All in the name of charity…

May 25, 2015

One of the things I’d wanted to do this year was to offer a flight as a prize in a raffle to raise funds for the PTA at Catrin’s school. There’s an AIC that details all the requirements to carry out a charity flight, as well as a blanket permission for all flights which meet all of the criteria in the AIC. One of the requirements is for the pilot to have 200 hours as PIC. At the time the raffle was to take place, I only had around 185 hours, which meant I had to apply for specific permission to carry out the flight.

After exchanging a few emails with the GA unit at the CAA, I submitted the application for permission and awaited a response. A few weeks later I’d been granted the required permission, allowing the flight to be advertised as a prize in the raffle. I created a couple of single page flyers for the school to use (one to advertise the flight as a prize, and a second containing contact details to be given to the winner). The day after the raffle I received a letter from Olga, the mother of a couple of children that attend Catrin’s school.

We exchanged a number emails over the coming weeks, and met up at a local pub to discuss the flight in detail. We eventually came up with a plan to try to carry out the flight on the Bank Holiday at the end of May. Accompanying me would be Olga and her two daughters. I was initially concerned about carrying two young passengers (the prize notification had stipulated that only one of the passengers could be a ‘non-adult’). My concern was unfounded, when it turned out that second daughter was actually attending University, so could quite reasonably be considered a ‘responsible adult’!

Olga had no firm idea as to where she’d like to fly, so I drew up a plan that initially took us over Swindon, before heading West over Lyneham towards Filton, and then returning to Kemble. One of the stipulations for the flight is that it must be a ‘local’ flight only (i.e. starting and ending at the same airfield) and not extend more than 25nm from that airfield.

The weather forecast for the day seemed almost ideal, with little wind, slightly cooler temperatures than recently and the lowest cloud being around 3000 to 3500 feet. I had suggested that we fly fairly late in the day, so as not to be subject to too much turbulence caused by heating of the ground, and around lunchtime the weather looked distinctly worse than forecast, with low cloud seeming to be present around Swindon. I contacted Sarah at Kemble, and she had a chat with Glen regarding the actual conditions. He had been flying that day, and said that the cloudbase was up at above 3000 feet, and even that layer was broken. As a result I decided to head to Kemble to attempt the flight, and informed Olga as such.

Olga arrived with her husband and the rest of the family just as I was parking up at a very busy Kemble. I suggested they head in to AV8 for a drink while I went out to prepare the aircraft. I carried out a full check, and readied the headsets for all the passengers. Once I was happy, I headed over to AV8 myself to give them a thorough brief regarding the flight. I did my best to reduce Olga’s obvious nervousness, before we all walked out to the aircraft. I got Olga and Yeva settled in the back, before getting in myself and allowing Polina to board last.

We got the door closed, and mindful of the fact that things were warming up now with 4 of us on board, I got the engine going quickly to try to get some air flowing through the aircraft. The engine started very easily, and we received taxy instructions that luckily involved passing AV8 on the way to runway 26, enabling the passengers to wave to Mark and Ethan as we passed.

I carried out the power checks near A1, and after a quick check that everyone was ready, we took to the runway. Before I had chance to announce ‘lined up’ as requested, the FISO gave me the wind and I announced we were taking off. There was little wind, which made it easy for me to make a straightforward take off, and we took to the air without any drama. I followed the circuit around to the Downwind leg, climbing up to 2000 feet and setting course for Swindon. As we levelled off at 2000 feet, the clouds were a good 1000 feet above us, which proved that the decision to make the flight was the correct one.

Happy passengers in the back

Happy passengers in the back

Swindon soon came into view, and I set about finding a recognisable landmark to orient myself. The old Renault distribution centre (now a children’s play area!) is easy to spot, and this was the first thing that caught my eye. From there it was easy to spot Catrin’s school, and the Link Centre (ice rink and swimming pool) behind. From there I did my best to head in the general direction of Olga’s house, and she announced from the back that she had spotted it. I carried out a left hand turn to enable Yena to see it from her side, and we then headed out of Swindon towards Lyneham.

Olga was surprised at how large Royal Wootton Bassett looked from the air as we passed by, and I then pointed out Lyneham to them, in particular the large solar panels that are now easily visible from above. We continued West towards Bristol, passing close by Hullavington and Castle Combe, where there were single seater cars racing on the circuit. From there we continued on until I could point out the now disused Filton, including the Concorde that can be clearly seen on the ground. All the while I was doing my best to give my passengers a bit of a commentary on what they could see, hoping that this would reassure them that the flight was proceeding normally without any cause for concern.

Bristol and the M4 / M5 interchange

Bristol and the M4 / M5 interchange

We’d used up almost half of the planned 1 hour flight, so I pointed the aircraft back in the general direction of Kemble, and began to listen out on frequency to get a picture of the traffic at the airfield. I spotted a small aircraft passing about 500 feet below us, and pointed it out to the others as it appeared on the right hand side. As it passed below it changed direction to parallel our track, so I asked them to keep an eye on it, changing heading as it passed under the wing in order to keep it in sight.

We flew by Tetbury as we neared Kemble, and as they were still operating on runway 26 with a left-hand circuit I positioned the aircraft to approach with the airfield on our left. Mindful of Olga’s nervousness whenever the aircraft turned I made sure she was aware that I’d have to make a relatively steep turning descent in order to position ourselves for landing. One of Lyneham’s Warriors was just touching down for a touch and go as we reached the Overhead, and after the Deadside descent we slotted in nicely behind him on the Downwind leg.

He seemed to be going a little slower than us, so I reduced speed slightly to ensure we didn’t catch him up. We turned Base and Final behind him, and I began to worry that if this was actually a full-stop landing rather than a touch and go, I might not have left enough space for him to backtrack to Lyneham’s parking area. Luckily he was carrying out a further touch and go, and was just taking off again as I reported Final.

I told my passengers that I’d have to go quiet now to concentrate on the landing, and explained that I was deliberately landing further down the runway than the aircraft ahead of us had done (in order to be able to vacate at the far end without requiring a lengthy slow taxy). I allowed the airspeed to decay a little more than it should, meaning that as I began to round out the stall warner started to sound. Luckily I’d already warned them that this was likely to happen during landing, and if it sounded just before we touched down it meant that I’d landed correctly!

I applied a little power to prevent a high rate of descent, and maintained a a small amount of power in order to cushion our touchdown. As a result, the landing was nice and gentle, and we rolled out to the far end of the runway before vacating to taxy back to Freedom’s hangar at Woodside. I parked the aircraft at a slight angle to avoid blasting debris into the hangar, and then carried out the final checks before shutting down the engine. We all disembarked, then after a few photos I walked Olga and family back towards AV8, where Mark was waiting with Ethan.

All smiles after the flight

All smiles after the flight

After checking that they’d all enjoyed the flight, I said goodbye and headed back to the hangar to push the aircraft back in and complete the post flight paperwork. I chatted to Sarah for a while to see if she had any further information about the proposed development of Kemble, before heading back to the car to set off for home.

Track flown

Track flown

Flight profile

Flight profile

On the whole this had been a very enjoyable flight. Despite having a couple of fairly nervous passengers, I’d done my best to keep talking them through what was happening in the flight, hopefully setting their mind at rest as the flight progressed. As a slight coincidence, this flight had also seen me pass the 200 hour PIC mark, meaning that from now on I am able to offer further Charity Flights without having to receive explicit permission from the CAA. If they can all go as well as this one did, then I’ll definitely be offering further such flights!

Total flight time today: 1:00
Total flight time to date: 273:50

Dad’s taxi, and a race!

May 23, 2015

After a busy month of flying in April, I was keen to keep up the momentum and get some more flying in. May turned out to be a fairly busy month, but when Luned decided to take Catrin up to North Wales over the school holidays, a plan was hatched for me to fly Catrin up there while Luned drove. Mindful that I’d never flown by myself with Catrin, I started to look around for another pilot to accompany me on the flight.

David was the obvious choice, as we have shared flights in the past with Catrin, including a couple where we took two aircraft to the same destination. He already had commitments for the weekend however, so I then asked Charlie if he was interested in coming along. Due to a recent addition to his own family, Charlie hadn’t been flying for a while, and was keen to accompany me. Lyneham’s Arrow was the obvious choice for the flight due to its increased cruising speed, and this meant moving Luned’s planned departure a day forward due to an existing booking.

As the day of the flight approached, it became clear that this enforced rescheduling had actually worked in our favour, as the weather for the new date proved to be much more suitable for flying than our first choice. The flight was in some doubt for Catrin in the days leading up to it, as she developed a bit of a cough and a cold. However, she was definitely improving on the morning of the flight, and I reasoned that she wasn’t so ill that I would stop her flying on a Commercial flight, so there was little reason to prevent her flying with me.

RAF Mona is an RAF airfield on Anglesey that is used as a ‘relief’ airfield for RAF Valley, and is available as a civilian airfield at weekends and during the evenings. This seemed a perfect choice to drop Catrin off, as it was much more convenient for Luned’s family to collect her from than Caernarfon, which involves something like a 45 minute drive from where they live. There aren’t many facilities at Mona however, so that would mean we’d need a further stop for lunch. Initially I looked into Hawarden, an airfield I’d been interested in visiting for a while. However, there was an airshow at Llandudno on the day of the flight, and a number of the show aircraft were also being based at Hawarden, so it would have been pretty busy flying in that direction.

The next obvious choice was Caernarfon, an airfield I’ve visited before and one that we know we can get a good lunch at. A further option was Llanbedr, an airfield I visited just after it reopened to GA. Since then they’ve done a lot of work to get a Cafe up and running, and Charlie expressed an interested in visiting so we decided to make that our main stop. I enquired as to whether they had fuel available, and received a positive response, so that clinched the decision.

The weather on the day turned out to be almost perfect, with very little cloud in the sky, little wind and the recent rain meant for excellent visibility. As usual, I completed the final planning at home, before Luned and I both left the house in separate cars, Luned to begin the long drive up to Anglesey and myself and Catrin to head to the airfield. Charlie was already at Kemble when we arrived, and after introducing Catrin to Charlie we all headed in to the office to complete the paperwork.

Our steed for the day

Our steed for the day

The aircraft was fuelled to tabs, so I decided to fill the tank on one side just to give us further options, and after a final comfort break for Catrin we all got settled in the aircraft and made ready to depart. The engine started easily, and I entered our route into the 430 before we taxyed to the North Apron for the power checks. While checking the intercom, we realised that Catrin couldn’t hear us, and we couldn’t hear her. I fiddled with her headset and volume controls on the intercom before Charlie realised that the ‘Crew’ isolation button was selected! Once we turned this off, all was well. Two other aircraft joined us on the apron as I completed the checks, and then we took to the runway and departed. The first leg to Gloucester was straightfoward as always, as I climbed up to our cruising level of 4500 feet while signing on with Gloucester.

One feature of the Arrow’s intercom is that it has an input that allows audio to be fed in, enabling everyone in the aircraft to hear it. I’d experimented with this in the past without success, but now I had another pilot alongside I decided to give it a go. Once we were established on the leg from Gloucester to Welshpool, I had Charlie take control while I set our MP3 player playing some of Catrin’s current favourite music. I then handed the player back to Charlie and took control of the aircraft, while he plugged the player into the intercom. After some messing with the volume on the MP3 player we could then all hear the music, and this made Catrin even happier in the back. We also had to do some volume adjustments to Charlie’s headset and the intercom to enable him to comfortably hear us without being deafened by the radio.

Happy passenger

Happy passenger

I experimented a little with the autopilot, trying (unsuccessfully) to get it to automatically follow the GPS for track. Not having any luck with this, I fell back to using it in heading mode, adjusting the heading bug as appropriate to maintain the required course. We listened in to Shobdon as we passed well to the East of them, and then to Welshpool as we went through their overhead at 4500 feet. I meandered a little in order to show Catrin where Taid (her grandfather) had grown up (in Bala) and Charlie and I discussed which of the peaks ahead of us was Snowdon.

Approaching Snowdonia

Approaching Snowdonia

I thought I’d entered it as a waypoint for our route, but it turns out I had actually misread the highest spot height on the chart. We changed course slightly to pass close by it, and as we approached I was initially a little concerned that there appeared to be more cloud on the other side of the mountains. As we cleared the range though these concerns proved unfounded, as although there was some cloud around it was very broken and as such not a factor.

