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Flight to Oxford, or maybe not! – Daan van der Heijden

Date: 4 April 2018

After a couple of days off, I was due to fly last Wednesday. I was scheduled to depart at 09:00 in G-DOSC (a DA42) for a flight down to Oxford where I would practice a hold overhead a beacon followed by an approach into a missed approach. After leaving Oxford's airspace we would head back to Bournemouth for another approach to land. En route we would do some general handling (stall practice, steep turns, unusual attitude recoveries and basic instrument flying on a limited panel).



Considering this was my first time flying to Oxford, I was thinking which approach would be the most likely to get on the Instrument Rating Test (IRT) if Oxford would be the assigned route. After considering which types of approaches I had done into other airports (such as Alderney, Exeter, Guernsey and Jersey), I decided to go with two possible procedures. Depending on the runway in use it was either going to be an ILS DME procedure (runway 19) or a special NDB DME procedure (runway 01).



Most approach procedures will position you – if you follow them correctly – on the extended runway centerline or within a couple degrees therefrom, so that when the runway is in sight you will be able to conduct a safe landing.


The ILS DME procedure does this. However, since runway 01 does not have an ILS DME procedure and due to the complex nature of the airspace around Oxford, there is no approach procedure available for runway 01 to position you on or near the extended centerlines. This is where the so-called '098' procedure comes into play. This procedure basically positions you over the top of the airfield, perpendicular to the runway centerlines. From that point pilots are required to join the visual flying circuit by making a right turn onto the downwind leg, following the circuit and making a visual approach onto runway 01.

Due to the complexity of this procedure and the fact that the final part of the approach must be flown in visual reference to the ground whilst maintaining sufficient obstacle clearance, the minimums (altitude at which the pilot must commence the missed approach procedure in case no visual reference with the ground or runway can be obtained) are fairly high.




Looking at the weather on Tuesday night, the forecast showed that there would be a significant chance of some snow at Bournemouth Airport. However, since we are flying according to Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) the chances were that I would have still been able to conduct the flight. My instructor told me we were briefing at 07:30. I wanted to obtain the weather, complete all documentation and do the aircraft pre-flight inspection before the briefing so I drove to Bournemouth at 05:30. Stepping outside the house in Southampton, I noticed it was snowing and there was already a small amount of snow on the road. En route, the snow was getting more intense and I started to realize there might be a chance that the flight had to be cancelled. I arrived in time to the training center at Bournemouth and I started my planning for the day. An instructor told me that he had already cancelled the flights with his students due to the weather and it was very likely that mine would be cancelled as well. Nonetheless, I continued planning so I would be ready to go in case the weather got better.



Unfortunately, it didn't. Studying the weather charts indicated a high likelihood of severe turbulence and icing on our planned route and altitudes. When my instructor arrived, I told her what was going on and we both agreed to cancel the flight. After a quick peek on the ramp I headed home. Later that day we received an email from the Chief Flight Instructor (CFI) stating that the training center would be closed from 14:00 on Wednesday and would remain closed on Thursday and Friday! I was told by the operations department that I would be able to conduct the flight the following week.


The schedule for Wednesday came out, I was scheduled to for a flight in the afternoon. Luckily, the planning that I did earlier did not go to waste as the route and the procedures all remain the same. Since we all know nothing changes more than the weather, this was basically the only part of the planning that I needed to redo. Studying the weather, it became clear that there was no reason to cancel the flight today and that we would be able to go as soon as we were ready.


Check out Daan van der Heijden's personal website here