A busy few weeks had meant almost a month since I last flew, so of course I was itching to get in the air again. Initially I wanted to take the family flying, so booked one of the Club’s Warriors in order for Catrin to have a bit more legroom. However, Catrin has recently started school, and we’re trying to give her at least one ‘quiet’ day each weekend as she’s finding it quite tiring, and as a result this meant it wasn’t really practical for us all to go flying.
In the run up to the flight, I tried to find a willing victim to accompany me, but everyone I asked was unable to make it at short notice. I did consider switching the flight over to the Arrow, but decided that as I hadn’t flown a Warrior in quite a while, a refresher flight on my own wouldn’t be a bad thing.
When choosing the destination, a quick flick through the month’s free landing vouchers suggested Pembrey would be a good bet, so I planned the flight the night before (as usual) and did the last of the planning and marking up of my chart on the morning of the flight. I’d been in to Pembrey a couple of times before, but this time it’d be good to be making another planned visit!
There was a small amount of re-planning to do as the aircraft I was flying was heading straight in to maintenance, and Sarah (the aircraft owner) had asked me to drop it directly to Oaksey rather than have Dave go and get it from Kemble. I was initially a little reticent due to not being overly familiar with Oaksey, but in the end I decided to be brave and agreed. Two or three days before, the weather hadn’t looked particularly promising, with potentially strong winds being the issue. However, the day before the TAFs suggested that all would be well, and despite some patchy cloud the weather on the morning of the flight looked perfect. A quick call to Pembrey confirmed that all was well there, and I headed off to Kemble.
The airfield was relatively quiet when I arrived, and after completing the pre-flight paperwork I headed out to the aircraft for the A check. G-ELUE has just had a zero-timed engine fitted, so I took my time over the walk around, paying particular attention to engine oil level and brake fluid level (the required maintenance was to address a minor brake issue).
Once satisfied, I got myself ready in the cockpit and set about starting the engine. It fired up nice and easily, and I kept the revs low for a period to allow the engine to warm up gently. Winds were from the East today, which meant a relatively long taxy down the grass taxyway to the North Apron for power checks. I paid particular attention to the brake checks while taxying, as the reported fault was long travel on the right brake pedal. This proved to be the case, and I made a mental note to be aware of this should I need to use the brakes on landing.
The power checks were all completed normally, and once finished I reported ready and was cleared straight on to the runway (completing the turning parts of the taxy checks on the way as I’d neglected to do these while taxying). Without any delay I applied power on the runway, and took to the air.
I was surprised at how easily the aircraft left the runway and climbed, and was soon heading downwind towards Wales before continuing the climb up to my cruising level of 4000 feet. I overshot the climb by a few hundred feet, and descended back to my planned level while intercepting the appropriate track for the BCN VOR to get myself back on the planned route. This aircraft is fitted with an Airbox Foresight Superbright, but initially I had trouble working out how to power it on. I eventually found a switch on the panel marked ‘GPS’, and flicking this on enabled me to get it powered up. I was also initially confused by the Nav fit in this aircraft. It has two Nav radios, but I could only find a CDI marked ‘Nav 2′. It was only after a bit of flying that I realised there was a CDI on the display of the Nav unit itself.
As I approached the River Severn and made ready to contact Cardiff, I spotted another aircraft off to my right at a similar level. Around the time I spotted him and began turning right to pass behind him, he also began to turn right. I’m not sure if he spotted me and was concerned about a conflict, or if he was just turning to head towards Cardiff (which was in the general direction of his new track). At any rate, there was little danger of a conflict.
Heading towards Wales, there appeared to be a bank of cloud ahead, and a distinct hazy layer in the air. I was a little concerned that I might have to consider aborting the flight if the cloud was as thick as it looked. However, as I continued it became clear that I was just seeing very patchy cloud, which from a distance appeared much thicker than it really way. Crossing the Severn, I contacted Cardiff for a LARS service. I’d been monitoring the frequency for a while, and was a little concerned that the only traffic I could hear appeared to be commercial traffic heading into either Bristol or Cardiff (I’d called them on the wrong frequency on other occasions when requesting a LARS service). My initial call was accepted though, and I received a Basic Service from them as I headed into Wales. There was some humour on frequency as two Cardiff based aircraft had transponder issues, leading to the Controller to suggest that maybe it was his equipment. One of the airliners piped up, asking if Cardiff had them on Radar too!
