2015 Summary

December 31, 2015

A summary of my flying during 2015:

My 2015 goals were:

  • 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.

Regrettably, flying to the Continent still eludes me, although I did get to the point of fully planning and preparing for a flight to France with David, only to be foiled by a stomach bug of some sort the night before the flight. Using an aircraft as a means of transport for an extended stay somewhere also didn’t happen, although I did at least act as ‘Dad’s Taxi‘ service to take Catrin up to Caernarfon to visit family earlier in the year.

I also flew over 2 hours in real IMC this year, most notably on flights to Haverfordwest and Land’s End, where I elected to deliberately fly in cloud in order to brush up on the rusty IMC skills. I only completed a single approach during the year though, which is a little disappointing.

Kemble is now equipped for night flying, although only stays open late one night per week (currently Thursday). As such, the Night Qualification would still really just be a ‘box ticking’ exercise, rather than a rating that could actually be useful to me.

The Charity flight I carried out actually took me over the 200 hours P1 mark, which meant I would then be able to offer further flights without having to gain explicit permission from the CAA. However, not long after completing this flight, the CAA changed the guidelines so as to remove this requirement!

Particularly enjoyable were the multi leg flights I flew with Kev, David, Charlie and David again. These four days of flying amounted to a total of 12:35, just about half of the total number of hours flown in the whole year! It would be great to be able to make more flights such as these in the coming year, taking advantage of having another pilot alongside to either share the flying or just act as a knowledgeable passenger.

The main feature of this year was a real lack of consistent flying. Although this year’s hours flown was only a couple lower than last year, I needed to fly 5 Club currency checks (RAF Lyneham Flying Club’s rules require me to fly at least every 60 days, otherwise a check flight is needed). As such this meant that I had a number of short bursts of flying activity, each punctuated by fairly long breaks inbetween. There was no single reason for this, merely a combination of circumstances that prevented me from flying as often as I would have liked. The year has ended in much the same way, meaning that my first flight of 2016 is likely to be yet another currency check. Hopefully I can make this the only one I require next 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
  • 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
  • Fly more consistently and regularly, reducing the need for frequent currency checks

Total flying hours: 281:40
Hours P1: 206:50

Tech aircraft, a local and an enthusiastic passenger

November 22, 2015

After getting current again last weekend, I wanted to try to round off the year with a decent bit of flying. Catrin had an invite to a birthday party on Sunday, so I took the opportunity to try and plan another flight. The Arrow was already booked, so I booked one of the Club’s Warriors (G-BPAF) for the day, but this booking was later switched to G-EDGI (another Warrior) as the first aircraft was going in for maintenance.

I asked a couple of other pilots if they would like to join me as passengers on the flight, but both were already busy that weekend. While trying to arrange another charity flight in aid of Catrin’s school, I was approached by one of the school staff to see if we could arrange a flight with her son, who has ambitions to become a professional pilot. Naturally I was happy to oblige, so planned a flight to Wolverhampton Halfpenny Green for lunch.

Approaching the weekend, the weather looked like it should be flyable so I was optimistic that we would be able to make the flight. As usual I completed the majority of the planning in the days leading up to the flight. The weather forecasts on the day still seemed favourable, so I confirmed with Vanessa and Josh that we were good to go after completing the final planning, and set off to collect them on my way to Kemble.

Mike (the Club’s Ops Manager) had sent me a text warning me of a potential issue with the PTT switch on the PIC side of the aircraft, warning me that I may need to plug in to the passenger side in order to get reliable communications. As a result of this I planned that any front seat passenger would connect their headset to the passenger side connectors in the rear of the aircraft, with the rear passenger using the other connectors in the rear. That way I would be able to switch from the PIC side to the passenger side without too much fuss should it be necessary.

On arrival at Kemble we headed straight to the aircraft, carrying out the ‘A’ check and filling it with fuel. Everything appeared to be Ok, so we headed in to the Club to complete the pre-flight paperwork and collect headsets, before walking back to the aircraft. I’d originally planned for Josh and Vanessa both to sit in the rear of the aircraft for the outbound journey, with Josh joining me in the front for the return flight. I discussed this with Vanessa though, and she seemed confident that Josh would be fine up front with me.

As such, we got Vanessa settled into the rear seat, before Josh and I joined her in the aircraft. I set about preparing for the flight, and after some brief issues with the intercom (we couldn’t hear Josh because we hadn’t actually plugged his headset into the rear connectors!) I called for start approval and set about starting the aircraft. The engine seemed a little reluctant to turn over, but I put this down to the cold temperatures of the morning. The engine caught and fired, and ran for a couple of seconds before stopping. Sadly, that was the last life we got out of it. I managed to turn it over a couple of times more, before the battery all but gave out.

Having informed the Tower of our plans, I now needed to let them know that we would no longer be flying. Also, after a brief discussion with Vanessa and Josh, we decided that we would wait for the Arrow to return (it was heading out for a local at the same time as we were trying to get the Warrior started). I tried to contact the Tower to inform them of our change of plans, and see if they could find out how long the Arrow pilot was planning to be. All I could hear was static however, presumably because the battery charge had got too low to even drive the radios successfully.

We all got out of the aircraft, and put the cover back on. I called the Tower as we headed to the Club to ensure they were aware of our predicament, and also to learn that the Arrow pilot was planning to be away for around 2 hours. We decided to head to AV8 and grab some lunch, and keep an eye out for the Arrow returning as well as phoning Halfpenny Green to let them know we would no longer be coming. While in AV8 I planned a flight to Wellesbourne (barely 30 minutes each way in the Arrow) and we chatted over some of the ins and outs of learning to fly.

Just as our lunch arrived, I spotted the Arrow taxying past the front of AV8 on its way back to the Club parking area. Fearful that the Arrow also had some technical issue, I tried to contact the pilot to discover the reason for his early return. After a couple of attempts I managed to raise him, to find that he’d returned because he wasn’t happy with the cloud base (he hadn’t managed to climb above about 1700 feet on his way towards the Severn Bridges). The cloud base did seem to be lower than forecast, but while we finished our lunch we did see other aircraft arriving and departing. I spotted an arriving aircraft parking in front of AV8, so wandered out to get some first-hand information regarding the current conditions.

I chatted to the three occupants who had just flown in from Gloucester. They confirmed that the cloud base was indeed around 1500-2000 feet, but that conditions otherwise were good, with clear visibility and little wind. I decided that we would at least attempt a local flight, with the option of returning straight to Kemble should conditions not be suitable.

