A charitable return to Bembridge

Around a year ago, I again offered a flight as a prize in a Charity Auction to raise money for Catrin’s school PTA. When the winner was announced, it turned out to be the same person who had won the previous flight I’d donated, so I obviously didn’t scare him too much!

It had taken some time to find a date that we could both manage, and we’d had one previous attempt abandoned due to some poor weather. Fortunately, as the date approached for this attempt, the UK seemed to be experiencing a prolonged period of fair weather, so we were greeted with near perfect flying conditions on the day of the flight.

We’d discussed possible destinations, and Marc had expressed a desire to head down to the South coast. I hadn’t been back to Bembridge for a while, so we decided to head down to the Isle of Wight for a spot of lunch, and return via a tour of the island from the air.

As per usual, I carried out the majority of the planning in the days leading up to the flight. There was a major gliding competition notified at Aston Down which concerned me a little, but on the morning of the flight their planned tasks showed them heading North West towards Wales, and North East towards Oxfordshire, so they shouldn’t affect us on this flight. I confirmed this with a phone call to the number given before leaving home.

I arranged to collect Marc on the way to Kemble, and on arrival we added some fuel to the Arrow to give us plenty to complete the whole trip. Bembridge doesn’t have fuel on site, and it seemed simpler than having to land at somewhere like Sandown purely to take on fuel. Once refuelled, I carried out the ‘A’ check (spotting a defective rear Nav light that wouldn’t affect our flight) before heading back into the office to complete the pre-flight paperwork. Once that was done we headed back to the aircraft, completed the checks with fuel drain samples (to allow plenty of time for any water to have settled after refuelling) and settled ourselves on board.

Kemble were operating on 08 today, and after getting the engine started we were cleared initially to Alpha 3. Usually we are cleared there in readiness for crossing the runway to the South side, but today when I reported holding at Alpha 3 I was immediately cleared to backtrack the runway and line up. I informed the FISO that we hadn’t carried out our checks yet, and he asked us to report again when ready to depart.

The checks were all normal, and a number of aircraft arrived and departed on both the hard and grass runways as we completed them. When ready, we were cleared to backtrack, and then departed without any issue. The route I’d planned initially took us over the former RAF Lyneham, and this was an easy landmark to spot as we departed. I’d been slightly concerned that in-flight visibility might not be very good due to the extended period of high pressure, but in reality conditions really couldn’t have been much better.

As we approached Lyneham I signed off with the FISO at Kemble, and switched to Farnborough West in readiness for requesting a Basic Service and MATZ penetration from them later. I set course towards the next turning point at Greenham Common, before handing control over to Marc for the majority of this leg.

Marc at the controls

Marc at the controls

As on our previous flight, he did a good job of maintaining height and heading, and even showed good lookout skills spotting an aircraft ahead of us and slightly to the left at a similar height. I took control back from him and turned right to overtake the other aircraft, passing them as we cut the corner to the leg from Greenham Common down to Petersfield.

Overtaking traffic between Lyneham and Greenham Common

Overtaking traffic between Lyneham and Greenham Common

I established us on the correct course, and again handed the controls back to Marc while I made contact with Farnborough. They didn’t seem as busy as I expected, and we were given a Basic Service and clearance through the Odiham MATZ, being instructed to remain clear of the ATZ as the field was active today with gliders. We passed Popham off to our right, spotting traffic much lower than us departing the field. Odiham and Lasham passed off to our left, and although we could see gliders on the ground we didn’t spot any in the air.

Gliders on the ground

Gliders on the ground

We approached Petersfield, and I dialled in the new course on the heading bug on the DI, and had Marc make the course change as we flew over the town. We headed towards the coast, spotting the distinctive Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth off to our right. As we neared the coast, we contacted Bembridge to find they were operating on runway 12 with a left hand circuit. Although they sounded fairly quiet, I decided to carry out an Overhead Join (now allowed due to the cessation of glider operations), and initiated a descent to get us down to the appropriate height as we coasted out.

Portsmouth and the Spinnaker Tower

Portsmouth and the Spinnaker Tower

I took back control from Marc, positioning us for the join. There wasn’t anything to affect us as we approached, and the join and Deadside Descent were both straightforward. I brought us in for a slightly floaty but gentle landing, before announcing that we were backtracking to vacate the runway. I later learned that this was a mistake, as there was a perfectly usable grass taxyway at the far end of the runway!

We parked up in the fairly busy parking area, and headed in to pay the landing fee. We then walked the short distance to the Propeller Inn for lunch, where I’d booked us a table just in case they were busy! The pub has changed dramatically since our last visit (some 6 years ago it turns out!), and served us an excellent light lunch!

Parked up at Bembridge

Parked up at Bembridge

Once fed and watered, we headed back out to the aircraft via the Control Point, and I carried out a quick transit check. Several aircraft had arrived since we had, and a number were preparing to depart as we boarded the Arrow. Once the engine was started, I carried out the power checks in our parking spot, as there were no aircraft parked behind us. We joined a queue of 3 aircraft at the hold, waiting for our turn to depart in between the regular stream of arriving aircraft.

Queue for departure at Bembridge

Queue for departure at Bembridge

Once it was our turn to depart, we took to the runway and backtracked, before making a normal takeoff out over the water. We climbed to around 1500 feet and I headed off anti-clockwise around the coast of the Isle of Wight. Height keeping was fairly important, as this tour took us beneath the Solent CTA, which started at 2000 feet to the North West of the Island. Once we reached the far West coast of the Isle of Wight I carried out a clockwise orbit of the Needles to allow Marc to get some photos.

