Some more first time passengers

I hadn’t flown for a couple of weeks, so as ever was keen to get back in the air again. The family weren’t available to fly with me, and all my other attempts to find willing passengers had failed. I remembered from conversations with Mike at work that his other half seemed to have been bitten by the aviation bug quite hard (she’d had a glider flight and an aeros experience with Ultimate High) and I’d offered her a seat sometime.

It turned out that she was free, and so the plan was hatched to use one of the landing vouchers and head up to Halfpenny Green for lunch. We’d considered Panshanger (another landing voucher!) or perhaps Compton Abbas, but opted for Halfpenny Green in the end. Given my recent experiences, I made sure to check that there were no major events at any of the possible destinations rather than finding out on the morning of the flight!

We arranged to meet at Kemble around 10 (aircraft booked from 10:30) and on arrival I discovered that Sue’s daughter Hannah would also be accompanying us.

The Arrow was off to France this weekend, so we were in G-SNUZ, the Club’s IFR equipped Warrior, for today’s flight. The weather the day before had been a bit grim, but the skies were clear and bright on the morning of the flight, although a fairly stiff breeze meant that it felt quite cool on the apron.

I left Sue and Hannah filling in the temporary membership forms and headed out to the aircraft to carry out the ‘A’ check. All was normal, although the aircraft wasn’t full of fuel as I’d expected. However, the fuel level was above ‘tabs’ both sides, which should give us more than 3 hours of flight time to carry out a 2 hour flight.

Hannah before the flight

Hannah preparing for flight

Once I was ready I headed back to the Club and gave my passengers a pre-flight briefing, paying particular attention to approaching the aircraft from the rear and paying attention to other aircraft around. Although our parking space at Kemble is relatively isolated, I anticipated Halfpenny Green to be fairly busy so it was important that they knew what to do.

Boarding the passengers

Boarding the passengers

Mike busied himself taking photos as we settled ourselves in, before heading down to stand in front of AV8 to watch us taxy past on the way to our departure on 08. For the first time ever the Tower offered me the option of a backtrack down the runway rather than using the grass taxyway, but given that Mike was waiting for us I declined and we taxyed past him on our way to the North Apron to carry out our power checks.

The checks were all completed normally, and we were cleared to the hold and then immediately onto the runway. Kemble was surprisingly quiet given the good weather, although it was still only 11:00 or so. Out on the runway I had to wait briefly for the frequency to come clear as someone requested airfield information inbound. When they were finished I reported ‘Lined up’, and then we were accelerating down the runway.

Initially the RPM didn’t seem too high, but as the speed built up it soon came up to the correct level, and I made a mental note to remember that the ASI was calibrated in knots rather than MPH as in the Arrow. We rotated and departed to the North (after being warned of glider activity at Aston Down and Nympsfield), and set course for Gloucester.

As we approached Gloucester I called them for a Basic Service and told them we’d be routing through the overhead. Another aircraft appeared on frequency reporting that they were also routing via Halfpenny Green via Worcester (our exact route) so I asked the Controller for the other aircraft’s position. He was a good few miles ahead of us at a similar height, and we didn’t see him on the route.

Sue did a good job spotting a glider off to our right, and we continued over Wolverhampton and Kidderminster. Conditions were almost ideal, the only issue being some turbulence which meant that the ride was a little bumpy. Visibility was excellent, and navigation on this leg was very easy due to all the good landmarks on the route.

As we approached Kidderminster, a 3 ship Sea King formation reported that they would be routing through the Halfpenny Green overhead. After a bit of communication with the Controller there they settled on an altitude of just above 2000 feet (the height at which aircraft joining Overhead would be flying at). As I was now descending from 3000 to 2000 I was trying to keep a good lookout to find out where they were, and I eventually spotted them behind us to the right as I started to position to get the airfield in the correct position for the join.

Sea King formation escort

Sea King formation escort

The circuit at Halfpenny Green was quite busy as we approached the Overhead, with 3 aircraft ahead of us. I slotted in nicely behind the aircraft ahead of me on a rather wide Downwind leg, and followed him as he turned a late Base leg also.

We were positioned nicely on Final as the aircraft ahead vacated the runway, and I was finding it quite difficult to lose height. It appeared to be an excellent day for flying gliders, as with almost idle throttle the aircraft still didn’t seem to want to lose height!

I managed to get the picture correct again, and brought us in for a very nice smooth landing on runway 34, easily making the first turn off onto runway 28 before taking the grass taxyway and parking on the grass.

The cafe was very busy today, as it appeared that they were operating pleasure flights in a helicopter while we were there. We managed to find a table and I was slightly disappointed that I couldn’t have my usual sausage sandwich as they had no sausages! I opted for a bacon sandwich instead, and Hannah tucked in to a rather substantial looking scampi and chips!

As we waited for our food, I replanned the return flight to fly via the Severn Bridges. For the first time in a while I had the protractor and ruler out, measuring angles and distances on the map! I then cheated a little by using an app on my phone to calculate the wind drift, before putting the lot into the GPS.

Suitably fed, we all headed back to the aircraft. As we parked up I’d initially wondered whether I had a route out of the parking area to the taxyway ahead, but an aircraft had left the end of the row in front giving us a clear path. After a few photos, we all loaded up again and were ready for the off (once I recovered my water from the ‘safe’ place I’d put it in while removing my coat!).