We headed back to the Club and then out to the Arrow. We all boarded as before, spending a little time putting some coats under Josh, as his seating position seemed noticeably lower in the Arrow than the Warrior! He had sensibly noticed that he couldn’t see properly over the coaming, and realised that this would make it difficult to have his turn at the controls later on. Fortunately the Arrow didn’t let us down and started first time. Kemble had recently switched from runway 26 to 08, and our initial taxy instructions were to one of the holds near the threshold of 26. I thought this might be in preparation for a backtrack, so asked the FISO if he wanted us to complete power checks before this point. He informed me that the plan was for us to cross the runway and use the Charlie taxyway to the South of the runway, carrying out our power checks there before taking to runway 08.

Kemble had got busy again, but a brief lull allowed us to cross the runway and taxy down towards the threshold of 08. The power checks were all normal, and we headed towards the hold and reported ready as one aircraft landed and another approached on Final. The FISO was briefly busy resolving a minor traffic jam on the taxyway to the North of the runway, and as a result I think he’d forgotten that we were waiting. After a brief reminder (‘G-AZWS, ready at Charlie Two’), the FISO acknowledge that he had indeed forgotten us, and cleared us onto the runway.

After a quick check to make sure Vanessa and Josh were both ready, I applied power and accelerated along the runway. Takeoff performance wasn’t as brisk as last weekend due to the calm wind, but this meant that the takeoff was easy without requiring too much correction for the wind. We passed some 500 feet below another aircraft on his Crosswind join, and with the gear retracted we climbed away, departing to the South East towards Swindon. The cloud base allowed us to climb to 2000 feet on the way, and I pointed out Cotswold Water Park on the way.

Departing Kemble

Departing Kemble

As we approached Swindon I tried to orient myself, first spotting the Link Centre, then the Renault Building. From there it was easy to find Catrin’s school and the general area where Josh and Vanessa live. After a quick orbit to allow them to get some photos, we headed South towards Wrougton. A quick re-check of the cloud suggested that there should be no problem heading out towards the Severn Bridges, so I set course to the West before handing control to Josh.

Catrin's school, and Josh and Vanessa's house

Catrin’s school, and Josh and Vanessa’s house

He’s an avid Flight Sim pilot, so I explained to him that when flying light aircraft VFR, the primary focus is out of the cockpit, using the real horizon in front of us to maintain straight and level flight, rather than relying on the instruments to do so. We proceeded West for a little while, before I decided to overfly RAF Lyneham (an easy landmark to use for Navigation) so I had Josh make a left turn to head to Lyneham, aiming to pass slightly to the left of it to give him and his mum a good view of it as we passed. We heard Kemble assigning an aircraft a squawk that I would normally associate with Brize, and not long after the FISO came back with a confirmation of position and a steer to Kemble. I can only assume the other pilot was lost, and Kemble were doing their best to use information gleaned from Brize to allow him to fix his position.

Explaining how to judge 'straight and level'

Explaining how to judge ‘straight and level’

We passed quite close to a cloud above us, so I briefly took control back to descend slightly and put a bit more distance between us and the cloud. Josh then took control again, and once we were past Lyneham we continued West, passing North of Castle Combe and taking care to remain clear of Bristol’s airspace. I called Bristol for a Basic Service, and despite being quite quiet they didn’t assign us our own squawk. We did find out that another aircraft was heading in the same general direction to us, so we took care to keep a good lookout for him.

Keeping clear of the clouds

Keeping clear of the clouds

Vanessa spotted a helicopter passing some 500 feet or so below us, and as we continued West I decided to try and take us past Filton to see if we could spot the Concorde on the ground there. I gave Josh a rough heading to steer, setting the heading bug on the DI to help him, but also getting him to pick out a distant landmark as his aiming point. As we approached Filton I had Josh descend us down to around 1500 feet, and the Bristol Controller at Bristol informed us that another aircraft was reporting in the vicinity of the Severn Bridges, so I updated him on our position. We continued past Filton, and I had Josh aim to the left of the Second Severn Crossing to cross briefly into Wales. Josh climbed us back up to 2000 feet as I managed the prop and power settings, and we continued towards the Severn.

As we crossed the Severn, I again reported our position to Bristol, and once on the Welsh side Josh carried out a turn to have us fly over the Old Severn Bridge before crossing back into England. Josh’s angle of bank was a little exhuberant (reaching 45 degrees or so) so I had him reduce the angle slightly, which also seemed to please Vanessa in the back as she was concerned we were heading for some aerobatics!

Crossing the Severn

Crossing the Severn

Using a combination of the 430 and SkyDemon, I had Josh steer a heading that would take us back to Kemble. As we approached within 20nm of Kemble, I signed off with Bristol, and tuned to the Kemble frequency to plan our rejoin. They were still operating on 08, so I had Josh turn to put Kemble on our left as we approached, and set QFE to get us to 2000 feet AAL for the Overhead Join. Josh showed his good knowledge of aircraft systems by asking if he could adjust his altimeter as it was reading different to mine! I had forgotten that the Arrow has a second altimeter on the passenger side, so Josh adjusted it to QFE so that it matched mine, and remained at 2000 feet as we approached.

I took control back from Josh as we approached the ATZ, meaning that he had flown for around 30 minutes of the flight. Kemble was quite busy with other traffic, two in the circuit, one joining and a third crossing to the West of the airfield from South to North. I warned Vanessa and Josh that they may hear an alarm as we descended (due to the gear being retracted) and as we turned Crosswind we slotted in nicely behind an aircraft that had just taken off. We followed him on quite a wide Downwind leg to a late Base turn. Our spacing was good, and he had already taken off after his touch and go as we turned Final.

The frequency was a little busy now, and it took me a couple of goes to get my ‘Final’ call in. The relatively calm conditions made for an easy approach, and I did my best to bring us in for a nice landing. I kept the power on as we crossed the threshold to enable us to land long and avoid a slow taxy down the entire length of the runway. Before reaching the distinct up-slope on the runway, I established the correct attitude and started to reduce power, leading to a very gentle touchdown.

My request to taxy to the Club’s parking area stepped on the FISO’s instructions telling me to do exactly that, but after a second attempt we were cleared to vacate at Alpha and taxy back. I considered giving Josh the chance to have a try at taxying, but his seat seemed to be a bit far back for him to comfortably reach the rudder pedals, so I decided not to in the end. I parked us in front of the bowser to refuel, before shutting down the aircraft. Vanessa and Josh helped me refuel and push the aircraft back into parking, then we all put the cover back on and headed back to the Club (after I went back to the aircraft to make a note of the tacho reading!).

