A rare local, solo

All too quickly, a month had passed since my last flight, and an upcoming week away meant that two weekends were spoken for and unavailable for flying. Mindful of running out of currency, I booked an aircraft for the Sunday to try to get some flying done. In the days leading up to the flight, the weather forecast looked pretty grim, so the flight was rescheduled to the Saturday afternoon. A haircut appointment meant that the full day wasn’t available, so I had to make do with a short flight mid-afternoon.

I’d spoken to Josh recently, about taking him for another flight with his Grandmother, and she’d expressed an interest to fly over Weston-super-Mare. Today seemed an ideal opportunity to do a dummy run of some of that flight, requesting a Zone Transit of Bristol’s airspace down the English coast of the Bristol Channel. The forecast looked good for the flight, with some forecast poor weather on the way towards late afternoon. Knowing that I was only planning a quick local flight and heading into the forecast weather, I was happy to make the flight on the grounds that if I ended up in poor conditions I could just reverse my route to return to Kemble.

After completing the planning in the morning, I arrived at Kemble in the early afternoon after eating a light lunch on the way. Despite the current good conditions Kemble was fairly quiet, and I completed the paperwork in the Club’s office before checking out the aircraft and getting ready to leave. There were no issues during the walkaround, and I made sure to check fuel levels and take samples as this was the first flight of the day. For a change the Arrow’s engine started first time, and I was cleared to taxy to hold A1 for my checks. Another aircraft arrived behind me just as I completed the power checks, and on announcing ready I was cleared onto the runway to depart.

The first leg was direct from Kemble to the Severn Bridges, which was almost directly on runway heading when departing on Runway 26. I jinked left slightly to avoid some small built up areas as I climbed out, and climbed to around 3500 feet on the first leg. Once clear of Kemble I got the aircraft set up for the cruise, before contacting Bristol to request a Basic Service and Zone Transit. The Controller gave me a Basic Service and a squawk initially, asking me to report at the Severn Bridges. The frequency was fairly quiet, with just a commercial aircraft inbound to Bristol, and then the other aircraft that had just departed Kemble who was flying a similar route to me, but planning to fly below Bristol’s airspace.

Approaching the River Severn

Approaching the River Severn

The bridges were easy to spot from a distance, and as I approached them I contacted the Controller to inform him I was heading South West towards Bridgewater, following the coast and descending to 2500 feet. I was told to ‘remain outside Controlled airspace until cleared’, and continued on towards Avonmouth and Clevedon. As I passed under the first part of the CTA (that started at 4000 feet) the Controller came back on frequency, and when he started with ‘Due to Bristol inbound and departing aircraft…’ I was expecting to be refused the Transit, and prepared to descend to 1250 feet to pass beneath the airspace. However, he continued ‘cleared Transit of Bristol Controlled Airspace, not above 2000 feet, routing down the coast’. I continued my descent down to 1900 feet, making a note of my clearance so that every time I looked down I would see my cleared height!

Passing Avonmouth

Passing Avonmouth

As I continued South West and then South down the coast, I passed by Portishead, Cleveland and then Weston-super-Mare. The further South I travelled the worse the visibility got, and I passed through some light rain showers on the way. Behind me the weather was still clear, so I was happy to continue knowing that I always had the option or reversing my route.

The pier at Weston-super-Mare

The pier at Weston-super-Mare

Deteriorating visibility to the South

Deteriorating visibility to the South

After 20 minutes or so I approached Bridgewater, and informed the Controller I was turning towards Frome, climbing (hopefully!) up to 3500 feet to get out of what I hoped was just some low-level murk. The Controller asked me to report at Frome, and as I continued on the leg the skies ahead became noticeably lighter. It wasn’t long before I was back in clear skies, and on reaching Frome I reported my position to the Bristol Controller, requesting a frequency change back to Kemble in readiness for the arrival.

Conditions much better to the East

Conditions much better to the East

I set course for Lyneham, and on this leg got a good view of a White Horse off to my right, and Colerne off to my left, with the River Severn clearly visible in the distance. I passed just to the South of Lyneham, enabling me to get a nice photograph of the airfield off to my left, showing the expanse of solar panels to the North of the main runway, as well as showing that all of the runways still appeared to be in good condition.

White Horse off to the right

White Horse off to the right

Colerne with the River Severn in the distance

Colerne with the River Severn in the distance

Former RAF Lyneham

Former RAF Lyneham

Turning North from Lyneham, I contacted Kemble to find they were now operating off runway 08, with no other aircraft on frequency. I asked the FISO for permission to carry out some circuits (it seemed a good opportunity to carry out 3 takeoffs and landings to fully reset my passenger currency). These were granted, and to make things even easier I was offered a Downwind Join, which I happily accepted. I passed just South West of Oaksey Park, before trying to judge the appropriate point to turn left and join the Downwind leg of the circuit.

I carried out the before-landing checks as normal, and came quite close to lowering the flaps while exceeding the flap limiting speeds. Normally this isn’t a factor, as I would have slowed down on the Deadside Descent, ensuring that the remainder of the circuit was flown well within the limit for lowering the flaps. This time however I was still slowing down on the Downwind leg, and luckily checked my airspeed as I reached for the flap lever to automatically lower them as I made ready to turn Base.

Another aircraft was approaching the circuit as I turned, aiming to also join Downwind. I continued on to Final, getting lined up nicely despite the almost 90 degree crosswind from the South. I was a little late lowering the final stage of flap (at least the Reds, Blues, Greens, Flaps check worked!) and my first landing of the day was a little firm and flat as I battled some turbulence down near the runway. I cleaned up the aircraft, before applying full power again and taking off for another try. The other two circuits were unremarkable, but the tracks flown were very consistent (if perhaps a little wide, although I think that the noise abatement circuit means that this was probably actually correct). Similarly, both landings were nothing special, perfectly safe but a little firmer than I would have liked.

After the final landing, I asked the FISO to taxy to Hotel site where the Lyneham aircraft are parked. I was somewhat surprised when he asked me to come to a stop on the runway, fearing that he may have spotted some kind of aircraft issue that I was unaware of. However it was just the fact that one of the airfield Fire Engines was waiting to cross the runway onto the Charlie taxyway, meaning he was blocking the taxyway I wanted to take to get back to parking. I came to a stop, allowing him to cross, before vacating at Alpha and taxying back to the parking area. I carried out the shutdown checks, before positioning the aircraft at the bowser in readiness for refuelling.

As I prepared the bowser and extended the fuel hose, I was horrified to learn that the fuel cap on the left wing wasn’t seated correctly, and only one of the retaining lugs was correctly engaged (you can clearly see this in the Avonmouth photograph above). Somehow, during the ‘A’ check, I had failed to correctly replace the cap after carrying out the final fuel drain check (pouring the drained fuel back into the fuel tank in the left wing). This could have had potentially serious consequences if the cap had become dislodged during flight, not least that it would have meant having to source a replacement fuel cap!

I think this is probably the most serious pre-flight check failure I’ve had since I started flying. As ever, it was a clear reminder how important it is to carry out a thorough pre-flight inspection. Most infuriating was the fact that this was actually a ‘fault’ that I had caused myself, purely due to a small slip in not replacing the fuel cap correctly after checking levels and fuel quality. Slightly shocked, I completed refuelling the aircraft before pushing it back into its parking space and securing it. Just to twist the knife in one final wrinkle, I made it back to the car on my way to the office before realising that I hadn’t made a note of the final tacho reading, so had to go back to the aircraft, partially remove the cover and make a note of the reading! I headed into the Club to complete the paperwork and settle the bill, before heading home.

Track flown

Track flown

Flight profile

Flight profile

On the whole I was fairly pleased with how this flight had gone. I’d been aware of poorer weather approaching, but made sure that my planned route gave me plenty of scope to abort the flight safely should the weather deteriorate. Even when the weather did become slightly worse during the flight, I always had the option of clearer weather behind me towards Kemble, and I’d executed the Zone Transit without any problems. Although my landings were nothing to write home about, they were all perfectly safe despite a month without flying, and the flight was only marred by the failure to correctly secure the fuel cap before flight. As always, I hope that the mistake can help me improve for future flights, and I will definitely be making a last check of the fuel caps from the cockpit in future before taking flight!

Total flight time today: 1:25
Total flight time to date: 306:25

 

Advertisements

2 Responses to “A rare local, solo”

  1. 2016 Summary | Andy's Blog Says:

    […] Writings of a UK based Private Pilot « A rare local, solo […]

  2. Flying out to visit a Nimrod | Andy's Blog Says:

    […] year had ended rather like it had begun, with a complete lack of flying. Since my last flight in mid-October, I’d had a couple of tries to fly that had sadly been scuppered by weather and the usual […]

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: