Under the hood to somewhere new

David and I had discussed a number of times recently trying to fly together again, both to share costs and also to provide a Safety Pilot allowing one of us to practice our IMC skills again. He’d booked a Warrior for today, and invited me along. Various destinations were discussed, and we ended up opting to aim for some Instrument practice with a trip to Coventry.

I phoned Coventry in the morning to check what we were hoping to do was possible, and was given the Ok. The only slight fly in the ointment was the fact that there was no food available at Coventry (an important consideration when choosing a destination!) so we decided to drop in to Wellesbourne on the way for lunch.

David arrived at Kemble before me and had already carried out an ‘A’ check on the aircraft. The airfield was officially closed, but based aircraft were allowed to operate on an indemnity basis. As a result I think we were pretty much the only people there as we prepared ourselves for the off. David had some difficulty in gaining authorisation for his flight, but eventually got hold of an Instructor and we were good to go.

We settled ourselves in the aircraft, with David rummaging around getting his new video camera set up while I went through the pre-start checks. The engine started easily, but only ran for a minute or so before spluttering and dying. I’d heard that noise before, so was pretty sure I knew the reason for it, and I was proved correct. I’d managed to forget to turn the fuel on, so the engine started and ran for a while until it exhausted the fuel in the lines between the tanks and the engine.

Took a couple of tries to get the engine going again, but once it was running reliably we prepared to go. This was where we hit snag number 2! I gradually increased the throttle well beyond the point at which you could reasonably expect the aircraft to move, but it just wasn’t budging. My first thought was that we were still tied down or chocked, but a quick check proved that the 3 wheels had actually sunk into the ground a little due to the recent wet weather and the fact that the aircraft was full of fuel.

I went off in search for a tow bar, but couldn’t find one. With a bit of exertion between the two of us we managed to rock the aircraft forwards and backwards to get the wheels out of the depressions, before mounting up again and preparing to go. I moved us off the grass as quickly as possible to prevent us sinking in again, before pausing on the hard taxyway and completing the checks prior to moving off.

I’d planned a route out from Kemble, tracking the NDB up to the Chedworth disused before intercepting a radial from the DTY VOR. The plan was to continue on this radial until we identified Wellesbourne, before breaking off and heading up to the field. All the pre-departure checks were normal, and we were soon lined up on the runway ready for the off. As we rolled David reminded me to apply some into-wind aileron, and it was noticeably harder to lift the Warrior off the ground compared the Arrow that I had flown exclusively recently.

After the noise abatement turn and allowing sufficient distance from Kemble to avoid the local villages, I turned to the right, ready to intercept the required outbound radio from the KMB NDB. David took over while I got myself comfortable under the hood, and I then took control back before intercepting the outbound track.

I had the correct radial set on the OBS, with DTY tuned and identified. As the needle came in indicating we were approaching the correct radial I turned to intercept. We changed to Brize for a Basic service and continued on. We were benefitting from a significant tailwind at our cruising altitude, so it wasn’t long before we had got close to Wellesbourne, and I removed the hood.

I acquired Wellesbourne visually, confirming its location with the GPS. My initial call to them was somewhat clumsy, with me failing to give the FISO all of the required information in my initial call. As a result he had to prompt me a couple of times for the information I’d missed. I neglected to check the DI before setting course direct to the field, assuming that I was South of Wellesbourne (when in fact I was more to the South East. This led to some confusion in identifying the active runway, which was soon cleared up with a bit of help from David and a check of the DI. Once oriented, I set myself up for an overhead join for their runway 18 with a right hand circuit.

As is usual whenever I visit Wellesbourne, there were aircraft in the circuit and others joining. Between us we picked out the aircraft in the circuit, and I set us up for an Overhead Join with a wide Deadside descent keeping clear of Wellesbourne village. There were a couple of aircraft ahead of me as we turned Downwind, but separation was good and we were well set up to follow them in to land.