Happy passengers back safely to earth.

Happy passengers back safely to earth.

The temperature seemed to have dropped, particularly noticeable when recovering the aircraft, so after settling the paperwork and paying for the flight, we headed back to AV8 for a cuppa (peppermint tea for me and a couple of very nice looking hot chocolates for the others) to try and warm up. We chatted about the day’s events, and they both seemed to have enjoyed the flight, despite the obvious disappointment of having to cancel our original plans.

Track flown

Track flown

Flight profile

Flight profile

Normally I would try to avoid local flights, but given the technical issue and less than idea weather, on this occasion it was good to at least be able to get up in the air. Josh proved to be a knowledgeable passenger, and more than capable on the controls, while Vanessa seemed comfortable in the back despite her high school aged son doing most of the flying! Hopefully Josh will retain his enthusiasm for flying, and can one day realise his aim of becoming a Commercial pilot.

Total flight time today: 1:05
Total flight time to date: 281:40

 

Currency check (again!)

November 15, 2015

As what has definitely been my strangest year of flying continued, I again found myself getting close to running out of my 60 day currency. I’d sadly had to abandon plans to finally cross the Channel with David due a dodgy stomach, and also had to cancel a planned ‘solo’ flight with Catrin due to weather. So yet again I was faced with another currency check (my 5th of the year!) in order to get back into flying.

After completing the majority of his CRI course the week before, Kev kindly agreed to fly with me at the weekend. We hatched a plan in discussions with David to fly somewhere for lunch, meeting up with David there as he flew from Gloucester in his shareoplane. Again, the weather wasn’t playing ball, and a poor forecast meant that this plan simply wasn’t feasible. About the best we could hope to do was to fly some circuits in the Arrow in order to get my currency reset.

The weather on the day was far from ideal, with relatively low cloud forecast and, more worryingly, strong gusting winds for the majority of the day. We eventually opted to meet up at Kemble, having a chat over lunch in AV8 while we waited and hoped for an improvement in the wind conditions. I started glumly at Kemble’s unofficial weather site, as it showed winds as high as 30 knots, gusting to 45 knots at times!

The wind did show signs of abating early in the afternoon, with wind speeds as ‘low’ as 20 knots starting to be displayed on a regular basis. We paid a quick visit to Kemble’s Ops department for a chat with them, before finally deciding to head back to the Club and prepare for a session of circuits. One minor plus point was that despite the winds being strong, they were almost directly aligned with the runway.

We uncovered the aircraft and carried out the ‘A’ check, before heading into the Club to complete the necessary paperwork. Once all our gear was in the aircraft and we were settled, I called for start an a ‘wind check’ again receiving an encouraging response from the FISO. The engine was a little reluctant to start, Kev advising me to give it an extra ‘prime’ using the fuel pump doing the trick. We taxyed to the D site apron for our power checks, positioning the aircraft into wind to carry them out. Kev suggested a slight modification to the manner in which I exercise the prop, checking it at a position in the middle of the range to ensure the governor was working correctly.

The strength of the wind was highlighted when carrying out the pre-departure ‘controls full and free movement’ check with the aircraft positioned directly into wind, as the attitude of the aircraft changed noticeably when moving the elevators. We announced ready and taxyed towards the hold at Alpha 3, helpfully hearing G-VICC announce its Downwind leg. I took my time taxying, as I felt that watching G-VICC’s approach and landing would give us useful information as to the conditions in the air and close to the ground.

G-VICC’s landing looked relatively stable, without too much evidence of low level turbulence during the latter part of the landing. This gave me a little more confidence that the flight could be carried out safely despite the fairly challenging conditions. Once G-VICC passed us the FISO cleared us onto the runway, and we were soon accelerating down the runway on a much shorter than normal take off roll!

As we rotated and became airborne, there didn’t appear to be too much difficulty in maintaining stable flight, and as we climbed away I retracted the gear and double checked that the flaps were retracted. I turned Crosswind and took care to apply a suitable correction for the strong wind off to our right, before becoming established on Downwind and carrying out the pre-landing checks. The strong tailwind meant the Downwind leg was over much quicker than normal, and I set us up for the descent on Base leg.

I turned Base a little late, allowing the wind to push us a little further towards Kemble than normal. I made my ‘Final’ call in the usual place, doing my best to maintain the centreline. I had already announced to Kev that I was planning to land slightly long to avoid the turbulence normally encountered when passing the hangars off to the right near the start of the runway. Kev had me nominate a new aiming point (second of the shorter white markings on the runway) and I did my best to land as close as possible to it.

The wind conditions became a little more difficult in the latter part of the approach, but I was pleasantly surprised at the fact that they weren’t causing me too many problems. The roundout and holdoff went pretty well, and I brought us in for a very gentle landing, much better than I had expected given my lack of currency and the conditions. Once under control on the runway I applied full power again, and soon rotated and took the air, this time deciding to leave the gear down to reduce the workload on the Downwind leg.

Carrying out the pre-landing checks again, I immediately spotted that the gear lights weren’t illuminated. Prior experience of the ‘gotchas’ Kev likes to throw in, I immediately checked the panel lights, finding that they had ‘mysteriously’ turned themselves on (a side effect of which is to dim the landing gear indicators such that they appear to be unlit in daylight). I clicked the panel lights off, ensuring that I then received a correct ‘three greens’ indication, before continuing with the checks.

I flew a much better profile on Base leg this time, and again had the aircraft under control on Final. There were initially some problems communicating with the Tower, as I transmitted a number of times and received no response. I double checked all the settings on the 430 and audio panel, including breaking the squelch to ensure that the volume hadn’t got turned down. The 430 was correctly indicating that it was transmitting as I keyed the push to talk, but we were receiving no response. Kev suggested I try the other box, and switching to the second radio re-established communications.

I allowed the speed to decay a little further than before during the roundout, causing the stall warner to sound as I was holding off the runway. Normally this would signify good speed control during this phase, but in the strong and potentially gusting wind conditions it’s usually a good idea to use a little extra airspeed on the approach to allow for a sudden change in the wind.

