Touring with a colleague

A colleague at work had been mentioning to me that he wanted to fly for some time, so when I heard he was going out to work in the Far East for a few months, I thought I’d better get the flight slotted in before he went!

The original plan was for me to take Stewart up to Shobdon for some lunch, but on the morning of the flight the forecast showed the chance of some lowering cloud gradually working its way in from the North West. So, I decided we would do much the same route, but just skip the landaway at Shobdon.

NOTAMs and the rest of the weather looked unlikely to affect the flight, so we met at Lyneham in plenty of time, before heading down to the Flying Club. I completed my planning while Stewart read the various magazines in the ‘departure lounge’, leaving him there while I went out and did the ‘A’ check. Eventually, after a couple of attempts to get hold of an Instructor for authorisation (and remembering to book out!), we were ready to go.

Got ourselves comfortable in Fox Whisky, then messed around a bit getting my GPS working before calling for start clearance from Lyneham Ground. Had no issues on that frequency today, perhaps they’ve got a new microphone! Taxyed out normally, being offered runway 36 due to the crosswind (about 60 degrees off at 10 knots or so) but declined as I figured a bit of practice with crosswinds never hurt anyone, and it was well within the demonstrated crosswind limits of the aircraft.

Ended up sitting on the 18 loop for several minutes waiting for the engine to warm up, which probably accounted for the glitch during the power checks. When checking for mag drop, there was some obvious rough running on one of the mags. While concerned, I reasoned that this was probably due to fouling of the plugs due to sitting for a long period at relatively low RPMs. I ran the engine at higher than normal RPM with the mixture leaned off significantly, and on the next check the rough running had all but gone, so I was happy to continue on the basis of this.

Due to the long wait we already had our departure clearance, so were ready to go once the checks were complete. Were cleared to take off, and once I was happy Stewart was ready to go we headed out onto the runway. A quick check of the engine instruments and DI, and we were ready to go. Full throttle showed good RPMs, and we accelerated down the runway, making a nice crosswind takeoff.

Was prompted by the Tower Controller to switch to the Zone frequency, so at 500 feet I began to turn to the North West to head for Malmesbury and switched to Zone. This was my first use of the new ATSOCAS procedures (they had come into effect on 12th March, but I hadn’t flown since then) and luckily the Zone Controller pre-empted me by saying I would have Basic Service once outside of the Zone. While I had remembered that the change had come into effect, at least this was an extra reminder to prevent me slipping up!

Climbed out to the North West, and headed to Malmesbury as usual to start the Nav. Stewart was being a useful extra set of eyes scanning for traffic, and we headed West for the first turning point over the Old Severn Bridge. Once clear of Lyneham I switched to Filton Approach (we would be passing very close to the Thornbury VRP so I wanted to hear any traffic that might be coming from that direction) and received a Basic Service from them.

Passing North Abeam Filton

Passing North Abeam Filton

Around this time I offered Stewart the chance to take the controls after a brief demo. Just before the flight he’d admitted to being scared of heights, and had been particularly concerned about the takeoff. While I obviously couldn’t give him control during takeoff, I thought that a period flying the aircraft might help dispel any fears he’d had. As it happened he’d been an ideal passenger, frequently spotting traffic and pointing it out. His first spell at the controls left him a little wary due to a bit of turbulence, but I showed him how stable the aircraft was by flying ‘hands off’ for a little while, just to demonstrate that even the turbulence was unlikely to put the aircraft into a dangerous situation.

Once we flew over the bridges and turned to the North, I passed control back to him again, and he seemed much more comfortable on the controls now. I explained to him that finding this difficult was perfectly normal, as I well remember my first few sessions at the controls wondering if I’d ever be able to maintain straight and level! We continued Northwards, meandering slightly but being generally on track, with me using the GPS every now and again to point Stewart into gentle turns to regain track.

There was a fair amount of traffic as we headed North, including one aircraft that appeared to be almost hovering off to our right. It was in fact travelling very slowly, and was heading such that our tracks would cross, but not necessarily causing a collision risk. Although in theory he had right of way, it was obvious that our relative speeds meant that I would pass clearly in front of him without there being any risk. We kept a good eye on him as we continued, and he soon passed behind us by a mile or two before appearing again off to our left.

