Bembridge II, the Return

After getting together with a friend a few months back just after Catrin was born, he’d asked if I would take him and his son on a flight sometime. So, the plan was hatched for Tony and Oliver to join me on a flight. I’d enjoyed my visit to Bembridge, so planned a return there, perhaps with a trip around the Isle of Wight if we had the time.

The weather forecast today promised almost perfect flying weather, but the situation on the day wasn’t quite as good as promised. It was fine for flying, but the cloud was lower than expect, which made me double check a few things before we departed. As I prepared for the flight Oliver asked lots of questions (‘How fast will we be going?’) and I did my best to answer them in such a manner as to put a positive spin on the experience.

I’d also double checked weight and balance so as to be able to fill the aircraft with fuel. I didn’t want to fill up on at Bembridge if I could avoid it, and if I could avoid filling up on our return too then so much the better. We came in easily under the maximum weight allowed with all three of us onboard, so I spent some time filling up the aircraft (club procedure is to fill to tabs after each flight) and carrying out a thorough ‘A’ check.

We got ourselves settled, with Tony and Oliver both in the back seat for the outbound leg. We planned to see how things went before deciding if someone should join me in the front for our return. All pre-flight checks were normal, and the engine started up without any problems. Out to the hold on the 18 loop for power checks, and I hear Ground giving taxy clearance to another aircraft.

Tony and Oliver got a good view of a Hercules taxying behind us out to the active runway (24) and a front row seat for its takeoff roll and climbout. We were given an unusual (for me) ‘Line up at your discretion’ after the Herc had gone, so I informed the Tower we’d need 3 minutes spacing for wake turbulence, and started the timer on the transponder.

After 3 minutes I headed out to the runway (letting Tower know we were lining up) and was given clearance to take off. A quick check with the passengers in the back, and we were off. Slight crosswind from the right, but a nice roll out and I tried for a gentle rotation so as to put my first time passengers at ease.

Turned crosswind at 500 feet, notifying Tower we were switching to the Zone frequency. Reaching 1000 feet we turned downwind, and set course for J15 of the M4, climbing to 2000 feet on the QFE. Tony and Oliver were spotting familiar places in Swindon, and Tony got a photo of his workplace as we passed by.

Once at Junction 15 I set course for the next leg to near Basingstoke, and climbed slightly to reach our cruise altitude of 2500 feet. As we passed Hungerford I left the Brize Zone frequency, and switched to Farnborough LARS for a Basic Service. Given the problems I had with MATZ penetration last time, I left the request for that until we were approching the Odiham MATZ.

The skies were relatively busy today, and we spotted lots of other traffic including a load of Parascenders congregated around a hill off to our right. The NAV was relatively simple, and at one point on this leg Oliver said he was starting to feel slightly ill. I got him to look out into the distance rather than concentrate inside, and also to drink some water. This seemed to help.

There were warnings of gliders around Odiham and Lasham, and we spotted a couple as we passed through. Once past Basingstoke we were heading for Petersfield. There was a lot more traffic heading South now, and we were overtaken off to our right.

Once overhead Portsmouth I left Farnborough and switched over to Bembridge. They had another couple of aircraft inbound, and we were number 3. Number 2 was downwind as we were part way across the water, and we soon spotted him crossing right to left below us. I aimed to slot in behind him for the circuit to landing on their Westerly runway, which brought us in over the sea.

We turned Base as the other aircraft turned Final, and Final as he was landing. I think I was a little low on Final, which meant we had a shallower descent than I would normally like. The aircraft in front cleared the runway after his backtrack in plenty of time, and I made a rather flat landing, but a fairly gentle one.

We backtracked to the taxyway near the mid point of the runway, and taxyed to our parking space. Headed in and had a nice lunch out on the deck. Sadly Luned was out walking with Catrin so we couldn’t wave to her on the webcam at Bembridge!