I corrected nicely though, adding some power and leaving it on during the final portion of the landing, again bringing us in for a nice gentle touchdown. On climbout Kev suggested that I try the first radio again on Downwind, and this time all seemed to work correctly. The third circuit was flown with little to report, and culminated in yet another smooth landing. I negotiated with the Tower to enable the next circuit to be a ‘bad weather’ circuit, and continued the approach.

A ‘bad weather’ circuit simulates arriving in poor conditions, perhaps with a low cloudbase and poor visibility. The idea is to keep visual contact with the runway at all times, flying lower than normal and closer to the runway in order to ensure this. This is achieved by making a single constant turn from the runway heading to the close in Downwind leg. I also dropped two stages of flap on Downwind in order to be able to slow things down on this shorter than normal leg, before commencing another constant turn from Downwind to align ourselves with the runway again.

 

For the 4th time I brought us in for another smooth landing, and as we climbed away I checked that Kev was happy, and we decided that this would be our final circuit. As we turned Base on this leg I heard an audible ‘click’, and again had difficulties reporting ‘Final’ and receiving a response from the Tower. Confident that Kev was again trying to test me, this time I simply switched to COM2 and continued the Approach. I questioned Kev to try and find out what he had done, but (probably using techniques learned on his CRI course) he said I should continue to fly the aircraft and that we would debrief on the ground.

The final landing of the day continued the trend of smooth landings, and we backtracked before taking taxyway Alpha back to the Club’s parking area at Hotel site. We refuelled the aircraft and covered it, before heading back to the Club to complete the post-flight paperwork. After a quick trip back to the aircraft to make a note of the tacho reading, I caught up with Kev and we had a chat over the flight in the Club.

Kev said that I had flown well, and I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised at how well the flight had gone despite the somewhat challenging conditions. I thought I had dealt with Kev’s little ‘gotchas’ fairly well, and he explained that the 430 actually is powered via two circuit breakers. The first powers the GPS functions and the unit’s display, while the second provides powers to the radios in the unit. That explained how the GPS seemed to be operating perfectly normally, but without the ability to actually transmit or receive.

Kev also said that he had actually been trying to trigger a Go Around (which would have been required if I had not been able to receive a suitable response to my ‘Final’ call). Something I had meant to suggest to him before the flight was that he should feel free to call for a Go Around at any time during an approach (as they are always worth practising to ensure that the procedure can be carried out without difficulty should it be needed ‘for real’). Maybe when he has his CRI rating next time we fly he’ll be more likely to throw this at me!

Track flown

Track flown

Flight profile

Flight profile

I was relieved to have been able to reset my currencies again, and hopefully in the last 6 weeks or so of the year I can make a couple more flights to round off the year in a more positive fashion. I was pleased at how well the flight had gone, particularly given the challenging conditions. Five currency checks in a single year is more than enough though, so hopefully I can avoid any more in the near future!

Total flight time today: 0:40
Total flight time to date: 280:35

 

At long last, some real flying!

September 19, 2015

For one reason and another, this year has been a really mixed one for flying. Despite a number of long breaks between flights, I was still on target to match my hours total for last year. Having finally regained all my currencies with my last two flights, I was keen to just get in an aircraft and be able to fly somewhere.

David and I had discussed the possibility of sharing a flight earlier this month, but this didn’t come to fruition, and as a result David was my first choice of company for this flight. He managed to arrange a ‘pass out’ for the day, so we spent the few days before the flight discussing options for destinations. Initially I was keen to visit Tibenham, and perhaps another airfield out towards the East of the country. However, on reflection, I decided that given my lack of recent currency, visiting Tibenham could turn out to me more challenging that I really wanted.

My next choice was to head down to Land’s End, an airfield we’d planned to visit earlier in the year, but had to change our route due to the Arrow being unavailable that day. Perranporth was pencilled in as a second destination, and in the days leading up to the flight I planned the route, and called to arrange PPR for both airfields.

Luned and Catrin were both away for the weekend, so this made it easier for me to make an early start on the Saturday morning, and I arrived at Kemble around 9am after completing the final planning and making a last minute call to Land’s End to get a feel for the weather down there. NOTAMs showed some Class D airspace being established at Kemble around 5pm local time, so after the experience with Charlie last time this was established, I was keen to be back before this came in to effect.

The weather on the drive to the airfield had shown that there were still patches of fog around, but outside of these the skies looked clear. On arrival at Kemble conditions seemed almost ideal, and the weather forecast suggested that conditions would only continue to improve during the day. David arrived shortly after me, and we headed in to the Club’s office to check the aircraft for logged defects and complete the necessary paperwork. We then headed out to the aircraft, and put some more fuel in to remove the need to refuel enroute. David had spent some time in the last week assembling a PilotAware unit, so while I carried out the ‘A’ check he set about getting this ready to try on the flight.

Our steed for the day!

Our steed for the day!

Once all checks were complete, we both climbed onboard and I prepared to start the engine. We received start clearance from the FISO (necessary because the Lyneham parking area is out of sight of the Tower) and the engine started fairly easily. Kemble were operating on runway 08 this morning, and this required a taxy along the grass to reach the Tower Apron for checks. We were initially asked to pause opposite the Tower to allow another aircraft to taxy from the runway to park in front of AV8, but he turned out to need fuel, so we were cleared to continue as he taxyed over to the pumps.

One of Freedom’s Warriors was already on the North Apron carrying out his power checks, so I was careful to allow him sufficient room to get out should he complete his checks before us. Our checks were all normal as usual, and the Warrior left the North Apron as I completed the before takeoff checklist. Once at the hold, we were cleared on to the runway without any delay, and I commenced the takeoff roll with virtually no wind to allow for. This made the takeoff easy, and once we were airborne I dabbed the brakes and retracted the gear, before climbing away to the South to set course for RAF Lyneham to start our navigation.

At around 1000 feet or so we passed through some fog, and as we continued the climb it became apparent that the fog was still evident almost all around us. Seeing the almost solid fog bank below us did give me pause to consider whether to continue the flight, but we knew that the base of the layer was above 1000 feet, so even should we have an engine failure we would still have time after breaking through the layer to select an appropriate landing site. David concurred with this (expressing pleasure that I’d at least considered the possible outcome should we have an engine failure).

Fog bank below us

Fog bank below us

We were passed information on the Freedom Warrior’s position as we continued South, which put him in the general area but well below us. We announced the we were looking, but Dave (Freedom’s CFI) responded on the radio that he had us in sight. Due to the layer of fog below us, we could no longer navigate visually, so were reliant on other means (primarily GPS backed up with the radio navigation equipment in the aircraft). We signed off with Kemble and switched to Bristol, receiving a service from them as we continued South West outside their airspace.

