Back to Leicester

After yesterday’s flight with Steve and Mel, today was to be a solo trip. I’d been to Leicester during my PPL training, so thought it was time to return. The weather was very similar to yesterday, with clear blue skies looking more inviting than they actually were due to hazy conditions.

After a few flights with others using SkyDemon, I thought it was time to take the first step towards trying it myself. To this end, I used the trial version to calculate and print out the plog for me (having checked the route on a CAA chart first obviously).  The route I planned was

Lyneham -> Chedworth -> DTY VOR -> Bruntingthorpe -> Leicester

I have to say SkyDemon certainly makes the process very easy, but for at least the first few flights I’ll almost certainly ‘check up on it’ by fetching my own NOTAMs and the like.

As per usual I arrived in good time at Lyneham, and again was slightly frustrated (with myself!) because someone else had a booking before me. Had I known this, I could probably have had an extra half hour in bed rather than turn up stupidly early in an attempt to make an early start. Oh well! That’ll teach me not to check the schedule before I leave the house!

When Dave and his student returned from the flight prior to mine, they apologised for being late. This surprised me a little, because my watch said 10:55, and my booking wasn’t due to start until 11. I phoned Air Traffic to bookout, giving them a start time of 11:15. I was a little surprised to hear the Controller reply ‘Errr, do you mean 12:15?’. I looked at my watch again, only to find out it had stopped! Whoops!

Booking out time all sorted, I headed out to the aircraft and got myself settled in. Departure was all routine, and I climbed away into the slightly hazy conditions. Things were a little more turbulent than yesterday too, so it was probably a good thing that I didn’t have any passengers to worry about.

Switched to Kemble immediately on leaving the Zone, and then Brize once I got overhead the Chedworth disused and intercepted the track on the VOR. The VOR tracking went well, and as I approached the VOR I turned early to avoid tracking directly overhead. I wasn’t being particularly good at spotting traffic today, as a couple of times I spotted aircraft fairly close by, and from their track it appeared that they had turned to avoid getting too close. Something I need to work on for future flights I think.

Brize suggested I freecall Coventry, so I switched to their frequency but didn’t actually speak to them. Their frequency was very quiet, so it’s unlikely that they could have given me any useful information anyway. I was just enjoying being alone in the air, so saw no reason to break that with un-necessary radio traffic.

Leicester were fairly quiet when I arrived on frequency, with a helicopter ahead of me in the circuit. It seemed to extend its downwind leg quite a way, so I followed on a wider circuit than I probably would have normally. This led to quite a long final, but I managed the descent quite well and made a nice landing. I was expecting to park on one of the runways that weren’t in use, but the Controller asked me to park behind the tower. After a bit of negotiation over the radio I parked between two small helicopters, which in hindsight probably wasn’t such a good idea in case they were to depart before me. As it happened they were both still there when I returned to the aircraft so there was no real drama.

After paying the landing fee I headed upstairs and ordered lunch. I chose a Cheeseburger and Chips, and when it was arrived I was quite surprised by the size of the portions! Suffice to say I didn’t manage to finish the whole thing, hopefully they didn’t think this was a reflection on the quality of the meal, as it was certainly very good!

While eating I watched a Firefly taxying past. I immediately recognised the registration as the one that used to be based at Lyneham, so managed a quick shot of it. Another familiar looking registration went past, so I made a note of it and checked my log book when I got back to Lyneham. This was a Grob 115 that I had flown from Brize just after I got my PPL. Small world!

An old friend!

An old friend!

Lunch finished, I headed back out to the aircraft and gave it a quick walk around. The pilot of one of the helicopters parked alongside me arrived to manhandle it over to the pumps, so that removed one potential obstacle when taxying out. I had to use quite a lot of power to get moving on the grass, but there were no aircraft immediately behind me so I wasn’t too concerned. I took care to ensure the tail was well clear of the helicopter to my left before turning onto the taxyway and heading out to the active runway.

The departure was fine, and it was a little disconcerting to be heading straight for the bulk of Leicester before turning (the departure calls for a climb to 1000 feet before turning if possible). I turned to intercept the radial to the VOR the began the trip back.

It was still hazy, making spotting traffic difficult again. I saw a number of gliders around Husband Bosworth, and one crossed directly ahead of me, so I turned to pass safely behind. There was also another aircraft heading from the VOR that I spotted relatively late too.

I again turned early when approaching the VOR, and once I got closer to Brize I spoke to them for a Basic service. After some time on frequency the Controller asked me to recycle the transponder as he wasn’t receiving my squawk. As I reached over it became obvious why, I had forgotten to turn the transponder back on when setting the code he had given me! The transponder in G-SNUZ is one of the older types with rotary dials to set the code, so you have to switch the transponder to standby before changing the code (the newer transponders have a keypad so you just type in the new code without having to do anything else). Must be more careful about this in future.

Brize asked me what type of Approach I would like into Lyneham, so I told them it’d be a visual approach, but that I’d need to switch to Kemble due to transiting very close to their overhead. Brize gave me the squawk they’d got from Lyneham, and cleared me to talk to Kemble before actually switching over to Lyneham. Spoke briefly to Kemble as I passed the field as there was another aircraft approaching them from the East. This time I spotted him easily and there was no cause for concern.

For a change, I spotted Lyneham easily, despite the hazy conditions. I was cleared for a Right Base join. Was just about to inform the Controller that I was joining when he asked me to orbit, as they have a Herc needing to make a priority departure. I saw him take off during my first orbit, so informed the Controller I’d make another orbit to allow the wake turbulence to dissipate. It was a little disconcerting that the Herc turned directly towards me as I was turning away, but he knew I was there and I’m sure he had me in sight.

Once the second orbit was complete, I continued down Base and Final, before making a good landing pretty much on the spot I was aiming for. Another Flying Club aircraft was on the 18 loop, so I taxyed back via runway 18 and entry 3, before refuelling the aircraft and pushing it back to its parking space. I couldn’t find the cover, so as I was in no rush I took my time in the Club, updating my log book and such like, waiting for Dave to return.

The route and track

The route and track

Obviously, the cover was in plain sight (although in my defence not where it usually was!) so I covered the aircraft and helped Dave and his Student with the cover for the Firefly.

All in all an enjoyable flight, despite being on my own. On checking back this makes March 2011 the second busiest flying month in terms of P1 hours since I got my PPL (the busiest was the month I passed!)

Total flight time today: 2:20
Total flight time to date: 146:35


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