The Needles

The Needles

We continued around the coast, taking care not to get too close to Sandown as we completed the circuit, Once approaching Bembridge again, I initiated a climb up to 4500 feet for the return leg, reversing our inbound course out towards Petersfield again.

Passing Bembridge after a tour of the Isle of Wight

Passing Bembridge after a tour of the Isle of Wight

As we approached Petersfield, I again made contact with Farnborough for a Basic Service. SkyDemon’s profile view alarmed me somewhat, as it showed Class A airspace ahead of us starting at 3500 feet, so I began a descent to remain clear of this (despite being sure I’d planned our route correctly so as to remain clear of any airspace). Later I realised the the airspace being shown was on our current track, but after our planned turn to the North West at Petersfield, so in reality we were well clear at all times.

Marc was back at the controls again, and Lasham and Odiham both had gliders on the ground, but we didn’t see any in the air. We continued on towards Newbury, and at the point where I was preparing to sign off with Farnborough, the Controller started to have difficulty getting a message correctly read back by another aircraft. I was starting to become concerned that we might leave Farnborough’s coverage without being able to sign off, when the Controller eventually gave up, instructed the other aircraft to ‘Standby’ and instructed us to Squawk 7000 and change to our next frequency.

Marc made the turn near Greenham Common, and we then decided to modify our route slightly to overfly Swindon. I made sure Marc had the M4 in sight, and told him to keep to the South of it, and follow it up to Swindon (this would keep us well clear of Redlands and Sandhill Farm, both of which were likely to be busy today).

Passing Hungerford, we began a descent to about 2000 feet to overfly Swindon, and Marc used ground features to navigate us to the general area of where we lived, before I took control back to fly a gentle orbit over his house. For all of this leg I’d been listening in to Kemble, and there hadn’t been a single aircraft on frequency. As I contacted them when we left Swindon however, another 3 aircraft arrived on frequency on their way in to Kemble.

We positioned for an Overhead Join, trying to stay away from the immediate overhead of Oaksey as we passed by. We were the first of the arriving aircraft to reach the Overhead, and I carried out a standard Deadside Descent as normal. Once established on the Downwind leg, I decided to ask the FISO for permission to carry out a couple of circuits, enabling me to fully reset my passenger-carrying currency by completing 3 landings today.

Descending Deadside at Kemble

Descending Deadside at Kemble

This was approved, and the first landing back at Kemble was a little firmer than I would have liked. I applied full power and climbed away, spotting another aircraft descending on the Deadside off to our left. In order to maintain good separation from him, I made an early right turn to stay ahead. Established on Downwind, there was another aircraft ahead of us, which I had in sight. On late Downwind however, we were informed of a Seneca ‘on Final’ which I was unable to spot.

Mindful of the fact that it’s never a good idea to be in the same airspace as another aircraft when you can’t see him, I took the decision to leave the circuit, and rejoin for another attempt. As I did this, the FISO asked if I had the Seneca in sight, and I informed him again that we’d left the circuit and would recover later. It took me a little while to realise why we weren’t climbing away as well as I thought we should, before realising that I hadn’t raised the gear!

As we headed back towards Kemble another minute of two later, I finally got sight of the Seneca. He must have been on something like a 6nm Final when he had initially reported! If I’d known that I probably would have continued, but it’s frustrating that people will often carry out a straight in approach to a busy airfield without considering the other aircraft that might already be operating in the circuit.

I carried out another Deadside descent, this time spotting an aircraft just departing off to our right. I adjusted my track to the left to keep clear of him, but when I levelled the wings I was unable to see him (I could see his shadow, but not the aircraft itself). Again I decided it wouldn’t be a good idea to turn right towards an aircraft I couldn’t see, so I decided to depart the circuit to the North this time.

Marc spotted the other aircraft and pointed him out, and I reversed my course to position for a Crosswind join, notifying the FISO of this. As I turned Downwind, a microlight appeared on frequency announcing he was on Final, ‘over Tetbury’ (over 4nm away from the airfield!). This irked me somewhat again, so I made an early Base leg turn to ensure that we would land well ahead of him. Despite all the distractions, my final landing of the day was my best yet, and I did my best to keep my speed up to vacate the runway without causing any inconvenience to the other aircraft behind me.

We taxyed back to the parking area, and positioned the aircraft ready to refuel. After refuelling, we pushed the aircraft back to the parking area, and unloaded all our gear before putting the cover back on and heading in to the office to settle all the post-flight paperwork. After all that, I thought I’d earned a beer, so we retired to the Thames Head down the road for a well-earned debrief!

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Leg 1 profile

Leg 1 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 2 profile

Kemble arrival

Kemble arrival

This year’s flying continues to be rather sporadic. The only consolation is that I’ve been trying to make the most of what little flying I’ve been able to do. Today’s flight was no exception, and it was great to be able to show the real benefits of General Aviation to someone who isn’t within the relatively small community of pilots. We had a great day out today, and it was a real pleasure to be able to share the experience with someone with relatively little experience of flying in light aircraft. Hopefully I’ll be able to do this for others in the future too!

Total flight time today: 2:40
Total flight time to date: 328:35

 

2 Responses to “A charitable return to Bembridge”

  1. Returning to Leicester solo | Andy's Blog Says:

    […] this seemed to be out due to the weather approaching from that direction. I also considered heading back to the Isle of Wight, before finally deciding on returning to Leicester. As usual, I completed the majority of the […]

  2. 2018 Summary | Andy's Blog Says:

    […] for currency a flight to fulfill the requirements for Class Rating Renewal, a tour of Wales, one Charity Flight, and my first ever Solo flight with […]

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