For the return leg, Oliver opted to sit up front with me. Had a slight snag during start where I’d forgotten to turn the fuel on, which led to the engine cutting out about 1/2 a minute after I started it. Whoops! The plan was to do an anti-clockwise circuit of the island before returning to Lyneham.

Takeoff was normal, and we headed out to the coast of the island to the West of Ryde. Once past Cowes the Solent CTA descends to start at 2000 feet, so I needed to get the Southampton QNH from their ATIS to ensure we were below this level. This took me a little while as their frequency (113.350) couldn’t be selected on the COM radio. Luckily I remembered reading that it was co-located with the SAM VOR/DME, which meant that frequency was in the NAV range, so needed to be selected on a NAV radio. Once I’d sorted this, I listened out and set the appropriate QNH on the altimeter, and descended to 1500 feet.

We followed the coast of the island around, and I cut the corner slightly to keep the Needles off to your right enabling Tony to get some photos. Once back around near Ventnor, I started the climb up to 2500 feet again so that as we crossed the approach path for Bembridge we would be well clear of any arriving traffic.

Once we passed the Northern edge of the Island, I said farewell to Bembridge, thanking them for their hospitality. Not sure that ‘Always a pleasure’ is strictly correct R/T, but it was a nice touch!

Once over Portsmouth again I switched back to the Farnborough frequency, and immediately heard someone reporting in a similar position to us, but about 500 feet above. Despite all attempts to spot him, I never did!

The return leg was relatively routine, with the NAV going well. Oliver had a quick go at the controls, but seemed slightly alarmed at one point when the nose rose due to some turbulence, so I took control back from him so as not to cause too much concern for him. He later went quite quiet, and when I asked he said he was feeling ‘a bit queasy’.

Alarm bells probably should have rung later on when he asked how much longer we were going to be. We were about 20 minutes from Lyneham at that point, and we continued, eventually switching from Farnborough back to the Lyneham Approach frequency. There was initially no answer on Approach, so I switched to Zone and was almost immediately asked to contact Approach! Oh well.

Around this point I experienced something new. Oliver had obviously not been coping with the turbulence we’d been experienced, and vomited. Perhaps I should have taken more note of the earlier signs of his discomfort and ensured he had a sick bag available. As it was it went all down his front, and I was sprayed slightly. A little distracting to say the least!

He seemed relatively calm through the experience, so we continued on to Lyneham. I considered whether a PAN call would be appropriate, and decided that if we ended up number 2 or 3 to some other traffic then I would declare a PAN (‘unwell passenger’) so that we didn’t have to hang around too long in the air. As it was I increased speed from my normal cruise of 90 knots to 105 knots in order to shorten the remainder of the flight.

Luckily Lyneham were quiet at this point, so we made a normal Left Base join for 24, and I made a pretty smooth landing, although a little long as I missed the turnoffs for the 18 loop and runway 18/36, so I had to backtrack. I’d probably been keeping the speed up on Final to get us down quicker, leading to the slightly long landing.

We taxyed back, and got Oliver out of the aircraft as quickly as possible so that he could get himself cleaned up. He disappeared into the Club while Tony and I cleaned up the aircraft as best we could, before refuelling putting the aircraft to bed.

On the whole a relatively successful flight. Perhaps I could have done more to recognise the signs that Oliver wasn’t feeling well, and at least ensured that he had a sick bag available for when he finally was sick. Despite the initial surprise, I think in general I handled the situation quite well, concentrating on getting us down as quickly and safely as possible.

The good news is that the experience doesn’t appear to have deterred Oliver from flying again. Next time I’ll try to pay a bit more attention to how he’s feeling, and perhaps ensure that it’s a more ‘local’ flight.

(Photos and route / track to follow)

Total flight time today: 2:40
Total flight time to date: 94:45

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2 Responses to “Bembridge II, the Return”

  1. A day out at the seaside « Andy's Blog Says:

    […] Shoreham. This was fairly familiar to me as I’d used very similar routes when flying to the Isle of Wight, Goodwood and Lydd in the […]

  2. 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 lot […]

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