I diverted slightly around the glider field at Usk, and around this time the Controller asked if I was currently ‘overhead the Llandegfedd Reservoir’ (which I was). I hadn’t been given a discrete squawk code, so presumably he was just confirming that I was where he thought I was. I continued on towards the BCN VOR, dialling in the outbound radial as I approached and keeping to the South of the VOR itself to avoid a potential area of high traffic. Around 20nm East of Pembrey I signed off with Cardiff, and listened in to Swansea for a while as I passed North of them, hearing various traffic on the ground and arriving and departing.
As I continued towards Pembrey, I spotted an RAF SAR helicopter operating at low level off to my right. Hopefully it was just on exercise and not responding to a real emergency.
Around 15nm from Pembrey I switched frequencies to build up a picture of the traffic (hearing nothing!) and started to look for the field. I suspect my height gave the illusion that I was further away than I actually was, as I spotted the field a lot later than I would have liked (I had been looking long past it). I made my initial call and began positioning for an overhead join for 04, and suspected I might have trouble getting down to the correct height. In reality, the descent was almost constant from my cruising altitude down to circuit height, with just a brief level off at around 2000 feet before continuing down to circuit height. There was no other traffic around, and after completing the before landing checks on the Downwind leg I set up for Final approach over the circuit.
I was slightly high and fast crossing the threshold, and this is probably the reason I floated more than I would have liked, and gently bounced back into the air on initial touchdown. I controlled it though, adding a brief burst of power to cushion the second touchdown, although it was a little firmer than I would have liked. I was forced to use the brakes gently to slow down, and the issue with the long pedal on the right hand side meant that I wandered to the left of the runway for a moment before getting things under control and backtracking ready to park.
The last time I was here, I was marshalled to the parking area, but this time there was nobody to be seen. I asked for fuel, but they had to go and check they actually had some! As I headed into the parking area, a minibus crossed the runway behind me, and sat waiting as I turned across the taxyway in readiness for pushing back into the parking area. He was forced to wait as I went through the shutdown checklist, before jumping out and pushing the aircraft back towards the grass to park a bit more neatly. The guy from the minibus was dressed in combat gear (I think he was an army cadet leader or something) and headed over for a brief chat, telling me he’d wondered how I was going to reverse into the parking space!
I headed in to the airport buildings to settle the landing fee (and find out that they didn’t have fuel available). I’d managed to forget to pick up the landing voucher, but the guy offered to let me off as long as I brought it next time! Not knowing when I would be back again, I declined and and paid the perfectly reasonable landing fee before heading into the restaurant for lunch. I knew that they operated a Sunday carvery, and had tried to phone the number on the airfield’s web site earlier that morning to see if I needed to book a table. However, the number didn’t seem to be correct, and I was unable to get hold of anyone. It turned out that they only do a carvery on a Sunday, but a bit of negotiation persuaded them to make me a sandwich using the meat from the carvery.
I had a pleasant lunch, taking my time eating and updating the chart for the return journey. The restaurant was pretty busy with locals, always a good sign in an airfield cafe! Fed and watered, I had to wait a little while to pay while the staff chatted with a customer (I wasn’t in any rush, so didn’t feel the need to make too much of an effort to divert their attention), and I headed back to the aircraft, taking a few photos on the way. Was a little amused to find an ‘Airport Police’ car in the car park!
Back at the aircraft, I performed a walk around and started running through the pre-start checklist as a light helicopter performed manoeuvres on the far side of the airfield. As I started my engine, he hover taxyed over towards the airfield buildings, soon to be joined by an RAF SAR helicopter (perhaps the one I saw earlier?) that arrived to refuel. I got some better photos of it this time!
