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

 

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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

 

Wales and back via the scenic route

October 8, 2017

As seemed par for the course this year, 6 weeks had passed since my last flight. A pass to go flying from my darling wife had me weather watching all week as per usual. Sadly the forecasts were very inconsistent in the last couple of days before the flight, and the evening before’s TAFs didn’t provide a forecast good enough to plan the more lengthy trip I wanted to fly.

Instead, I opted for a quick hop over to Cardiff, then planned to see how the weather looked to decide whether to return directly to Kemble, or venture further West for a more scenic route home. The planning was relatively straightforward, but I did take the time to thoroughly read through the Cardiff VFR guide to ensure I was aware of the various entry and exit routes to Cardiff.

I saw that JP had the newly returned G-BPAF booked, so I contacted him to see if he still intended to fly. There was a potential technical issue that he was hoping would be ironed out, so I offered him the option of coming with me in the Arrow should his plans not come to fruition.

On the morning of the flight, the forecasts were still for ‘mixed’ VFR conditions. While all of the cloud in the forecasts was ‘few’ or ‘scattered’, the levels it was at meant that a trip over the higher ground between England and Wales may not be possible. As such I made two plans for the return from Cardiff, one a direct flight between Cardiff and Kemble, and the other heading West as far as Pembrey before returning overhead the BCN VOR.

I sent JP a message confirming I was going to attempt to fly, and set off for Kemble. The weather while driving looked much better than the forecast suggested; although there was plenty of cloud around, as promised it was well scattered and as such should make it easy to find routes around it. On arrival at Kemble I saw that G-BPAF wasn’t on the ground, so I took this as a good sign that JP had managed to fly.

I headed into the office to double check the defect log for the Arrow, then went out to carry out the ‘A’ check. Just as I finished, JP arrived back in the Warrior, and we spent a short while discussing whether he was going to attempt further flights. In the end, he opted to fly G-BPAF to Cardiff as well, so I fully fuelled the Arrow and completed the remainder of the pre-flight.

JP set off a few minutes before me, and I got myself nicely settled in the Arrow. For some reason the engine was particularly difficult to start today, and I was a little concerned that I might actually flatten the battery before getting it successfully started. Luckily it started on the 4th or 5th attempt, and I was cleared to taxy to A1 via Alpha. As I arrived near the hold I saw another aircraft ahead carrying out his power checks, so I positioned myself well clear of him so that I could do my own checks.

These checks were predictably routine, and as I positioned myself at the hold the aircraft ahead took to the runway. Soon it was my turn, and I lined up as a helicopter took off from the grass runway ahead of me and to the right. The FISO pointed him out to me, and cleared me to depart. I waited a short while to check which direction the helicopter was headed, before beginning my own take-off roll. My departure track was pretty much straight ahead, but I jinked left slightly to avoid a noise sensitive area directly ahead, before resuming the required track once clear.

Conditions were very much as forecast, with some cloud up around 2500-3000 feet. I climbed initially to 2000 feet, before later climbing to 2500 as conditions allowed. The Severn crossings were easily visible ahead of me, and as I approached Thornbury I listened in to the Cardiff ATIS before making contact with the Controller.

Passing Filton

Passing Filton

Initially I made contact on the wrong frequency (Approach rather than Radar), but once on the correct frequency I heard JP signing off to switch to the Tower frequency. Once the frequency was quiet, I requested a Basic Service and Cardiff Docks Arrival. I was assigned a squawk of 3614, and cleared on the published arrival, not above 1500 feet on the Cardiff QNH. As I turned over the Severn crossings, I began a gradual descent to get down to 1500 feet, stopping at around 1350 feet as I passed over Newport. In hindsight, I probably achieved the required level much earlier than I needed to, as the airspace only started at 4000 feet where I was, before dropping to 3000 feet around the area of the docks.

As I approached the docks, I was given a further squawk, and instructed to contact the Tower. Once on the Tower frequency, I was cleared for a Left Base join, behind some other traffic ahead of me that was established on Downwind. I initially had trouble spotting the other traffic, but as I approached the ATZ the Controller prompted me again, giving me a useful pointer as to where he was. I was then easily able to spot him, and as instructed positioned behind him on the Downwind leg to follow him.

Positioning Downwind at Cardiff

Positioning Downwind at Cardiff

I was unsure how far Downwind to go to allow sufficient spacing between myself and the traffic ahead, and probably went further than I really needed to. This did however give me plenty of time to establish a stable approach, and I brought the Arrow in for a nice gentle touchdown on Cardiff’s runway 30. I was instructed to vacate left off the runway (as expected) and positioned just behind G-BPAF in the parking area, as two of the airport’s fire appliances waited on the taxyway off to my right. It was nice of them to roll the equipment for me, but I didn’t think my landing had been that bad!

Fire trucks in attendance as a Commercial flight takes off

Fire trucks in attendance as a Commercial flight takes off

Once I’d secured the aircraft I headed towards Aeros (the booking in point for GA aircraft), and after a bit of a wait for someone to let me in, paid the landing fee before heading up to the cafe for some lunch. Unfortunately I hadn’t thought to check with the cafe, and today they were only serving carveries. JP and his other half had run into the same issue, so both had opted to make do with a slice of cake. My lunch that day consisted of a packet of crisps and a rather nice slice of cheesecake!

G-AZWS and G-BPAF parked up at Cardiff

G-AZWS and G-BPAF parked up at Cardiff

We sat outside on the balcony and chatted while we ate, before JP had to leave due to another booking on the aircraft after him. I took my time eating, and given the weather conditions I could see from my viewpoint, decided that continuing the flight to the West was perfectly possible. Once I’d finished eating I headed down to Aeros to book out, making sure I requested a ‘St. Hillary’ departure that would allow me to leave the Cardiff airspace to the West.

JP was just taxying out in G-BPAF as I carried out a quick transit check, and after getting myself settled I fortunately managed to get the engine started much easier than it had at Kemble. After carrying out my power checks I positioned myself at the hold behind another aircraft departing ahead of me, just as he was cleared onto the runway to depart.