I had initially entered a ‘direct to’ route to Land’s End into the 430, but after we turned at Frome I amended this to insert a direct to leg to Newquay into the first part of the route. This enabled me to use the CDI coupled to the 430 to navigate, cross checking this with our two copies of SkyDemon (mine on my Nexus 7, and David’s on his iPad). David was also initially pleased with the operation of his PilotAware unit, which was showing him traffic symbols directly on the SkyDemon chart, together with an indication of their height relative to us. However, when it showed an aircraft at Bristol some 7000 feet below us (we were flying at 4500 feet!) he became a little less pleased, and this then led him to question the device’s usefulness as a traffic aid.

I was using the autopilot in ‘heading’ mode on this leg, adjusting track occasionally to keep the CDI on the 430 centred. I did try for a little while to get the autopilot to track the GPS course in Nav mode, but had no luck. I suspect the issue is related to an unlabeled switch towards the top of the instrument panel, that probably selects the source of Nav information for the autopilot when it’s in this mode. I must have a chat with Kev regarding this to see if I can work out how to use it correctly.

The layer below us continued to thin as we headed South West, and by the time we reached Taunton it had all but disappeared. Bristol arranged a handover to Exeter for us (negating the need for a long ‘pass your message’ response), but I made a bit of a mess of the initial call, passing information the new Controller didn’t need, and omitting information that he did. David brought his recently studied knowledge to good use, letting me know what information I needed to pass in the initial call (callsign, height and the service we required).

Exeter later helpfully handed us over direct to Newquay, making this possibly the most ‘joined up’ ATC experience I’d ever had while flying. On the leg to Newquay David and I discussed the route we should take from Newquay to Land’s End, as the direct route would have taken us overhead Perranporth, and they were likely to be parachuting today. I initially favoured heading South from Newquay, before turning right once clear of Perranporth. As we approached Newquay the Controller asked us to remain above 4500 feet to co-ordinate with inbound Instrument traffic. When I told him I planned to turn South he also asked us not to do this, and when I explained I was keen to avoid Perranporth, he informed us that the parachute jump was completed and all jumpers were now on the ground.

Stunning...

Stunning…

So we continued along the coast, passing to the West of Perranporth before contacting Land’s End. David and I discussed an appropriate distance to begin our descent for Land’s End, and once in contact with them we were asked to report passing the Pendeen Lighthouse VRP. We heard another aircraft being asked to join on a Right Base from there, so as we approached I did my best to find the airfield in readiness to carry out the same join. David spotted the airfield long before I did, and as we accepted the join I still had a little difficulty locating the airfield. Fortunately David steered me in the right direction, and I eventually spotted the field. Despite having new hard runways, the airfield is still quite difficult to spot from the air for some reason!

Short Final at Land's End

Short Final at Land’s End

I set us up nicely for the approach to runway 25 at Land’s End, and I brought us in for a very gentle touchdown on the somewhat undulating runway. There was some confusion initially when the Controller asked us to backtrack and take ‘first right’. We weren’t sure whether the Controller meant for us to turn onto the grass runway to our right, but after querying this she gave us more progressive instructions, telling us to turn onto the other hard runway before giving us directions to the grass parking area.

Glorious conditions

Glorious conditions

Once parked, we headed towards the terminal, having a little difficulty initially in getting someone to open the terminal door for us, it seems I didn’t press the bell hard enough! We paid the landing fee at one of the two check in desks, before heading into the cafe for lunch. The menu was relatively limited, but David chose a bacon roll, and I opted for a cheese and ham toastie. Both certainly hit the spot, and we enjoyed the view out on to the airfield watching Commercial traffic departing for the Scilly Isles as we ate. It was strange to consider that barely 90 minutes ago we had been 175nm and 5 counties away at Kemble! This is definitely the way to travel!

Land's End Tower

Land’s End Tower

Once we’d finished our lunch, I signed out at the check in desk, and someone unlocked the door for us to allow us to get back airside to the Arrow. After requesting start from the Controller, the Arrow again started fairly easily, and we were given taxy instructions via the grass taxyway, with the expectation of doing our power checks on the runway! The Controller was perhaps a little overly helpful in giving us taxy instructions (maybe she remembered our confusion on the way in!), and we lined up on the undulating runway to carry out the power checks. I opted to lower two stages of flap for the take off (the runway isn’t particularly long at Land’s End) and we requested a right turn out to follow the coast. The Controller asked us to initially turn left, as there was another aircraft inbound to use the cross runway, and a right turn would have put us across his Final track.

Leaving Land's End

Leaving Land’s End

We were cleared to take off, an as requested I turned left after takeoff, climbing to around 1500 feet. We then turned right to travel along the coast to find Perranporth. As we passed Pendeen Lighthouse again, we signed off with Land’s End and contacted Newquay, requesting a Basic Service for the short flight up to Perranporth. They helpfully provided us details of the parachuting that was in progress, with an estimate of when the drop was to take place.

As we passed St. Ives, we signed off with Newquay and contacted Perranport for airfield information. The radio quality was quite poor, but we managed to ascertain that they were using runway 27, so I continued tracking over the sea, aiming to join on a Downwind leg. Initially I had a little difficulty in spotting the runway orientation, but thought I’d got myself sorted and announced ‘Downwind’. David questioned my positioning, and looking at the GPS track does show that my Downwind leg was far from parallel to the Westerly runway! I was also confused a little by trying to follow the parachuting aircraft along ‘Final’, but it soon became clear he was flying an approach that was actually offset to the South.

Arriving at Perranporth

Arriving at Perranporth

He landed and cleared the runway in good time, and I again brought us in for another gentle landing, despite being slightly confused by the ‘picture’ due to the lower ground on the approach to the runway. As a result I think I was a little low and flat, but the actual landing was handled pretty well. We backtracked a short way to pick up the grass taxyway, before parking up alongside the other aircraft on the grass. We walked in to pay the landing fee in the cafe, signing in while we did so. The A/G operator met us as we left the Cafe and we chatted for a little while before wandering around the airfield, looking at the aircraft parked in the hangar. After a short stop we walked back to the aircraft to head back to Kemble.

