Flying family and a mini-flyout!

In the last few days leading up to this flight there had been a number of options discussed. I’d met up with David at a Flyer Forum meal on the Thursday, and we discussed the option of a shared flight together. In the end we decided on a mini-flyout, with David taking an aircraft (along with Sean), and me taking the Arrow with Luned and Catrin as passengers.

Due to a haircut appointment, I arrived slightly later than normal at Kemble, and set about preparing the aircraft. It was a cold morning and I’d had to defrost my car, but the aircraft were parked in the sun so there was no ice remaining on them. Once all appeared well, I gave Luned a ring and got her to head off from home with Catrin. David had already left to fly via Henstridge with Sean, and had dropped me a text to find out my ETA.

The weather for the day was glorious, the only ‘bad’ thing on all the relevant TAFs was ‘few at 3000 feet’. Once Luned and Catrin arrived, we told Catrin that we weren’t in fact here just to watch the planes (something she loves doing) but were in fact going for a trip in ‘Dad’s new plane’. Catrin was suitably enthusiastic about the prospect, so we all headed out to the Arrow and got ourselves settled in.

I had been a little concerned since starting to fly the Arrow due to the limited space in the rear. However, Catrin seemed happy enough sitting behind me, and there was nobody in the right hand seat, so Luned had plenty of leg-room with the seat pushed forward.

Catrin (and friends) ready to fly

Catrin (and friends) ready to fly

All settled and comfortable, we started up and taxyed out to 26. There were two aircraft carrying out power checks in front us as we approached the hold, so I carried out my checks in turn. Once the other aircraft had departed, I announced ‘Ready for Departure’ and headed out on to the runway. The engine was running nicely in the cool air, and it felt like there was plenty of performance as we began our takeoff roll and became airborne.

For a change, I remembered to dab the brakes before raising the gear, and made a right turn once airborne to keep clear of the noise sensitive area just off the end of the runway. Climbed in stages to FL45, and set course for the BCN VOR.

I’d deliberately planned a very simple route, direct to the BCN VOR, and from there direct to Swansea. Luned helped out spotting a glider off to our right and well below us, and we were soon crossing the Severn into Wales. I’d been listening in to Bristol, but didn’t give them a call due to the shortness of this leg. However, as we crossed the Severn we switched to Cardiff and gave them a call for the remainder of the flight.

Clear skies passing the Severn Bridges

Clear skies passing the Severn Bridges

While on frequency with Cardiff we heard David talking to them on his leg from Henstridge. He was several miles ahead of us, and left the frequency as we passed the VOR. We set course for Swansea (descending to FL40 while doing so), and I tried to identify the various towns laid out below us.

The skies were generally clear, but when we encountered a cloud ahead of us I decided to continue through it rather than trying to detour around. Dropping my focus onto the instruments, we continued through the cloud, experience some bumps as we did so. The cloud carried on for some 5 minutes or so, and I was becoming concerned that it wasn’t quite as small a cloud as I originally thought! Deciding that it wouldn’t be a good idea to be stuck in cloud too long, I announced that I was descending to 3000 feet, and began my descent just as we came through the other side of the cloud.

As we approached Swansea I switched over to them, just in time to head David making his ‘Final’ call before landing. Also a Student was on frequency in the same general area as us, so I announced our position and level to help him realise where we were. Around this time Catrin also fell asleep, which had the possibility of complicating things later when we needed to vacate the aircraft!

The parachute aircraft started its drop as we approached, so we positioned for a long straight in approach (SkyDemon was very helpful in this respect!) and continued our approach. I carried out the pre-landing checks and continued, when we were about 3nm from the airfield another aircraft began backtracking in readiness to depart. Not being familiar with Swansea, I was a little concerned that this would leave the runway occupied as I approached, but before I got within 1 mile the other aircraft had departed, so I could continue the approach.

G-AZWS Final, Contact 1 on the runway

G-AZWS Final, Contact 1 on the runway

The approach ended in one of my best ever landings in the Arrow, with a nice gentle touchdown and plenty of elevator authority to smoothly lower the nosewheel. We received good directions from the A/G operator as to where to park, and I parked us up next to an aircraft from (I think) the British Airways Flying Club, based at High Wycombe. We were even snapped by someone taking photos near the runway, and Sean managed to get hold of a copy.

Snapped while landing!