JP departing in G-BPAF, I followed the Tomahawk in the foreground

JP departing in G-BPAF, I followed the Tomahawk in the foreground

Once he’d taken off, I was also cleared onto the runway, and kept a good eye on the aircraft ahead as I began my takeoff roll and oriented myself to fly to the St. Hillary mast initially. The other aircraft seemed to be following the same departure route, so I was careful to keep him in sight, mindful of the fact that he would probably be travelling slower than I was once we completed our climb up to the cleared altitude within Cardiff’s airspace.

He seemed to be flying around 100 feet lower than me (which helped me keep him in sight to my left), and I switched over to the Radar frequency to continue. Initially the Radar controller seemed to assume I was on a departure directly back to Kemble, but I advised him that I was requesting a St. Hillary departure. His response was ‘ah, taking the scenic route’, which was to become somewhat of a fixture in later R/T conversations on this flight!

On reaching the St. Hillary mast, I turned left to head towards the services at M4 J36 (the departure point from Controlled Airspace on this route). As I reached this I requested a climb from the Controller, climbing initially to around 2000 feet. I informed him of my planned route (to the West as far as Pembrey, before returning via the BCN VOR) and asked if I could remain with him for the remainder of the flight. He suggested I contact Swansea initially, as they were operating today and I was planning to pass a few miles North of them.

Dodging clouds

Dodging clouds

I signed off with Cardiff, and made contact with Swansea. After my response to his ‘pass your message’ request, his response was ‘say again route, Cardiff to Kemble via where?’. I confirmed that I was heading out to the West as far as Pembrey, making the point of informing him I was taking the ‘scenic route’!

I was having great fun adjusting my track and height to remain clear of cloud, and as I cleared to the West of Swansea I signed off with them before contacting Pembrey. Again my explanation of my route seemed to generate some amusement, but the A/G operator helpfully informed me of other traffic operating to the North of Pembrey. As I continued towards Pembrey I heard the other aircraft making regular position reports, helpfully including his height.

Turning at Pembrey

Turning at Pembrey

Pembrey appeared in the distance, and as I turned overhead I was able to get some good photographs of the airfield with the race circuit to the South. There didn’t seem to be anyone using the track today sadly. I set course to the North to route in the general direction of Carmarthen, climbing up to around 5000 feet on this leg in order to be at a good height to cross the higher ground around Brecon.

On my last flight with Kev to Sandhill Farm I’d had a chat with him about the ‘Nav’ feature of the autopilot, learning that the autopilot is only connected up to the CDI that is couple with Nav 2, and not to the one coupled to the GPS. Armed with this new information I tuned Nav 2 to the BCN VOR frequency, and set the CDI up to the appropriate inbound track to the VOR. On engaging the autopilot in Nav mode, it made a fairly abrupt left turn to intercept the appropriate radial, before doing a passable job of tracking it for a minute or two.

Up at around 5000 feet there was still a fair amount of cloud, and I amused myself by altering heading and height to remain VMC. There were still plenty of breaks in the cloud, giving me confidence that when the time came I would be able to get back down below the cloud for my arrival into Kemble. I signed in with Cardiff again, the Controller seemingly remembering my details so not asking me to ‘pass your message’. He did assign me a squawk, enabling him to immediately see where I was.

Traffic passing much lower than me!

Traffic passing much lower than me!

Approaching the BCN VOR, I decided to use a large break in the cloud to descend below the worst of it, levelling off at around 3500 feet after passing the VOR. I dialled in a new course onto the VOR CDI to track outbound from BCN to get me over the Severn Bridges, and not long after the Cardiff Controller informed me he had nothing further for me, and suggested I freecall Bristol.

Approaching the Severn, there appeared to be a bank of cloud ahead at the level I was currently at, so now I was clear of the higher ground I descended down to around 2500 feet in readiness for arriving at Kemble. I dialled in Bristol’s listening squawk and tuned into their frequency, deciding that it wasn’t worth contacting them for just a few minutes before having to switch to Kemble to rejoin.

Crossing the Severn back into England

Crossing the Severn back into England

I made contact with Kemble in good time, being given the runway in use and QFE. As it seemed relatively quiet I asked if I could fly a couple of circuits in order to reset my passenger currency for another 90 days. This was approved, and as I approached at Overhead Join height there was a brief discussion between the FISO and a pilot planning to transit the overhead at around 2500 feet QNH, which is only around 100 feet or so above the Overhead Join height. The pilot climbed to 3000 feet to give a little more separation, and I positioned myself appropriately for the Overhead Join.

I descended on the Deadside, lowering the gear as I did so. Another aircraft announced ‘Overhead’ just as I was turning Crosswind, giving plenty of spacing behind me. I continued on around the circuit, completing the before landing checklist on the Downwind leg. Base and Final were all routine, and I managed another gentle landing, before retracting the flaps and applying full power to head round the circuit one more time.

Again the circuit was relatively straightforward, the traffic that had joined behind me landing long before I completed the Downwind leg. My final landing of the day was again good, and the FISO approved a backtrack to our parking area. Completing the after landing checks just after clearing the runway, I taxyed back and positioned the aircraft nose in to one of the parking areas, as a pilot was making ready to leave in G-BPAF.

He seemed to take an age getting ready, and I was on the verge of going to ask how much longer he was going to be. Rather than pulling past where he was parked, I probably could have had the Arrow refuelled and back in its parking space before the Warrior was ready to start! Fortunately he started up as I was considering going to speak to him, so I waited while he completed his checklist and began to taxy away.

One of Monarch's now defunct fleet

One of Monarch’s now defunct fleet

I pulled the Arrow over to the pumps, and was about to refuel when another pilot approached, asking if I was done for the day. He wanted to take the Arrow for a short flight, and confirmed that the amount of fuel remaining (tabs on one side and just below tabs on the other) was plenty for the flight I had planned. We pushed the aircraft back to its parking space, and I headed in to the office to complete the post-flight paperwork.

