A Jolly to Shobdon

After passing the skills test, I wanted to fly with the sole purpose of going somewhere, rather than covering some particular part of the training syllabus. Initially the plan was to take Luned to Conington (with Indi right seat) for lunch in Echo Alpha.

The weather forecast out to the East looked a little unpredictable, so at the last minute the plan was changed to head over to Shobdon. So Luned drove us over to Enstone while I redid the plan in the car.

Indi was just heading out for a few circuits as we arrived, so we settled down at Enstone for a snack and to go over the plan. When Indi returned we headed straight out to the aircraft, and learned that Lynne would be joining us too. Quick transit check complete, we all loaded up and made ready for the off.

Indi was doing her best to act like a regular passenger rather than an Instructor or Examiner, leaving me to do pretty much everything without any input from her. This was good because soon I’ll be heading off with a couple of passengers and no ‘safety net’ in the right seat, so I need to be confident that I can handle the flight by myself.

The flight from Enstone to Shobdon was relatively uneventful, talking to Gloucester on the way, before switching to Shobdon as we got a bit closer. Things became a little more difficult from then, as the FISO was spending a lot of time dealing with traffic jams on the ground, meaning that it was difficult to get time on the frequency to announce positions and intentions.

We joined overhead, descending dead side to 1500 feet, before heading onto the live side of the circuit and descending down to 1000 feet (circuit height). As we crossed the runway I noticed a tug and glider beginning to take off, so we made a point of keeping an eye on them as we descended on the deadside. The circuit a Shobdon is quite wide to avoid overflying local villages, and I think I may have ‘cut the corner’ by keeping very close to the end of the runway as we overflew on the crosswind leg. The FISO told us we were number two, but I couldn’t see any other aircraft ahead of us in the circuit.

Eventually we spotted someone running virtually parallel to us as we turned base. They were bound for the grass runway (to the North of the hard runway we were going for), and had probably been hidden by my left wing while we were on the downwind leg. A useful lesson in future, if I’m ever unsure of the position of another aircraft in the circuit then I should ask for help, or break off and rejoin.

The final approach to the landing went well once the distraction of the other aircraft was removed, and we made a good landing before backtracking and parking up.

Headed into the cafe for food (a very good range on offer, and all very reasonably priced) and chatted about this and that. The novelty of having flown somewhere for lunch certainly was making me feel good about myself!

Once we were all finished, I headed out to Echo Alpha to bring it back to the pumps. By now the FISO wasn’t in the tower, so all calls were being made to Shobdon Traffic. There wasn’t too much going on by now, so things were a little quieter on the radio and on the ground. After refuelling we headed out to the grass taxiway and did the power checks.

Were second in line for takeoff, and paid particular attention to the fact that we would be crossing the grass runway on our way to the hard runway. A good lookout was kept by all on board to make sure we didn’t interfere with anyone destined for the grass runway.

Our turn to take off came, and we headed out on to the runway. A good takeoff, and we turned left onto crosswind and downwind before continuing to climb and head East back towards Enstone. Again, Indi was doing her best to leave everything to me!

I didn’t set my initial track as well as I should have done, as we were quite a bit North of track by the time we reached Great Malvern, so I corrected for this and carried on. We were using Tewkesbury as a slight ‘dog leg’ to avoid the aerials near Strensham, and this gave me an east landmark to aim for. Continued on, talking to Gloucester and headed over to Enstone.

The leg from Gloucester to Enstone is very featureless, and I was paying particular attention to trying to stay on track. On the way over to Shobdon I had used the NDB at Gloucester to double check I was heading in the correct direction, and was doing the same with the Oxford NDB on the way back. As a result of this my lookout probably wasn’t as good as it should have been, and Lynne pointed out a glider that had been operating in the vicinity of Little Rissington, that I had completely failed to spot. Another important lesson.

By this time I was crosschecking our position against the GPS in Echo Alpha, and this showed Enstone to be slightly off to the right of where it should have been. Thought I’d spotted it, before Lynne mentioned the Golf Course that was effectively the base leg for the runway we were using, and I made a correct identification and joined the circuit. All was quiet at Enstone, and we proceeded down to the runway for another good landing.

Lynne announced that she was impressed with the improvement in my flying since her last flight with me, which was nice to hear! We chatted over a cup of tea over the adventure of the day, and I was starting to feel more and more like a ‘real’ pilot after all the hard work of the last year or so.

Barry turned up and I helped him refold his charts for the trip he was planning up to Blackpool with his other half, and I realised that soon I would be able to plan similar trips for myself and Luned! All exciting stuff!

Total flight time today: 1:50
Take-offs: 2 – Landings: 2

Total flight time to date: 59:45
Take-offs to date: 120 – Landings to date: 115

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