We discussed the route back, and I decided to try for a ‘direct’ route to Kemble, which was likely to take us through both Cardiff and Bristol’s airspace. Should any clearances not be available, we also had the backup route planned, which was a reverse of our flight down. We spotted the parachute aircraft loading up ready to depart, and the Arrow started easily once we were on board. We taxyed to the hold for the runway, carrying out our power checks behind another aircraft. As we completed the checks, we heard the parachute aircraft announcing 5 minutes before the drop, so we took to the runway immediately after the other aircraft, and departed as he climbed away.

It takes all sorts!

It takes all sorts!

I asked David to keep a good eye on him during our climbout, but he actually turned left which meant he was well away from our planned track. As we climbed away, I entered a ‘direct to’ route for Kemble into the 430, and after signing off with Perranporth we called up Newquay, initially requesting a Basic Service. In the days leading up to the flight I’d considered getting in some IMC practice, and as luck would have it there were some cloud formations directly ahead on our route. I decided to head straight into them, requesting a Traffic Service from Newquay as we neared the cloud. We were given information on some opposite direction traffic 2000 feet below us, and further traffic reports just received the response ‘Roger, currently IMC’ as we had little chance of spotting any other aircraft.

The first ‘cloud bank’ actually turned out to be a very small piece of cloud which we flew through in seconds, but there were further cloud formations ahead of us meaning I could legitimately claim this flying time as IFR. Newquay again gave us good service, handing us over to Exeter at the appropriate time. David and I further discussed our route, and decided to turn slightly right to avoid having to contact Cardiff, aiming for Bridgewater initially. We hoped that Exeter would hand us over to Bristol around this point, but in fact we were just instructed to ‘squawk 7000 and freecall enroute’.

The reason for this soon became clear as we signed on with Bristol, asking for a Traffic Service and Zone Transit. This received the unexpected response ‘Remain outside Controlled Airspace, Traffic Service not available due to staff shortages’. This slightly scuppered our plan, so after a brief discussion we decided to descend so as to allow ourselves to pass under the Bristol airspace near Bath. Unfortunately, this put us down in some very hazy conditions, as well as meaning we were now down with most of the other aircraft that might be flying in the area.

We flew at this height for 10 minutes or so, before I took the decision to climb and head around the Bristol airspace rather than under it. I could tell that the skies above us were clear of cloud, and on climbing we discovered not only much better visibility, but also we were now less likely to encounter any other traffic. I headed initially towards Lyneham, before turning North once we were clear of Colerne to head direct to Kemble.

Kemble sounded fairly busy, and we initially had some trouble signing on with them due to being stepped on continuously on the radio (including one chap who seemed to be testing his handheld in his car!). Eventually we learned that they were still using runway 08, and there were two aircraft operating in the circuit. We spotted the traffic easily as we approached from the South, and I descended Deadside before following one of them on his Crosswind leg to join the circuit. I was a little close to him, so I dropped two stages of flap earlier than normal, allowing us to slow down and build a bit of a gap between us and him.

He flew quite a wide Base leg, and I announced to the FISO that I was extending my Downwind leg to follow the aircraft in front. We did our best to avoid any areas of population below us (we were wider than we normally would be, so this made it more difficult to keep clear of noise sensitive areas), and established on Final as the other aircraft touched down and cleared the runway in good time. I brought is in for the third good landing of the day, landing long to hopefully prevent us from causing the aircraft behind us to go around.

I kept the speed up on the runway, and announced ‘Vacated’ as soon as we turned off, enabling the FISO to immediately ‘clear’ the following aircraft to land. We taxyed back to the parking area, and after refuelling the aircraft we pushed it back into its parking space, removed all our gear and put the covers back on before heading into the Club office to complete the paperwork and pay for the flight.

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Leg 1 profile

Leg 1 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 3 profile

Leg 3 profile

 

Nearly 4 months after my last landaway, I was finally fully current and had managed to get some decent flying in. As ever, David had been a helpful and knowledgeable flying companion, diplomatically picking me up on my errors as he spotted them during the flight. We’d had a really good flight, with some great views, good service from ATC and some challenging conditions throughout the day. With luck, next weekend I’ll make it three weekends in a row that I’ve been flying, as I visit a Student Pilot fly-in at Halfpenny Green near Wolverhampton. In late September, it seems my 2015 flying is finally getting going!

Total flight time today: 3:50
Total flight time to date: 279:55

Another currency check, and a minor technical hitch

September 12, 2015

After regaining Club and passenger currency on my last flight with Roger, I was keen to add my Arrow currency to that list. A late cancellation meant that the Arrow was free this weekend, and Kev (the Arrow’s owner) was also available to fly with me. While Kev is not an Instructor, he is authorised by the Club to carry out currency checks on pilots, as long as they are legal to carry passengers.

Initially I planned a relatively simple local Nav via Lyneham and the Severn Bridges, but when I met Kev on the morning of the flight he suggested trying to spot a couple of grass strips in the area too (Bowldown and Chavenage). This seemed like a good way to practice some visual Nav skills (something that I tend to neglect when flying with SkyDemon in my lap!), so Kev made a note of their approximate location on the chart and we headed off to Kemble.

The Arrow had recently had a few niggly technical issues notified, which Kev was keen to sort out before we flew. I helped Kev (i.e. passed him tools and helped remove the cowling!) change the injectors on the aircraft (also giving me my first real view of the Arrow’s engine) and we then got the aircraft ready for flight before heading in to the Club to complete the pre-flight paperwork.

I was supposed to be the Duty Member that day, but as mine was the only flight planned I persuaded Luned to provide the ‘flight watch’ duties for our flight. We completed the pre-flight paperwork and walked out to the aircraft. As we approached, Kev had me tell him what sort of things I’d be doing during various emergency drills (gear failure, smoke in the cockpit, engine failure etc.), and this turned out to be remarkably prescient on his part!

We boarded the aircraft, got ourselves settled in and then started up the engine after receiving start clearance from the FISO. Taxy and power checks were all straightforward, and the airfield was quiet as we reported ready at Alpha 1. We were cleared straight on to the runway, and then to depart as we were lined up.

The wind was relatively strong and gusty, but fortunately pretty much straight down the runway, so the take off roll and rotation were relatively easy. I remembered to dab the brakes before retracting the gear, and then we turned South to head towards Lyneham which I’d planned as the start of the route.

