I’m always keen to add new airfields to my logbook, it helps maintain my interest in flying, and prevent me getting stuck in a rut visiting the same old airfields over and over. The family were planning to visit the in-laws during the school holiday, which gave me a Bank Holiday weekend largely to myself. Initially I hoped to take the Arrow to a few airfields a little further afield, but Kev was using it for the week to take his family on holiday to Europe.
The Club has had a few niggling problems with its Warriors recently (including issues with the radios) so I was a little reticent to take one on a longer trip. In the days leading up to the weekend I talked quite a bit with the Club’s Ops Manager, and he explained that G-BPAF (the aircraft I flew my first solo in at RAF Brize Norton) was having its audio panel replaced at the moment, and this should get rectify the problems. So I booked the aircraft for the Sunday for a short slot with a view to improving my confidence, before taking a longer trip on the Bank Holiday Monday.
As the weekend approached however, it became clear that in fact Sunday would be the better day to fly, and Mike gave me an update after the aircraft returned from maintenance on the Saturday, assuring me that all the communications issues had now been fixed. So I switched my plans, intending to make the longer trip on the Sunday, still keeping my Monday booking for some more flying should the conditions turn out to be flyable after all.
I spent most of my early life living in Skelmersdale, Lancashire, and had always wanted to take an opportunity to fly in the area. Blackpool Airport seemed a good choice as a first destination, enabling me to plan for a Zone Transit of Liverpool’s CTR before doing a bit of sight-seeing in the area. While looking for another airfield to visit, I had made contact with Leeds East (formerly RAF Church Fenton) and was a little disappointed to learn that their catering facilities would be unavailable on Bank Holiday Monday due to an event that was being held there. I initially planned to revisit Sherburn-in-Elmet again for lunch, but after switching the day of the flight I updated the plan to visit Leeds East after all. The final airfield on the trip was planned to be Nottingham, an airfield I’ve visited a number of times.
As usual I completed the majority of the planning the night before the flight, this time taking the opportunity to also draw in the route on the charts (both Southern and Northern half-mill required for this trip!) and get as much as possible ready. That way, I hoped I could make an earlier than usual start, to enable me to arrive at Blackpool before their short closure period between 11:30am and Noon (local time). An email to Blackpool’s ATC confirmed that the airfield was still available outside of these closure times, and also served to receive PPR.
The forecast looked near perfect on the morning of the flight, and I completed the planning in good time. I arrived at Kemble slightly earlier than normal, but probably spent slightly longer than usual pre-flighting the aircraft as it had been a while since I had last flown a Warrior. I also filled the tanks to the brim, planning to re-fuel at Leeds East at the mid point of the day’s flying.
The starter on the Warrior seemed a little reluctant at first, but the engine started relatively easily and I set about preparing the slightly unfamiliar cockpit. I took the time to carry out a radio check on both radios for my own peace of mind, and was cleared to taxy via Golf to the North Apron for power checks. Again, I took my time with these as the procedure is slightly different between the Warrior and Arrow (no prop to adjust, but an additional check of carb heat required). Everything proved normal, and after announcing I was ready I was cleared straight onto the runway to depart.
After requesting a left turn out from the FISO, I applied full power and accelerated along the runway. The Warrior needed much less of a ‘pull’ to become airborne, and before reaching Kemble Village I turned left to head direct towards Gloucester, climbing up to my planned cruising altitude of 4500 feet. There was a fair amount of cloud around, but there were also plenty of gaps in order to see the ground below, and enable a descent if required while maintaining VFR.
I signed off with Kemble, and contact Gloucester as usual for a Basic Service, informing them I was planning to pass through their overhead at 4500 feet. the frequency was relatively quiet as I continued, but I heard a Student on a solo navigation exercise struggling slightly with his R/T, and informing Gloucester he may have to turn before reaching their overhead due to cloud. He was a lot lower than I was, and as such was probably just below the base of the scattered clouds.