As we crossed the mountains, a voice from the back announced, ‘Dad, I need the toilet’, a phrase which at the best of times focuses the mind of any parent on a journey. When you’re at 4500 feet in a light aircraft, the phrase is a bit more ominous! We had initially planned to orbit over Luned’s Mum’s place, and then try to find her Dad’s house too, but under the circumstances this didn’t seem wise! We spotted Llanfair (where Luned’s Dad lives) and managed to fly over her Mum’s house too, before signing on with Mona and making our approach.

Waving to Nain and Harri

Waving to Nain and Harri

Despite its size, initially Mona was a little difficult to spot due to the orientation of its runway. However Charlie managed to pick it out, and I set us up for a Right Base join to their runway 04. We spotted Heledd’s car parked up as we turned Final, and sadly Charlie’s first experience of a landing in the Arrow wasn’t a particularly good one, as I treated him to a fairly firm landing. The A/G operator directed us to the parking area, and we quickly dispatched Catrin to the toilet once we were parked up and shut down!

Short Final into Mona

Short Final into Mona

Once we’d provided all the required paperwork (as a military field, RAF Mona requires proof that the aircraft’s insurance meets the requirements for landing there) I chatted with the A/G operator about the possibility of basing an aircraft at Mona for a few days on a future trip. He seemed to think that this would be possible, even arriving and departing during a time that the RAF were operating, as long as we received permission from the RAF first. This would certainly be an attractive base for a future flying trip, so this is an option I’ll definitely investigate further.

Our intrepid explorers

Our intrepid explorers

I tried to raise the people at Llanbedr to double check they had fuel available, but initially received no reply. I phoned their CFI on his mobile and he tried to find out if the land-owner was available to provide fuel. He phoned back a short while later with the news that he’d been unable to reach the land-owner, and as such there was no fuel available. I discussed with Charlie whether we should just go to Caernarfon for lunch and fuel, or make a quick fuel stop at Caernarfon before heading on to Llanbedr for lunch as planned. As the second option involved more flying and visiting another airfield, it was obviously the one we chose!

Departing Mona

Departing Mona

I phoned Caernarfon for PPR, and quickly entered the (very short!) route into SkyDemon. We reversed our taxy route to the runway to avoid the arrestor gear, and carried out the power checks just short of the main runway. After backtracking, we departed and turned right, doing our best to avoid local villages so as not to cause a nuisance. We headed back to the Menai Straits, before heading South down the coast and contacting Caernarfon.

Descending Deadside at Caernarfon

Descending Deadside at Caernarfon

They had a couple of other aircraft also joining, and we spotted them as we approached, slotting in behind those ahead of us to continue around the circuit. The second landing of the day was even worse than the first, as I had barely begun the roundout when we touched down firmly with a bit of a bump. We were given very detailed taxy instructions after I requested fuel (despite knowing where we were going!) and as we pulled up for fuel someone arrived to fill the aircraft. We pushed it over to a nearby parking space once refuelling was complete, and walked in to pay.

As we walked back to the aircraft, the Bristow Coastguard Helicopter was making ready to start, but they were obviously not heading out to a real emergency as they were still there after we had started our engine and taxyed to the hold. We stopped behind a Cirrus to carry out the power checks, and took to the runway after he departed to make our own takeoff run. He easily outclimbed us as we followed him South over the sea, and disappeared into the distance.

Coastguard helicopter making ready to depart.

Coastguard helicopter making ready to depart.

This was another short hop, and rather than flying a direct course I turned slightly East to stay closer to the shore. As we approached I made an initial call to Llanbedr Radio, receiving no response as expected. Further calls were then made to Llanbedr Traffic, and I set us up on a Downwind join for runway 33. This time the landing was slightly better, although a little firm. We taxyed to the Northern end of the airfield, and were met by a marshaller indicating where we should park. Once shut down, we pushed the aircraft back, and walked through the gates (unlocked and re-locked by the marshaller) and into Fly Llanbedr’s building.

Joining Downwind at Llanbedr

Joining Downwind at Llanbedr

Upstairs had been outfitted as a relatively smart cafe, and we both opted for a sausage sandwich and a cold drink. We chatted with some of the people there, and they told us that recently the airfield had been used for testing of a remotely piloted helicopter. Sounds like there’s some interesting stuff going on there, and this explains why security is a little tighter there than at most airfields.

Mindful that the extra stop had us running slightly later than planned, I called the pilot who had the Arrow booked immediately after us to let him know we might be a little late. He was appreciative of the warning, as it actually was more convenient for him to fly a little later. We headed back to the aircraft (again being escorted so as to unlock and relock the gate) before getting ready to fly the final leg back to Kemble.

I entered a simplified version of our route into the 430, from Llanbedr direct to Shobdon and then Gloucester before heading in to Kemble (the actual plan being to fly down the coast to Aberystwyth before heading inland to Shobdon). We debated which runway to use to depart, as the windsock showed that there was very little wind. We decided to depart on runway 15, making for a much shorter taxy and only requiring a slight right turn to put us on track to Aber.

Once we were heading South, I used the OBS feature of the 430 to set the required inbound course to Shobdon. This adjusted the track displayed on it to more closely match our planned route. I then offered Charlie control, which he obviously didn’t refuse! We continued South until Aber, before turning inland towards Shobdon. We both enjoyed the scenery, picking out the few towns on our route as we passed them. We were slightly South of track, but this worked to our advantage a little as it meant we passed a few miles South of Shobdon. They sounded fairly busy on the radio, so rather than call them up it seemed simple to just avoid them.

During the planning for the flight, I’d seen the NOTAM for some temporary airways and Class D airspace around Kemble during the afternoon (presumably for some sort of Royal Flight). We descended to 3000 feet to remain well below the airway, and intercepted the track to Gloucester. We listened in for a few minutes, and Gloucester seemed to be fairly busy. However as we reached the point where I had decided to call them, they became a lot quieter, so I signed on with them to request a Basic Service for the leg to their overhead.

GCHQ

GCHQ

We heard them warning about lots of glider activity around Aston Down and Nympsfield, so planned to approach Kemble from the North to remain clear of them (again using the OBS on the 430 to do this). After signing off with Gloucester, I changed frequency to Kemble to request entry into the notified airspace (they were listed as one of the controlling frequencies so I assumed I could receive permission direct from them). We were directed to contact Brize Norton for permission, so I switched to their frequency and it soon became clear that we weren’t the only aircraft wanting similar permission!

I had Charlie turn East to avoid accidentally infringing the Zone, and waited my turn to contact Brize. As with everyone else, we were instructed to remain outside the Zone, and instructed to orbit at our current position. The initial orbit showed that we were close to the disused airfield at Chedworth, so I used this as a ground reference for further orbits, slowing us down as we waited. Charlie spotted a number of other aircraft in the area, but as we were up at 3000 feet the majority of these were below us.

After three or four orbits, Brize made an ‘all stations’ broadcast advising aircraft that the Zone had now been removed, giving them permission to head towards Kemble. As we had been allocated a squawk and given a Basic Service, I didn’t want to just leave the frequency, so waited for a chance to get in requesting the frequency change. As we had heard several other aircraft waiting for entry, I decided to carry out a further orbit before heading towards Kemble, in the hope that we would arrive after the initial rush.

When we did turn South and contacted Kemble, we were one of about 5 other aircraft all joining. Charlie did a good job picking out other aircraft ahead of us, and we slotted in third place behind two other aircraft descending. We followed the other aircraft Downwind, and had to extend our Downwind leg due to the aircraft immediately ahead flying a slightly wider circuit than normal. At this point we spotted a further aircraft appear off to our left, joining on a direct Right Base join, despite the FISOs warnings to all aircraft that there were so many others joining.

The first aircraft landed, and we watched the second proceed down Final with the new aircraft following behind him and requesting the grass runway. We had left enough spacing ahead of us to be able to land behind the aircraft who had carried out the ‘correct’ join, so obviously the aircraft who had cut ahead of us didn’t have enough space to follow him to the hard runway. The FISO however denied his request for the grass runway, as Kemble aren’t allowed to carry out true ‘parallel runway’ operations (something which I previously hadn’t been aware of).

The other aircraft dithered somewhat, meaning we were continuing down Final waiting for him to decide what to do ahead of us. Eventually he announced he was going around, and we continued our own approach, seeing the aircraft that had just landed turning off the runway in good time for us to make our own landing. I finally made a decent landing today, deliberately landing slightly long and asking the FISO for taxy to Hotel where the Lyneham aircraft park.

He told me to ‘take next left’, which confused me a little as I assumed he meant the left that would take us to the North Apron. We had just passed this turn, so I informed him of this and he clarified that he actually meant the turn at the far end of the runway onto the Alpha taxyway. In the past we have generally been given instructions something like ‘continue, turn left onto Alpha and then taxy Hotel’, which was why I was a little confused initially.

As we taxyed on Alpha we heard the Club’s Bulldog being given permission to taxy from Hotel, so we pulled off the taxyway to the right to allow him to pass. Then we continued and positioned the Arrow ready to push back into parking, watched by the next pilot who turned out to be Charlie’s Instructor for much of his PPL!

While carrying out the engine shutdown checklist, one of the items is to individually turn off each of the mags in order to check that they are being disabled correctly. This should produce a small drop in engine RPM as each of the mags is disabled. However, I noticed that one of these wasn’t producing an RPM drop, which surprised me a little. I increased the engine RPM up to the level we would carry out power checks and repeated the check, with similar results. I shut the engine down, and informed the next pilot of this. He joined me in the cockpit and I restarted the engine, then he carried out the check, ending up by turning off both mags, which in normal circumstances should cause the engine to stop. This time however, the engine continued to run, which indicated that both mags were operating, but one of them wasn’t being turned off by the ignition key. This is a potentially dangerous situation for ground handling, as it means if the prop is rotated by hand, there is a chance that the engine might fire, potentially causing injury to someone.

The next pilot decided to take one of the other aircraft, so Charlie and I pushed the Arrow back into parking and put the cover back on, leaving a note near the prop to indicate the live mag to anyone else that tried to fly the aircraft. We walked back into the office, and while I completed the post flight paperwork Charlie chatted to his Instructor. We then bade our farewells, agreeing that I could contact Charlie in future should I have a spare seat on any of my flights.

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Leg 1 profile

Leg 1 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 3 profile

Leg 3 profile

Leg 4 profile

Leg 4 profile

Today had been a very enjoyable day’s flying. Not only had conditions been near perfect, but I’d finally used a light aircraft as a mode of transport rather than just going flying for the hell of it. Catrin had been an absolute star, and we had delivered her to Auntie Heledd a good 2 hours or so before Luned arrived on Anglesey after driving up. Hopefully in the future we can use Mona as a base for the aircraft on a holiday up to Anglesey. It was also good to see the progress made at Llanbedr, and if they continue to progress as they have, it’ll definitely be an airfield worth visiting again.

Total flight time today: 3:40
Total flight time to date: 272:50

Multi-leg tour, and a tech aircraft

April 30, 2015

After what seemed a lot of flying in the month of April, another opportunity presented itself when work insisted I take some leave to attend the Lyneham AGM. Rather than just take a half-day, I decided to book a full day’s leave, and try to arrange a flying trip. Some negotiation with David occurred, and after discounting a trip East due to poor weather forecasts, the plan was hatched for me to fly the Arrow to Cardiff (possibly carrying out an ILS approach), then Dunkeswell and Land’s End, with David flying the return leg to Kemble.

The morning of the flight dawned with excellent weather prospects, and I completed the last minute planning at home, calling Land’s End before leaving home to receive PPR to visit. When I arrived, David was already at the Club, but had some bad news to share. It seemed that the Arrow had developed a problem with the baggage door (the lock was in the ‘locked’ position, but the door was open). As such, it couldn’t be flown and we tried to come up with a backup plan.

One of the Club’s Warriors was available, but that meant David wouldn’t be able to fly a leg. After some quick re-planning, we ended up with much the same plan of going to Cardiff and then Dunkeswell, with an option to visit somewhere else (perhaps Compton Abbas) on the way back. As it happens, the Warrior that was available was none other than the aircraft I flew my first solo in back in October 2007 at RAF Brize Norton, that I had last flown on my first licensed landaway on 12th July 2008!

