First water crossing (well, kind of!)

Was getting close to going out of currency again, so wanted to get in a flight before needing to fly with an Instructor. While it’s no great hassle to take Matt up for half an hour, it just makes things a little more difficult in that you have to find a time that’s convenient for both.

I’d also noticed in my log book that the vast majority of my recent flights had just been flights around the local area, not landing away. I wanted to rectify this, as well as get a new airfield in my log book if at all possible.

Weather leading up to the weekend looked pretty good, so I dug out an old plan I had for a flight to Bembridge on the Isle of Wight. It’s a relatively short flight (only about 75nm each way, even on the rather circuitous route I’d planned to avoid the possibility of any airspace busts!).

Plan made (routing via M4 J15, a roundabout South West of Basingstoke and Petersfield) I kept an eye on the forecasts for Sunday all through the week, and Sunday dawned bright, warm and with barely a cloud in the sky. TAFs all looked good, as did the Metform 215 (there was a slight chance of some lower cloud over the Isle of Wight later in the day, but apart from that it was perfect flying weather). The only difficulty was picking a wind direction to use for the plan, as the wind was all over the show according to the Metform 214 (albeit with a max drift figure of barely 3 degrees).

Arrived at the club good and early, and checked the tech log for the previous flight to see when I could expect them back. As it happened they had also gone to Bembridge, so at least I’d be able to get some info from them when they returned!

Completed the plan and marked up the chart in the club, and when the previous pilot returned got him to brim the tanks, hopefully saving me having to refuel on my return. He’d taken much the same route as me, and had reported that Bembridge was starting to get pretty busy as they left. Oh well, I guess I have to get used to busy airfields again!

Booked out, did a transit check of G-VICC and then settled myself in the cockpit, ensuring I had everything to hand and that the GPS was set up, working and set to follow the planned route. Engine fired into life easily after I’d received start clearance, and the first snags began.

The wind was virtually calm, but today Lyneham were using runway 06 instead of the more usual 24. This meant a long taxy down to the far end of the airfield, via an entry that I was less familiar with. As luck would have it, they had a cargo flight departing soon and they wanted to keep that entry clear, so they had me use my normal entry, in anticipation of me backtracking the runway rather than heading down the long taxiway.

As I completed the power checks, the Ground controller told me that they’d like me to use runway 18 to avoid any delay to my flight caused by the departure of the cargo flight. Presumably it would get priority for runway 06, so I’d have to hang around. If I could nip straight onto runway 18, I’d be able to get off before the other flight and be on my way. They were reporting ‘wind calm’ at that point, so the only difference it made to me was using an unfamiliar runway.

The Ground controller cleared me to line up on runway 18. I queried this, because from where I was, the only way to get to 18 was to cross runway 06 / 24, and I didn’t want to become a statistic in a runway incursion report! They acknowledged that I was clear to cross, and I crossed runway 24 to line up on 18. Was given immediate clearance to take off, and I applied full power and began the take off roll.

Runway 18 comes to a crest about half way along its length, so I wasn’t too sure just how much runway I had to play with, however I was airborne long before what appeared to be the end of the runway, only to find that that I was barely half way along and had plenty to spare (no real surprise given the kind of traffic Lyneham usually services!).

I was cleared to depart the zone to the East, so I made a 90 degree left turn once clear of Lyneham itself and headed towards M4 J15. This was the furthest I had flown through Lyneham’s zone (usually we head North and are clear of the zone within a minute) so I paid close attention to my height keeping (always a minor problem of mine) and grabbed a few photos of Swindon as I passed to the South.

Passing Swindon

Passing Swindon

Once clear of the zone I set course for the roundabout at Basingstoke, which is within the stub of the Odiham MATZ. This route took me almost directly over Hungerford, and just south of Newbury. I switched to Farnborough Radar, and received basic service from them. In hindsight I’m not sure I correctly passed my route, as my initial call of ‘Request Basic Service and MATZ penetration’ just received the reply ‘Basic Service’ on both flights. I had to wait until I was getting close to the MATZ to ask again for the MATZ penetration, which was granted without any delay in both cases.

Hungerford appeared bang on target, and I could soon make out Newbury to the left. Was too far away to be able to spot my workplace, I’ll have to repeat this route and overfly Newbury sometime to see if I can spot it.

Approaching Odiham, was given the MATZ penetration, and warned that both Odiham and Lasham were active with gliders. I kept a good lookout, but it was easy to spot the cluster of gliders in the distance thermalling above the fields. I tried to get a shot, but it’s obvious that I need a passenger with me to take shots like this, as all I got was a patch of empty sky!