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Leg 1 profile

Leg 1 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 2 profile

Despite being unable to complete a longer flight due to the uncertain weather conditions, I’d had an excellent days flying. Cardiff was as welcoming as ever, it was just a shame that I’d arrived at a time when they were only serving large meals, so was unable to take advantage of the cafe there (I generally try to avoid eating too much when flying, to reduce the chance of anything disagreeing with me!). The protracted route back from Cardiff had been great fun to fly, and my route did at least seem to provide some amusement to some of the people I spoke to on the radio!

Total flight time today: 2:10
Total flight time to date: 318:35

 

Family trip to the seaside

August 28, 2017

It seemed longer than a month since my last flight, but I was itching to get back in the air again. A family holiday in France had us returning to England on a Bank Holiday weekend, so it seemed a good opportunity to try to get some flying in before going back to work. The weather forecast for the weekend was (surprisingly!) pretty good, so a plan was hatched to go flying with the family on the Bank Holiday Monday.

I considered a number of destinations (including returns to Haverfordwest and Llanbedr) before finally deciding to return to Shoreham for only my second visit there. The Shoreham landing fee is one of the highest that I’m aware of for a more ‘GA’ oriented field, but I felt that given how little I’d flown this year I could afford to splash out every now and again!

While planning the flight, Kev contacted me to ask if I could drop the Arrow off at Sandhill Farm, rather than returning it to Kemble. Initially I was quite keen to do this, but the more I thought about it, the more the prospect of flying into an unfamiliar gliding field with the family alongside seemed not to be such a good idea. After a bit of negotiation, we agreed that I would drop the family off at Kemble, before picking up Kev and then flying him and the Arrow to Sandhill Farm. Meanwhile, Luned and Catrin would drive over to Sandhill Farm to pick us up and return us all to Swindon.

As usual I completed the majority of the planning the evening before the flight, pleased to see that the longer range weather forecasts seemed to be being borne out in the TAFs for the following day. Final planning was completed in the morning, together with a call to Shoreham for PPR and to double check all was well there. Once ready, we loaded all the gear into Luned’s car before heading off to Kemble.

Pre-flight paperwork and checks were all normal, helped a little by the fact that Kev had (deliberately) left the aircraft uncovered the previous evening due to the forecast good weather. Once we were all ready, we loaded Catrin in the back before Luned and I settled ourselves in the front. The engine started easily, and power checks were completed without any surprises.

I loaded an abbreviated route into the 430 (Kemble -> Goodwood -> Shoreham) with a view to using the OBS feature of the 430 to follow an appropriate track between Newbury and Goodwood. I also remembered to copy this to one of the ‘permanent’ flight plan locations to enable us to use the same route on the return leg. There were a couple of aircraft operating in the circuit, and after a brief wait we took to the runway and departed.

Takeoff was routine, and I raised the gear before turning Crosswind. The route I had planned initially took us over the former RAF Lynham, so I continued the climb, departing to the South. We climbed to around 3000 feet, finding that the visibility in the air was (as is often the case) a lot poorer than it looked on the ground. While not ideal, it was perfectly acceptable for the flight, so we continued on to Lyneham before setting course to our next turning point at Newbury.

As we approached Newbury, I attempted to make contact with Farnborough LARS for a Basic Service and to request a MATZ penetration (our route took us through the Western stub of the Odiham MATZ). Unsurprisingly, Farnborough were very busy, and it took some time before we could find a break in the transmissions to enable us to make our initial call. The Controller was managing so many aircraft that on a number of occasions they actually ran out of squawks, and had to request aircraft wait for one to become available!

It took me a couple of goes to correctly set up the 430 to use the OBS (the CDI was set to ‘VLOC’ rather than ‘GPS’), but once correctly configured it provided a useful magenta line (and indeed CDI indication) to follow on the leg down to Goodwood. Farnborough continued to be busy, and as we approached Petersfield I signed off with them in order to contact Goodwood.

The Goodwood frequency seemed relatively quiet, but once I’d passed our details to the FISO she informed me that there were 7 or 8 other aircraft operating in the local area. I didn’t expect many of them to be operating up at our altitude, but we kept a good look out for them as we approached Goodwood. I positioned the aircraft so that Luned and Catrin could get a good view of the airfield off to the right hand side, and they both spotted cars operating on the racetrack that surrounded the airfield.

Passing Goodwood

Passing Goodwood

From Goodwood it was a relatively short leg to Shoreham, so I changed frequency once we were about 5nm to the East of Goodwood, making contact with Shoreham for our joining instructions after listening in to the ATIS. I was given a Crosswind join to runway 20 with a left hand circuit, and asked to report North abeam Worthing Pier. As we approached this, I realised that I hadn’t even begun my descent, so had to make a much steeper descent than normal, dropping the gear to increase the descent rate and silence the gear warning horn.

As we approached Crosswind at circuit height, we were asked to slot in behind a Cessna that was directly ahead of us approaching from the opposite direction. As we slotted in behind him, we spotted another aircraft higher and also approaching from that direction, so we were initially a little unsure as to whether we had indentified the correct aircraft.

I followed the Cessna around the circuit, trying my best to build a sufficient gap between us so that there wouldn’t be an issue on landing. We turned Base and then Final just as the Cessna touched down, and it appeared that he would be unlikely to clear the runway before we needed to make our landing.

Fortunately, the Controller was on the ball, and for the first time ever I was given a ‘land after’ clearance, allowing me to land on the runway even though the Cessna hadn’t vacated it yet. This clearance is only available at airfields with full ATC, and in this instance was definitely a safe option, as the Cessna was right at the far end of Shoreham’s 1000m long runway before we touched down.

We were given instructions to parking, which I had to decline and ask for fuel. The Controller gave us new instructions, and I pulled the Shoreham plate out of my kneedboard and handed it to Luned so that she could help direct me on the ground. She quickly located the fuel pumps and our current location, before directing me to the correct location.

We all disembarked at the pump, with Luned and Catrin heading towards the booking in point while I remained to refuel the aircraft. Unsure initially whether it was self-service, I hooked up the ground bonding line to the Arrow’s exhaust, before a member of the airfield fire service came out to handle the refuelling. I had him fill the Arrow’s tanks (fuel at Shoreham is slightly cheaper than at Kemble, so it made sense to try and save the Club a bit of money), before I jumped back onboard to taxy to parking.

