After a limited amount of flying so far this year, I decided it would be a good idea to refresh my currency in Lyneham’s Arrow, in order to give me another option in terms of aircraft availability. Although the aircraft’s owner Kev isn’t an Instructor, he is authorised by the Club to carry out Currency Check flights, as long as the pilot is ‘passenger current’ (having carried out 3 take-offs and landings in the last 90 days).
I managed to arrange a day we were both free, and in the days leading up to the flight we discussed various options. I was keen to try to do something more than just the usual requirements for a Currency check, and we agreed on a 3 leg trip to Hinton in the Hedges and Wellesbourne, with me flying all three legs. In order to spice things up, Kev also suggested that I make the flight up to Hinton without using the SkyDemon ‘crutch’, relying on good old map and compass and dead-reckoning.
I planned the flight to Hinton via the grass strip at Upper Harford, and spent a little time the night before looking at the area in Google Maps’ satellite view, to get a feel for what to expect on the flight. After carrying out the final planning on the morning of the flight, I headed off to Kemble to meet Kev.
The weather wasn’t perfect, but was definitely flyable. There was a broken cloudbase around 2500 feet or so, and the forecast suggested this might occasionally drop lower. I carried out the pre-flight paperwork in the Club before Kev joined me. He hadn’t realised that I had arrived, so had already carried out the ‘A’ check for me in readiness for the flight. I filled him in on the proposed route, and we headed out to the aircraft.
Once we were settled, I set about working through the checklist, noting a few new entries since I had last flown the aircraft. The engine started on the second attempt, and we were cleared to the North apron for our checks, using the Golf (grass) taxyway to get there. We picked our way around some of the more uneven ground, before waiting a short while on the North apron for the engine to warm up. The power checks were all completed normally, and we took our turn onto the runway and departed.
We made a left turn out, and initially levelled out at around 1500 feet in order to remain below the cloud layer. It looked fairly broken though, so we took the decision to climb through and above it, eventually settling on a cruising level around 4000 feet. This put us generally between the broken layer below us and a more solid layer a couple of thousand feet above us.
Once over Cirencester I made a note of the time, and our expected time over Upper Harford. Although we were above a layer of cloud, it was sufficiently broken below us to continue navigating visually, so I set the appropriate heading and continued on the leg.
We signed on with Brize, initially being refused a Traffic Service due to their workload, but being granted an upgrade to Traffic as other aircraft left the frequency. I thought I’d correctly identified Upper Harford as our turning point based on my previous research, but looking at the track log it appears that I actually mis-identified the road that it is near, and turned a couple of miles before I should have.
Brize continued to offer us information on other Traffic in the area, but none of it was a real factor for us. Most people were operating below the cloud layer, and hence were a couple of thousand feet below us. We flew for a short period in hard IMC, which was a useful reminder of how important it is to trust the instruments when flying in cloud. A couple of times I found myself attempting to fly level based on what I could see out of the window, but on checking the instruments found that I had allowed a slight bank angle to develop due to the incorrect information being generated by my eyes and inner ear.
Kev asked about when I planned to make my descent, and in fairness I really didn’t have much of an idea how to calculate this. He explained the method usually used and we picked our descent point, as well as checking when we needed to sign on with Hinton. As we neared Hinton we signed off with Brize, and made an initial call to Hinton to get airfield information. As expected, we received no response, but did hear other pilots on frequency.
As we crossed the M40, the conditions were noticeably hazy, making it difficult to spot the airfield. Mindful of the fact that they were parachuting today, I decided to turn back towards the M40 to orient myself properly, to ensure I didn’t accidentally blunder into the overhead. As we headed back to the M40 Kev spotted another aircraft passing quite close below us. We carried out an orbit over the M40 to get our bearings before heading towards the airfield again.
Almost as soon as we had done this, we heard the parachute aircraft announce that all jumpers had left the aircraft. To ensure we kept clear of them, we again turned back to the M40 and orbited a few times to give them sufficient time to complete their descent and get back on the ground. We headed towards the airfield again, and slotted in on a Right Base join for 06, behind the parachute aircraft. I didn’t realise that he would have to backtrack, and as such didn’t have sufficient spacing to allow him to clear the runway. I commenced a Go Around (and announced as such on the radio), only to have him respond ‘Or we could pull off to the side for you’. I decided that it was safer to continue the Go Around, and Kev briefly transmitted ‘Nah, we need the hours!’.
I flew a relatively untidy circuit, neglecting to sufficiently correct for wind on the Downwind leg. However, the final approach and landing were completed well, leading to a ‘Nicely done’ from Kev. It was good that even after several months I could still remember how to land the Arrow!
We parked up alongside some other aircraft, and walked in to have lunch in amongst all the other people at the parachute centre. Despite the conditions, they seemed very busy, with the next load ready to board almost as soon as the parachute aircraft had returned from its previous drop.
Kev had suggested I track the Daventry VOR on the leg up to Wellesbourne, so I briefly outlined the route I’d planned as we headed back to the aircraft. I left a donation towards the landing fee after chatting briefly to the people manning the ‘Tower’, and we got settled back in the aircraft for the short flight to Wellesbourne.
The engine started easily, and we taxyed towards the runway to carry out our power checks. I set up both VORs to track Daventry, realising a little late that the indicator connected to the Garmin 430 was still in ‘GPS’ mode, so switched it over to use the VOR instead. I also loaded a ‘direct to’ route for Wellesbourne into the 430 as a backup, enabling me to quickly re-apply this later once we were on the leg from DTY to Wellesbourne.
