Back to sunny Dunkeswell in the Arrow

Despite the weather for the majority of this week being pretty poor, the forecast all week had called for good conditions on the Saturday. I booked the Arrow in the hope that I could take the family flying somewhere. Sadly, as the day neared it became clear that Luned wasn’t really up to the flight, so I invited Sean along again. Sean asked if he could bring Lucy along, a request I was happy to grant.

I did consider making a longer trip, but decided on a return to Dunkeswell where at least I knew we could get a decent lunch at the airfield. To spice things up a bit, I planned the route via the Severn Bridges, with a view to either transitting the Bristol Zone, or heading down the coast below it.

The weather on Saturday couldn’t really have been more perfect. There was barely a cloud in the sky, and the recent rain meant that visibility was excellent. Coupled with very little wind this meant we had all the makings of an excellent flight.

We were running slightly late due to Sean being delayed on the way to the airfield and the Arrow being slightly late back from the previous booking. We weren’t really in any rush though, because it was a fairly short flight to Dunkeswell.

Once the aircraft returned, we all headed out and I got everyone settled. I had already given Lucy a briefing in the Club as this was her first flight in a light aircraft. For some reason I misread the pre-start portion of the checklist and called for taxy before I even had the engine running! Kemble were on 08, but due to the poor condition of the grass taxyway I was only cleared to the D site apron for checks initially.

The engine was a little reticent in starting, but fired up on the second try, and we taxyed over to D site for the checks. These were all normal, and we got some good photos of the newly arrived 747s that are at Kemble for storage.

747s stored at Kemble

747s stored at Kemble

Checks complete, we were then cleared to taxy towards the 26 threshold, where I had to hold for a little while before being cleared to enter and backtrack 08. Another aircraft reported Downwind as I entered, so I did my best to keep the speed up to ensure I was out of the way before he began his Final approach.

Given that we were close to maximum weight, I opted to use flaps for the takeoff (probably un-necessarily). Rotation and climb were all normal, and as we were heading out to the West I carried out a Crosswind and Downwind leg at circuit height, before continuing to the West and climbing up to 3000 feet.

Visibility was incredible, and we could easily see the Severn Bridges almost as soon as we got up to height. Once clear of Kemble I got set up for the cruise, and called Bristol early to attempt to negotiate the Zone Transit. Initially we were just given a Basic Service, and were warned of some traffic crossing ahead of us at a similar height. We spotted the aircraft at the same time as the Controller gave us the warning.

Near perfect flying conditions

Near perfect flying conditions

As we neared the Severn the Controller asked me to reset my squawk of 5061. As I looked over I realised I had inadvertently selected 5011, despite having the correct code written on my kneeboard. Not entirely sure how it happened, but it was obviously clear to the Controller that I’d selected the wrong one!

We passed Filton on our left, and as we approached the Severn I told the Bristol  Controller that we could perform a right hand orbit over the Severn, before setting course to run down the coast. He asked us to report when we were South-West bound, and we managed to get some good photos of the bridges as we circled close to them.

Circling over the Severn Bridges

Circling over the Severn Bridges

Once heading South West, we were given clearance to enter the Zone at 3000 feet, initially to hold at Clevedon due to a Bristol arrival inbound from the South West. Shortly after, the Controller asked if I could accept vectors, and I told him that I could. I was asked to fly ‘Radar Heading 190’ (which I wasn’t entirely sure of, so just flew a heading of 190!) and we continued into the Zone keeping our eyes peeled for the arriving aircraft.

We soon spotted it, and managed to get some excellent shots of Bristol Airport as well as an EasyJet passing below us as he made his approach into the airfield. I couldn’t have asked for a better transit really!

Approaching Bristol Airport

Approaching Bristol Airport

EasyJet passing below us on Short Final into Bristol

EasyJet passing below us on Short Final into Bristol

We passed over the Cheddar Reservoir, and once clear of Bristol’s airspace we were asked to resume our own navigation. I put in a quick ‘Direct to Dunkeswell’ in the 430, and used that to get my bearings. I spotted a large town ahead of us on the M5 which I assumed to be Taunton, and headed towards it.

As we approached ‘Taunton’, I signed off with Bristol, thanking the Controller for providing us with such good service. I called Dunkeswell and announced that we were 10nm North East. A quick glance at the 430 soon revealed that I was mistaken however (we were still some 20nm or so away from the field) and it became clear that the town below us was in fact Bridgewater (confirmed with a quick look at SkyDemon). Just goes to show how easy it can be to convince yourself of what you expect to see, rather than what you actually are seeing.

Now more sure of our position, we continued on and started looking out for Dunkeswell. After initially misidentifying the field we eventually spotted it, and I set us up for a Downwind join for their runway 04.  There were a couple of other aircraft arriving ahead of us, and I was a little surprised that there didn’t appear to be any parachuting given the near perfect conditions.

The circuit all went well, and I brought us in for a decent landing. We taxyed to the end of the runway and parked (after a short wait for advice from the A/G operator) on the undershoot of runway 22 along with a number of other aircraft.

We headed in to settle the landing free (an extremely reasonable £10) before heading in for food. I had my usual sausage and bacon bap, and Sean had the same. Lucy opted for a more healthy jacket potato. The food must have been good, because Sean ended up having a second helping! Our order was taken at the table and food arrived promptly. It was good to see that the ‘new’ facilities here are working well, and there appeared to be a number of visitors that hadn’t flown in too.

Happy customers at Dunkeswell

Happy customers at Dunkeswell

Fed and watered, we headed back out to the aircraft for the return leg. Things were getting a little busy, and I initially got no response from the Air Ground operator as I called for airfield information. Sean seemed somewhat surprised by this, but I told him that this is exactly what to expect at a small airfield like this. I took a quick look at the chart and set airfield elevation on the altimeter.

