Family trip to the seaside

It seemed longer than a month since my last flight, but I was itching to get back in the air again. A family holiday in France had us returning to England on a Bank Holiday weekend, so it seemed a good opportunity to try to get some flying in before going back to work. The weather forecast for the weekend was (surprisingly!) pretty good, so a plan was hatched to go flying with the family on the Bank Holiday Monday.

I considered a number of destinations (including returns to Haverfordwest and Llanbedr) before finally deciding to return to Shoreham for only my second visit there. The Shoreham landing fee is one of the highest that I’m aware of for a more ‘GA’ oriented field, but I felt that given how little I’d flown this year I could afford to splash out every now and again!

While planning the flight, Kev contacted me to ask if I could drop the Arrow off at Sandhill Farm, rather than returning it to Kemble. Initially I was quite keen to do this, but the more I thought about it, the more the prospect of flying into an unfamiliar gliding field with the family alongside seemed not to be such a good idea. After a bit of negotiation, we agreed that I would drop the family off at Kemble, before picking up Kev and then flying him and the Arrow to Sandhill Farm. Meanwhile, Luned and Catrin would drive over to Sandhill Farm to pick us up and return us all to Swindon.

As usual I completed the majority of the planning the evening before the flight, pleased to see that the longer range weather forecasts seemed to be being borne out in the TAFs for the following day. Final planning was completed in the morning, together with a call to Shoreham for PPR and to double check all was well there. Once ready, we loaded all the gear into Luned’s car before heading off to Kemble.

Pre-flight paperwork and checks were all normal, helped a little by the fact that Kev had (deliberately) left the aircraft uncovered the previous evening due to the forecast good weather. Once we were all ready, we loaded Catrin in the back before Luned and I settled ourselves in the front. The engine started easily, and power checks were completed without any surprises.

I loaded an abbreviated route into the 430 (Kemble -> Goodwood -> Shoreham) with a view to using the OBS feature of the 430 to follow an appropriate track between Newbury and Goodwood. I also remembered to copy this to one of the ‘permanent’ flight plan locations to enable us to use the same route on the return leg. There were a couple of aircraft operating in the circuit, and after a brief wait we took to the runway and departed.

Takeoff was routine, and I raised the gear before turning Crosswind. The route I had planned initially took us over the former RAF Lynham, so I continued the climb, departing to the South. We climbed to around 3000 feet, finding that the visibility in the air was (as is often the case) a lot poorer than it looked on the ground. While not ideal, it was perfectly acceptable for the flight, so we continued on to Lyneham before setting course to our next turning point at Newbury.

As we approached Newbury, I attempted to make contact with Farnborough LARS for a Basic Service and to request a MATZ penetration (our route took us through the Western stub of the Odiham MATZ). Unsurprisingly, Farnborough were very busy, and it took some time before we could find a break in the transmissions to enable us to make our initial call. The Controller was managing so many aircraft that on a number of occasions they actually ran out of squawks, and had to request aircraft wait for one to become available!

It took me a couple of goes to correctly set up the 430 to use the OBS (the CDI was set to ‘VLOC’ rather than ‘GPS’), but once correctly configured it provided a useful magenta line (and indeed CDI indication) to follow on the leg down to Goodwood. Farnborough continued to be busy, and as we approached Petersfield I signed off with them in order to contact Goodwood.

The Goodwood frequency seemed relatively quiet, but once I’d passed our details to the FISO she informed me that there were 7 or 8 other aircraft operating in the local area. I didn’t expect many of them to be operating up at our altitude, but we kept a good look out for them as we approached Goodwood. I positioned the aircraft so that Luned and Catrin could get a good view of the airfield off to the right hand side, and they both spotted cars operating on the racetrack that surrounded the airfield.

Passing Goodwood

Passing Goodwood

From Goodwood it was a relatively short leg to Shoreham, so I changed frequency once we were about 5nm to the East of Goodwood, making contact with Shoreham for our joining instructions after listening in to the ATIS. I was given a Crosswind join to runway 20 with a left hand circuit, and asked to report North abeam Worthing Pier. As we approached this, I realised that I hadn’t even begun my descent, so had to make a much steeper descent than normal, dropping the gear to increase the descent rate and silence the gear warning horn.