I ended up slightly high as we turned Final, but soon got the height off. Due to how busy the circuit was, it was difficult to get my Final call in, but I managed on very Short Final. We later had a discussion between us as to whether I could have landed without getting this call in. I think we would have been within our rights to (a FISO cannot issue clearances or instructions to aircraft in the air or on the ground past the runway hold lines) but it’s always best to make sure everyone knows what is happening.

As we were on Final it was clear that there was a fairly stiff crosswind that was also gusting somewhat, so the last moments of the Approach were quite busy. I thought I was handling it well, and achieved a nice gentle touchdown on the main wheels with the stall warner sounding gently. However the wind must have gusted at that point, as we were soon drifting off to the left of the centreline and several feet in the air. As I’d been slightly high I’d landed slightly long, and I took the decision to abandon the landing attempt and just go around. As I became established in the climb I got a ‘Good Decision’ from David on my right!

So, around the circuit we went again. On Downwind I became aware of an aircraft ahead of us and to the right, tracking right to left to the North of the field. He continued on this track before then turning right to establish himself on a very late Downwind leg. Both David and I were very confused by this, as it was a very strange way to join the circuit! I slowed us down a little to allow him to get ahead of us, and extended Downwind to increase the separation.

Back on Final, I decided to stick with two stages of flap and keep the speed up a little. The wind was a little more predictable as I began the roundout, and we touched down slightly firmly but without any dramas like on the last attempt. I’d missed the first turnoff (which is quite short anyway at Wellesbourne) but was undecided as to whether I should take the turning for the cross runway (the FISO was again on the radio so I couldn’t ask his advice). Just as I was passing it he asked me to take the turn, before realising I was already past. I tried to keep the speed up to reach the end of the runway and exit, and we taxyed towards the Tower to park next to a rather nice looking TB10.

Parked up at Wellesbourne

Parked up at Wellesbourne

As usual, by the time I’d reached the Tower to pay the landing fee, there were no aircraft in the sky! Thank you Wellesbourne, you always seem to make things interesting for me! I joined David in the very busy cafe (despite it still being before noon) and we ordered our lunch. I opted for my usual sausage sandwich, while David went for the more substantial ‘large breakfast’. When it arrived, he certainly had no cause for complaint about the description!

A busy Wellesbourne Cafe

A busy Wellesbourne Cafe

Once we’d eaten I phoned Coventry, and was told they could accommodate me on the ILS from 1330 onwards. We took our time getting ready, before heading out to the aircraft. I’d planned a route from Wellesbourne to track towards the DTY VOR, and from there a Direct Daventry approach to the ILS at Coventry.

We headed out to the aircraft and I gave it a quick check over. Once I was happy, we climbed in and I began preparations for departure. We were behind another aircraft at the hold carrying out our power checks, and there were a number in the circuit and landing meaning there was a short delay before we could take off. The aircraft ahead took to the runway, and I followed him a few moments later.

He seemed to be taking a long time to climb out and clear the departure path, so I gave him a bit more time than I normally would before beginning my takeoff roll. The wind conditions were calmer as we took off, and we climbed out keeping a good eye on the other aircraft. I ensured we were well past him before putting the hood on, and then turned back to intercept the 270 radial towards DTY.

I could tell that my tracking of the VOR was improving (it has been a long time since I flew in ‘real’ Instrument conditions), although I did have one little ‘wobble’ as I was trying to arrange the charts and ensure all the nav aids were tuned, setup and identified. We were now in contact with Coventry, and I was given approval for the approach, and asked to report when I was established on the 348 radial from DTY.

In order to avoid the potential ‘honeypot’ of the VOR, I turned a few miles early to intercept, and made a good job of getting established and maintaining the appropriate track. I made a slight mistake in switching the DME away from DTY to the Coventry ILS, but soon realised when the Controller asked me to report at a certain distance. A quick check of the plate showed that this was based on the DTY DME and not Coventry, so I switched back and continued.

