Pembrey bound

With Luned and Catrin away for the weekend, it seemed like an ideal time to try to catch up with all the flying I’ve missed out on recently due to poor weather and illness! I asked Steve if he’d like to come along, and he and Mel agreed to submit themselves to some of my flying. We agreed to split the flying, flying one leg each. Luned had taken our camera with her, so all of the photos below are courtesy of Steve and Mel!

The destination changed almost on a daily basis, and we eventually settled on Pembrey. Their web site says they have an Instrument Approach, but further checking showed that this was no longer the case. We decided that I would fly the outbound leg, with Steve flying the return to Lyneham.

Weather on the day dawned almost perfect for flying, albeit with a bit of a haze layer. However there was barely a cloud in the sky.

As usual I arrived at Lyneham very early for my booking (even earlier than usual due to not having to help with a 2 year old before leaving the house!) only to find that 2 flights of an hour each had been booked prior to my slot at 11. Slightly frustratingly, the first one landed half an hour late, and the second almost an hour late. We had plenty of time to get to Pembrey and back though, so it wasn’t too much of a factor. I could probably have had an extra hour in bed though!

One minor benefit of leaving late was not having to skirt around some temporary Class D airspace that had been put in place around Kemble (apparently the Princess Royal was flying to watch the Six Nations Rugby). The route I plotted had us leaving the Zone towards Malmesbury, before heading over to the Severn Bridges and under the shelf of the CTA to the North of Cardiff, before following the coast around to Pembrey.

After a quick check with Pembrey via telephone (which was largely a waste of time as I understand very little of what was said – a combination of a very bad line and a strong Welsh accent!), we headed out to the aircraft. Mel sat in the back, and Steve joined me in the front. This time we managed to use his GPS running SkyDemon (despite him breaking the mount yet again on a recent flight!).

All checks went without incident, and we were soon at the hold ready to depart. Mel has flown a number of times with Steve, so at least I didn’t have to worry about a nervous or inexperienced passenger! We were cleared out on to the runway, and I made a normal take of and Zone departure.

Alright in the back?

Alright in the back?

Having both Steve’s GPS and the one in SNUZ’s panel made me quite lazy with the Nav. I meandered over to the bridges somewhat, but there are plenty of obvious landmarks on that leg to reorientate against if necessary. We flew quite close to Filton, but it was difficult to make out the Concorde on the ground due to the haze.

Hazy conditions

Hazy conditions

Over on the Welsh side of the river we spoke to Cardiff. After a while we were given a squawk and asked to report North abeam Bridgend. I can only assume the Controller wasn’t confident of us staying clear of the Zone, but looking at the GPS track shows that we were never close to infringing (we were always about 500 feet below even the 3000 foot stretch of airspace).

I had noticed I was always having a tendency to fly left of track, probably as a result of the wind being lower than forecast. I attempted to adjust for this, but again having two GPSs in the cockpit made me slightly lazy as regards trying to Navigate using more traditional methods. I’m in the process of buying a GPS unit myself to run either SkyDemon or MemoryMap on, so I’ll have to be careful to maintain my Nav skills so as to be ready for times when GPS fails.

Swansea appeared to be quite busy, so I elected to stay well North of them. The field itself was difficult to spot in the hazy conditions, and wasn’t helped by the fact that their NDB didn’t appear to be working. When we attempted to tune in the Pembrey NDB and found that also wasn’t working, I began to suspect that perhaps the ADF in the aircraft had failed.

We had switched over to the Pembrey frequency, and the Controller was as difficult to understand as his colleague on the phone, causing me to have to ask him to repeat several items. On the hazy day,  Pembrey was also hard to spot, and even with the GPS I managed to line up with something off to the left of the airfield that looked a bit like a runway, but clearly wasn’t once the field itself hove into view! I had to hurriedly change my join from a ‘direct to final’ to an ‘Overhead’ and confused myself slightly by initially setting up for a left hand circuit. Quickly recovered this though, and made a nice Overhead Join for their South-Westerly runway.

Joining overhead for 24 Right Hand

Joining overhead for 24 Right Hand

I ended up a little close in on Downwind, and failed to account for this by turning Base late to give me time to descend. As a result, but the time we turned Final it was clear I was too high. I could probably have sideslipped the height off, but mindful of Mel in the back I elected to simply go around. The second circuit was much better, and I made a good approach to a nice gentle touchdown (even gaining a positive comment from Mel in the back!). I taxyed us over to park on the cross taxiway alongside to 3 axis Microlights and a flex wing.

The airfield appeared to be very well equipped, with an impressive looking fire tender, and a separate departures / arrivals / customs building. The information inside said they were due to complete a runway extension in 2010 (which obviously hadn’t happened) and I later found that the airfield had changed hands relatively recently. We were all very surprised at how empty the place was given the facilities and today’s excellent weather. The chap in the Tower was obviously a little bored, so him and another guy went for a quick tear up and down the runway in the Fire Tender!

Pembrey's Impressive Facilities

Pembrey's Impressive Facilities

After a pleasant lunch, we prepared to depart. This time Steve was flying, and despite my offering Mel still chose to sit in the back. We agreed that I was free to ‘play’ with any Navaids on the trip back, and I would change the transponder whenever necessary to save Steve having to reach across to do it.