Happy passengers and glorious skies

Happy passengers and glorious skies

Hannah ready for the return flight

Hannah ready for the return flight

Sue comfortable up front

Sue comfortable up front

Taxy and departure were all normal, and I climbed up to around 2500 feet on the Downwind leg before heading to Kidderminster for the start point of the Nav. Once we were established on course, I offered the controls to Sue.

She’d previously flown in a glider and with Ultimate High, and it seemed that she was used to a much more sensitive aircraft. The conditions were still a little tricky, and we were being bounced around a fair bit. Sue was applying very small corrections, which in a Warrior won’t do an awful lot! I took back control briefly to show her how much you could move the controls without the aircraft doing anything too dramatic, before handing back to her. As she settled in she soon got the hang of things.

Leaning on the GPS a little, I had her make a few course corrections until the Severn Bridges came in to view in the distance ahead of us, allowing us to steer for them visually. We’d been talking to Gloucester on this leg, and had been warned of some traffic ahead of us heading in to Kemble via Gloucester from around our present position. It was never a factor, and as we approached the bridges Sue handed control back to me.

I crossed the Severn slightly early, allowing both passengers a good view of the bridges from the right hand side of the aircraft, before deciding to fly past Filton to see if we could get a good view of the Concorde that is based there.

Nice shot of the Severn Bridges

Nice shot of the Severn Bridges

Bristol were very quiet, so I put in a call to them to get a Basic Service. This turned into possibly the worst radio call I’ve ever made, coming out something like “Bristol Radar, Golf Sierra November mumble mumble….pause…Golf Sierra November Uniform Zulu, request Basic Service. The Controller seemed slightly amused by this (I wonder why?) replying “Station calling Bristol Radar, I think you might have given me a few too many letters there, say again?”

I finally got the correct call out, and used the NDB and DME to head for Filton (although it was visible from miles out) while descending to around 1500 feet for a good look. Looking at the flight profile, it looks like I came very close to clipping the edge of R154 (a restricted area around a power station that extends up to 2000 feet) as I descended. I must bear this in mind when doing unplanned diversions in future.

Filton is now closed at weekends, and is due to close completely at the end of the year, which is a real shame. Again I kept it off to our right hand side for photo opportunities, even going into a slight slip to get the wing out of the way.

Passing Filton, Concorde just in front of the wing

Passing Filton, Concorde in front of the wing

Once clear of Filton, I left Bristol and switched to Kemble to get our arrival details, climbing up to 2000 feet for the rejoin and setting course using the NDB. Somehow, I managed to mis-identify Kemble several times before finally spotting it properly. I pointed out Tetbury, Malmesbury and Lyneham off in the distance to our right as we passed, before getting ready for the Overhead Join.

Joining overhead Kemble

Joining overhead Kemble

As we approached the Overhead, the wind was reported at 340 at 11 knots, with a recent gust of 24! They were using 08, which meant this provided a slight tail wind, and the gusts were a little concerning. After a standard descent, the wind seemed to have settled down as we were just given 340 at 11 while on the Downwind leg. I had the circuit all to myself, and made a good approach to a slightly firm landing on 08.

Again Kemble’s ATC were trying to be helpful in offering me a long taxy up the runway, but I needed fuel so declined the offer and headed over to the pumps. I refuelled the aircraft before we all mounted up again (this time with Hannah in the front with me) for the taxy back to parking.

We taxyed up the grass taxyway as some gyrocopters made ready to depart from the grass runway alongside us. I tried to go relatively slowly so that we could see their departure (even stopping on the apron at the end of the taxyway for a while) but they seemed to take a long time to get moving, and then had taken off long before the reached us anyway!

As we taxyed back to parking, we could see Mike waiting at the fence for us. Once we were shut down I had Hannah take the key over to him, and he came over and helped us tie down the aircraft and fit the cover again. We all headed back in to the Club to sort out the paperwork, before heading down to AV8 for some tea and cake to celebrate!

The route flown

The route flown

Outbound profile

Outbound profile

Return profile

Return profile

This had been an excellent flight, and as usual it had been a real pleasure to take some first time passengers flying. Although Sue had flown a little in light aircraft, this had always been with a purpose in mind (aerobatics and some glider experience) rather than just the pleasure of flying somewhere for the hell of it.

Sue and Hannah had been very pleasant company, and they can definitely expect to be invited again in future (assuming my flying hasn’t put them off!).

Total flight time today: 2:15
Total flight time to date: 186:35

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2 Responses to “Some more first time passengers”

  1. flyerdavid Says:

    Great writeup of what appears to be an excellent introduction to what PPL flights are about. Who knows, maybe one of your passengers might become another budding PPL student in the future. And again surprisingly honest about your radio blubbery – something I’d find hard to confess to although we all do it.

    “Kemble was surprisingly quiet given the good weather, although it was still only 11:00 or so. Out on the runway I had to wait briefly for the frequency to come clear”

    Can’t quite reconcile these two statements. Was there someone chatting away on frequency while the runway was empty? Or did you just take a long time to say all your callsigns 😉

    “I was slightly disappointed that I couldn’t have my usual sausage sandwich as they had no sandwiches! I opted for a bacon sandwich instead”

    something doesn’t make sense here…

  2. Andy Hawkins Says:

    Thanks for that David. Made a couple of corrections based on your comments.

    Someone came on frequency inbound requesting the airfield information just as I took to the runway. Before that I think I had the frequency to myself.

    Fixed a typo regarding lunch too. They had no *sausages* 🙂

    Other than that, then yes, it was a great flight. Sue certainly does seem to have the flying bug, but whether she would want to take it any further is another matter. She seems like far too much of an adrenaline junkie to me!

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