As we approached Crosswind at circuit height, we were asked to slot in behind a Cessna that was directly ahead of us approaching from the opposite direction. As we slotted in behind him, we spotted another aircraft higher and also approaching from that direction, so we were initially a little unsure as to whether we had indentified the correct aircraft.

I followed the Cessna around the circuit, trying my best to build a sufficient gap between us so that there wouldn’t be an issue on landing. We turned Base and then Final just as the Cessna touched down, and it appeared that he would be unlikely to clear the runway before we needed to make our landing.

Fortunately, the Controller was on the ball, and for the first time ever I was given a ‘land after’ clearance, allowing me to land on the runway even though the Cessna hadn’t vacated it yet. This clearance is only available at airfields with full ATC, and in this instance was definitely a safe option, as the Cessna was right at the far end of Shoreham’s 1000m long runway before we touched down.

We were given instructions to parking, which I had to decline and ask for fuel. The Controller gave us new instructions, and I pulled the Shoreham plate out of my kneedboard and handed it to Luned so that she could help direct me on the ground. She quickly located the fuel pumps and our current location, before directing me to the correct location.

We all disembarked at the pump, with Luned and Catrin heading towards the booking in point while I remained to refuel the aircraft. Unsure initially whether it was self-service, I hooked up the ground bonding line to the Arrow’s exhaust, before a member of the airfield fire service came out to handle the refuelling. I had him fill the Arrow’s tanks (fuel at Shoreham is slightly cheaper than at Kemble, so it made sense to try and save the Club a bit of money), before I jumped back onboard to taxy to parking.

I initially made contact on the Approach frequency to request start and taxy (we hadn’t been switched to Tower during our arrival) and the Controller approved my start, asking me to contact the Tower frequency when I was ready to taxy. Fortunately the engine started easily (it can occasionally be difficult to start when still hot) and I taxyed the Arrow to the parking area, parking next to a very nice looking twin.

Parked up at a busy Shoreham

Parked up at a busy Shoreham

We all headed in to the booking in point to pay the landing fee and settle the fuel bill, before walking in to the restaurant for some well earned lunch. Catrin busied herself looking at displays of aircraft models while we waited for our food, and I only remembered about the aircraft arrivals board in the terminal building after we had been there for some time. Sadly, by then our flight had disappeared off the top, so I was unable to get the required photo!

We all enjoyed our lunch in the busy restaurant, with Catrin and Luned sharing one of the tasty looking desserts once we had finished our food. We headed back to the booking in point to book out, then walked back to the Arrow to get ready for the return journey. I carried out a walkaround (including taking fuel samples), before we all got back into the aircraft and made ready to leave.

Happy passengers ready for the return leg

Happy passengers ready for the return leg

I listened to the ATIS, this time learning that my initial call should again be to Tower rather than Approach. After start clearance was received (and forgetting to mention that I had the ATIS!) the engine started easily again, and we were given taxi instructions around the Eastern side of the airfield to the hold for runway 20. Again, Luned was in charge of the plate (and hence directions on the ground!) and also double checked the noise abatement procedure for departure from 20 (a slight right turn once over the railway).

Power checks were carried out just before the hold, and I completed the before takeoff checks after pulling up to the hold. We were cleared on to the runway, and then given takeoff clearance, and unsurprisingly the takeoff roll and rotation were all normal. I raised the gear after a quick dab on the brakes to stop the wheels spinning, and made the required right turn just after passing the railway line, learning that this is to avoid a collection of houses on the climbout.

We set course to the West, switching over to the Approach frequency as we climbed out. We were given traffic details of an aircraft joining from the West, and just after receiving a response to our request for his height, we spotted him passing some distance away, off to our right hand side. I continued the climb up to around 3500 feet for the leg to Goodwood.

Flying Family selfie!

Flying Family selfie!

