Family day out to Dorset

It had been a while since Luned and Catrin had flown with me, so we decided to try to fly on the long Bank Holiday weekend. Sadly I was a bit late making the booking, so could only get a mid afternoon slot in a Warrior, ruling out my usual run somewhere for lunch! We’d dropped in to Compton Abbas by road on our way down South last year, and I’d always planned to get in there in an aircraft. Today seemed like the perfect opportunity as it’s only a short flight from Kemble.

David also had an aircraft booked, so after a bit of negotiation with the flight to come immediately after him, he elected to come along with us. We’d been at Kemble for a couple of hours with a picnic, but sadly the temperature was a bit lower than we’d expected, so we ended up in AV8 with a cup of tea!

Catrin and Benny enjoying their picnic

Catrin and Benny enjoying their picnic

The aircraft arrived back a little early, so I made the most of it and headed out to check it over. All was normal, so I transferred all the usual paraphernalia into G-SNUZ and made ready for Luned and Catrin to join me. Kemble’s Twitter feed had given details earlier of a Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Spitfire and Hurricane due to depart in the afternoon, and I saw them parked outside one of the hangars near our parking space.

BBMF Hurricane and Spitfire

BBMF Hurricane and Spitfire

As the ladies approached the fence, I became aware of the Hurricane returning, and instead of taxying up to the hangar it had left, it came nose on towards our parking area, effectively blocking our aircraft in. We can no longer use the grass in the area to taxy on, as one of the Club’s other aircraft suffered a prop strike on there recently, and we are waiting for it to be levelled. The Spitfire headed off to depart, and we were treated to an impromptu display in the airfield’s overhead.

Spitfire displaying in the overhead

Spitfire displaying in the overhead

I asked the Hurricane pilot how long he was likely to be, and he told me he had some sort of issue with his brakes. Fortunately, he had a number of willing helpers acting as ground crew for him, so they all helped us manhandle the Warriors over the grass onto the hard taxyway beyond the Hurricane, enabling us to depart from there.

Blocked in!

Blocked in!

This had delayed us a little, but we were soon all settled in the aircraft, with me at the front of the ‘queue’ and David behind. I had a little trouble getting the engine started, but it caught on the second attempt and we headed over to the North apron for power checks, with David following us down the grass taxyway. Catrin had brought home ‘Benny the Bear’ from pre-school for the weekend, so was happily showing him all the sights as we taxyed around.

Power checks in formation

Power checks in formation

David managed to complete his power checks before me, and taxyed up to the hold with us following close behind. The FISO had us both enter the runway together, and I followed David as he backtracked before turning back to face in the correct direction. I stayed off to one side to stay out of his propwash, and watched him depart. As he climbed away, I began rolling too and we departed normally.

Lining up in turn

Lining up in turn

We’d neglected to discuss our route before the flight, and David headed off to the West, as we set course for Lyneham. Rather than head into the busier airspace the contains Hullavington, Colerne and passes under Bristol’s Controlled Airspace, I headed via Lyneham before setting course to Frome to bypass the danger areas.

Look down there, Benny!

Look down there, Benny!

As we approached Frome, we spotted an aircraft high and to our right, and as we closed it soon became clear that this was David. We signed off from Bristol to talk to Compton Abbas, and as David was on our right I slotted in behind him. I was unsure whether we were out of sight below his wing, so considered it better to keep him in sight rather than assume he saw us. He heard me sign on with Compton, and informed them that he would follow us in. By this time however we were nicely in (very) loose formation behind him, so informed Compton that we would follow David instead.

Following David into Compton Abbas

Following David into Compton Abbas

As we neared Compton Abbas, it was clear that they were very busy. I could see two or three other aircraft ahead of us as we joined, and there were others reporting in the vicinity as we neared the Overhead. I spotted the airfield quite late, and concentrated on keeping good spacing between myself and the other aircraft as I descended. I was also mindful of Compton’s noise abatement circuit, and did my best to spot the villages that we were supposed to fly outside.

As can be seen from the GPS track, I made a bit of a mess of the circuit, ending up on a very long Final leg, well outside of the ATZ! I’d extended Downwind to leave space behind an aircraft ahead of me, and then mis-identified the village that you’re supposed to avoid on the Base to Final turn. Indeed, I became so concentrated on avoiding this village that I actually blew straight through the Final approach track, meaning I had to turn back to line up with the centreline again.

