Wellesbourne again!

A couple of weekends ago I’d been hoping to carry out a conversion to the Arrow that is currently available to the Club. This is a complex retractable PA28 with a 180 HP engine, that can cruise at close to 150 mph (about 130 knots). This would be idea for longer trips, so I was keen to get checked out on it.

Sadly, when Roger test flew it the previous day the undercarriage failed to come down correctly, with him only receiving 2 green lights. Despite going through the emergency gear extension checklist, he still couldn’t get three greens. This culminated with him making a few low passes over Kemble (Tower reporting that the gear looked good) before making a landing with the Fire Tenders standing by.

Fortunately all was well, but further examination the following day with Seb showed that a component on the undercarriage had sheared off, preventing it from completely locking down on one side (and thus not lighting the third ‘green’ indicating the gear was safe).

So I went through all the ground school with Roger, but a stomach bug put paid to any flying that weekend, preventing me from getting checked out in the Club’s 2 seater Robin.

As a result, I’d been champing at the bit to go flying, so arranged a flight today to take Luned and Catrin somewhere. In the lead up to the weekend Saturday looked to be the better day, but towards the end of Friday it became clear that Saturday was to be a day of showers and potentially low cloud.

A call to Swansea showed that they had a solid overcast around 1500 feet or so, so that was off the agenda as a potential destination. Having a lack of time to properly plan, I opted for a return to Wellesbourne after checking with the forecaster at Lyneham as to where he thought the worst of the rain would be heading. He thought the worst band of rain would be heading more to the East than the North, so I decided to carry out the flight. Wellesbourne is a short flight from Kemble, so I was confident that we could be able to make it back even if the conditions deteriorated somewhat.

As a result I was a little late getting fully ready for the off, so Luned took Catrin for a bit of a tour of the local countryside in the car while I carried out the pre flight. Once they returned I loaded up Catrin’s car seat (and pushchair as an emergency backup in case we got stuck and had to get a train or something!), and we all loaded up. I would normally add fuel before heading off on a landaway, but as Wellesbourne is barely a 45 minute flight each way there didn’t seem to be any need.

This was to be my first departure from Kemble’s ‘usual’ runway 26. Normally power checks would be carried out at hold Alpha 1 before the threshold of 26, but the taxyway between Alpha 2 and Alpha 1 is currently closed. I was instructed to carry out power checks on the ‘Delta Site apron’, so headed up there via taxyway Golf.

Once there I turned right to (I thought) clear the taxyway and carried out power checks. These were all completed normally, but I received a call from the Tower informing me that I was in fact blocking Taxyway Golf where I was. They said that in future I should pull over more to the left rather than the right when carrying out power checks. Whoops.

All ready, we headed out to hold Alpha 4, before reporting Ready for Departure. There was no other traffic around, so we lined up and departed immediately.

I’d checked for any noise abatement procedures before reporting ready, and hence knew about the required 20 degree turn to the right to clear Culkerton Village. I made this turn, before turning Crosswind at 500 feet and then onto a Downwind leg while still climbing, before setting course to Wellesbourne.

On this leg I had no trouble climbing to 2000 and then 2500 feet while remaining clear of cloud, the cloudbase was actually a lot higher than it appeared. All was fairly quiet on the outbound leg with the exception of a single traffic warning from Brize about traffic crossing left to right some 4 miles ahead, slightly above us. After a bit of searching I managed to spot the other aircraft, and it never really became a factor.

Luned also corrected me (how dare she, I dunno, she has a few flying lessons and all of a sudden she’s an expert! 🙂 ), because in my initial call to Brize I (apparently) said ‘PA 28, Lyneham to Wellesbourne’. I made another call to Brize informing them of the correction, and received a chuckled ‘Roger’ reply from the Controller.

Of course, as usual things got a little more complicated once I reached Wellesbourne! They had two aircraft operating in the circuit as I approached, and with Luned’s help (a second set of eyes that knows where to look for other aircraft is always very helpful) I soon spotted the other two aircraft. As I started my deadside descent, one reported on Final, and the other reported Downwind for a glide approach.

For some reason the aircraft on Final reported going around, as did the one on the glide approach just as he turned base. This meant that both aircraft were aiming for similar points in the sky at the same time, all while I was descending deadside and trying to slot in behind them. The aircraft from Final reported the other in site (we had both visual also) and informed the FISO that he would extend so as to fit in behind him. I informed the FISO in turn that I had both aircraft visual, and would follow the aircraft coming from Final in order to slot in too.

During all of this I had (again – pretty poor on reflection) become slightly distracted and missed out on switching from QNH to QFE. As a result, the circuit I was flying was about 150 feet lower than it should be. The aircraft on Final had obviously not quite been keeping up with his situational awareness as he reported ‘I have another aircraft outside me, appears to be joining crosswind at around 800 feet’. The FISO informed him that I had reported him in site, and I also reported this to confirm it. I followed a slightly unusual path around the circuit as a result of this to remain clear of the other aircraft and give myself some space behind him.