On passing Gloucester I was asked to report passing Great Malvern, and continued on as planned. The difference in speed between the Warrior and Arrow was definitely noticeable (I tend to fly Warriors at 90 knots, whereas the Arrow will easily make 125 knots, some 40% quicker), and it took a little longer than I anticipated to spot Great Malvern off to the left. I was trying on this flight to avoid looking at SkyDemon too much, marking my progress on the printed PLOG as I flew, only taking brief looks at my tablet every so often to confirm my position. This probably explains why my track flown is a lot straighter than usual, I was doing it based on the DI rather than continually making adjustments based on what SkyDemon was telling me!
I listened in to Shawbury after signing off with Gloucester, as expected hearing nothing from them. I next contacted Sleap as I approached, just to let them know I was passing overhead, but not requesting any service from them. They sounded relatively busy, with one pilot reporting that he was abandoning his flight due to poor visibility. Again, he was obviously operating in the hazy later below the clouds, up where I was the visibility was excellent.
After passing Sleap I began a descent down to 2000 feet, to ensure I was below the airways around Hawarden, and also below Manchester’s CTA, which starts at 2500 feet to the South of Liverpool. I had planned to contact Liverpool as I approached Wrexham, to ask for a Zone Transit from Chester to the M6 / M58 junction (conveniently close to Skelmersdale). If I were refused, I had also planned a second route to the West of Liverpool, remaining below their airspace.
I listened in to them as I approached, hearing another of other VFR aircraft on frequency, which gave me hope that I would be granted the transit. I made my initial contact and request, and was a little disappointed when the Controller’s reponse started “We’re a little busy…”, but fortunately she continued “…can you accept a transit further to the West?”. I quickly responded ‘affirm’, and was given clearance through their CTR not above 1500 feet, initially entering at Neston, routing North towards Seaforth. I used the chart to locate the VRPs, before adjusting the route in SkyDemon appropriately.
The new route took me just to the West of Hawarden, and I spotted the Flintshire Bridge that crossed the River Dee. A quick check of the chart showed that this was directly on my route to Neston, making it easy to follow my approved route to enter the Zone. I continued North, passing Bebington and Birkenhead, before getting some excellent views of the City off to my right, enabling me to get some good photos as I passed.
The Radio City Tower
The Liver Building and Pier Head
I reported leaving the Zone at Seaforth, and after a quick check of the chart, set course for Skem, climbing to 2000 feet. The Controller reminded me to remain clear of Manchester’s airspace (starting at 2500 feet in this area) and I remained on frequency for a Basic Service until it was time to continue North towards Blackpool. I passed by Ormskirk, and was soon over Skem, identifying many landmarks from my childhood (my old secondary school and the Concourse shopping centre) and even managed to locate the house where I grew up without too much difficulty.
West Bank, Glenburn and the Concourse Shopping Centre
My childhood home
After a quick orbit to get some photos, I set course towards Southport, informing the Controller. As I approached Southport I signed off and started to listen in to Blackpool, hearing another aircraft reporting inbound from Caernarfon out over the sea. We were both approaching to arrive at around the same time, and as I signed on I was passed details of the other traffic by the Controller. I had trouble picking him out in the haze, but he replied that he was visual with me, and would follow me in.
Blackpool itself was easy to spot, and I also had little trouble identifying the airfield as I approached. I set up for a Left Downwind join as requested, hearing the air ambulance waiting to cross the field as I turned Base and then Final. I spotted the aircraft coming in from Caernarfon behind me as I turned, and he offered to orbit where he was to enable the helicopter to cross the Final Approach track after I had landed. My first Warrior landing in a while was pretty good considering, nice and gentle but perhaps slightly flat. The technique for landing a Warrior is slightly different to the Arrow, as the Warrior tends to float a lot more, requiring power to be completely removed when starting the roundout and holdoff. However, the Arrow seems to prefer a trickle of power in the roundout, before removing it completely.
