Free landing, then heading somewhere new

Now that I had successfully completed the check flight, I was able to hire the aircraft and head off somewhere. I’d already arranged with David to meet up, and he was happy for me to do all the flying rather than us share the flying today. A quick check of the free landing vouchers I had suggested that Leicester would be a good choice for lunch, and I looked in the general area of Leicester to choose a suitable second destination. Ideally I wanted to visit a new airfield, so between myself and David we opted to pop in to Tatenhill after having lunch at Leicester.

After we were settled in G-EHAZ, the engine started fairly easily and we had no difficulties this time in making successful contact with the FISO to gain our taxy clearance. Again we taxyed along the grass taxyway up to the hold for 26, carrying out the power checks as normal. We waited a short time for another aircraft to land before taking to the runway and beginning out takeoff roll once the runway was clear.

David was nice enough to comment ‘smooth takeoff’ as we became airborne, and I reminded him that it was my 4th of the day, so I had plenty of practice already! We continued around the circuit, announcing that I was climbing out on the Downwind leg before turning to the North East to join our route up to Leicester via the DTY VOR, turning at the Chedworth disused airfield as usual when departing Kemble in this direction.

Climbing out from Kemble

Climbing out from Kemble

I tried initially to use the OBS facility of the GPS to intercept the correct course to DTY (I hadn’t entered Chedworth as a waypoint) but it didn’t seem to be doing what I wanted it to. So I dialled in the VOR frequency and switched the GPS CDI indicator over to VLOC (causing the indicator to display indications based on the NAV radio rather than the programmed GPS route). This elicited a comment from David as he hadn’t realised what I was doing, so I explained why and we continued.

Things were relatively quiet on this leg. Although we received a Basic Service from Brize, they were quite busy handling other traffic and we heard little from them until it was time to change frequencies. David spotted another aircraft passing in the opposite direction, and a number of times I was forced to descend in order to remain clear of cloud. My IMC rating expired towards the end of August, so sadly I was no longer licensed to fly in cloud. This was to become a particular annoyance today, as the cloud base varied throughout the flights.

Skirting the clouds

Skirting the clouds

As I usually do, I turned early to avoid flying directly over the VOR (and come into close proximity with others using it for navigational purposes) and was forced to deviate from course and level significantly to remain clear of the clouds on this leg. Bruntinghorpe was an easy waypoint to spot for the final leg into Leicester, and we made contact with our destination as we passed Bruntinghorpe.

Unsurprisingly they were fairly busy, and were currently operating off their short runway 22. The circuit was busy with 2 or 3 other aircraft as we joined overhead, and another aircraft completed a Touch and Go as we turned Crosswind. I initially considered following him around the circuit, but David suggested that continuing Crosswind to stay ahead of him in the circuit was the better option.

We had good visibility of the other aircraft in the circuit as we continued, which was why it came as a distinct surprise when David spotted another aircraft directly below us as we turned Final. Instinctively I stopped our descent while I decided what to do, but there really was no option and I announced a Go Around. We repositioned ourselves in the circuit, trying even harder to spot any other aircraft in order to avoid a similar conflict. This time the circuit was uneventful, and I brought us in for a nice gentle landing at Leicester. We taxyed in and parked up, David pushing us back as I steered from within the cockpit for a rather unusual bit of reverse parking!

Short Final for Leicester runway 22

Short Final for Leicester runway 22

After signing in and handing over the free landing voucher, we headed upstairs for some lunch. The obvious topic of conversation was the other aircraft we’d been close to on Final. Neither of us could work out where he’d come from, as we’d both been paying close attention to the radio and keeping a good lookout. Our only conclusion was that he was operating without a radio (a perfectly valid thing to do) and neither of the aircraft had spotted each other as he joined the circuit.

We chatted briefly with David’s ‘neighbour’ from the next hangar at Gloucester where his shareoplane is kept, before heading back to the aircraft to depart for Tatenhill. I’d tried to raise them on the phone and received no answer, but we elected to head over there and see if we could raise anyone on the radio as we approached.

Again the aircraft started easily, and as we taxyed to carry out power checks it appeared that the wind had changed to favour the longer runway. However, by the time the checks were complete aircraft were using 22 again, so we taxyed to the hold there and waited for other aircraft to land and depart before taking our turn to line up. This runway is relatively short, so I opted to select flaps for a short field takeoff.

This proved unnecessary, as the strong headwind had us airborne quickly and climbing like an express elevator! I set about retracting the flaps and settling into the climb, and the runway heading meant we were already on almost the correct track towards Hinckley, which allowed us to slot nicely between East Midlands and Birmingham controlled airspace on the way to Tatenhill. I had another attempt at setting up the 650 to intercept the appropriate track to Tatenhill, but again didn’t seem to be able to do it correctly.

David again spotted another aircraft passing to our right on a reciprocal heading, and commented that we were in a fairly narrow corridor of uncontrolled airspace so we were likely to see a higher density of traffic. We both resolved to focus more on lookout for the remainder of the flight as a result of this.

The remainder of the flight to Tatenhill was fairly routine, and David spotted it in the distance as we approached. We made contact with them over the radio and determined the runway in use, and helpfully we were approaching in almost the ideal direction to carry out a standard overhead join. We followed another aircraft around the circuit, causing me to fly a wider circuit than I normally would (the track log actually shows us outside of Tatenhill’s ATZ as a result). I queried the condition of the grass taxyways on the Downwind leg (the AFE flight guide mentions that they can sometimes be unusable in Winter) and was told that other aircraft had been using them that day.

