Late destination change to Gloucester

A friend from Uni was visiting, so I’d booked the Arrow several weeks ago in order to take him for a flight. He’d previously flown with me in the Grob that Brize had for a short while just after I got my PPL. Despite the appalling landings on that flight, he still seemed game for another!

The original plan was to use a landing voucher to go in to Dunkeswell and check out their new catering facilities. However, the usual early morning call there showed that they had a low overcast, so I opted to delay the final decision on destination until later.

We arrived at Kemble to find the (now) typical low cloud and poor visibility, and David was outside the new Club portacabin adopting the typical pilot’s pose (phone in hand, eyes looking forlornly skywards at the weather). We both decided to delay our departures for the promised improvement in the weather.

As Kemble’s weather began to improve, there was still little improvement at Dunkeswell, so we decided to rethink the destination and all go to Gloucester. David was initially considering flying there also, but in the end decided to come along in the Arrow to see what it was like. I used the excellent Web capabilities of SkyDemon to plan the flight and print out PLOGs for the outbound and return journey before we headed out to the aircraft.

Having two willing helpers to remove covers and the like certainly made a difference getting the aircraft prepared, and after an A check we were soon ready to go. The weather was still far from ideal after our departure, and I was only able to climb to around 1500 feet or so to remain clear of cloud. All signs were that it was improving though, so I was happy to continue with the flight.

James in the back

James in the back

We headed out to the Severn Bridges, with David in the front seat helpfully prompting me to avoid the Restricted Areas around the two power stations (they only go up to 2000 feet so usually aren’t a factor, but today we were lower than that). We headed North from there towards Ross on Wye (again to avoid the power stations) and I listened to the ATIS at Gloucester. They were still reporting a cloud base of around 1500 feet, which isn’t great but was plenty for our purposes today.

Severn bridge in the murk

Severn bridge in the murk

I called them up and was given a direct join for runway 09 (we were heading in almost directly from the West so this was very helpful). Despite the help of their NDB, the airfield was quite difficult to spot in the murk, but we soon spotted it and set up for the approach.

I was having some difficulty in getting the speed back to the normal Final approach speed until I realised I hadn’t deployed the normal 2 stages of flap (these would normally be lowered as you make the Base leg turn, which we weren’t doing today). Once these were down the speed soon bled off, and I concentrated on the rest of the approach.

Mindful of the poor landings I’d made last time James flew with me, I made a point of attempting to improve on this. Fortunately I managed to pull off  a very nice smooth landing. Had to query the parking location with the Tower before eventually pulling into a space that had just been vacated by a departing PA28.

Parked up at Gloucester

Parked up at Gloucester

We had a very pleasant lunch at Gloucester (although the service was slightly slow). The three of us all chatted while we waited though, and the view out of the window showed that the weather appeared to be improving too. We had a good view of aircraft departing on 09 from where we were sitting.

We headed back to the aircraft through the impressive terminal building at Gloucester, paying the landing fee and booking out on our way. I made the mistake of telling them I was departing to the South, when in fact I really needed to depart to the West to head for Ross on Wye again.

Settled in the aircraft, I used the map provided to try to map out the expected taxy route. David’s ‘local’ knowledge (he trained for his Night Qualification here) came in useful as otherwise I would have turned in the wrong direction out of the parking area! The taxy down to the hold area for 09 was long, but gave plenty of time to get all the checks done and Nav aids tuned.

On departure I turned Crosswind as we passed the impressive looking GCHQ ‘doughnut’, and initially turned South before realising my earlier mistake when booking out. After informing the Tower we turned to the West towards Ross on Wye.

GCHQ 'doughnut'

GCHQ 'doughnut'

Bristol seemed a little more busy on the way back, so I elected to call them up and received a Basic Service. We heard them informing another aircraft of our position as ‘Traffic’, but they were 2000 feet above us so there was little danger of any conflict. James pointed out an aircraft up in the airway some 20,000 feet or so above us, but it was clear that wasn’t them!