Odiham in the distance

Odiham in the distance

Turned at Basingstoke, heading for Petersfield which kept me well clear of the Controlled Airspace around Southampton. In hindsight I needn’t have given it such a wide birth, as one section I avoided only applied above 3000 feet, and I could easily have flown well below that.

As I approached Petersfield, another aircraft with a callsign ending ‘CC’ came on frequency. The Controller didn’t seem to realise this, so I responded to the next call to ‘G-CC’ with my full callsign (‘Was that for G-VICC’) which prompted him to realise that there were two similar callsigns on frequency, and he started using the full callsign from then on.

As I approached the coast, I found myself subconsciously gaining height. This was my first trip across any decent sized tract of water (although the crossing is only 6 miles or so on my route) and I didn’t want to find that my luck was holding and my first ever engine failure also coincided with my first water crossing! I gave the engine a good blast of carb heat as I approached the coast, checked all the Ts and Ps, amps and suction and coasted out.

Coasting out

Coasting out

I’d switched to Bembridge for now, and thankfully they were pretty quiet (I had to double check the frequency on the chart to make sure I hadn’t written down the wrong one!) and apart from some gliding to the South of the field, and another aircraft due to join behind me, I pretty much had the sky to myself. I could easily see Bembridge as I approached the Isle of Wight coast, so began planning my downwind join.

Because I’d climbed to nearly 3000 feet crossing the water, I found myself with a huge amount of height to lose to join the circuit. Idle power just wasn’t doing it, so I used plenty of sideslip to get down to circuit height. I was still descending the last couple of hundred feet as I joined downwind (in hindsight too close in, as I was inside the villages that the circuit is supposed to skirt around) and concentrated on the approach.

Approaching Bembridge

Approaching Bembridge

As usual, I was slightly high, but I’m used to most of my approaches being glide approaches these days, and as I turned final the A/G operator warned me of a glider approaching from the South to use the grass runway. We flew along in formation for a while as I approached the runway, and I guess this was probably sufficient distraction for me to make a bit of a mess of the actual landing. I flared for the runway, but never got as far as holding off properly before landing pretty flat, albeit relatively smoothly.

Received the nice ‘Welcome to Bembridge’ and parking instructions as I rolled out, easily making the turn off half way down the runway, and taxyed onto the grass parking and shut down.

It was nice to be landing away again, and even more satisfying to be doing it at an airfield I hadn’t visited before. I’d been a little concerned at finding the airfield (I’d got used to having an NDB to follow in for the last few miles as a comfort blanket), but it turned out to be easy to spot, and my Nav (coupled with the reassurance of the GPS) had been pretty much spot on during the outbound flight. Time for a bacon toastie as a reward!

I sat out in the sun, eating my toastie and desperately trying not to hear the F1 commentary that was on in the background (it was being recorded at home and I didn’t want to find out the result!). Watched the world go by for an hour or so, then made ready to leave.

Busy parking area

Busy parking area

I’d been trying to work out whether a backtrack was necessary, but had spotted another departing aircraft using a grass taxyway up the hill to the start of the Easterly runway. Figuring that this was the thing to do, I used this myself (after a quick transit check) and carried out the power checks just off the runway.

Once the power checks were complete, I was about to take to the runway when another aircraft announced that they were taking to the runway from the intersection that is about half way down. First time I’ve ever been queue-jumped waiting for a runway! Sat and waited while they backtracked the length of the runway, and as they took off another aircraft was turning final so I had to wait some more!

As the aircraft landed, I announced I was taking to the runway, and sat at the start waiting for them to vacate. In hindsight this was probably a bad idea, as they missed the intersection and then took an age finding their way to the grass taxyway at the far end. Meanwhile I was sitting with the engine idling and my back to any traffic on final. Not exactly where I wanted to be.

They finally cleared the runway, and I announced I was rolling. Little wind still, so a nice easy takeoff, but for the first time I was taking off over water. I’d only reached a couple of hundred feet before I went ‘feet wet’ and headed out over the coast. Wouldn’t like an EFATO here!

Made the crosswind turn in two stages to clear Bembridge village, but remain close to the coast just in case, before heading North and using the GPS to intersect my track back towards Petersfield. Continued climbing up to 2500 feet, and contacted Farnborough again for a service on the way back. I was given a squawk, which I set, and was soon settling in for the journey home.