The aircraft ahead cleared the runway in good time, enabling me to continue my approach. On Short Final the wind conditions changed drastically, causing a significant loss of airspeed that initially caught me unawares. As a result the last part of the approach was a little unstable, and I considered going around. Tatenhill has a long runway though, and I persevered and brought us in for a slightly untidy landing with a small amount of crab still present as we touched down.

Final approach into Tatenhill

Final approach into Tatenhill

I steered us on to the grass to the North of the runway, and remarked to David how it felt like we were travelling on 3 flat tyres! After David’s quip about my slightly crabbed landing possibly causing this, we both spotted a neatly mowed strip of grass to our left. Once on this the ride was a lot smoother, and we made easier progress to the parking area and parked up. We walked in to settle the landing fee, and headed to the busy cafe for a cuppa. They seemed to be busy both with local visitors and people arriving for trial lessons, and it was good to see an airfield keeping busy.

Suitably refreshed we headed back out to the aircraft again, getting the engine going easily and preparing for the trip home. As we taxyed towards the hold for the active runway it wasn’t clear if there was enough room near the hold to carry out the power checks, so I elected to do them on the grass taxyway. As we neared the hold though it was clear the hard standing area there was much larger than it initially appeared. We took to the runway and took off, initially avoiding the gliding site at Cross Hayes before setting heading for Cosford.

We were travelling beneath a thick layer of cloud, but conditions just a few miles to the North West seemed a lot better. I took the decision to head in this direction for a couple of minutes to see if we could emerge from the cloud, and after a short while the cloud layer above us became much less dense, even allowing the sun to shine through on occasions. We continued parallel to our intended track for the remainder of the leg to Cosford, keeping a good eye out for gliders as we passed by.

Blue skies for a change!

Blue skies for a change!

Heading South, the cloud base initially lifted significantly, enabling me to climb as we passed by the airfield at Halfpenny Green. The cloudy conditions then became fairly frustrating for the remainder of the leg down to Gloucester, as I had to repeatedly descend or alter course to avoid flying through them. I must get my IMC rating renewed soon so that I can legally fly through clouds such as these without having to continually alter course or level!

We contacted Gloucester as we passed Worcester, initially having to wait quite a while due to how busy the frequency was. I initially planned to transit their Overhead, but the Controller suggested I might be better avoiding them due to how busy they were. As we got closer this seemed like the best idea, so we passed by to the West of the airport. I was notified that the police helicopter was operating just to the South of the airfield at relatively low level, and there was a brief moment of confusion as the Controller asked the pilot of the police helicopter whether ‘Birdlip’ was closed. I can only assume the A417 up Birdlip Hill is on her way home!

Once clear of Gloucester, we signed off and contacted Kemble. They were still operating on runway 26, and the FISO notified us that they currently had 4 aircraft operating in the circuit! I had a slight moment of confusion as I mistook Aston Down for Kemble, and David spotted a glider on a winch launch as we approached so I made sure to keep well clear. The radio at Kemble was very busy as we approached the Overhead, and we both tried to spot the other aircraft in the circuit so as to slot in nicely.

Another aircraft was taking off as I descended Deadside, and I initially wondered whether I should follow this aircraft around the circuit. However, David correctly suggested that I continue my Crosswind leg and join the circuit in front of him, as otherwise we’d be extending the circuit unnecessarily. I continued around the circuit, making regular position calls and keeping an eye on the aircraft ahead of us. I was initially unsure as to whether taking the grass runway would be a better choice, but we resolved to make this decision as we turned Final.

There was another aircraft ahead of us for a touch and go, but there seemed plenty of room for us to follow him and land on the hard runway. However, he seemed to take a long time completing the ‘Go’ part of the touch and go due to him being a fair way from the centre line when he touched down and having to reposition. This made me think I may need to carry out another Go Around, but I slowed us down as much as I dared on Final, and he soon got himself repositioned and airborne again.

The buildings near the threshold of 26 again caused some turbulence, but I got things back under control easily and brought us in for a near-perfect landing, with a very smooth touchdown just as the stall warner started to sound. We taxyed back to Freedom’s hangar, initially wondering if we’d have to stop due to another aircraft approaching from that direction before turning in to the fuel pump and making the way clear for us. Once parked up and shut down, we were helped by Sarah and Glen in getting the aircraft back into the tight confines of the hangar.

All that was left was to complete the paperwork and pay for the flight. After over 4 hours of flight time today, I certainly felt I deserved a beer on the way home!

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Leg 1 profile

Leg 1 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 3 profile

Leg 3 profile

Despite the long break between flights necessitating a currency check, I felt that I’d flown pretty well today. With the exception of the first PFL attempt on the currency check, I’d completed all the required manoeuvres without any problems, and the flight up to Leicester and Tatenhill had gone well also. It’s always nice to have David alongside (despite his regular ‘input’ on what I’m doing wrong!), and I’m sure there will be many such flights in the future. A really enjoyable day all told, an experience I’ll definitely aiming to repeat without such a huge gap between flights!

Total flight time today: 3:10
Total flight time to date: 254:45

2 Responses to “Free landing, then heading somewhere new”

  1. Club flyout to Blackbushe and Turweston in PA28 and PS28 | flyerdavid Says:

    […] Andy has also been good enough to take me along for a flight in Freedom’s Citabria and a round trip to Leicester and Tatenhill in their PA28. I’ve also been fortunate enough to tag along as passenger with Bristol Aero Club to the LAA […]

  2. IMC Renewal | Andy's Blog Says:

    […] Poker, flight and anything else that comes to mind. « Free landing, then heading somewhere new […]

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