Meat-bombers, carveries and the Red Arrows (nearly)

In my quest to continue visiting new places rather than just flying the same flight over and over, I thought I’d try to visit Dunkeswell in Devon. Reviews showed that it had a decent cafe, and the runway layout and length meant it should be fairly easy to find too!

The weather forecast looked perfect for flying, so with an auth from Bob and plan in hand I headed off to Lyneham in plenty of time for an 11:30 departure. Dragged G-VICC over to the pumps to add more fuel (in the hope that I wouldn’t have to refuel her when I returned).

Got myself settled in the cockpit and hooked up the PDA in flight mode. This time however I didn’t load a route, in an aim to stop myself relying on it when in flight. I resolved to try and avoid looking at it wherever possible, and called for start clearance.

Engine started up easily despite it being the first flight of the day, and I was given my taxi clearance. Due to the unusual wind direction we were on 06 today, and I was given “Taxi to 06 via entry 3, cleared to cross 18/36”. I read this back and then headed off for entry 3 (a left turn out of the parking area).

For some reason, I had a bit of brain fade, and convinced myself that entry 3 was actually the one to the right of the parking area that we usually use for runway 24 and the 18 loop, so I did a quick about face and headed for the other entry (which turned out to be entry 4!). The ground controller obviously spotted me and wondered what on earth I was doing, because she called back “G-VICC, your taxi instructions were via entry 3”

Now thoroughly confused, I replied “Standby” and had another look at the airfield diagram in my kneeboard. Now clear that I had it all backwards, I apologised and offered to backtrack to entry 3, but she told me to continue via entry 4 and turn left along the taxyway parallel to 18 / 36.

Suitably embarassed I taxyed right past the control tower, where they were no doubt having a good old laugh, down the extremely long taxyway that leads to the threshold of 06. Once there I carried out the power checks, and called for departure clearance. Final checks complete I announce “Ready for departure”, and was passed over to Tower, who gave me immediate clearance to “Line Up”, followed by “Clear Takeoff” before I had made it past the hold line!

Takeoff was straightforward, and as I passed 500 feet I switched over to the Zone frequency. Had to wait a while before making the initial call due to transit traffic, and headed downwind to leave the Zone to the South West via Melksham.

Once at Melksham I informed the Controller I was leaving the Zone, and made a note of the start time ready to begin the Nav. This leg took me past a number of easily recognisable features (Trowbridge, the Radstock VRP, Wells Mast and Glastonbury) en route to the turn over the Motorway junction at Taunton. The leg went very well, I was never far from track and identified all of my marker points on the way. This was despite having to repeatedly descend and climb again due to the varying height of the cloud base along the way.

I was listening in to Bristol Approach on the way, but didn’t feel the need to talk to them. The skies were pretty clear despite the excellent weather, and there were very few other pilots on frequency. Spotted the Microlight field (and larger disused runways) at Westonzoyland on my way past.

The Microlight field at Westonzoyland

The Microlight field at Westonzoyland

Overhead Taunton I set course for Dunkeswell, and switched over to their frequency. They are an Air Ground service in the truest sense of the word. Other pilots initial calls were being met with the runway in use and altimeter setting, with pilots then being left to make ‘Traffic’ calls announcing their position.

I received no response to my initial call, but had already taken note of the QFE from previous calls. The parachute drop plane was also in the air, and I heard it receiving its clearance to drop. Shortly after it announced that their were skydivers in the air.

I was still looking out for the airfield, and spotted it with several miles to spare. My phone call earlier in the day for PPR had included instructions to join downwind so I made a dogleg to the left to enter the downwind leg directly. The radio indicated another aircraft joining ahead of me, and I spotted it approaching from the right.

I joined Downwind, made my call (including “Contact one ahead”) and continued along the downwind leg, making my downwind checks. I was travelling a little slower than usual to ensure I had plenty of gap to the aircraft ahead. The drop plane joined the circuit behind me, and I followed the aircraft ahead down base and final.

Parking was at the far end of the runway in use, and I waited what seemed like an age for the aircraft ahead to clear the runway. Once he was clear I made a good landing, despite being bumped around a fair bit on short final. I did my best to keep my speed up along the runway to clear it in time for the drop plane to land behind me.

I turned off to the right, aiming to park alongside a Cessna that was already parked with its occupants preparing to leave. I misjudged my turn slightly, and ended up a bit closer to the other aircraft than I had intended. At one point I feared I might have to close down and manhandle the aircraft into place, but a bit of differential braking got me into the space at a bit of an angle.