We headed out and checked out the aircraft. It was fuelled to tabs, and rather than fill up now we decided we would fill up at Dunkeswell for the return. We both settled ourselves onboard, the engine starting relatively easily after a couple of attempts. We had received notification via email that the Tower at Kemble would be unmannned today, so I made a ‘Traffic’ call to taxy to the Delta Apron for our checks. As we carried out the checks, another aircraft came on frequency and received a reply from ‘Kemble Radio’. We notified the A/G operator of our intentions, before taxying to the hold and taking to the runway.

The takeoff was normal, and we turned 90 degrees left to clear noise sensitive areas before turning on track towards Cardiff. We signed on with Bristol, receiving a Basic Service. I discussed with David whether it was worth asking Bristol to coordinate the ILS into Cardiff, but we decided against doing that, and to just ask for it on initial contact with Cardiff.

I was having a little trouble understanding the Bristol Controller, and it soon dawned on me why. It appeared that I had neglected to turn on the noise cancelling features of my headset! I pressed the appropriate button, and the world became a much quieter place again. As we approached the River Severn, I donned David’s foggles, and made the call to Bristol asking to change frequency to Cardiff.

Approaching the River Severn

Approaching the River Severn

The Controller had obviously already arranged a handover for us, and gave us a different frequency to use. We contacted Cardiff on this frequency, and made the request for vectors to the ILS. This was granted, with the Controller asking if we were VFR or IFR. I responded ‘IFR’, which in hindsight probably wasn’t the correct thing to do. By insisting on being IFR, this increased the workload on the Controller in having to keep us separated from other IFR aircraft.

It's what everyone's wearing this Summer...

It’s what everyone’s wearing this Summer…

We were given a number of heading changes, with our height increased initially before being gradually stepped down to an appropriate height. Another training aircraft with an ‘Ascot’ call sign appeared on frequency, and it appeared that we were holding him up from beginning his training detail. I offered to drop down to VFR if it would help the Controller with spacing, but he checked whether we would still want an ILS approach, and on replying ‘Affirm’ he just told us to continue.

After a couple of turns to intercept the localiser, we were cleared to intercept and asked to report when we had done so. I had tuned both Nav radios to the ILS frequency, and the localiser needles on them both started to move. I reported that I had captured the localiser, also noticing that the glideslope needle was still centred (normally the ILS glideslope would be intercepted from below, which would mean the needle should be significantly above centre). We were then cleared to descend with the glideslope, and instructed to switch to the Tower frequency.

David also pointed the lack of glideslope indication to me, as well as spotting that the ‘GS’ flag was active in both of the CDI indicators. Normally this would suggest that it was the ILS itself that was at fault, but David’s greater knowledge of the systems told him that if that were the case the Controller would know about it, and would have informed us. David talked me through setting an appropriate rate of descent (he could see the runway perfectly well remember!) and at about 800 feet he suggested I remove the foggles and continue visually.

At this point my headset cut out again, but the passive noise reduction was still adequate for me to continue to hear the Controller. A Thomson Commercial flight announced he was ‘fully ready’ as we approached Short Final, and was told to hold position. I brought us in for a slightly untidy landing (not quite fully aligned with the runway) and as we rolled out the Thomson aircraft was cleared onto the runway. We were asked to expedite vacating the runway, and did our best to make the first left without holding up the aircraft behind.

Thomson waiting patiently

Thomson waiting patiently

We taxyed up to a parking space, and David pushed us back a few feet so that we were parked tidily. As we walked in to settle the landing fee, we were met by a group of young children wearing Hi Viz jackets, escorted by an Aeros employee and two other adults. It appeared to be some kind of school trip, and we were asked to head up for a cuppa before coming back to pay our landing fee.

As we headed upstairs, a military C17 carried out a low Go Around. This was obviously the training flight that we had slightly held up on our approach, and perhaps explains why the Controller wasn’t too concerned about getting us out of his way! We had a quick drink, and I phoned Land’s End to inform them we wouldn’t be arriving today after all. Once finished we headed back down to the office and paid the landing fee (a very reasonable £20.14), booked out with ATC before dodging small children drawing lines on charts as we walked back out to the aircraft!

After a quick walk around we got settled and started up the engine. I listened to the ATIS, and made my initial call. The Controller informed us that he had our ATC clearance when we were ready, which I copied down and read back. Then expecting taxy instructions, I was simply told to ‘Report fully ready at Hotel’. After a quick check of the airfield diagram in my kneeboard, we taxyed close to the hold to carry out the power checks, before positioning at the hold and reporting ready.

After checking we were happy to accept an early turn out (due to St. Athan being active), we were cleared onto the runway and then cleared to depart with an early turn out before the chimneys. Cardiff make a point of noting that this hold also includes a stop bar (a row of lights in the tarmac, that light up red if you’re not cleared to cross). Even if the Controller clears you onto the runway, you’re not supposed to cross this row of lights if they’re illuminated. I pointed them out to David as we approached, and almost forgot to check them after the Controller had cleared us onto the runway.

After takeoff, we turned left to leave the Zone at Minehead as per the standard VFR departure, climbing initially to 1500 feet. Around this point my headset dropped out again, and this was the final clue that made me realise that the batteries were probably at the end of their life! I made a mental note to swap them when we reached Dunkeswell, and kept turning the headset on again for the remainder of the flight.

Heading out over the Severn Estuary

Heading out over the Severn Estuary

After being transferred to the Approach frequency, we were given clearance to climb to 3000 feet (a much more comfortable height to cross the Severn Estuary), and continued on towards Minehead. As we reached Minehead, I set course direct to Dunkeswell, and signed off with Cardiff.

We listened in to Dunkeswell for a while, not hearing much on the radio there. With about 10nm to run I announced myself on frequency, receiving the runway in use and QFE setting. I set us up for a Right Base join for 22, initially joining perhaps a little wider than I should have. The remainder of the approach went well, but the landing left a lot to be desired. Although a fairly smooth touchdown, there was no real roundout at all, and we just kind of ‘arrived’ at the runway!

Short Final at Dunkeswell

Short Final at Dunkeswell

We backtracked slightly, and took to the shorter runway to taxy towards the fuel area. A helicopter had landed on the grass off to our right, and I stopped and carried out the after landing checklist before moving off. Once we had cleared the path of the helicopter he then departed behind us, I hadn’t realised he was waiting for us to pass.

I informed the A/G operator we needed fuel, and parked up in front of the pump. Someone came out to refuel us, then David pushed the aircraft back a few feet to give me sufficient clearance to turn round and taxy onto the grass to park. Once parked up I even remembered to change the dying batteries in my headset!

After settling the bill for fuel and landing we headed in to the excellent restaurant for some lunch. It was good to see it relatively busy even mid-week, and we watched a few aircraft come and go as we ate. The Skydive aircaft filled will people before taking off, and we saw them later landing under canopy.

We finished lunch by around 1:30, and it seemed we had plenty of time to fit in a third stop on the way home. A quick check of the Pooleys plate for Compton Abbas using SkyDemon showed that Compton required PPR, so after a bit of a battle getting a working mobile phone signal I gave them a quick call to let them know we were coming.

We walked back out to the aircraft, and after another walkaround (including taking fuel samples) we boarded up and got started. Power checks were carried out in the undershoot, and we took to the runway and departed. We turned left on track, David being a little surprised at how close the glider field at North Hill was. We signed off with Dunkeswell, and received a Basic Service from Yeovilton for the majority of the leg to Compton Abbas.

Departing Dunkeswell

Departing Dunkeswell

The Controller seemed to be working two frequencies, as we could often only hear one side of his conversation. He also lost contact with another aircraft for a while, informing the pilot as such once he came back on frequency to change. At one point he queried whether we were following the A30, and looking back at the track this was probably because we came quite close to the ATZ at Yeovil Westland. I dog-legged around it, then signed off to contact Compton Abbas.

Overhead Compton Abbas

Overhead Compton Abbas

SkyDemon’s Pooleys plates handily had a chart showing the noise abatement circuit at Compton, which is pretty wide. While joining Overhead I glanced at this occasionally to orient myself, getting a little confused as to how far out we actually should have been. On Final we initially thought the runway was occupied, but this turned out to be an aircraft using the grass taxyway to the side. There was a brisk crosswind blowing almost straight across the runway, but the grass surface flattered my landing somewhat I think! We parked up at the end of the line of aircraft, heading in for another cuppa and a millionaire slice each!

Again Compton’s restaurant area seemed fairly busy (although it is well renowned so that shouldn’t really have been much of a surprise). We watched a Tiger Moth arrive and depart a few times, and it was soon our turn to make ready to leave and head back to Kemble.

February 18th, 2008

February 18th, 2008

April 30th, 2015 - Not much has changed!

April 30th, 2015 – Not much has changed!

Final walkaround of the day revealed no problems, and again the engine started quite easily. I taxyed down towards the threshold for 26, carrying out the power checks before taking to the runway and departing, mindful of the 45 degree right turn required after takeoff to avoid a noise sensitive area.

The Nav from Compton was fairly straightforward, so David and I spent a fair amount of time chatting and spotting the large number of solar farms that seem to have sprung up recently. On reaching Frome I signed on with Bristol for a Basic Service, turning towards RAF Lyneham for the next turning point. We were assigned a squawk, which I wrote down and David entered into the transponder. A few minutes later the Controller asked us to reset the squawk, and we realised that David had transposed two of the digits while entering it (I’d written it down correctly!).

As we approached Lyneham it was obvious that one of the changes since the RAF had left Lyneham was the erection of a huge solar farm on the airfield too. The good news at least was that the runways still seemed to be intact.

RAF Lyneham Solar Farm!

RAF Lyneham Solar Farm!

Signing off with Bristol, we switch to Kemble, unsure whether to expect a response or not. Again, we received a reply from Kemble Radio with runway in use and QFE. I reported our position and that we would join overhead, but the A/G operator asked that we join Left Base as there was an aircraft waiting to depart for a display practice.

We of course agreed, and I positioned us for the join. I reported Base and then Final, and we saw the other aircraft lining up on the grass. The final landing of the day wasn’t too bad, and we backtracked and cleared the runway as the other aircraft took off from the grass. A helicopter was just making ready to start as we taxyed back to parking, and I lined us up with the fuel bowser in case we needed fuel.

 

 

Skyvan after its display practice

Skyvan after its display practice

David checked the tanks and found them around tabs (which is where they were when we left), so we just pushed the aircraft back to the parking area and covered it up. We walked back into the Club to settle the paperwork. We were just about to leave for a well earned beer when I realised I couldn’t find the aircraft keys.

I knew they weren’t in the aircraft as we had locked the door, and I was pretty sure they were attached to my kneeboard as I walked back to the Club. We headed outside for a look, and fortunately found them on the grass area between my car and the Club offices. That was lucky!

 

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Leg 1 profile

Leg 1 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 3 profile

Leg 3 profile

Leg 4 profile

Leg 4 profile

David and I chatted about the flight in the pub down the road, both agreeing that we’d had a great day. It was a shame we couldn’t complete the flight down to Land’s End as planned, but even so we’d visited three airfields and completed an ILS approach during the day. The weather had been near perfect all day, and the Club’s Warrior had performed almost faultlessly. Hopefully our next flight together will be my much discussed first trip across the Channel!

Total flight time today: 3:05
Total flight time to date: 269:10

Landing voucher, IMC and a Zone Transit

April 26, 2015

Now that I was current in the Arrow again, I wanted to continue to use it and try to avoid another currency check. In the days leading up to the flight I’d asked around to see if anybody wanted to accompany me, but had no takers so prepared myself for a solo flight. Flying solo can be enjoyable in its own right, not least because I’m often more inclined to try something out of my comfort zone without having to worry about ‘managing’ passengers at the same time.

One of the landing vouchers in this month’s flying magazines was for Haverfordwest, a great airfield out on the West coast of Wales. I’d been there a few times previously, it’s always a good place to have a usual ‘airfield’ lunch and the scenery is worth seeing too! To make things a little different, I decided to return along the South Wales coast, requesting a Zone Transit of Cardiff airspace to follow the coast around to the Severn Bridges.

