At Bembridge, going around (and around, and around)

I’d made contact with Glen via UKGA. He’s another (very young!) pilot flying from Lyneham, and was interested in cost sharing flights to expand his experience and (obviously) keep his costs down. We hatched a plan to go to Bembridge, with me flying the outbound leg and him flying the return.

I planned my usual conservative route, staying well outside Controlled Airspace, and let him come up with his own route for the return leg. The weather looked almost ideal with relatively high cloudbase and almost nil wind.

We met at Lyneham, and filled the aircraft with fuel to avoid having to refuel at Bembridge. I’d completed my plan while waiting for Glen, and carried out the ‘A’ check while letting him warm up a bit after his long ride in on his motorbike!

With auth gained from Mike, we headed out to the aircraft. I took the left seat and hooked up my new phone to act as backup GPS for the flight. It has a built in GPS and is still able to run Memory Map, giving me CAA charts and a line to follow, with the added advantage of allowing me to download track logs to include in these blogs.

All settled, we called for start and taxi clearance and headed out to the 18 loop. We had to sit for a while waiting for the engine to warm up before I could carry out the power checks, and were then given immediate clearance to line up and take off. Once airborne and talking to Zone, turned crosswind and downwind for the leg out of the zone to M4 J15, where I would start the ‘Nav’ proper.

The flight outbound was relatively uneventful, the only minor difficulty being checking in with Farnborough Radar. The frequency was incredibly busy as I tried to make my initial call, but for some reason as soon I was had made contact with them it went virtually silent!

There was little traffic around today, and the Navigation was relatively easy despite the slight haze. We were soon approaching the South coast, so left Farnborough and switched over to Bembridge.

It was immediately obvious that they were getting pretty busy! We were about the third aircraft to call for information, and later one pilot called and was given runway in use, QFE and ‘about 7 other aircraft joining’. His only response was ‘My God!’.

I was trying to build a mental picture of the other traffic and having some difficulty spotting the other people in the circuit. The main reason I couldn’t see them was that people didn’t appear to be flying Bembridge’s correct ‘noise abatement’ circuit (out over the sea) and instead were flying straight over the local villages. I opted to do the same rather than create my own circuit, and slotted in behind another aircraft joining Downwind from my right.

At this point, things started to get a little manic. I turned Base, then was just making the Final turn and getting ready to call ‘Final’, when another aircraft called Final just before me. He was out to my left, perhaps half a mile further out to sea and slightly lower. I’m pretty sure the rules of the air gave me right of way (I was established in the circuit) but having another aircraft immediately behind me as I went down Final wasn’t ideal, so I made an early decision to go around.

After the go around, I turned crosswind and was preparing to turn downwind when another aircraft appeared on the downwind heading off to my left. Again, I was in the circuit so should have right of way, but discretion seemed the better idea, so I turned behind him and followed him around the circuit.

This circuit went pretty well, but I managed to mess up the approach and ended up a bit high and fast. As I flared it became obvious that I was using up too much runway, so another go around was in order!

So, time for a third attempt. Again, a relatively normal approach, and I trundled down Final as another aircraft landed ahead of me. He seemed to take quite a while to clear the runway after he had landed, and as I was about to touch down he was still a few yards from the opposite end of the runway. I need to read up on the rules of the air again, as I’m not sure whether it would be legal for me to ‘land after’ him (in reality there was plenty of distance between us, but he was still occupying the runway). However, at the time I again decided that discretion was better and went around for a third time.

By now I was starting to get a little flustered, but was determined not to let things get to me. I flew another normal circuit, and was about to turn base when another aircraft announced he was joining on base. Our eyes were on stalks as this was a potentially dangerous situation, but the only other aircraft I could spot was probably 2 or 3 miles further out to sea. He continued to approach the field though, so I announced ‘G-CC extending downwind for aircraft on loooooooong Final’ and followed him. This approach finally culminated in a successful landing, and by now I was definitely considering a pint as reward for my efforts! One good thing was that despite all the issues I’d had, the landing finally turned out to be a pretty good one, and I did my best to clear the runway as quickly as possible.

One of many approaches to Bembridge!