I initially made contact on the Approach frequency to request start and taxy (we hadn’t been switched to Tower during our arrival) and the Controller approved my start, asking me to contact the Tower frequency when I was ready to taxy. Fortunately the engine started easily (it can occasionally be difficult to start when still hot) and I taxyed the Arrow to the parking area, parking next to a very nice looking twin.

Parked up at a busy Shoreham

Parked up at a busy Shoreham

We all headed in to the booking in point to pay the landing fee and settle the fuel bill, before walking in to the restaurant for some well earned lunch. Catrin busied herself looking at displays of aircraft models while we waited for our food, and I only remembered about the aircraft arrivals board in the terminal building after we had been there for some time. Sadly, by then our flight had disappeared off the top, so I was unable to get the required photo!

We all enjoyed our lunch in the busy restaurant, with Catrin and Luned sharing one of the tasty looking desserts once we had finished our food. We headed back to the booking in point to book out, then walked back to the Arrow to get ready for the return journey. I carried out a walkaround (including taking fuel samples), before we all got back into the aircraft and made ready to leave.

Happy passengers ready for the return leg

Happy passengers ready for the return leg

I listened to the ATIS, this time learning that my initial call should again be to Tower rather than Approach. After start clearance was received (and forgetting to mention that I had the ATIS!) the engine started easily again, and we were given taxi instructions around the Eastern side of the airfield to the hold for runway 20. Again, Luned was in charge of the plate (and hence directions on the ground!) and also double checked the noise abatement procedure for departure from 20 (a slight right turn once over the railway).

Power checks were carried out just before the hold, and I completed the before takeoff checks after pulling up to the hold. We were cleared on to the runway, and then given takeoff clearance, and unsurprisingly the takeoff roll and rotation were all normal. I raised the gear after a quick dab on the brakes to stop the wheels spinning, and made the required right turn just after passing the railway line, learning that this is to avoid a collection of houses on the climbout.

We set course to the West, switching over to the Approach frequency as we climbed out. We were given traffic details of an aircraft joining from the West, and just after receiving a response to our request for his height, we spotted him passing some distance away, off to our right hand side. I continued the climb up to around 3500 feet for the leg to Goodwood.

Flying Family selfie!

Flying Family selfie!

I again kept Goodwood to our right as we passed overhead, to allow Catrin and Luned to get a good view. The leg to the North West from Goodwood was again flown using the OBS feature on the 430, with a cross check using the VOR on Nav 2. Once clear of a small of a small portion of the London TMA that came down to 4500 feet, we climbed up to 4500 for the remainder of the journey back to Kemble. Visibility heading out of sun was much better than on the outbound leg.

Once clear of Goodwood, we switched to Farnborough for a Basic Service. They now seemed a lot quieter, and after the initial exchange of information we were given a squawk, and information regarding gliders operating in the vicinity of Lasham. As we passed Lasham a short while later we could see a number of gliders operating in the distance to our right, some of them thermalling to gain height.

Passing Lasham

Passing Lasham

On this leg I used the autopilot to maintain heading, finding that it had a tendency to oscillate slightly from left to right, instead of maintaining a constant track. Kev later mentioned this when I told him that I’d been using the autopilot, so it’s obviously a ‘feature’ that he’s aware of! We spotted the site of Carfest South off to our left as we continued, and managed to get a few photos.

Carfest South site

Carfest South site

Newbury soon appeared ahead, and I signed off with Farnborough as we were leaving their area. Greenham Common was an obvious landmark, and we chatted with Catrin about the fact that this had been used as a filming location for the recent Star Wars film. She was aware that the location was somewhere near where I worked, but this was the first time she’d seen it for herself. From Newbury we headed again towards Lyneham, spotting the munitions depot at Welford to the North of the M4.

Greeham Common

Greeham Common

Welford

Welford

As we approached Lyneham, Luned spotted another aircraft relatively close by to our right on an opposite track. We’d spotted it a little late, but there was a good distance between us. Approaching Lyneham I made contact with Kemble, learning that they were still operating on runway 26. I initially announced an Overhead Join, but things seemed quiet as I approached, so I asked for a Left Base join to speed up our arrival. In an attempt to ensure I also reset my 90 day currency, I asked for some circuits also.

Turning at Lyneham

Turning at Lyneham

As we approached Kemble, I set about losing height, and heard another aircraft joining Crosswind from the North. We spotted him as he travelled Downwind, and slotted in behind him to follow him around the circuit. Before landing checks completed, we joined on Base leg and tuned on to Final, realising that I’d allowed myself to get a bit close to the aircraft that was just landing ahead. Sadly he seemed a little slow to vacate the runway, so I was forced to go around.

This was my first ‘real’ go around in a while, and to be honest I made a bit of a pigs ear of it. The decision was made relatively early (at around 300 feet AAL), and I increased power and raised the nose, turning right slightly to offset myself from the runway. It took a few seconds for me to realise why the aircraft wasn’t climbing as I expected, primarily because I still had full flap deployed!

I raised these in stages, also raising the landing gear. Another aircraft was descending on the Deadside, and I kept a close eye on him as we continued, turning Crosswind and Downwind ahead of him. After reporting that we were Downwind, the FISO informed us that we were number 3 to land, but I could only see one aircraft ahead of us. I queried the position of the other aircraft, and was told he was ‘very low, over the 747’.

This would have put him on a very strange circuit path, as the 747 is just to the South of the main runway, well inside the usual circuit flown at Kemble. We were at correct circuit height, and I simply couldn’t see the third aircraft. Mindful that he may be somewhere behind us and a potential collision risk, I made the quick decision to vacate the circuit, and come back to join again. I announced I was clearing to the South, and departed the ATZ while climbing up to 2000 feet AAL to rejoin.

On a more conventional join now, I was well positioned to get a good feel of where the other traffic in the circuit was, and we slotted in this time without any conflicts. On the Downwind leg I changed my mind about the circuit request (knowing that Kev was waiting and not wanting to delay him too much) so informed the FISO that this circuit would be to land. We continued around the circuit, and on Final I requested a backtrack to let the FISO know what I was hoping to do once we were on the ground.

