Weather enforced local

After a prolonged period of excellent weather in the UK, I managed to find a weekend where I was free to try to do a bit of flying. I should have expected that this would be the first time in about 8 weeks that the UK had inclement weather forecast!

I’d initially intended to try to extend my range a little, perhaps visiting an airfield that I hadn’t been to before. Sadly the weather forecasts put paid to that, with strong winds and periods of low cloud and rain forecast for the day of the flight. The forecast did suggest that I would be able to get some flying in, so I planned one of my old local routes, and headed to Kemble early to try to wait out a suitable break in the weather.

The conditions were actually fairly good as I checked out the aircraft, so I was hopeful I would be able to at least get some flying done. Once the check was complete, I climbed onboard the Arrow, closed the door, and the heavens predictably opened! This coupled with some strong winds (Kemble’s web page was reporting 30 or 35 knots!) showed I wasn’t likely to be taking off anytime soon!

No flying just yet!

No flying just yet!

I used the Rain Alarm app on my phone to check the weather radar images, and saw that the storm looked like it would pass through relatively quickly. I took my time getting all my gear ready, all the while keeping an eye out of the window at the current weather conditions. By the time I had everything ready, the rain was easing off, and the sky to the West was becoming noticeably lighter. There were also clear skies to the North, so I was confident that I could take off and at least be able to get back in to Kemble if conditions didn’t appear suitable.

I called the FISO to get the airfield information and request startup. I think I took them a little by surprise, as it took longer than usual for them to get back to me! They were operating from Runway 26, and I was given pressure settings and asked to report when ready for taxy. The engine started easily, and after calling for taxy I was cleared to A1. After carrying out the brake check and taxy checks, I asked the FISO for a wind check (my main concern from the forecast now was the potential for strong winds), and found that though the wind was around 20 knots now, it was only some 20 degrees off the runway.

The skies continued to brighten to the West, but as I turned into wind near A1 for the power checks, the skies to the south were still very black, and there was even the occasional flicker of lightning several miles distant. Power checks were normal, and unsurprisingly as I announced ‘ready’ at the hold, I was immediately cleared to depart. I lined up on 26, took a final look at the improving conditions directly ahead, and announce I was taking off.

Clearing conditions during power checks

Clearing conditions during power checks

There was a good crosswind from the left, so I applied appropriate corrections during the takeoff roll, before rotating at 80 mph. I was slightly surprised at how little crab I needed to put in to maintain the runway centreline on climbout, but returned my focus to the departure, raising the gear and doglegging slightly left to clear local villages. I continued to climb away, and as I got higher I could see that weather conditions were actually almost perfect. There were certainly a few clouds around, but they were well spread, and the visibility was phenomenal. I could easily make out the River Severn not long after takeoff from Kemble!

Near-perfect flying conditions

Near-perfect flying conditions

I continued the climb up to around 4000 feet, signing off with Kemble. As Bristol are no longer part of the LARS scheme, there wasn’t really anybody to talk to, so I tuned into Gloucester Approach to listen in. I planned to contact them for a Basic Service once I turned North towards Hereford, ideally staying with them for most of the remainder of the flight if they were agreeable. They were a lot busier than Kemble had been, so speaking to them later would definitely be a good idea.

As I continued West, I spotted the WOMAD festival in the distance to my left, hopefully they weren’t being too inconvenienced by the changeable weather conditions! For me conditions really couldn’t have been much better, and I was pleasantly surprised given the relatively poor weather that had been forecast.

WOMAD

WOMAD

As I approached the River Severn, I turned to the North early to try to get a good photo of the two bridges crossing the river. Once established on the leg, I contacted Gloucester for a Basic Service, and was initially asked to report West Abeam the field. In order to do this, I dialled in a ‘direct to’ Gloucester, and used the OBS feature to display a 090 course to the airfield. This gave me an East – West line on the display of the 430, and I knew that as I approached this I would be due West of the field.

Turning at the River Severn

Turning at the River Severn

The Controller at Gloucester was dealing with a fair amount of traffic, but none of it was in my area. I reported West Abeam as requested, and continued on towards Hereford, my next turning point. The Controller asked me to report at Ledbury, and a quick check of the chart showed that this was on my Eastbound leg from Hereford to Tewkesbury and eventually the disused airfield at Moreton-in-Marsh. Conditions on this leg weren’t ideal, as I started to be buffeted by some fairly severe turbulence.

There was a fairly significant bank of cloud ahead as I approached Hereford, and as my IMC rating isn’t currently valid, I had to descend to remain clear of it. I was still up at over 2000 feet, and once clear of the cloud I was quickly able to climb again to around 3500 feet for the leg to the East. I was now benefitting from an almost direct tailwind, and the 430’s ground speed reading was a pretty impressive 157 knots!

