Woke up feeling unusually uncertain about my flight for the day. I did more planning than I usually did for a student instructor flight.
I checked the weather over and over again, wanting to make sure we were good to go, printed out the Weather and the approach plate see below.
FAPE approach plate not suitable for use inflight.
Checked and rechecked the weather because I was so uneasy.
I rebriefed the student to make sure he was fully in the know about the days plan.
Take off was smooth, AFIS(air traffic control) however kept clearing us to report outbound at the wrong place. Also pretty odd, they usually have their story on lock down.
While sitting in the aircraft I decided to recap how to correctly adjust the fuel to air ratio known as mixture, unlike in a car the change in altitude has to be compensated for by an increase or reduction in the amount of Fuel entering the engine, my Spidey senses were extra extra sensitive😂, read through the manual and checked the students planning to confirm his fuel planning was correct.
The flight was from FABW (Beaufort West) to FAPE (Port Elizabeth) total flight time 4 hours, with the winds at the time of planning which was the night before.
By God’s Grace we had a tail wind of approximately 25kts, in hind sight that should have been a good sign of things to come, particularly because FABW is prone to strong winds that never favour the runway direction for Beaufort West aerodrome.
Approaching Port Elizabeth airspace we were told “In future please call us before departure”
That too was odd because the normal procedure was to call them the day before and book a beacon slot, non the less I apologised and thanked them for accommodating us.
My student proceeded to the beacon, which is the instrument used for approaches under cloudy conditions or low visibility, he then reported over the beacon and then was Radar vectored for traffic separation.
Lol the following might get confusing because it’s all aviation jargon but bare with me…
From there student entered the holding pattern with a direct sector entry and was given an approach time (OCT) of 05:50 UTC as we approached the beacon we were cleared for the ILS approach runway 08 PE.
Port Elizabeth international airport.
Bare in mind this is a Cessna 172 (image shown in previous blog posts) flying at an International airport so we had fast traffic behind us… 😂😂😂 Anyway we managed to complete a touch and go landing (TGL) and I requested to fly back to FABW after the TGL for some reason I just felt like there was no point in doing a second approach.
Routing back to FABW wind is still calm until boom, I see a message on our company group saying everyone Land immediately.
Fuel remaining at this point is 28 USG, we were 89nm south east of the airfield with a strong wind.
I received a weather update on my phone and also made contact with ATC to confirm the update was accurate.
Fuel running low, inclement weather and dehydration are the worst combination of odds to encounter in a light aircraft.
Symptoms of dehydration include sleepiness, lack of energy, confusion or irritability, I know I was dehydrated because it was a 4 hour flight and I only had 500ml of water.
Altitude not only causes a reduction in oxygen but also in atmospheric moisture, plus this area is generally very HOT,so it’s a must for pilots to stay hydrated.
At this point I’m already calculating fuel required to travel to an alternative aerodrome and what the wind conditions are and whether or not the fuel we have will get us there under the current conditions.
All throughout the flight we were flying at high altitudes and only descended as a result of choosing a different airport to land in.
Change in altitude means an increase in fuel burnt because there is more oxygen, but climbing to a higher altitude wasn’t in the cards because that uses far more fuel than descending and maintaining a lower altitude…
Calculations were completed and I told the student “I have control” this is by far the most important statement in a cockpit because it’s important that it’s always clear who is flying the plane.
All the way to Oudsthoorn airport I had my eye on the fuel.
My relief came once I could see the runway, once the wheels touched down I was hit by a huge sigh of relief.
Fortunately there wasn’t too much need to panic because my students planning as well as my own constant monitoring of the fuel ensured that we landed within the legal minimum requirements for fuel reserves in the type of aircraft we were flying.
However one can NEVER assume that the internal guage of an aircraft is reading accurately thus the lesson here is to always make sure you complete accurate planning.
Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance
All in all I had to spend the night away from “home”, after years of getting told to carry toiletries for flights planned more than 30nm from the airport today was the day I experienced a real life diversion and I was not fully prepared 🤷🏾♀️🤷🏾♀️
Thank God things did not get worse than what they were.
Real life diversion!