Daddy daughter mini-flyout to deepest darkest Wales

October 7, 2018

It had been over a month since I last flew, and I was keen to take advantage of Catrin’s recent enthusiasm for flying, by taking her flying again. This time, we decided that it would be just me and her (for the first time) and leading up to the flight she was very enthusiastic about the whole thing.

On a recent flight, we’d abandoned a plan to fly to Haverfordwest and back via Cardiff due to a noisy gyro in G-BPAF, so we decided to try to actually complete that flight this time. Leading up to the flight, the weather forecast for the weekend was fairly mixed, but things seemed better for Sunday, the day of the flight. As it turned out, conditions on the day really couldn’t have been more perfect!

We had a few issues getting Catrin ready and out of the house, but once we arrived at Kemble she was definitely keen about the flight. She helped out with the pre-flight, and again I explained all the things I was checking as we walked around the aircraft. She had great fun ‘helping’ me test the stall warner, even giving it a second go later just to be sure! All the other Club aircraft were either flying already, or in the process of being prepared by other pilots taking advantage of the good weather conditions.

The Arrow started easily, and we had to briefly wait to allow a Robin to pass in front of us from the hangar near where the Lyneham aircraft are parked. He headed towards the pumps, and we continued on to A1 to carry out the power checks. As usual, there were no issues, and we headed out on to the runway to depart.

All smiles before departure

All smiles before departure

As we climbed out, it was immediately clear just how good the conditions were, as we could easily make out the Severn Bridges on climbout from Kemble! We climbed to 4500 feet, marvelling at the near perfect visibility and almost complete lack of cloud.

Approaching the River Severn

Approaching the River Severn

As we approached the River Severn, we signed on with Cardiff for a Basic Service. The frequency was very busy, and because of this the Controller was becoming understandably annoyed by a number of aircraft that were on frequency and receiving a Service, but weren’t responding to his transmissions in a timely fashion. There was a lot of other traffic in our area, but as we were up at over 4000 feet we tended to be above most of it.

After crossing the Severn, I passed the controls over to Catrin and she did the majority of the rest of the flying. I concentrated on keeping a good lookout for all the other traffic, while Catrin tended to focus on the instruments more due to not being able to see over the instrument panel properly. For future flights we should investigate some means of getting her sitting a little higher so that she can see out of the front of the aircraft better.

Catrin at the controls

Catrin at the controls

I’d planned to route via the BCN VOR, so we tracked that, with Catrin’s height and heading keeping generally very good. I’d entered the general gist of our route into the 430, and was also keeping an occasional eye on SkyDemon to ensure our track was good. For a short period I showed Catrin how the autopilot could fly the aircraft, but we both agreed it was much more fun to be in control, so she took over again after a short while!

We signed off with Cardiff around the Carmarthen area, and began to encouter cloud ahead of us. Initially I climbed to get above it, before realising that we were getting a bit close to Haverfordwest. As a result, we made quite a steep descent, finding a helpful gap in the clouds slightly off to our left to enable us to get down to the appropriate height for an Overhead Join. On calling up Haverfordwest we found they were relatively quiet, and the airfield was soon easily spotted off ahead of us.

The Overhead Join was carried out normally, and as we turned Downwind another aircraft also announced the he was Downwind at the same time. After a brief period of concern, we spotted him behind us, and he announced that he was visual with us and would follow us around the circuit.

The distraction of the other aircraft meant my Downwind track wasn’t very good. To try to avoid holding him up, I flew a tight Base leg, before bringing us in for a nice landing on Haverfordwest’s Runway 21. We vacated the runway as quickly as we could, before taxying into the parking area as two other aircraft were making ready to depart.

Parked up at Haverfordwest

Parked up at Haverfordwest

We headed in to the office to settle our landing fee, before heading into the cafe for lunch. Catrin headed out to run around the grass area outside to burn off a bit of energy while we waited, before returning to polish off her bacon sandwich with gusto! Conditions remained almost perfect, and it was good to see the cafe busy with customers who had not flown in also.

Lunch!

Lunch!

Once we were done, we headed back to the aircraft and gave it a quick ‘transit check’. There were no issues found, so we climbed onboard and set about getting ready to depart. The airfield was relatively quiet, and as I announced I was taxying to the active runway, the A/G operator asked if I was familiar with the airfield. I told him I was, and (hopefully!) headed off the correct way to the hold for the runway in use.

I backtracked to the threshold of the runway (the hold was a couple of hundred metres in) before departing and turning to the East to head initially towards Pembrey. We’d planned to ask Cardiff for a Zone Transit, so that we could follow the Wales coast around, up to the Severn Bridge. Of course, I had planned an alternative route to the North (via the BCN VOR again) should permission not be granted for this.

We climbed up to 3500 feet, and again Catrin took over at the controls. Pembrey was easy to spot, and as we approached I pointed out the race circuit to the South. I made a call to the A/G operator there just out of courtesy, and carried out an orbit overhead, but sadly the circuit wasn’t in use today so there was nothing to see.

Orbiting over Pembrey

Orbiting over Pembrey

The routing then took us over the City of Swansea, with Catrin back at the controls. We signed on with Cardiff, and requested the transit in our ‘pass your message’ response. The Controller chuckled a little, replying ‘I think I got all that!’ We continued to follow the coast towards Cardiff, hoping to get our clearance in due course.

We were getting very close to the Zone boundary without yet having received clearance to enter. I was making ready to turn away to prevent infringing Controlled Airspace, but luckily the Controller called us back, granting us clearance to fly along the coast at 3000 feet, VFR. We were also asked to notify him of any changes in height or heading should we need to make any adjustments to remain VFR. However, conditions were still such that there was very little in the way of cloud to require us to do this.

Passing Cardiff Airport

Passing Cardiff Airport

As we neared Cardiff, we spotted the circuit at Llandow, the airfield at St. Athan and finally Cardiff Airport itself. As we flew over the docks area, we also spotted the Norwegian Church that Roald Dahl attended in his youth, and luckily I was able to point this out sufficiently well enough for Catrin to spot it too. We spotted both Stadiums in Cardiff also, but at the time were unable to see the Castle. On returning home, Luned looked through the photos we had taken and realised why: it was almost completely hidden by one of the Stadiums as we passed.

The Norwegian Church in Cardiff

The Norwegian Church in Cardiff

As we turned North East to follow the coast, the Controller advised us of other traffic off to our left. Initially we couldn’t spot him, but he advised the Controller that he was visual with us, and we managed to see him a minute or so later. As we cleared the Zone the Controller asked when we were planning to change frequency. A good time seemed to be when we reached the Severn Bridges, so I informed him of this, and received a Basic Service until then.

I handed control back to Catrin again now that we were clear of Controlled Airspace, and she flew us back to Kemble. They were relatively quiet, but I still decided to join Overhead as usual. As we neared, the FISO offered us a Downwind Join, but by this point we were too high to be able to descend in time.  There was another aircraft operating in the circuit, and we slotted in nicely after descending on the Deadside.

Nearly home, Catrin at the controls again

Nearly home, Catrin at the controls again

On the Downwind leg I asked the FISO if I could carry out a couple of circuits (carrying out three takeoffs and landings today would reset my passenger carrying currency for another 90 days). This was approved, and the remainder of the circuit was flown well, culminating in a good landing. We accelerated down the runway to takeoff again, and I raised the gear for the second circuit. Again, this was flown well, leading to a third good landing of the day.

The frequency was now a little busy, and I had to wait a little while to request a backtrack back to our parking area. This was approved, and we held briefly after turning off the runway to allow another aircraft to pass on the Alpha taxyway, heading towards the hold at A1. We taxyed back to the Lyneham parking area, and Catrin helped me refuel the aircraft before pushing it back into the parking area. Then it was just a matter of getting all our gear out, putting the cover back on and heading back into the office to settle the post flight paperwork!

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Leg 1 profile

Leg 1 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 2 profile

This was possibly one of my most enjoyable flights to date. I was a little worried leading up to the flight given that this was my first ‘solo’ flight with Catrin, but in reality it really couldn’t have gone any better. She seems to have developed a real enthusiasm for flying, and seems keen to fly again with me. Conditions today meant the flight was relatively unchallenging, which also helped matters. Hopefully we can make many more flights like this together!

Total flight time today: 2:30
Total flight time to date: 335:25

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Returning to Leicester solo

September 1, 2018

After the aborted flight last weekend, I wanted to take advantage of Catrin’s enthusiasm to fly, so booked the Arrow again for another flight this weekend. Catrin and Luned were both primed to go, but regrettably as the week drew on Catrin started to develop quite a nasty cough. We decided to leave the final decision until the morning of the flight, hoping she could get over the worst of it by then.

The weather also wasn’t really playing ball, with a rather mixed forecast showing rain coming in from the West. Originally I considered Haverfordwest again, but this seemed to be out due to the weather approaching from that direction. I also considered heading back to the Isle of Wight, before finally deciding on returning to Leicester. As usual, I completed the majority of the pre-flight planning on the evening before the flight, leaving me just the last minute actions to be completed in the morning.

Sadly Catrin’s cough hadn’t really improved enough for her to be able to come along on the flight, so I prepared to make the trip solo. After planning the route (via Chedworth, Moreton in Marsh, Banbury and Bruntingthorpe) I contacted Leicester to double check that all was well there. Helpfully they mentioned an air display in the area (which I’d already picked up on when checking NOTAMs) and gave me an idea of the runway in use and their current weather conditions. The NOTAMs had also brought my attention towards the LAA rally, which was taking place this weekend at Sywell. While my route took me in the vicinity of Sywell, I should be far enough away to avoid it being a factor.

On arrival at Kemble I set about checking out the aircraft, not bothering to add any fuel as the total flying time was only around 90 minutes or so, well within the 3 hour range available when the aircraft was filled to its usual ‘tabs’. After double checking the aircraft’s logs and defects, I carried out the A check (dropping Kev a quick message to report the intermittent tail nav light again) before getting ready to depart. The weather was looking generally good at Kemble, with some patchy cloud around but generally very favourable for flying.

Kemble were operating on runway 08 today, and I was offered either the grass Golf taxyway, or a backtrack. Due to the recent good weather there was no reason not to take the grass, so I opted for that route, being told to head to the North apron to carry out the power checks. Another aircraft joined me on the North Apron as I carried out my checks, and once ready I was cleared straight onto the runway to depart. The takeoff roll and departure were all routine, and as I climbed out I dabbed the brakes and raised the gear, making a left turn after departure to head directly to Chedworth.