As we departed, I was treated to a good old dose of nostalgia as I watched a ‘Seven’ style car tearing around the nearby Motor Racing circuit on what appeared to be some sort of track day. Steve took us nicely round the airborne version of a circuit, and we headed back to the East. Steve took us on a similar route back (again avoiding Swansea to the North) but treated us to some ‘feet wet’ flying cutting the corner past Port Talbot towards Porthcawl.

Steel Works at Port Talbot

Steel Works at Port Talbot

I tried out the ADF again, tuning in both Pembrey and Swansea and getting no response. Was resigned to having to report it broken on our return, but elected to check it again by tuning Cardiff. This time it worked, so obviously both the Pembrey and Swansea NDBs weren’t working that day!

We were talking to Cardiff by now, and again the Controller seemed concerned we were heading for an infringement (asking us to confirm our routing). We turned North towards the BCN VOR, climbing to 4500 feet at one point in an attempt to get out of the haze layer. This appeared to help, and the extra height is always a good thing to have when crossing over high terrain anyway!

We were given a squawk for Bristol by Cardiff, but the actual handoff didn’t come until several minutes later, causing us both to wonder if we’d missed the instruction to change frequencies. We passed safely to the North of Bristol’s Zone, before eventually switching over to Lyneham Approach. The nice weather had also coaxed a balloon up into the air, Mel spotted him in the distance off our right wing at one point.

Steve made a nice visual approach into Lyneham, and a nice smooth landing. Just before we touched down another aircraft joined us on the Tower frequency and then commenced getting the ATIS and his departure clearance as Steve was attempting to land. This was all somewhat distracting, and should really have been done on the Ground frequency. It also meant that Steve had to wait a little while to confirm his taxy route back to the Flying Club.

We taxyed back to the Club and a new Club member helpfully offered to refuel for us so that he could get used to using the bowser. Once complete we pushed the aircraft back into its parking space and put the cover back on. Later Steve had to return to the aircraft and repeat the exercise as he’d neglected to write down the tacho readings!

The Route and (slightly improvised) Track

The Route and (slightly improvised) Track

It was great to be back up in the air and going places again, and even though it was only March I have already equalled my ‘new airfields’ count for the whole of 2010! Hopefully I can keep this figure climbing throughout the year.

Steve and Mel were excellent company on the flight, and hopefully this will be the first of many flights together. Steve has promised me a flight in the taildragger aircraft he owns a share in, so that’s something else to look forward to!

Total flight time today: 1:25
Total flight time to date: 144:15

7 Responses to “Pembrey bound”

  1. flyerdavid Says:


    Sounds like a great trip – great weather and good views.

    A few quick questions though. I wondered why you didn’t just ask for a transit through Cardiff (and Bristol) airspace? You might have got better views.

    Did you find out if the NDBs were not operational (or notified as such), or if the ADF is a bit dodgy on the aircraft? Good you didn’t have to rely on them.

    Also no mention of Danger Areas. I presume these are all inactive at weekends, so not a problem. There are quite a few on the chart in that area.

    Your thorough review of the flights omitted any mention of the quality of the cafe/catering – a very important measure of the quality of the trip for me! Was the Welsh Rarebit (or whatever they sell at Pembrey) up to it?

  2. Andy Hawkins Says:

    I did consider asking for a transit, but it wouldn’t have cut much off the route so just didn’t bother to be honest.

    As I said above, I did try the ADF on the return flight. Both Pembrey and Swansea didn’t work, but when I tried Cardiff (and later Bristol and Lyneham) they were all just fine.

    Danger Areas aren’t active at the weekends. I tried phoning the range on the Friday and got no answer.

    Granted, I didn’t really comment on the quality of the cafe / catering. It was just fine, typical airfield cafe fare. I had a pretty good toasted bacon and egg sandwich, while Steve had some kind of toastie (forgotten exactly what) and Mel a jacket potato. All reasonably priced and perfectly acceptable.


  3. Back to Leicester « Andy’s Blog Says:

    […] Andy’s Blog Poker, flight and anything else that comes to mind. « Pembrey bound […]

  4. Leia Says:

    The Swansea NDB has just been notified as withdrawn on the chart updates I see! The Pembrey one used to work, hasn’t in ages. Haverfordwest’s I understand works but isn’t always switched on… I think Aberporth’s may…

    Low tech out here in the wilds 😉

    • Andy Hawkins Says:

      Yeah, I saw the Swansea chart update (DME has gone too hasn’t it?). That explains that one at least. I did find Pembrey a bit hard to spot, not sure what I was aiming at initially, some sort of road to the South I think!

      • Leia Says:

        I always used to aim for the forest — there’s a sort of ‘notch’ out of the trees which is in line with the extended centreline.

  5. Returning to Pembrey, planned this time! | Andy's Blog Says:

    […] the last of the planning and marking up of my chart on the morning of the flight. I’d been in to Pembrey a couple of times before, but this time it’d be good to be making another planned […]

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