Soon after this request, we heard another aircraft turning Base behind us. After bringing us down for another good landing, I informed the FISO we were happy to continue to the far end of the runway if it helped with spacing. He took us up on our offer, giving us instructions to vacate next right, before returning on the grass taxyway back to our parking area. We arrived back at parking and I positioned the aircraft beyond the fuel bowser, knowing that we had plenty of fuel for the short hop to Sandhill Farm.

We all disembarked, and Catrin helped me push the aircraft back towards a parking space as Kev arrived from the Club. We chatted for a short while about the plan for the flight to Sandhill Farm, before returning to the office to complete the tech logs for the 2 legs flown so far, and enter the third flight in. Luned and Catrin got in the car as we walked back to the aircraft, and left to travel to Sandhill Farm by road to pick us up once we arrived.

Kev and I boarded the Arrow, with me in the P1 seat planning to do the flying, while Kev offered to handle the radios. Engine start was again simple, and we taxyed to A1 for power checks. Once the pre-takeoff checks were complete, I gave a departure briefing (Kev picking me up on a minor point about lowering the gear to land back on the runway in case of an engine failure – if there was sufficient runway I wouldn’t have raised the gear yet!), and we were cleared by the FISO to line up and wait.

Kev and I debated how long was the correct time to wait for the FISO’s ‘Take off’ instruction, and after hearing nothing for 20 or 30 seconds Kev announced we were in position, and we were given the ‘Take off at your discretion’ instruction. Takeoff was normal, and we departed directly from the Downwind leg, which simply involved a 20 degree turn to the right to head towards Sandhill Farm.

We kept well clear of South Cerney (I had seen parachutists operating from there on my drive to Kemble that morning) and spotted Fairford ahead and to our left as we continued. Kev pointed out Shrivenham to me, and as we continued I queried this, as if it had been Shrivenham we should actually have been heading to the North of it! We both debated and decided that this was in fact Highworth, and then spotted the ‘real’ Shrivenham ahead and to the right.

Kev made contact on the Sandhill frequency, and we heard that they had two gliders in the air. Kev spotted one thermalling off to our right, and I set us up for landing. On the Downwind leg we were still at around 2000 feet, so I lowered the gear and descended. We debated the correct landing direction in the field (and changed our minds a couple of times as can be seen from the track log!) before I eventually got us set up on a stable approach.

The field is around 900m end to end, so I needed to ensure we landed as early as possible. There was also a pronounced hump and downhill section from around 1/2 way into the field, so it was important to be on the ground and slowing well before this. We passed over a road just before the field at what felt like a very low height, and I brought us in for a nice landing just over the hedge. Once down and stable I raised the flaps to increase braking effort, and gently braked us to a safe taxying speed.

We could spot someone off to our left marshalling us, so I followed his instructions to get the aircraft to an appropriate parking space, before shutting down and heading over to chat. Just as we did this, Luned arrived in the car, and parked just behind us. Good timing!

Parked up at Sandhill Farm at the end of the day's flying

Parked up at Sandhill Farm at the end of the day’s flying

We chatted for a while, Catrin amusing herself by joining some children playing near the hangars with three dogs. Once ready, we all climbed in to Luned’s car, and drove back to Swindon. After dropping Kev off, we then had to return in order to hand over his keys, which had fallen out of his pocket onto the front passenger seat.

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Leg 1 profile

Leg 1 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 3 profile

Leg 3 profile

Messy Kemble arrival!

Messy Kemble arrival!

All in all this had been an excellent day’s flying. Shoreham is a really nice destination down near the coast, it’s just a shame that the landing fees are on the high side, so it’s probably not a place I will visit on a regular basis. The visibility on the outbound leg hadn’t been ideal, but returning with the sun behind us was a lot more pleasant. I was a little disappointed at my poor execution of the go around, but was happy with the decisions I’d made during the rather messy arrival back at Kemble.

Also, I’d flown into another new airfield, this time a grass strip used primarily for gliding. Sandhill Farm had been a really nice place to visit, and it was good to have added it to my logbook.

Total flight time today: 2:55
Total flight time to date: 316:25

Local flight for currency

July 27, 2017

As seemed to be a fairly common occurrence this year, I was coming near to the end of my 60 day currency. I’d had a few attempts at flying since my last flight, but sadly all were scuppered due to weather. It had been some time since I’d carried out an evening flight, so this seemed a good opportunity to get in a bit of flying on the long summer evenings, and reset my currency also. I’d made contact with Jamie a number of years ago while he was training for his PPL, and we had both read each others blogs in the meantime. He’s since gained his licence, but hasn’t been flying for some time. It seemed a good opportunity to get him some more flying, as well as reset my currency in one hit.

The weather forecast on the day was very changeable, and during the day the actual weather more than delivered on the unpredictable forecast. The skies alternated between near-perfect flying conditions, to full on rainstorms! This continued into the evening, but as I drove to Kemble the skies showed plenty of clear areas, so it looked like we should be able to get some flying done at least. I called the AIS Information Line while on the journey, and despite there being a number of airspace upgrades that day, they were all well away from our planned route along the South coast of Wales to Swansea and back via Brecon.

I arrived at Kemble a little before Jamie, so completed the pre-flight paperwork and carried out the A-check on the Arrow. I was just finishing off when Jamie arrived, so we headed back to the Club to complete the final paperwork, before grabbing our gear and getting on board. It was clear that Jamie hadn’t flown for a while, as he headed up on to the wing before me, obviously expecting to be in the left hand seat! I corrected him, and got myself settled while he climbed onboard after me.

We left the door open while I carried out the before starting checklist, making a call to the Kemble FISO for start, and as expected receiving no reply. The engine started easily, and we got the hatch closed before taxying along Alpha to Alpha 1 for the power checks. The wind was fairly strong as forecast, but was almost perfectly aligned with the runway so I wasn’t concerned. I gave the engine a few minutes to warm up, before working through the power checks. As ever, these passed without concern, and after the before departure checks were complete I made a last check of the circuit and Final approach, before taking to the runway.