Stunning flying conditions

Stunning flying conditions

Approaching Chedworth I signed off with Kemble, switching to Brize to receive a Basic Service on the fairly busy frequency. The weather conditions were almost perfect, and I continued on towards Moreton in Marsh and Banbury at 3500 feet. As I approached Banbury the Brize Controller warned me that Hinton were active today with parachuting, but I was turning North East at Banbury which would keep me well clear.

Not long after making the turn, the Brize Controller told me to change frequency, suggesting I switch to Sywell Radio next. Given the LAA rally I decided not to speak to them, instead monitoring East Midlands as I approached their general area. I was keeping a good lookout for gliders due to the proximity of Husbands Bosworth, and as I approached Bruntingthorpe I started to listen in to Leicester’s frequency to build up a picture of traffic in the local area. They were operating on runway 28R, and were relatively quiet other than a helicopter flying circuits.

Passing Bruntingthorpe

Passing Bruntingthorpe

I carried out a routine Overhead Join, lowering the landing gear when descending on the Deadside as usual to assist in the descent and silence the gear warning horn. I was able to follow the position of the helicopter as I continued around the circuit, and brought the Arrow in for a nice gentle landing before taxying off the active runway. The A/G operator helpfully provided parking instructions, and after shutting down I pushed the aircraft back towards the grass, watching the helicopter unloading and loading passengers on what were obviously sightseeing flights.

Joining Overhead at Leicester

Joining Overhead at Leicester

Helicopter pleasure flights

Helicopter pleasure flights

I had lunch and exchanged a few messages with Luned to find that all was well at home. Learning that they were planning to be home all afteroon I amended my route slightly, re-planning for a transit of Brize Controlled Airspace towards Membury, before tracking South of the M4 over Swindon to get some photos of our house and see if they could spot me from the ground. The new route now reversed the outbound route as far as Banbury, before heading to Chipping Norton and Membury then back via Swindon to Kemble.

I updated the printed plog while in the clubhouse at Leicester, entering the new headings and times for the modified legs. Once ready to leave I texted Luned with a rough ETA over Swindon, and headed back to the aircraft. After a quick transit check I got back on board and made ready to leave. Leicester were now operating on runway 22 with a left hand circuit, so after a quick check of the plate to orient myself I started to taxy to the active runway. Power checks were again normal, and I took to the runway and made a routine departure.

As I turned left to head back to the South West, another aircraft was inbound from the same direction. He helpfully passed on his current height, so I made sure to climb above his level as quickly as I could to remove any risk of a conflict. After signing off with Leicester, I again listened in to East Midlands, hearing quite a few aircraft on their way to Sywell. I was again cruising at around 3500 feet, and unusually the conditions were rather turbulent on the leg between Bruntingthorpe and Banbury.

I contacted Brize Zone around Banbury to request the Zone transit, descending to 3000 feet so that I would actually be within their Zone when I passed overhead! Conditions were such that I was hearing a fair amount of French radio chatter on frequency, so Brize obviously share their frequency with somewhere in France! I spotted Enstone off to my left as I passed by, and the Brize Controller cleared me through their Class D airspace, no closer than 1nm to the East of Brize. Unusually I wasn’t given any altitude restriction, but they were obviously very quiet!

Passing East of RAF Brize Norton

Passing East of RAF Brize Norton

As I entered Brize’s airspace I was placed under a Radar Control Service, and then returned to a Basic Service as I left their airspace to the South. I remained with them until approaching Membury, and on signing off the Controller advised me that Redlands were operating with parachuting today. My plan was to remain South of the M4, which would keep me well clear of the airfield. I listened in to Kemble, learning that they were now operating on runway 26.

As I turned at Membury, I started a slow descent down to around 1500 feet to try to get some good photos over Swindon. Down at this level I noticed that I appeared to have a mobile signal, so sent a quick text to Luned telling her I was around 5 minutes away. In the area of Draycott I spotted another aircraft on a reciprocal course off to my left at around the same level. I turned slightly right to keep good separation, and received a wing rock from him, presumably to let me know he’d seen me. I returned the gesture, and set about orienting myself in order to locate our house.

I flew two or three orbits over our house, getting a few photos while I did. I later learned that Luned and Catrin were out the front of the house taking photos from the ground also. Sadly none of them came out particularly well! I set about finding Kemble, before signing on with them in readiness for rejoining. They seemed relatively busy, and I was surprised to hear G-AYJP on frequency, a Cherokee I flew a couple of times during my PPL training at Brize!

Orbiting over our house, just off the wingtip

Orbiting over our house, just off the wingtip

I made sure to keep clear of Oaksey park as I approached, before making a standard Overhead Join back at Kemble. The circuit was relatively routine, but sadly the second landing of the day was a little flat, providing a slightly disappointing end to the day. The FISO cleared me to backtrack, and I taxyed back to the parking area before shutting down and refuelling the aircraft. After pushing it back to the parking space, I put the cover back on and headed back into the office to finalise the paperwork.

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Leg 1 profile

Leg 1 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 2 profile

It was good to be back in the air so soon after last weekend’s disappointing flight. Sadly Luned and Catrin weren’t able to join me today, but I’d had a good flight in some almost perfect conditions. This flight has also happily taken be beyond my total hours for last year, so with a bit of luck I’ll be able to get in several more flights before the end of the year and get a more respectable total this time!

Total flight time today: 2:05
Total flight time to date: 332:55

A weather and aircraft enforced local

August 27, 2018

A Bank Holiday weekend seemed like the perfect opportunity to fly, but sadly leaving it late to arrange meant that the Arrow was unavailable all weekend. Fortunately, Alpha Foxtrot (the Warrior in which I flew my first solo and carried out a lot of my PPL training) was available, so I booked it for the Monday and arranged for the family to fly with me.

It seemed like the fine Summer weather we’d been experiencing was coming to an end however, and as the day of the flight approached it became less and less likely that I’d be able to complete the flight I’d planned. Initially, we planned to head over to Haverfordwest for lunch, returning (if possible) via a transit of Cardiff’s Controlled Airspace so that Catrin could see some of her favourite places in Cardiff from the air.

Catrin seemed genuinely excited about this flight, and I spent quite a lot of time on the day before showing her how I go about planning a flight. She entered the route into Sky Demon, and I explained to her how I chose waypoints for the route rather than just flying direct. We planned two versions of the return route, the first following the Welsh Coast going via Cardiff’s Zone, and the second turning inland to the North, and routing back via the BCN VOR to avoid Controlled Airspace. Finally I showed her how the AIS web site is used to obtain a NOTAM brief, and we read through the various entries so that she could understand the kinds of things that might cause the route to have to be changed.

Unfortunately the long range forecasts proved to be correct, and the forecast of potential rain and low cloud out near the West Coast of Wales meant that the original plan had to be rethought. The forecast did suggest that we would be able to complete the short hop to Cardiff though, so I made a last minute change of destination and completed the flight planning on the morning of the flight as usual.

We arrived at Kemble in good time, and left Luned in the office completing temporary membership forms, while Catrin and I headed out to the aircraft to prepare it for the flight. Catrin helped me get the cover off, and then we moved the aircraft over to the bowser to put in some extra fuel (so that we could hopefully avoid having to refuel on our return). Once this was done, she helped me with the cockpit switches as I carried out the start of the ‘A’ check and then followed me around the aircraft as I showed her all the various checks that need to be carried out before the flight could be made.

Once we were happy, we collected Luned from the office, and moved all of our gear into the aircraft. Luned took the back seat for the outbound leg, and Catrin joined me up front. Once we were all ready, I set about getting the engine started, and sadly things started to go downhill from there.

I turned the Master switch on as usual, and as the gyros started to wind up, one of them (presumably the Turn Coordinator, as this is the only one that is electrically driven) started to give out a horrific high-pitched whining noise. Initially I was concerned how Catrin would cope with this, as she’s not a big fan of loud noises generally. However, apart from remarking how loud it was, she seemed unaffected. Sadly the same couldn’t be said for Luned in the back, as the whining seemed to be at just the right frequency to seriously irritate her.

I carried on with the preparations in the hope that the gyro would settle down. We taxyed to Alpha 1 and carried out the power checks, and once the engine was developing power the noise did indeed abate. I carried out the pre-takeoff checks, and double checked with Luned and Catrin that we were Ok to go. Sadly the gyro had given Luned a splitting headache, so I didn’t think it was fair to carry out the flight as planned (particularly as we were likely to go through the same process at Cardiff when we got ready to return from there).

Luned agreed that we would be Ok to carry on, but I had already pretty much decided that we wouldn’t be heading to Cardiff. We took to the runway, and once cleared we started the takeoff roll. I was mindful of the differences between the Warrior and the Arrow, taking care to remember that the Airspeed Indicator was marked in knots and not mph. We rotated and took off, and I set course for the first leg to the Severn Bridges. We climbed to 2500 feet, which kept us just below the cloudbase above us. Despite the low cloud, visibility was actually very good, and it was soon easy to spot the Severn Bridges in the distance.

I double checked that Luned was Ok, but it was clear that she was still suffering with the headache, so I told her we would just go to the Severn Bridges and back, and then informed Kemble’s FISO of the change in our plans. Catrin seemed a little disappointed, but also understood the reasons for having to change our plans. I pointed out Filton off to our left, before showing her the Severn Bridges ahead of us (which she had difficulty seeing because she’s still not quite tall enough to see over the coaming!).

I told her that we’d make sure we got into Wales, and had her look out of the window down and to her right to let me know when we crossed the Severn into Wales. As we crossed the river, she could see the Welsh side ahead of us, and when she told me we’d crossed the Severn I turned us around and started heading back to Kemble. I made contact with the FISO informing him that we were on our way back, and he asked whether we’d changed our plans due to the weather. I told him the actual reason, and as we headed back towards Kemble I double checked whether they were still planning to close for lunch as per the NOTAMs that had been posted.

He told me they were just waiting for one inbound aircraft to land, and then would be closing for lunch. The airfield was then closed to visiting aircraft, but was still available to based aircraft as long as they had completed the required indemnity forms (which I always do at the start of each year, as it allows me to make flights out of hours). As we joined Overhead, the FISO announced that they were now closing, issuing all aircraft on frequency with the current QFE and QNH, and providing a wind check.

I’d spoken to Catrin leading up to the flight to see if she wanted to carry out some more radio calls. She’d seemed a little reticent, but as we descended on the Deadside (after the appropriate call to Kemble Traffic) she seemed to have developed a little more courage, so I told her what she needed to say to make the ‘Crosswind’ call. She had a few practices, and once we’d completed the Deadside descent and were established on the Crosswind leg, I gave her the nod and she made a perfect ‘Kemble Traffic, G-AF Crosswind’ call!

