Going places!

Weather today was more like June than January! Apart from it being a bit windy, it was almost perfect conditions for flying.

The original plan was for me to do a couple of solo GH sessions to build up my solo time, but Indy wasn’t too happy with the wind, so suggested we do a NavEx instead. Was pretty surprised when she suggested we also make this my first land away, at Peterborough Conington.

So, out came the map, and the first thing I did was draw a line from a local landmark that we use to start our NavEx’s from, straight to Conington. I then did all the calculations from that, and presented the chart and plog to Indi.

Whoops, my route had blasted us straight through the overhead of Hinton in the Hedges, the field where our maintenance is carried out, and also a pretty busy parachuting field. Whoops.

So, a new route was planned via Enstone, Banbury, Towcester and then direct to Conington. Winds aloft were 260 at 45 kts, which meant the trip out was likely to be done in about 1/2 the time it would take to get back!

So, out to the aircraft, and we checked it out inside the hangar because of the wind. Opened the hangar and dragged the aircraft out, only to find the first ‘snag’ of the day. The parking brake catch was broken, so there was no way to lock the parking brake on. We’d have to be particularly careful when starting up and especially carrying out the power checks because of this.

Departure was routine, normal take off, departure to Burford and then climbing to the distinctive bend in the railway that we use as the starting point for exercises like this. Set our first heading and time, and headed towards Enstone.

The first leg was barely 10nm, so we changed over to Enstone radio and informed them we’d be traversing their overhead. We heard Barry (a fellow Brize student who is now doing his IMC) as he was being checked out on a Robin at Enstone. At around this time the radio started to play up (we were using Box 2 as Box 1 wouldn’t transmit) so Indi turned it off to cool down and see if that helped.

We were overhead Enstone pretty much bang on track, and made the turn to head to Banbury. Again, this was a short leg of less than 10nm, and Banbury came up in the right place at the correct time, easily identified due to the size of it, and the distinctive passing of the M40 to the East.

Next leg was the final part of the ‘dog leg’ avoiding Hinton, taking us back on to track at Towcester. A 14nm leg this time, which gave us a bit more time to settle in, and also gave us the opportunity to carry out a check on progress during the leg. On this leg, the airfield at Turweston and also the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit were good landmarks. Both appeared where they were expected (Silverstone looking like little more than a large cluster of buildings at our distance) before Towcester appeared on time. Towcester was also easily identifiable by the large road bending around it to the North and West, as well as another smaller road passing through it from North West to South East. The final clue was the racecourse to the South East of the town.

The final run to Conington was much longer than the others at 34nm, so we had progress points planned at Wellingborough (a large town with a number of roads bordering it) and the crossing of a major road with a large town to the North West of us, and the Molesworth airfield to the South East. Again, both of these checkpoints came up bang on schedule and where they were supposed to be!

The only real issues I’d had with this point was with my height keeping. I had the tendency to pull back on the yoke whenever I looked down at the map, causing us to climb slightly each time. I also need to concentrate more on making sure the aircraft is correctly in trim, so that when I do divert my attention away from outside, it will effectively fly ‘hands off’ and I won’t have the inclination to exert any control pressure.

The final clue that we were approaching Conington would be the A1(M), which is barely a mile from the airfield. Once we crossed the A1(M), I started looking for the airfield. Big mistake! Indi kept saying ‘Ok, we should be close now, where is the airfield’. Because I’d known we were pretty much on track, I knew that the airfield must be on the nose, or directly below us, both places that aren’t easy to see in an aircraft!

Eventually I saw what looked like a runway appearing behind the port wing, and announce that the airfield was directly below us. Indi was very pleased, as not many people can find the airfield on their first visit! So, we called Conington Radio (we’d already been in touch with them for a few minutes to inform them we were inbound) and informed them we were overhead, and got runway joining instructions.

They were using runway 26 with a right hand circuit. Now I was about to execute my first ‘overhead join’. This was a procedure I’d read about a number of times, but hadn’t actually experienced in practice.

The basic idea is to pass the downwind end of the runway (in this case the Easterly end) at about 1000 feet above circuit level, with the runway on our right hand side (as it was a right hand circuit). Then when on the ‘dead’ side, we make a descending right hand turn, with the intension of crossing the number at the upwind end of the runway (the Westerly end in this case) at circuit level.  We then head for a normal downwind leg and pattern.

This seemed a relatively simple procedure, and the fact that the pattern wasn’t particularly busy made it a bit easier, as there wasn’t too much in the way of other traffic to look out for and space ourselves out from.

As we turned final, I said to Indi ‘that’s a small runway’, to which she replied, ‘No, that’s actually quite a big runway!’. I guess I’m a little spoiled with the amount of tarmac available at Brize, so the experience of landing somewhere a little more ‘normal’ was certainly a good one. The landing was relatively uneventful, and we got permission to backtrack down the runway. As we were doing this there was another aircraft on a relatively short final which was a little unnerving, but we vacated the runway in good time for him to land after us.

From there it was just a question of taxying to the parking area and shutting down. Someone then helpfully came out with a tow bar and pushed the aircraft back into a parking space. How’s that for service!

 Route and track from Brize Norton to Conington

Popped into the club and had lunch (toasted ham and cheese!) and made ‘pilot talk’ for a while. Then we decided to plan how we were going to get home!

Indi suggested that we do a lot less actual planning for this flight, and also fly it at much lower level to experience the difference you might find when you were diverting to another airfield due to bad weather.

So, we planned the first leg into the overhead at Sywell, and from then on we were planning ‘ad hoc’ legs to Banbury and Enstone before back to Brize Norton.

The return flight went well, and despite having no firm ‘plan’, the GPS log of the flight shows that were never particularly far from our intended route. We had a bit of confusion when talking to Enstone when they thought we’d passed overhead long before we reached the field and handed us off to Brize, so we decided to head from Banbury to Chipping Norton instead.

The only ‘glitch’ on the return journey was when we were looking for Chipping Norton. I was pretty sure that the town we were passing over wasn’t Chipping Norton, because I couldn’t see the distinctive mill to the south of the town. Indi wasn’t so sure, so asked me to orbit, before agreeing with me that it wasn’t Chipping Norton!

Chipping Norton eventually came up, and we called Brize for rejoin. Rejoin was largely routine again, and the landing Ok, but I still felt I stalled onto the runway a little high, but Indi was pretty happy with the landing.

On the whole, a very enjoyable day. Things I need to work on are my height keeping, as well as my estimation of leg distances and times. On the last leg from Banbury to Chipping Norton, every time I measured our distance to run I got pretty much the same answer, despite us having flown for a couple of minutes in between each check!

Planned route and track from Conington to Brize Norton

 Tomorrow we hope to get the two solo GH sessions out of the way. Let’s hope the weather is a bit better!

Total flight time today: Dual 2:15 – Solo – 0:00
Take-offs: 1 – Landings: 1

Total flight time to date: Dual 25:25 – Solo 3:35
Take-offs to date: 84 – Landings to date: 79

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3 Responses to “Going places!”

  1. Landing away on my own licence « Andy’s Blog Says:

    […] I planned a flight to Conington, scene of my first land away during my training. The route was planned via Banbury to avoid Hinton in the Hedges, a local parachuting site. As […]

  2. Back to Conington « Andy’s Blog Says:

    […] was the scene of my first landaway, one of the stops on my QXC and also the first landaway after I earned my license, so it seemed […]

  3. Returning to Conington | Andy's Blog Says:

    […] of different destinations leading up to the weekend, but eventually chose Conington, scene of my first real ‘Nav’ flight, one of the stops on my QXC and also the destination for my first real flight after gaining the […]

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