Downwind at Blackpool, the Tower a useful landmark
I had slowed enough to make the first turn off to the right onto Echo, but the Controller instructed me to take the third right onto runway 31, before giving me further taxy instructions via Alpha to park in front of where the old terminal building used to be. I parked up behind a couple of other aircraft, before heading in to pay my landing fee. My initial plan had been to continue on to Leeds East for lunch, but it was already nearly 1pm and I was getting hungry!
Parked up at Blackpool
I assured the guy taking landing fees that I wouldn’t exceed my 2 hour free parking, before heading to a pub just around the corner for a light lunch. I was a little concerned at how slow their service appeared, and when they told me there was a half hour wait for food I became slightly worried that I might not make it back in time. Blackpool had a commercial aircraft expected, and would transition to ‘secure’ operation around 2pm, meaning I wouldn’t be able to make any payment due to that area being restricted to their Commercial passengers. Fortunately my food arrived in good time, and I was back at the airfield just before 2pm anyway, before the restrictions came in to place.
I had to wait for a short while to book out with ATC, before heading out to the aircraft and carrying out a quick transit check. After calling and receiving approval to start, I then called for taxy, and was given somewhat more complex instructions than I was used to (to E2 via A, B, C and E!). I carried out the power checks on Echo behind another aircraft waiting to depart, then took my place at the hold once he departed.
There was another short delay while two other inbound aircraft landed, then I was cleared on to the runway. I was unsure just how much runway was available to me from the intersection, so requested (and was granted) a backtrack. Once in position, I was cleared to take off, and began the takeoff roll. On climbout, I had a good view of Blackpool Pleasure Beach off to my right, and once out over the sea I turned right to head North towards Fleetwood, primarily so that I could get some good photos of Blackpool on the way!
Blackpool Pleasure Beach
Blackpool had been notifying people heading North that the Gliding field at Chipping was active, so rather than continue all the way to Fleetwood, I turned East to head direct for my next turning point at Burnley to try and stay clear of the gliders. Climbing up to 3000 feet, I passed close by the disused airfield at Samlesbury (interestingly misspelt as Salmesbury in SkyDemon!), using SkyDemon a little more on this leg to orient myself given the large number of similar sized towns on the route.
I contacted Leeds Radar as I approached Burnley to request a transit of their airspace. As before, I had plotted an avoidance route (via Dewsbury to the South) in readiness for a potential rejection, but the Controller helpfully cleared me through, not above 3400 feet! Now I look back, I suspect this may have been a hint that I had allowed myself do climb a little higher than intended, meaning I was quite close to Manchester’s Class A TMA that was above me at 3500 feet.
Passing over Bradford and Leeds I had to descend for a short while to remain VFR due to a bank of cloud that was ahead of me. I was never below around 2500 feet though, so the cloud base was still perfectly acceptable for VFR flight. Once clear I climbed again to around 3000 feet to give myself more options should I experience any engine issues while over the cities.
Leeds Bradford Airport
The M1 / A1(M) junction was an easy landmark to spot, and as I approached I signed off with Leeds, and contacted Leeds East to get airfield information. I was informed of wingwalking that was taking place in the overhead, and the radio operator also queried whether I wanted fuel (I had informed them when I called by phone earlier that I would need it). It turned out that they were experiencing an issue with delivery of fuel from their bowser, and he said he would keep me up to date as I approached.
They were operating on runway 34 with a Right Hand circuit, so after a bit of thinking I announced I would position to join Downwind. As I approached I could clearly see the wingwalking aircraft manoeuvring in the overhead, and kept an eye on him as I continued inbound. He announced that he was landing on 06 grass just as I joined Downwind, and was well clear before I came in to land.
Approaching Leeds East (formerly RAF Church Fenton)
Perhaps due to the slight distraction, the landing this time wasn’t great, with a couple of very small bounces occurring, probably due to excess speed on the approach. The runway was 1600 metres long though, so I had plenty of time to get things sorted out, even taking into account the large number of caravans parked at the far end of the runway.
