Purpose of Flight: Circuits VI and Controlled airspace
Flight time (hrs): 1.4
Airport: Sunshine Coast Airport (YBSU)
TAF YBSU 102211Z 1100/1112
METAR YBSU 110330Z AUTO 11010KT 9999 // NCD 24/13 Q1020
Super excited about learning to how to fly in controlled airspace. I’d spent about a month out of the cockpit and planned to drive up to the Sunshine Coast for the afternoon to have a lesson. The flight school (ADFA) is quite busy during the week teaching between 20-30 full time students, so I decided to opt for a time when the school (and air traffic) was less busy.
Today I was back in the Tobago (VH-TOI) since KEP was being flown around the Whitsundays. Like I said before, the Tobago has quite a bit more power, more spacious and comfortable to fly.
Listen out on the ATIS and jot down relevant Wx, Traffic in the area details and the ATIS signature … e.g. ‘delta’…
Change radio freuency to 121.4 MHz to communicate with tower ground.
Sunshine coast ground and air traffic control operate on two separate frequencies. When establishing communication with the tower on the ground say the following:
Leaving controlled airspace:
Transitioning to uncontrolled airspace:
Entering Controlled airspace
“Sunshine Coast Tower Tobago Oscar India maintaining 1500 at Noosa Heads Inbound, received information echo”
The above radio routines were used during the flight, taking off runway 18. Strong crosswind experienced on take off. Nose wheel had significant jitter at speeds <40 kts. Turned left on crosswind and maintained 1000 ft on downwind above water tracking north. Stayed close to the shoreline past column and noosa heads and exited airspace. Generally poorer than usual visibility ~4-5 mi, and clouds at ~2000 ft made for interesting VFR conditions – the disorientation was quite noticeable. Turned towards Mt Cooroy and climbed to 1500 ft prior to heading towards Tewantin. Radio call to tower made upon reaching Noosa Heads.
Instructor made a request to join a circuit pattern for touch-and-go practice. Descended to 1000 ft and joined on base. Tower controlled circuits were fairly straight forward, one only had to confirmed intention (e.g. t&g vs full stop) to tower on downwind and await further instructions (e.g. being directed into a left or right circuit). As always, repeating the final instructions to ensure instructions were understood.
Touch and go circuits were being performed on Rwy 12. The runway was significantly shorter than I’ve been used to (650 m versus 2000 m at YHBA!!. The downwind leg was over in under a minute so I felt like I had to slow down a bit to keep ahead of the aircraft. Landings felt like they were improving despite being in a different aircraft than what I was used to. Something that took some getting used to was needing to set the flaps with a switch. This is because it took longer to retract or expand the flaps as necessary. I felt more pressured for time when hitting the airstrip and transitioning to take-off because it took a few seconds to get the flaps back to take-off position.
I practiced about 4-5 landings, each time improving the routine for a shorter airstrip. On the final circuit the instructor cleared me for a glide landing. Engine power was cut and a well executed turn to the runway was made – reaching ~75kts glide with feathered pitch (the effect was really noticeable). Flaps engaged, re-aligned to land at the numbers. To assist in reducing the speed on mid final, the pitch was set to fine (i.e. more vertical) to increase air resistance… again the effect was noticeable.
Upon landing call was made to request taxi clearance back to ADFA on ground frequency (121.10 MHz)
The following is a brief overview of the maps and nav-aids used for IFR and VFR…
The US publishes VFR charts known as Sectionals. These cover the entire country, including non-continental areas like Hawaii. IMHO these are excellent although in busy airspace, the 1:500,000 scale can become complex. So pilots learning to fly in the US usually become familiar with the sectional covering their base field, and then with that understanding, can look at sectionals for anywhere else in the US.
Printed sectionals can also be used for long range VFR flight planning as they can be laid out in sequence and routes plotted across adjoining chart boundaries. For online chart examination, SkyVector publishes all US sectionals online, which is a great resource.
Australia does not publish sectionals covering the whole country. It’s a good question as to why but essentially the centre of the country is a big desert where few people live. So from a historical perspective, the inner part of the country has been regarded as “remote” and thus less in need of highly detailed maps. In addition, the word ‘sectional’ isn’t even in Australian pilot lexicon, so use the word ‘chart’ instead.
Australia publishes Visual Terminal Charts (VTC) for each large metropolitan area which are a Mercator projection at 1:250,000. And there are Visual Navigational Charts (VNC) which mostly encapsulate the VTCs and are at 1:500,000 (same as sectionals). The image below is an example of the Brisbane VTC.
As VTC/VNCs cover only largely populated areas, for printed chart long VFR route planning, you will need to revert to the World Aeronautical Charts (WACs), pronounced ‘whacks’.
WACs started as an ICAO project after WW2 to transition from the existing US-based international wartime series and so all Allied nations were effectively asked to harmonize their maps with a US design. But in 2015, the FAA stopped WAC production and thus a recently US-trained VFR PPL would never have heard of them(!)
The US WAC coverage looked like this:
WACs are a Lambert projection at 1:1,000,000 and in Australia, printed chart VFR route planning would be done over sequential WAC’s, with likely a supplemental VNC chart for the populated areas to be crossed. WAC’s do not contain airspace (although supposedly an aeronautical chart!). They are essentially a topo map with features that are easy to spot from the air.
There are no free online sources for Australian government produced charts. SkyVector shows a very data sparse US Sectional-like view of Australia but I wouldn’t use it for anything other than simple distance/leg planning.
Cost and availability for printed maps – there are several places that sell and distribute these maps. You may wish to check out the following links to browse what’s catalogued… unfortunately nobody ever shows a preview!
Most maps cost ~$11 each for any area listed…
All of the previously mentioned chart types for Australia are now encapsulated and adjoined in a single app known as OzRunways.
OzRunways works on both iOS and Android and seems very widely used amongst Australian VFR pilots. For VFR use, they provide a so-called ‘Hybrid VFR Map’ which simply uses the most detailed chart available. Price at time of writing is about AUD $100 and chart-wise also has New Zealand and Papua New Guinea (Nb It should be noted that the $100 p.a. subscription fee does not including worthy add-ons).