Episode 5

Published on:

29th Mar 2023

Return to flying

Spring is here and many pilots are returning to GA flying after the winter months.  We speak with Lucy Wootton, Chief Inspector at the Light Aircraft Association who explains how to prepare for getting back into the air.

We also talk to Jo Aston, the CAA’s Met Technical Officer who shares her experience as a specialist aviation meteorologist.

Updates and resources mentioned in this episode:

If you have any feedback or suggestions for areas that you’d like us to cover in this podcast, please get in touch at gapodcast@caa.co.uk.


Voiceover 0:11

Welcome to the general aviation podcast from the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

Alex Blomley 0:23

Hello, and welcome to the UK CAA's general aviation podcast. My name is Alex Blomley, and it's great to be able to bring you this first podcast for GA for '23. There's a couple of topics and updates I wanted to share with you at the beginning. So some of you may remember, we had a couple of consultations running last autumn. So the pilot medical declaration review ran last year. And a few weeks ago, fairly recently, we published an update to that consultation. So we did share that via skywise, but if any of you may have missed that, we will put some links in the notes. And also lots and lots of you responded to the licensing consultation. So we're very grateful for that. It is a very important piece of work. So we're very, very pleased that so many of you are engaged with that project, we are imminently about to publish a consultation review document on that really setting out clearly what we found in the consultation and what our next steps are going to be. And I think if you remember the last podcast we shared on this topic, this is going to be a bit of a multi phase, multi year project. So yeah, look out for that update. And once we've got that, we'll share that with you via Sky wise, which reminds me that if those of you listening are not subscribed to Sky wise, do please subscribe. It is free. And it means that you get updates on all of our projects, activities, consultations that affect you as GA pilots and members of the GA community. So do you please sign up skywise. And I make sure that there's some details and how to do that in the podcast notes as well. And a few things that we've been publishing, I know a lot of you really like the Safety Sense leaflets that we're currently going through and updating. I just wanted to mention our most recently published websites leaflet on radiotelephony, or RT for short. I mentioned that because there was also a really good astral aviation consulting workshop, astral do support us as a third party safety promotional agency. And they run a series of workshops throughout the year on various different topics that you the community tell us you'd like to hear more about. So radiotelephony is one that was a really, really good session. And off the back of that. And obviously if the back of the safe sense leaflet, we're also going to be publishing a new podcast on RT, one of my colleagues, David Pratt is pulling that together at the moment. So that will come out in a few weeks time. So do please look out for that as well. But yeah, do read the Safety Sense leaflet on it. It's one of those ones that is really good to brush up on particularly as we're coming into everyone getting back into flying for perhaps those who may have not been flying over the winter. And it was something that was echoed in the recent CHIRP, GA feedback form report that they produce as well that communications is one of those things that they're finding, people need to perhaps be a bit bit hotter on. So we recommend having read through that. And yeah, watch the workshop playback as well from astral some really good interesting hints and tips there. And if there are topics that you might like to see done in workshop form for astral or perhaps you'd like us to have a chat about on the podcast, do please drop us a line at gapodcast@ca.co.uk . And we can explore those topics as well. And now we're going to talk about weather. And some of you may have attended a workshop hosted by astral aviation consulting last December on cloud watching. And for those of you who may have missed this, we have added the playback video of this workshop in the podcast notes, as well as the link to all the workshops astral have hosted. And today we're joined by Jo Aston, who's an experienced aviation meteorologist and sits within our policy and regulation section. And Jo was also a panel member at that cloud watching workshop that I just mentioned. And hello, Jo, thank you so much for joining us today.

Jo Aston 4:01

Hi, Alex. Thanks. It's great to be here.

Alex Blomley 4:03

Now, Jo, for those listening who may not know who you are, can I please ask you to introduce yourself and your role at the CAA? And also maybe a little bit about your background as well, please?