The weather forecasts leading up to the flight had been quiet variable, but the forecast for the day looked promising. On arriving at Kemble however, things didn’t look particularly great. Rather than the scattered cloud that was forecast, there was a definite overcast. Other people appeared to be flying however, which suggested that it was up around the 2000 feet mark, and the forecast tops of between 4000 and 6000 feet meant that I would probably be able to get above the cloud if necessary.

I carried out all the normal pre-flight paperwork, filling the tanks in the Arrow before completing the walk around and getting ready to leave. The engine took a couple of attempts to start, and I taxyed over the grass to the North Apron to carry out the checks there. It took a little while for the engine to warm up, so while waiting I programmed an abbreviated route (Kemble -> BCN VOR -> Haverfordwest) into the Garmin 430, and made sure SkyDemon was up and running with my proposed routing loaded.

Power checks were all completed normally, and after taxying to the hold I took to the runway and departed. I followed the circuit round, climbing out on the Downwind leg, setting course for Thornbury. I had planned to fly this leg at 4000 feet, but had to level out at 2500 feet to remain clear of the clouds. After a minute or two I decided to climb up to my planned level, hoping to reach the top of the cloud layer and fly above it. I signed on with Bristol, receiving a Basic Service initially, but when it became clear that I wasn’t going to get above the cloud, I upgraded to a Traffic Service, and dialled in the BCN VOR to use to navigate.

I could see by looking down that I was flying along the bottom edge of the cloud, as I was getting regular glimpses of the ground below me. However, I decided to continue in IMC to get some practice, confident that if I became disoriented or unable to handle the aircraft, I was only a short descent away from being back in visual conditions.

In IMC, but with signs of the ground below

In IMC, but with signs of the ground below

One thing I noticed was the tendency to try to look out of the window, and then have my brain pick out some cloud feature as being a horizon and try to follow that. I was having to consciously ignore this, and rely on the instruments. When flying under the hood this generally isn’t a factor, as all you can see in front of you is the hood and the instruments, so this was useful practice to try to keep my head in ‘Instrument’ flight mode.

I hand-flew in ‘hard’ IMC for 10 or 15 minutes, with Bristol assigning me a new squawk code for Cardiff and handing me over. My tracking of the VOR wasn’t great, but I was at least managing to fly a fairly steady heading and level. I then used the Arrow’s basic autopilot to initially follow a heading, and then to track the BCN VOR, leading to a fairly obvious course change to the South West. The Cardiff Controller obviously noticed this, and queried my routing to Haverfordwest. I informed him ‘direct BCN VOR, just intercepting the correct track now’ which seemed to reassure him that I wasn’t in fact heading into his airspace!

Passing BCN, I tried the various autopilot modes to see if I could find one which didn’t end up with too many course corrections. Around half way between BCN and Carmarthen I emerged from the clouds into clear blue skies, with incredible visibility. Looking back I could see the cloud bank I had passed through, and it was nice to be back out into clear skies again. I dropped down to a Basic service, before eventually signing off with the Cardiff Controller as I approached Carmarthen.

Emerging from the cloud layer

Emerging from the cloud layer

The Danger Areas around Pembrey generally aren’t operational at the weekend, but I wanted to double check. Outside of their notified times, a DAAIS (Danger Area Activity Information Service) is available from London Info. I’ve never really bothered talking to London Info before, as they always seemed to be incredibly busy whenever I’ve listened in previously. This time I had good reason to call them however, so decided to give it a go. When I initially tuned to their frequency, I could hear a one-sided conversation between the Controller and another aircraft. I assumed that the other aircraft was so far away I couldn’t hear him. However, almost immediately I heard another aircraft come on frequency to request a Basic Service. Assuming from this he would be in the same area as me, I made a point of listening carefully to work out where he was. It turned out he was just coming out of the Southern end of the Manchester Low Level Route! Not bad radio reception!

I finally got my turn, and requested activity information for the two Danger Areas near Pembrey. Almost immediately the FISO confirmed that they were not notified active (I had assumed there would be a short delay while he looked up the information), and asked if I wanted to remain with them for a Basic Service. Given that I was barely 20nm from my destination, there didn’t seem much point, so I thanked the FISO for his assistance and switched to Haverfordwest’s frequency.

Glorious views to the coast

Glorious views to the coast

Traffic, 10 O'Clock low

Traffic, 10 O’Clock low

They were quiet, so I made my initial call, giving my distance to run. I had a little difficulty understanding the A/G operator’s questions, meaning I had to ask him to repeat a couple of his transmissions. I decided to join Overhead for runway 03, and was asked to report descending Deadside. Almost immediately another aircraft came on frequency a couple of miles behind me, and announced a Crosswind join (which in hindsight was a more logical join from the direction I was approaching).

Approaching Haverfordwest

Approaching Haverfordwest

I had already planned my descent, but still arrived in the area of Haverfordwest a little higher than I would have liked. I took care to avoid the noise sensitive areas highlighted in the flight guide, and began my descent, notifying the A/G operator that I was doing so. I was still conscious of the other aircraft joining, but he was still a few miles away so was unlikely to become a factor. The descent and circuit went well, but I was caught out slightly by the strength of the headwind on Final. As a result, I ended up a little lower than I should have, and had to apply more power to correct the descent profile.

I think this distracted me a little, because I ended up flaring slightly high, and the descent rate close to the runway was a little higher than it should have been as I bled the speed off. I applied a burst of power to correct, and touched down a little firmer than I would have liked. Mindful of the other aircraft following me around the circuit I did my best to clear the runway, before taxying in to park.

After parking the aircraft tidily, I headed in to hand in the landing voucher and have some lunch! I was initially caught out by a locked, security coded door into the office, but the A/G operator popped round to let me in. I handed over the landing voucher and chatted for a little while, before heading in to the cafe for a very tasty sausage and bacon sandwich!

I took my time over my lunch, before booking out in the office and walking out to the aircraft. A second Arrow was now parked up in the parking area, and I wondered if this was the same Arrow that I’d seen on a previous visit to Haverfordwest. A quick walkaround showed nothing of concern, and again the engine was a little reluctant to start. I taxyed to the hold, carrying out power checks off to the side before waiting for another aircraft to land. I lined up as he rolled out, and then began my takeoff roll once he was clear of the runway.

A pair of Arrows at Haverfordwest

A pair of Arrows at Haverfordwest

I followed the circuit around to the left, climbing out on the Downwind leg and heading West towards the far Western point of Wales. The Nav for the rest of the leg home was planned to be incredibly simple. Basically, follow the Coast around to the East before getting to the Severn Bridges, then turn right!

I meandered between 2000 and 3000 feet, enjoying the stunning views in almost perfect flying conditions, so much so that I brought the power back a couple of inches and reduced the prop RPM by 200 or so. I was in no rush! I passed by Pembrey (hearing nothing on their frequency) before ensuring I kept to the North of Swansea Airfield in case they were parachuting today. Listening out on their frequency showed they seemed to be relatively busy, and I spotted a few aircraft in their circuit as I passed.

Passing Pembrey

Passing Pembrey

Swansea Airport

Swansea Airport

After leaving Swansea’s frequency I dialled up Cardiff’s ATIS to check whether St. Athan was active (it wasn’t) before calling Cardiff to begin the negotiations for a Zone Transit. I was initially given the standard ‘remain outside Controlled Airspace’ response, and the Controller confirmed a few further details as I got closer. I was warned of opposite direction traffic at a similar level, so initiated a climb to put some airspace between us. The Controller informed me that if I continued on my current heading the other aircraft would pass by on my left, and I quickly spotted him a couple of hundred feet below me, half a mile or so off to my left.

I had decided that Porthcawl would be my decision point, and had planned a second route from there heading inland back to the BCN VOR to reverse my route back into England. As I was considering an orbit to ensure I didn’t infringe, I was given clearance to transit Cardiff’s airspace, not above 3000 feet.

I mis-identified St. Athan (I think it was Llandow), and then mistook St. Athan for Cardiff itself. There were a couple of EasyJet aircraft on the ground at St. Athan which confused me, and it was only when I realised I couldn’t see anything that looked like a terminal that had me questioning my identification.

St. Athan

St. Athan

Soon enough I spotted Cardiff, and as I passed to the South the Controller asked me to keep my speed up, as he was vectoring a Commercial aircraft in to land, and I would be passing through the climbout should he have to Go Around for some reason. I increased back up to a more normal cruising speed, and continued around the coast trying to spot the incoming aircraft over my shoulder.

Millennium Stadium

Millennium Stadium

As I turned North I eventually spotted him as a spec in the distance, and continued along the Coast. The Controller soon informed me I was outside Controlled Airspace, and back on a Basic Service. Not long after I was asked to contact Bristol, and I thanked him for his help in giving me my desired routing. As I changed frequency, I realised I hadn’t been given a new squawk, so on my initial call I announced ‘Bristol Radar, G-AZWS with you, squawking 3632’. The Bristol Controller gave me a new squawk, and then notified me of a couple of other aircraft operating in the area, asking me to report ‘coasting in’ on the English side of the Severn.

Crossing the Severn

Crossing the Severn

After double checking the height of the Bristol Airspace, I cut the corner to the bridges, and reported coasting in as requested. I got a good view of Filton off to the right, hearing the Air Ambulance lifting for a call and heading North towards Gloucester. Approaching Thornbury, I signed off with Bristol, again thanking the Controller for her assistance. Some GA pilots are wary of flying in or near Controlled Airspace, but I can honestly say I’ve always had good service from the Radar Controllers at major airports. In fact, I’ve also never been refused a Zone Transit when I’ve asked, despite the Controllers obviously being busy at times.

After signing off I heard G-EDGI (one of Lyneham’s two Warriors) signing on with Bristol, approaching from the North before heading back into Kemble. I switched to Kemble and heard an aircraft ahead of me planning a Right Base join. I obviously didn’t get a full picture of his position, as when I neared the airfield and requested a Right Base join myself, the FISO informed me of the other aircraft and asked him to report his position. He reported that he had me in sight ahead of him, and on looking over my right shoulder I could see him some 3 or 4 miles behind me to the right. The Arrow flies quicker than a lot of the GA fleet, and I had obviously overtaken him without realising.

I did my best to keep my speed up as I joined, hearing him reporting he was going to join behind me. I carried out the before landing checks, and set myself up for a landing, deciding to land long to avoid holding the other aircraft up due to a lengthy taxy down to the far end. The wind seemed quite calm (I think the FISO reported a slight crosswind at 5 knots or so), and I realised with 300 feet or so to go that I had only lowered 2 stages of flaps. I lowered the final stage, and took a couple of seconds to get the aircraft stabilised again.

As I began to flare, the right wing suddenly lifted, and I quickly reacted to correct it. Now just a few feet off the ground, I recovered to level flight again, and prepared to begin a second attempt at landing when the right wing again picked up. Deciding that things had now gone too far, I immediately decided to Go Around, applying full power while raising the nose and drag flap. As I climbed away, I informed the FISO (although I’m sure he’d worked it out by then!) and continued the climb, retracting the flaps in stages but leaving the gear down.

I repeated the before landing checks on the Downwind leg, watching the aircraft I had overtaken land as I did so. I was mindful of getting the aircraft configured fully on this circuit, and mentally prepared myself as I came down Final for the second time. This time, there was no issue, and I brought the aircraft in for a nice gentle landing. As I rolled out, I made a slight slip by asking the FISO for taxy to Woodside (where Freedom’s aircraft are), before quickly correcting myself and asking to taxy to ‘Hotel site’ (where Lyneham’s aircraft park). Another aircraft was on Final behind me, so I cleared the runway as quickly as possible to avoid delaying him.

I taxyed back to the parking area, refuelling the aircraft back to tabs before pushing it back into parking just in time to make room at the bowser for G-EDGI as it taxyed up. As I was earlier than I’d expected to be, I tried to raise the pilot who had booked the aircraft after me to inform him that the aircraft was now free. Sadly I only got through to his answerphone, so left a message in the hope he would pick it up. I gathered up all my gear, before heading into the office to settle my bill, only to meet the next pilot, who had turned up early on the off-chance!

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Outbound profile

Outbound profile

Return profile

Return profile

This had been an incredibly rewarding flight. Despite some challenging conditions initially, I’d persevered with a flight in IMC knowing that the weather was always forecast to improve from the West throughout the day. Conditions once I reached Wales really couldn’t have been better, and I’d had a really pleasant trip back along the coast, including a Zone Transit of Cardiff’s Controlled Airspace. The flight ended with my making a good decision to carry out my first ‘real’ Go Around in quite a long time, and I was pleased that I’d shown good ‘command’ skills to make this decision. Hopefully there will be many more such rewarding flights.

