After the unfortunate consequences of my last flight, I hadn’t been flying in 4 or 5 weeks. With Luned and Catrin away, this weekend seemed the perfect opportunity to address that. Leading up to the day of the flight, the weather had been fairly unpredictable, but the day before suggested that a flight would be possible.
It had been a while since I’d seen Si and Carla, and the fact that they lived not far from Sherburn Airfield meant this was an ideal opportunity to catch up with them, and not only add a new airfield to the log book, but the first on the Northern Chart!
I carried out the majority of my flight planning the night before as usual, with the weather forecasts suggesting the flight should be a go. In the morning I double checked the weather, finished the planning and finally called Sherburn for PPR. The lady I spoke to told me that the cloudbase there was currently up around 5000 feet, which meant that everything was a go for the flight.
I arrived at Kemble around 9:30, and set about preparing the aircraft for the flight. An Instructor called me to warn that Kemble Ops staff had notified him of a significant oil spill on a taxyway last night, and they were advising all aircraft operators to carefully check their aircraft weren’t the source of the spillage. After leaving a note to that effect in the Club offices, I headed out to perform the A check on the Arrow. I was initially stumped by the new combination lock on the gate (not knowing how to open it once the code was entered!), but after this was sorted I carried out a thorough check, paying particular attention to the oil level (in hindsight unnecessarily, as the Arrow hadn’t flown for a number of days so couldn’t have been the source). I had considered filling the aircraft with fuel (flying solo it’s almost always better to have more fuel than less!), but as it was full on one side and at ‘tabs’ on the other, I decided this wasn’t necessary.
After completing the pre-flight paperwork back in the office I headed back out to prepare for the flight. The aircraft started easily, and I programmed a rough approximation of my route into the Garmin 430 on the panel. As always I had a printed plog on my kneeboard, and the Nexus 7 running SkyDemon with the full route (via Cosford, TNT and Sheffield). A quick chat with Si had given me some tips on identifying the power station that marked the entrance into the Church Fenton MATZ (I knew from visiting him that there were 3 or 4 power stations relatively close together), and the fact that the route was largely the same as that to Retford that I had followed on the last flight meant that I felt well prepared for the flight today.
The day seemed to give good conditions for gliding, so rather than turn right to head direct for Gloucester (which puts you quite close to Aston Down) I decided to continue around the circuit, leaving it effectively on the Base leg to set course to Gloucester. This gave a bit more separation from Aston Down, which I thought was a good idea today.
Finding Gloucester was easy as usual using a combination of visual Nav and the NDB on the field, and I spoke to them for a Basic Service on the first leg up towards Cosford. This leg has lots of landmarks that make it easy to maintain position, so I endeavoured to ignore SkyDemon and try to de-rust the visual navigation skills!
After passing Worcester I signed off with Gloucester, and started to listen in to Halfpenny Green. They seemed fairly quiet, but as I approached Kidderminster I gave them a call to inform them I would be routing through their overhead at around 3000 feet. Not long after, another aircraft also announced that he was near Kidderminster at a similar height. Despite the fact that he was behind me and unlikely to catch me (the Arrow’s cruise speed of 120 knots or so is faster than a lot of the GA fleet) I decided to climb to 3500 feet to give us a bit of separation.
I reported overhead Halfpenny Green, and decided to ‘cut the corner’ to avoid any gliders operating from RAF Cosford. I used the VOR to intercept the correct radial of TNT to get established on the correct track for the next leg, using Stafford to confirm that I was on the correct heading.
Navigation on this leg was pretty easy given the VOR. I had spotted Alton Towers not far from this leg during my pre-flight planning, and passing over the JCB factories reminded me of this. In our youths, Luned and I had been quite keen theme park visitors, so this seemed like an ideal opportunity to head over and get some aerial photos.