We all trundled around our circuit, and by the time I was on Final I had plenty of space ahead of me. The aircraft in front was also on a touch and go, so the spacing required was less than that you would normally need if the aircraft in front were carrying out a full stop landing. A further aircraft had joined in the meantime, and was now following me.

I don’t think I was particularly slow on Final, but as I touched down (relatively nicely given everything else that went on!) the aircraft behind me reported that he was going around. The FISO asked me to continue and take the first right, before parking next to a twin.

Unusual overhead join at Wellesbourne

Unusual overhead join at Wellesbourne

We ordered our lunch before I headed up to the Tower to pay the landing fee. Had a bit of a chat with them as they’d been following my Mode S transponder readout on a screen in the Tower, and were surprised when I disappeared from their screen. The only thing I could think of was that the point I disappeared was around the point at which I stopped talking to Brize and hence switched back to a 7000 squawk. I wonder if the Mode S is turned off when you’re swawking 7000?

I also commented on the fact that (as usual) they appear to book in extra traffic around the circuit just as I arrived, because the skies were almost empty while I was talking to them!

After the usual nice lunch we headed back to the aircraft in readiness for the trip home. As we taxyed the FISO informed us that she was leaving her position for a couple of minutes, so we made traffic calls while I carried out power checks behind another aircraft. She had returned before we were ready to depart though, so things were normal on that front.

While taxying I noticed that the circuit breaker for the Nav lights was out (it had been in when checking them before start). I reset it once, but immediately popped out again, so I turned off the Nav lights and made a note to mention it to the aircraft owners on our return.

The aircraft in front departed, and we were ready in turn, so took to the runway after him and started to roll once he had reached a height of a few hundred feet. As we followed him on our climbout another aircraft reported inbound from the South, so I had one eye on him while looking for the inbound traffic. The departing traffic appeared to be manoeuvring a lot, and it was often difficult to work out exactly where he was heading. We spotted the inbound aircraft passing behind our right wing, so I was glad to be able to make the turn to the right to get us on track back to Kemble.

The weather on the return leg was much worse than the outbound one. The forecast showers had obviously headed in this direction, and we passed through a few light ones on our way. The cloudbase was varying between about 1700 and 2000 feet for most of the leg, and I was having to continually descend slightly to remain clear of cloud. We always had a good view of the ground though, so I was never worried about terrain clearance. In the back, Catrin slept through all of it!

In hindsight, I could perhaps have asked Brize for their cloudbase and whether they had any information as to the height of the cloud tops. I may have been able to climb through the layer of cloud to operate above it, making the flight a much more pleasant experience. However, as we approached Cirencester we emerged from beneath the cloud deck into some of the best flying weather I have ever seen. There was barely a cloud in the sky, and the difference between the two types of conditions was breathtaking!

Now in touch with Kemble, we heard a Spitfire on frequency about to make a pass over the field. Sadly, we were slightly too far away and didn’t manage to see him. The circuit was quiet as we approached, so rather than carrying out a fairly protracted Overhead Join for 26 with a left hand circuit, we asked the FISO if there was anything to affect us making a Right Base join for 26. This meant the join was relatively simple, and I made sure to keep inside Kemble Village to avoid any noise sensitive areas.

I started my descent slightly late, so the majority of the approach was at idle power, but we turned onto Final at a good height. Again, there was a fair amount of turbulence down low as we approached the landing, which took me off to the right of the centreline slightly, and the eventual touchdown was again quite firm, with the stall warner sounding for quite a long time. Must make a point of expecting this on future arrivals at Kemble, particularly if and when I get checked out in the Arrow!

Luckily Catrin had woken up just as we pulled up next to the pump (I had suggested to Luned that we fly around for a little while to allow her to catch up on her missed lunchtime nap, but we decided not to) so Luned and Catrin headed back to AV8 while I refuelled the aircraft and taxyed back to parking.

Given the now perfect conditions, I took my time over sorting the aircraft out, even taking time to check out whether G-ELUE was being used later, and putting the cover on that as well (which the previous pilot had obviously neglected to do). Sorted out payment for the flight, before heading home for what I considered was a well earned beer!

Despite the slightly challenging conditions on the return leg, I’m glad I made the decision to make the flight. It’s always good to try to extend yourself gradually as you continue your flying career, and getting used to new and more challenging weather conditions is part of that. In hindsight perhaps I should have considered climbing through the layer rather than ‘scud running’ at low level, but given the terrain en-route there was never any real issue with operating at relatively low level. My main regret is not having a camera with us to show the polar opposites of the flying conditions before and after Cirencester!



Outbound leg

Outbound leg

Return leg

Return leg

Total flight time today: 1:35
Total flight time to date: 163:55

One Response to “Wellesbourne again!”

  1. Leia Says:

    It was indeed pretty ‘meh’ here Saturday. Our Cherokee was back from 50hour check & new alternator and I’d intended to fly but scrubbed it.

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