Total flight time today: 2:45
Total flight time to date: 266:05

Arrow currency check and a new airfield in the logbook

April 5, 2015

After a limited amount of flying so far this year, I decided it would be a good idea to refresh my currency in Lyneham’s Arrow, in order to give me another option in terms of aircraft availability. Although the aircraft’s owner Kev isn’t an Instructor, he is authorised by the Club to carry out Currency Check flights, as long as the pilot is ‘passenger current’ (having carried out 3 take-offs and landings in the last 90 days).

I managed to arrange a day we were both free, and in the days leading up to the flight we discussed various options. I was keen to try to do something more than just the usual requirements for a Currency check, and we agreed on a 3 leg trip to Hinton in the Hedges and Wellesbourne, with me flying all three legs. In order to spice things up, Kev also suggested that I make the flight up to Hinton without using the SkyDemon ‘crutch’, relying on good old map and compass and dead-reckoning.

I planned the flight to Hinton via the grass strip at Upper Harford, and spent a little time the night before looking at the area in Google Maps’ satellite view, to get a feel for what to expect on the flight. After carrying out the final planning on the morning of the flight, I headed off to Kemble to meet Kev.

The weather wasn’t perfect, but was definitely flyable. There was a broken cloudbase around 2500 feet or so, and the forecast suggested this might occasionally drop lower. I carried out the pre-flight paperwork in the Club before Kev joined me. He hadn’t realised that I had arrived, so had already carried out the ‘A’ check for me in readiness for the flight. I filled him in on the proposed route, and we headed out to the aircraft.

Once we were settled, I set about working through the checklist, noting a few new entries since I had last flown the aircraft. The engine started on the second attempt, and we were cleared to the North apron for our checks, using the Golf (grass) taxyway to get there. We picked our way around some of the more uneven ground, before waiting a short while on the North apron for the engine to warm up. The power checks were all completed normally, and we took our turn onto the runway and departed.

We made a left turn out, and initially levelled out at around 1500 feet in order to remain below the cloud layer. It looked fairly broken though, so we took the decision to climb through and above it, eventually settling on a cruising level around 4000 feet. This put us generally between the broken layer below us and a more solid layer a couple of thousand feet above us.

Once over Cirencester I made a note of the time, and our expected time over Upper Harford. Although we were above a layer of cloud, it was sufficiently broken below us to continue navigating visually, so I set the appropriate heading and continued on the leg.

We signed on with Brize, initially being refused a Traffic Service due to their workload, but being granted an upgrade to Traffic as other aircraft left the frequency. I thought I’d correctly identified Upper Harford as our turning point based on my previous research, but looking at the track log it appears that I actually mis-identified the road that it is near, and turned a couple of miles before I should have.

Brize continued to offer us information on other Traffic in the area, but none of it was a real factor for us. Most people were operating below the cloud layer, and hence were a couple of thousand feet below us. We flew for a short period in hard IMC, which was a useful reminder of how important it is to trust the instruments when flying in cloud. A couple of times I found myself attempting to fly level based on what I could see out of the window, but on checking the instruments found that I had allowed a slight bank angle to develop due to the incorrect information being generated by my eyes and inner ear.

Kev asked about when I planned to make my descent, and in fairness I really didn’t have much of an idea how to calculate this. He explained the method usually used and we picked our descent point, as well as checking when we needed to sign on with Hinton. As we neared Hinton we signed off with Brize, and made an initial call to Hinton to get airfield information. As expected, we received no response, but did hear other pilots on frequency.

As we crossed the M40, the conditions were noticeably hazy, making it difficult to spot the airfield. Mindful of the fact that they were parachuting today, I decided to turn back towards the M40 to orient myself properly, to ensure I didn’t accidentally blunder into the overhead. As we headed back to the M40 Kev spotted another aircraft passing quite close below us. We carried out an orbit over the M40 to get our bearings before heading towards the airfield again.

Almost as soon as we had done this, we heard the parachute aircraft announce that all jumpers had left the aircraft. To ensure we kept clear of them, we again turned back to the M40 and orbited a few times to give them sufficient time to complete their descent and get back on the ground. We headed towards the airfield again, and slotted in on a Right Base join for 06, behind the parachute aircraft. I didn’t realise that he would have to backtrack, and as such didn’t have sufficient spacing to allow him to clear the runway. I commenced a Go Around (and announced as such on the radio), only to have him respond ‘Or we could pull off to the side for you’. I decided that it was safer to continue the Go Around, and Kev briefly transmitted ‘Nah, we need the hours!’.

I flew a relatively untidy circuit, neglecting to sufficiently correct for wind on the Downwind leg. However, the final approach and landing were completed well, leading to a ‘Nicely done’ from Kev. It was good that even after several months I could still remember how to land the Arrow!

We parked up alongside some other aircraft, and walked in to have lunch in amongst all the other people at the parachute centre. Despite the conditions, they seemed very busy, with the next load ready to board almost as soon as the parachute aircraft had returned from its previous drop.

Antonov Biplane parked at Hinton

Antonov Biplane parked at Hinton

Kev had suggested I track the Daventry VOR on the leg up to Wellesbourne, so I briefly outlined the route I’d planned as we headed back to the aircraft. I left a donation towards the landing fee after chatting briefly to the people manning the ‘Tower’, and we got settled back in the aircraft for the short flight to Wellesbourne.

Parked up at Hinton

Parked up at Hinton

The engine started easily, and we taxyed towards the runway to carry out our power checks. I set up both VORs to track Daventry, realising a little late that the indicator connected to the Garmin 430 was still in ‘GPS’ mode, so switched it over to use the VOR instead. I also loaded a ‘direct to’ route for Wellesbourne into the 430 as a backup, enabling me to quickly re-apply this later once we were on the leg from DTY to Wellesbourne.

As we were ready, the parachute aircraft appeared on a Base leg join, so we waited until he had landed and rolled past us before backtracking to the threshold and waiting for him to backtrack and clear the runway. Once he was clear, I began the takeoff roll, and Kev then suggested that a flaps takeoff might be wise given the relatively short (700m) runway. I applied two stages of flap as we accelerated, then rotated and took off, doing my best to avoid the local villages as I climbed out and flew an abbreviated circuit to depart to the West.

We climbed out on the Downwind leg, through a layer of cloud before centring the VOR needle and tracking the VOR towards Daventry. As on previous flights, the DME didn’t work very well, but we used the GPS to monitor our distance to the VOR. As we got to within about 5nm, I turned to the North West, to intercept the appropriate outbound track for Wellesbourne.

Between layers of cloud en-route to the DTY VOR

Between layers of cloud en-route to the DTY VOR

As we became established on the outbound track, the skies cleared somewhat, giving us a good view of the ground on this leg. As a result, I mentally dropped out of ‘Instrument Flight’ mode, and as a result the tracking of the VOR went a bit awry for the remainder of the leg. We signed on with Wellesbourne, and for a change they had an empty circuit! As a result we opted for a Crosswind join for 36 LH.

I misidentified the disused airfield at Chipping Warden as Gaydon, and as we passed the huge disused runway at Gaydon a minute or two later it was clear that I shouldn’t have made the mistake! Wellesbourne soon came into view, and I oriented us to join appropriately, dropping the gear on the Crosswind leg and carrying out the pre-landing checks. I was careful to follow the noise abatement circuit, which calls for quite an extended Downwind leg.

We turned Base and then Final, and I carried out the final ‘Reds, Blues, 3 Greens, Flaps’ check out loud as usual, this time finishing with a ‘hang on, not three greens!’. Kev was pleased I had spotted it, and turned off the external Nav lights (when the Nav lights are on, the internal gear lights are dimmed considerably, making them appear to be out in daylight). Afterwards I checked when he had done this, concerned that I had missed it after dropping the gear initially, but he confirmed that he’d done it while I was looking out during Base Leg.

I’m not sure if it was this slight distraction or the wider than normal circuit, but I ended up slightly high on Final, and then slightly fast as I lowered the nose to lose height. As a result I touched down a little quicker than I should have, leading to a small bounce. I applied a little power and raised the nose to cushion the second touchdown, and we rolled out a little further than would otherwise have been necessary. The FISO gave us parking instructions, and after parking and shutting down I went to pay the landing fee while Kev bought the refreshments in the cafe.

While chatting over our drinks, Kev suggested that we change the plan for the final leg of the day, and return to Kemble low level, following the Fosse Way all the way back to Cirencester. We carried out a quick re-plan on the wing, estimating distances and times to 3 or 4 checkpoints on the return leg, as well as deciding what heights we should fly at in order to remain clear of the rising ground at various points on our route.

Startup, checks and departure were all normal, and we followed the noise abatement procedure (30 degree right turn immediately after takeoff) and then turned right to depart, taking care not to fly over the town of Wellesbourne. I initially climbed to a few hundred feet above our planned height, before Kev admonished me with a ‘Careful, we’ll be showing up on Iraqi radar soon!’. We picked up the Fosse Way, and Kev used his watch to check our time estimations as we continued South. It was clear that the tailwind was a little higher than forecast (and our estimated distances a little off) but we hit most of our waypoints within a minute or two of our expected time.

What better place to be on Easter Sunday?

What better place to be on Easter Sunday?

At one point I followed the wrong road as it forked, and a quick check showing our heading approaching West showed we were definitely following the wrong one. We headed South again to pick up the Fosse Way at the Northleach Roundabout, before following the road the rest of the way to Cirencester.

We then signed in with Kemble, and as it appeared to be quite busy I decided that it would be safer to carry out a full Overhead Join. This required us to gain some 1500 feet or so in order to be at the correct height! Once Overhead, I carried out a Deadside descent, dropping the gear as we turned Crosswind to help get our speed down. We followed another aircraft around the circuit, and he completed his Touch and Go as we turned Final, leaving the runway clear for us.

We had another aircraft behind us, so I did my best to keep speed up a little, and deliberately landed long to avoid tying up the runway for too long as we taxyed down to the far end of the runway. At Kemble, there is a noticeable change in elevation along the runway, and I don’t think I’ve ever attempted to land on the ‘rising’ part of 08 before. As a result, I think I lost the picture slightly in the roundout and flare, leading to a slightly messy and flat touchdown. Prompted by the FISO I kept the speed up to vacate onto the Alpha taxyway before taxying back to the Club.

I helped Kev refuel, park and cover the aircraft, and we headed in to the Club to complete the final paperwork and settle my bill for the flight. I’ve also now renewed my membership at Lyneham for a further year, so I need to make sure I make use of it, particularly in keeping current in the Arrow and using it for more flights in the coming year. Once all the details were completed, Kev and I retired to a pub for a thorough debrief!

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Leg 1 profile

Leg 1 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 3 profile

Leg 3 profile

My recent flying seems to be filled with regular currency check flights. It was good in this instance to do something a little out of the ordinary, and we had crammed in quite a few things during the three flights today. Kev is an experienced pilot with a CPL and Multi-IR rating, and it’s always useful to have someone like that alongside to offer little hints during a flight. Hopefully we can fly together again in the future, and continue to extend my comfort zone in various areas on future flights. Also, it would be nice if I could avoid the requirement for any currency checks in the near future!

Total flight time today: 2:00
Total flight time to date: 263:20

Weather enforced local

March 8, 2015

When a post appeared on the Flyer forums announcing a planned fly-in at Bristol airport, this seemed like an excellent chance to get the airfield in my logbook at a reasonable cost. I expressed my interest immediately, and was accepted on the list of attendeed for the fly-in. I booked the aircraft in good time and informed the organiser of the relevant details, and then waited for the day to arrive to see what the weather would bring.

Sadly the weather didn’t co-operate, with the forecast promising very low cloud for the majority of the day. With regret, I cancelled my booking and informed Freedom. Sarah understandably suggested that I might like to consider doing at least some flying that day, so I took another look at the forecast, and it suggested that the weather should improve in the afternoon. I re-booked a slot from 2pm, and completed my planning for the flight in to Bristol at home in readiness for heading to Kemble in the afternoon.