I’d just crossed the coast onto the mainland when the Farnborough controller asked for my position. I announce ‘Overhead Havant’, and received the response ‘Heading South?’. ‘Negative, heading North’. ‘Ah, ok. I’ve found you. We have another aircraft on the same squawk’.

That confusion resolved, I was soon given another sqawk, and then moments later another aircraft announced he was overhead Havant and heading North, a few hundred feet above me. I craned my neck, desperately trying to spot him, but didn’t. Was a little worried about this, and did consider another position report just to draw his attention to the fact that I was close by, but given how busy the frequency was I elected not to. A mistake perhaps?

Continued on the route, listening to lots of traffic and spotting most of it. Odiham and Lasham were again busy with gliders as I passed, and there was also a 737 heading into Farnborough at one point.

Sometime between Basingstoke and Newbury I had my most worrying experience yet as a pilot. I was happily cruising along, keeping a good lookout and building a mental picture of traffic from the R/T, when there was a muffled ‘bang’ from somewhere, and the yoke vibrated slightly. My training instantly took over, and I was looking down for a field while trying to work out just how much control I had over the aircraft.

A quick check inside the cockpit showed the instruments all looked normal. The engine was still running nicely, I wasn’t losing height, nor was I in an unusual attitude. I experimented with the controls, making small turns to the left and right, and as I turned right I noticed that I could no longer see the screen of my GPS.

What had happened was that the suction mount had chosen that moment to fail, dropping the GPS to the floor. On the way down it had connected slightly with the right hand yoke, which I had felt through the left hand yoke and had caused my concern. Glad it was something simple in the end, but it was also a good wake up call, showing that you can never get too settled in what you’re doing in case something odd happens.

That drama over, I resumed my route. Newbury passed by to the right, and I started thinking about getting off the Farnborough frequency because it was busy, and I envisaged having difficulty getting my transmission in between all the other traffic. As it turns out, I was right, as I had to make the call 2 or 3 times, with the first ones being ‘trodden on’ by others.

Eventually got the call in, and switched to Lyneham approach. Despite still being several miles South West of the M4 J15 turning point, I could easily make out both the Wroughton airfield and Lyneham off in the distance to my left, so I elected to abandon the route and just head straight to Lyneham.

There was some intitial confusion on my part. I was approaching from the East, and they were still using the Easterly runway. I asked for a downwind join, which was approved, and then the controller said ‘a Right downwind join is available if required’. Whoops. I’d assumed that because they use a left hand circuit on the Westerly facing runway, the would use a right hand circuit on the Easterly (so that aircraft followed the same track essentially). Not so!

Got a bit closer, announced ‘Field in sight’ and was transferred to the Tower frequency. They asked me to report when joined, and then the trouble started again! As I joined right downwind for 06, I announced ‘G-VICC, right downwind for 24’. I received no reply, so repeated the call, this time correcting the runway from 24 to 06.

Again received no reply, so tried a ‘Lyneham Tower, G-VICC’ to get their attention. The controller came back with an ‘Apologies, understand you are right downwind for 24’. This obviously required a correction, and eventually we were both on the same page, with me right downwind for 06. He even gave me a ‘Roger, now have you visual’ for final confirmation!

Rejoining at Lyneham

Rejoining at Lyneham

The approach was generally good (as usual, a little high), slightly complicated by the GPS falling off the windscreen again as I turned Final. Luckily this time it didn’t provide the same shock as it had first time, and I made a nice gentle touchdown, albeit with a very small amount of sideways drift. I’d landed long (I decided there was little point in trying to land on the threshold, as I’d have then needed a 2 mile taxy to get to the other end anyway!) and was given clearance to vacate via the 18 loop. Taxyed back to the Flying Club parking area, and parked up ready to refuel.

The route (blue) and track (red)

The route (blue) and track (red)

The heat didn’t help when I had to push the aircraft back into its parking space, something I’d been hoping I wouldn’t have to do, as there was another flight booked immediately after me. The next pilot didn’t appear, so once I’d chocked the aircraft I decided to walk into the club and see if they were around before going to all the hassle of putting the aircraft cover on by myself!

So, on the whole, a very successful and enjoyable flight. I’d landed away, added a new airfield to my log book, and also dealt with a minor scare en route. I knew there was a reason I loved flying!

Total flight time today: 2:10
Total flight time to date: 90:50


One Response to “First water crossing (well, kind of!)”

  1. Isle of Wight mini fly-out « Andy's Blog Says:

    […] I had a slight problem spotting Bembridge (when I’d visited previously there’d always been a large number of aircraft on the ground making it a […]

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