Updated: Aug 2, 2019
Visiting a new aerodrome can be daunting, especially if you are inexperienced, but there is some satisfaction in flying somewhere new by yourself.
Here are QuizAero's top tips for making it a stress-free end enjoyable experience.
1. Study the airfield plates
Make sure you know the runway details and circuit directions. Pay careful attention to no-fly zones and noise sensitive areas. Some airfields have specific rules for noise abatement and it is not impolite to break them - especially if it is out of ignorance! It is a good idea to take a copy of the airfield plates with you. You should also check the airfield's website for information before setting off.
Many apps such as SkyDemon are able to provide you with full circuit and taxiway information in flight making it far easier to obey the rules.
Consider the runway surface, gradient and length. Make sure you feel comfortable and that it is in your aircraft's limitations. It is worth pointing out to new pilots that if the runway is wider or narrower than the one you are used to, this may affect your depth perception when approaching to land. If the runway is wider, then you may sense that you are lower than you actually are and begin to flare too high. Similarly, if the runway is narrow, you may judge that you are higher than you actually are and not flare at all.
2. PPR - Call ahead
Many aerodromes require that you obtain permission prior to your arrival and it is only good airmanship to call ahead, especially if the aerodrome is unfamiliar to you. This also gives you an opportunity to ask any questions about facilities and weather conditions etc.
3. Familiarise yourself with the circuit and know the joining procedure
Make sure you have a clear understanding of the joining procedure and plan for it at the flight planning stage. After checking the weather forecast, you should be able to determine which runway to expect with a fair degree of accuracy, though you should familiarise yourself with all of the joining procedures.
4. Look at the aerodrome and surrounding area on Google Earth
This will help you to spot ground features and plan your circuit. You can even import your flight plan from many navigation apps into Google Earth so you can see exactly what you will be flying over as you approach the circuit. Do remember that Google Earth satellite imagery may be out of date and some things could have changed!
5. Youtube it
There's no substitute for being there, but Youtube can help.
There are many videos of aircraft taking-off and landing at various aerodromes on Youtube and it is highly likely you will be able to find one for the aerodrome you are visiting. This will help you to get a feel for the approach and see any surrounding obstacles.
6. Radio in good time
When approaching the airfield, don't leave your radio calls until the last minute. Establishing two way communication early will give you more time to make adjustments for traffic already in the circuit or perhaps a change of runway in use.
7. Carry a high-visibility vest
Many larger aerodromes require that at the aircraft occupants wear a high-visibility vest when on the apron. This is easy to forget if you operate out of a small airstrip and could lead to an awkward situation once you disembark the aircraft.
8. If your plan changes, let the aerodrome operator know
If you divert or cancel your flight altogether, you should call to the aerodrome operator and let them know that you are no longer coming. It is discourteous to not let them know and they could suspect that you have gone missing!
9. If you get it wrong - own up and apologise
If you fly over a noise-sensitive area or perhaps join the circuit incorrectly, own up to it and apologise. An airfield owner will be more forgiving to a visiting pilot who knows the procedure but gets it wrong as opposed to an ignorant pilot who didn't read the procedures.
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