On arriving at Kemble the weather still wasn’t looking great, so I chatted to Sarah and checked the TAFs and METARs for local airfields on my phone. Things gradually started to improve around Kemble, but Bristol’s TAF and METAR still showed that they had significant cloud in their vicinity. As a result I planned a quick ‘local’ flight on an old favourite route (Kemble -> Severn Bridges -> Hereford -> Moreton in Marsh -> Chedworth -> Kemble) and helped get the aircraft out of the hangar.

The skies were brightening considerably as I got settled in the aircraft and started the engine (with a lot less drama than on my previous flight!), and I was cleared to the North Apron for checks. As I completed the checks, another of Freedom’s aircraft came on frequency joining from the North, passing overhead on a Crosswind Join as I made ready to leave the North Apron.

I was initially cleared to the B1 hold, and the FISO then checked whether I would need a full backtrack. As I was solo, I wouldn’t need much of a takeoff roll, so I informed him that I could accept a partial backtrack, and he passed me traffic information for the other aircraft (now on Downwind) and cleared me onto the runway.

After a short backtrack, I turned through 180 degrees to face the correct way, and the FISO passed me the wind information and I began my takeoff roll. The wind was quite strong and straight down the runway, so after what seemed like a very short roll I was airborne and climbing away. The first leg was almost directly on runway track, so I simply continued my climb to the West before changing to Bristol’s frequency once I was clear of the Kemble ATZ.

I climbed to around 2000 feet, meandering slightly to remain clear of cloud. Bristol gave me a Basic Service, and the only other traffic on frequency was a helicopter making a transit to the West of Bristol. There was some debate between the Controller and the pilot as to the best route for him to transit, as they still had low cloud in the area, and the Controller thought a route through the Bristol overhead might be better. She checked with their Tower Controller though, and the transit to the West was eventually agreed upon, as there was still low cloud directly over the airport.

Cloud over Bristol

Cloud over Bristol

The cloudbase became lower and more continuous as I approached the Severn Bridges, and I had to descend to below 1000 feet in order to remain clear. I tracked up the Severn for a short while to get around a bank of cloud before heading back inland to the higher ground towards Monmouth and Hereford. I managed to get up to 3000 feet for a short period, opting to fly through some banks of cloud rather than continually change course or descend. I signed off with Bristol, and began to monitor Gloucester’s Approach frequency.

Low level up the Severn

Low level up the Severn

Approaching Hereford the clouds lowered again, and I spent the rest of the flight around 2000 feet. Turning East from Hereford, I passed close by the mast on the way to Ledbury, and spotted the Malvern Hills and Great Malvern off to my left. Gloucester seemed pretty busy with both VFR and Instrument traffic using on their Approach, and another aircraft announced on frequency that he was inbound from the Worcester area. Given this information I knew our tracks would cross, but he was already approaching Gloucester by the time I crossed the M50 and M5.

Great Malvern

Great Malvern

The disused airfield at Moreton in Marsh was an easy turning point to identify, and I signed on with Brize for the leg back to Kemble. I only got as far as making my initial call giving my registration and asking for Basic Service, when the Controller responded ‘Are you heading back in to Kemble?’. I confirmed I was, and was given a Basic Service and squawk.

Turning at Moreton in Marsh

Turning at Moreton in Marsh

Little Rissington passed by to the left, and as I passed over the disused airfield at Chedworth I signed off with Brize and contacted Kemble. They were relatively quiet, so I informed them I was approaching from the North East and requested to do some circuits in order to fully reset my passenger carrying currency. I managed to confuse my East and West, and incorrectly corrected myself, informing the FISO that I was in fact approaching from the North West! Seems Charlie isn’t the only one to get confused!

Approaching the ATZ three other Freedom aircraft came on frequency, one making ready to depart, another passing to the East and a third planning a landing at Oaksey to allow a solo flight back to Kemble. I was offered a Crosswind Join but decided to carry out a full Overhead Join as usual (I wasn’t in any great rush to get back on the ground!). All three circuits went well, flying a good circuit pattern culminating in a nice gentle landing each time.

I landed deliberately long from the last circuit to minimise taxying time, and taxyed back to the Freedom hangar before closing down. Engrossed in getting my gear tidied away, Sarah had to tap on the window a number of times to get my attention, and she and another pilot pushed the aircraft back in to the hangar. I climbed out, then helped them push the aircraft back out, as Sarah realised that another pilot had booked a flight!

Route flown

Route flown

Profile

Profile

Back in the office I completed the paperwork and paid for the flight, before heading back to my car to drive home.

Despite the disappointment in not being able to make the fly-in as originally planned, I’m glad Sarah suggested I do some flying anyway. It was nice to be up in the air by myself, just generally flying around without any particular ‘mission’ to achieve. Although I generally try to avoid doing too many local flights (discounting training flights, my last local flight was on 12th June 2012!), it’s nice to just get up in the air and fly every now and again. I must remember that in future should the weather mean that my plans need to change.

Total flight time today: 1:40
Total flight time to date: 261:20

 

Back to Sywell

February 8, 2015

After being checked out and cleared to fly ‘solo’ again, I was all set to head off to Sywell with Charlie. We’d discussed this trip in readiness for attempting it last weekend, but a strong crosswind (right on the limits of the aircraft) and my cold prevented us from making the trip then.

As previously agreed, I’d planned a slightly circuitous route to enable us to carry out another Zone Transit, this time the Class D around RAF Brize Norton. I’ve transitted their airspace a number of times in the past, and they’ve always been helpful and able to approve any requested routing, so I thought this would be a good option for Charlie to attempt his first Zone Transit on the return flight.

As with the previous flight of the day, it was a little difficult to get the engine started, but once going we again headed off to the North Apron to carry out the power checks. The engine was still warm from the previous flight, so there was no need to wait for long before carrying them out. Once complete, we were cleared to the hold, and then asked if we were ready for an immediate departure without a backtrack. Another aircraft was established on Base leg, and the FISO cleared us on to the runway and I began the takeoff roll without stopping, making a quick check of the engine parameters while doing so.

Climbing out from Kemble

Climbing out from Kemble

Takeoff was normal, and we headed off to the South East towards Membury to set up for the transit of Brize’s airspace. This took us directly over Swindon, and Charlie and I chatted about how this used to be RAF Lyneham’s Zone not too many years ago. I pointed out the local landmarks to Charlie, including the area around our house. Charlie managed to get some good photos of Catrin’s school as we passed overhead.

Renault building (bottom left) and Catrin's school (circular building in the centre)

Renault building (bottom left) and Catrin’s school (circular building in the centre)

The visibility was still slightly hazy, and the mast at Membury was a little difficult to pick out from a distance. The M4 was easy to spot though, and right on time the mast and service area appeared below us. As there is an airfield just to the South of the services, I turned to the North before arriving overhead the mast, and made ready to contact Brize for the Zone Transit.

Following the M4 to Membury in the haze

Following the M4 to Membury in the haze

The Zone frequency was relatively quiet, and our request for transit was granted immediately, the Controller giving us a squawk code and minimum altitude (which I had to ask him to repeat due to not hearing correctly first time) of 800 feet! The hazy conditions again meant that Brize took a while to become visible, but there were lots of landmarks on this leg to ensure we were heading in the right direction.

The Controller announced that we were entering Controlled airspace, and as we passed RAF Brize Norton itself Charlie got some good photos of the various aircraft on the ground. We exited the Zone at Burford, and I set course for our next turning point at Shipston on Stour.

Passing overhead Brize's nice long runway!

Passing overhead Brize’s nice long runway!

The Nav went a little awry on this leg, because although the plog I’d printed from SkyDemon that morning correctly had Shipston on Stour as the turning point, the route programmed into SkyDemon on the Nexus 7 in my lap had the disused airfield at Moreton in Marsh as the turning point! As such the route tended to meander between the two, as I maintained the heading on my plog while occasionally checking my progress along the leg on SkyDemon! Once I’d worked out what was going on, I made the required adjustments to the route in the GPS, and the rest of the navigation was relatively straighfoward again!

As we approached Daventry, we passed over a relatively continuous bank of cloud at around 1000 feet above the ground (we were flying at 2500 feet). There were small broken patches within it, and I started to wonder if they would be big enough to descend through should the cloud continue all the way to Northampton. Charlie was understandably a little nervous about continuing (he’s only relatively recently gained his licence, and as such perhaps doesn’t have as much exposure to less than ideal conditions) but as there were clear skies just a few miles to our right, and the route back to Kemble was still free of cloud I continued without being too concerned about the cloud we were flying over.

Another factor in continuing was that Sywell’s radio traffic showed that they were still operating normally, so there was a good chance that this cloud bank would in fact come to an end before we got there. This proved to be the case, and as we passed over Daventry we again had an unobstructed view down to the ground.

Approaching Sywell I signed on with them, receiving the required information to plan my arrival. They seemed relatively quiet, but despite considering asking for a Left Base join I carried out a Standard Overhead join in order to maintain practice. As we turned Final, I could see that there was a vehicle on the runway, and the FISO advised me that the runway was occupied, before asking the Fire Vehicle to vacate the runway. I continued the approach, watching the vehicle turn off at the far end before announcing that it was clear.

The FISO then gave me the customary ‘Land at your discretion’ and the wind direction and speed, and I brought us in for a slightly flat landing, but still nice and gentle and under control. The FISO advised us to backtrack, asking us to keep to the left as other aircraft were waiting at the hold to use the runway (the grass areas were currently unavailable due to the condition of the ground). There was some juggling as I kept out of the way while one aircraft departed, then the other took to the runway, clearing the way for us to taxy to parking. We had to squeeze slightly on to the grass to pass another aircraft taxying towards us, and then parked up on the apron next to a twin before heading in for a rather late lunch!

The Cafe we would usually have used was closed for the Winter, so we headed in to the bar at the hotel. Their menu was somewhat limited (1 item!) but the Turkey Baguette with gravy and roast potatoes went down a treat! Charlie and I chatted about the route back as we ate, and I was a little surprised he had decided not to reverse my route and attempt a transit over Brize. A little gentle persuasion soon changed his mind, and he re-planned his route to go through Brize Controlled Airspace.

We headed back to the aircraft, Charlie carried out a brief walkaround and we mounted up ready for the off. Again the engine was a little reluctant to start, but Charlie got it going on the 2nd or 3rd try. Taxy route was basically the reverse of our route from the runway, and again there was some juggling of aircraft as Charlie moved out of the way to allow another aircraft off the runway.

The departure was normal, and we turned West to leave the circuit. Another aircraft announced that he was transitting through the overhead from the West at 2500, so we stayed at 2000 until he passed above us. Once clear of the traffic, Charlie climbed initially to 2500 feet, and then further up to 3500 to get out of the hazy conditions lower down.

Climbing out from Sywell

Climbing out from Sywell

The flight towards Banbury was relatively routine. Charlie doglegged around the Daventry VOR to avoid any other traffic using it for navigation, and we listened in to Brize until it was time to call them. We discussed what height we should be at, and it seemed sensible to get down to a height that would actually take us through Brize’s airspace (rather than over it!) before asking to transit!

Charlie began a descent to 2500 feet before we reached Banbury, and then called Brize to ask for a Basic Service and Zone Transit. Somewhat unusually, we were immediately cleared through their airspace, with no height or routing restriction! This meant that all Charlie had to do for the next 10 minutes or so was to successfully navigate towards Brize, and listen out on the radio should they need to contact us.

While we were chatting, a radio call did come in, and neither of us were sure whether it had been for us. Charlie asked the Controller to repeat the message, and we were given traffic information on another aircraft at a similar level to us, off to our right. We spotted him quickly on my side, and I kept an eye on him as he passed behind us at almost the same height.

Once inside the Zone, the Controller contacted us to inform us we were now under Radar Control, and we considered asking for a more direct routing back to Kemble. Charlie requested this, and was again granted permission. Charlie had been having a little difficulty understanding the Controller, but I could hear him clearly. I remember thinking while I was flying that the radio was a little ‘fuzzy’, so perhaps there’s a slight issue with the pilot’s headset connections in this aircraft?

Aircraft on the ground at Brize

Aircraft on the ground at Brize

We turned to the West, passing directly overhead Fairford a couple of hundred feet over the top of their ATZ. Once back out of Brize’s airspace, Charlie signed off with the Controller, thanking him for his assistance with our requests. We then signed on with Kemble, Charlie (incorrectly) informing the FISO that we were approaching from the West. As he released the transmit button I simply said ‘East’, and Charlie corrected himself, receiving ‘Ah, the other West’ from the FISO!