Snapped while landing - courtesy of Roger Winser

David was refuelling G-VICC, and soon taxyed next to us before parking slightly ahead. We managed to wake Catrin up without too much drama, and we all headed in. David had already paid for his fuel and landing fee, so he took Luned and Catrin into the main building while I went to pay. Had some difficulty finding the Cafe, before eventually joining everyone for a well-earned sausage sandwich and cup of tea.

The Cafe was typical airfield stuff, and the food was fine. David waited a little while for his food because they said the couldn’t find him, and we all chatted as we ate. We also (by complete coincidence) met up with Cloudman (apologies for not remembering his first name!) who we’d met at the Flyer meal on the previous Thursday. He’s currently changing over from learning to fly helicopters to fixed wing aircraft, and was at the airfield with his family.

Once we’d all eaten, we again began the ‘difficult’ job of getting Catrin safely back out to the aircraft and settled in. The parachuting plane was heading in as we crossed the apron, so we had to try to get out of its way before it arrived. David was slightly ahead of us, and got a nice photo of us all crossing the apron.

Flying Family returning to the aircraft

Flying Family returning to the aircraft

Meanwhile, we got ourselves settled in, and watched David departing as I prepared to get the Arrow started and ready to fly.

Catrin waves to David as he departs in G-VICC

Catrin waves to David as he departs in G-VICC

We again joined a queue of aircraft carrying out their power checks, before taking our turn to backtrack and take off. I carried out an abbreviated left hand circuit, with Luned again spotting a motor glider (that had departed just before us) and another aircraft joining downwind below and to our right. We set course back to the BCN VOR, and signed off with Swansea to talk to Cardiff again.

Passing Swansea

Passing Swansea

As we walked from the Cafe David and I had briefly discussed our return route and level. In hindsight we should have paid more attention to this. In the end I opted to fly slightly higher than I’d told him, and he flew lower so it worked out well. While on frequency with Cardiff they did pass our positions to each other, with David reporting level at 2500 feet while I was at 3500 feet.

We overtook them after the VOR (we didn’t spot him, but later found out that Sean had seen us) and continued on towards Kemble.

Around this time another pilot (flying an SR22) came on frequency requesting a Zone Transit of Cardiff airspace. Sadly he was a perfect example of what’s bad about a lot of people’s radio work, with long drawn out responses giving un-necessary information, along with not fully understanding what the Controller was telling him. He tied up the frequency for quite a while, and when I elected to talk to Bristol he was on their frequency too!

As I made the initial call to Bristol Catrin was having a bit of a moment in the back due to her breaking her fingernail playing with the switch on her headset (despite being told repeatedly not to!). As a result she was screaming while I was trying to pass my message, and the response was along the lines of ‘Basic Service, QNH 1015, sounds like you have some excited passengers with you!’. I read back the required items with a resigned ‘Affirm!’ and we continued.

In hindsight I probably shouldn’t have bothered talking to Bristol, as I had barely completed the initial call before we were approaching Kemble (150mph indicated with a 20 knot tailwind meant we were moving pretty rapidly!). I signed off and contacted Kemble, before setting myself up for an Overhead Join for 26. For some reason it took a lot of thinking to get myself oriented correctly (perhaps I was just overly conscious of having joined for the wrong runway recently) but we made our Deadside descent and turned Downwind just as David reported in the overhead.

The rest of the circuit was uneventful, and I pointed out the noise sensitive areas to Luned as we completed the circuit. Went through the runway centreline a little as I turned Final, but this was easily rectified and I again brought us down to a nice gentle touchdown. Perhaps I’m finally getting the hang of this landing lark!

I refuelled the aircraft while Luned and Catrin watched a helicopter departing, and we taxyed back just after David, and with the other two Warriors in the Lyneham Club fleet landing just after us. Once back in the parking area David helpfully marshalled me in, and I dispatched Luned and Catrin to AV8 while I tidied up the aircraft and put the cover back in.

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Outbound profile

Outbound profile

Return profile

Return profile

Once this was done, I headed back to the office to settle up for the flight, before joining everyone in AV8 for some well-earned tea and medals. This will almost certainly be my last flight of the year, and it was a very eventful one despite being generally routine. I’d added a new airfield to the logbook as well as taking part in a mini flyout and giving Luned and Catrin their first taste of the Arrow. Hopefully we can do more of the same in the coming year.

Total flight time today: 1:55
Total flight time to date: 175:20

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