Heading back to Wellesbourne

Now that I was current again, I wanted to go for a flight by myself just to keep my hand in if at all possible.

I had a few destinations in mind (all places I’d been to before) but plumped for Wellesbourne, as it was somewhere I hadn’t been to in a while, and was (hopefully) likely to be fairly quiet on a weekday.

Took particular care over the flight planning, making sure I got NOTAMs and weather reports for the route. The weather wasn’t looking brilliant for the day, but cloudbases looked to be a minimum of 2500 feet or so, with the odd isolated shower, so I figured that it was worth launching and making an attempt, with a view to either skirting around the worst of the weather, or just giving up if things looked too bad to complete the flight.

Arrived at Lyneham in good time, and completed the flight planning and prepared the chart ready for the flight. Headed out in good time to give the aircraft an ‘A’ check, taking particular care as this was the first full check I’d done in quite a while. Lyneham were still without fuel, but we had more than ‘tabs’ in both tanks, giving me a range of at least 3 hours, and probably 4. The planned route was only for a maximum of an hour on each leg, so that gave me plenty of fuel to complete the flight and leave a decent reserve.

Remembered to book out this time, and called for start clearance just a couple of minutes later than the time I’d given them. Aircraft started easily, I taxyed out to the 18 loop and prepared to do the power checks. At this point the Controller asked me to move up to the hold, as there was a Herc wanting to taxy behind me and I would have been in the way where I was. I acknowledged and informed him that I still needed to complete the power checks, and moved up to the hold so that I was out of the way.

As I carried out the power checks, there was a Herc doing circuits, together with the one that had passed behind me preparing to depart. As a result I was also paying particular attention to when each aircraft lifted off, starting the timer on the transponder so I could keep an eye on the time I needed to leave to avoid any wake turbulence.

Once the power checks and pre take off checklist was complete, I called ‘ready for departure’ and was told to hold. After a couple of circuits and the departing Herc, the controller told me I would be cleared for departure after the next circuit, and I switched to the Tower frequency. Made my initial call to them, and informed them I’d need 3 minutes delay after the last departure to avoid wake turbulence, and I was cleared onto the runway after the Herc had completed its latest touch and go.

I was particularly conscious of the cloudy day, and was giving the engine regular bursts of carb heat to avoid any potential of carb icing during the wait, and I gave it one last blast as I headed out onto the runway and sat in position waiting for the 3 minutes to expire.

I wasn’t sure whether the controller was waiting for me to tell him I was ready, but just as I was about to tell him, he gave me my take off clearance, and after I quick check of the gauges and instruments I was away. Normal takeoff with a decent crosswind from the right keeping me busy, before I switched to the Approach frequency and headed North to Malmesbury.

As I reached the Zone boundary the controller informed me I was receiving a Flight Information Service, but I had already planned that I would immediately switch to Kemble, as my planned route took me through their overhead and I wanted to talk to them to ensure they knew what I was doing. As a result, I acknowledged the service I was given, and immediately informed him I was switching to Kemble Information!

On frequency with Kemble, they only traffic they knew about was another Lyneham aircraft heading the other way, and I quickly spotted them as the other aircraft called that they had me in sight. I continued past Kemble, and as I flew over Cirencester I switched to Brize Radar to get Flight Information from them for the rest of the route to Wellesbourne.

My route took me past the Northleach Roundabout (a VRP I’d used as a Nav starting point when flying from Brize) and not far from the disused airfield at Moreton in Marsh. I easily spotted both of these, as well as Little Rissington on the hill in the distance. I was also experimenting a little with the GPS in the aircraft (I managed to drop my own Bluetooth GPS unit on the way to the aircraft, knocking the battery out meaning it was no longer paired to my PDA!) and had set up a direct route to Wellesbourne in that. As a final Nav backup I had tuned the Honiley VOR and was monitoring my progress using that.

As I neared Wellesbourne, Brize told me to freecall them, and I switched to their frequency, listening in for a while to get a feel for their traffic. As it happened, there wasn’t any! Rather than go through the whole overhead join, I asked if I could do a straight in approach to their runway 36, and received the response, ‘Nothing known to affect, report long final’. By now I had successfully identified Wellesbourne in the distance, and began to set myself up for a long straight in approach. Made the appropriate ‘Long final’ and ‘final’ calls, before making a relatively decent landing, slowing in plenty of time to vacate the runway at the intersection. Was told to park in front of the tower, and shut down feeling happy with the way the flight had gone thus far.

A quick check of the tanks before I headed in showed that they were both at around ‘tabs’, still giving me around 3 hours worth of fuel, again plenty to make the return flight. Headed into the cafe for a sausage sandwich to refuel me, and marvelled at just how quiet the airfield was.

