Vulcan hunting

Wanted to keep flying, and took the opportunity to book the Grob at Brize for an afternoon flight. Had originally tried to get a ‘paying victim’ to come with me, but that fell through so Luned was press-ganged in at the last minute!

We were running a little late, so planned to just pop up to Wellesbourne for lunch (and fuel) and then do a tour out to the West, going from Wellesbourne to Brize via Worcester and Ross on Wye.

The Route

The Route

Indy had been out with someone else giving them a check in the Grob, so after a quick walk around we were ready to go. Getting Luned into her seat involved a little more effort on her part than the Warrior, the Grob’s seating is more Westfield than Mondeo, and there’s no step behind the wing to help with the first leap from the ground.

All the pre flight checks were completed Ok, and we received taxy clearance. Taxyed out to the hold for power checks, then were ready to depart. A normal takeoff (which for the Grob means repeated annoying bleats of the stall warner) and we turned for Burford. At Burford we headed towards the usual starting point of Shipton under Wychwood, climbing up to our cruise altitude of 2500 feet.

It was a pretty good day on the whole, good visibility with a cloudbase of around 3000 feet or so. There were a few darker clouds and off to the West there were some patches of rain, but nothing on our route to cause us to divert.

Continued to the North, talking to Brize Zone, with Luned helping out with the navigation, picking out the various towns on the way and spotting Morton in Marsh disused airfield off to the left. As we passed Shipton we switched to Wellesboune to get the joining information.

The frequency was quite busy, with three other aircraft joining overhead, and one approaching on a long final for a straight in approach to 18. He had to go around as the runway was still occupied when he arrived, so also had to join the circuit (more of that later!). We joined overhead, managing (for a change!) to get an eyeball on the two aircraft ahead of us. One was descending deadside as we positioned overhead, so we followed him around the circuit, also spotting the plane that was ahead of him.

As we turned crosswind, the aircraft ahead of us was turning onto downwind and I was travelling a little slower than normal in the Grob. This turned out to be quite lucky, because as we approached the downwind turn, another aircraft quickly appeared passing from our left to join the downwind leg. Thinking about it now, this was probably the guy that had to go around from the long final. In light of recent events at Coventry, I had been keeping a very good lokout for other aircraft in the circuit, but hadn’t spotted the one that joined on downwind.  A good lesson not to become fixated on the aircraft that you can see, and to continue looking for the traffic that you can’t.

We slotted in behind him, and continued our approach. As we turned final he was just touching down, and as we continued our approach we saw him leave the runway as we got down to a few hundred feet. The approach had gone well, but yet again I had an awful landing in the Grob. This time I ended up bouncing 2 or 3 times, probably due to excess speed on touchdown. I’m not sure why my landings in the Grob were fine when I was being checked out, and yet since then they’ve all been pretty awful!

Taxyed to the pumps and fuelled up, before taxying to parking (having to take to the grass to allow an aircraft coming in the opposite direction to pass. Squeezed through quite a tight gap into our parking space, then we headed in for lunch.

A couple of sandwiches and a bowl of chips later, we were ready to continue. Luned got a nice shot of the Vulcan on the ground as I did the power checks, before we took to the runway to depart.

Vulcan at Wellesbourne

Vulcan at Wellesbourne

Rotated perhaps a little early, and again the stall warner bleated a few times as I allowed the speed to build in level flight before pulling up as we reached the appropriate climb speed. The rate of climb in the Grob isn’t great, and the trees ahead looked a little closer than normal before we were established in the climb correctly!

Turned West to head towards Worcester, overflying Stratford on Avon as we left the field. As we turned on course we spotted a nice looking bi-plane off to our right, and as we turned left made a point of keeping an eye on him as our tracks looked similar. Once on course it was clear he was actually heading further South than us, so were had plenty of separation.

Once outside Wellesbourne’s zone we switched to Gloucester Approach, but I wasn’t planning to talk to them until I reached Worcester. However, as we listened in it was clear there was other traffic in the same area as us, so we contacted them to let them know where we were, and receive a good Flight Information Service from them for the majority of the rest of the flight. We passed Alcester on track, and spotted the disused airfield at Pershore off to our left.

Worcester appeared off the nose, and Luned did her best to convince me that it was actually Great Malvern. She had spotted Droitwich off to the right, and assumed that was Worcester. I’d been similarly confused on one of my very first navigation exercises to Droitwich, where I spotted Worcester and ended up headed for there!

We turned overhead Worcester, and reported our position to Gloucester. Our next turn was Ross on Wye, and this took us over the ridge at Great Malvern. We had been experiencing the odd bit of turbulence during the flight, which Luned wasn’t too happy about! I warned her that things were likely to be a little worse as we approached the ridge, and things did get a little lumpy on this leg! We could also spot a number of showers off to the left, but none of them appeared to be on our track. We did end up passing through some very light, brief showers, but on the whole the weather had been pretty kind to us.

Over the ridge we soon spotted Ledbury, and then the airfield at Ledbury (which is actually a few miles to the South West of the town) before approaching Ross on Wye. We had a little trouble spotting the M50 (this would help identify the turning point correctly) but we soon spotted a couple of lorries emerging from some trees on a major road, so obviously the motorway winds its way through wooded areas at this point making it a little hard to spot.

On turning at Ross on Wye we reported to Gloucester that we would be overhead in 10 minutes or so, and they warned us of some other traffic approaching the field from Cardiff. He was actually several minutes ahead of us so we didn’t actually see him. Gloucester was quite easy to spot from this distance, but again it was obvious that the sunglasses I had bought were working well, as Luned couldn’t see the field from this far away because of the dark clouds that were overhead.

We passed Gloucester, and made ready to change back to Brize for the arrival. As we passed Cheltenham we changed frequencies (thanking Gloucester for their good service) and spoke to Brize to arrange our rejoin. From this far out we could easily sea the power station at Didcot, and Brize itself was quite easy to spot. This route involved us basically following the A40 all the way to the VRP at Northleach Roundabout. Once there, we continued to follow the road down to Burford, descending to 1000 feet on the Brize QFE for our rejoin.

Approaches to Brize are now almost second nature, but things were a little more interesting today as there was a Cessna in the circuit as we approached. I joined right base just as he took off from a touch and go, so we were ideally spaced not to conflict with each other. As we descended on the base and final legs, Luned got a nice shot of another Vulcan, this time the one that has recently returned to flying. It was being based at Brize for a few airshows (we found out from the father of a friend of ours who turns out to be on the engineering team that was responsible for returning it to the air) so it was a good opportunity to get some nice photos of it.


Vulcan at Brize Norton

Vulcan at Brize Norton

As we neared the ground, there was quite a bit of turbulence, and it took a fair amount of effort to keep the approach stable. Yet again, the landing was pretty awful! This time the wind direction changed quite close to the ground so I had to work hard to regain the centre line. The touchdown was heavier than I’d have liked, but not as bad as the one at Wellesbourne! Perhaps I’m improving slowly!

We taxyed back and put the plane to bed. It had been another great afternoon of flying, and the weather had been kind to us along the route which helped as well. May there be many more!

Total flight time today: 1:50
Total flight time to date: 74:05

One Response to “Vulcan hunting”

  1. RAF Brize Norton visit | Andy's Blog Says:

    […] had been a while since I was last there (I left RAF Brize Norton Flying Club shortly after gaining my PPL in Summer 2008), but it felt […]

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