Landing away on my own licence

Despite having flown several times since passing my Skills Test, for one reason and another I haven’t actually been anywhere without my instructor on board. The plan for today was to change that!

The weather was very unpredictable, the forecast was for light showers all day. A quick look at the forecast showed that these showers were likely to be very localised, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to skirt around them should we run in to any en route.

So 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 passengers I had Luned and Ben, a fellow poker player who admitted to a fear of heights before the flight, but he did say he was generally Ok when it came to flying. He seemed somewhat surprised as to how small the Warrior was when he finally saw it, but didn’t seem too put off!

The other reason for flying this weekend was that it was also the weekend of Fairford. During my training I had flown during Fairford weekend also, and had the pleasure of sitting at the hold waiting for traffic to transit the overhead. The traffic turned out to be the Red Arrows, and after I took off I could see them over Fairford going through their display. I had been hoping to repeat this, but due to the inclement weather recently they had cancelled the show on the Saturday because of the state of the car parks. It later turned out that the Sunday event was cancelled too, which much have been very disappointing for those attending.

The A check showed no problems, and whoever had Alpha Fox last had kindly topped up the fuel, so we were able to get off the ground without any delay. We were given permission to taxy out to the hold, and I carried out the last of the checks there, giving Ben a bit of a briefing as to what to expect. As we were receiving our departure clearance another aircraft entered the circuit, and I thought we might be held up by that. However, my call ‘ready for departure’ was met with an instruction to line up, and as we saw the other aircraft turning final we were given clearance to take off.

I didn’t hang about, applied full power and off we went. Turned towards Burford as normal, and switched from Tower to the Zone controller. She asked us to ensure we remained below 1000 feet, as the other aircraft was doing circuits and would be heading our way. I called Burford, and she told me we still had another mile to run before clearing Controlled Airspace, so I maintained 1000 feet until she let us know we were clear.

Turned towards Shipton and climbed up to 2500 feet ready for the leg to Banbury. Set course when we got there, and made a note of the time. First leg went normally, and at Banbury we turned direct for Conington, and switched to Sywell’s frequency. The airwaves were surprisingly quiet given it was a Saturday. Perhaps the weather forecast had put people off? We were in an almost cloudless sky, but ahead of us we could see a number of clumps of cloud, some of which were obviously rain bearing.

We neared Sywell and I pointed it out to Ben. As we passed South of the field someone else called ‘Final’, and I pointed out to Ben ‘the aircraft down there, landing on the grass’. He seemed surprised that it would be landing on grass, until I told him that grass was all Sywell had!

As we continued past Sywell, I pointed out the wind farm South of Kettering that had saved me on my QXC when I had got a little confused as to exactly where I was! Ahead of us the clouds were looking a little worse, so when I changed to Conington’s frequency I asked what their weather was like. They were reporting no showers, but there was an obvious shower going on between us and them. I diverted around it to the North, and as we approached there was another rain cloud that appeared to be directly above the field.

I was preparing to head North of that too, when I spotted the airfield itself slightly to the South of the shower. I headed towards it and carried out an overhead join for their Westerly facing runway. As we got closer it was obvious that the shower was in the vicinity of the field, but it didn’t actually appear to be raining at the airfield.

As we joined and entered the circuit, we entered the rain shower to the North of the field on the downwind leg. It persisted as we turned base and final, and I was getting a little concerned until we came out of the shower as we were about 500 feet off the ground. Made a fairly good approach, and flared perhaps a little higher than I should, as the stall warner sounded for longer than I would have expected. However, the actual touchdown was relatively smooth, and as we rolled out we were asked to backtrack. I taxyed towards the apron, and parked up before the marshaller pushed us back into our parking space.

We headed into the building to get lunch, past a very nice (and much larger than what I would have expected to see at an airfield like Conington!) twin parked up on the apron. Maybe one day!

Had a relaxed lunch (Sausage sandwich for me!) and planned the flight back. Planned to pass over Silverstone (and hence Turweston) on the return journey.

As we headed back we could see more obvious showers ahead of us, but the majority of the flight was relatively uneventful. We passed over Silverstone (watching what appeared to be a track day going on below us) and called Turweston to inform them we would be passing close to them. They gave us traffic information and thanked us for calling them when we left the frequency.

The weather ahead was now meaning that we would have to divert further around Banbury than we had planned, so I called Brize Zone earlier than I normally would, and asked them for a Radar Information Service just in case the visibility deteriorated on the way back. As a backup I dialled in an appropriate radial for Shipton from the Honiley VOR. If the worst came to the worst I was going to proceed due West until I intercepted this, before following it down to Shipton.

As it happened, we came clear of one of the showers just as we passed Banbury, so I turned towards Brize almost as planned. However, ahead of us was a relatively large bank of showers that would have been difficult to go around. With the option of a diversion to Wellesbourne in my head (the weather to the North looked just fine) I headed towards the showers.

At this point, the sunglasses (V-Ones) I had bought relatively recently really came in useful. As we were in the shower I could still pick out the horizon on the other side of the weather. However at one point I removed the sunglasses and the horizon became much less distinct. Obviously something about the optical characteristics helped cut through the gloom and increase the contrast.

We passed a little closer to Enstone than I would have liked, so turned West to dog leg around it as we weren’t talking to them (in hindsight I probably should have used the other radio to contact them to inform them we were close) and continued on for Brize. The nice Zone controller offered me a direct arrival (rather than having to go via Burford) and I checked with her that my course was good for that (because obviously I hadn’t planned it).

We relatively quickly cleared the showers, I identified Brize ahead of us, and called ‘Field in sight’. A little later I spotted the real Brize slightly off to our left! Whoops.

The rejoin went without any real excitement, and the approach on Base and Final were all normal. Again I think I flared slightly too high, leading to a slightly firmer arrival than I would have liked. Still, Ben commented on how good the landing was, and that he’d had worse when flying commercially!

So, my first ‘real’ flight post PPL had passed without too much drama. I’d encountered some marginal weather and had dealt with it well, diverting around the worst of it and not allowing myself to get distracted by some rain in the vicinity of the airfield I was landing at. On the whole, an enjoyable flight!

Total flight time today: 2:05
Total flight time to date: 65:40

4 Responses to “Landing away on my own licence”

  1. Back to Wellesbourne « Andy’s Blog Says:

    […] to Wellesbourne By Andy Hawkins I’d taken Ben flying as one of my passengers on my first landaway after getting my PPL, and his wife had accompanied us on a trip more recently. However, Ben had […]

  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 like a good time for me to return. I’d done all the pre-flight planning using […]

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

    […] 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 PPL. I’d been back once more recently by myself, but decided to see if it was still the pleasant […]

  4. Multi-leg tour, and a tech aircraft | Andy's Blog Says:

    […] 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! […]

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