The Flying Reporter’s Top Tips

Top TipThe Flying reporter shares his aviation top tips

Those who watch my YouTube videos will know that I used to include a feature called ‘Top tip of the week’.   This later became ‘The Flying Reporter quiz’.  Here’s a list of those tips and quiz answers which may be useful for a private pilot.

Disclaimer: I’m not an instructor, I’m a hobby pilot.

30 March 2017

Transponder (squawk) codes

The transponder is a transmitter/receiver fitted in the aircraft that responds to interrogation from radar signals.  We use transponder (or squawk) codes to identify ourselves to ATC, or to signal important messages.  


7700 – General emergency

7600 – Radio communication failure

7500 – hijack/unlawful interference.

14 March 2017

Wind Correction Angles/maximum drift

To calculate maximum drift for a given windspeed use the following formula

Maximum drift = windspeed x 60 divided by airspeed

So, if the wind speed is 230 / 20 knots, and your airspeed is 100 knots..

20 x 60 divided by 100 = 12 degrees

1 March 2017

Time of useful consciousness

Time of useful consciousness is the amount of time you have to react to the depressurisation of an aircraft cabin.  Above 10,000ft, pilots and passengers either need to be flying in a pressurised aircraft, or use supplemental oxygen.  This is because as we climb up in the air, the air becomes thinner and if we don’t act, our brains are starved of oxygen.  This is called hypoxia.  

In my quiz question of 1 March 2017, I asked:

‘In the event of depressurisation at 30,000 ft, what is the time of useful consciousness’?

Answer: If the body is at rest, you could expect anywhere between 1-3 minutes of useful consciousness.

9 July 2016

Pre take off briefing

  1. Runway length not limiting – check take off performance against runway length.
  2. Crosswind not limiting – calculate crosswind component.  Does it exceed the maximum demonstrated crosswind for the aircraft, or your own, personal limit?
  3. In the event of a problem during the take off roll, bring the aircraft to a stop, inform ATC, work the problem.
  4. In the event of a problem after take off, with sufficient runway remaining, land back, stop, inform ATC, work the problem.
  5. In the event of a problem after take off, with insufficient runway remaining, glide, choose a field/site 30 degrees from runway centreline, prepare for emergency landing, inform ATC if able.

Deciding take off abort point

It’s important to know that your aircraft has the necessary performance to take off before the runway runs out.  A technical issue with the aircraft, or miscalculation could mean you are not achieving the desired airspeed quickly enough.  One rule of thumb that I’ve been taught, is to make sure you’ve achieved 2/3 of Vr (rotation speed) by 1/2 of runway length.

3 July 2016

Navigating the circuit

As I found out to my cost during a trip to Shoreham aerodrome, it is easy to lose your way in the circuit.  In response to that incident, a viewer offered a ‘top tip’ to help prevent this from happening in future.

To avoid getting lost with the circuit directions, and runway headings, you could draw the circuit diagram on your half-mil chart.  This obviously only works for aerodromes with a small number of runways and fixed circuit directions.  In the case of Shoreham, they have variable circuits over 3 runways, so it wouldn’t have helped.

I use the SkyDemon app on my Ipad in the cockpit, and this software has a feature where you can choose the runway, circuit direction and join, and it’ll then display this on the map for you.

26 June 2016

Descent Planning

Assuming a 3 degree descent, the basic rule of thumb for knowing when to start your descent.

1000s of feet to lose x 3 = when to begin your descent in nautical miles.

So a descent from 6000ft to 2000ft

4 (thousand feet) x 3 = 12 nautical miles.

But how to maintain a 3 degree descent path?

I use this rule of thumb:

Rate of descent (ft per min) for a 3 degree descent = ground speed x 10 divided by 2.

So if your ground speed is 100 knots, a 3 degree descent, would requite a descent rate of 500 feet per minute

3 June 2016

Q codes

You hear pilots using the terms QNH and sometimes QFE, but what do these mean?

We navigate vertically using a pressure altimeter.   The altimeter dial goes up and down, in increments of feet, as you climb and descend.  Because it’s a pressure instrument, it has to be calibrated regularly with the barometric pressure which can change, minute by minute.  You set this pressure on your altimeter, using a small knob when you are given a new reading by ATC.

ATC will normally give you the pressure setting as a QNH.  QNH means that when you put this setting in your altimeter, the instrument will read altitude above mean sea level.  Since all the aeronautical charts are printed with ground elevations and obstacle elevations relative to mean seal level, this is the most obvious setting to use for en-route flying.

QFE can also be given by aerodromes, either as a matter of routine, or on request.  QFE is a setting which will ensure that the altimeter will read zero feet when you touch down on the runway at that aerodrome.  So QFE takes into account the elevation of the aerodrome and runway.  With QFE set in your altimeter, the instrument will read height above the aerodrome reference point described.  This is useful for when you’re landing.

There are a multitude of Q codes used in flying.  I don’t profess to know them all, but you can google them if you’re interested.

May 18

Getting back on track

Here’s an easy rule of thumb to use to get you back on track, if you find yourself 1 mile off course.

Turn 30 degrees towards track for….

If your groundspeed is:

90 knots    – 1 minute 20 seconds

100 knots  – 1 minutes 12 seconds

120 knots  – 1 minute