Jo Aston 4:14

Sure. Thanks. Yeah, of course. So I've previously spent 15 years at the Met Office as a specialist aviation meteorologist working at various civil and military aerodromes. And most recently, I managed the Met Office team at Heathrow. And so that combination has given me a pretty broad experience of both global and domestic forecasting for aviation at all flight levels, and it's included several overseas deployments and support of military exercises as well. I'm now working at the CAA providing subject matter expertise as the Met technical officer. And that's supporting the development of UK MAP policy and oversight and regulation have met observing surfaces provided at civil aerodromes and of the forecasts and warnings that the Met Office also provide. And as the CAA's met technical office. So my role involves working with my CAA colleagues and industry to make sure that their endeavors are aligned with national and international ICAO requirements.

Alex Blomley 5:09

Thank you for that, Jo. So a topic that has popped up from time to time and a question that we do get asked regularly by GA pilots. And in fact, I think it did even come up at the workshop itself is what is GAMET? And I wondered if you'd be able to share with us what this is.

Jo Aston 5:24

Yeah, absolutely. So the GAMET replaced a previous product, and that many listeners would have been familiar with. And that was the old area forecast that was specifically provided for low level flights, which was called the AIR MET But today, the GAMET continues to provide that forecast information. Specifically in support of low level flying, it replaced the AIRMET following review, which found that the improvements could be made by rationalizing and modernizing the AIRMET. And so following a consultation with the GA community, the new GAMET service was introduced in '20. And that also enabled the UK to properly align with ICAO and at the time EU requirements as well. The GAMET ensures that GA pilots have access to a range of relevant weather information that's consistent with the UK obligations under ICAO and it's presented in a way that can be used optimally by GA. That's not to say that the content of the AIR MET didn't provide valuable information. But It's according to ICAO and more constrained in terms of their format. So coding and period of validity. And that doesn't always best serve the various requirements of the GA community.

Alex Blomley 6:32

So you mentioned that gamma came in, in '20. So what does this change realistically mean for GA pilots?

Jo Aston 6:40

Okay, so the new GAMET service introduced improvements such as better alignment with other forecast products, and it also provided enhanced forecast formats, including a clearer PDF format, as well as an alphanumeric version which enables dissemination fire aeronautical networks, such as AF, TN and AHMS the forecasts written in a concise plain language. And GAMETS also have the advantage of being areas specific. So there are four fixed areas of the UK, the North, Central, Southwest, and Southeast, and with a GAMET forecasts routinely produced for each area every six hours. And furthermore, the validity period of the GAMETS is now the same as the F 215. So that's the UK low level CIG weather chart. And hopefully that helps pilots to plan on consistent weather forecast information. And it contains a regional and national outlook, which we're hoping that pilots also find useful for advanced planning. And what we would recommend is using the GAMET when pre flight planning as it's important tool for gaining situational awareness for the intended flight, it can help the pilot assess the likely conditions that might be encountered from departure en route, including potential alternatives identified by the pilot as part of the planning process, and at the destination. In other words, using the GAMET to help sort of inform the pilots threatened error management for weather related decision making.

Alex Blomley 8:02

Thank you for that, Jo. So I understand we're also updating the chapter we have on meteorology in our Skyway code. So all of you listening Skyway, code is currently in its version three format. And it's going through a little bit of an update at the moment. And the next section on that will be updated. Will we be consistent with the details you've just shared?

Jo Aston 8:22

Yeah, that's right, let's that review is currently taking place at the moment, and the update is likely to be published later on this year.

Alex Blomley 8:28

Okay, so just taking you back to the astral workshop that you attended, that focused on clouds, and specifically how clouds can affect the weather and weather considerations for GA pilots when planning their flight. And in your experience, what are the factors you would really stress GA pilots when preparing for their next flight take into consideration.