As we were ready, the parachute aircraft appeared on a Base leg join, so we waited until he had landed and rolled past us before backtracking to the threshold and waiting for him to backtrack and clear the runway. Once he was clear, I began the takeoff roll, and Kev then suggested that a flaps takeoff might be wise given the relatively short (700m) runway. I applied two stages of flap as we accelerated, then rotated and took off, doing my best to avoid the local villages as I climbed out and flew an abbreviated circuit to depart to the West.
We climbed out on the Downwind leg, through a layer of cloud before centring the VOR needle and tracking the VOR towards Daventry. As on previous flights, the DME didn’t work very well, but we used the GPS to monitor our distance to the VOR. As we got to within about 5nm, I turned to the North West, to intercept the appropriate outbound track for Wellesbourne.
As we became established on the outbound track, the skies cleared somewhat, giving us a good view of the ground on this leg. As a result, I mentally dropped out of ‘Instrument Flight’ mode, and as a result the tracking of the VOR went a bit awry for the remainder of the leg. We signed on with Wellesbourne, and for a change they had an empty circuit! As a result we opted for a Crosswind join for 36 LH.
I misidentified the disused airfield at Chipping Warden as Gaydon, and as we passed the huge disused runway at Gaydon a minute or two later it was clear that I shouldn’t have made the mistake! Wellesbourne soon came into view, and I oriented us to join appropriately, dropping the gear on the Crosswind leg and carrying out the pre-landing checks. I was careful to follow the noise abatement circuit, which calls for quite an extended Downwind leg.
We turned Base and then Final, and I carried out the final ‘Reds, Blues, 3 Greens, Flaps’ check out loud as usual, this time finishing with a ‘hang on, not three greens!’. Kev was pleased I had spotted it, and turned off the external Nav lights (when the Nav lights are on, the internal gear lights are dimmed considerably, making them appear to be out in daylight). Afterwards I checked when he had done this, concerned that I had missed it after dropping the gear initially, but he confirmed that he’d done it while I was looking out during Base Leg.
I’m not sure if it was this slight distraction or the wider than normal circuit, but I ended up slightly high on Final, and then slightly fast as I lowered the nose to lose height. As a result I touched down a little quicker than I should have, leading to a small bounce. I applied a little power and raised the nose to cushion the second touchdown, and we rolled out a little further than would otherwise have been necessary. The FISO gave us parking instructions, and after parking and shutting down I went to pay the landing fee while Kev bought the refreshments in the cafe.
While chatting over our drinks, Kev suggested that we change the plan for the final leg of the day, and return to Kemble low level, following the Fosse Way all the way back to Cirencester. We carried out a quick re-plan on the wing, estimating distances and times to 3 or 4 checkpoints on the return leg, as well as deciding what heights we should fly at in order to remain clear of the rising ground at various points on our route.
Startup, checks and departure were all normal, and we followed the noise abatement procedure (30 degree right turn immediately after takeoff) and then turned right to depart, taking care not to fly over the town of Wellesbourne. I initially climbed to a few hundred feet above our planned height, before Kev admonished me with a ‘Careful, we’ll be showing up on Iraqi radar soon!’. We picked up the Fosse Way, and Kev used his watch to check our time estimations as we continued South. It was clear that the tailwind was a little higher than forecast (and our estimated distances a little off) but we hit most of our waypoints within a minute or two of our expected time.
At one point I followed the wrong road as it forked, and a quick check showing our heading approaching West showed we were definitely following the wrong one. We headed South again to pick up the Fosse Way at the Northleach Roundabout, before following the road the rest of the way to Cirencester.
We then signed in with Kemble, and as it appeared to be quite busy I decided that it would be safer to carry out a full Overhead Join. This required us to gain some 1500 feet or so in order to be at the correct height! Once Overhead, I carried out a Deadside descent, dropping the gear as we turned Crosswind to help get our speed down. We followed another aircraft around the circuit, and he completed his Touch and Go as we turned Final, leaving the runway clear for us.
We had another aircraft behind us, so I did my best to keep speed up a little, and deliberately landed long to avoid tying up the runway for too long as we taxyed down to the far end of the runway. At Kemble, there is a noticeable change in elevation along the runway, and I don’t think I’ve ever attempted to land on the ‘rising’ part of 08 before. As a result, I think I lost the picture slightly in the roundout and flare, leading to a slightly messy and flat touchdown. Prompted by the FISO I kept the speed up to vacate onto the Alpha taxyway before taxying back to the Club.
I helped Kev refuel, park and cover the aircraft, and we headed in to the Club to complete the final paperwork and settle my bill for the flight. I’ve also now renewed my membership at Lyneham for a further year, so I need to make sure I make use of it, particularly in keeping current in the Arrow and using it for more flights in the coming year. Once all the details were completed, Kev and I retired to a pub for a thorough debrief!
My recent flying seems to be filled with regular currency check flights. It was good in this instance to do something a little out of the ordinary, and we had crammed in quite a few things during the three flights today. Kev is an experienced pilot with a CPL and Multi-IR rating, and it’s always useful to have someone like that alongside to offer little hints during a flight. Hopefully we can fly together again in the future, and continue to extend my comfort zone in various areas on future flights. Also, it would be nice if I could avoid the requirement for any currency checks in the near future!
Total flight time today: 2:00
Total flight time to date: 263:20