Lined up, ready to depart

Lined up, ready to depart

The Arrow accelerated well, and the strong headwind meant we were soon airborne. Once no usable runway was available ahead of us, I dabbed the brakes and raised the gear, before setting course for the Severn Crossings, the first turning point on our planned route. Down low conditions were a little turbulent, but as we climbed the air became smoother and the flight more comfortable. I continued the climb towards 3000 feet, noting the excellent flying conditions immediately around us. The planned route was to fly South down the Welsh side of the Severn, around the coast through Cardiff’s airspace, before turning back to the North East near Swansea, to return via the Brecon VOR.

Near-perfect flying conditions

Near-perfect flying conditions

Once clear of Kemble, I tuned directly to Cardiff and listened in on their frequency as we continued West. Cardiff seemed pretty busy with inbound commercial flights, so the chances of gaining clearance for the Zone Transit seemed slight. I attempted to make contact with Cardiff, and received the surprising reply “Aircraft calling Cardiff Approach, almost unreadable, try again later”. Concerned that we may have a radio or headset issue, I double checked the settings and the cabling of my headset. While we waited for a gap in transmissions, I heard an aircraft asking for deviations from their assigned route in order to remain clear of weather, which started to ring further alarm bells.

Ominous looking weather towards Cardiff

Ominous looking weather towards Cardiff

Conditions towards Cardiff seemed less favourable that they were in our immediate vicinity, so I began to reconsider our planned route, and look for further options. The safety of the flight was never in question, as in the immediate vicinity conditions were still near-ideal, and behind us we had a perfectly clear route back to Kemble. Once there was another gap in the transmissions, I again made contact, requesting a radio check, and receiving a ‘readability 5’ response. I passed my message to Cardiff, asking for a Basic Service and Zone Transit, but ending the transmission with a request for their current weather. Their current conditions didn’t sound promising, with broken cloud at around 1600 feet, and CBs in the area.

I quickly made the decision that heading in that direction wasn’t a good idea, so informed the Controller we would instead route to the North, thanking him for his assistance. He seemed genuinely disappointed that we weren’t able to complete the flight as planned, even going as far as apologising for the Welsh weather!

This area was very familiar to me due to a number of similar flights over the years, so I quickly decided to head towards Shobdon, before returning via Gloucester to Kemble. I handed control to Jamie, while I dug out the chart and made a quick estimate of a heading to Shobdon, correcting for the strong South Westerly wind which was an almost 90 degree crosswind on our planned track. I gave Jamie the heading to steer, and after a few minutes and a quick check on SkyDemon, revised the heading 10 degrees to the left.

Jamie at the controls

Jamie at the controls

There were a couple of Danger Areas in the general direction of our route, one off to the left that rose to 10000 feet, and another on our direct track that only reached to 2300 feet. At our current altitude of 3000 feet, we were well above the top of the lower danger area, so ensured we kept the higher one well off to our left. We continued on towards Shobdon, discussing whether there was any chance of landing there this evening. Unsure of the arrangements as regards landing there when the airfield was closed, I decided against it, instead calculating our heading back towards Gloucester as we approached. On this leg we experimented a little with the autopilot, finding it useful to maintain our heading, leaving us free to plan the rest of the flight and monitor the aircraft and our surroundings.

As we spotted Shobdon ahead of us, I had Jamie fly the new heading back to Gloucester, using the NDB to confirm the estimated heading was appropriate. I made a quick call to Gloucester as we continued towards them, but received no response (it was now getting close to 8pm, so they were long closed). We took some photos of Gloucester and GCHQ as we passed, deciding to continue on to Chedworth before heading back to Kemble. Jamie was familiar with Chedworth also, and soon spotted it ahead of us. We then turned back towards Kemble, and I took control back from him for the approach and landing.

Passing GCHQ

Passing GCHQ

Overhead Gloucester

Overhead Gloucester

I briefly toyed with the idea of a Right Base join, but instead decided to make the most of the flying and carry out a full Overhead Join. We listened to Brize’s ATIS to confirm the wind direction hadn’t changed, and I set us up for the join, which required almost a full orbit in the overhead to orient ourselves correctly. As usual I dropped the gear to assist with the descent on the Deadside, before turning Crosswind to enter the circuit. I made the turn onto Downwind a little too early, meaning I had to adjust the Downwind leg to give us sufficient distance to make the Base and Final turns.

Joining Overhead at Kemble

Joining Overhead at Kemble

As we descended on Base, I began lowering the flap, noticing again that as we got lower the conditions became more turbulent. I considered landing with just two stages of flap, but the winds seemed relatively constant and still straight down the runway, so I didn’t feel the need to adopt the techniques I would usually use for a Crosswind or gusty approach. Turning Final I lowered the final stage of flap, carrying out the usual ‘Reds, Blues, Greens, Flaps’ check to ensure I hadn’t forgotten anything important.

Down low I was surprised not to experience the usual turbulence on passing the buildings off to the right of the runway, and despite having a relatively long break since my last flight brought us in for a very gentle landing, with the stall warner sounding just before the main gear touched. We backtracked the runway, before taxying along Alpha back to the Club’s parking area.

Jamie helped me refuel the aircraft, before we pushed it back into its parking space and put the cover back on. We headed into the Club to settle the post-flight paperwork, before saying our goodbyes and agreeing to try to go flying again in the near future.

Track flown

Track flown

Flight profile

Flight profile

Despite having to change our plans mid-flight, this had been a really enjoyable evening’s flying. Flying through otherwise deserted skies is always a pleasure, and it was good to have some knowledgeable company alongside me. Now my 60 day currency is reset, hopefully I can take advantage of some decent summer weather and get some real flights in soon.

Total flight time today: 1:15
Total flight time to date: 313:30

A solo visit to Leicester

June 4, 2017

After a week visiting relatives with the rest of the family, we returned home on a Friday flight, giving us the remainder of the weekend to recover and get ready to go back to work on the Monday. It seemed a good chance to attempt to get some flying in on the Sunday, so after some negotiation I arranged that I would go flying by myself, leaving Luned and Catrin to spend the day relaxing at home. This coincided with a joint BBQ at Kemble for members of the Grython and Lyneham Clubs, but given the relative lack of flying so far this year I decided that taking the chance to go flying was more desirable than a Club social!

