To Devon for Tea (well, lunch actually!)

Had the week booked off work to see my Mum as she’s coming to stay with us tomorrow. However, we had no plans for today so had made plans to make this Catrin’s second flight, and our first landaway together. Catrin was also recovering nicely from a fairly nasty bout of Chicken Pox, so we were happy she would be Ok to make the flight.

I’d drawn up a shortlist of my ‘favourite’ airfields I’d already visited (Halfpenny Green, Shobdon, Bembridge and Dunkeswell) and we chose Dunkeswell as it was a relatively simple flight.

The day dawned and the weather forecast looked fine for the morning, with a front approaching from the North West, crossing the area early afternoon. Based on the forecast we should be out of Dunkeswell in good time to beat the front back to Lyneham.

We arrived at Lyneham a good hour or so before the aircraft was booked, and I did my best to get everything ready to leave on time. However, we’re still not quite as slick at juggling all the required paraphernalia and Catrin while at the Flying Club, so we were a little late. Things weren’t helped by a bit too much chat with Roger, and also having to get details of the two gliding competitions that were in the area that day.

We were all ready to go at about 15 minutes after our booking was due to start, and the weather looked pretty good, with nice clear blue skies above Lyneham. Departure was all normal, and as we headed out of the Zone towards Melksham Catrin promptly fell asleep! Glad to see this flying lark gets her all excited!

Passenger sleeping peacefully

Passenger sleeping peacefully

The front could be clearly seen off in the distance, but apart from having to dodge a few clouds we had a pretty much uninterrupted run down to Wells up at 3500 feet or so to avoid the worst of the lower level turbulence. As we passed Wells the cloud began to lower, and perhaps I should have re-considered continuing with the flight at this point. However, we were still able to cruise at a comfortable 2500 feet, which gave us plenty of clearance over the relatively flat terrain in the area. Visibility beneath the clouds was also good.

As we passed Taunton, we switched to Dunkeswell Radio and got the usual brief (but in all aspects perfectly correct!) response to our initial call. I asked the A/G operator for an idea of the weather and was told that the cloudbase appeared to be about 1500 feet above the field. Soon after a helpful pilot who had just departed reported a cloudbase of 2000 feet. Plenty for a visual approach.

The airfield soon appeared off in the distance, with 2 or 3 other aircraft calling to join ahead of us. I did consider taking a direct approach onto the active runway (23, which was pretty much the heading I was on to reach the field) but decided to take the more conventional and courteous approach of a left base join. The join went well, and I easily identified the displaced threshold and made a good approach and landing. We turned off to the right at the intersection and taxyed back to parking.

Approaching Dunkeswell

Approaching Dunkeswell

As we all alighted it became clear that the weather was worsening, with a brisk wind and lowering cloud. Again I could have used this to make an early decision just to head straight back home, but we stopped for a quick lunch. I got all of the planning out of the way while we waited for our food, and started packing everything back into the aircraft and doing the pre-flight as Luned and Catrin were finishing off theirs.

As we all boarded a light drizzle started up. The cloud still looked relatively high above the field, so we continued and took off with the intention of returning immediately if the cloud was too low to continue. We managed to make an easy 2000 feet which kept us just below the base of cloud, so I elected to continue.

As we reached Taunton we turned on a track that took us almost directly for Lyneham. Apart from having to avoid the last part of Bristol airspace we could choose to use the LA NDB to route direct to Lyneham at any point. The cloudbase fluctuated between 2000 and 2500 feet at various points, and I climbed to take advantage of the higher cloudbase whenever I could.

Around Glastonbury we passed through a relatively heavy shower, which reduced visibility significantly. However we were still easily legal for VFR flight (which required a minimum of 1500 metres visibility) and as we neared Lyneham I always had the option of climbing into the cloud and using my IMC Rating should the cloudbase or visibility deteriorate further.

I’d always planned to make an Instrument Approach back into Lyneham at any chance I could in order to maintain practice, so I knew that I had the relevant Approach Plates on my kneeboard should I need them. As it turned out, once we passed Wells again the cloudbase lifted markedly, and we were soon flying in near unlimited visibility with a cloudbase well in excess of 2500 feet.

Feeling more happy now, I decided to keep to my original plan and still take an Instrument Approach if it were possible. We made contact with Lyneham to the West of Trowbridge. We were passed from Zone to Approach (it seems that whichever facility I call first I’m asked to contact the other!) and I requested direct to the LA NDB and an ILS Approach to the active runway 24.

We were cleared into Lyneham Controlled Airspace at 2600 feet QFE (which equated to around 3000 feet or so QNH) and easily stayed clear of cloud. Tracked direct to the NDB, then set the appropriate outbound course. This took us over the recently re-activated airfield at Wroughton (now used by hang-gliders I think) and after 8nm we turned ‘base’ to intercept the ILS.

Passing Wroughton Airfield

Passing Wroughton Airfield

This was the first time I’d flown the ILS with a passenger and camera, and Luned used the opportunity to get plenty of good photographs of Swindon. It had long been obvious that our house lies almost directly under the ILS approach path, and Luned got a good shot of the house as we passed overhead, we were even able to identify her car from the photo later!

Great Western Hospital (where Catrin was born!)

Great Western Hospital (where Catrin was born!)

This ILS was helped by being almost directly into wind, but I flew this one much more accurately than either of the attempts on my IMC Rating flight tests, and the runway soon appeared exactly where it should have been. I brought us down for a relatively gentle touchdown, and easily made the turnoff for the 18 loop, taxying back to the flying club.

Nice landing Dad!

Nice landing Dad!

As we reversed all the packing we’d done earlier, another aircraft (Tucano?) was marshalled in front of us to be parked in the hangar alongside our parking area. I refuelled the aircraft and pushed it back ready for the next flight, and we headed into the Club.

The Route and Track

The Route and Track

The ILS

The ILS

On the whole, a successful flight, although I still have a niggling feeling that I should have perhaps abandoned it at a number of points. One lesson learned is to always have an alternate form of navigation available based on radio aids should the weather deteriorate. On the return flight I was still navigating visually, but was probably leaning n the GPS a little more than I should have.

Total flight time today: 2:05
Total flight time to date: 133:00

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One Response to “To Devon for Tea (well, lunch actually!)”

  1. Back to Halfpenny Green « Andy’s Blog Says:

    […] had been a long time since I’d taken the family flying, for a number of reasons including my concern over Catrin previously refusing to wear her headset […]

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