I carried out the power checks in my parking space (there was little space to do it anywhere else) before taxying to the hold and taking to the runway to backtrack. Again the departure was normal, although I was initially a little concerned with the height of the high ground to the East that I would have to pass over. However, this was unfounded, as I was soon up at circuit height and beyond as I headed East, loosely setting course towards the BCN VOR. I continued the climb up to around 3000 feet, and have to admit to paying less attention to the Nav on this leg. I was basically just ensuring I was heading East, and took an occasional look at SkyDemon to ensure I wasn’t drifting too far South and getting close to Cardiff’s airspace to the South. Keeping South was also useful as it kept me well clear of the two glider fields on the route.
Swansea were pretty quiet as I passed, but when I switched to Cardiff it was clear they were much busier than on the outbound leg. As I approached the Brecon Beacons things got much more turbulent, and I was finding it a lot more difficult to maintain my height due to being caught in alternate updraughts and downdraughts as the air rolled over the higher ground. This was also a contributory factor to my deciding not to talk to Cardiff, I just kept out a listening watch to see if there was any other traffic in the same area that might become a factor.
As I approached the area of the VOR, I dialled in the outbound course and continued Eastwards until I intercepted it (again making sure to stay clear of the gliding field at Usk). Approaching the Severn, I dialled in Kemble’s frequency, and was surprised to be able to monitor both air and ground transmissions so far out. I descended to around 2500 feet in readiness for the approach into Oaksey, and contact Kemble briefly to get their QFE and some idea of the wind in case there was nobody manning the radio at Oaksey. I made a mistake correcting Kemble’s QFE for that at Oaksey (Oaksey is about 200 feet lower than Kemble). I dialled in Kemble’s QFE, then adjusted the altimeter until the indicated height was 200 feet below that based on Kemble’s QFE, when in fact I should obviously have made it 200 feet above.
Around Tetbury I switched to Oaksey Radio, hearing Dave setting up for his approach to land there. I made my initial call to Oaksey, receiving no response from the ground, but getting some distinctly non-CAP 493 standard R/T from Dave! We chatted briefly, and I asked him for the QFE to which he offered up a guess, highlighting my earlier error. I continued into the Overhead, making calls to ‘Oaksey Traffic’ as I set up to join Downwind (there is no deadside at Oaksey). I probably turned in a little earlier than I should, making the turn a little steeper than was otherwise necessary. However, given that I was by myself, there were no passengers to be concerned about so I only had to concerned myself with how it looked to the aircraft owners watching on the ground!
I’d studied the noise abatement chart in my flight guide, and was mindful of a village off the approach end of 04 that was to be avoided. As a result of this, the Base and Final turns ended up being a near 235 degree right turn, followed by a 45 degree turn to the left to recapture the centreline. I again thought I was too high, but the descent profile shows a near constant descent from 1500 feet down to the ground, so it can’t have been as bad as I feared. I crossed the threshold at a much more appropriate airspeed this time, and the grass at Oaksey probably flattered my crosswind landing a little. There was no need to brake on the runway, and I turned back to park in front of the Clubhouse.
Chatted briefly with Dave and Sarah, passing on my observations on the brake issue and talking about the alternator issue we noticed when we last tried to fly a Warrior. Sarah then gave me a lift back to the airfield at Kemble after dropping off a couple of Norwegians at the railway station. We headed in to the office and chatted for a while as I completed the post flight paperwork, with Sarah taking details from the tech logs of the other aircraft as we talked.
Despite flying solo for the first time in a while, this had been an enjoyable flight. Conditions on the return leg were such that it was probably better that the family weren’t with me, and I’d re-familiarised myself with a Warrior without having to worry about how any passengers might have felt. The landing at Pembrey was fairly poor, but I think I know what I did wrong, and the landing at Oaksey was definitely a whole lot better. I suspect I’ll be flying the Warriors a little more often in the future, but will need to keep an eye on my Arrow currency at the same time.
Total flight time today: 2:20
Total flight time to date: 228:15