I left the pre-landing checks a little late, but had them out of the way before needing to turn to intercept the localiser. Coventry were warning us of other traffic in the vicinity, and at one point David was concerned that he had spotted some traffic and would have to take over. However he convinced himself he was mistaken, and we continued.

I made a good job of intercepting the localiser, and my progress down the ILS went really well. In hindsight it may have been more beneficial if there had been more drift to take account of (the wind was almost straight down the runway at Coventry) as this made it pretty easy for me to stay on the localiser. Soon the glideslope became active and again I think I made a pretty good job of setting an appropriate descent rate.

Coventry had other aircraft in the visual circuit, one was cleared to turn ahead of us, with another told to extend Downwind to position behind us. David spotted the runway several miles out, and as we approached about 600 feet AAL I looked up to see the runway right where it was supposed to be. It’s very satisfying to fly a procedure like that and have it all go to plan!

I removed the hood, and was told by the Controller to expect a late landing clearance due to the traffic ahead of us. As we got close to landing the other aircraft was still on the runway (but right down the other end of the 2km of tarmac!) and we were given a ‘land after’ clearance. The wind conditions were much less tricky now (as well as there being almost no crosswind) so I made a decent landing, although again it was a little firmer than I would prefer.

We were asked to keep our speed up and told where to vacate the runway. David had the ground plan out and directed me to the appropriate turnoff, and I took the Controller’s offer of a Marshaller due to my being unfamiliar with Coventry. There was a little confusion as the Marshaller (a member of the airfield fire crew) hadn’t been told our registration, so we were both a little unsure as to whether we should be working together! I was marshalled across a fairly busy apron to a parking space, and David helped him push us back to park tidily while I steered from inside the cockpit.

Due to the airfield being largely closed, there was some difficulty in finding someone to pay landing fees too. In the end David settled these while I stayed with the aircraft as it was refuelled, settling up with the refueller. Fuel was very reasonably priced, and I think we only paid something like £24 for our landing and two ILS approaches (David was to fly one to a Missed Approach as we left). Very reasonable indeed given the size of the airfield and the facilities available.

Now it was David’s turn. He’d booked out with Air Traffic while paying the landing fees, and arranged for him to do an ILS to a Missed Approach before we departed. We had no real plan for the return leg, so I quickly plotted a route using the DTY and HON VORs, before intercepting a track using the KMB NDB to get back to Kemble. I quickly programmed this into the GPS as David prepared himself to get going.

We taxyed to around the midpoint of  the runway, carrying out our power checks at the hold. Another aircraft carried out the power checks behind us, and we were both cleared to backtrack. For some reason the other aircraft was cleared to take off before us (perhaps we had held him up a little) and we backtracked further down the runway. I quickly tried to familiarise myself with the Missed Approach procedure before we took off.

There was some confusion in the heights required, and I tried to clarify this with David. I think we probably exceeded the heights a couple of times as we sorted out where we should be, an indication that we hadn’t adequately planned and briefed this part of the flight. I took control briefly from David so that he could put the hood on and fly the rest of the flight in simulated IMC.

David was asked whether he wanted vectors to the ILS or to fly the procedure, and told the Controller that we would fly the procedure. The Controller then cleared us back to the hold, but David had intended to fly the same ‘Direct Daventry’ approach to the ILS as I had earlier. He informed the Controller of this, and we were cleared for that approach.

David tracked nicely to the VOR, but overshot a little as we turned onto the outbound track. The rest of the approach went fairly well though, but I had a little difficulty spotting the airfield in the low sun. Despite these being definite VFR conditions, I was happy that we were actually on an Instrument Approach! The airfield soon appeared, and David descended down to Decision Height before executing the Missed Approach.