I again kept Goodwood to our right as we passed overhead, to allow Catrin and Luned to get a good view. The leg to the North West from Goodwood was again flown using the OBS feature on the 430, with a cross check using the VOR on Nav 2. Once clear of a small of a small portion of the London TMA that came down to 4500 feet, we climbed up to 4500 for the remainder of the journey back to Kemble. Visibility heading out of sun was much better than on the outbound leg.

Once clear of Goodwood, we switched to Farnborough for a Basic Service. They now seemed a lot quieter, and after the initial exchange of information we were given a squawk, and information regarding gliders operating in the vicinity of Lasham. As we passed Lasham a short while later we could see a number of gliders operating in the distance to our right, some of them thermalling to gain height.

Passing Lasham

Passing Lasham

On this leg I used the autopilot to maintain heading, finding that it had a tendency to oscillate slightly from left to right, instead of maintaining a constant track. Kev later mentioned this when I told him that I’d been using the autopilot, so it’s obviously a ‘feature’ that he’s aware of! We spotted the site of Carfest South off to our left as we continued, and managed to get a few photos.

Carfest South site

Carfest South site

Newbury soon appeared ahead, and I signed off with Farnborough as we were leaving their area. Greenham Common was an obvious landmark, and we chatted with Catrin about the fact that this had been used as a filming location for the recent Star Wars film. She was aware that the location was somewhere near where I worked, but this was the first time she’d seen it for herself. From Newbury we headed again towards Lyneham, spotting the munitions depot at Welford to the North of the M4.

Greeham Common

Greeham Common

Welford

Welford

As we approached Lyneham, Luned spotted another aircraft relatively close by to our right on an opposite track. We’d spotted it a little late, but there was a good distance between us. Approaching Lyneham I made contact with Kemble, learning that they were still operating on runway 26. I initially announced an Overhead Join, but things seemed quiet as I approached, so I asked for a Left Base join to speed up our arrival. In an attempt to ensure I also reset my 90 day currency, I asked for some circuits also.

Turning at Lyneham

Turning at Lyneham

As we approached Kemble, I set about losing height, and heard another aircraft joining Crosswind from the North. We spotted him as he travelled Downwind, and slotted in behind him to follow him around the circuit. Before landing checks completed, we joined on Base leg and tuned on to Final, realising that I’d allowed myself to get a bit close to the aircraft that was just landing ahead. Sadly he seemed a little slow to vacate the runway, so I was forced to go around.

This was my first ‘real’ go around in a while, and to be honest I made a bit of a pigs ear of it. The decision was made relatively early (at around 300 feet AAL), and I increased power and raised the nose, turning right slightly to offset myself from the runway. It took a few seconds for me to realise why the aircraft wasn’t climbing as I expected, primarily because I still had full flap deployed!

I raised these in stages, also raising the landing gear. Another aircraft was descending on the Deadside, and I kept a close eye on him as we continued, turning Crosswind and Downwind ahead of him. After reporting that we were Downwind, the FISO informed us that we were number 3 to land, but I could only see one aircraft ahead of us. I queried the position of the other aircraft, and was told he was ‘very low, over the 747’.

This would have put him on a very strange circuit path, as the 747 is just to the South of the main runway, well inside the usual circuit flown at Kemble. We were at correct circuit height, and I simply couldn’t see the third aircraft. Mindful that he may be somewhere behind us and a potential collision risk, I made the quick decision to vacate the circuit, and come back to join again. I announced I was clearing to the South, and departed the ATZ while climbing up to 2000 feet AAL to rejoin.

On a more conventional join now, I was well positioned to get a good feel of where the other traffic in the circuit was, and we slotted in this time without any conflicts. On the Downwind leg I changed my mind about the circuit request (knowing that Kev was waiting and not wanting to delay him too much) so informed the FISO that this circuit would be to land. We continued around the circuit, and on Final I requested a backtrack to let the FISO know what I was hoping to do once we were on the ground.

Soon after this request, we heard another aircraft turning Base behind us. After bringing us down for another good landing, I informed the FISO we were happy to continue to the far end of the runway if it helped with spacing. He took us up on our offer, giving us instructions to vacate next right, before returning on the grass taxyway back to our parking area. We arrived back at parking and I positioned the aircraft beyond the fuel bowser, knowing that we had plenty of fuel for the short hop to Sandhill Farm.