Armed with a new-found confidence, she agreed to make the remainder of the calls for the circuit, and she managed the Downwind and Final calls without any problem. I got us nicely aligned for 26, and reminded myself of the slightly different technique needed when landing a Warrior. I brought us in for a nice gentle landing, and we backtracked and joined the Alpha taxyway to taxy back to the parking area.

Catrin helped me push the aircraft back and put the cover back on, and we all headed in to the office to complete the paperwork (including logging the noise gyro as a defect in the aircaft’s log!). Once this was done, I decided that it only fitting that we head to AV8 for my usual flying lunch of a sausage sandwich! On the way there we popped in to the Ops Office to see if I needed to notify them of the ‘out of hours’ movement, before getting permission to visit the Tower proper, where the FISO told Catrin that her radio calls had been better than mine!

The flight as flown

The flight as flown

Sadly today’s flying hadn’t gone to plan at all. We’d already made a last minute change of plans to fly to Cardiff, and sadly the issue with the aircraft had meant that we weren’t even able to manage the re-planned flight! Happily however, Catrin had been an absolute star, and seems to have (perhaps temporarily!) developed a new found enthusiasm for flying. Long may it continue!

Total flight time today: 0:55
Total flight time to date: 330:50

Weather enforced local

July 28, 2018

After a prolonged period of excellent weather in the UK, I managed to find a weekend where I was free to try to do a bit of flying. I should have expected that this would be the first time in about 8 weeks that the UK had inclement weather forecast!

I’d initially intended to try to extend my range a little, perhaps visiting an airfield that I hadn’t been to before. Sadly the weather forecasts put paid to that, with strong winds and periods of low cloud and rain forecast for the day of the flight. The forecast did suggest that I would be able to get some flying in, so I planned one of my old local routes, and headed to Kemble early to try to wait out a suitable break in the weather.

The conditions were actually fairly good as I checked out the aircraft, so I was hopeful I would be able to at least get some flying done. Once the check was complete, I climbed onboard the Arrow, closed the door, and the heavens predictably opened! This coupled with some strong winds (Kemble’s web page was reporting 30 or 35 knots!) showed I wasn’t likely to be taking off anytime soon!

No flying just yet!

No flying just yet!

I used the Rain Alarm app on my phone to check the weather radar images, and saw that the storm looked like it would pass through relatively quickly. I took my time getting all my gear ready, all the while keeping an eye out of the window at the current weather conditions. By the time I had everything ready, the rain was easing off, and the sky to the West was becoming noticeably lighter. There were also clear skies to the North, so I was confident that I could take off and at least be able to get back in to Kemble if conditions didn’t appear suitable.

I called the FISO to get the airfield information and request startup. I think I took them a little by surprise, as it took longer than usual for them to get back to me! They were operating from Runway 26, and I was given pressure settings and asked to report when ready for taxy. The engine started easily, and after calling for taxy I was cleared to A1. After carrying out the brake check and taxy checks, I asked the FISO for a wind check (my main concern from the forecast now was the potential for strong winds), and found that though the wind was around 20 knots now, it was only some 20 degrees off the runway.

The skies continued to brighten to the West, but as I turned into wind near A1 for the power checks, the skies to the south were still very black, and there was even the occasional flicker of lightning several miles distant. Power checks were normal, and unsurprisingly as I announced ‘ready’ at the hold, I was immediately cleared to depart. I lined up on 26, took a final look at the improving conditions directly ahead, and announce I was taking off.

Clearing conditions during power checks

Clearing conditions during power checks

There was a good crosswind from the left, so I applied appropriate corrections during the takeoff roll, before rotating at 80 mph. I was slightly surprised at how little crab I needed to put in to maintain the runway centreline on climbout, but returned my focus to the departure, raising the gear and doglegging slightly left to clear local villages. I continued to climb away, and as I got higher I could see that weather conditions were actually almost perfect. There were certainly a few clouds around, but they were well spread, and the visibility was phenomenal. I could easily make out the River Severn not long after takeoff from Kemble!

Near-perfect flying conditions

Near-perfect flying conditions

I continued the climb up to around 4000 feet, signing off with Kemble. As Bristol are no longer part of the LARS scheme, there wasn’t really anybody to talk to, so I tuned into Gloucester Approach to listen in. I planned to contact them for a Basic Service once I turned North towards Hereford, ideally staying with them for most of the remainder of the flight if they were agreeable. They were a lot busier than Kemble had been, so speaking to them later would definitely be a good idea.

As I continued West, I spotted the WOMAD festival in the distance to my left, hopefully they weren’t being too inconvenienced by the changeable weather conditions! For me conditions really couldn’t have been much better, and I was pleasantly surprised given the relatively poor weather that had been forecast.

WOMAD

WOMAD

As I approached the River Severn, I turned to the North early to try to get a good photo of the two bridges crossing the river. Once established on the leg, I contacted Gloucester for a Basic Service, and was initially asked to report West Abeam the field. In order to do this, I dialled in a ‘direct to’ Gloucester, and used the OBS feature to display a 090 course to the airfield. This gave me an East – West line on the display of the 430, and I knew that as I approached this I would be due West of the field.

Turning at the River Severn

Turning at the River Severn

The Controller at Gloucester was dealing with a fair amount of traffic, but none of it was in my area. I reported West Abeam as requested, and continued on towards Hereford, my next turning point. The Controller asked me to report at Ledbury, and a quick check of the chart showed that this was on my Eastbound leg from Hereford to Tewkesbury and eventually the disused airfield at Moreton-in-Marsh. Conditions on this leg weren’t ideal, as I started to be buffeted by some fairly severe turbulence.

There was a fairly significant bank of cloud ahead as I approached Hereford, and as my IMC rating isn’t currently valid, I had to descend to remain clear of it. I was still up at over 2000 feet, and once clear of the cloud I was quickly able to climb again to around 3500 feet for the leg to the East. I was now benefitting from an almost direct tailwind, and the 430’s ground speed reading was a pretty impressive 157 knots!

Impressive goundspeed!

Impressive goundspeed!

After passing Ledbury, the Controller at Gloucester asked me to report North abeam the airfield, so I again used the 430 to plot a line to let me know when to contact him again. The turbulence lessened on this leg, and after passing North of Gloucester I was next asked to report at Moreton. I had considered contacting Brize once in this area, but I would only have been with them for around 10 minutes so there really didn’t seem much point.

Passing North Abeam Gloucester

Passing North Abeam Gloucester

There was a big black cloud ahead as I neared Moreton-in-Marsh, so I turned slightly early to keep well clear of it. This did however give me the opportunity to get a good photo of the disused airfield. I informed the Controller where I was, and that I was now routing back to Kemble. I was asked to report changing frequency, and headed South West, spotting Little Rissington off to my left.

Turning at Moreton-in-Marsh

Turning at Moreton-in-Marsh

I made a quick calculation as to when I would need to begin my descent into Kemble from this height, and as I approached the disused airfield at Chedworth I signed off with Gloucester, thanking him for giving me a service. I signed on with Kemble, finding they were relatively quiet so I asked to carry out some circuits. This was approved, and as I approached I was the only aircraft on frequency so I decided to join directly onto a Right Base leg for runway 26.

Positioning for the join, I carried out the before landing checks, and asked the FISO for a wind check just to double check it was sensible to carry out some circuits! The wind was still fairly strong, but was just 20 degrees or so off the runway, so I was happy to continue. The join on Right Base went well, and conditions started to get quite tricky as I descended towards the runway. As I approached the threshold, I was having to made significant control inputs to keep the wings level. I continued down Final, managing to keep on the centreline nicely, and began to transition as I neared the runway.

The crosswind from the left could be clearly felt, but I was pleased with how I managed to maintain the runway centreline and kick off the crab to get aligned for touchdown. The touchdown itself was a little firm, but given the conditions I was pleased with the approach and landing. I retracted the flaps, applied full power, and climbed away for a second circuit.

The first circuit was routine, and I was careful to be aware of the tailwind on Base and hence make the turn to Final earlier to compensate for this. Conditions on Final were much the same, and again I was active on the controls to maintain the runway centreline with wings level. The second landing of the day was almost perfect, and I was particularly pleased given the conditions.

I again retracted the flaps and applied power, taking off for my final circuit of the day (helpfully fully resetting my passenger carrying currency). This circuit was much the same as the others, but the wind had picked up a little, the FISO reporting 220 at 15 knots (a 13 knot crosswind on Kemble’s runway 26). Again I managed this pretty well, but the final landing of the day was again a little firm. I requested a backtrack, and this was approved and I was instructed to taxy back to parking via the Alpha taxyway.

I approached the parking area, carried out the before shutdown checks, and pulled the aircraft up to the browser in readiness for refuelling. I refuelled the aircraft (putting 22 litres in one tank and 19 in the other – nice fuel management for a change!) before pushing it back to the parking area. Predictably, the wind had picked up again, making replacing the aircraft cover a little challenging. This was made worse when I realised that half of my paperwork had disappeared from my kneeboard, but fortunately a quick sprint across the grass found it pinned up against the fence!

Paperwork rescued and aircraft covered, I headed back in to the office to settle up for the flight, before heading to the pub for a well earned sausage sandwich and a beer!

Track flown

Track flown

Flight profile

Flight profile

Despite my initial disappointment at having my plans spoiled by the weather, in actual fact this had turned out to be a really enjoyable flight. Apart from a few areas of cloud, the conditions in the air were as perfect as I’d ever seen them. I was particularly pleased at my handling of the challenging conditions back at Kemble while flying circuits, so I’m glad I’d perservered with the flight despite the disappointing forecast.

Total flight time today: 1:20
Total flight time to date: 329:55

A charitable return to Bembridge

June 30, 2018

Around a year ago, I again offered a flight as a prize in a Charity Auction to raise money for Catrin’s school PTA. When the winner was announced, it turned out to be the same person who had won the previous flight I’d donated, so I obviously didn’t scare him too much!

It had taken some time to find a date that we could both manage, and we’d had one previous attempt abandoned due to some poor weather. Fortunately, as the date approached for this attempt, the UK seemed to be experiencing a prolonged period of fair weather, so we were greeted with near perfect flying conditions on the day of the flight.

We’d discussed possible destinations, and Marc had expressed a desire to head down to the South coast. I hadn’t been back to Bembridge for a while, so we decided to head down to the Isle of Wight for a spot of lunch, and return via a tour of the island from the air.

As per usual, I carried out the majority of the planning in the days leading up to the flight. There was a major gliding competition notified at Aston Down which concerned me a little, but on the morning of the flight their planned tasks showed them heading North West towards Wales, and North East towards Oxfordshire, so they shouldn’t affect us on this flight. I confirmed this with a phone call to the number given before leaving home.

