As the Formula 1 circus rolls into town, the pilots get ready!
I mentioned back in May that I had attended a ‘practice day‘ for private pilots who intend to fly into this years Santander Formula 1 at Silverstone; well it’s now nearly upon us. The event starts on Friday 9th, with the actual Grand Prix on Sunday 11th. The Friday and Saturday are free practice and qualifying days for the F1, alongside the other racing series which take part in the weekend. I have a ticket for all 3 days and now intend to fly in on all three days too – so the preparation begins!
The usual mandatory briefing for commercial pilots and operators took place on Monday at Silverstone, and although I had taken part in the earlier practice day I was also invited to this. I figured that a refresher wouldn’t hurt as May seems an age ago now, so flew in with Sarah Bowen who is Chief Flying Instructor at HeliCentre (who are now at Leicester, having moved from Coventry). She is operating multiple commercial charters on the day and thus not watching the grand prix. I gave her a lift down to Silverstone, and borrowed some advice from her en-route (blog to follow!).
The briefing itself was largely a re-run of the May event, but with more a little more detail as things are now more clear (for instance the various ATC frequencies weren’t available in May). In addition there was a speech from Northamptonshire Police Special Branch on counter terrorist measures, which was primarily aimed at commercial operators. The briefing took about 2 hours, and HeliAir laid on sandwiches again. Well worth it.
With the key points refreshed it now falls to me to plan my flights for the weekend. Although each flight will probably only be about 30 minutes in duration, it’s important to remember that the airspace around Silverstone becomes the busiest in the world on race day. Not the place to be making mistakes! Fortunately I have my flights on Friday & Saturday when it is a little less busy to really “nail” the procedures for race day.
So, I have spent several hours reading and re-reading the briefing notes which contain instructions on joining points, hold datums, final points, approach and departure profiles and emergencies. In addition to this I have read the AIC for the event which details the restricted area.
Then I have taken all this information and put it in my flight planning software (FlyMap Win) so I can download it into the main FlyMap GPS in the aircraft for the day. Having all the points in the GPS already really is a must for the day when there could be around 50 other helicopters operating VFR in the vicinity at any one time. I’m going one step further and putting the points in the aircraft Garmin GPS too, just in case.
Of course, a GPS should only be used an aid to navigation for VFR flights. So the same information has been transferred onto my 1:250,000 VFR chart. Then, because I will need at least 5 frequencies on the day, as an aid memoir I have produced an A4 sheet for each approach path (wind dependent) which carries photo’s of the various points taken from the air, the holding pattern, a list of frequencies and a plan of the FATO. I’ll laminate these and take them with me – the aim being to keep concise information to hand when flying!
So with that all done, I just need to pick up the aircraft tomorrow and position it a bit nearer home – and we’ll see how we get on on Friday. I’ll keep you all posted.