Graham had booked the Arrow for a short flight to reset his currency, which prevented me from making my usual ‘full day’ booking. He was due to return around noon, so I started looking for destinations that were within around an hour or so flying time from Kemble. I settled on Leicester, and carried out the majority of the planning the evening before as usual. The weather forecast was mixed, with most places forecasting infrequent showers throughout the day. However, I decided that I would attempt the flight, on the basis that all the forecast periods of showers were only around a 30% chance of actually occurring. This suggested I should be able to avoid any adverse weather without too much difficulty.

I completed the final planning on the morning of the flight, being able to take advantage of a slightly later start than usual by having an extra hour or so in bed! The weather forecasts remained the same so I decided to continue with the flight, leaving for Kemble around 10:30 or so. As I arrived at Kemble, Graham was just taxying out for his flight, so I completed the pre-flight paperwork in the Club, while listening out for his return on the airband receiver in the Club. I also (somewhat belatedly!) contacted JP to see if he was interested in joining me on the flight, but he was planning to attend the BBQ so decided not to accompany me.

On hearing Graham landing, I headed back to the car to gather up the rest of my gear, before walking out to meet the aircraft. I helped Graham refuel before pushing the aircraft back to its parking place, requiring some negotiating with the pilot of the Lyneham Bulldog who had just returned to refuel. I was confident that he had enough time to refuel the Bulldog (blocking the exit from the parking area) while I carried out the pre-flight, and not cause me any issues when I was ready to depart.

Despite the aircraft already having flown, I took my time on the walk around, as I needed to give the newly added fuel sufficient time to settle before checking the fuel drains for any signs of water or other contaminants. I left this check until the absolute last moment, and had to take samples from the right hand tank twice due to there being a small amount of water in the initial sample from this side. Other than this minor issue, everything was normal and I was soon ready to depart.

Once on board, I used my new handheld to call the FISO for start and airfield information, receiving a slightly surprising readability of ‘4’ (5 being the maximum). At some point when I’m next flying with another pilot, I’ll make an attempt to use it in the air to see how well it performs. The engine seemed a little reluctant to start, taking three or four tries to catch. Once it was running I set up the remainder of the avionics before calling for taxy instructions.

I was cleared to taxy via Alpha to Alpha 1, and as I approached the D-Site apron I was asked to hold position briefly to allow one of Freedom’s Warriors to taxy across in front of me after emerging from the Golf grass taxyway. I followed him down to the hold, and we completed our power checks side by side. He was ready before me, and departed as I moved up to the hold to complete the before takeoff checklist. Another aircraft was joining overhead as I took to the runway, and I saw him descending on the Deadside as I announced that I was in position.

The FISO issued the ‘take off at your discretion’ message, but I felt that taking off now would put me in potential conflict with the joining aircraft as he turned Crosswind. I let the FISO know I would wait a little, and as the aircraft joined the Crosswind leg and crossed over the runway ahead of me, I announced I was taking off and began the takeoff roll. It had just started to rain slightly,  the aircraft accelerated normally, and as I rotated I took care to feed in some right rudder to counter the swing. Once there was no usable runway ahead of me I dabbed the brakes and retracted the gear, before turning Crosswind to follow the other aircraft around the circuit.

He was well ahead of me by now, so I announced I was climbing out on the Downwind leg, before setting course to the North East to my usual first turning point at the Chedworth disused airfield. As I cleared the ATZ to the North East, a look over my shoulder showed the airfield now appeared to be experiencing a fairly heavy shower, but the skies ahead of me were relatively clear.

Shower over Kemble after departure

Shower over Kemble after departure

I signed off with Kemble’s FISO, and on reaching Chedworth I set course for my next turning point at Banbury, and contacted Brize for a Basic Service. The frequency was fairly quiet, and I was issued with the appropriate squawk and granted the Basic Service. A short while later the FISO warned me that they had been notified of winch-launched gliders operating from Little Rissington that day, so I dog-legged to the left to give Little Rissington some more clearance. I spotted a few gliders on the ground as I passed, but didn’t see any in the air.

Passing Little Rissington

Passing Little Rissington

I had planned to sign off with Brize as I approached Banbury, but the Controller had me change frequency a few minutes before this. I switched to Coventry, and once established on the leg from Banbury contacted them for a Basic Service also. I had to descend to remain clear of a bank of cloud ahead of me, descending to around 2500 feet to keep below the cloud.

Descending to remain clear of cloud

Descending to remain clear of cloud

The Coventry Controller asked me to report abeam Draycote Water, and as I continued I heard a further aircraft getting permission for a direct arrival onto the ILS from the DTY VOR. A quick check of the chart showed that his track would also potentially intersect mine. I contacted the Controller to double check what altitudes he’d be operating at, and learned that his profile would intersect mine. Rather than risk being an issue for him, I elected to climb to 4000 feet (I was now well clear of any cloud) to keep well above him and allow him to fly the ILS without me interfering.

I continued onwards, reporting at Draycote Water, turning at Rugby and then reporting again passing the Bitteswell Industrial Estate VRP. I signed off with the Coventry Controller, and made contact with Leicester as I approached Bruntingthorpe. Leicester were still operating on runway 28 with a Right Hand Circuit, so I planned my approach, keeping the airfield to my right in order to correctly join overhead. I initially misidentified a cluster of similarly oriented roads as the airfield, before soon spotting the actually airfield slightly further ahead.

Passing Bruntingthorpe

Passing Bruntingthorpe

I orientated myself for the appropriate runway, descending on the Deadside and turning Downwind. As I continued Downwind, I dithered slightly over whether to pass inside or outside the village that was at the point I would normally turn Base. I decided to pass inside, leading to a slightly odd-shaped circuit. I lined up nicely on Final, gave a last ‘Reds, Blues, Greens’ check before coming in for a nice gentle landing. Another aircraft was waiting to join the runway to depart, so I cleared as quickly as I could, announcing over the radio that I was clear, before taxying in and parking up in the relatively empty parking area.