 Passing South Cerney

Passing South Cerney

Kemble sounded quite busy as we approached, and we changed our mind from making a direct Base join (they were now operating on 26) and instead opted for a more standard Overhead Join. Another aircraft transitted the ATZ at a couple of hundred feet above join height (not particularly smart in my view, particularly given that there was no cloud to speak of) and I kept a good eye on him, allowing Charlie to concentrate on the join and descent.

Traffic passing above us

Traffic passing above us

The circuit was uneventful, but Charlie had a little difficulty getting in on the busy frequency at times to announce his position as required. He eventually managed to get the call in (I later advised him that sometimes you have to be ready to just jump in immediately someone else has finished transmitting when the radio is this busy), and we continued around to turn Base and Final.

As we turned Final, a flex-wing microlight took to the runway in front of us. Initially it looked like this may prevent us from continuing with the landing, but I suggested Charlie continue and make his ‘Final’ call (if nothing else it might persuade the pilot on the runway to make a swift departure knowing that we were bearing down on him). As expected, the FISO announced ‘runway occupied’, and we continued down Final to see if the microlight would depart in time.

It lifted from the runway after a very short takeoff roll, the FISO passed us the wind information and we continued to land. Charlie brought us in for a nice landing quite near the threshold, and in hindsight I should perhaps have suggested he land a little longer than normal to avoid a lengthy taxy (Kemble’s runway is plenty long enough not to worry about landing part way down).

We taxyed back towards the hangar, and parked the aircraft on the grass opposite. Dave came out to meet us, and started loading things into the aircraft as we unloaded our gear (he was taking it straight over to Oaksey as it was going in to maintenance). We headed in to the office, completed all the paperwork and paid for the flight, before heading off home.

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Outbound profile

Outbound profile

Return profile

Return profile

So, 2015’s flying has finally begun. The checkout this morning was a good reminder of how easy it is to forget things after a relatively long lay-off, but the flight with Charlie had gone very smoothly. It was particularly interesting to see the difference between the forecast weather (awful) and the actually conditions on the day (almost perfect for flying). This was another good demonstration as to why I generally don’t make a decision on weather until the morning of a flight, as forecasts can so often turn out to be incorrect.

We’d had another good trip, and Charlie had hopefully banished any concerns he my have had about flying through Controlled Airspace. Let’s hope this is the start of a good year’s flying.

Total flight time today: 1:25
Total flight time to date: 259:40

Yet another currency check

February 8, 2015

It had been a long time since my last flight with Charlie, and as a result I was out of pretty much all of my currency requirements, including 90 day passenger carrying. December is always a pretty busy month for us, so it was unsurprising that I hadn’t managed to fly. However, I made several attempts to fly in January, that were all thwarted by either weather or a particularly drawn out cold.

I arranged a flight with Dave in one of Freedom’s Warriors in order to regain all my currencies, and then invited Charlie along to share another flight with me. Leading up to the day of the flight, things didn’t look particularly promising, with the Brize TAF forecasting BKN20 TEMPO BKN10 for most of the day, even up to and including the 2100 TAF of the previous day!

As such I wasn’t feeling particularly optimistic when I woke up on the morning of the flight, but a quick check of the weather forecasts now showed a completely different picture! I carried out all my usual pre-flight planning at home, before driving to Kemble in near-perfect flying conditions. There was an occasional bit of fog still lingering, but the skies were clear with almost no cloud to be seen.

I arrived at Kemble to see Dave starting to get the aircraft out of the hangar, making a quick check of the fuel level in G-SNUZ before climbing up to the cockpit to start the ‘A’ check. Dave seemed surprised at this, commenting to the person on the phone that I was jumping into their aircraft! I made a quick check on Flight Schedule Pro and realised he was correct, I had actually booked G-ELUE for my flights today!

I helped Dave move SNUZ over to the other side of the taxyway, and then get G-ELUE out of the hangar. I carried out the pre-flight as normal, then waited a little while after it had been refuelled to double check the fuel in the tanks was Ok. We both climbed in and got ourselves comfortable, and Dave outlined what he wanted to cover on the flight. I mentioned that I needed 3 landings in order to regain passenger currency (in actual fact I think I probably only really needed 2, but there was no harm in doing all 3).

I had some trouble starting the engine, and Dave helped me get it going, having a few difficulties himself. After making the initial call to Kemble I found they were helpfully using 08 today, meaning only a short taxy was required to the North apron for power checks. As I normally do, I leaned the engine back for the taxy to prevent plug fouling, but obviously was a bit too agressive as the engine spluttered and died as I reduced power to idle to turn on to the North apron. This led to a short period of embarrassment as we coasted to a halt and had to notify the FISO that we had a small problem, while Dave attempted to restart the engine.

Dave said that generally there was no real reason to lean on the ground in their aircraft, so that’s something I’ll need to bear in mind for future flights. On the North apron we ran the engine at slightly higher than normal RPM to try to warm the oil up, before carrying out the power checks and making ready to depart.

We were cleared straight on to the runway, and after a short backtrack I applied full power and began the takeoff roll. My first takeoff in some 10 weeks was relatively routine, and we headed South out of the circuit, climbing up to 2000 feet initially.

Once clear to the South and at an appropriate height, I carried out a standard HASELL check (Height, Airframe, Safety / Security, Engine, Lookout, Location) before beginning the stalling portion of the flight. I carried out a clean stall initially, which went Ok, but Dave commented that I could perhaps be a little more aggressive when pulling back to induce a more pronounced stall.

We then moved on to the stall in the Base to Final configuration (two stages of flap, low power and descending). My first attempt at this wasn’t great, as I tried to pick up the descending wing with aileron before having reached flying speed again. This is a definite no-no, as trying to pick up a stalled wing can actually induced a more pronounced stall of that wing, potentially leading to the aircraft entering a spin.

We had another go, and this one was much better. Next we tried a stall in the Final Approach configuration (similar to the previous one but with wings level and full flap) and again I made a small mistake in not removing the third stage of flap (which just adds drag) immediately after reducing back pressure and applying full power. Dave also picked me up on the ‘patter’ I was giving, in that I was announcing ‘full power, release back pressure’, when in actual fact these should be done in the opposite order. I think in reality I was releasing back pressure first, but I was just saying things the wrong way round.

I surprised myself by getting a little flustered at this point, and on my next attempt I raised one stage of flap before even applying full power! Dave told me to take a little time to settle myself, and demonstrated the correct procedure to me before giving me another go. It just goes to show how easy it is for relatively simple things to be forgotten after a long lay-off (and this wasn’t to be my last mistake of that nature either!).

Finally we carried out a stall that I hadn’t experienced before, one simulating an excessive rotation in the go-around configuration. Here, all you can do is get the nose down as quickly as possible to un-stall the wings, as you already have full power applied.

The last general handling manoeuvre we covered was a steep turn. Dave allowed me to choose the direction, so I opted for a turn to the left, and managed to carry out a fairly decent one. Dave reminded me to look at the attitude outside when trying to maintain level, and when I did this it did make a difference to my ability to maintain a constant height.

Once back at altitude, Dave set up a simulated problem, notifying me that my engine was running very rough, and wouldn’t develop any more than about 1600 RPM. My initial reaction was to look for Kemble, but this seemed a little far away, so I chose to head for Oaksey Park instead. On the way there, Dave mentioned that even though the engine was still running, I should still trim for best glide speed, as this would minimise the height loss (a good thing to remember should something similar ever happen).

I set us up nicely on an approach into Oaksey, and Dave announced he was happy and that I could climb away. We climbed back up to altitude, and Dave asked me to carry out a practice PAN call, simulating getting lost, and asking for our position and a steer back to Kemble. For some reason I had a complete mental blank as to what the emergency frequency is, and dialled in 123.4 by mistake. Dave stopped me transmitting on this frequency before I made an idiot of myself on the radio, and asked me what the correct emergency frequency was. my mental block continued, and I was unable to remember the frequency!

Dave gave me a deserved ticking off, and told me the correct frequency (121.5, of course!). I dialled this in, and listened out to ensure that no real emergency was in progress. Once it was obvious that the frequency was clear, I made my initial call of “London Centre, G-ELUE request practice PAN’. I received the response to proceed, and made the full practice PAN call, asking for a position fix and steer to Kemble as requested. There was a period of silence as the Controller triangulated our position based on our transmission, and came back with a position that was perhaps a mile or two out, which isn’t bad considering they weren’t using radar to derive it!

We headed back to Kemble, and I carried out an Overhead Join into the circuit. We were sharing the circuit with a solo student, but we had good spacing between us meaning that there was little chance of any conflict. The first circuit went well, and the landing was very smooth, leading to some praise from Dave. I made the mistake of telling him that it was a little longer than I would have liked, so he told me to make the next one a performance landing, trying to stop by the first windsock!

As we went round the circuit he gave me some tips on how to achieve this, telling me that the distance to the windsock from the threshold was something in the order of 150 to 200 metres! Again the circuit went well, and I set us up for a low and slow approach, with the intention to touch down right at the threshold, and immediately brake down to a walking pace before going around.

Again the touch down was fairly gentle, and with some relatively firm braking I brought us down to walking space well before the windsock, somewhat to my surprise! Dave announce he was happy, and as we accelerated away he took control of the radio, negotiating with the FISO for us to carry out a bad weather circuit to land, simulating arriving back with a low 500 foot cloudbase.

I’d carried out this manouevre on my IMC rating renewal flight with Roger, so was happy with the procedure and confident I could carry it out. The FISO pointed out the position of the student to us, and we hoped to be able to keep inside him on our tight, low and slow circuit. As we neared the end of the downwind leg, it became clear that if we did cut inside we were likely to affect him if we turned inside, so we decided to continue further on Downwind than would be normal for a bad weather circuit, before following him down Final.

The last landing of the flight was also very smooth, and we cleared the runway and taxyed back to park in front of Freedom’s hangar, seeing Charlie waiting patiently for us. After closing down, Dave gave me a good debrief on my errors during the flight, particularly about forgetting the emergency frequency! I resolved to ensure this was always written down somewhere on my kneeboard for future flights, and also to make sure it was committed to memory correctly!

Track flown

Track flown

Flight profile

Flight profile

In general, a fairly good flight. There’d had been a few things I had to be picked up on and reminded of, but at lease I was now current again, and ready to get 2015’s flying started for real!

Total flight time today: 0:55
Total flight time to date: 258:15

2014 Summary

December 31, 2014

A summary of my flying during 2014:

My 2014 goals were (summarised):

  • Make at least one trip to the Continent
  • Visit Caernarfon or another airfield for an extended stay
  • Continue to take part in more ‘sociable’ flying like Club fly-outs or visits to fly-ins
  • Make more use of the IMC rating to retain currency, both by carrying out flights that involve some portion in actual IMC, and carrying both practice and real approaches into airfields that provide instrument approaches (including renewal of the IMC rating)
  • Get some experience of spinning at least, with perhaps some aeros as well
  • Attempt to fly more often wherever possible
  • Get Luned to do some landing practice, and also a flight or two in the Arrow
  • Consider the addition of a Night Qualification to my license.

Yet again I’ve completed a flying year without a visit to the Continent, although I did travel as a passenger to Guernsey with David. The year as a whole was quite frustrating, with a number of relatively long periods of no flying at all, interspersed with some quite concentrated bursts of activity. This was mostly driven by personal circumstances rather than a lack of funds or desire to fly.

Also regrettably I made very little use of the IMC rating, with the exception of a Currency check with Roger in the Arrow that was almost all flown in simulated IMC, and the renewal of my IMC rating later in the year.

Although my total flying hours were slightly up on last year, I still haven’t been able to fly as much as I’d like. I’d hoped to reach 200 hours P1 this year (although that was quite an optimistic goal) as this would allow me to be the pilot on ‘charity’ flights. I’d wanted to donate such a flight to Catrin’s school, but need to try to reach this goal first.