The visibility on the leg between the Severn Bridges and Kemble was pretty poor (although as usual my sunglasses caused me to think it was better than it actually was – they seem to cut through poor visibility quite well) and Kemble was initially difficult to spot in the murk. The cloudbase was all but gone though, so climbing for an overhead join was easy.

Again David proved invaluable in realising that we were approaching too low. He’d set QFE on the second altimeter as soon as it was given to us, but I’d neglected to switch the main gauge over as we approached. As such we were some 500 feet lower than we should have been for an Overhead Join.

As we approached we heard both SNUZ and GLUE making final preparations for landing, and I set us up for a nice Overhead Join (for the correct runway this time!). As we turned to begin the descent we spotted another aircraft below us that had reported Base. However he continued a long way South of the runway before turning back to intercept the correct track.

As we made completed the deadside descent, we were now looking into the setting sun at the airfield. The runway all but disappeared, making the Crosswind and Downwind legs quite difficult to judge. I managed to keep us in the right place, and as I turned Base I made the mistake of using the G-SNUZ callsign (no idea where that came from!). The FISO was on the ball though (G-SNUZ had just landed so it wasn’t too difficult!) and asked ‘Is that actually Whisky Sierra?’. Whoops…been a while since I used the wrong callsign!

I turned Final slightly late, and had to make a correction to regain the runway centreline. The rest of the approach was good though, and I brought us in for a passable landing, flaring slightly high leading to a firmer touchdown than I would have liked.

I was initially unsure as to whether we’d need fuel, but it proved to be just below tabs at the pumps, so it was good that we refuelled. We were then treated to an impromptu aerobatics display by a rather old shiny looking taildragger.

Shiny taildragger treated us to some aeros

Shiny taildragger treated us to some aeros

After taxying back the process of putting the aircraft to bed was again made much easier by having 2 willing helpers. We all retired to AV8 for a well earned cuppa!

The Routes Flown

The Routes Flown

Outbound Profile

Outbound Profile

Return Profile

Return Profile

This was another flight that slightly pushed the envelope in terms of weather. However, I was glad I’d made the decision to go despite the relatively poor conditions on departure. We were legal VFR for the flight, and always had the option of an Instrument approach into Gloucester should conditions not be good when we arrived. Was also good to show James that I really do know how to land!

Total flight time today: 1:35
Total flight time to date: 173:25

4 Responses to “Late destination change to Gloucester”

  1. Piper Arrow II differences training | flyerdavid Says:

    […] The club fleet includes a Piper Arrow II – a step up from the Warriors I learnt on and normally fly. This has a more powerful engine (180bhp instead of 160), retractable undercarriage (much less drag, so goes faster) and a variable prop (more efficient, so also goes faster). These features enable a cruising speed of around 150mph (approx 130 knots) with similar fuel consumption.  It also has an autopilot, which can follow a VOR track or simply a heading and is IFR equipped. I’d been a passenger in it a few months back, when Andy flew it on a short local flight to Gloucester and back. […]

  2. liamsandie Says:

    Hi Andy another great write up. Heres a question for someone that flys in your part of the country. Are Bristol FIlton LARS able to negotiate zone transits of Bristols class D? I am planning a flight direct via Filtons and Bristols overheads en route cornwall and wondered if this would be possible?

    • liamsandie Says:


    • Andy Hawkins Says:

      First of all, Filton are (mostly) closed at weekends now. So if your flight is at the weekend, then the answer will be ‘no’.

      Apart from that, I think I’d probably be tempted to do it the other way around, and contact Bristol Radar well before you get close, and ask them to approve the Zone Transit, telling them that you’ll be routing through the Filton overhead.

      It’s a lot easier to avoid the Filton ATZ if you don’t get the clearance in time, than trying to avoid Bristol if the same should happen.

      I’d be more tempted to ask this sort of question somewhere like the Flyer Forums, as there’s bound to be someone there who has done the same thing.


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