Single Pilot IFR & Cambridge RNAV

A feature length video sharing how I fly single pilot IFR exercising the privileges of an Instrument Rating (Restricted), concluding with an RNAV approach into Cambridge, landing on RWY 05.

Single Pilot IFR is one of the most challenging types of flying in general aviation. The biggest reason is it requires high workload and multitasking. The biggest key for me as a Single Pilot to reduce workload and make IFR much easier is pre-planning.  No type of flying requires greater skill or longer periods of concentration than SPIFR. Near perfect performance is the minimum standard, and that standard takes a commitment from the pilot.

Pre Flight –

April started off cool with showers and longer spells of rain, with easterly winds prevailing from the 5th to 18th. The weather turned settled and very warm with plenty of sunshine for most between the 17th and 23rd.

Sunset in London the night prior to the flight

Having flown a few weeks back, it was time to fly another IFR flight and get that much needed practice, confidence boost and prepare for flights in IMC conditions. We phoned Cambridge ATC on the morning, and was told to expect Runway 05.

Cambridge don’t always have their radar service available, and having flown here just over a year ago we had to self position for the ILS. But having flown an ILS into Southend, it was time to practice something of the non-precision kind. This time an RNAV approach.

Routine –

Having briefed in the aircraft for what would be a short routine flight from Stapleford Aerodrome for Cambridge, we made a routine departure from Runway 03L.

April started off cool with showers and longer spells of rain, with easterly winds prevailing from the 5th to 18th. The weather turned settled and very warm with plenty of sunshine for most between the 17th and 23rd.

This warm settled spell of weather brought with it some hazy conditions with no horizon apparent, and an inversion up to 6000ft. As we climbed away from the London area, the visibility got worse; not better.

I brought Tom Wheeler, a fairly experienced vanilla PPL holder to keep a good lookout whilst I practised my hand flying skills on instruments. We initially struggled with a DA42 closely converging on our track, but once the airspace opened up; we climbed up to 4000ft and turned towards Cambridge.

Autopilot management

I set the autopilot on and closely followed through whilst keeping up to date with the latest weather information for Cambridge. I wasn’t sure as to how I was to fly the RNAV, as it’s direct path starts from the west.

A waypoint called BEPOX would be the Initial fix. I planned to fly to the north of the airfield and then north of Grandsen Lodge gliding site before making a direct routing towards BEPOX. With traffic climbing out of Cambridge to 4000ft and Cambridge having descend us to 3000ft, I elected to route outbound on the NDB following the reciprocal routing of the final approach path before making a right-turn direct BEPOX.

The following CAA chart overlayed with my track from the SkyDemon GPS log.

Whilst I am unsure if this was the correct way of starting the approach from the south side of the aerodrome, it appeared to work well. Especially a join from outside of controlled airspace.

RNAV without advisory vertical guidance –

This RNAV approach is a non-precision approach. A continuous descent profile should be set and checked at set distances before touchdown. This model of DA40 doesn’t have WASS enabled Garmin GPS. This means that there is no vertical profile to any GPS based approaches. Thus making any GPS approach an LNAV.

With a decision height of 660 feet and carefully descending at 500 feet per minute, we made an uneventful landing into Cambridge, just over an hour later than planned.

The chart for reference is located and freely available on the NATS AIS Home. Reference – AD 2-EGSC-8-2. CAMBRIDGE RNAV (GNSS) RWY 05.

Landing Runway 05 at Cambridge.

Late Lunch –

Cambridge is situated in a fairly bit of congested airspace with London Luton to the South-West, RAF Mildenhall to the North East and Stansted to the South along with Duxford. But it was a fun flight, and a quick Uber into Cambridge for a much deserved burger before flying home just prior to the airport closing for the night.

The airport is conveniently located on the eastern outskirts of Cambridge, and about 1.7 miles from the city centre. Being a world renowned university city, it has much to offer and explore. Unfortunately I didn’t have much time due to the aerodrome closing relatively early.

I always feel it’s very important to allow more time in General Aviation. Generally speaking, delays can happen and mostly this isn’t down to poor-planning but having the aircraft ready and not rushing any checks, refuelling and final calculations prior to a flight is of a high importance.

We had time for a quick bite to eat at Butch Annies. Whilst not what I intended to eat on this short stop, it was the much needed and required energy for the flight back to London.

Beautiful Cambridge

Current Single Pilot IFR Preparation –

When I plan any flight and not just IFR flights, most of which I currently do outside controlled airspace, which I must add, is a whole different ballgame in the UK.  

There are a few key things I like to have.    

  • A plog with space to write everything down and information relating to the planned flight. 
  • I also carry non-electronic charts for various approaches, and diversionary airports for the intended flight.
  • MSA – This is the minimum safe altitude at which unless I am departing or landing at an aerodrome I’d like to be at.
  • Even though this specific aircraft has two Garmin GPS inbuilt. I still carry an EFB with SkyDemon and the planned route loaded on along with a copy of the electronic charts ready for access.
  • I usually also carry a copy of the weather charts in paper format for the longer flights so that I can assess a dynamic situation.

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