As we taxyed along the link taxyway, two other aircraft called for information and I was able to verify the QNH I had set based on the details provided to them. As I completed the power checks on the inactive runway the other aircraft were approaching, so I turned us round and we headed to the hold for 04.

Once happy that there was no inbound traffic, I announced I was taking to the runway and backtracking. I failed to fully understand another radio call made as I was backtracking, and when I turned I expected to see that someone had lined up ahead of me for a shorter take off run. However, the runway was clear and the other aircraft were stationary on the inactive runway.

Again I opted for a takeoff with flaps set, and we were airborne long before the end of the runway. After a slight jink to the left to set course for Taunton, I continued to climb to 2500 feet before getting configured for the cruise.

Things sounded a little noisier than usual in the cabin, and a quick check of the door showed that it didn’t appear to be fully closed. I did consider heading back to Dunkeswell to close it fully, but a quick check showed that the top latch was fully engaged so this didn’t seem necessary. Sean offered to try to open and re-latch the door, but based on previous experience I persuaded him against it!

Approaching Taunton I signed off with Dunkeswell and tuned in to Bristol. However, I didn’t think it necessary to contact them as we were remaining well clear of their airspace. I handed control over to Sean, and he flew rest of the flight to Kemble.

I followed our progress on the chart and 430, and at one point had Sean turn slightly to keep clear of the MATZ at Yeovilton. While they are closed at the weekend (and technically you don’t actually need permission to fly in a MATZ) I decided it best to try to remain well clear. Sean exhibited the trait that seems common with most pilots (me included!) of tending to turn towards anything that is pointed out to you and you then pay some attention to!

We passed South of Glastonbury and soon identified Frome in the distance. The turning point arrived a couple of minutes earlier than I expected, and a quick check of the ASI showed that we were in fact cruising at 125 knots as opposed to the 120 knots that I had used in planning the flight. I made a mental note to adjust the cruise figures in SkyDemon for the Arrow when I got home.

We spotted a couple of aircraft as we continued, one flying in the opposite direction and another at similar height to us off to the right on a converging course. It was soon clear that we would easily overtake him before there was any danger of a conflict.

We turned at Frome, and I identified Keevil ahead and slightly to the right of us. Keevil is indicated as both a parachute dropzone and glider site, so I asked Sean to steer well clear. As we got closer we spotted a number of gliders operating around the field, so this turned out to be a good decision.

We passed over Trowbridge and Melksham, and Lyneham soon came into view in the distance. As we approached I had Sean turn slightly early to give Lucy a good view of the airfield as we passed over. It always makes me sad to fly over Lyneham and see it so deserted.

A quick check of the ADF showed that my identification of Kemble was correct, and I had Sean steer us towards it. They were still using runway 08, so I pointed Sean in the correct direction to join Overhead with the 08 threshold to our right, informing him of the turning descent we would then fly to set up for the circuit. I set the appropriate QFE and had him descend to 2000 feet, bringing the power back to reduce our speed to something like 120 MPH for the approach to the field.

As we passed the field Sean began to descend, pulling back the power and then having a little difficulty in getting it set as low as possible without the gear warner sounding. I think this may have distracted him slightly as we weren’t descending or turning enough, so I helped him out a bit. For a short period the descent rate was higher than necessary, but we soon got that sorted out before turning Crosswind at a slightly higher airspeed than I would normally have liked.

I took control and left the power off on the Crosswind leg to get down to the correct speed, turning Downwind a little late as a result. The pre-landing checks were completed on the Downwind leg, and the extra drag of the gear coming down allowed me to increase power again to continue the circuit at about 110 MPH.

As we were mid-way through the Downwind leg another aircraft entered the runway to backtrack. I kept an eye on his progress, and called ‘Turning Base’ despite being asked by the FISO to report ‘Final’. I did this mainly to keep the aircraft on the runway appraised of our position, and give him a bit of a hurry up!

The other aircraft was rolling as we turned Final, and I completed a nice Approach to a good landing back at Kemble. We were initially asked to ‘Hold’ on the runway, but I immediately requested a taxy for fuel, and we were then cleared directly onto the the Bravo taxyway, and then on to the fuel pump. As we approached the fuel pump we heard two Ultimate High Extras report their approach for a run in and break, so I tried to make good progress so that Sean and Lucy could see the manoeuvre.

After I refuelled the aircraft, Sean and Lucy elected to walk back to the Club, while I taxyed the aircraft around. I was cleared to hold at B1 (a location I was unfamiliar with) and initially stopped at D2 (which is in sight of the B1 marker board which confused me) before the FISO prompted me again to head to B1. A quick check of the airfield plate pointed out my mistake, and I moved to the correct position.

After a short wait for an aircraft to land I was cleared along the runway to exit at A3 before taxying back to the Club’s parking area. Sean and Lucy arrived just as I was shutting down and helped push the aircraft back and get the cover on. We all headed back into the Club to sort out the final paperwork, and Sean and I chatted with Roger about what Sean needed to do should he decide to join the Club to continue his training.

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Outbound Profile

Outbound profile

Return profile

Return profile

Today really couldn’t have been a better day for flying, and it was good to have company along for the flight. Bristol’s Controller was very helpful in arranging the Transit, and I couldn’t have asked for a better routing, giving us an excellent view of the airfield and an arriving airliner. To cap it all, I’ve now passed 200 hours of flying time!

Total flight time today: 1:50
Total flight time to date: 201:30

One Response to “Back to sunny Dunkeswell in the Arrow”

  1. Back to Wales! | Andy's Blog Says:

    […] with the forecast promising good conditions in virtually every direction. As Sean had previously flown with me to Dunkeswell, I decided to head out towards Wales again, this time visiting […]

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