Failing to get lost again!

Was supposed to have two more flights with Indy today. The plan was to do a NavEx in the first session, then if it went well for me to repeat the same route solo. Gulp.

Sadly, that wasn’t to be. On perhaps the busiest day in terms of bookings I’d ever seen, we had one aircraft at the maintenance field, and another out of hours so couldn’t be flown. A bit of repositioning in the morning brought the newly checked aircraft back, but I lost my first slot of the day because of this.

So, I got a lie in on a Saturday! Ah, bliss 🙂

I’d already done the basis of the route planning last night, and completed this (once I knew the forecast winds) at the club before the flight. Indy checked it over and pronounced us ready to go, so off we went!

No issues during the pre flight checks, and after slight trouble getting the engine started initially, we were soon ready for the off. The route for today was out to Burford as usual, then to our start point at the Northleach Roundabout.

From there we flew West to Ledbury, before heading North to Worcester, East to Wellesbourne and finally South back to Brize Norton. The ‘Worcester’ leg was introduced to avoid the aerials at Pershore, a place that we’re strictly speaking allowed to fly over, but in general it’s a good idea to avoid them.

The zone controller confused me a little as we switched to them after takeoff, by saying something like ‘manoeuvre as required’. I just stuck with the standard Burford departure below 1000 feet, and started the climb at Burford as normal.

From there I turned West while climbing to reach our start point at the Northleach Roundabout. After a few minutes I was getting a little concerned that I hadn’t seen it yet, and was just considering orbiting to establish where I was when I spotted it just ahead of us.

So, overhead the roundabout, took a note of the time and set the heading and altitude for the first leg. We were to fly almost directly over Gloucester (Staverton) so I informed Brize we were switching to their ‘Approach’ frequency. Switched over to them, and made the standard call to establish contact with them, informing them of our route details and current position. In hindsight, I think I forgot to switch the transponder back to the VFR 7000 squawk. Must take care to remember to do that in future.

We overflew Cheltenham bang on time, and then spotted the airfield off to our left, pretty much where it should have been. Our checkpoint was crossing the M5, and this arrived about a minute earlier than expected, so I knocked a minute or so off our ETA for Ledbury. We crossed the river Severn a few minutes later, taking note of the fact that it was actually relatively difficult to spot the river itself due to the recent flooding!

Ledbury appeared off the nose, at pretty much bang on the time we expected it to. We notified Gloucester that we were turning, and set the appropriate heading for the next leg to Worcester.

This leg was quite short, and was only put in to ‘dog leg’ around the aerials at Pershore. The check point of Malvern appeared quite soon at the correct time, and then Worcester itself appeared soon after. I had chosen the turning point as being the point in Worcester where the river splits into two, but had trouble spotting this from the air (more of this later).

Made the turn again, informing Gloucester of our position, and they told us to freecall Wellesbourne, giving the appropriate frequency. This was the first real ‘glitch’ of the day. I dialled in the appropriate frequency, and decided not to call Wellesbourne until we were a bit closer to them. Continued on course to our checkpoint which was the crossing of a major road and river, with Alcester a couple of miles off to our left.

This arrived on schedule, and I then decided to contact Wellesbourne. Made the initial call ‘Wellesbourne Radio, G-BNRG’ and waited for a response. Nothing. I’d already commented to Indy that Wellesbourne seemed very quiet, as I knew it was quite a busy airfield. Tried the initial call again a moment later, and again got no response.

Something was obviously wrong, so I set about trying to establish what it was. It didn’t take long fortunately! The frequency of Wellesbourne is 124.025, but I’d actually selected 124.20 on the radio. Whoops! I made the changed and looked across at Indy who smiled and said ‘Well done!’. She’d spotted the mistake as soon as I made it, and was just waiting to see if I could correct it on my own. A bit of a slip, but at least I caught it.

The problem now was that we were getting very close to Wellesbourne, and I still hadn’t made contact. On selecting the correct frequency it became clear that Wellesbourne was in fact very busy! I made the initial call again, only being told ‘Standby’. So, I had to sit and wait to be called as I continued my progress towards the field.

We were now over Stratford, and could see Wellesbourne ahead. From the R/T we knew there were 6 aircraft currently joining, with 2 in the circuit! Finally the FISO called me back and I gave our position and intentions. In my initial call I neglected to give our altitude, which Indy mentioned and I gave later. This is particularly important when you have 6 other airfield all converging on the same point in space to join.

We arrived overhead Wellesbourne, and turned South towards Brize. After a few miles we switching from Wellesbourne’s frequency back to Brize Zone, and continued towards them. The checkpoint for this leg was a small town that came up when were expecting. I contact Brize Zone and gave them our position, and was told to report the field in site.

We continued on to our final point, the distinctive bend in the railway and river with 3 towns on it (the finishing point is the middle of the three towns), which yet again arrived bang on time!

Contacted Brize Zone informing them we were 10 miles North, requesting a Burford arrival. This was granted, and we headed for Burford. As usual, Little Rissington was a comfortingly easy landmark to find, and is always a useful means of knowing we were ‘nearly home’.

Left the descent to Burford a little late so turned away and back to get down to 1000 feet in time. Was told to join at the midpoint downwind (which is relatively unusual) and did a wide downwind so as not to overfly Carterton unnecessarily.

Turned base as usual, configured for landing, and approached the field. There was a slight crosswind which I corrected for as we continued on final. Kicked off the slight crab as I flared, and then held off the runway. The stall warner was just starting to sound as the mains gently touched down for my best landing in a while. ‘Beautiful!’ was the exclamation from Indy in the right seat 🙂

NavEx to Ledbury, Worcester and Wellesbourne

So, on the whole a very successful flight. Analysis of the GPS log I took shows me slightly off track on the leg from Worcester to Wellesbourne. I probably should have spotted this sooner, but somehow during the leg we ended up gradually getting back on track, which meant that Wellesbourne appeared right on the nose where it should have been.

I probably should have noticed that we were closer to Alcester than we should have been. However, I mentioned this to Indy later and she said that she couldn’t tell that we were off track either, so I probably shouldn’t worry about it.

Tomorrow I’m supposed to have a 4 hour session in the afternoon, but the forecast winds are pretty bad, so chances are this won’t happen. 

Total flight time today: Dual 1:25 – Solo – 0:00
Take-offs: 1 – Landings: 1

Total flight time to date: Dual 26:50 – Solo 5:30
Take-offs to date: 85 – Landings to date: 80

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