Week Thirteen: Trip to Tenterfield

A visit to Airservices Brisbane, a nav to Tenterfield and a backseat ride on the Diamond were the highlights this week. Early in the week a group of us went up to Airservices at Brisbane Airport to see the other side of Air Traffic Control. Enroute. Most of us had visited the Gold Coast Airport Tower before to see how things work at an airport level and now we got to see how ATC works between airports, when planes are enroute. I couldn’t take any photos so let me try and paint a picture. It’s amazing, there is a huge room with rows and rows of consoles, each looking after a different part of the airspace. On each one you can see the cutouts where new flat panel screens don’t quite marry up with the once dominant and bulbous CRT display. These computerised consoles were rolled out in ’98 I believe, replacing the manual flight strip style system before it, and a whole new building was built with operations moved to the new building once commissioned. The same thing is happening again now. Airservices are in the midst of building another control building and training up all the operators for their next gen enroute system which will replace their current, aging system. This next gen system will be like the sister system to the new control tower INTAS system that’s being rolled out across the country. I’m glad I got to see some of the old system and what will one day be history, before the new system goes live.

This week I also had a nav out to Tenterfield, a beautiful morning and a really great run out, I was really happy with my performance and we stopped for a stretch out at Tenterfield where Jack showed me the remnants of crashed plane, not sure what it was though. We got back in the saddle heading for Lismore where Jack put me under the hood and we did a Lost Procedure followed by a Divert Procedure back to the Gold Coast, and that’s where the fun stopped. Up until the diversion everything was going really great, but the pressure and stresses started to pile up once the divert was underway. Jack sat back and watched, letting me make the calls. We were heading for the Gold Coast and started climbing up to 5500′ when suddenly, cloud, right in front of me. Jack asked me ‘what are you going to do?’ and I said descend, so we did to avoid going IMC. Not that there were many of them or that they were large, but I learnt the lesson to look forward and decide before just climbing up to a planned altitude, to get thinking in front of the aircraft. By this point my stress levels were rising, cloud, terrain, Mt Warning at 12 O’Clock, getting closer to Class C. I was wondering if I could hold it together, but I just thought to myself  ‘come on, don’t throw the towel in, push on, get back in the game and focus’. We went around Mt Warning visually, not the best plan in retrospect but I’m keen to use a triangle diversion the next time I’m in that position. I decided to head back through Brisbane Approach’s Airspace rather than sneak under the steps direct to Gold Coast Tower, I need the experience, and I’m glad I did because I was a bit rusty so it’s given me more to work on.

On the whole it was a mixed flight, first half was great and the second half not so much, but it’s all part of it. Jack is getting me used to making decisions now and not holding my hand as much anymore, it’s harder but it will be worth it. It’s best to learn these things now and make mistakes while there is an instructor to make sure it’s safe. Later in the week I went up and back seated a flight in the Diamond DA40 with Jordie, a fellow student, and Jack. It was a fairly short run down to the training area for Forced Landings, it was so good to get up in the Diamond and to also see another student flying. It really helped to get some perspective and put things into context, to realise that we are all learning and no one is perfect. I loved it, Jordie did a great job and being a fly on the wall was great, some good take aways for sure. Best of all, I finally got some photos from the air!


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