I managed to get us set up on the correct descent profile, which seemed to put us quite close to some trees just before the airfield. As a result I think I was slightly high as I crossed the airfield boundary, but I made a good landing near the numbers (which David caught on video!). Mindful of not using the brakes to protect the surface, I drifted slightly to the left before getting the speed under control and leaving the runway as early as I could.

We parked up, and walked in for a well earned cup of tea and some cake! David was refuelling his aircraft, and Catrin amused herself looking at all the model aircraft that Compton have for sale. I managed to convince her that I didn’t have any money to buy one, and David soon joined us to eat.

Mindful of our limited time available, we all headed back out to the aircraft after a short while. Catrin was starting to become a little difficult, and I was a little concerned that she was running off and I had to keep chasing after her. Fortunately there weren’t too many aircraft moving at this point, but we had a few words to try to get her to behave!

David left a few minutes before us, and we got some nice photos of him departing as we taxyed down to the threshold. Unsure where to carry out the power checks due to some cones (presumably marking an area of rough ground) I stopped parallel to the main building and carried them out there. There was little wind so there was no real need to point the nose into wind and cause issues with the propwash behind me.

David departing Compton Abbas

David departing Compton Abbas

We watched a flex-wing Microlight make two attempts at landing, before taking to the runway ourselves. I was using the short field takeoff technique, pulling a couple of stages of flap before holding the aircraft against the brakes as I brought the engine up to full power. On releasing the brakes we shot forward, and I soon remembered other people’s comments about how bumpy the runway was at Compton.

We hadn’t really noticed it on the landing roll, but we were launched into the air a number of times (coming back down due to not having enough speed to actually fly!) before we rotated and built up some speed in ground effect. I started to climb away, remembering to make a left turn as we passed the end of the runway to avoid a farm. As we climbed, I brought the flaps up in stages, before setting course North for the trip home.

As we contacted Bristol, we heard David asking them to get the airfield information from Kemble as they were due to close soon. This was helpful in that I could copy down the runway and QFE in readiness for my own arrival. Catrin was being particularly difficult in the back, and at one point I threatened her with a landing in the field so we could ‘leave her to sleep with the cows’! I’m not sure just how much of an effect that had, but we continued on, retracing our steps past Frome and Lyneham.

As we approached Kemble we heard an aircraft heading for the North apron for his checks, as well as Dave’s student calling on the radio making ready to depart (seemingly unaware of the correct procedures to follow on the radio when the airfield was out of hours!). I made a standard Overhead Join, and brought is in for another nice landing, this time deliberately landing long so that I could avoid too long a taxy down to the end of the runway nearest to our parking area.

We parked up, and the next pilot was arriving at the aircraft as we all disembarked, which at least meant I didn’t have to push it back properly into the parking area ready for him. Catrin again was being a little troublesome, but soon settled down on promise of being able to play on the computer in the Club Office!

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Outbound profile

Outbound profile

Return profile

Return profile

We headed in to sort out all the paperwork, saying our goodbyes to David before heading off to McDonalds for Catrin’s tea!

This flight was a little un-satisfying due to the somewhat rushed nature of it. However it had all gone well, and we’d managed to get up close and personal with a Spitfire and a Hurricane, which isn’t something you can say very often! Compton was as good as I remembered it, and we’ll definitely have to get back there soon for a more leisurely visit!

Total flight time today: 1:45
Total flight time to date: 189:25

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3 Responses to “Family day out to Dorset”

  1. Leia Says:

    That looks like a very British picnic… i.e. Flipping Freezing! Isn’t it a brilliant thing when the ‘interuption’ to a day is getting stuck behind a Hurricane!

    • Andy Hawkins Says:

      It was indeed freezing while we were trying to eat. So much so I ate about half of mine before we retired indoors to the warmth of AV8!

      Seeing that Hurricane was certainly a highlight, but getting so close to it was pretty amazing. The pilot and his ground crew were helpful trying to drag our Warriors around over the grass too!

  2. First local of the year! « Andy's Blog Says:

    […] Andy's Blog Poker, flight and anything else that comes to mind. « Family day out to Dorset […]

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