I used SkyDemon to get my bearings and relate the location of the park on the CAA chart to what I was seeing on SkyDemon (it’s not specifically marked in SkyDemon) and headed off in the general direction. Alton Towers was soon very easy to spot due to the huge car parks around it, and I carried out an orbit overhead to get some shots of the various rides (a lot of which are new to me, it’s been a long time since I visited!).
Rather than track directly over the VOR (they often act as a ‘honeypot’ for light aircraft so passing directly over them can sometimes lead to a higher risk of colllision) I dialled in the radial for the next leg and tracked a few miles away from the VOR before intercepting it.
The weather on this leg deteriorated slightly, and as I passed through a light shower I had to descend to around 2000 feet to remain clear of cloud. The MEF figure for this block on the CAA chart was an alarming ‘2.4’ (indicating ground features up to 2400 feet), but a quick check of the chart showed that this was due to a 2000 foot peak well to the left of my track (and SkyDemon confirmed no high ground near my track). I soon emerged out from under the cloud though, and could resume my planned cruising level.
The City of Sheffield was an obvious landmark ahead, and it was quite easy to spot my next turning point at the now disused Sheffield City Airport. I was now receiving a Basic Service from Doncaster, and the Controller had asked me to report crossing the M62. However, if Church Fenton were open I was supposed to contact them 15 minutes before entering their MATZ. As a result I signed off with Doncaster early, and began attempting to contact Church Fenton.
I received no response to my 3 calls, and was about to change directly to Sherburn when another aircraft made its own calls, again receiving no response. I announced I was switching to Sherburn and changed frequencies. The power stations to the North were now clearly visible, and with a combination of Si’s hints and the presence of Pontefract I selected the correct one and headed for it, descending to 1500 feet for entry into the MATZ. I also selected 7010 on the transponder as required.
I made the initial call to Sherburn in good time, receiving details of the runway in use and their QFE (as well as a request to ‘please avoid overflying the local villages’). I then set about trying to spot the airfield, often a difficult task when heading somewhere new! I found a promising triangular shaped field but initially discounted it (due to the lack of a tarmac runway), before finally spotting the tarmac runway and positively identifying it.
There was another aircraft joining overhead around the same time as me, and he announce ‘descending deadside’ just before I did. I spotted him a little way to the North, and followed him around doing my best to keep good separation. This was scuppered a little by another aircraft departing just before I was ready to turn crosswind, so I slowed a little to allow adequate separation with him, and followed him around the circuit. Luckily he was departing, so continued his climb to 1500 feet on the Downwind leg, allowing me to continue my circuit without him being a factor.
I kept an eye on the aircraft that had descended before me, and followed him around a relatively wide circuit. As I turned Final he was just touching down, but he cleared the runway in good time for me to continue my approach and bring the Arrow in for a very nice gentle landing.
Once clear of the runway I carried out the after landing checks, and dug out the airfield plate in my kneeboard to taxy over to the parking area. The parking area was fairly busy, but I found a nice open area just behind the fuel pumps, and shut down.
I headed in, finding Si and Carla waiting for me outside. The temperature had cooled down a fair bit, and we were all keen to get inside out of the cool air! I headed in to settle the landing fee (with a voucher from one of the flying mags), while Si and Carla headed in to the Club House. Had a bit of a comedy moment where I stood almost right next to them both while scanning the room looking for them. My only excuse is that they were standing, and I was looking for them sitting at a table! Probably didn’t give Si much confidence for his proposed flight with me later though!
We sat and chatted for a while, catching up on everyone’s latest news (it’s been about a year since we last met up), and had a decent lunch. Carla was feeling a little under the weather, so declined my offer of a flight. Si seemed keen though, so after completing the Club’s temporary membership form for him, we planned a quick jaunt over his house and out to the Humber Bridge, then headed out to the aircraft.