As we passed through around 1200 feet Kev said, ‘Can you smell fuel?’. Once he’d mentioned it, I became aware of a very slight smell of fuel, and we briefly discussed what to do. Given that we’d just changed the injectors, we both agreed it was prudent to abort the flight, and return to investigate. I notified the FISO that we had a ‘smell of fuel in the cockpit’, and that we were returning. After a quick look over my shoulder to confirm our exact position, I decided to join Left Base, and set about positioning the aircraft appropriately, running through the before landing checks as I did so.

Due to being higher than normal, I positioned us on a fairly wide left base for Kemble’s runway 26. Looking at the GPS track, it looks like I didn’t fully appreciate my location, as this put us pretty much overhead Oaksey at around circuit height. This obviously wasn’t a great idea, but in reality I was keeping a good lookout all around us, and Oaksey’s circuit is to the South of the airfield anyway.

The smell of fuel had all but disappeared as we continued towards the airfield, perhaps due to the fact that we were now on a much lower power setting. I neglected to take account of the Southerly component of the strong wind, meaning I went slightly through the extended centreline when turning Final, but this was easily corrected and I brought us in for a relatively firm landing.

I requested taxy back to our parking area, and the FISO asked us if we needed any assistance. As there was no longer a smell of fumes or any indication of fire or other issue, I declined this and we backtracked and taxyed back towards Hotel site. As we turned onto the Alpha taxyway I noticed the airfield’s fire engine on the runway, and they followed us as we taxyed to park and shutdown. It was nice to know that should we have had an issue, they would have been quickly on hand should we have needed them.

The fire service waited as we removed the cowling and Kev checked for any evidence of a fuel leak around the engine. Finding nothing, we then carried out an engine run with the cowling off in order to see if the leak was only apparent when the fuel was under pressure. Again, this didn’t show anything obvious. As there was obviously no imminent danger of a fuel spillage, we thanked the fire crew for coming to our assistance, and they headed back.

Kev then had an idea to check inside the cockpit, as the fuel pipes go to both a fuel pressure and fuel flow gauge on the instrument panel. Using my phone as a torch, he looked up under the instrument panel and finally spotted the cause of the issue. The pipe going into the fuel flow gauge was noticeably wet, and when he retrieved a spanner it was clear that this was not fully tightened. He tightened it correctly, and we again tested the system to see if there was any apparent leak remaining, which thankfully there wasn’t.

Happy that he had found the cause of the problem, Kev suggested we continue the flight, and I was happy to do this. We pushed the aircraft back a few feet to enable us to turn it round easily, and then got ourselves settled back in. Before starting up we took the time to review the ‘fumes in cockpit’ drill we’d talked about earlier, as Kev mentioned that I’d forgotten to do this when we actually had an indication of fumes! Fortunately we’d already covered most of the actions required (which basically amounts to closing off any heater vents, and opening up fresh air vents). The heater was off anyway, and I had already opened the floor level vent on my side before taking off as it was a warm day. Kev opened his once he was aware of the fuel smell, but I should also have opened the DV window on my side.

I was a little nervous that the engine may prove difficult to start due to flooding due to the amount of fuel we’d been pumping through it looking for leaks, but it actually started relatively easily. We repeated the taxy and power checks as per the previous flight, and again took to the runway and departed without any problems. We were both checking for any signs of fuel odour during the climb, but none was present so we continued the flight happy in the knowledge that the problem appeared to have been resolved.

We’d already decided that we wouldn’t complete the planned Nav flight, simply flying over Hullavington (where both of us would be attending the Emergency Services Show the next day) and then try to find the two grass strips Kev had suggested earlier that morning. Hullavington is always easy to find, and I set course for the field expecting to find preparations for the show to be in full swing. In fact there didn’t seem to be much happening at all, so it was impressive that they’d managed to get everything ready in time for when we visited the show the next day!

Overhead Hullavington

Overhead Hullavington

We carried out a clockwise orbit of the airfield after checking that there was no sign of any glider activity, converting the turn to a steeper one to enable Kev to get some photos of the site. We then dug out the chart and tried to determine the best way to find the two grass strips at Bowldown and Chavenage. Both were close to the main road running out of Tetbury, so we identified the town and headed towards it, before turning towards the crossroads that was a good landmark to look for the first.

After a bit of hunting, I spotted the first strip (Bowldown) off to our left. It looked to have two good length strips (SkyDemon later showed that they were 550m and 750m) with one leading towards some buildings that probably included a hangar. After a quick loop around, we headed back towards Tetbury to locate the other strip.

This one proved somewhat easier to spot, and as we passed to the North Kev announced ‘Oh no, it looks like the engine has failed!’, pulling back the throttle to idle as he did so. I was a little slow in getting the aircraft down to its best glide speed (which in the Arrow is significantly below the cruising speed, unlike the Warrior!) and made a somewhat poor attempt at running through the restart checks.

I didn’t bother to look for a field to land in, as I knew that I had a decent grass strip off to our right. Kev announced ‘The strip is just passing behind the right wing’ as we passed, which I should have recognised as a fairly blatant hint that he thought I was heading too far away from it! I turned back to position for the into wind runway, and it soon became clear that I was probably going to end up a little short. It’s always important to remember when carrying out a PFL that there are a number of way to lose excess height, but no way to regain it!

We decided then to return to Kemble, so I quickly entered a ‘direct to’ into the 430 to orient myself, and with that and the ADF needle turned the aircraft onto approximately the correct heading. I announced our position to the FISO, and headed for the long runway I had spotted on approximately the right heading. There was another aircraft approaching from the North to join overhead for 26, so I also positioned myself with the runway off to my left to set up for an Overhead join.

Kev asked whether Kemble were now on 08, which again I should have realised was a pretty blatant hint! I corrected him, and set about positioning for the join, but as I continued I had a nagging doubt that the runway I’d spotted wasn’t Kemble after all, which soon became confirmed as I looked over to our right to spot the real Kemble! I had made the mistake of orienting on Aston Down (which is apparently quite common, but not a mistake I’ve made before!), leading to Kev’s questioning of my positioning.

Correcting the mistake was simple, I just turned right and crossed over the 08 threshold at 2000 feet AAL, before turning left to cross the threshold of 26 and begin my descent. We spotted the other joining aircraft well below us, it appeared he actually joined Crosswind rather than Overhead. We followed him around the circuit. He was well clear of the runway by the time we turned Final, and the wind was noticeably gusty as we continued. Kev questioned my use of full flap, which was a valid point given the gusty conditions. I retracted the final stage of flap at about 400 feet, before bringing us down for a nice gentle landing.