As I rolled out, the radio operator gave me taxy instructions, and I parked up next to the Stearman that I’d been watching as I approached. I walked up to the Tower, and was given the news that the fuel bowser was indeed broken, and the operator enquired as to whether I had sufficient fuel to continue. Knowing that Sherburn-in-Elmet was only a couple of miles to the South, I gave them a quick call to check I could come in for fuel, before heading straight back to the aircraft.
Parked up next to the Stearman wingwalking aircraft
The Stearman pilot was making ready to leave at the same time. having to make a similar hop over to Sherburn for fuel. I got started and taxyed slightly before him, carrying out my power checks on runway 06 before backtracking 34 to get ready to take off. As I announced I was taking to 34, the Stearman announce he was lining up on 06. I was in position first, and after a quick check that the Stearman wasn’t moving, I announced I was taking off and started my takeoff roll. The radio operator checked with the Stearman that he was holding (he was!) and I continued the take off roll. As I became airborne and continued around the circuit to head towards Sherburn, the Stearman took off, and I positioned behind him initially.
I continued the climb up to 2000 feet in readiness for the overhead join at Sherburn, but the Stearman continued at low level off to my left. As I joined overhead at Sherburn he carried out an abbreviated circuit and landed. Not too long after him, I was established on Final, and came in for a nice landing on the grass runway, before rolling out towards the end and taxying up to the pumps. There were two other aircraft already parked near the pumps, so I slotted in around the other side of the pumps and waited for my turn to get fuel.
Stearman escort to Sherburn-in-Elmet
Once refuelled, the refuellers helped me pull the Warrior onto the grass parking area, and I headed in to settle the bill for fuel. I had a quick chat to the lady on the desk, double checking my reading of the correct taxy route (all the way down to parallel the hard runway), before heading back to the aircraft to get ready to depart. It was already getting quite late (after 4pm) I decided to abandon the planned stop at Nottingham, and just head straight back to Kemble.
The Stearman carried out his power checks on the grass just ahead of me, and after he took off I waited for another aircraft to complete his touch and go before departing myself. I planned to follow the other aircraft around the circuit, before departing to the West to intercept my planned track from Leeds East down to Sheffield. I had him in sight as I turned Crosswind, but in checking for other traffic before turning Downwind, I managed to temporarily lose sight of him. I soon spotted him slightly ahead and to my left, and was in the process of announcing that I would pass behind him, when he obviously spotted me and climbed to make sure there was no conflict between us.
Once clear of the ATZ, I climbed up to 2500 feet for the first leg, in order to remain below the Leeds airspace above me that started at 3000 feet. I had chosen a waypoint in order to let me know when it was safe to climb, and once clear of the airspace climbed up to around 3000 feet for the leg towards Sheffield. The disused airport there was easy to spot as I approached, and once overhead I turned to track towards Mansfield, my plan being to transit East Midlands airspace to the East side of their Zone.
I was listening out to Doncaster initially, switching to East Midlands as I approached Mansfield. East Midlands seemed quite busy, with a number of commercial aircraft inbound and departing, as well as a few light aircraft either transiting or receiving a service. I waited until a quieter period before making my initial call, and the Controller queried that I was requesting a transit to the East of EME (the NDB some 5nm to the East of the airfield. I confirmed this, and was granted a transit through their airspace, remaining to the East of the NDB, not above 3000 feet. I made a quick adjustment to my route in SkyDemon, removing the waypoint at Nottingham and instead tracking direct to Bruntingthorpe. The transit through the Zone was definitely a much more inviting prospect than the alternative, which was to remain under the Controlled Airspace at an altitude of around 1200 feet.