I arranged to collect Marc on the way to Kemble, and on arrival we added some fuel to the Arrow to give us plenty to complete the whole trip. Bembridge doesn’t have fuel on site, and it seemed simpler than having to land at somewhere like Sandown purely to take on fuel. Once refuelled, I carried out the ‘A’ check (spotting a defective rear Nav light that wouldn’t affect our flight) before heading back into the office to complete the pre-flight paperwork. Once that was done we headed back to the aircraft, completed the checks with fuel drain samples (to allow plenty of time for any water to have settled after refuelling) and settled ourselves on board.

Kemble were operating on 08 today, and after getting the engine started we were cleared initially to Alpha 3. Usually we are cleared there in readiness for crossing the runway to the South side, but today when I reported holding at Alpha 3 I was immediately cleared to backtrack the runway and line up. I informed the FISO that we hadn’t carried out our checks yet, and he asked us to report again when ready to depart.

The checks were all normal, and a number of aircraft arrived and departed on both the hard and grass runways as we completed them. When ready, we were cleared to backtrack, and then departed without any issue. The route I’d planned initially took us over the former RAF Lyneham, and this was an easy landmark to spot as we departed. I’d been slightly concerned that in-flight visibility might not be very good due to the extended period of high pressure, but in reality conditions really couldn’t have been much better.

As we approached Lyneham I signed off with the FISO at Kemble, and switched to Farnborough West in readiness for requesting a Basic Service and MATZ penetration from them later. I set course towards the next turning point at Greenham Common, before handing control over to Marc for the majority of this leg.

Marc at the controls

Marc at the controls

As on our previous flight, he did a good job of maintaining height and heading, and even showed good lookout skills spotting an aircraft ahead of us and slightly to the left at a similar height. I took control back from him and turned right to overtake the other aircraft, passing them as we cut the corner to the leg from Greenham Common down to Petersfield.

Overtaking traffic between Lyneham and Greenham Common

Overtaking traffic between Lyneham and Greenham Common

I established us on the correct course, and again handed the controls back to Marc while I made contact with Farnborough. They didn’t seem as busy as I expected, and we were given a Basic Service and clearance through the Odiham MATZ, being instructed to remain clear of the ATZ as the field was active today with gliders. We passed Popham off to our right, spotting traffic much lower than us departing the field. Odiham and Lasham passed off to our left, and although we could see gliders on the ground we didn’t spot any in the air.

Gliders on the ground

Gliders on the ground

We approached Petersfield, and I dialled in the new course on the heading bug on the DI, and had Marc make the course change as we flew over the town. We headed towards the coast, spotting the distinctive Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth off to our right. As we neared the coast, we contacted Bembridge to find they were operating on runway 12 with a left hand circuit. Although they sounded fairly quiet, I decided to carry out an Overhead Join (now allowed due to the cessation of glider operations), and initiated a descent to get us down to the appropriate height as we coasted out.

Portsmouth and the Spinnaker Tower

Portsmouth and the Spinnaker Tower

I took back control from Marc, positioning us for the join. There wasn’t anything to affect us as we approached, and the join and Deadside Descent were both straightforward. I brought us in for a slightly floaty but gentle landing, before announcing that we were backtracking to vacate the runway. I later learned that this was a mistake, as there was a perfectly usable grass taxyway at the far end of the runway!

We parked up in the fairly busy parking area, and headed in to pay the landing fee. We then walked the short distance to the Propeller Inn for lunch, where I’d booked us a table just in case they were busy! The pub has changed dramatically since our last visit (some 6 years ago it turns out!), and served us an excellent light lunch!

Parked up at Bembridge

Parked up at Bembridge

Once fed and watered, we headed back out to the aircraft via the Control Point, and I carried out a quick transit check. Several aircraft had arrived since we had, and a number were preparing to depart as we boarded the Arrow. Once the engine was started, I carried out the power checks in our parking spot, as there were no aircraft parked behind us. We joined a queue of 3 aircraft at the hold, waiting for our turn to depart in between the regular stream of arriving aircraft.

Queue for departure at Bembridge

Queue for departure at Bembridge

Once it was our turn to depart, we took to the runway and backtracked, before making a normal takeoff out over the water. We climbed to around 1500 feet and I headed off anti-clockwise around the coast of the Isle of Wight. Height keeping was fairly important, as this tour took us beneath the Solent CTA, which started at 2000 feet to the North West of the Island. Once we reached the far West coast of the Isle of Wight I carried out a clockwise orbit of the Needles to allow Marc to get some photos.

The Needles

The Needles

We continued around the coast, taking care not to get too close to Sandown as we completed the circuit, Once approaching Bembridge again, I initiated a climb up to 4500 feet for the return leg, reversing our inbound course out towards Petersfield again.

Passing Bembridge after a tour of the Isle of Wight

Passing Bembridge after a tour of the Isle of Wight

As we approached Petersfield, I again made contact with Farnborough for a Basic Service. SkyDemon’s profile view alarmed me somewhat, as it showed Class A airspace ahead of us starting at 3500 feet, so I began a descent to remain clear of this (despite being sure I’d planned our route correctly so as to remain clear of any airspace). Later I realised the the airspace being shown was on our current track, but after our planned turn to the North West at Petersfield, so in reality we were well clear at all times.

Marc was back at the controls again, and Lasham and Odiham both had gliders on the ground, but we didn’t see any in the air. We continued on towards Newbury, and at the point where I was preparing to sign off with Farnborough, the Controller started to have difficulty getting a message correctly read back by another aircraft. I was starting to become concerned that we might leave Farnborough’s coverage without being able to sign off, when the Controller eventually gave up, instructed the other aircraft to ‘Standby’ and instructed us to Squawk 7000 and change to our next frequency.

Marc made the turn near Greenham Common, and we then decided to modify our route slightly to overfly Swindon. I made sure Marc had the M4 in sight, and told him to keep to the South of it, and follow it up to Swindon (this would keep us well clear of Redlands and Sandhill Farm, both of which were likely to be busy today).

Passing Hungerford, we began a descent to about 2000 feet to overfly Swindon, and Marc used ground features to navigate us to the general area of where we lived, before I took control back to fly a gentle orbit over his house. For all of this leg I’d been listening in to Kemble, and there hadn’t been a single aircraft on frequency. As I contacted them when we left Swindon however, another 3 aircraft arrived on frequency on their way in to Kemble.

We positioned for an Overhead Join, trying to stay away from the immediate overhead of Oaksey as we passed by. We were the first of the arriving aircraft to reach the Overhead, and I carried out a standard Deadside Descent as normal. Once established on the Downwind leg, I decided to ask the FISO for permission to carry out a couple of circuits, enabling me to fully reset my passenger-carrying currency by completing 3 landings today.

Descending Deadside at Kemble

Descending Deadside at Kemble

This was approved, and the first landing back at Kemble was a little firmer than I would have liked. I applied full power and climbed away, spotting another aircraft descending on the Deadside off to our left. In order to maintain good separation from him, I made an early right turn to stay ahead. Established on Downwind, there was another aircraft ahead of us, which I had in sight. On late Downwind however, we were informed of a Seneca ‘on Final’ which I was unable to spot.

Mindful of the fact that it’s never a good idea to be in the same airspace as another aircraft when you can’t see him, I took the decision to leave the circuit, and rejoin for another attempt. As I did this, the FISO asked if I had the Seneca in sight, and I informed him again that we’d left the circuit and would recover later. It took me a little while to realise why we weren’t climbing away as well as I thought we should, before realising that I hadn’t raised the gear!

As we headed back towards Kemble another minute of two later, I finally got sight of the Seneca. He must have been on something like a 6nm Final when he had initially reported! If I’d known that I probably would have continued, but it’s frustrating that people will often carry out a straight in approach to a busy airfield without considering the other aircraft that might already be operating in the circuit.

I carried out another Deadside descent, this time spotting an aircraft just departing off to our right. I adjusted my track to the left to keep clear of him, but when I levelled the wings I was unable to see him (I could see his shadow, but not the aircraft itself). Again I decided it wouldn’t be a good idea to turn right towards an aircraft I couldn’t see, so I decided to depart the circuit to the North this time.

Marc spotted the other aircraft and pointed him out, and I reversed my course to position for a Crosswind join, notifying the FISO of this. As I turned Downwind, a microlight appeared on frequency announcing he was on Final, ‘over Tetbury’ (over 4nm away from the airfield!). This irked me somewhat again, so I made an early Base leg turn to ensure that we would land well ahead of him. Despite all the distractions, my final landing of the day was my best yet, and I did my best to keep my speed up to vacate the runway without causing any inconvenience to the other aircraft behind me.

We taxyed back to the parking area, and positioned the aircraft ready to refuel. After refuelling, we pushed the aircraft back to the parking area, and unloaded all our gear before putting the cover back on and heading in to the office to settle all the post-flight paperwork. After all that, I thought I’d earned a beer, so we retired to the Thames Head down the road for a well-earned debrief!

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Leg 1 profile

Leg 1 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 2 profile

Kemble arrival

Kemble arrival

This year’s flying continues to be rather sporadic. The only consolation is that I’ve been trying to make the most of what little flying I’ve been able to do. Today’s flight was no exception, and it was great to be able to show the real benefits of General Aviation to someone who isn’t within the relatively small community of pilots. We had a great day out today, and it was a real pleasure to be able to share the experience with someone with relatively little experience of flying in light aircraft. Hopefully I’ll be able to do this for others in the future too!

Total flight time today: 2:40
Total flight time to date: 328:35

 

Class Rating Revalidation

May 8, 2018

Having completed the required number of hours to revalidate my Class Rating by ‘experience’ in my last flight, I now needed to tick off the final box, which was to have flown for an hour with an Instructor. My recent currency check with Kev sadly didn’t fully meet the requirement being only a 45 minute flight, so I needed to either fly another 15 minutes with Kev, or a full hour with another Instructor.

With the announcement of the date for the Lyneham Flying Club AGM, I thought I could kill two birds with one stone by carrying out the Instructor flight during the day, then attending the AGM in the evening. After a bit of discussion with Kev, he agreed to carry out the flight that day, and with work onside too, the weather also played ball allowing the flight to go ahead.

My ideal plan was to fly a decent length trip, perhaps flying an Instrument Approach or two with Kev alongside to try to get some practice in readiness for renewing my IMC rating. Sadly Kev was unable to commit to a full day’s flying due to childcare constraints, so we settled for a trip to Wellesbourne, returning via Gloucester for fuel and to fly my first RNAV approach there.

