This is the story of owning and operating a 1993 Beech Bonanza A36 in the UK and some of its adventures and flights. I have owned this plane for nearly six years now.
I regularly fly with a very competent high hours air traffic controller who always navigates and communicates while I aviate. A very satisfactory situation. Often I also fly on my own or with non-pilot passengers where the workload is higher so I am always glad to share the workload with another pilot.
I was going on a trip to Biggin Hill a few months ago when another pilot I knew but had never flown with offered to come along for the ride. I agreed and he with high time and an IR agreed to Navigate and Communicate and I would fly. Very agreeable.
The flight down was uneventful but during the return journey that is where this pleasure flight became less of a pleasure.
On leaving Biggin Hill we were to proceed to the north through City Airport zone and my navigator made the appropriate contact with City. Just before entering the zone which I noted from the Garmin 430's in my Bonanza I asked him have we been cleared to enter the zone as a double check to which he replied "yes". We entered the zone only to immediately be told by the controller that we had not yet been cleared to enter the zone but that we were now cleared.
A few minutes after passing the City zone still following my navigators directions we managed to enter the corner of the Stanstead zone. I noticed this on the 430's and asked to look at the map and made a sharp turn back to leave the zone but it was too late and we had obviously been noted at this point. Needless to say from that point on I got my own map from my flight bag and double checked every heading. The rest of the flight was uneventful.
Now I could have kept quiet about this but I was actually very disturbed about this and spoke to my air traffic controller friend about this when we got back and he advised me to call the atc at the two zones and apologise profusely. I am embarrassed to say that I didn't get around to calling them and forgot about the matter.
At the PFA rally on Sunday I picked up a CAA incidents booklet and this morning I was reading this and like all pilots no doubt I turned to the page to see if there were any incidents on the same type I fly and low and behold there was an incident concerning a Beech Bonanza A36 entering two zones without clearance in May. I called my girlfriend and asked if she could remember the date we had gone to Biggin but she couldnt so I rushed out to my car to get my flight bag for my logbook and on the door mat was a letter from the CAA.
My heart sank but then I remembered that I was in the process of transferring my plane to the G reg so it must be about that. I gingerly opened the letter and to my horror it was the CAA wanting details of a pilot making a flight in my BE36 Bonanza from Biggin on this day in May.
Now the rest of the story is that I called the CAA who were very understanding and pleasant and agreed to close the case on the basis that I had taken a very good lesson from this. I certainly have.
My lesson is that the Beech Bonanza I was flying was captained by me and I was repsonsible for its safe flight. In future I will not allow any other pilot to make navigational decisions without double checking them myself. I feel foolish for letting this happen as it was very easy to avoid that zone.
As it was these infrigments were not so serious as they were just on the edge of the zones but they could have been. I hope this helps other pilots to ensure that they are not putting themselves in trouble (or danger) by relaxing because others are making decisions for you. Use a second person on board to enhance your decision making process but don't let it remove your own caution as I did here.