We all disembarked, and Catrin helped me push the aircraft back towards a parking space as Kev arrived from the Club. We chatted for a short while about the plan for the flight to Sandhill Farm, before returning to the office to complete the tech logs for the 2 legs flown so far, and enter the third flight in. Luned and Catrin got in the car as we walked back to the aircraft, and left to travel to Sandhill Farm by road to pick us up once we arrived.

Kev and I boarded the Arrow, with me in the P1 seat planning to do the flying, while Kev offered to handle the radios. Engine start was again simple, and we taxyed to A1 for power checks. Once the pre-takeoff checks were complete, I gave a departure briefing (Kev picking me up on a minor point about lowering the gear to land back on the runway in case of an engine failure – if there was sufficient runway I wouldn’t have raised the gear yet!), and we were cleared by the FISO to line up and wait.

Kev and I debated how long was the correct time to wait for the FISO’s ‘Take off’ instruction, and after hearing nothing for 20 or 30 seconds Kev announced we were in position, and we were given the ‘Take off at your discretion’ instruction. Takeoff was normal, and we departed directly from the Downwind leg, which simply involved a 20 degree turn to the right to head towards Sandhill Farm.

We kept well clear of South Cerney (I had seen parachutists operating from there on my drive to Kemble that morning) and spotted Fairford ahead and to our left as we continued. Kev pointed out Shrivenham to me, and as we continued I queried this, as if it had been Shrivenham we should actually have been heading to the North of it! We both debated and decided that this was in fact Highworth, and then spotted the ‘real’ Shrivenham ahead and to the right.

Kev made contact on the Sandhill frequency, and we heard that they had two gliders in the air. Kev spotted one thermalling off to our right, and I set us up for landing. On the Downwind leg we were still at around 2000 feet, so I lowered the gear and descended. We debated the correct landing direction in the field (and changed our minds a couple of times as can be seen from the track log!) before I eventually got us set up on a stable approach.

The field is around 900m end to end, so I needed to ensure we landed as early as possible. There was also a pronounced hump and downhill section from around 1/2 way into the field, so it was important to be on the ground and slowing well before this. We passed over a road just before the field at what felt like a very low height, and I brought us in for a nice landing just over the hedge. Once down and stable I raised the flaps to increase braking effort, and gently braked us to a safe taxying speed.

We could spot someone off to our left marshalling us, so I followed his instructions to get the aircraft to an appropriate parking space, before shutting down and heading over to chat. Just as we did this, Luned arrived in the car, and parked just behind us. Good timing!

Parked up at Sandhill Farm at the end of the day's flying

Parked up at Sandhill Farm at the end of the day’s flying

We chatted for a while, Catrin amusing herself by joining some children playing near the hangars with three dogs. Once ready, we all climbed in to Luned’s car, and drove back to Swindon. After dropping Kev off, we then had to return in order to hand over his keys, which had fallen out of his pocket onto the front passenger seat.

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Leg 1 profile

Leg 1 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 3 profile

Leg 3 profile

Messy Kemble arrival!

Messy Kemble arrival!

All in all this had been an excellent day’s flying. Shoreham is a really nice destination down near the coast, it’s just a shame that the landing fees are on the high side, so it’s probably not a place I will visit on a regular basis. The visibility on the outbound leg hadn’t been ideal, but returning with the sun behind us was a lot more pleasant. I was a little disappointed at my poor execution of the go around, but was happy with the decisions I’d made during the rather messy arrival back at Kemble.

Also, I’d flown into another new airfield, this time a grass strip used primarily for gliding. Sandhill Farm had been a really nice place to visit, and it was good to have added it to my logbook.

Total flight time today: 2:55
Total flight time to date: 316:25

One Response to “Family trip to the seaside”

  1. Wales and back via the scenic route | Andy's Blog Says:

    […] Writings of a UK based Private Pilot « Family trip to the seaside […]

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