I’d anticipated being a little late to Kemble due to having to get Catrin ready and off to school, but the planning was relatively straightforward, and I set off for Kemble after informing Kev I was slightly ahead of schedule. On the journey to the airfield it was obvious that conditions were still a little misty, but given the temperature and presence of a light wind I was confident that the mist would clear and allow us to carry out the flight.

Kev was already at the aircraft, checking out the landing gear after having heard some unusual noises on his last flight. All was well, and we headed into the Club to brief the days flying and wait for the poor visibility to improve. This took some time, and it was after 11am before we walked out to the aircraft to get ready for the flight. As usual, pre-flight checks were normal (with the exception of a missing fuel tester, so I borrowed one from one of the other aircraft!).

Another Club aircraft was parked near the pumps getting ready to go, and as we completed the checks he started up and taxyed out. My call for start seemed to catch the FISO unawares, and I had to repeat most of my message. The engine took a couple of goes to start (requiring a bit of extra priming with the fuel pump) and once cleared we began the taxy to A1 via Alpha in order to depart on 26. As we taxyed to the hold the other aircraft passed some weather information via the FISO, confirming that conditions were now much improved in the air.

We talked briefly about the NOTAM regarding parachuting at Little Rissington, including some discussion regarding the large ‘cone’ of airspace that was notified.  This didn’t come into effect until around lunchtime, but I was happy that our route would be OK given that we were planning to talk to Brize on the way. Power checks complete, on reporting ‘Ready’ we were immediately cleared to depart. Take off was normal, and after a dab of the brakes I raised the gear, vocalising the ‘after take off’ checklist as we climbed out (essentially, gear up, flaps up). We turned Crosswind and then Downwind, and I told Kev I planned to climb out on the Downwind leg. He suggested that we actually set course from overhead the airfield, as there was nobody else around. I informed the FISO of this, and set the correct heading once overhead.

We climbed to 3500 feed as planned, heading for the first turning point at Chedworth. Once clear of the ATZ, I signed off with Kemble and switched frequencies to Brize. My height keeping was a little poor, and as I looked out for Chedworth I allowed our height to creep up to 4000 feet. It took a little while to spot Chedworth, but once we did I set course for the next leg to the disused airfield at Moreton-in-Marsh, and made ready to contact Brize. The frequency became a little busy, meaning I couldn’t contact them for a few minutes. I signed on with them, receiving a Basic Service and setting their QNH (on leaving Kemble I’d set the Cotswold pressure after hearing the FISO pass it to another aircraft).

For some reason, we weren’t issued a squawk until we approached Moreton-in-Marsh, and I spotted this a mile or two off to our left and set course for Wellesbourne. Wellesbourne sits under a shelf of the Birmingham CTA, so I began a descent to 2500 feet to keep below this and be ready for the Overhead Join at Wellesbourne. I notified the Brize Controller of this, and then requested a frequency change to Wellesbourne.

Once on their frequency, we were passed the airfield information, finding out that they were using runway 18 with a right hand circuit. Using the DI and Heading Bug I tried to visualise the join, before telling Kev my plans. Wellesbourne were nice and quiet for a change (well, it was a Tuesday after all!) and we had the sky virtually to ourselves as we approached. I carried out a tight Deadside Descent, keeping inside the village of Wellesbourne to minimise any nuisance. The circuit was flown nicely, and I carried out the Before Landing checklist on the Downwind leg as usual.

As I turned us onto Final, it was clear that there was a fairly significant crosswind from the right, evidenced by the amount of crab I had to maintain to keep aligned with the runway. I completed the ‘Final’ checks (Reds, Blues, Greens, Flaps) and approaching the runway, I applied rudder correction to kick off the crab. As I started to roundout to arrest our descent, a gust of wind abruptly picked up the right wing, forcing us off to the left hand side of the runway. At this height and on a relatively short runway, I made the quick decision to Go Around, announcing to Kev that I wasn’t happy.

I applied full power, raising the nose to climb away and raised the landing gear. I then retracted the flaps in stages, checking at each stage that we were still established in the climb. Mindful of Wellesbourne’s noise abatement circuit, I proceed quite a long way Upwind before turning Crosswind and then Downwind (we later found a diagram indicating that we could in fact have made an early Crosswind turn during the Go Around). Again established on Downwind, I worked through the Before Landing checklist, and on reaching the ‘Gear’ item, noticed that the gear lights weren’t illuminated. I assumed that Kev had somehow failed one of the systems, and asked him if he wanted me to clear the circuit to troubleshoot the issue.

Kev said something along the lines of ‘Nothing to do with me!’ and I then quickly realised that the gear lights weren’t illuminated because I had in fact raised the gear during the Go Around! I moved the gear lever downwards (inexplicably just pushing the lever down for some reason, rather than pulling it out from the panel and then down as you should) and the gear lowered and all lights were illuminated as expected. This time I decided to make the approach with two stages of flaps due to the Crosswind, and again established us on Final with a fairly significant crab angle.

As we approached the runway, I again kicked off the crab, and this time there was no turbulence to throw off the landing. I brought us in for a slightly firm landing, with a small amount of crab just as we touched down. We vacated the runway onto the Crosswind runway, then carried out the After Landing checklist on the taxyway. We parked opposite the Tower on the grass, then headed in to pay the landing fee. Once done, we moved into the cafe for my usual sausage sandwich for lunch, eating outside in the pleasant weather.

Parked up at Wellesbourne

Parked up at Wellesbourne

Once we’d finished our lunch, I headed back out to the aircraft while Kev popped in to one of the local Flying Schools where he’d done some training in the past. Time was getting on sadly, which meant we would be unable to land at Gloucester. However, Kev did agree to talking me through an RNAV approach (my first ever!) and we re-briefed the basics of this in the aircraft before starting the engine.

We headed to the threshold of runway 18, carrying out our power checks opposite the Vulcan that is parked on the airfield. As we took to the runway to depart, another aircraft was turning in the overhead. The takeoff run was routine, and as we climbed out we both briefly lost sight of the other aircraft. Knowing that he was heading to the South East, I made a turn to the South West to keep well clear of him.

We signed off with Wellesbourne, then Kev helped me configure the 430 for the planned approach, loading it into our active flight plan. We were expecting to route via LAPKU (the weighpoint that starts the procedure to the North East of Gloucester), so loaded in this variant. We then listened to the ATIS to confirm the runway in use (at present Gloucester were using runway 22 due to the prevailing wind conditions). Mindful that the approach was to runway 27, I made the initial call to Gloucester, requesting a Basic Service and an RNAV approach to runway 27. We were quickly granted clearance to join the approach at LAPKU, and asked to report there.

We activated the approach in the 450, and it gave me an initial track to get to LAPKU. On this leg I began a slow descent to get us down to 2500 feet, the initial height for the approach. At this point I asked Kev if he was happy for me to go ‘eyes in’, and handle the lookout for me, which he agreed. I then concentrated on getting back into a good instrument scan, monitoring our progress on the leg towards LAPKU.

As we approached LAPKU, the 430 warned us in advance of the track for the next leg (175°) and then informed us when to begin the turn in order to intercept the appropriate track. I informed the Controller that we were at LAPKU, and he instructed us to continue, this time reporting at the next fix on the approach, NIRMO.

We continued towards NIRMO, and again the 430 warned us of the turn to the next track (265°). However, this time it didn’t seem to actually instruct me when to turn, which meant that I slightly overshot the correct track. After turning at NIRMO and informing the Controller, he then asked us to report at the Final Approach Fix (catchily named ‘BJ27F’!) and I concentrated on getting us back onto the correct track while descending to 2000 feet for this leg.

On reaching the FAF, I informed the Controller, and lowered the gear to initiate the descent. The Controller handed us over to the Tower frequency, and I concentrated on maintaining an appropriate rate of descent (approximately 750 feet per minute) and tracking the needle on the CDI. The Tower Controller informed us that we were number 2 to another aircraft landing on runway 22, and passed our Missed Approach instructions (climb straight ahead before a left turn back to Kemble) and we continued the approach. In general, I think I did a relatively decent job maintaining the appropriate track and rate of descent (not least because it’s not far of 18 months since I last flew on instruments!) and we levelled off at the Minimum Descent Altitude (600 feet).

On looking out at this point, the runway was ahead and just off to our left, so we would easily have been able to land from this position. I got slightly distracted and allowed our altitude to reduce to more like 500 feet (which would have been a failure on an IMC rating test), and as we crossed the runway threshold (the Missed Approach Point) I applied full power and began to climb away, raising the gear once we were established in the climb.

I entered a ‘direct to’ into the 430 to take us back to Kemble, and then made a climbing left turn to put us on the appropriate track. Once on the correct heading, I realised that this would take us virtually directly over Aston Down, so we doglegged to the left to avoid it. Kev spotted some gliders on the ground, so we turned on the landing light to make ourselves more visible, and both kept a good lookout for any other gliders that may be operating in the area.

Kemble were still operating on runway 26, and I informed the FISO that we would join Overhead. This led to us effectively having to fly past the airfield, before turning back to overfly the threshold of runway 26 at 2000 feet QFE, before descending on the Deadside as normal. There was a Cirrus operating in the circuit (flown by another Club member apparently!) and we slotted into the circuit with good spacing between us and them.

The circuit was routine, with the other aircraft reporting Downwind as I turned Base. I told Kev I planned to land slightly long to avoid the turbulence that’s often generated near the threshold, and given that we had another aircraft behind us I would expect to roll out on the runway before using the taxyways to get back to our parking area. This time I made a much better job of the landing, bringing us to a nice gentle touchdown.

Surprisingly, the FISO cleared us to backtrack, and it seemed he’d misunderstood the position of the other aircraft as it reported it was turning Base as we headed back down the runway. I did my best to keep the speed up to avoid them having to Go Around, and we vacated onto Alpha in good time for them to continue their approach to land. We taxyed back to the parking area, noticing that another aircraft was making ready to start up as we approached.

I positioned the Arrow so that we could be easily pushed back out of the way, and Kev jumped out to push us back onto a taxyway to allow the other aircraft to pass. We then manhandled the Arrow up to the bowser, and refuelled before pushing it back to its parking spot.

Once we’d recovered all our gear, we headed back to the Club and Kev signed my logbook and Class Rating to revalidate my license for a further two years. He picked me up on a couple of minor things regarding my flying, but in general we were both happy with the way things had gone. He headed back home to collect his kids, giving me some homework to do while waiting for the AGM – completing a hypothetical flight plan to fly to Cherbourg!

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Leg 1 profile

Leg 1 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 2 profile

Approach overlaid on Approach Plate

Approach overlaid on Approach Plate

I was pleased to have completed virtually everything we’d planned during the flight, not least getting my first introduction to flying an RNAV approach using the 430. Kev had shown me a few useful features of the unit during the flying, so I think I need to dig out the manual and have a quick read over it to make sure I’m up to speed. The RNAV approach into Gloucester was relatively straightforward to fly, so I think I need to make my next goal getting my IMC rating renewed with Roger so that I can start putting these things into practice for real!

