Taunton bound

Due to a combination of weather cancellations and some minor ailments that meant I wasn’t fit to fly, I was getting close to the end of my currency period. As a result, a plan for a ‘quick’ mid-week evening jaunt was hatched. Always keen to venture out to pastures new, I plotted a ‘local’ flight that took me out to Taunton. Was a little concerned that I wouldn’t be able to get this all in before sunset (I don’t have a night qualification yet) I re-planned to only go as far as Glastonbury.

Arrived in good time at the club, and the previous flight was back in plenty of time, so all looked good for a ‘blocks off’ time of 19:00, hopefully giving me plenty of time for the flight. However, that wasn’t to be. Just as I was ready for the off and preparing to call for start clearance, the view out the front changed to this:

C130 Being Pushed Back Into Hangar

C130 Being Pushed Back Into Hangar

(Apologies for the quality of photos in this entry, I only had my mobile phone with me!)

I figured it would be rude to try to sneak under him, so made sure I was completely ready to go as and when my path was clear. This put me about 10 or 15 minutes behind my original schedule. Called for start clearance, and the engine fired up easily. Taxyed to the hold for 24, power checks all Ok, and we were away!

The weather on the ground looked perfect for flying, but in actual fact once I got in the air things weren’t quite as good as they had first appeared. Visibility into sun wasn’t brilliant, and the front that was forecast to move in from the West was clearly visible out over the Severn Estuary. I was heading in that direction though, so that meant I could at least turn tail and outrun the weather should that become necessary.

Weather Front Approaching

Weather Front Approaching

The sky was quiet as usual for a mid-week evening. A helicopter was clearing Lyneham’s zone just as I came on to the Zone frequency, and I spotted one other aircraft pass by my left wing in the distance as I was flying. I was listening out on Bristol Radar’s frequency, and they seemed relatively quiet too. There were two inbound aircraft (one of which I spotted) and one outbound.

The flight proceeded normally, and I soon reached Glastonbury. A quick check of the watch showed that I had plenty of time to get back before sunset, so I planned a quick ‘divert’ out to Taunton, some 15 or so miles away. As usual I was flying with the GPS on my PDA showing the CAA 1/2 mill chart for the area, so if all else failed I would be able to determine my position using that. However, despite the haze Taunton soon became visible once I pinpointed its location using the bends in the rivers below, as well as the M5 and a couple of railway lines.

As I approached Taunton I spotted a couple of hot air balloons low down to my left. I didn’t want to fly over them, so I turned slightly earlier than I had originally planned, and headed back towards Glastonbury again. I kept the balloons in sight for as long as I could, then concentrated on finding Glastonbury and resuming my route.

Balloon!

Balloon (it's there, look closely!)

The last leg to Frome was relatively easy, as I was now heading out of the sun and this helped with the visibility. Overhead Frome I contacted Lyneham again for joining, and was given clearance into the Zone.

Once I had the field in sight, I switched over to Tower, just in time to hear another aircraft on a long final. As I positioned for my downwind join I offered to orbit, but was told to continue, that I was ‘Number 2’. As the other aircraft touched down, I informed the Tower Controller that I would need about 4 minutes of spacing, and she replied ‘Oh, ok then, take up a right hand orbit’. Oh well, I tried!

After a couple of orbits a Helicopter arrived on frequency, so that meant more orbits as I waited for it to land. I wasn’t too clear on how much spacing I would need to leave after the Helicopter, so I opted to play safe and leave the 4 minutes that I would normally leave for a Heavy aircraft. I was in no rush, so better to be safe than sorry!

So after a number of orbits I continued my approach, and on reporting Final (actually Base) was immediately given clearance to land. The approach continued normally, and despite getting myself slightly lower than I normally would, it all went to plan. My first landing in four weeks or so was a nice gentle affair, perhaps slightly fast as there was no stall warner. Still, not bad after a bit of a layoff!

Taxyed back to the club, and received a nice ‘Thanks for your help earlier’ from the Controller as I shut down. Refuelled, put the aircraft to bed, and headed home pleased with another enjoyable flight. Must try hard not to leave it so long next time though!

The Route and Track

The Route and Track

Total flight time today: 1:30
Total flight time to date: 97:55

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