A thoroughly pleasant evening local.

An old friend from Uni was working locally for a week or so, and we’d arranged to get together. He hadn’t flown with me yet, so it seemed the perfect excuse for a relaxing evening flight. During the week leading up to the flight I’d tried to find a destination for us, but in the end just opted for a long-ish ‘local’. The plan was hatched to head down to (and possibly around) the Isle of Wight before returning to Lyneham.

The weather was marginal right up to the flight, with me driving through a very heavy shower of rain and some low black clouds on the way to Lyneham from work in Newbury. However as we arrived at Lyneham the sky was noticably clearing, with the worst of the weather now well off to the East and much clearer weather coming in from the West.

I decided it was probably best not to go for the full tour of the Isle of Wight, as this would put us relatively close to official ‘Night’ on our return. So the route we planned was the ‘usual’ one for a trip to the Isle of Wight, and we decided to try to take in a couple of the airfields on the island while we were there.

I’d spoken to Dave in advance for authorisation and to arrange for him to fully fuel up the aircraft before we arrived. As a result it was ready parked for us near to the bowser, so I carried out a quick check before booking out. While speaking to Air Traffic I asked about the possibility of returning via a PAR, and was relatively surprised to have this approved given that Lyneham are now winding down and Air Traffic are generally relatively lightly manned during the evenings.

I gave Chris a bit of a brief about what to expect, and we were soon taxying out to the hold. Power checks were all normal, and I continued to the hold before switching to Tower and announcing ‘Ready for Departure’. There didn’t appear to be any other aircraft about, and the radio was quiet, so I was a little surprised not to be given an immediate ‘Line up’ or ‘Clear Take Off’. I had to query the instruction, and was told that I was to hold.

Sat there for a while looking around trying to spot the reason for the hold up. A minute or so later one of the other Club aircraft called ‘Final’, and it was clear that we’d been asked to hold for him. Was slightly surprised at this, as I could easily have been out on the runway and in the air long before he landed.

After G-ELUE completed its touch and go we were cleared onto the runway. Dave announced an early turn to get out of our way, and we were then cleared for takeoff. We headed off to the East, aiming for Junction 15 of the M4 as usual when departing in this direction. From there we headed out to Newbury, and after we passed through a brief shower I handed over the controls to Chris, with him maintaining control for most of the rest of the flight down to the South Coast.

Lovely evening for a flight

Lovely evening for a flight

Farnborough Radar were unsurprisingly quiet, and we were cleared to transit the Odiham MATZ, but warned about glider activity around Lasham. Chris (as is fairly normal for ‘new’ pilots) did tend to meander a little. He kept saying ‘It’s heading off to the left / right all by itself!’, and I kept telling him ‘Well, do something about it then!’

I was leaning on the GPS a little more than I like to, but was also following out progress on the chart. I made the mistake of mis-identifying Petersfield and getting Chris to turn right a little early (obvious once I checked the watch – we were several minutes away from where Petersfield should have been) and had to get Chris to correct to keep us clear of Southampton’s airspace.

Chris and I were doing a fair bit of chatting and catching up on this leg, and at one point I half-heard a radio transmission, and wondered if it had been for us.  I was just about to ask if it was for us, when Farnborough again came on with ‘G-VICC, Farnborough Radar?’ Whoops, that’s what I get for gossiping while flying! As it happened Farnborough were only querying our return route, so it wasn’t too much of an issue.

As we neared the Coast I re-took control and climbed for the short trip across the Solent. This put us above a few clouds for the crossing. Once on the other side I descended back down to 2500 feet or so, and headed clockwise around the island to show Chris Bembridge and Sandown. I really must try to get in to Sandown sometime soon!

We headed back following much the same route (going overhead Popham this time for the more direct route to Lyneham), and as the conversation had got around to auto-pilots, I demonstrated the one in G-VICC to Chris, before eventually handing control back to him for the trip back up to Lyneham. I was leaning on the GPS again a little too much, and was overhead Popham before I even realised we were approaching. We were at a safe height (over 2500 feet) so passing through the overhead wasn’t too much of an issue, but it showed how easy it is to lose situational awareness sometimes unless you’re 100% concentrating on the flight.

As we approached Lyneham, I fished out my hood in readiness for the PAR. On initial contact I announced ‘Lyneham Approach, G-VICC for PAR recovery’. This was queried by the female Controller, before there was a slight pause and a male Controller came on frequency and denies the request due to them being at ‘minimum manning’. I was a little surprised at this as I’d made a point of asking before we departed, but given the clear skies a visual approach was perfectly acceptable.

The sun was now low in the sky and directly ahead, making it a little difficult to spot Lyneham. However it was soon in sight (I can claim to spotting it long before Chris did, but it’s often hard for non-pilots to spot airfields, even when they’re as big as Lyneham is!), and I made a good approach before joining on a Left Base for 24. Final Approach was probably a little low, and we touched down for a landing that was firmer than I would have liked, but perfectly acceptable. Chris probably wasn’t overly impressed though!

As with a lot of my recent landings, my touchdown point had been where I was aiming, and we easily made the turn for the 18 loop. We’d landed around Sunset (30 minutes before official ‘night’) meaning that the decision no to tour the Isle of Wight was almost certainly the correct one. Headed back to the Club and refuelled (6 litres in one side, 7 in the other – not bad!) before putting the aircraft to bed.

The Route and Track

The Route and Track

Outbound

Outbound

Return

Return

Another reminder of why I enjoy flying in the Summer evenings. There were virtually no other aircraft in the sky and the flying conditions were pretty calm. It’s just a shame there can’t be more airfields that remain open late enough for us to be able to pop somewhere for a cup of tea! It was good to know how much Chris enjoyed the flight too. He only lives a few miles from Redhill, so I’ll have to try to get in there sometime soon to see him (ideally before the restrictions come in for the 2012 Olympics!).

As Lyneham is now closed at weekends until closing for good in mid-July, it is entirely possible that this will turn out to be my last ever flight from Lyneham. If that’s the case, then it’s a real shame. I’ll be sad to go.

Total flight time today: 2:10
Total flight time to date: 159:00


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One Response to “A thoroughly pleasant evening local.”

  1. flyerdavid Says:

    If this is your last flight from Lyneham, it sounds like this will be a good one to remember it by. It looks like to took a similar track to the local we did together back in January. Great weather. As you say, shame there aren’t a few more options/places to visit during a nice summer’s evening.

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