East Midlands Airport in the haze
After clearing their airspace, I continued to receive a Basic Service from East Midlands until Bruntingthorpe, signing off and changing to Brize Radar as I passed the airfield. They were now broadcasting a recorded message informing pilots that their LARS service was now closed, and any aircraft wishing to transit Brize should contact them on their ‘Zone’ frequency. I had no such plans however, so instead switched to Wellesbourne to see how busy they were. Surprisingly they were still open, and I heard a number of pilots approaching to land. After the mistake I made last flight in failing to correctly plan the DME arc I flew, this time I had checked beforehand, and determined I could safely fly an anticlockwise 10nm DME arc around the DTY VOR, to intercept the appropriate track from DTY to Chedworth.
I flew the majority of this leg tracking the VOR, using the DME to get a feel for when to expect to see Chedworth. Now well clear of Controlled Airspace above me, I climbed up to 4500 feet on this leg, managing to remain well clear of cloud, and still picking up navigation features (including Little Rissington) as I proceeded along the leg.
Passing Little Rissington
Despite expecting Kemble to be closed by now, I listened out on their frequency to get a feel for the traffic situation as I approached. I heard G-VICC approaching and landing, and as I passed Cirencester another aircraft appeared on frequency flying circuits at Kemble. This at least gave me an idea of which runway to use (08) and as I approached I descended to 2400 feet on the last QNH I was given (Kemble is around 400 feet AMSL) to join overhead.
As I began my descent on the deadside, the other aircraft completed a touch and go, and I got a good view of him off to my right. He appeared to be a microlight of some description, so I expected to have to fly a slightly slower circuit to avoid catching him up. I slotted in behind him on the Downwind leg, lowering a stage of flap to fly slightly slower than normal around the circuit. I completed the before landing checklist while doing so, and had the other aircraft in view as he turned Base. While checking for traffic before turning Base myself, I lost sight of him in the ground clutter, and never managed to find him again. As a result, when I turned Final (and still being unable to see him) I decided to Go Around, turning to track slightly to the left of the runway while trying to find him again.
As I passed the threshold, he announced that he was turning Downwind, and at least I knew which part of the sky to look for him now. I soon became visual with him again, and followed him around for another circuit. Again I had him in sight for the entire circuit, before losing sight of him as he descended on Base and Final. Again concerned about being on Final at around the same time as another aircraft was, I decided to ask the other pilot to report his position, receiving the response that he was just climbing away, and about to turn Crosswind near Kemble Village. Reassured that there was no chance of a conflict, I continued my approach, landing deliberately long for a good final landing of the day. As I turned off the runway on Alpha, I again spotted the other aircraft on late Downwind, before taxying back to our parking area.
I had been making more of an effort to manage my fuel throughout the day, and had been keeping a log of which tank I was using, and the time at which I switched. As a result, on checking the fuel state after landing, found that both tanks were at an almost identical level, right around tabs which at least meant I didn’t have to refuel before putting the aircraft to bed. I pushed it back into its parking space, before replacing the cover and taking all my gear back to the car. I then returned to the aircraft, removed the cover and located my phone, which has dropped down in the gap between the front seats! I headed in to the office to settle up for the flight, before heading home for a well earned beer!
Leg 1 profile
Leg 2 profile
Leg 3 profile
Leg 4 profile
Despite my initial misgivings about making such a long flight in the slower Warrior, the flight had actually gone off with pretty much no hitches. I been granted all three Controlled Airspace transits that I’d planned (including a slightly different one over Liverpool that actually worked out better in terms of photo opportunities) and visited two new airfields. In total I’d logged 5 and a half hours of flying, landed at three airfields before returning to Kemble after they had officially closed. The issues at Kemble with losing sight of the other aircraft were a little frustrating, but I think I’d at least made the correct decisions when losing sight of an aircraft that was potentially in close proximity to me. All in all, a truly fantastic day’s flying, hopefully I can make further flights such as this in the future!
Total flight time today: 5:35
Total flight time to date: 297:40