Jo Aston 8:49

Okay, you so I just mentioned that threat and error management for weather related decision making. And that's a topic that the CAA is really keen to stress in relation to flight preparation to the management for weather related decisions means making the most effective use of a pilot's knowledge and understanding of weather phenomena and the weather briefing products that are available. So for example, we've just recently seen an extended period of high pressure across most of the UK. And whilst that's been, you know, quite a nice dry, high pressure, it can often lead to large amounts of cloud being trapped under the rich from weak or decaying funds. And the cloud can be thick enough then to generate a little bit of rain and drizzle, and thus, there's a risk then a poor visibility in places. And this time of year, the length of the day is also a really key consideration. At this time of year the nights can be very cold with risk of fog forming under any clear skies in the daytime and the temperatures are starting to rise and that can improve conditions. The freezing level can also be surprisingly low at the moment, and that can lead to the risk of in flight icing if clouds and counted. So meters and task reflect the weather at an airfield but they don't necessarily capture the risks in the surrounding areas. Choose that which maybe a nearby set of hills might bring. This is where the GAMET can assist. So the GAMET covers a specific smaller area and expands on what's contained within that F 215, the low level chart that provides the freezing level, low level wind turbulence, information, and much more detail around cloud height and outs as well. And when the 215 and the GAMET are used together, you get a much better wider situational awareness. And then you can drill down to a local level, so they become a really extremely useful tool for users. The other thing you could do is use threat and error management approach for kind of longer term preparation. So for example, ahead of the forthcoming 23 main flying season, and you could refresh your knowledge of prevailing conditions in the area you'll be flying, particularly if you're new to an area, or maybe remind yourself of what to look out for during a typical sort of seasonal conditions. We're starting to move now out of a period of winter weather with that frost and fog and into a season with potential for thunderstorms. And that's a particularly kind of relevant hazard in a flight in and around cumulonimbus clouds, commonly known as the bees that are associated with thunderstorms is highly dangerous. And there's numerous hazards that are involved in that. So the interaction between strong updraft and downdraft within a CB that can cause wind shear and severe turbulence in and around the cloud as well as severe icing. winds can be variable in directions strength that's common at the surface level in the vicinity of a CB. And that can be particularly hazardous to aircraft on takeoff or landing. And in severe cases, that can also produce micro bursts and funnel clouds, aircraft in the vicinity of a CBl, so risk at risk of being hit by lightning or hell, which can cause significant structural damage to an aircraft. Just worth bearing in mind isn't just high temperatures that can cause thunderstorms. example of this would be a sea breeze. In the summer, sea breeze can cause an areas of enhanced convection. So it's always worth looking out for trough lines there the solid black lines that you see on weather charts, it's important to know and understand these weather hazards and where you can find information on them that's relevant to your flight.

Alex Blomley:

Thank you for that, Jo. And I think what's really interesting in the way that you talk about different clouds and formations is that I think it's easy for us sometimes to just focus on winter weather as being a worry, you know, in terms of icing, and there's visual impacts that you can see in the in the winter weather. I think it's really interesting, the potential concern that GA pilots should have with the weather improving, and likely to get things like thunderstorms, and different impacts that can happen that you might not necessarily associate with being a threat at this time of year because I suppose in theory, the weather is looking better, you know, it's got some nice sunny weather, it feels a bit drier. And I think it's a very useful reminder to every one of those sorts of hidden hazards almost that you might not necessarily consider at this time of year with with the weather improving.

Jo Aston:

Yeah, absolutely. And I've definitely seen, Alex, you know, over the years, I think it's so worthwhile having a refresher ahead of it particular season, because when you're flying or you know, working as a meteorologist within you know, winter situation, you get your head really into that kind of winter weather. And then suddenly a thunderstorm comes along and you think oh, no, hang on. How do I deal with this? So any type of refresher and knowledge is really good ahead of it at the next kind of season.

Alex Blomley:

Thank you for that, Jo. And I understand there are some additional resources that you'd like to share.

