the real world generally don't happen in perfect conditions, with plenty of time to orbit or faff around with your head inside the cockpit while you plot a nice neat course on your map, fill out a leg on your flight log and all the rest of it. More likely, it will happen when you are caught by unexpected bad weather, a sick passenger, an electrical failure, caught down low under a cloud deck in poor visibility, or some other pressing issue that requires you to direct your attention outside. Often, in these situations, time is of the essense. So you need to be able to just decide where you want to go, and get going.

With practice, it is possible to estimate angles surprisingly accurately without the use of a protractor or a drawn line. If you have plenty of time with which to plot it all out, then by all means do so. But when you're under the pump, with last light looming, the fuel gauges flickering towards empty, or dodging clouds in poor visibility with the ALT FAIL light on or the oil pressure gauge flickering, it is far more useful to be able to glance at your map and go "that looks like the place I want to get to is just south of west from here.....let's say roughly 260 degrees about eighty miles", point the nose in that direction, and get going. Refine it as you go, by all means, but get the aircraft heading roughly in the right direction as a priority. Unless of course, you don't know where you are......in which case you are not performing a diversion, you are performing a "lost procedure".

Accuracy is important and you are right to try and get your ETAs as accurate as you can. But always, always retain the "big picture" in your mind. You are far better off to always know roughly where you are, than to spend so much time bogged in the paperwork trying to know "exactly" where you are that you get completely befuddled. Sometimes it really is as simple as just making an educated guess at a heading and time interval, pointing it in that direction, and then just concentrate on looking outside and getting yourself oriented.

Bear in mind that my experience is based on flying cross country in parts of the world with lots more open space and featureless terrain than you have in the UK. You don't want to take this too literally and get so slack with your planning that you risk busting airspace or getting lost. But having found myself needing to DR my way home over several hundred miles of featureless country more than once, I have generally found that the simpler you keep it, the better the outcome. Pre-flight planning is extremely important, but when you're in the air, keep it simple.

As an exercise, perhaps try pulling out a map at home, pick out a few airports or major landmarks, and just "guess" the bearing and distance between them. Write your guesses down, then come back later and measure them with a protractor and ruler. With some practice, you may be surprised at how good you can get at it. Even if you still plot it all out during your skills test, knowing that you are capable of finding your way about without doing that if necessary will boost your confidence and make you much quicker and more efficient in your planning.

(P.S. Are you flying something like a C150? If so, then you are doing around 1.5 miles per minute, or 2 miles per minute in something faster, like an archer. If you're in a C210 or Bonanza, then 2.5 miles per minute, or three miles per minute in a 310 or Baron. You can estimate your ETA just by dividing your "rough" distance by those numbers and unless it is blowing a howling gale, you won't be far wrong. Even if there is some wind, it should still be close enough to get your ETA accurate within your 3 minute margin without needing to pull out a calculator or whizz wheel. The faster the aeroplane, the more accurate this method is. Yes, it's a bit rough, but it works.)


Last edited by desert goat; 19th Nov 2019 at 00:43.
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Old 19th Nov 2019, 11:07
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Sounds like you've been put forward for your test too early. If the aircraft is trimmed in pitch and yaw then it should just keep going in a straight line, unless yours is badly bent or you're carrying a fuel imbalance.

Assume a C152 does 90kts (1.5nm/min makes the maths easy). It it doesn't, slow it down (or speed it up if you've got a crap one) until it does. Ditto mph if that's what your speedo is calibrated in. I know of people who have worked out a table of distance and time before - I can't remember if the time to diversion needs to be corrected for wind but in any case it's not going to make a huge amount of difference.

It should take you no longer than a minute to work out where you are, where you are going and the heading to steer. If it does - see my first point. Get it going the right way then work the timing out. Break the task down into little bits.

You're never going to be more than a mile and a half away multiplied by the time flown since from where you last knew you were.
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Old 19th Nov 2019, 13:42
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Originally Posted by admuffin View Post
....... Does anyone have any tips on how to plan the diversion without getting disorientated in the process?
admuffin, check your PMs. There are some natty devices which make plotting diversions in flight (inc wind adjustment) a doddle and v quick so I've Messaged you (so I don't fall foul of advertising rules and regs!) the details of what I/my students use/used. You can even practice the art of planning diversions in a confined area like a cockpit .... at home .... in your own "confined area simulator" .... your downstairs loo (NB Only invite the intructor in on that if you are real good friends with him/her!!!!!! ). That bit can be done at nil cost.