One of many approaches to Bembridge!

Once parked up, we headed in for some well earned lunch. For the first time in my flying career I really fancied a pint after a flight, and this time I could have one! Sadly Bembridge don’t seem to have a bar. Boo!

My 4 attempts to land!

My 4 attempts to land!

Got chatting to another pilot in the queue for lunch, who commented on how busy it was that day, and asked if I’d had any problems. I told him I’d had to go around 3 times, and ended up following someone in on ‘about a 7 mile Final’. He looked sheepish, and admitted that was probably him. Turned out he’s a CPL holder who’s used to flying ILS approaches, and was trying to get enough single engine hours in to revalidate his rating (he’d mostly been flying twins).

We sat outside in the gorgeous weather, eating our lunch and chatting over the flight. Once finished, we decided a tour of the Island was in order, and we headed off back to the aircraft, this time with Glen taking the left seat for the trip home.

His route took us much closer to Controlled Airspace, cutting the corner of  the Solent CTA where it only starts at about 2000 feet. Perfectly legal, and something I should probably get a bit more confidence in doing. Currently my routes generally take the ‘long way around’ to make sure I don’t run the risk of infringing Controlled Airspace, but at some point I’m going to have to be brave and plan a route straight through!

After spotting that I’d left the master switch on (luckily there was still plenty of juice in the battery to get the engine started!) Glen took us for an anti-clockwise tour of the Island, and we flew at low level over the sea for most of it. It was a little strange at first being in the right hand seat of a light aircraft with someone else flying, but it wasn’t as bad as I’d initially feared it would be (I’m not the best of passengers, even in a car!).

A good view of The Needles

A good view of The Needles

Glen took us North after the Island tour, and signed on with Farnborough again. We were just in time to hear another aircraft being told to descend immediately, as he was in Controlled Airspace. Whoops!

Glen’s route took us close to Popham, a microlight field with a very unusual approach. You approach the runway with a slight offset to avoid a petrol station near the end of the runway, before making a turn just before touching down to align with the runway. There’s even a white arrow painted in the field to show you which way you’re supposed to fly!

Glen had to alter course a few times to avoid a couple of helicopters that seemed to be bimbling about in no particular direction, and at one point I spotted an aircraft on a similar path to us but well below us. I can’t see it have being anywhere near 500 feet AGL, my best guess was perhaps 100 or 200 feet at most! He flew directly over some buildings at that height, not a particularly clever or considerate thing to do!

We passed the Rivar Hill gliding field, and several small strips (including Clench Common) as we approached Lyneham. Glen contacted Approach, and was initially told to ‘Standby’, before we received our clearance into the Zone. We diverted slightly off track to take a look at Avebury from the air, before heading into the Zone.

Passing Avebury

Passing Avebury

I managed to confuse myself initially, wondering what that huge airfield in front of us was (it was Lyneham!) as Glen set us up for a Base join for 26. Glen made a nice approach, with a good landing at the end of it. We were a little long for the 18 loop, but Glen brought us to a stop and we backtracked a few yards and headed back to the wash bay.

Fox Whisky was heading out as we approached, and the Firefly was at the bowser, so we parked off to one side before dragging G-VICC over to be refuelled, and pushed it back to parking to tie down and put the cover back on. These were definitely jobs that are a lot easier with two people than just one!

While we sorted out the paperwork back at the club, we discussed other fields we’d like to visit. Hopefully Glen and I will make more flights together, gradually expanding our boundaries as we both gain more confidence. Keeping the cost down is also a useful side effect!

On the whole, this was a very interesting flight. I was a little surprised by some of the relatively poor circuit discipline at Bembridge, but felt I’d handled it well given the circumstances. As ever, onwards and upwards!

The Routes and Tracks

The Routes and Tracks

Total flight time today: 1:25
Total flight time to date: 103:45

2 Responses to “At Bembridge, going around (and around, and around)”

  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 lot easier!), but […]

  2. Club Checkout | Andy's Blog Says:

    […] and enable me to hire aircraft again. This was likely to be a slightly strange experience, as I had flown with Glen a number of times before, initially from Lyneham with me as the ‘experienced’ pilot, and […]

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