Jo Aston:

Yeah, absolutely. So if the listeners would like to find out more, and then the full details of the GAMET can be found on the Met Office website. And we can share those links in the podcast notes. And I'd also recommend looking at the Met Office website generally because there's a lot of specialist aviation metrological resources available to GA pilots on there. The Met Office is the UK is designated map service provider and as such provides an online aviation briefing portal, you do need a login but it is free to register. And on there, you'll find all of the products that we've mentioned today, as well as additional briefing charts, information for balloonists and a really good map with weather overlays. So you can add on radar, satellite lightning, and including model forecast data for winds and clouds and precipitation as well. In addition, if you're looking to refresh your weather knowledge, then I'd also recommend the Met Office website. But in particular, learn about the weather YouTube channel. It contains like bite sized videos there are only about sort of two to five minutes long, but on all sorts of topics which include things such as air masses, fog formation, how to read a chart, sea breezes, weather fronts, and many, many more on there as well.

Alex Blomley:

Thank you for that. So really lots and lots of helpful information there. And as I said, we will include all of the links to these items in the podcast notes. So please do check these out. We do all encourage you to look especially as the seasons are changing. It's always worth being prepared from a weather perspective as people start preparing for their spring flights. And Joe, thank you so much for joining us today. Weather is a serious consideration for GA pilots, as we've discussed, and we really appreciate your time today. So if any of you listening to have any questions for Joe, either and what we've covered today, or perhaps other weather topics you'd be interested in hearing more about, do please get in touch with us at GApodcast@caa.co.uk we'll endeavor to respond to those inquiries and maybe even invite Jo back for another chat about whether considerations is an important topic and one that we are keen to support you all on. So thank you, Jo, thank you so much for your time today.

Lucy Wootton (LAA):

Thank you very much for having me.

Alex Blomley:

And now we're going to have a chat with Lucy Wootton, and we were really fortunate to be able to travel to see her at Turweston aerodrome where she's based with the light aircraft Association. And we're going to take you to that interview now.


You're listening to the general aviation podcast from the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

Alex Blomley:

We've taken a trip down to tell us an aerodrome to see Lucy Wootton from the LAA Hello, Lucy. Nice to see you.

Lucy Wootton (LAA):

Hello. Nice to see you too.

Alex Blomley:

And Lucy has very kindly offered to have a little chat with us today about all the different things that GA pilots like yourselves listening today need to have think about when getting back into the air this spring. first of March was the official start of spring this year. Some of you may have been flying over the winter. Some of you may have put your aircraft into the hangar and will perhaps be getting ready to take airborne and get get ready to fly again in the coming weeks and months. So we thought it'd be nice to chat with Lucy. Lucy, for those of you who don't know, is the relatively newly appointed chief inspector at the light aircraft association. So we thought she'd be the perfect person to talk to you about this today. So Lucy, it'd be great if you could sort of share the top things that GA pilots really need to be considering when they're getting ready to get back in the air,

Lucy Wootton (LAA):

Of course. So I've got a few things to mention. So I'll start with thinking about birds nests and rodents. If you've had your aircraft in long lay up in the hangar over the winter, or even outside, then it's particularly important to check for any birds nests. So if you've, if you've had your aircraft in long layup in the hangar over the winter, or even outside, then it's particularly important to check for, for any birds nest, for example, in the in the engine under the cowlings, or in other areas well down the fuselage, so have a good look all around. Also, mice can get into really small areas smaller than you might think. And they could chew through some of the wiring or the straps. So again, really important to just check everywhere for signs of damage from those. Another area to think about is any rubber components. So for example, your tyres that might have perished over winter. Also any other rubber components, so hoses in the engine as well. Also make sure your tyres are pumped up. Like with the car, if you leave it for a long time, potentially, it's going to slowly go down. So make sure you've got the right tyre pressures. And then other areas to think about would be any fluids that might have leaked out. For example, brake fluid, again is an important one, check the the lines going to the brakes, make sure they're secure, and there isn't any fluid leaking out. Also, if you think about your instruments, and the pneumatic tubes that feed them, there may have been insects that have got in the tubes overwinter. Hopefully you'll have had a pitot cover covering the pitot head, so nothing should have gotten there. But potentially your ASI might not work if you have something blocking the tube or if waters got in there, for example. And lastly, the thing I was gonna mention, last thing to mention is fuel. So it's really important if you haven't flown new aircraft for ages to drain the fuel out and fill it with fresh fuel. And then as you would do with any check a before you went flying, make sure you take a small amount of fuel out of each of the fuel drains and check to see if there's any water that's in got in the field. And I think that's about it for main areas that I can think of.