On the journey North, I had signed off from Filton, and begun listening in to the Shobdon frequency. The decision to not land there seemed even more correct now, as it was obvious that they were incredibly busy, with fixed wing, rotary and gliders all in the circuit, and all three runways in use! We approached Leominster with our eyes peeled, and Stewart declined my offer for him to carry out the long turn (some 150 degrees to the right) to bring us back on track towards Stroud and eventually Lyneham.

I took the controls for the turn, and once we were back on track I handed control back to Stewart again. By now he appeared to have much more confidence at the controls, and was less concerned when brief periods of turbulence bounced us around slightly. We continued South East, now monitoring Gloucester Approach to get a feel for the traffic in the area. There wasn’t much to affect us as we passed Gloucester itself, but as we prepared to change back to Lyneham, a rotary came on frequency having just departed from Kemble and heading to Monmouth. Bearing this traffic in mind (although we never saw it) we switched back to Lyneham Approach as we crossed over the hill North of Stroud.

Heading South Near the Severn

Heading South Near the Severn

This area involves ‘threading the needle’ somewhat between two relatively active gliding fields. One of these was certainly active today, as we spotted a glider circling ahead of us but right of our track. We passed each other with plenty of room to spare (but obviously keeping a good eye on him in case his track changed) and continued on towards Malmesbury.

I had been a little concerned in the days leading up to the flight, as the visibility had been pretty poor over the last few days. However, today the wind had picked up, and it appeared to have lifted the haze layer and visibility was in fact excellent, allowing us to easily pick out Malmesbury and Lyneham at several miles distance. Waited until we were over Malmesbury and I had positively identified Lyneham in the distance before informing the Approach Controller that we had the field in sight, and we switched to the Tower frequency.

Once on the Tower frequency, we were cleared to join for Runway 24, again with a decent crosswind from the right. There was also traffic about to depart, which we had trouble initially finding (we heard his takeoff clearance but couldn’t see him on the runway) but he evetually appeared on the runway and I had Stewart keep an eye on him so that we could time our approach to avoid his wake turbulence.

We were joining late downwind as he rotated, so I informed the Tower Controller of our position, and that we would extend our downwind slightly to allow the required spacing for wake turbulence purposes. The before landing checks were completed, and we turned base, beginning to configure the aircraft for the approach. I left it a little late to do this, meaning that by the time we were turning Final we were significantly high.

I had already briefed Stewart to expect the engine to go quite during the approach, but I ended up pulling the throttle virtually to idle to get us back down onto the correct approach path. There was a significant crab angle visible, reinforcing the crosswind we were expecting. Down at about 400 feet I politely (hopefully!) asked Stewart to remain quiet from her on in, and prepared for the landing.

As we crossed the threshold, I began reducing the throttle to idle ready to round out, while beginning to kick off the crap using rudder and maintaining the centre line using the ailerons. Rounded out a little more than necessary, which resulted in a brief bleat from the stall warner and a slight balloon. Released the back pressure slightly while adding a little throttle, then brought the throttle to idle again once we were stable and had another try. The speed began to bleed off and I continued to raise the nose, before we gently touched down on the runway.

Because of being slightly high on the approach and the problem with the balloon, we were never going to make the turn for the 18 loop or runway 18, so I applied gentle braking and allowed the aircraft to slow before asking for a backtrack to the 18 loop. This was granted, and we were asked to ‘remain this’ and cleared to taxy back to the club’s parking area. Stewart declined my offer to try his hand at taxying, so I headed back to the parking area, parking us nose into the bowser so that we could refuel. The mag drop check as we shutdown was normal, indicating that the problems during the power checks were likely to just have been the plugs fouling.

The Route (Blue) and our Track (Red)

The Route (Blue) and our Track (Red)

Had a little trouble refuelling (I’d never had to remove the combination padlock from the bowser before, so didn’t know about the recessed ‘button’ you need to press to release the padlock) and we pushed the aircraft back into its parking space. Getting the cover on with two people is certainly a lot easier with two people, and we were soon on our way back home for tea and medals (well, actually a well earned beer and lunch at my local!).

On the whole a very successful flight. Stewart appeared to enjoy it despite his reservations, and was even talking about the possibility of taking some lessons himself at some point in the future! Another convert hopefully!

Back Safe and Sound!

Back Safe and Sound!

Total flight time today: 1:45
Total flight time to date: 87:10

One Response to “Touring with a colleague”

  1. Same route, different passengers! « Andy’s Blog Says:

    […] Andy’s Blog Poker, flight and anything else that comes to mind. « Touring with a colleague […]

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