I was also pleased with my decision to Go Around at Wellesbourne. Although I probably could have rescued the situation, in general its often a better idea just to throw the whole thing away and have another go. Low level Go Arounds are always a useful thing to practice anyway!

Total flight time today: 1:30
Total flight time to date: 325:55

 

Touring Wales

April 21, 2018

So far this year I had only managed a couple of short flights, predominately flying circuits in order to regain or retain currency. This certainly wasn’t what I’d had in mind when I spent a year training towards my PPL! The scarcity of my flying was made even more apparent when considering the fact that my Class Rating was due to expire in less than 6 weeks time, and I was still some 2 hours short of the required hours in order to be able to Revalidate by Experience.

In order to ‘automatically’ revalidate my license, every two years I need to satisfy the following in the 12 months prior to the rating expiring:

  • Fly 12 hours
  • Fly 1 hour with an Instructor
  • Carry out 12 takeoffs and landings
  • Fly 6 hours as Pilot in Command (PIC or P1)

Thus far I’d only managed around 10 hours, and only 0:45 with an Instructor. In order to avoid flying a License Proficiency Check with an Examiner, I really needed to get in the remaining two hours, and build up an hour with an Instructor. This was the first time since gaining my license that I was going to come even close to missing these requirements.

A spell of good weather coincided with Catrin being invited on a play-date on a Saturday afternoon, so this seemed an ideal opportunity to at least get to the 12 hour target. I came up with a plan for a fairly ambitious trip, flying around virtually the entire coast / border of Wales, stopping off at three airfields (Haverfordwest, Caernarfon and Hawarden) along the way. The initial plan was to travel clockwise, but after some contact with Rocky (who’s recently qualified as a Controller at Hawarden) led me to reverse the direction of the trip, calling in at Hawarden before his shift finished early on Saturday afternoon.

Route Plan

Route Plan

The days leading up to the flight provided ever encouraging forecasts, but on the night before the flight the forecast changed to include a small chance of some thunderstorms building up in the South during the afternoon. All the forecasts I saw suggested that there was only a fairly slight chance of these happening, and even if they did the generally good conditions meant that they should be easy to spot in plenty of time to avoid them.

As usual I completed the majority of the planning the night before the flight, meaning I only needed to do a final check on the weather and NOTAMS, print out the plogs and mark up the chart before leaving for Kemble. A slight detour en-route meant I was slightly delayed on arriving at Kemble, but I still thought I had plenty of time to achieve what I’d planned to do.

I filled the Arrow with fuel before carrying out the ‘A’ check, finding no problems with the aircraft. I returned to the office to complete the pre-flight paperwork, and on returning to the aircraft gave it a last look over, and took fuel samples to ensure there was no water or other contaminants in the fuel. Once this was done, I got on board and prepared the cockpit for the first leg up to Hawarden. I called the FISO to request engine start as we’re asked to do at Kemble, and the engine started without any problems.

I spent a little while setting up the avionics and GPS on-board, hearing the FISO calling me as I finally powered up the 430 to request taxy clearance. It seemed they’d been trying to get hold of me (they should have understood why I wasn’t answering, as it’s standard practice to turn off all avionics during engine start), as one of the other Lyneham aircraft had turned around and abandoned their planned trip to Hawarden, due to poor in-flight visibility.

This is a fairly common problem during a prolonged period of high pressure. High pressure tends to ‘put a lid’ on the atmosphere, preventing the contaminants in the air from dispersing as they normally would. The result is often a day that looks like perfect flying conditions from the ground, but with very poor visibility once you’re actually up in the air. I decided that I should at least make an attempt to carry out the flight, as I was confident in my ability to complete it even if the visibilty wasn’t ideal. I received my taxy clearance, initially to A4 to enable me to cross to the South of the airfield to reach the threshold of 08 which was the runway in use.

I had to hold briefly as one of Freedom’s Citabrias left the grass runway ahead of me, and as I stopped at A4 I was then cleared to cross the runway, being asked to report ready at C2. I taxyed around the South side of the airfield, carrying out my power checks on the approach to C2 as an Electricity helicopter practised landings off to my left. The power checks were normal, and I pulled up to C2, spotting an aircraft on late Downwind as I announced I was ready to depart.

The FISO checked I was ready to depart immediately, and once I confirmed I was, he cleared me onto the runway to depart. After a quick check of the engine guages, I applied full power and began my takeoff roll. There was virtually no wind, so the takeoff was routine, and as I climbed out I applied a quick dab of the brakes before raising the gear and turning left to head towards Gloucester. As I climbed out, the FISO was changed, and another aircraft announced on frequency arriving from the North about 5 miles away at around 2500 feet. I notified the FISO that I was climbing through 2000 feet up to my cruising altitude of 4500 feet, and he passed this information to the inbound traffic.

As expected the visibility was quite poor, and despite regular checks ahead of me (including lowering the nose periodically to reduce the blindspots immediately ahead) I didn’t see the other aircraft. However, I did climb rapidly through the level he had reported at, so there was only a very short period of time when we were operating at the same height.

Poor in-flight visibility

Poor in-flight visibility

Once well clear of Kemble,  I signed off with them to contact Gloucester. They seemed fairly busy, with a number of aircraft joining, and one ‘Exam’ callsign being cleared into the hold before carrying out an ILS Approach. A further aircraft request a transit of the overhead at around 2000 feet, but this was denied due to the hold being occupied. Up at 4500 feet I was well above all the other traffic, so routed via the Gloucester overhead, reporting overhead the airfield as I passed. My next turning point was Kidderminster, and when I informed the Controller of this he queried whether I wanted to stay with him, or perhaps contact Birmingham. I’d never even considered talking to Birmingham, so decided to stay on frequency with Gloucester until I reached Kidderminster.

While the forward visibility wasn’t great, visibility down to the ground was fine. This gave me the confidence to continue, knowing that I would always have a good view of the ground below me, and not get stuck above a layer of cloud. I continued on to Kidderminster, signing off with the Controller at Gloucester on reaching the town, and switching to Shawbury to see if I received any response from them (although fully expecting to hear nothing due to them generally being closed at the weekend). As expected I received no answer, so I headed on to Sleap, listening in on their frequency until I got a bit closer.

Mindful of my lack of real flying (the last time I’d landed anywhere other than Kemble was back in October of last year!) I was making sure to monitor my progress  to each waypoint, noting down ETAs and ATAs on my plog. I was also keeping a close eye on my fuel burn, keeping track of how long I was operating on each tank, and trying to switch tanks every 15 minutes or so. Sleap seemed fairly busy also, and as I approached I heard an aircraft departing to head back to Hawarden. I gave them a quick call just to let them know I would be passing overhead at 4500 feet, and getting a good view of Shawbury off to the right as I approached.

Approaching Shawbury and Sleap

Approaching Shawbury and Sleap

Passing Shawbury

Passing Shawbury

On my route from Sleap to Hawarden, a Class A airway drops down to 3000 feet, meaning I needed to fly lower than this to avoid infringing Controlled Airspace. On passing Sleap I began a slow descent down to 2000 feet to ensure I was well clear of this. I signed off with Sleap and made contact with Hawarden Radar (forgetting to retrieve the ATIS first as I should have done!). I was given details of the runway in use (22), along with their QFE and a squawk to set on the transponder. The Controller told me to position for a Left Base join, and after a brief period to orient myself, I turned right to get myself into the correct position.

As I approached, I was handed over to Hawarden Tower, who informed me that they had a Cessna inbound on a long Final approach, and that I was number two. I spotted the other aircraft quite easily, and after reporting that I had him in sight, the Tower Controller told me to position behind him. I tried to give myself plenty of space, and as I turned Final the other aircraft was just touching down. He slowed easily to make the right turn, and I was given a ‘Land After’ clearance as he turned off the runway. The rest of my approach was routine, and I made a relatively gentle landing, although it was a little flatter than I would have preferred.

I also got slowed down in good time to make the turnoff to the right, and received my taxy instructions to the GA apron, ending with a ‘Welcome back to Hawarden Andy!‘. It was clearly Rocky in the Tower, and he’d done a good job of getting us both on the ground safely. While taxying to the November apron via Golf, Juliet and November, I heard an aircraft on the apron being told to hold position to allow the Cessna onto the apron. I was then instructed to hold at the end of Juliet to allow the departing aircraft to taxy in front of me on November to make ready to depart.

On reaching the apron a marshaller was waiting for me, and he indicated where he wanted me to park. I pulled into the designated spot, closed down and began to secure the cockpit. The helpful marshaller took me into the office, where he took my landing fee and arranged a security pass to enable me to get through the security gates that led to the diner. I headed in, finding that they’d helpfully reserved me a table! I ordered my usual sausage sandwich, which certainly filled a hole when it arrived a short while later.

Nice of them to reserve a table for me!

Nice of them to reserve a table for me!

I made sure to be finished before 1pm when the ‘other’ Andy had the table reserved, and headed out to take a few photos and call Caernarfon before walking back to the November apron (having a bit of a battle with the turnstile on the way!). I headed back in to the office to book out, finding that the phone line to the Tower was busy for a few minutes. I sent Rocky a tweet to tell him to get off the phone (the guy in the office thought the Controllers were probably ordering a takeaway!) and he sent me a message back when the line was clear. I booked out (speaking to Rocky again!) and headed back to the aircraft to give it a quick check over before getting ready to leave for Caernarfon.

Parked up at Hawarden

Parked up at Hawarden

Once onboard, I remembered to check the ATIS this time, before calling the Tower for start and departure information. I was cleared to start, and again the engine started easily. Another aircraft had started off to my left, and taxyed away as I got back in contact with the Tower. I was cleared to taxy to N1 for runway 22 via the November taxyway. Approaching N1 the other aircraft was just completing their checks, and was cleared onto the runway. They departed as I completed my own checks, before pulling up to the hold and reporting ready. Unlike my last visit, I was ready to copy the departure clearance I was given, which this time was ‘Runway 22, right turn out. Not above 1500 feet, squawk 0430’.

I read this back and had it acknowledged as ‘correct’, then was cleared onto the runway to depart. There were no problems departing from the 2km long runway, and I had plenty of height before having no usable runway ahead and raising the gear. Rocky bade me farewell, instructing me to contact Radar. On initial contact, they removed the height restriction (cautioning me to remain clear of Controlled Airspace), and I continued on towards the ridge ahead of me.