Impressive goundspeed!

Impressive goundspeed!

After passing Ledbury, the Controller at Gloucester asked me to report North abeam the airfield, so I again used the 430 to plot a line to let me know when to contact him again. The turbulence lessened on this leg, and after passing North of Gloucester I was next asked to report at Moreton. I had considered contacting Brize once in this area, but I would only have been with them for around 10 minutes so there really didn’t seem much point.

Passing North Abeam Gloucester

Passing North Abeam Gloucester

There was a big black cloud ahead as I neared Moreton-in-Marsh, so I turned slightly early to keep well clear of it. This did however give me the opportunity to get a good photo of the disused airfield. I informed the Controller where I was, and that I was now routing back to Kemble. I was asked to report changing frequency, and headed South West, spotting Little Rissington off to my left.

Turning at Moreton-in-Marsh

Turning at Moreton-in-Marsh

I made a quick calculation as to when I would need to begin my descent into Kemble from this height, and as I approached the disused airfield at Chedworth I signed off with Gloucester, thanking him for giving me a service. I signed on with Kemble, finding they were relatively quiet so I asked to carry out some circuits. This was approved, and as I approached I was the only aircraft on frequency so I decided to join directly onto a Right Base leg for runway 26.

Positioning for the join, I carried out the before landing checks, and asked the FISO for a wind check just to double check it was sensible to carry out some circuits! The wind was still fairly strong, but was just 20 degrees or so off the runway, so I was happy to continue. The join on Right Base went well, and conditions started to get quite tricky as I descended towards the runway. As I approached the threshold, I was having to made significant control inputs to keep the wings level. I continued down Final, managing to keep on the centreline nicely, and began to transition as I neared the runway.

The crosswind from the left could be clearly felt, but I was pleased with how I managed to maintain the runway centreline and kick off the crab to get aligned for touchdown. The touchdown itself was a little firm, but given the conditions I was pleased with the approach and landing. I retracted the flaps, applied full power, and climbed away for a second circuit.

The first circuit was routine, and I was careful to be aware of the tailwind on Base and hence make the turn to Final earlier to compensate for this. Conditions on Final were much the same, and again I was active on the controls to maintain the runway centreline with wings level. The second landing of the day was almost perfect, and I was particularly pleased given the conditions.

I again retracted the flaps and applied power, taking off for my final circuit of the day (helpfully fully resetting my passenger carrying currency). This circuit was much the same as the others, but the wind had picked up a little, the FISO reporting 220 at 15 knots (a 13 knot crosswind on Kemble’s runway 26). Again I managed this pretty well, but the final landing of the day was again a little firm. I requested a backtrack, and this was approved and I was instructed to taxy back to parking via the Alpha taxyway.

I approached the parking area, carried out the before shutdown checks, and pulled the aircraft up to the browser in readiness for refuelling. I refuelled the aircraft (putting 22 litres in one tank and 19 in the other – nice fuel management for a change!) before pushing it back to the parking area. Predictably, the wind had picked up again, making replacing the aircraft cover a little challenging. This was made worse when I realised that half of my paperwork had disappeared from my kneeboard, but fortunately a quick sprint across the grass found it pinned up against the fence!

Paperwork rescued and aircraft covered, I headed back in to the office to settle up for the flight, before heading to the pub for a well earned sausage sandwich and a beer!

Track flown

Track flown

Flight profile

Flight profile

Despite my initial disappointment at having my plans spoiled by the weather, in actual fact this had turned out to be a really enjoyable flight. Apart from a few areas of cloud, the conditions in the air were as perfect as I’d ever seen them. I was particularly pleased at my handling of the challenging conditions back at Kemble while flying circuits, so I’m glad I’d perservered with the flight despite the disappointing forecast.

Total flight time today: 1:20
Total flight time to date: 329:55

3 Responses to “Weather enforced local”

  1. theflyingprofessor Says:

    I decided against flying this weekend – well done for persevering! ūüėĀ

    • Andy Hawkins Says:

      I’m glad I did. The conditions were near perfect in the air, it was easy to spot the patches of poor weather.

      The crosswind at Kemble was a bit of a challenge though. I think I’d have made the same decision as you if I were back at the stage where I’d only had my licence for a month or so.

      As you build experience you also get more of a feel for how far you can push the envelope.

  2. 2018 Summary | Andy's Blog Says:

    […] flights (including one¬†currency check, 3¬†locals for currency¬†a flight to fulfill the requirements for Class Rating Renewal, a tour of Wales, one […]

Leave a Reply to theflyingprofessor Cancel 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 )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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 )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: