Back to Dunkeswell with a new flying buddy

Charlie had commented on an earlier blog entry, and we’d struck up an email conversation as a result of it. He was training at Gloucester at the time, but was considering switching to a Club at Kemble. He ended up joining Lyneham Flying Club and completing his PPL with them. He contacted me again just after gaining his licence, and we tried to arrange a flight together. The first attempt had to be cancelled due to bad weather, but we decided to have another go this weekend, taking one of Freedom’s Warriors.

We planned a trip to Dunkeswell, with Charlie flying the outbound leg, and me flying the return. Charlie was keen to fly a transit of Bristol’s Controlled Airspace at my suggestion, and I agreed to do this on my leg so he could get a feel for what was involved.

Leading up to the flight, Saturday’s weather forecast appeared better, and typically Saturday’s weather was almost perfect for flying (but we had booked the aircraft for the Sunday!). The forecasts for Sunday were a little inconsistent, making it difficult to make the final go / no-go decision. The forecasts on Sunday morning weren’t particularly optimistic, but we decided to head to Kemble and see how things looked. On my drive up there I was passing through patches of fog (including one which held a particularly optimistic idiot overtaking in the opposite direction, which led to a slight ‘brown trousers’ moment before I’d even reached the airfield). However, while driving I could see that when the fog cleared the sky looked perfect for flying.

We both arrived at Kemble in good time, and helped get the aircraft out of the hangars. Another pilot was preparing to take a group of young children flying, and their excitement and enthusiasm was good to see. The fog seemed to be clearing nicely, and we decided to leave as early as possible in order to try to avoid some of the forecast poorer weather in the afternoon.

Kemble were on 26 at the time, and the FISO directed us to the North Apron for power checks. Once complete, we were then given clearance to backtrack in readiness for departure. I carried out the pre-takeoff checks for Charlie as we backtracked, and once at the far end we lined up and took off. The takeoff was straightforward, and Charlie turned Crosswind and then Downwind to climb out from the airfield before setting course for the first turning point at Lyneham. Personally I’d have just turned Crosswind and just left the circuit, but I didn’t mention this to Charlie at the time as I didn’t want to seem too nit-picky on our first flight together!

Departing Kemble

Departing Kemble

Climbing on the Downwind leg brought us quite close to a bank of cloud, so Charlie turned to the South for Lyneham and continued the climb up to 2000 feet. We turned towards the South West just before reaching Lyneham as the cloud to the South was almost solid. We set course appropriately, maintaining just below 2000 feet in order to ensure we remained clear of Bristol’s airspace on our way to the Radstock VRP.

Conditions on this leg were very strange, with almost solid cloud off to our left, and clear blue skies (aside from some fog patches on the lower ground) off to our right! We were both initially a little concerned at the thick cloud, but it soon became clear that it was well to the left of our planned track, and the forecast had it moving even further to the South East throughout the day.

Thick cloud to our left

Thick cloud to our left

Almost clear skies to our right

Almost clear skies to our right

We spotted the Wells mast ahead of us, looking worryingly large at our current height (the mast rises to to an altitude of around 2000 feet, putting it at the same height as us!). However, once we were clear of the 2000 feet portion of Bristol’s airspace, we climbed to 4000 feet for the remainder of the flight to Dunkeswell.

We passed by the Wells mast at a much more acceptable altitude, and spotted a number of commercial aircraft on their approach into Bristol off to our right. As we turned South for Dunkeswell the visibility into sun was fairly poor. We’d talked on this leg about the join at Dunkeswell, Charlie correctly recalling that when parachuting was in operation Overhead Joins were not allowed. We signed off with Bristol (getting a helpful warning from the Controller that parachuting was taking place) and contacted Dunkeswell.

Passing the Wells mast

Passing the Wells mast

I had pre-warned Charlie to expect a true ‘Radio’ service from the Air Ground operator on duty, and was pleased that my advice turned out to be correct. We received a response to our initial call giving us the runway in use, and then heard nothing from them from then on. It was initially quite difficult to spot Dunkeswell itself as we approached (I thought I’d spotted it but that soon turned out to be just a road!). Charlie’s turn towards my incorrect target put the runway into a much more recognisable aspect, and made it easy to spot the airfield and set up for a Downwind join for runway 04.

A glider was taking off from North Hill off in the distance as we turned Base, and I kept an eye on it for Charlie to ensure it wasn’t going to be a factor. Charlie flew a nice approach and landing, touching down very gently on Dunkeswell’s long runway. We received no response from the A/G operator to our request for parking instructions, and I initially suggested we just park on the grass beyond the skydiving aircraft we could see. As we got close though we saw that there were no other aircraft on the grass, so parked up on the paved area beyond the end of runway 04, behind another light aircraft.

Little and Large!

Little and Large!

We headed in to settle the landing fee (a very reasonable £10), then went in to order a couple of sausage sandwiches for lunch, Charlie taking advantage of not having to fly back and enjoying a cool beer. The weather here was still glorious so we sat outside, watching both skydiving aircraft make regular flights as we enjoyed our lunch and talked about our flight down.

A different class of airspace user!

A different class of airspace user!

Mindful of the deteriorating weather forecast (and in an attempt to earn some brownie points by getting home in time for a birthday party Catrin was attending later!) we returned to the aircraft soon after finishing. I performed a quick walk around, checking fuel and oil levels (and Charlie’s fuel management on the way down!) before we got settled back in the cockpit.

The engine started easily, and after confirming runway in use and pressure setting we taxyed to the hold, setting up the avionics along the way. Power checks were all completed normally, and we backtracked to the threshold of 04 before commencing the takeoff run. The wind had picked up a bit since we arrived, but the takeoff was normal and I set course for Bridgewater (almost a straight out departure). After signing off with Dunkeswell we switched to Bristol, and listened in for a little while as we approached Taunton.

Departing Dunkeswell

Departing Dunkeswell

Announcing myself on frequency, I made the request for a Basic Service and Zone Transit, outlining my requested route through the Zone. As is fairly normal, I was initially told to ‘remain outside Controlled Airspace’, and given the QNH and assigned a squawk. We continued on towards Bristol, discussing at what point I would call them back for an update on the request for Transit. As we got within 5 or 6 miles, the Controller again reiterated the ‘remain outside’ instruction, before advising us to contact the Tower for the Transit, giving us the appropriate frequency (which I initially read back incorrectly).

‘Contact’ has a specific meaning on the radio, indicating that the next Controller will be expecting our call and have all of our details. As such, the initial call was just ‘Bristol Tower, G-EHAZ with you’. The Controller first cleared us to a point 1nm South of the runway, not above 3000 feet, to expect a crossing to the East of the field. We continued into Controlled airspace, getting some good photos of the Cheddar Reservoir and the airport itself as we passed.

Cheddar Reservoir

Cheddar Reservoir

I was a little unsure whether the next clearance I heard (clearing us to pass 1nm East of the airport) was for us, so asked the Controller to ‘say again’, before reading back his instructions and adjusting our course. We spotted an Easyjet flight departing to the West, and a number of others taxying on the ground. It was slightly unfortunate that they weren’t using the Easterly runway today, allowing us to pass to the West and get some better photos from Charlie’s side of the aircraft.

Passing Bristol Airport

Passing Bristol Airport

I reported passing abeam the airfield, and was passed back to the Radar frequency for the remainder of the Transit. We passed just to the West of Bristol itself, getting some photos of the Clifton Suspension Bridge as we passed. As we neared the edge of the Zone, Filton became easy to spot, and I set course for it while discussing its closure with Charlie. At least I’d managed to land there in the months leading up to its ultimate closure.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

Clifton Suspension Bridge

The Concorde is still visible on the ground, and the airfield makes an obvious navigation point in the area. It will be a shame for it all to be replaced with housing at some point in the future. Recently there have been a number of airfield closures (Filton, Panshanger, Blackpool) that seem to suggest a downward trend. We can only hope that the re-opening of Llanbedr at least gives some cause for optimism.

Filton (disused) airfield

Filton (disused) airfield

From Filton we set course direct for Kemble, and the visibility was such that it was easy to spot even at this distance. With 15nm to run we requested a frequency change from the Bristol Controller, thanking him for his service as we changed frequency. Kemble were relatively quiet, with one aircraft currently operating in the circuit. We received the appropriate runway details (they were now operating on 08 with a right-hand circuit), and I set us up for an Overhead Join, descending to 2000 feet as we approached. Charlie spotted an aircraft performing some aeros off to our right, before it passed down our left hand side to continue with a further loop some distance behind us.

As we approached Kemble, another couple of aircraft announced that they were approaching from the same direction as us, and elected to do a Right Base join. The FISO clarified our proposed join with us, and asked us to report on the dead side. We were unable to do this due to the frequency becoming busy with traffic on the ground, and ended up reporting Crosswind. The FISO gave us traffic information on the aircraft that were joining, who had recently reported Right Base. Initially we were unable to spot them on our Downwind leg, and on telling the FISO ‘traffic not sighted’ he responded with a ‘no, me either’! The other joining aircraft did announce that he was visual with us however.

Joining Overhead at Kemble

Joining Overhead at Kemble

Charlie spotted them some distance ahead of us, on a much wider track than I was expecting. I took the quick decision to turn Base at the normal point, informing the FISO that I now had the traffic in sight, and that we were turning inside them. He reported this to the other aircraft as ‘Traffic already established in the circuit turning tight Right Base inside you’ (suggesting to me that he felt I had right of way). The response from the other pilot seemed to suggest that he wasn’t exactly pleased about this, but I actually thought I was on the correct Base leg position (and the GPS track seems to suggest this, if I’d gone much further Downwind I’d have ended up outside the ATZ).

I did my best to keep my speed up on the Approach to enable the aircraft behind to continue with his landing. As we approached the runway and I began the roundout, I was distracted slightly by a bird flying at a similar height to us crossing our path, but it soon cleared out of the way. This combined with my attempt to allow the pilot behind to land led to a slightly rushed landing. The stall warner was sounding nicely as we touched down, but the sink rate was a little higher than I would perhaps have liked, leading to a firm touchdown.

Trying to clear the runway as quickly as possible, I tried to cut the corner onto the Bravo taxyway. The FISO quickly spotted this, and asked me to follow the leadout line, otherwise I’d end up on an area of the hard standing that now contained part of the new runway lighting system! I followed the line, and we cleared the runway just in time to see the other aircraft flying over the threshold at low level, giving him just enough time to land behind us without having to go around.

We taxyed back to the Woodside Apron, Dave pointing from the hangar to indicate that we should park up on the grass opposite. We shut down and tidied up the aircraft, before heading in to settle up the paperwork and payment.

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Outbound profile

Outbound profile

Return profile

Return profile

All in all, this flight really couldn’t have gone much better. Despite the slightly worrying weather forecasts in the morning, the actual weather had turned out to be near perfect once the early morning fog had lifted. Charlie had done a great job on what was his first landaway on his own licence, and being granted the Transit straight over the top of Bristol Airport was just the icing on the cake. Hopefully Charlie and I will be able to make many similar flights in the future. And to cap it all, I was back home in Swindon (after a round trip to Devon) by 3pm!

Total flight time today: 1:05
Total flight time to date: 257:20

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One Response to “Back to Dunkeswell with a new flying buddy”

  1. Yet another currency check | Andy's Blog Says:

    […] had been a long time since my last flight with Charlie, and as a result I was out of pretty much all of my currency requirements, including 90 day […]

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