Si has flown with another pilot friend before, so I gave him a basic safety brief as we walked out, and we settled ourselves in after I carried out a brief walkaround. I warned him that the engine might be a bit tricky to start while it was warm, and the Arrow confirmed this by only catching just as I was about to give up on my initial start attempt. We taxyed out to the runway, and after power checks were ready to line up and depart. A quick check with Si and we were rolling down the runway, departing and continuing our climb on the Downwind leg to leave the circuit to the East via Selby.
Si’s local knowledge came in useful in confirming my identification of Selby, and on reaching it we set about looking for the village he lives in. It turned out to be on the opposite side of Burn (a local glider field) so I headed around it, trying to give plenty of separation and keeping a good lookout for gliders. We spotted what I though were two gliders, but Si had a longer look and identified them as a glider being towed up by the tug aircraft. Keeping them in site we continued around, seeing the glider detach and the tug head back to the airfield.
I commented to Si how hard it was sometimes to spot gliders as it began to circle to gain height, only for us to both look away and promptly lose sight of him! Mindful of his proximity we continued to keep a good distance, and Si identified his village on the other side of the Eggborough power plant. He pointed out the road leading through the village, and where it intersected the other relatively major road, the site of his house. I descended to get a better view, while carrying out a gentle orbit of the village so that Si could snap some photos.
Once complete, we continued to the East, me being mindful of the unusual ‘slice’ in the Doncaster CTA where it starts at 2000 feet as opposed to the 4000 feet of the surrounding airspace. We were now talking to Doncaster for a Basic Service, and I soon regretted my decision to contact them. They were now incredibly busy, and it was almost impossible to comply with their requests for position reports. I was asked to report passing Goole, but we were most of the way to the Humber Bridge before I managed to get this call in. Perhaps worst of all was someone arriving on frequency and immediately making their initial call, despite the Doncaster Controller being in the middle of a message! Whatever happened to listening out for a few seconds on a new frequency to ensure you weren’t going to step on anyone?
We followed the general course of the River Humber, past Goole with Si pointing out a local RSPB bird sanctuary as we passed. It wasn’t hard to spot the Humber Bridge as we approached, and another gentle orbit around it put us back on course towards Selby. Si spotted a large airfield off to our right as we passed, which we eventually indentified from the chart as Brough. It looked like a large facility but there was very little activity. Some research after the flight showed that this was actually a former British Aerospace production facility, with Harriers and Hawks being made there up until around 2011.
Spotting Selby was fairly easy given the proximity of the power stations, and as we approached Si spotted an unusual site near some houses to our right. There appeared to be a couple of full airframes parked in a yard behind some buildings (Sean reckoned these were Tornados) and a number of fuselages stripped of their wings too. Si did some digging later and thinks this might be Jet Art Aviation.
As we approached Selby, I challenged Si to spot Sherburn. I cheated a little by using the ADF and GPS to fix its position, but the field soon came into view, with Si spotting it based on his local knowledge. I made another attempt to contact Church Fenton (again receiving no response), before contacting Sherburn and getting set up for another overhead join. I was slowed down nicely as we approached the overhead, and lowered the gear before descending deadside as I have taken to doing (due to the fact it helps keep the speed down in the descent).
I did my best to avoid the local villages as requested, and again carried out a normal circuit, flying slightly through the centreline when turning Final before getting back on track. Mindful of giving a good impression to Si, I did my best to make the touchdown as smooth as I could, and brought off a very nice landing, slightly left of centreline and with just a hint of crab as we touched down gently. Si has made a short video of the flight, and I think the smoothness of the touchdown shows from the lack of camera movement, definitely a landing to remember!
We taxyed back in and I informed the A/G Operator that I wanted to refuel. As I got close another aircraft began taxying towards me, so I took to the grass runway (as directed in the airfield information) until he passed, and we parked up at the pumps with someone waiting to assist us. Once refuelled, the refueller helped us push the aircraft onto the grass away from the pumps, and we both headed back in so that I could settle the fuel bill (helpfully also meaning that the landing fee was waived!).
We all settled back down for another chat, catching up on some more gossip before I decided it was probably time to think about heading back to Kemble. I bade farewell to Si and Carla (resolving to try to seem them a bit more often!) and headed out to give the aircraft a quick once over before heading home. Again the engine was a little tricky to get going, but once running and ready I followed a nice looking taildragger down to the runway. He stopped to carry out his power checks, so I did the same just behind him, getting them completed in time to see another aircraft following us down the taxyway.
The first aircraft took to the runway immediately and departed, and after a quick check for traffic I did the same, allowing him time to clear the runway centre line before I commenced my takeoff roll. I was departing to the South this time, I continued the climb on the Crosswind leg to 1500 feet and headed to the power station again to leave Church Fenton’s MATZ. Again, got no response from Church Fenton, so switched straight to Doncaster after saying farewell to Sherburn.
Mindful of how busy Doncaster were on our short local flight earlier, I decided not to talk to them, just monitoring the frequency to build up a picture of any traffic. The weather seemed much better now, and I climbed up to 2500 feet while setting course for Sheffield. I heard the Vulcan on frequency departing from Doncaster, and monitored their progress for a while. I later found out that they were on their way to a practice display at Elvington just 10m or so away, if I’d known I might have made an effort to be in the area while they carried out their display! Oh well.
My decision to only climb up to 2500 feet for this leg was vindicated, as it appears that otherwise I might have infringed the Leeds Bradford CTA where it starts at 3000 feet, just clipping the corner of this airspace laterally according to the track in SkyDemon. Approaching Sheffield I climbed up to 3000 feet, spotting a number of other aircraft (including a flex wing microlight that flew about 500 feet above me!) as I continued. I again used the VOR at TNT to get established on this leg, with the skies and radio now becoming relatively quiet.
As I reached the edge of Doncaster’s range I switched to Halfpenny Green to get a feel for their traffic, and again gave the TNT VOR a fairly wide berth to avoid the honeypot effect. On the leg from TNT I had a bit of a play with the autopilot, having to make a couple of attempts at getting the unmarked switch that selects between using Nav1 and Nav2 in the correct position. With this correct the autopilot did a passable job of maintaining the correct track, so it’s handy to know that it can be used in this way for future flights if necessary.
As before I cut the corner at Cosford, talking to Halpenny Green to be told that there was nothing known at my level. Passing overhead, Kidderminster and then Worcester were easy landmarks to use for navigation, and I switched to Gloucester for my flight through their overhead at about 3500 feet. They seemed relatively busy with arrivals (including a number arriving IFR), so it was a good decision to let them know where I was to help avoid any conflicts.
Once through the Gloucester overhead I informed them I was beginning my descent, and switched to Kemble. They were thankfully fairly quiet, and there was no other traffic to affect my overhead join and circuit. My initial descent was completed well before I reached the overhead, enabling me to easily get slowed down for the descent on the deadside and circuit. The circuit went pretty well, and mindful of my recent poor landings at Kemble I made a conscious decision not to be fooled by the optical illusion caused by the wide runway and end up flaring too high. As it was, I again brought off another greaser of a landing, this time deliberately long so that I didn’t tie up the runway with my roll out to the far end.
After taxying back to our parking area, I put the aircraft to bed and headed in to the Club to sort out all the paperwork, before heading home (incident free this time!) via a local supermarket to buy some well earned beer.
At 4:10 of flying time, I think this is probably the most flying I’ve ever done in a single day, and proved just how useful the aircraft can be. Making a day trip up to Yorkshire just wouldn’t really be feasible in the car, but the aircraft meant I could get there and back in a single day and still have time for a leisurely chat and some more flying while up there. Also, I think this is probably the most time I’ve spent at another airfield when visiting, generally I just land for a quick bite to eat before mounting up for the return leg. Sherburn was a great place to visit, and certainly somewhere I intend to come back to. Perhaps it could be used as a base for a more prolonged visit to Si and Carla and some other friends in the area?
Total flight time today: 4:10
Total flight time to date: 225:05