I requested a backtrack and taxy, which was granted, and there was a little confusion as we were warned to hold before exiting the runway due to opposite direction traffic. This turned out to be someone on the Golf grass taxyway, and the FISO later changed his mind and asked them to hold, as we would otherwise have been stuck on the runway waiting for them. We taxyed back and refuelled, before pushing the aircraft back into its parking space. Kev laid out the aircraft cover on the ground to dry as we headed in to the Club to settle the paperwork. We then returned to cover the aircraft before heading to the local pub for some lunch and a debrief!

First flight track

First flight track

 

First flight profile

First flight profile

 

Second flight track

Second flight track

 

Second flight profile

Second flight profile

It was good to fly with Kev again. He’s extremely knowledgeable and a pleasure to fly with, with the added benefit of still being unafraid to point out any problems in my flying. Hopefully our next flight can be something a little more interesting, although I could probably do without any further technical issues during flight!

Total flight time today: 1:00
Total flight time to date: 276:05

A dearth of flying, and a clearer view!

August 2, 2015

Recently I’d been noticing that my eyesight was no longer as good as it once was, and with my Class 2 Medical Renewal looming I decided that I should do something about it! A visit to a local optician confirmed my suspicions, showing that while still meeting the requirements for driving without glasses, I no longer met the stricter requirements of the Class 2 Medical.

My near vision required almost no correction, meaning that I only strictly needed glasses for long distance vision. However, removing glasses during flight to read (for example) a chart and then having to replace them would obviously not be feasible. The optician advised that the correction I needed was such that varifocals would be a good option for me. She did warn however that these can take some getting used to, and some people find that they can’t get on with them and have to revert to traditional bifocals.

Initially I decided to only buy a single pair to ensure that I wouldn’t have to replace two pairs should I not be able to get used to varifocals. After wearing these for a couple of weeks without any ill effects, I then ordered a further pair, this time prescription sunglasses. In the meantime, my Class 2 renewal was passed without any issue, but my AME confirmed my recollection that I would now always need to carry a second pair of glasses when flying, in case anything happened to the pair I was wearing.

All of this (and a busy social schedule!) meant that I went almost 2 months without flying at all. I was a little concerned that the glasses might affect my ability to land, due to the fact that peripheral vision with varifocals can be affected. As such I tried to schedule a flight with an Instructor alongside in order to have an experienced pilot who would be able to take control should the need arise.

Sadly weather and scheduling meant that we were unable to fly before my Club 60 day currency also expired, so this flight was to be a full-on currency check rather than just a quick flight with an Instructor along to ensure that I could still land while wearing the new glasses. Ideally I’d have liked to make the flight in the Club’s Arrow, so that I could refresh all of my currencies in a single flight. Sadly the Arrow was down for maintenance, so instead we flew in G-BPAF, an aircraft familiar to me from my PPL training at RAF Brize Norton.

Before the flight I made to sure brief Roger on the additional things I wanted to cover above and beyond a regular currency check. As I now had both pairs of glasses, I wanted to attempt some landings wearing each pair. I also wanted to ensure that I could clearly see everything I needed to in the cockpit, so briefed Roger that I may ask him to take control at some point during the flight just so that I could be ‘heads in’ for a little while ensuring I could read all the instruments, radio displays and also plog etc. without having to worry about controlling the aircraft at the same time. Also I warned Roger that he may need to take control during the latter phases of the landing, and that I wouldn’t take offence if he felt the need to do this!

I had carried out the A check while Roger finished off some of the work he was doing on the Arrow, and as we settled ourselves into the cockpit I took a little extra time to check that I could see and interpret all the relevant instruments and avionics before starting up the engine. Kemble were using runway 08 today, so we taxyed down the grass past the Tower to carry out the checks on the North Apron. Once these were all completed, we took to the runway and departed, heading initially to the South for the General Handling exercises.

The weather was clear, with little cloud to affect the flight, and we headed towards RAF Lyneham to use it as a reference point for some of the manoeuvres. Stalls and steep turns were all carried out without any difficulty, and I was having no issues with my vision either inside or outside the cockpit. Roger suggested I try some instrument flight (which I hadn’t considered) and I had him take control briefly while I found my foldaway hood in my flight bag. We carried out some turns, climbs and descents under the hood, and these also all went well.

The PFL practice gave me an obvious choice of ‘Lyneham’ as my landing ‘field’, but out of habit I lined myself up for runway 26, despite the Southerly surface wind obviously favouring 18. At Roger’s suggestion I repositioned for this, and he announced he was happy at around 700 feet AGL, and I climbed away and set course to rejoin at Kemble. I had Roger take control briefly so I could double check I could clearly read the PLOG and chart on my knee, and operate SkyDemon with the tablet mounted in my knee-board. Again, these checks all showed that my glasses were working well.

As we signed on with the FISO, it was clear that the strong Southerly wind would make the circuits interesting! There was another student in the circuit as we approached, and I carried out a standard Overhead Join to slot in behind him for the circuits.

The first landing was far from pretty, primarily due to my lack of recent flying and the tricky wind conditions. I rounded out at the correct height, but had a little difficulty in completing the flare and holdoff correctly, leading to a relatively firm arrival. We flew a couple of further circuits using my regular glasses, and all of the landings were acceptable but hardly among my best!

I had Roger take control on the next circuit to enable me to switch to my prescription sunglasses, and completed the flight wearing these. Again, all of the issues I had with the landing were down to the conditions and my rustiness, sadly nothing I could blame on the new glasses!

We completed 5 landings in total, with my performance gradually getting better as time went on. Roger announced he was happy to sign me off as ‘current’ again, agreeing with me that the problems I was having could not be blamed on the new eyewear!

We taxyed back and refuelled the aircraft before pushing it back to its parking space and putting the cover back on. As usual, Roger gave me a thorough debrief, picking me up on a few things from the flight. As the flight was a total of 1 hour 10 minutes, it also meant that I had satisfied the requirement to complete a flight with an Instructor of at least an hour, meaning that when my Class Rating needed to be renewed next May that this was one less detail I would have to worry about.

Track

Track

Profile

Profile

It’s always nice to fly with Roger, while flying he’s generally supportive and helpful, while still picking up on important details that he covers during the debrief. Hopefully now I’m current again I can get back into some regular flying!

Total flight time today: 1:10
Total flight time to date: 275:05

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: 273:55

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: 272:55

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: 269:15

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


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