G-VICC parked up

G-VICC parked up

Headed in to the club to pay the landing fee (a very reasonable £10), having a brief chat to the guy manning the desk before heading into the cafe to get some lunch. The place was heaving! The Carvery was obviously a bit of a draw to both pilots and locals alike, but I only really wanted a sandwich so didn’t need to queue up along with everyone else. Sadly they weren’t doing hot sandwiches today, so I had to forgo the ‘Sausage and Bacon’ for a ‘Chicken and Mayonnaise’.

Sat outside (it was slightly chilly due to the breeze, despite being fairly sunny) and sorted out the plan for the return leg while I waited for my lunch to be delivered. Lunch duly arrived, and once I’d eaten it I watched the comings and goings on the busy field, including a pretty bi-plane and the jump plane taking off full and landing with just a single occupant! I could also see gliders heading off from the nearby field at North Hill.

I watched some of the departing traffic to determine the route back to the threshold of the runway in use, double checking it in my flight guide so that I knew where I would be going once I headed off myself. The route involved taxying along the crosswind runway, before holding at an intersection for the main runway. Then a short backtrack to the threshold before the off.

Ready to go, I gave G-VICC a quick check over, only to have one of the cowling fasteners fall out as I opened it. It appeared that instead of a washer behind it, there was just some sticking tape that had obviously now ceased to do its job. Luckily I found the fastener, and could secure the cowling correctly, but I made a mental note to let the aircraft owner know about the missing washer on my return.

Engine started easily, and I called for airfield information. Again, Air / Ground was doing its job, just giving me the runway in use and the QNH. Announced I was taxying along the ‘North Taxyway’ (a name I made up) and the other runway to the hold for 05. Another aircraft announced that he was taxying to hold 05, so obviously that’s the correct procedure for future reference!

Power checks completed near the hold, I waited for an aircraft turning Base, allowing him to land before announcing I was backtracking. The aircraft behind followed me down the runway, and as I reached the far end I turned tail and immediately began my takeoff run. A normal takeoff followed, and I departed virtually straight out for the run up to Taunton.

Disused airfield at Culmhead

Disused airfield at Culmhead

Found Taunton easily, and set course for Melksham. Listened in again to Bristol but declined to call. Not long into the leg I heard the Red Arrows contacting Bristol, announcing that they were slightly South of Lyneham and heading for Filton.

I considered contacting Bristol so they knew where I was and what I was doing, but decided against it, and did my best to spot the Arrows. Their route took them to Filton, then via Bath to Bournemouth. They were eventually warned that they might be about to infringe the Danger Areas on Salisbury Plain, so I had failed completely to spot them!

This was a slight distraction on the leg however, and I wasn’t 100% sure of my position. I soon spotted the mast at Wells though, which got my nicely orientated. The track log shows that I was never far from my planned route though, so that’s good in that respect.

As I neared Trowbridge, I switched to Lyneham Approach for my rejoin. Had to delay my initial call due to a foreign aircraft making its own approach to Lyneham. Once I got my initial call in, I was given a squawk before (unusually) being told to “Remain Clear of Lyneham Controlled Airspace”.

This was the first time I had been told this when returning, and it came relatively late so I had to make a quick turn a few miles short of entering the Zone. I turned back and made an orbit, then once I hadn’t received clearance to enter I decided to head back towards Trowbridge so that I had a good position fix for when I was cleared in. I didn’t make it though, so headed back towards the Zone. The delay appeared to be caused by the other aircraft having problems hearing Lyneham’s transmissions (I could hear them without any issue) and regularly having to be corrected when reading back headings and levels.

The Controller asked me to report the field in site, but approaching from this direction the airfield is obscured behind a hill. I was getting quite close (and made a slight jink to the left to try to spot it) before being able to make out the long main runway in the distance.

Was handed over to the Tower Controller in time to hear the foreign aircraft clear the runway, and I was given immediate clearance to land as soon as I joined the circuit! Made a right base join, followed by a good approach and a very nice landing. The landing was a little long, but given that I would have to taxy virtually the entire length of the runway, that was probably a good thing on the whole!

Made the turn at the 18 loop as instructed, and headed back to parking. Closed down and checked the fuel, and it was almost exactly where it would need to be if I were refuelling after the flight, so that saved me a job at least!

The route (blue) and track (red)

The route (blue) and track (red)

This was a really enjoyable flight on the whole. I’d forced myself to use ‘traditional’ navigation methods again by not using a route loaded into the GPS, and this had gone pretty well. I’d added a new airfield to my log book, and (almost) shared the skies with the Red Arrows again!

Total flight time today: 2:00
Total flight time to date: 102:20

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