The ridge seemed higher than I had initially expected, so I took a quick look at the chart to see how low the Class A airspace descended (3000 feet) so I increased power again to climb to 2500, doglegging right initially to gain more height before crossing the ridge. The Controller had warned that he may lose radar and radio contact with me when I crossed it, and given me suggestions of who to contact should that happen. In actuality the extra height kept me in contact with him, and I stayed with him until I reached the coast near Rhyl.

I signed off with Hawarden Radar, deciding to listen in to London Information on the relatively short leg to Caernarfon. Once clear of the Class A airspace I climbed up to around 4500 feet. I generally followed the North Wales coast around to Bangor, spotting another aircraft travelling in the opposite direction well below me at one point. As I drew level with Anglesey, I started to monitor Caernarfon to build up a picture of the aircraft in the local area. As I approached Bangor I began a descent to 2000 feet ready for an overhead join at Caernarfon, and made contact with them to confirm they were still using runway 22.

Approaching Bangor, Anglesey off to the right

Approaching Bangor, Anglesey off to the right

There was one other aircraft in the circuit as I approached, and as I descended on the Deadside he was already on the Downwind leg. I carried out a nice circuit, although I had to fly a wider Base leg than I normally would have preferred due to the positioning of the aircraft ahead of me. By the time I turned onto Final, the other aircraft had landed and cleared the runway, and my second landing of the day was much better than the first. I rolled out and vacated the runway, informing the A/G operator that I wanted fuel.

As I approached the fuel bay I noticed that the parking area immediately opposite was empty, so I asked if I could push the aircraft into it when I’d finished refuelling. He asked that I contact them instead, so that they could have me park closer to the Tower (which would mean I would have to re-start the engine, something I was trying to avoid!). I had the aircraft filled with fuel ready for the final legs of the day, before pushing it back slightly to ensure I had sufficient clearance to turn past the pump. The A/G operator gave me a bay to park in, and I taxyed down there before securing the aircraft.

I headed in via the Cafe door, then headed to the desk to settle my landing fee, only to find the area around the desk deserted. I headed back in to the Cafe to see if landing fees were now settled there, only to spot the big ‘C’ on the new Control Tower near the gate I’d used to leave airside! I headed over to settle the landing fee and fuel bill, before walking back over to the Cafe to get a cold drink. While there the Coastguard helicopter departed, attracting quite a bit of attention from virtually everyone!

Coastguard helicopter departing

Coastguard helicopter departing

Parked up at Caernarfon

Parked up at Caernarfon

I was running perhaps 30 minutes or an hour behind my original schedule, and given the prospect for worsening weather I decided to fly the planned route back to Kemble, but abandon my plan to land at Haverfordwest. I walked back out to the Arrow and carried out a quick transit check (including taking fuel samples to be safe). The engine started easily and after getting the airfield information I taxyed to the hold ready to depart. Power checks were normal, and after waiting for an arriving flexwing microlight to land, I entered the runway. Once the runway was clear I applied power, and took off heading directly out over the sea.

Departing Caernarfon

Departing Caernarfon

I set course for Llanbedr, climbing to 3500 feet to be sure of clearing the high ground and mast on the first leg. I switched to the Llanbedr frequency, hearing a number of aircraft departing as I approached. Once clear to the South, I switched to the London Info frequency, this time signing on with them for a Basic Service. Once the initial details were passed, I waited for a break on the frequency and asked them to confirm that the Danger Areas around Aberporth were not active (they are only activated by NOTAM). The FISO confirmed this, meaning I could continue on my planned route down the coast.

Passing Aberystwyth

Passing Aberystwyth

I passed Aberystwyth, and dialled in the Strumble VOR to aid in confirming my position. I listened in initially to Aberporth Radar, and then West Wales Information to ensure nobody was operating there, hearing nothing as expected. I passed by the airfield, and continued on towards the VOR, turning slightly before reaching it to head to Haverfordwest. I contacted them as they seemed busy, telling them I would be passing overhead at around 4500 feet.

Turning at Haverfordwest

Turning at Haverfordwest

I turned in their overhead, now heading for Pembrey. I’d been in contact with Tony and Oliver the day before, finding out that Oli was competing in his first race weekend there today. On this leg I descended to 2500 feet, and made contact with Pembrey, hearing a helicopter departing to the East. Again I informed them I would be passing overhead, and as I approached Pembrey I positioned myself to get a good view of the track to the South of the airfield. I carried out an orbit overhead, getting some photos as I did so. Once this was complete, I continued my route towards the City of Swansea, signing off with Pembrey in readiness for contacting Cardiff to request the Zone Transit.

On-track action at Pembrey

On-track action at Pembrey

I monitored the Swansea frequency initially, ensuring there was no traffic operating there that might affect me. I then contacted Cardiff Radar to request a Basic Service and Zone Transit, routing around the South Wales coast, then up the Welsh side of the River Severn. Initially the Controller advised me to continue, reporting when passing Porthcawl. I was still several miles from there when he came back on frequency, clearing me for a Zone Transit as requested, not above 2500 feet.

Passing the lighthouse at Nash Point

Passing the lighthouse at Nash Point

The Cardiff frequency was quite busy with light aircraft arriving and departing. I spotted Llandow off to my left, followed by St. Athan and then Cardiff Airport itself. I passed the airport and followed the coast as it turned North, passing the City of Cardiff itself and the docks. The Controller confused me a little as I left Controlled Airspace, asking what my ‘maximum operating altitude’ was. Initially I wasn’t entirely sure what he was asking, so responded ‘currently 2500 feet’. A few minutes later I realised that he was actually trying to find out how high I would be climbing now I was clear of the Controlled Airspace.

Light aircraft departing Cardiff

Light aircraft departing Cardiff

I continued up the coast, and on reaching the Old Severn Bridge I signed off with Cardiff, and set course for Kemble. It was now around 16:30, so I contacted them earlier than I would have normally in order to get the airfield information before they closed at 17:00. They were still operating on 08, and the frequency seemed very quiet as I approached. There was still nobody on frequency as I got closer, so I asked for a Left Base join to see if I could get down on the ground before they closed. As I was positioning for this and beginning my descent, another aircraft reported they were joining from the South, and would join Downwind.

As I joined on Base, I spotted the other aircraft at the start of his Downwind leg. The wind was now picking up, and there was a significant crosswind from the right (140 degrees at 13 knots). I correct for this on Final, but as I got close to the ground the conditions became much more turbulent, and I was having a hard time maintaining the correct track across the ground while trying to kick off the crab to the right. My control inputs weren’t quite enough to maintain the runway centreline, and I found myself landing much more firmly than I would have liked. A shame to round off a good day’s flying with such a poor landing!

I was cleared to taxy to ‘Lyneham Corner’, and reported clear of the runway once I was on the Alpha taxyway. I taxyed back to the parking area, closing down in front of the fuel bowser in readiness to refuel. Having filled up the aircraft before leaving Caernarfon, I only needed about 30 litres to bring it back up to tabs. I pushed the aircraft back into its parking space, and removed all my gear before putting the cover on. I headed in to the office to settle the post-flight paperwork, before heading home for a well earned beer!

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Leg 1 profile

Leg 1 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 3 profile (part 1)

Leg 3 profile (part 1)

Leg 3 profile (part 2)

Leg 3 profile (part 2)

It was great to be finally back in the air doing some ‘real’ flying. I’d made quite an ambitious plan, and managed to execute most of it despite the fairly challenging conditions. It was good to revisit some airfields that I’d been to in the past, and nice also to be able to carry out the Zone Transit around Cardiff again. It was a shame that some of the landings weren’t quite up to scratch, but at least the flying had all gone without any dramas. Now I need to complete the last part of the requirements for my revalidation (finishing the hour with an Instructor) and see if I can maintain the momentum for the remainder of the year!

Total flight time today: 4:10
Total flight time to date: 324:25

 

More circuits and a local

April 3, 2018

Unsurprisingly, I found myself on the verge of losing currency again. I’d had a couple of attempts thwarted due to the weather, and sadly in the days leading up to this planned flight the weather also didn’t look ideal.

There was a bit of confusion over which aircraft I was to take. A long-term Arrow booking initially prevented me from taking that, so I booked a Warrior and made a standby booking on the Arrow just in case. A couple of days before the flight I noticed that the Arrow booking had been activated, so knowing that Kev had the aircraft in France I double checked that it would be back as expected. It turned out that he thought he had it booked for a further day, so it was a good job I checked! I moved my booking back onto the Warrior, and continued watching the weather forecasts as the day of the flight approached.

Sadly the forecasts didn’t improve sufficiently for me to be confident enough to plan a landaway, with the last TAFs suggesting relatively low cloud (around 2000 feet) and a strong wind from the South that would put me close to the aircraft’s demonstrated crosswind limits back at Kemble. I decided to play it safe and try to at least get some circuits in to reset both my Club and Passenger currencies.

The forecast on the morning looked slightly better, with the weather being expected to start to improve from mid to late morning. I completed the final planning at home, before heading off to Kemble. Mike was in the Club, and we had a brief chat about some radio issues that had been noticed on G-BPAF over recent flights. Taking advantage of the fact that I was in no hurry, we both headed out to the aircraft with a couple of headsets to see how the radios and intercom were functioning.

We were initially a little concerned that the intercom didn’t appear to be working correctly. The aircraft now has a similar audio panel to that in the Arrow, and we found that while we could both hear ourselves in our headsets while talking, Mike couldn’t hear me and I couldn’t hear him. The penny soon dropped when I saw the indicator on the ‘Pilot’ button was illuminated, effectively disconnecting Mike (who was sitting in the P1 seat) from the rest of the aircraft.

We turned this off, and the intercom then proceeded to work as expected, and I gave Mike a brief tutorial on the operation of the audio panel as he wasn’t overly familiar with it. We then set about testing both radios by talking to Kemble’s FISO (the frequency was dead so we weren’t inconveniencing anyone!) and found that both radios appeared to work correctly on the ground, with box 2 (the older radio) being reported as having a lower transmit volume by the FISO.

G-BPAF avionics

G-BPAF avionics

Happy that the avionics were all working correctly, I completed the remainder of the ‘A’ check, before heading back into the Club to complete the pre-flight paperwork. Just in case I had any issues, I kept the second headset that Mike had brought out, leaving it plugged into the front seat passenger’s connectors.

I gave Kemble a quick call to book out for some circuits initially, before returning to the aircraft to get ready for the flight. The aircraft started relatively easily, and I was careful on all the pre-flight checks due to it being almost two years since I had last flown a Warrior. I made a particular note to exercise the carb heat regularly while flying!

