A poker playing friend had announced that he was about to start learning to fly, and I offered him the chance of a flight with me to see if it would help in any way. Leading up to the day of the flight the forecast had been fairly unpredictable, so we opted for a ‘safe’ flight to Wellesbourne, with a bit of a detour on the way back.
Sean had already had his first flight in a 3 axis microlight, so I was comfortable giving him control for some of the flight. We arrived at Kemble in good time, and Sean helped me get the aircraft uncovered etc., and followed me around as I did the ‘A’ check.
Kev was in the Club with his two children, preparing for the first flight in the Arrow since it returned to service following its annual and prop replacement. Sadly, I was out of currency on the Arrow due to its extended downtime, so we were in G-VICC (one of the Club’s Warriors) for this flight. Kev had cycled with his two children to Swindon station, and then from Kemble station to the airfield. It was a particularly muggy day, and he certainly looked like he’d been getting some exercise!
A last minute call to Wellesbourne from Kemble gave us news that their cloudbase was up around 2000 feet (at Kemble it seemed barely 1000 or 1500 feet), so we made ourself ready and headed out to the aircraft.
Kemble was fairly busy as we made ourself ready to leave, and engine start and all checks were completed without any issue. We were soon on the runway and departing, making a right turn out to set course direct to Wellesbourne, being careful not to get too close to Aston Down as they were operating today.
Once clear of Kemble, I made the call to Brize and received a Basic Service from them. However the frequency was all quiet, and that was the only communication with them before we signed off approaching Wellesbourne. The cloudbase was hovering around the 1500 feet level, and this combined with the fact that flight time was only around 15 minutes I elected to keep control for this leg.
Approaching Wellesbourne, they seemed relatively quiet for a change! There was one aircraft on Crosswind as I descended on the deadside, and I followed him around the circuit. He was on Final with a helicopter flying parallel to him as I carried out our Downwind checks. The circuit was all relatively simple, and I brought us in for a nice gentle (if slightly long) touchdown. We taxyed over to parking, exchanging a bit of banter with the female Controller about us not wanting to walk too far as we tried to park as close as possible to the Tower!
We settled the landing fee and headed into the cafe for some lunch. Although the skies around Wellesbourne were pretty quiet, the cafe was its usual busy self, and Sean and I chatted as we queued up to order our food. At this point I realised my mobile phone was missing, which led to a bit of a panic. It wasn’t in the aircraft when we returned after lunch, so I just hoped I’d left it in the Club!
I planned the return leg via Brize’s overhead, then Membury and Lyneham (which was NOTAMed as being active with gliders) to make it a bit more of a flight and give Sean a chance at the controls. Once lunch was tucked away we headed back to the aircraft and got settled in for the return flight.
Again all checks were straightforward, and I carried out a normal take off, departing straight out and climbing to around 2500 feet before setting course for Brize and handing control over to Sean. The weather was much better now, with little or no cloud around, just the odd bit between 2000 and 3000 feet or so. Sean’s flying was on the whole pretty good. Considering he had only had one hour of training, he managed to maintain course and height pretty well.
I negotiated a Zone Transit with Brize, and they had us descend to 2000 feet. I talked Sean through the descent procedure and he carried that out fairly well too. There was some meandering from track, but nothing any worse than my performance on the outbound leg!
We passed overhead Brize and continued on, Sean climbing us back up to about 3000 feet as I talked him through the procedure. We were both trying to spot the Membury mast as we approached. I had been looking for a much taller mast, expecting to see it on the horizon. However it was closer and shorter than that, so it took me a little while to spot it.
As we turned at Membury, I signed off with Brize and switched to Lyneham Radio, a frequency that had been allocated to the gliders operating from there. I informed them of our intentions, and learned that they had a couple of gliders operating, due to return to the field relatively soon. We said we’d turn early should the gliders be in the overhead as we approached.
A few miles from Lyneham, we were treated to the sight of a Spitfire off to our left, banking hard (hopefully not to avoid us!). There was a fly-past by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight notified to the South West of Lyneham, so he must have been coming from there. Sean was pretty pleased to be treated to such a sight!
We had to duck beneath some clouds on this leg, and spotted some Skydivers and the drop plane from Redlands operating off to our right. We turned just short of Lyneham, trying to spot Kemble but it was the other side of a further large cloud formation.
I used the ADF and GPS to verify Kemble’s position, and we dodged around some clouds before spotting it easily in the distance. I talked Sean through the join procedure, and he flew the deadside descent down to 1000 feet. As we turned Crosswind, some circuit traffic was just climbing out after a touch and go, so I took back control and we both set about trying to spot him.
After turning Downwind, we were notified of the traffic by the Kemble FISO as being ‘behind and inside you’. I’m pretty sure that my track was bang on Kemble’s noise abatement circuit route, so I’m not really sure what the other aircraft was doing inside us. He had us in sight, and announced that he would extend his Downwind leg to maintain spacing.
After completing the pre-landing checks, we turned Base and spotted the other aircraft quite close behind and inside us. Again, I’m not sure why he was following us that closely, and appeared to pass behind us closer than I personally would have in his situation.
The remainder of the circuit was all routine, and I landed deliberately long. The landing was better this time, again nice and gentle but the the stall warner sounding just as we touched down. We refuelled the aircraft before taxying back to the Club’s parking area and Sean helped me tie the aircraft down and replace the cover.
We headed in to the Club to settle the paperwork, and fortunately found my missing phone! Once all the necessary bits were done, we headed down to AV8 for a very welcome beer, and sat outside in glorious sunshine talking over Sean’s intentions as far as flying goes. He seems set now on getting a full PPL and eventually going on to Commercial and perhaps Instructing too. He’s ex-service, so I’ll have a word with some people at the Club to see if he qualifies for membership.
As a final treat, we saw what appeared to be a rocket or jet-powered dragster performing engine runs on the other side of the airfield. It was certainly loud, and we were treated to plumes of flame into the bargain.
On the whole a very successful flight. The unpredictable weather meant that I picked a ‘safe’ destination, but the flight was very enjoyable. I can see myself sharing flights with Sean a few more times in the future! The ‘total flight time to date’ entry below is just itching for another one hour flight sometime soon! Must get my Arrow currency back again!
Total flight time today: 1:45
Total flight time to date: 199:00