Returning to Leicester solo

After the aborted flight last weekend, I wanted to take advantage of Catrin’s enthusiasm to fly, so booked the Arrow again for another flight this weekend. Catrin and Luned were both primed to go, but regrettably as the week drew on Catrin started to develop quite a nasty cough. We decided to leave the final decision until the morning of the flight, hoping she could get over the worst of it by then.

The weather also wasn’t really playing ball, with a rather mixed forecast showing rain coming in from the West. Originally I considered Haverfordwest again, but 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 pre-flight planning on the evening before the flight, leaving me just the last minute actions to be completed in the morning.

Sadly Catrin’s cough hadn’t really improved enough for her to be able to come along on the flight, so I prepared to make the trip solo. After planning the route (via Chedworth, Moreton in Marsh, Banbury and Bruntingthorpe) I contacted Leicester to double check that all was well there. Helpfully they mentioned an air display in the area (which I’d already picked up on when checking NOTAMs) and gave me an idea of the runway in use and their current weather conditions. The NOTAMs had also brought my attention towards the LAA rally, which was taking place this weekend at Sywell. While my route took me in the vicinity of Sywell, I should be far enough away to avoid it being a factor.

On arrival at Kemble I set about checking out the aircraft, not bothering to add any fuel as the total flying time was only around 90 minutes or so, well within the 3 hour range available when the aircraft was filled to its usual ‘tabs’. After double checking the aircraft’s logs and defects, I carried out the A check (dropping Kev a quick message to report the intermittent tail nav light again) before getting ready to depart. The weather was looking generally good at Kemble, with some patchy cloud around but generally very favourable for flying.

Kemble were operating on runway 08 today, and I was offered either the grass Golf taxyway, or a backtrack. Due to the recent good weather there was no reason not to take the grass, so I opted for that route, being told to head to the North apron to carry out the power checks. Another aircraft joined me on the North Apron as I carried out my checks, and once ready I was cleared straight onto the runway to depart. The takeoff roll and departure were all routine, and as I climbed out I dabbed the brakes and raised the gear, making a left turn after departure to head directly to Chedworth.

Stunning flying conditions

Stunning flying conditions

Approaching Chedworth I signed off with Kemble, switching to Brize to receive a Basic Service on the fairly busy frequency. The weather conditions were almost perfect, and I continued on towards Moreton in Marsh and Banbury at 3500 feet. As I approached Banbury the Brize Controller warned me that Hinton were active today with parachuting, but I was turning North East at Banbury which would keep me well clear.

Not long after making the turn, the Brize Controller told me to change frequency, suggesting I switch to Sywell Radio next. Given the LAA rally I decided not to speak to them, instead monitoring East Midlands as I approached their general area. I was keeping a good lookout for gliders due to the proximity of Husbands Bosworth, and as I approached Bruntingthorpe I started to listen in to Leicester’s frequency to build up a picture of traffic in the local area. They were operating on runway 28R, and were relatively quiet other than a helicopter flying circuits.

Passing Bruntingthorpe

Passing Bruntingthorpe

I carried out a routine Overhead Join, lowering the landing gear when descending on the Deadside as usual to assist in the descent and silence the gear warning horn. I was able to follow the position of the helicopter as I continued around the circuit, and brought the Arrow in for a nice gentle landing before taxying off the active runway. The A/G operator helpfully provided parking instructions, and after shutting down I pushed the aircraft back towards the grass, watching the helicopter unloading and loading passengers on what were obviously sightseeing flights.

Joining Overhead at Leicester

Joining Overhead at Leicester

Helicopter pleasure flights

Helicopter pleasure flights

I had lunch and exchanged a few messages with Luned to find that all was well at home. Learning that they were planning to be home all afteroon I amended my route slightly, re-planning for a transit of Brize Controlled Airspace towards Membury, before tracking South of the M4 over Swindon to get some photos of our house and see if they could spot me from the ground. The new route now reversed the outbound route as far as Banbury, before heading to Chipping Norton and Membury then back via Swindon to Kemble.

I updated the printed plog while in the clubhouse at Leicester, entering the new headings and times for the modified legs. Once ready to leave I texted Luned with a rough ETA over Swindon, and headed back to the aircraft. After a quick transit check I got back on board and made ready to leave. Leicester were now operating on runway 22 with a left hand circuit, so after a quick check of the plate to orient myself I started to taxy to the active runway. Power checks were again normal, and I took to the runway and made a routine departure.

As I turned left to head back to the South West, another aircraft was inbound from the same direction. He helpfully passed on his current height, so I made sure to climb above his level as quickly as I could to remove any risk of a conflict. After signing off with Leicester, I again listened in to East Midlands, hearing quite a few aircraft on their way to Sywell. I was again cruising at around 3500 feet, and unusually the conditions were rather turbulent on the leg between Bruntingthorpe and Banbury.

I contacted Brize Zone around Banbury to request the Zone transit, descending to 3000 feet so that I would actually be within their Zone when I passed overhead! Conditions were such that I was hearing a fair amount of French radio chatter on frequency, so Brize obviously share their frequency with somewhere in France! I spotted Enstone off to my left as I passed by, and the Brize Controller cleared me through their Class D airspace, no closer than 1nm to the East of Brize. Unusually I wasn’t given any altitude restriction, but they were obviously very quiet!

Passing East of RAF Brize Norton

Passing East of RAF Brize Norton

As I entered Brize’s airspace I was placed under a Radar Control Service, and then returned to a Basic Service as I left their airspace to the South. I remained with them until approaching Membury, and on signing off the Controller advised me that Redlands were operating with parachuting today. My plan was to remain South of the M4, which would keep me well clear of the airfield. I listened in to Kemble, learning that they were now operating on runway 26.

As I turned at Membury, I started a slow descent down to around 1500 feet to try to get some good photos over Swindon. Down at this level I noticed that I appeared to have a mobile signal, so sent a quick text to Luned telling her I was around 5 minutes away. In the area of Draycott I spotted another aircraft on a reciprocal course off to my left at around the same level. I turned slightly right to keep good separation, and received a wing rock from him, presumably to let me know he’d seen me. I returned the gesture, and set about orienting myself in order to locate our house.

I flew two or three orbits over our house, getting a few photos while I did. I later learned that Luned and Catrin were out the front of the house taking photos from the ground also. Sadly none of them came out particularly well! I set about finding Kemble, before signing on with them in readiness for rejoining. They seemed relatively busy, and I was surprised to hear G-AYJP on frequency, a Cherokee I flew a couple of times during my PPL training at Brize!

Orbiting over our house, just off the wingtip

Orbiting over our house, just off the wingtip

I made sure to keep clear of Oaksey park as I approached, before making a standard Overhead Join back at Kemble. The circuit was relatively routine, but sadly the second landing of the day was a little flat, providing a slightly disappointing end to the day. The FISO cleared me to backtrack, and I taxyed back to the parking area before shutting down and refuelling the aircraft. After pushing it back to the parking space, I put the cover back on and headed back into the office to finalise the paperwork.

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Leg 1 profile

Leg 1 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 2 profile

It was good to be back in the air so soon after last weekend’s disappointing flight. Sadly Luned and Catrin weren’t able to join me today, but I’d had a good flight in some almost perfect conditions. This flight has also happily taken be beyond my total hours for last year, so with a bit of luck I’ll be able to get in several more flights before the end of the year and get a more respectable total this time!

Total flight time today: 2:05
Total flight time to date: 332:55

One Response to “Returning to Leicester solo”

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

    […] Writings of a UK based Private Pilot « Returning to Leicester solo […]

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