Once happy with the plotting technique getting the info onto the chart on your knee (incl the 6 minute marks, MSA checks etc), you simply practice drawing that up while flying and, as I said earlier, you don't even need to fly the re-planned leg - you just get used to plotting while flying - which should take no more than a minute or 2 (assuming you have a good idea where you are to start with...). The flying bit to your new destination is really no different to normal Nav and is more a confidence boost than anything else - except you are just now working off your chart. As someone said, you are not doing the "perfect job" - but you'll be amazed just how accurate it is.

As x993 says as well, your Instructor should have made sure you could do this on your own before you were put forward for Test. Good luck for your re-Test! Cheers, H 'n' H
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Old 20th Nov 2019, 12:02
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Thanks a lot everyone for your advice! I was able to pass the skills test yesterday.

The visibility was a lot better than last time, I wasn't heading into the sun on the diversion leg and the aircraft I was using was a lot steadier when I let go of the controls. Was that cheating, given I should be able to do this in all condition? Probably yes, but hell I'll take the pass!

Originally Posted by desert goat View Post
Having a "correct" technique to make your instructor or examiner happy is one thing, but the most important thing is that you have a technique that you can rely on to keep you safe when bad stuff is happening and you're under the pump. Diversions in the real world generally don't happen in perfect conditions, with plenty of time to orbit or faff around with your head inside the cockpit while you plot a nice neat course on your map, fill out a leg on your flight log and all the rest of it. More likely, it will happen when you are caught by unexpected bad weather, a sick passenger, an electrical failure, caught down low under a cloud deck in poor visibility, or some other pressing issue that requires you to direct your attention outside. Often, in these situations, time is of the essense. So you need to be able to just decide where you want to go, and get going.

With practice, it is possible to estimate angles surprisingly accurately without the use of a protractor or a drawn line. If you have plenty of time with which to plot it all out, then by all means do so. But when you're under the pump, with last light looming, the fuel gauges flickering towards empty, or dodging clouds in poor visibility with the ALT FAIL light on or the oil pressure gauge flickering, it is far more useful to be able to glance at your map and go "that looks like the place I want to get to is just south of west from here.....let's say roughly 260 degrees about eighty miles", point the nose in that direction, and get going. Refine it as you go, by all means, but get the aircraft heading roughly in the right direction as a priority. Unless of course, you don't know where you are......in which case you are not performing a diversion, you are performing a "lost procedure".

As an exercise, perhaps try pulling out a map at home, pick out a few airports or major landmarks, and just "guess" the bearing and distance between them. Write your guesses down, then come back later and measure them with a protractor and ruler. With some practice, you may be surprised at how good you can get at it. Even if you still plot it all out during your skills test, knowing that you are capable of finding your way about without doing that if necessary will boost your confidence and make you much quicker and more efficient in your planning.
Wow that sounds very real! I hope I don't have to deal with this kind of situation or would be able to deal with it if it arises.

Good advise re estimating headings and distances and measuring to check accuracy. I'll have a go at this!
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Old 21st Nov 2019, 19:02
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Originally Posted by admuffin View Post
..... Wow that sounds very real! I hope I don't have to deal with this kind of situation or would be able to deal with it if it arises. ...
Hi Admuffin, firstly, congratulations on the Pass! Mind you, the whole point of your training is to take what sounds a difficult situation and train you so it is semi-routine as, usually, it will happen when things are not going your way with weather etc! There is nothing mystical about this diversion work ... and please, if you feel it was a fluke, for your own sake, just check you are happy with it - it could save your life. You'll have seen my second PM which, I hope, explains a bit about the method I used. Even though qualified, ask if some other instructor could perhaps show you again using that bit of kit, or just have a bit more practice the way you do it. You only really start learning after the Skills Test!

Anyway, well done on the skills test. And, no doubt, you will find you will have to divert..... for many reasons and always unexpectedly! I nearly had to in France once when the aircraft ahead of me on Final crashed on landing, coming to rest in a cloud of dust with collapsed gear to one side of the runway. I thought "Sh1t, here we go - a diversion in France!". Ah, but for French pragmatism! "G-AB, continue weeth the approache ... you see le crached plane, Oui?" "Affirm, G-AB visual with the crashed plane!" "Rogeur, avex le crached aeroplane een sight, land over zat plane on Rhunway two-seeex!". Well, as there was no signs of a fire and it was a huge runway, I sort of flew the approach slightly high and a bit to the right (so I could see where "le wreckage" was at all times!) and landed sort of "over/after/in front of....."! ..... Saved having to sort a hotel out at short notice wherever I had diverted to! That would have been the real pain!

Only in France - et, merci beaucoup to l'ATCO on duty that day!". Again, well done on the Pass! Enjoy! H 'n' H
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