A co-pilot in the family!

Since doing her right seat course with Dave, Luned hadn’t flown at the controls for over a year. Catrin’s birthday coincided with me taking a few days off work and my mum coming to stay with us, so it seemed an ideal opportunity for Luned and I to go flying without Catrin and for Luned to get back into the groove.

The flight remained uncertain right up to an hour or so before the booking! The weather forecasts seemed to be of the ‘well, we don’t really know’ variety, with them forecasting a 30% chance of periods of low cloud. Also, on the night before the flight Catrin developed what seemed like a severe cough, necessitating a visit to the Doctors’ in the morning. However, the weather on the day was almost ideal, and Catrin was back before 9am, so we decided to go ahead.

I’d been in touch with Glen recently about meeting up and perhaps heading off to the same destination. It had been a while since I last saw him, so it seemed a good chance to get together again. He flew in to Kemble in his little single seater, and I told him where to find Lyneham’s base there so that we could meet up.

Deciding to keep relatively local due to Catrin being with my mum, we decided to visit Dunkeswell again. Last time I was there, there were signs around the place indicating that the restaurant there was closing. I later found out that it was being taken over by new owners and refurbished, so today seemed like an ideal chance to visit again and check out the new facilities.

As we arrived at Kemble, Glen phoned from the other side of the locked gates where our aircraft are parked. Luned headed out to get him with keys to the gate, while I completed my planning. We discussed various options, and in the end Glen opted to travel with us in the Arrow down to Dunkeswell.

Glen's aircraft parked up

Glen's aircraft parked up

All preflight checks were completed normally, and we settled in to the aircraft with Luned by my side and Glen in the back. We carried out power checks on the D site apron for some reason, and as we did these another aircraft arrived with his engine (deliberately) stopped for a glide approach. This seemed somewhat risky to me, but I obviously don’t know the full circumstances.

Once ready, we headed out to the runway and departed. Our route took us direct from Kemble to Frome, and in hindsight this wasn’t such a great idea as we head to divert around Hullavington and Colerne. I should have planned to go via Lyneham to avoid these. Once past the tricky areas, I pointed out the required height and heading to Luned and she took over at the controls.

Detouring around Hullavington

Detouring around Hullavington

We passed by the strip Glen operates from, and continued on with me making occasional checks of the chart and GPS to ensure we were on track.

Luned flew the rest of the flight as far as Taunton, with me making occasional suggestions to her. However she handled the aircraft very well, particularly given that she only had some 6 or 7 hours at the controls, and these were well over a year ago. I’ve flown with low hours students and even qualified PPLs who didn’t seem as assured at the controls as she did!

The clouds seemed lower as we approached Taunton, so I had Luned descend to 2500 feet. I took over at Taunton and flew the approach into Dunkeswell. Dunkeswell was easy to spot, and I set us up for a Downwind join for their runway 35. There was another aircraft ahead of us that appeared to be going quite slowly, so I had to extend my downwind to ensure sufficient spacing for landing.

Approaching Dunkeswell

Approaching Dunkeswell

I brought us in for a nice approach, ending in a fairly smooth (although a little flat) landing. Glen even managed to capture it on video from the back seat! I’d asked about fuel when I phoned Dunkeswell earlier (I was unsure how much fuel would be on board) and they helpfully checked whether I would need fuel. I declined, and was given directions to park on their longer runway. The grass area where I’ve parked before was roped off, perhaps to protect it against damage given the cold weather we’d had recently. As we taxyed in and parked it began to rain gently, but by the time we were out of the aircraft it had stopped raining. It was noticeably colder here than it was at Kemble however!

Glen settled the landing fee, and we headed in to sample the new facilities. There seemed to be a good variety of food available, and I opted for my usual sausage and bacon sandwich. The service was perhaps a little slow, but we were in no real rush. There seemed to be a number of cyclist and other non-flying visitors around, which is generally a good sign.

Once fed, we headed out to the aircraft for the return journey. I followed another aircraft down the longer runway and we did our power checks side by side. They backtracked ahead of us, and had departed by the time we were ready to go. It was a straightforward departure (runway heading 350 with an initial heading to Taunton on 035 requiring a simple right turn. I climbed us up to cruising altitude, and again handed over the controls to Luned.

