A weather and aircraft enforced local

A Bank Holiday weekend seemed like the perfect opportunity to fly, but sadly leaving it late to arrange meant that the Arrow was unavailable all weekend. Fortunately, Alpha Foxtrot (the Warrior in which I flew my first solo and carried out a lot of my PPL training) was available, so I booked it for the Monday and arranged for the family to fly with me.

It seemed like the fine Summer weather we’d been experiencing was coming to an end however, and as the day of the flight approached it became less and less likely that I’d be able to complete the flight I’d planned. Initially, we planned to head over to Haverfordwest for lunch, returning (if possible) via a transit of Cardiff’s Controlled Airspace so that Catrin could see some of her favourite places in Cardiff from the air.

Catrin seemed genuinely excited about this flight, and I spent quite a lot of time on the day before showing her how I go about planning a flight. She entered the route into Sky Demon, and I explained to her how I chose waypoints for the route rather than just flying direct. We planned two versions of the return route, the first following the Welsh Coast going via Cardiff’s Zone, and the second turning inland to the North, and routing back via the BCN VOR to avoid Controlled Airspace. Finally I showed her how the AIS web site is used to obtain a NOTAM brief, and we read through the various entries so that she could understand the kinds of things that might cause the route to have to be changed.

Unfortunately the long range forecasts proved to be correct, and the forecast of potential rain and low cloud out near the West Coast of Wales meant that the original plan had to be rethought. The forecast did suggest that we would be able to complete the short hop to Cardiff though, so I made a last minute change of destination and completed the flight planning on the morning of the flight as usual.

We arrived at Kemble in good time, and left Luned in the office completing temporary membership forms, while Catrin and I headed out to the aircraft to prepare it for the flight. Catrin helped me get the cover off, and then we moved the aircraft over to the bowser to put in some extra fuel (so that we could hopefully avoid having to refuel on our return). Once this was done, she helped me with the cockpit switches as I carried out the start of the ‘A’ check and then followed me around the aircraft as I showed her all the various checks that need to be carried out before the flight could be made.

Once we were happy, we collected Luned from the office, and moved all of our gear into the aircraft. Luned took the back seat for the outbound leg, and Catrin joined me up front. Once we were all ready, I set about getting the engine started, and sadly things started to go downhill from there.

I turned the Master switch on as usual, and as the gyros started to wind up, one of them (presumably the Turn Coordinator, as this is the only one that is electrically driven) started to give out a horrific high-pitched whining noise. Initially I was concerned how Catrin would cope with this, as she’s not a big fan of loud noises generally. However, apart from remarking how loud it was, she seemed unaffected. Sadly the same couldn’t be said for Luned in the back, as the whining seemed to be at just the right frequency to seriously irritate her.

I carried on with the preparations in the hope that the gyro would settle down. We taxyed to Alpha 1 and carried out the power checks, and once the engine was developing power the noise did indeed abate. I carried out the pre-takeoff checks, and double checked with Luned and Catrin that we were Ok to go. Sadly the gyro had given Luned a splitting headache, so I didn’t think it was fair to carry out the flight as planned (particularly as we were likely to go through the same process at Cardiff when we got ready to return from there).

Luned agreed that we would be Ok to carry on, but I had already pretty much decided that we wouldn’t be heading to Cardiff. We took to the runway, and once cleared we started the takeoff roll. I was mindful of the differences between the Warrior and the Arrow, taking care to remember that the Airspeed Indicator was marked in knots and not mph. We rotated and took off, and I set course for the first leg to the Severn Bridges. We climbed to 2500 feet, which kept us just below the cloudbase above us. Despite the low cloud, visibility was actually very good, and it was soon easy to spot the Severn Bridges in the distance.

I double checked that Luned was Ok, but it was clear that she was still suffering with the headache, so I told her we would just go to the Severn Bridges and back, and then informed Kemble’s FISO of the change in our plans. Catrin seemed a little disappointed, but also understood the reasons for having to change our plans. I pointed out Filton off to our left, before showing her the Severn Bridges ahead of us (which she had difficulty seeing because she’s still not quite tall enough to see over the coaming!).

I told her that we’d make sure we got into Wales, and had her look out of the window down and to her right to let me know when we crossed the Severn into Wales. As we crossed the river, she could see the Welsh side ahead of us, and when she told me we’d crossed the Severn I turned us around and started heading back to Kemble. I made contact with the FISO informing him that we were on our way back, and he asked whether we’d changed our plans due to the weather. I told him the actual reason, and as we headed back towards Kemble I double checked whether they were still planning to close for lunch as per the NOTAMs that had been posted.

He told me they were just waiting for one inbound aircraft to land, and then would be closing for lunch. The airfield was then closed to visiting aircraft, but was still available to based aircraft as long as they had completed the required indemnity forms (which I always do at the start of each year, as it allows me to make flights out of hours). As we joined Overhead, the FISO announced that they were now closing, issuing all aircraft on frequency with the current QFE and QNH, and providing a wind check.

I’d spoken to Catrin leading up to the flight to see if she wanted to carry out some more radio calls. She’d seemed a little reticent, but as we descended on the Deadside (after the appropriate call to Kemble Traffic) she seemed to have developed a little more courage, so I told her what she needed to say to make the ‘Crosswind’ call. She had a few practices, and once we’d completed the Deadside descent and were established on the Crosswind leg, I gave her the nod and she made a perfect ‘Kemble Traffic, G-AF Crosswind’ call!

Armed with a new-found confidence, she agreed to make the remainder of the calls for the circuit, and she managed the Downwind and Final calls without any problem. I got us nicely aligned for 26, and reminded myself of the slightly different technique needed when landing a Warrior. I brought us in for a nice gentle landing, and we backtracked and joined the Alpha taxyway to taxy back to the parking area.

Catrin helped me push the aircraft back and put the cover back on, and we all headed in to the office to complete the paperwork (including logging the noise gyro as a defect in the aircaft’s log!). Once this was done, I decided that it only fitting that we head to AV8 for my usual flying lunch of a sausage sandwich! On the way there we popped in to the Ops Office to see if I needed to notify them of the ‘out of hours’ movement, before getting permission to visit the Tower proper, where the FISO told Catrin that her radio calls had been better than mine!

The flight as flown

The flight as flown

Sadly today’s flying hadn’t gone to plan at all. We’d already made a last minute change of plans to fly to Cardiff, and sadly the issue with the aircraft had meant that we weren’t even able to manage the re-planned flight! Happily however, Catrin had been an absolute star, and seems to have (perhaps temporarily!) developed a new found enthusiasm for flying. Long may it continue!

Total flight time today: 0:55
Total flight time to date: 330:50

2 Responses to “A weather and aircraft enforced local”

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

    […] Writings of a UK based Private Pilot « A weather and aircraft enforced local […]

  2. Daddy daughter mini-flyout to deepest darkest Wales | Andy's Blog Says:

    […] a recent flight, we’d abandoned a plan to fly to Haverfordwest and back via Cardiff due to a noisy gyro in G-BPAF, so we decided to try to actually complete that flight this time. […]

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