The flight early in the year to the newly-reopened Llandow and Caernarfon with David was very enjoyable, but perhaps the most fulfilling aspect of my flying this year was gaining the tailwheel signoff in Freedom’s very nice Citabria, culminating in a very enjoyable multi-leg trip with David. I finally gained some limited experience of aeros too, which I may try to expand on next year. My most recent flight with Charlie to Dunkeswell was also a highlight, adding another flying companion for future flights.

Kemble’s lights are now fully installed, and as of early December 2014 still awaiting final approval. Next year could well be the year where a Night Rating would actually be useful for me, so I’ll definitely add that to my list of goals for the year.

Goals for next year (sadly, very similar to this year’s goals!)

  • Make at least one trip to the Continent
  • Visit Caernarfon or another airfield for an extended stay
  • Continue to take part in more ‘sociable’ flying like Club fly-outs or visits to fly-ins
  • Make more use of the IMC rating to retain currency, both by carrying out flights that involve some portion in actual IMC, and carrying out both practice and real approaches into airfields that provide instrument approaches
  • Consider the addition of a Night Qualification to my license.
  • Reach the 200 hours P1 mark to enable me to carry out ‘Charity Flights’, initially for the PTA at Catrin’s school.

Total flying hours: 257:20
Hours P1: 178: 40

Back to Dunkeswell with a new flying buddy

November 30, 2014

Charlie had commented on an earlier blog entry, and we’d struck up an email conversation as a result of it. He was training at Gloucester at the time, but was considering switching to a Club at Kemble. He ended up joining Lyneham Flying Club and completing his PPL with them. He contacted me again just after gaining his licence, and we tried to arrange a flight together. The first attempt had to be cancelled due to bad weather, but we decided to have another go this weekend, taking one of Freedom’s Warriors.

We planned a trip to Dunkeswell, with Charlie flying the outbound leg, and me flying the return. Charlie was keen to fly a transit of Bristol’s Controlled Airspace at my suggestion, and I agreed to do this on my leg so he could get a feel for what was involved.

Leading up to the flight, Saturday’s weather forecast appeared better, and typically Saturday’s weather was almost perfect for flying (but we had booked the aircraft for the Sunday!). The forecasts for Sunday were a little inconsistent, making it difficult to make the final go / no-go decision. The forecasts on Sunday morning weren’t particularly optimistic, but we decided to head to Kemble and see how things looked. On my drive up there I was passing through patches of fog (including one which held a particularly optimistic idiot overtaking in the opposite direction, which led to a slight ‘brown trousers’ moment before I’d even reached the airfield). However, while driving I could see that when the fog cleared the sky looked perfect for flying.

We both arrived at Kemble in good time, and helped get the aircraft out of the hangars. Another pilot was preparing to take a group of young children flying, and their excitement and enthusiasm was good to see. The fog seemed to be clearing nicely, and we decided to leave as early as possible in order to try to avoid some of the forecast poorer weather in the afternoon.

Kemble were on 26 at the time, and the FISO directed us to the North Apron for power checks. Once complete, we were then given clearance to backtrack in readiness for departure. I carried out the pre-takeoff checks for Charlie as we backtracked, and once at the far end we lined up and took off. The takeoff was straightforward, and Charlie turned Crosswind and then Downwind to climb out from the airfield before setting course for the first turning point at Lyneham. Personally I’d have just turned Crosswind and just left the circuit, but I didn’t mention this to Charlie at the time as I didn’t want to seem too nit-picky on our first flight together!

Departing Kemble

Departing Kemble

Climbing on the Downwind leg brought us quite close to a bank of cloud, so Charlie turned to the South for Lyneham and continued the climb up to 2000 feet. We turned towards the South West just before reaching Lyneham as the cloud to the South was almost solid. We set course appropriately, maintaining just below 2000 feet in order to ensure we remained clear of Bristol’s airspace on our way to the Radstock VRP.

Conditions on this leg were very strange, with almost solid cloud off to our left, and clear blue skies (aside from some fog patches on the lower ground) off to our right! We were both initially a little concerned at the thick cloud, but it soon became clear that it was well to the left of our planned track, and the forecast had it moving even further to the South East throughout the day.

Thick cloud to our left

Thick cloud to our left

Almost clear skies to our right

Almost clear skies to our right

We spotted the Wells mast ahead of us, looking worryingly large at our current height (the mast rises to to an altitude of around 2000 feet, putting it at the same height as us!). However, once we were clear of the 2000 feet portion of Bristol’s airspace, we climbed to 4000 feet for the remainder of the flight to Dunkeswell.

We passed by the Wells mast at a much more acceptable altitude, and spotted a number of commercial aircraft on their approach into Bristol off to our right. As we turned South for Dunkeswell the visibility into sun was fairly poor. We’d talked on this leg about the join at Dunkeswell, Charlie correctly recalling that when parachuting was in operation Overhead Joins were not allowed. We signed off with Bristol (getting a helpful warning from the Controller that parachuting was taking place) and contacted Dunkeswell.

Passing the Wells mast

Passing the Wells mast

I had pre-warned Charlie to expect a true ‘Radio’ service from the Air Ground operator on duty, and was pleased that my advice turned out to be correct. We received a response to our initial call giving us the runway in use, and then heard nothing from them from then on. It was initially quite difficult to spot Dunkeswell itself as we approached (I thought I’d spotted it but that soon turned out to be just a road!). Charlie’s turn towards my incorrect target put the runway into a much more recognisable aspect, and made it easy to spot the airfield and set up for a Downwind join for runway 04.

A glider was taking off from North Hill off in the distance as we turned Base, and I kept an eye on it for Charlie to ensure it wasn’t going to be a factor. Charlie flew a nice approach and landing, touching down very gently on Dunkeswell’s long runway. We received no response from the A/G operator to our request for parking instructions, and I initially suggested we just park on the grass beyond the skydiving aircraft we could see. As we got close though we saw that there were no other aircraft on the grass, so parked up on the paved area beyond the end of runway 04, behind another light aircraft.

Little and Large!

Little and Large!

We headed in to settle the landing fee (a very reasonable £10), then went in to order a couple of sausage sandwiches for lunch, Charlie taking advantage of not having to fly back and enjoying a cool beer. The weather here was still glorious so we sat outside, watching both skydiving aircraft make regular flights as we enjoyed our lunch and talked about our flight down.

A different class of airspace user!

A different class of airspace user!

Mindful of the deteriorating weather forecast (and in an attempt to earn some brownie points by getting home in time for a birthday party Catrin was attending later!) we returned to the aircraft soon after finishing. I performed a quick walk around, checking fuel and oil levels (and Charlie’s fuel management on the way down!) before we got settled back in the cockpit.

The engine started easily, and after confirming runway in use and pressure setting we taxyed to the hold, setting up the avionics along the way. Power checks were all completed normally, and we backtracked to the threshold of 04 before commencing the takeoff run. The wind had picked up a bit since we arrived, but the takeoff was normal and I set course for Bridgewater (almost a straight out departure). After signing off with Dunkeswell we switched to Bristol, and listened in for a little while as we approached Taunton.

Departing Dunkeswell

Departing Dunkeswell

Announcing myself on frequency, I made the request for a Basic Service and Zone Transit, outlining my requested route through the Zone. As is fairly normal, I was initially told to ‘remain outside Controlled Airspace’, and given the QNH and assigned a squawk. We continued on towards Bristol, discussing at what point I would call them back for an update on the request for Transit. As we got within 5 or 6 miles, the Controller again reiterated the ‘remain outside’ instruction, before advising us to contact the Tower for the Transit, giving us the appropriate frequency (which I initially read back incorrectly).

‘Contact’ has a specific meaning on the radio, indicating that the next Controller will be expecting our call and have all of our details. As such, the initial call was just ‘Bristol Tower, G-EHAZ with you’. The Controller first cleared us to a point 1nm South of the runway, not above 3000 feet, to expect a crossing to the East of the field. We continued into Controlled airspace, getting some good photos of the Cheddar Reservoir and the airport itself as we passed.

Cheddar Reservoir

Cheddar Reservoir

I was a little unsure whether the next clearance I heard (clearing us to pass 1nm East of the airport) was for us, so asked the Controller to ‘say again’, before reading back his instructions and adjusting our course. We spotted an Easyjet flight departing to the West, and a number of others taxying on the ground. It was slightly unfortunate that they weren’t using the Easterly runway today, allowing us to pass to the West and get some better photos from Charlie’s side of the aircraft.

Passing Bristol Airport

Passing Bristol Airport

I reported passing abeam the airfield, and was passed back to the Radar frequency for the remainder of the Transit. We passed just to the West of Bristol itself, getting some photos of the Clifton Suspension Bridge as we passed. As we neared the edge of the Zone, Filton became easy to spot, and I set course for it while discussing its closure with Charlie. At least I’d managed to land there in the months leading up to its ultimate closure.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

Clifton Suspension Bridge

The Concorde is still visible on the ground, and the airfield makes an obvious navigation point in the area. It will be a shame for it all to be replaced with housing at some point in the future. Recently there have been a number of airfield closures (Filton, Panshanger, Blackpool) that seem to suggest a downward trend. We can only hope that the re-opening of Llanbedr at least gives some cause for optimism.

Filton (disused) airfield

Filton (disused) airfield

From Filton we set course direct for Kemble, and the visibility was such that it was easy to spot even at this distance. With 15nm to run we requested a frequency change from the Bristol Controller, thanking him for his service as we changed frequency. Kemble were relatively quiet, with one aircraft currently operating in the circuit. We received the appropriate runway details (they were now operating on 08 with a right-hand circuit), and I set us up for an Overhead Join, descending to 2000 feet as we approached. Charlie spotted an aircraft performing some aeros off to our right, before it passed down our left hand side to continue with a further loop some distance behind us.

As we approached Kemble, another couple of aircraft announced that they were approaching from the same direction as us, and elected to do a Right Base join. The FISO clarified our proposed join with us, and asked us to report on the dead side. We were unable to do this due to the frequency becoming busy with traffic on the ground, and ended up reporting Crosswind. The FISO gave us traffic information on the aircraft that were joining, who had recently reported Right Base. Initially we were unable to spot them on our Downwind leg, and on telling the FISO ‘traffic not sighted’ he responded with a ‘no, me either’! The other joining aircraft did announce that he was visual with us however.

Joining Overhead at Kemble

Joining Overhead at Kemble

Charlie spotted them some distance ahead of us, on a much wider track than I was expecting. I took the quick decision to turn Base at the normal point, informing the FISO that I now had the traffic in sight, and that we were turning inside them. He reported this to the other aircraft as ‘Traffic already established in the circuit turning tight Right Base inside you’ (suggesting to me that he felt I had right of way). The response from the other pilot seemed to suggest that he wasn’t exactly pleased about this, but I actually thought I was on the correct Base leg position (and the GPS track seems to suggest this, if I’d gone much further Downwind I’d have ended up outside the ATZ).

I did my best to keep my speed up on the Approach to enable the aircraft behind to continue with his landing. As we approached the runway and I began the roundout, I was distracted slightly by a bird flying at a similar height to us crossing our path, but it soon cleared out of the way. This combined with my attempt to allow the pilot behind to land led to a slightly rushed landing. The stall warner was sounding nicely as we touched down, but the sink rate was a little higher than I would perhaps have liked, leading to a firm touchdown.

Trying to clear the runway as quickly as possible, I tried to cut the corner onto the Bravo taxyway. The FISO quickly spotted this, and asked me to follow the leadout line, otherwise I’d end up on an area of the hard standing that now contained part of the new runway lighting system! I followed the line, and we cleared the runway just in time to see the other aircraft flying over the threshold at low level, giving him just enough time to land behind us without having to go around.

We taxyed back to the Woodside Apron, Dave pointing from the hangar to indicate that we should park up on the grass opposite. We shut down and tidied up the aircraft, before heading in to settle up the paperwork and payment.

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Outbound profile

Outbound profile

Return profile

Return profile

All in all, this flight really couldn’t have gone much better. Despite the slightly worrying weather forecasts in the morning, the actual weather had turned out to be near perfect once the early morning fog had lifted. Charlie had done a great job on what was his first landaway on his own licence, and being granted the Transit straight over the top of Bristol Airport was just the icing on the cake. Hopefully Charlie and I will be able to make many similar flights in the future. And to cap it all, I was back home in Swindon (after a round trip to Devon) by 3pm!

Total flight time today: 1:05
Total flight time to date: 257:20


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