Had a bit of a chat with the guys in the control tower when I went to pay my landing fee (including a quick check that I was aware of the noise abatement procedure for departures), before heading back to the aircraft and completing a quick walk around to ensure nothing had dropped off the aircraft while I ate! Got myself comfortable and called for airfield info and taxy, before being told to taxy to holding point Echo.

Whoops. While I was pretty sure where ‘Echo’ was, I should have checked the Flight Guide before getting this far. Quickly dug it out of my back to make sure I knew where ‘Echo’ was, before taxying down there and completing the power checks.

Despite the crosswind there were no dramas on departure, and I made the right turn at the airfield boundary to head over the ‘green roof’, before turning crosswind as I reached 1000 feet. Turned downwind and headed South until the airfield was in the correct position over my left shoulder, before setting course for home.

At this point, it all started to go wrong. Despite having made this mistake numerous times in the past, I was again trapped into heading for a ground feature that I had mis-identified in the distance as the Moreton disused. Once I reached it, I realised that it wasn’t in fact the disused airfield, and quickly set a course in the GPS to try to get my bearings. This showed that I was significantly to the right of track (the GPS showed a course to steer of something like 190, instead of the calculated 220 that I should have been flying.

I did my best to get back on track, but was later warned by the Brize Controller to make sure I avoided the temporary restriction around the Cheltenham Races. I had noticed this on the NOTAMs, but as my route shouldn’t really have took me anywhere near it, it shouldn’t have been a factor. Obviously the Brize Controller could see which direction I was actually headed, and had brought it to my attention fearing that I might infringe upon it. Whilst I was above 2000 feet on the Cotswold RPS so would have been above it even if I had flown through the area, I still shouldn’t have been heading for it!

With an occasional eye on the GPS I managed to get back on track, eventually spotting the familar roundabout near Northleach, before deciding to follow the road from Northleach to Cirencester. The weather was getting noticeably worse now, and I had descended to about 1700 feet to remain below the lowering cloudbase. After a little discussion with the Brize Controller I switched back to Kemble Information (Brize had assumed I was going direct to Lyneham so were ready to give me a handover) to let them know I would be heading through their overhead.

Almost immediately I began to fly through the edges of a cloud, so had to descend to below 1500 feet to remain clear of them. This would have put me flying through any circuit traffic at Kemble, so I informed them I had descended and would route South of the airfield. A little later I passed by Kemble, and switched back to Lyneham to rejoin.

Lyneham had instrument traffic approaching the field, so told me to join midpoint downwind for a change, and I soon spotted the incoming Herc. I was handed over to Tower once I could see the field, and made the initial call without actually switching frequency, so there was a little confusion as I thought he said ‘Continue approach’ when actually he said ‘You’re still with approach’. Doh!

Once finally talking to Tower, I joined downwind and continued to the base leg before calling Final. The Herc had landed and I had started the timer to ensure I would leave plenty of gap behind it, and I continued my approach.

Again the winds were gusting from the right, so I elected to just use 2 stages of flap, and made a decent approach. The last stage of the landing saw me drifting slightly left and again ballooning (2 stages of flap!) before getting the aircraft on the ground.

Just as I passed the 18 loop where we would normally vacate, the Controller told me to vacate ‘next left’. I ensured he meant runway 18 (he did) before turning up there. I was now in unfamiliar territory, so I flicked to the Lyneham airfield plan to ensure I knew where I was going. Just to distract me a little further the Controller informed me a Herc would be crossing in front of me (I’d spotted it!) before clearing me back to the wash bay via Entry 3 (the entry we would usually use when taxying down to the start of runway 06).

While a little wary of this unfamiliar route, I managed to work out where I needed to go by spotting the Flying Club parking area, and left the runway via the correct exit. Taxyed back and was in two minds whether to park near the bowser (there was a fuel delivery expected sometime this afternoon) or just position the aircraft so that I could push it back into its parking space.

Obviously I chose wrong, parking in front of the (still empty) bowser! Luckily a couple of other people were about, and they came over to tell me the fuel delivery hadn’t arrived yet, and gave me a hand pushing the aircraft back into its parking space. I cleared all my gear out, put the cover on, and headed back into the club to complete the paperwork.

On the whole this was a relatively successful flight. Although being slightly ‘uncertain of position’ for a while on the return leg, I used the GPS to get back on track, and also coped with the slightly worsening weather conditions without letting them distract me too much from the task at hand. I just need to remember to stick to my Nav plan, and not ‘assume’ that some ground feature I’ve spotted in the distance is the correct one!

Total flight time today: 1:40
Total flight time to date: 85:25

One Response to “Heading back to Wellesbourne”

  1. Flying after a long break « Andy’s Blog Says:

    […] flight and anything else that comes to mind. « Unusual reason for a cancellation! Heading back to Wellesbourne […]

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