Alex Blomley:

Lucy, thank you so much for that that's really helpful. And obviously you fly yourself and no doubt you'll be running through your own checks in preparation for your next flights. What is it that you always make sure that you check before you go.

Lucy Wootton (LAA):

So really important thing It sounds simple is making sure that the fuel switched on. So I fly different aircraft. So sometimes I'm flying a glider tug, which is a Supermunk, and that's got a fuel switch in the front and back. So if I'm flying from the front without anyone in the back, I want to make sure that the fuels on in both cockpits before I go flying, then sometimes I fly a PA 28 That's got left and right fuel tanks. So I want to make sure I've selected a tank and the right one, before I go flying. Then something like a Cessna 152 hits down down underneath your legs. So I want to make sure it's turned on there. So depending on which aircraft you're in, just make sure you've selected well turn the fuel on and selected the right tank for whatever you're in.

Alex Blomley:

Thank you, Lucy. That's a great top tip. And thank you so much for having us today. We've really enjoyed spending time with you. And thanks for your support.

Lucy Wootton (LAA):

Thanks for coming. It's been great to meet you.

Alex Blomley:

And so it was great to head down to Toweston aerodrome and meet with Lucy Wootton. And as was mentioned there, Lucy Wootton is the first female and youngest chief inspector that the light aircraft Association has had so we really really look forward to working with her more. And we wish her lots of luck in her role there. And just to echo some of Lucy's points, we have produced a return to flying preflight checklist animation. So do please watch that it's got some really helpful hints and tips, I know that some of you listening might think, well, it's all a bit, you know, obvious, but things do still get forgotten. It's quite, it's quite worrying sometimes when you read some of the AAIB reports or incidents that happen, or MOR Reports, etc. And sometimes the most simplest thing can be the thing that we overlook when we're getting ready to go flying. So it is worth a watch. And to supplement those thoughts that are shared by Lucy, we've also produced a video where she's sharing her top tips and things to look out for when you're getting ready to go flying. So really, really good reminders again, them as we would recommend having a watch of that. And also just wanted to mention quickly, we do have another podcast series that we run called safety files. And we recently issued a podcast looking at rejected takeoffs and takeoff decision making principles for GA pilots. So I have included some notes on that in the podcast notes, various links, etc. And we also issued a Clued Up article on rejected take offs as well. So do have read of that. And yeah, check out that podcast as well, because it does have some other interesting sound bites for GA, which you might find interesting. But now officially in british summertime, so we wish you all, lots of happy flying days. And again, yes, if there's anything you'd like us to cover here updates, you're interested in hearing about projects we might be running, etc. And do you please drop us a line at GApodcast@caa.co.uk and we'll do our very best to pull that information together for you. So thank you so much for listening. Do please check out those links of those various different bits and pieces that I've mentioned today. I'll put all of those into the podcast notes. And also look out for our next podcast on RT should be a good one. I had a quick listen, lots of really interesting experiences there that we're going to share. So that sounds like that should be a really good one as well. So thank you again, and I'll speak to you soon.


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About the Podcast

CAA on General Aviation
The General Aviation podcast brings you the latest guidance from the UK Civil Aviation Authority with information for all types of General Aviation (GA) operating in the UK. Including updates and discussions on our current projects and areas of work.

You’ll hear interviews with representatives from our GA teams, experts on their particular fields, sharing details of their work and regulatory updates as well as highlighting opportunities for members of the UK GA community to get involved.

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UK Civil Aviation Authority .

The UK's aviation regulator