As I pushed the aircraft back into its parking space, predictably the heavens opened as a shower crossed the airfield. I walked in to settle the landing fee, in time to spot a lovely looking Twin landing and taxying in. This was later identified as a Beech 18, which had been brought in from Jersey after being bought by one of the members at Leicester. Very nice!

Beech 18 arriving at Leicester

Beech 18 arriving at Leicester

I headed upstairs for some lunch, deciding not to take too much time due to the relatively unpredictable weather forecast. While I ate, there were a few other movements around the airfield, but compared to how it had been on previous visits it was very quiet. Once I’d finished eating, I headed back down to the aircraft and carried out a quick walk around before getting back on board.

Arrow parked up at Leicester

Arrow parked up at Leicester

This time the engine started much more easily, and after getting departure details from the A/G operator I taxyed to the hold for runway 24. Another aircraft was just vacating the runway as I left the parking area, and on approaching the hold I turned into wind to carry out the power checks. These were satisfactory, and I pulled up to the hold to check the approaches for other aircraft. There was nothing to be seen, so I announced that I was taking to the runway, then began the takeoff roll.

Mindful of the requested noise abatement procedures, I did my best to avoid flying over noise sensitive areas on climbout and departure. Once clear of the areas concerned, I set course to the South towards Rugby, climbing up to around 3000 feet. Although the weather was still far from ideal, the cloud formations were all well spread out and easy to avoid. After signing off with Leicester, I contacted Coventry when near Bruntingthorpe, receiving a Basic Service on the leg down to Banbury. There were a few other aircraft on frequency, but most people seemed to have decided to avoid flying in the weather conditions.

I made the decision to stray from my planned route, and fly over Swindon to see if Luned and Catrin could catch sight of me as I flew over. The simplest way to achieve this was to fly over Brize, so I descended back to around 3000 feet (I hadn’t been paying much attention to my height, so had climbed a couple of hundred feet) to fly at a level that would allow me to request a Zone Transit, rather than risk having to descend into the airspace due to any cloud I might encounter. On approaching Banbury I signed off with Coventry, and listened to Brize’s ATIS to get a feel for their weather and get the correct pressure setting.

On selecting the Brize Zone frequency, I initially had to wait as another pilot approaching from the South negotiated his own Zone Transit. This was granted, and once all the details had been completed, I made my request. This also was quickly granted, and somewhat unusually I was cleared through the Class D at 3000 feet (generally I’ve found that VFR transits are given a ‘not above’ or ‘not below’ altitude restriction). As I continued on towards Brize, I heard the other pilot being notified when he was entering and leaving Brize’s airspace, so I was somewhat surprised not to receive the same messages myself. In fact, the Controller only came back to me a mile or two after I had left Brize’s airspace, and when he did I requested the frequency change over to Kemble.

Passing RAF Brize Norton

Passing RAF Brize Norton

Swindon was now clearly visible in the distance, so I set about working out exactly where I was, and then trying to find our house. Fortunately a number of landmarks are easily recognisable from the air, so I used the Asda Walmart, old Renault distribution centre and Catrin’s school to locate our house, before carrying out a couple of orbits and snapping off a few photos. On landing I learned that Luned had indeed seen me, and managed to get a few photos of me while I was flying over.

Our house, former Renault distribution centre clearly visible just in front of the wing

Our house, former Renault distribution centre clearly visible just in front of the wing

Me flying over our house (click on the photo for a larger version!)

Me flying over our house (click on the photo for a larger version!)

Once the photo mission was over, I oriented myself to head towards Kemble, giving them a call on the radio to learn that they were still operating on runway 26. I descended to the appropriate height for an Overhead Join, and kept Oaksey Park well off to my left in case anyone was operating from there. The frequency was quiet as I approached Kemble, so I asked the FISO whether he knew of anything to affect a Left Base join. As expected there was no other known traffic, so I descended further and positioned to join on Kemble’s slightly strange Base Leg for 26.

More showers in the vicinity of Kemble

More showers in the vicinity of Kemble

After carrying out the before landing checks, I kept inside Kemble village as usual, establishing myself on Final. Another aircraft had joined the frequency approaching from the West, and the FISO warned him of showers off in that direction. As I continued down Final, the low level winds proved to be quite challenging, generating significant turbulence as I got closer to the ground.

Mindful of the approaching rain, I concentrated on making a good approach, having to work hard on the controls to maintain the correct alignment with the runway and vertical profile. As I got down towards the runway and began the roundout, there was a sudden loss of lift, which I countered by adding a significant amount of power, expecting to have to continue to full power and execute a go around. The aircraft stabilised itself a few feet above the runway though, so I continued the approach and began to reduce power again to complete the landing.

When a couple of feet above the runway, again there was a sharp reduction in lift, which I was unable to correct quickly enough by adding power. Fortunately I had stabilised the aircraft close enough to the runway so this just caused a rather firm touchdown. The extra workload close to the ground had also meant I’d landed longer than I had initially intended, so once I had reduced to a walking pace I requested a backtrack from the FISO, leaving the runway at A3 as usual.

I taxyed back to parking and shut down, before adding a small amount of fuel to bring the aircraft back up to ‘tabs’. Predictably it had started raining again, so after pushing the aircraft back into its parking space I tried to quickly get the cover back on, before heading back into the Club to complete the post-flight paperwork. Kev was still there after the afternoon’s BBQ, and asked me to give him a lift home, to which I readily agreed.

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Leg 1 profile

Leg 1 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 2 profile

Today had been one of the most challenging days flying that I’d experienced in a while. Despite the far from ideal forecast, in fact the flying conditions had been well within my capabilities, and despite having to occasionally change course or level to avoid cloud, I was never in a situation where I had to question whether the flight could be completed safely. I’d learned a useful lesson not to become complacent on an approach, and managed to handle the tricky conditions close to the ground without too much difficulty.

Total flight time today: 1:55
Total flight time to date: 312:15