She flew the return leg very well, including an unplanned diversion to Lyneham to avoid Colerne and Hullavington. Given how well she was doing I was a little more critical on this flight, pointing out that she seemed to trim perhaps more than was strictly necessary (she was trimming for a short 100 or 200 foot climb, which meant she was barely trimmed for the climb before she had to re-trim for straight and level again). She also did tend to meander up and down a little by 100 feet or so, but again I’ve seen qualified PPLs (including me!) fail to keep height as well as this. However, these were the only real observations I could make on what was an otherwise excellent job on her part.

As we approached Frome I made a rough estimate of the heading required to overfly Lyneham, and we picked out the various towns between us as we looked for Lyneham. The cloud was casting a noticeable shadow on the ground, and my attempt to spot Lyneham at long distance was foiled as a result of this. I’d spotted a darker area ahead that I’d guessed would be Lyneham, but as we approached it was clear that this was in fact Chippenham. Lyneham soon became obvious slightly off to our right, and we altered course to overfly it.

Turning overhead Lyneham

Turning overhead Lyneham

We’d been monitoring Kemble since around Chippenham, and as I took control back at Lyneham suddenly the frequency came alive and it was clear that Kemble was incredibly busy. There were a number of aircraft in the circuit, and one solo student joining around the same time. My initial call was met with a simple ‘Standby’ so I maintained position outside of the ATZ waiting for a call back.

This call back never came, so after a few minutes I made another call to remind them I was there. Was given the airfield information (26L) and asked to report overhead. As I approached I heard an Instructor asking whether he could send a student on their first solo, I’m not sure I’d have wanted to be venturing off by myself for the first time given these conditions!

I joined Overhead and descended on the Deadside as normal. As we began our crosswind turn we noticed an aircraft departing Kemble and turning right, appearing to head directly for us. The FISO was on the ball and informed us of the traffic departing to the North, and we let him know we were visual. I’m not sure I’d have departed against the normal circuit direction when the circuit were this busy.

Joining Overhead at Kemble

Joining Overhead at Kemble

As we established Downwind another aircraft also reported Downwind, and we spotted him just ahead of us. I hadn’t been aware of anyone descending in front of us, so can only assume he decided to join directly on the Downwind. I had to slow us down significantly in order not to catch him up and increase the spacing so that we could land.

As a result our Downwind was a little longer than usual, and we followed him down Base and Final. It wasn’t clear that he would clear the runway before we were ready to land (the FISO had to ask him to keep his speed up). I maintained a slightly slower approach speed to try to maintain the gap, and he was still taxying along the runway as we approached the threshold.

I levelled off and flew along the runway hoping he would clear in time, and he announced that he was clear enabling us to land slightly long. I landed without receiving the usual ‘Land at your discretion’ from the FISO, but he was busy getting the other aircraft off the runway and issuing taxy instructions. I was a little unsure as to the legality of this, but the runway was clear and the FISOs ‘authority’ effectively stops after the hold lines for the runways. Glen agreed that I hadn’t broken any rules in landing. I kept my speed up to vacate in case anyone was approaching behind me, before taxying to the pumps to refuel.

The tracks flown

The tracks flown

Outbound profile

Outbound profile

Return profile

Return profile

Luned jumped out and headed off for a well earned coffee, while Glen and I helped a visitor from Shobdon who was unsure how to use the pump. We then refuelled ourselves and waited for the aircraft ahead to move off. While we were waiting the solo student taxyed past us, and I gave him a ‘thumbs up’ in congratulations. Once the other aircraft was clear, we taxyed back to the parking area, where Glen helped me get everything out of the aircraft before tying it down and putting the cover back on.

I bade farewell to Glen as he walked back to his aircraft to fly back to his strip near Bath, and headed in to the Club to finish off all the paperwork and make ready to go home.

I really enjoyed this flight, despite not getting to do much of the flying myself! It was good that Luned appeared to have remembered the vast majority of what she learned with Dave. It’s probably worth her going up with an Instructor for a session or two of circuits to make sure she hasn’t forgotten how to land (I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing this myself), but otherwise she handled the flight incredibly well. Perhaps I can have more of a relaxing time when flying in future!

Total flight time today: 1:50
Total flight time to date: 180:45

One Response to “A co-pilot in the family!”

  1. Club Checkout | Andy's Blog Says:

    […] This was likely to be a slightly strange experience, as I had flown with Glen a number of times before, initially from Lyneham with me as the ‘experienced’ pilot, and him as a relatively […]

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