Again, there was a little confusion between us as to what height we should be at, but we resolved this and continued tracking towards the VOR until well clear of Birmingham’s airspace. I asked David to fly a heading of 200, and to intercept the appropriate radial from the DTY VOR. Once established on this radial I realised that the track I’d planned would take us through the overhead of the glider field at Edge Hill, so I changed the radial by 10 degrees or so to keep us well clear. On this leg we also climbed to the appropriate Quadrantal Level of 4000 feet.

David tracked the VOR radial nicely, and a quick peek at the GPS showed that we were only managing a ground speed of about 60 knots with an indicated airspeed of 90. As we were in good VMC, we elected to descend to see if we could get a less severe headwind, and dropping down to 3000 feet gained us another 10 knots or so of groundspeed.

The GPS track shows a bit of a deviation from track as we intercepted the appropriate radial from the HON VOR, but David got us back on track and we started talking to Brize. I reminded David that we would be intercepting the correct radial on the KMB NDB to track towards Kemble, and we talked to Brize for a Basic Service. The frequency was pretty quiet with not many other aircraft in the skies.

I noticed that David had missed the turn towards Kemble, and (slightly sneakily) allowed him to continue. We were now heading direct for the Brize Class D airspace, so I decided to allow him to continue for another mile or so to see if he’d notice. This was somewhat foiled by the Controller at Brize (obviously concerned that we were heading for an infringement) checking that our intentions were to remain clear of Brize Airspace.

It turned out that David had forgotten that we had planned to track the NDB (another indication that we should have spent more time planning this leg) so I had him turn to the West so that we could intercept the correct radial. The Controller asked us to remain below 3000 feet to enable a departure to climb above us without any conflict, and we continued on towards Cirencester.

David removed the hood so that we could fly the approach to Kemble visually, and we both acquired it directly ahead of us as we passed Cirencester. We were flying through a small shower and there were threatening clouds ahead of us, which made David consider whether we should just join on a Right Base rather than flying a full circuit. The downside of doing this was that we would not be able to check out the windsock, but it would help ensure we were down before the rain arrived.

He elected to join Crosswind, and we saw that the wind was perhaps 45 degrees off the runway, but appeared to be relatively calm at 5 or 10 knots or so. David completed the pre-landing checks in the circuit, and brought us back to Kemble for a nice touchdown. David commented that he felt he had perhaps flared a little too high, but to be honest there wasn’t much wrong with the landing!

Rather than taxy on the wet grass, David backtracked the runway and we taxyed back to the Club’s parking area. Mindful of the issues we’d had getting moving, David parked the aircraft a foot or two back from where it usually would be parked (to avoid parking in the same ruts) and we began the task of getting all of our gear out and covering the aircraft as the rain began to arrive.

My tracks

My tracks

Leg 1 Profile

Leg 1 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 2 profile

David's track

David's track

Leg 3 profile

Leg 3 profile

This was a very satisfying start to the New Year. Just days after the year began I’d gained some valuable IMC practice, flown an Approach and visited a new airfield! Coupled with returning to Wellesbourne (always one of my favourite destinations), a good lunch and some excellent company, this flight was very enjoyable indeed. There were a number of things that we could have done better (spending more time before the flight deciding exactly what we would do being the main one), but it’s been a good way of getting back into flying together. Our plan is to try to do more similar flights in the near future, perhaps using Brize and Benson to practice Approaches if that can be arranged.

Total flight time today: 1:35
Total flight time to date: 176:55

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2 Responses to “Under the hood to somewhere new”

  1. ILS practice at Coventry « flyerdavid Says:

    […] flew the outbound leg, which he wrote up in detail in his own blog. He flew this mostly under the hood and landed at Wellesbourne, which was not only open but pretty […]

  2. IMC Renewal « Andy's Blog Says:

    […] 25 months. I must make more of an effort to try to keep in practice (my last IMC Approach was back in January) so that I don’t get as rusty before my next revalidation. Graham headed off, and I taxyed […]

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