Flyable, but far from ideal conditions

Flyable, but far from ideal conditions

I was cleared to taxy to A1, while two others performed their checks on the North Apron, and a helicopter made ready to fly from the other end of the airfield. There was one aircraft in the circuit as I completed the power checks, and once ready I pulled up to the hold just as he turned Final. I let the FISO know that I was ready (and could see the aircraft about to land!) and received the expected instruction to ‘Hold Position’.

Once the circuit aircraft had landed, I was cleared into position, and I lined up on 26 waiting for him to complete his touch and go. The helicopter was also cleared to cross to the South side as the circuit traffic rolled out also. Once the aircraft ahead had taken off, I waited a short while to open up a bit of spacing between us, before beginning the takeoff roll.

The takeoff was normal, despite the significant crosswind from the left. I followed the other aircraft around a slightly wide circuit, carrying out the pre-landing checks on the Downwind leg, making sure to also exercise the carb heat! The other aircraft in the circuit was landing just as I turned Base, so I had plenty of spacing to follow him around.

I decided that I would only use 2 stages of flap due to the crosswind, and carried out a relatively nice landing given that it was my first in a Warrior for some time. The Warrior tends to float a lot more, and though I expected this, it did make control during the roundout a little more difficult due to the crosswind.

The second circuit was routine, although this time  I flew a more normal (tighter) circuit and caught up the aircraft ahead a little. As a result my ‘Final’ call was responded to with ‘runway occupied by landing traffic’, and I was unsure whether I would have to go around from this circuit. The aircraft ahead took off again as I was at around 300 feet AAL though, so I was able to continue for another relatively good landing, although this time I landed with a small amount of crab which wasn’t ideal.

I’d noticed that the cloubase appeared to be lifting all the time, as well as becoming much more broken. I thought I might as well take advantage of this, and instead of turning back into the circuit, I told the FISO that I was heading out to the West for a brief local. I had to adjust my height a few times to remain clear of cloud (really must get my IMC rating renewed!) as I headed West towards the River Severn.

Improving weather out to the West

Improving weather out to the West

The cloud thinned enough for me to get to around 2500 feet (which was convenient as this was around the correct height for an Overhead Join back into Kemble). I made it as far as Thornbury before turning round to head back into Kemble. I received the updated airfield information from the FISO, and all seemed quiet as I routed back.

I did consider joining Downwind, but decided that carrying out a full Overhead Join would be good practice, and I was certainly in no rush due to the abbreviated flight! As I neared Kemble another aircraft came on frequency approaching from the South, announcing that he would carry out a direct Downwind join. As I entered the ATZ (including a slight fluff on the radio: “G-WS – correction G-AF is entering the ATZ from the West) I was slightly concerned that this might put us on the Downwind leg at around the same time, but while I descended Deadside he reported that he was on late Downwind, so we had good separation.

As I was on the Crosswind leg, I spotted him turning Base (confirming the separation) and the rest of the circuit was routine. I brought the Warrior in for my best landing of the day, spoiled only by realising that I had failed to turn the Carb Heat off on short Final as I should have, instead spotting it during my after landing checks on clearing the runway.

I taxyed back to the Club before refuelling the aircraft and putting the covers back on. I returned to the Club to carry out the usual post-flight paperwork, before heading home.

Track flown

Track flown

Although disappointed that I couldn’t carry out a longer flight, at least I’d done enough to reset all my currencies in readiness for (hopefully!) some better weather in the coming months. My Class Rating is due to expire at the end of May, and unusually I’m still around 2 hours short of the required time to be able to revalidate by experience. Really need to make sure I get some more hours in soon!

Total flight time today: 0:55
Total flight time to date: 320:15

Currency check (again!)

February 10, 2018

As was customary, my flying year ended with being unable to maintain currency, so 2018 was destined to start off with yet another currency check. I’d made one attempt to fly with Kev, planning a trip up to RAF Waddington. However, the weather on the day caused me to bottle out, despite Kev’s urging that it would actually be fine once we cleared the relatively localised poor weather around Kemble. I decided that discretion was the better part of valour, only to later see Kev’s photos of a glorious flight once he’d got clear of the local weather!

A second attempt wasn’t looking good on the days leading up to the flight, with forecast conditions even worse than the previous attempt. This time I vowed to persevere however, and arrived at Kemble to be met with some pretty gloomy looking weather.

Gloomy conditions pre-flight

Gloomy conditions pre-flight

Kev said he would be happy to sign me off as long as we could complete a few circuits, so I prepared the aircraft and waited for him to arrive. We filled the aircraft before departing, then once the ‘A’ check was complete I called the Tower to book out for some circuits. Understandably the chap who answered the phone seemed surprised at our request, but we were given permission and set about getting the Arrow started.

Taxy and before departure checks were all normal, and as usual Kev had me carry out a thorough pre-departure brief before we announced we were ready to depart. At this point Kev asked me to put in a ‘direct to’ Kemble into the 430, presumably as a bit of a test to ensure I knew how to do it.

We took to the runway, and I applied full power to begin the takeoff roll. The rotation was normal, and as we climbed out I dabbed the brakes before raising the gear. We started to enter cloud at around 600 feet above the airfield, so I informed the tower we could be carrying out a bad weather circuit and descended to keep us below the cloud. After checking that we were within flap limiting speed, I lowered two stages of flap as is normal procedure for a bad weather circuit. Kev suggested at this point that lowering the gear first was probably a better idea, as it would have the side effect of also slowing the aircraft down in readiness for extending the flaps.

We had a brief discussion about whether to continue the plan, and Kev said that he was happy to do so. The circuit went relatively well, although I perhaps kept us a little tighter in than I should have on the Downwind leg, causing me to overshoot Final a little due to the tailwind on Base Leg. Disappointingly I missed out on the ‘Reds, Blues, Greens’ Final check, which Kev picked me up on later. Happily though, I did pull off a very nice landing with the Crosswind near the limit, which I was quite pleased with!

The second circuit was a little better, and this time I made a much better job of us getting us aligned on Final. Kev reminded me about the ‘Reds, Blues, Greens’ check, and I carried this out, noticing that the Landing Gear lights weren’t illuminated. While it was likely that Kev had just induced a failure at this point, I took the sensible decision to initiate a Go Around, applying full power, retracting the first stage of flaps immediately, and then cleaning up the later stages of flap as we were established in the climb. I did however neglect to raise the landing gear, which while not a critical error did mean that our climb rate wasn’t as good as it would normally have been.

As we were climbing away, I checked the obvious reason for the gear indication failure (turning off the panel lights that had amazingly turned themselves on somehow!) and then after Kev prompted me I raised the gear.  The third circuit was again flown well, Kev picking me up on some missing items on the Before Landing checklist. The second landing of the day was also good though, which was another pleasant surprise!

As we climbed away, I retracted the gear as usual, turning Crosswind and then again lowering the gear prior to dropping the flaps for the bad weather circuit as Kev had previously suggested. This time the gear failed to lower, and I carried out the immediate checks from memory (panel lights off, circuit breakers), finding that the gear circuit breaker had popped.

Rather than just reset it, Kev asked that we clear the circuit to troubleshoot the issue fully, but suggested I not mention the gear issue to the guys in the Tower (as it was only a simulated failure, so there was no reason to trigger any Emergency response). As we left the circuit, Kev took control while I ran through the Gear Extension Failure checklist. Kev had me carry out the full checklist for practice, including using the alternative extension mechanism to lower the gear once we reached that point in the checklist.

Once the gear was back down, Kev asked me to rejoin the circuit, and I reset the ‘direct to’ in the 430 to give me a line to follow. I then set about heading back to Kemble, turning us through 180 degrees before spotting the airfield ahead of me. I somehow managed to confuse myself as to our location, as I ended up positioning us North of the field, and announcing that I was now on a Downwind for 26.

Part way through this, Kev asked me what our heading was. On checking both the DI and the compass, I found that it was more like 260 rather than the expected 080. At first I assumed that Kev had somehow managed to trigger the compass into an incorrect reading (which in hindsight would have been very difficult to do!). A further look at the 430 then showed me what my mistake had actually been, and that we were in fact in the wrong position! I let the Tower know that we were actually North of the runway, and told them we would rejoin Crosswind, before again heading to the wrong end of the runway for a Crosswind join!

I finally got things all sorted in my head, and we continued around for a further circuit. Again this was flown quite well, leading to another good landing in the tricky crosswind (although this one was a little firmer than I perhaps would have preferred).

Kev told me he was happy, and that we could make this the final circuit. The 4th landing of the day was again pleasingly gentle, and I requested a backtrack back to our parking area. Unsurprisingly we were still the only aircraft operating, so we taxyed back and shut down, before pushing the aircraft back into the parking area and putting the cover back on.

Flight Log

Flight Log

Once all the paperwork was complete, we collected Kev’s family before heading to the Thames Head for a thorough debrief over lunch and a beer! I managed to work out how I had managed to confuse myself when rejoining the circuit. As we left the circuit, I had assumed we were heading South, and then once rectifying the gear issue and turning around, I assumed that we would be reversing that course, heading North to join the Downwind leg at the ‘left’ hand end of the runway, before turning right. When I actually ended up with the end of the runway to my left, I assumed I’d managed to fly to the Northern side of the airfield near the 08 threshold, when in fact I was slightly South of the airfield near the 26 threshold. In trying to put myself back ‘South’ of the airfield, I actually put us to the North!

At any point during this I could easily have confirmed my position either via a quick glance at the 430, or the tablet on my kneeboard running SkyDemon. Additionally from the air it is generally obvious which side of the airfield is the ‘North’ side (it has the Tower on it for a start!) and which is the South. It was a useful reminder that it can be quite easy to lose situational awareness when the brain starts to get overloaded. A gear failure and some challenging conditions (flying circuits at 500 – 600 feet!) certainly added to my workload, and had done enough to cause me to lose track of the big picture.

On the whole though, this had been a good day’s flying. As ever, a Currency Check with Kev was no walk in the park, but it was a very useful learning exercise in the poor conditions. Now, time to get some real flying done in 2018!

Total flight time today: 0:45
Total flight time to date: 319:20

 

 

2017 Summary

December 31, 2017

A summary of my flying during 2017:

On the whole this was a fairly disappointing year, by far my leanest to date. The flights I did manage were all enjoyable, particular highlights being the trip to Coventry to visit the Nimrod, and ferrying the Arrow the short hop from Kemble to Sandhill Farm with Kev. Giving Catrin her first time at the controls was also a memorable moment!

Sadly, I didn’t get around to renewing my IMC rating this year, so that’s definitely something I’ll have to get ticked off soon. Other than that, I just need to make more of an effort to fly more regularly if at all possible.

Total flying hours: 318:35
Hours P1: 234:00