Archive for the ‘Charity Flights’ Category

A charitable return to Bembridge

June 30, 2018

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

 

Landaway in the name of charity

July 30, 2016

After a successful charity flight last year, I again offered a flight up as a raffle prize in aid of Catrin’s school PTA. For some reason, the winner of the raffle never came forward to claim their prize, which was a bit of a shame. I offered a further flight, and this time the school awarded this as a result of a blind auction, which turned out to be a much better idea.

The successful bidder made a very generous bid, so thanks to a relaxation of the rules governing charity flights now allowing landaways, I decided to make this flight a bit more than a simple hour’s local flight. The winner of the auction contacted me in good time, and we met up briefly for a chat so that I could explain what was possible. We eventually settled on a date towards the end of July, for him and his partner to come flying with me.

Initially we were booked in one of the Club’s Warriors due to the Arrow being unavailable. However, that booking was cancelled, and after a quick check of the heights of the two passengers (the Arrow has limited leg room in the rear if the front seat occupant needs their seat to be positioned towards the rear of its travel) I moved the booking to the Arrow for the flight.

It had been over a year since I last visited Wellesbourne with Kev, and with the airfield under threat of closure it seemed a good chance to visit and show my support. The airfield cafe always provides a good lunch, and the airfield is handily placed to be a fairly short flight from Kemble, as well as giving a number of options for sightseeing enroute.

Flying in the middle of Summer can often provide some challenging flying conditions, with prolonged periods of high pressure causing reduced visibility, and the high temperatures leading to turbulent skies. However, the weather for this flight really couldn’t have been much better. In the days leading up to the flight there had been some spells of rain, which had led to excellent visibility. Also, the forecast temperature was slightly cooler than it had been, hopefully giving a smoother ride for my first time passengers.

I initially planned the route to go from Kemble to Chedworth, taking in Banbury and Silverstone enroute, before heading up to Wellesbourne. However, on checking the NOTAMs in the days before the flight I realised that there were some air displays scheduled at Silverstone that day, and some further digging showed that their timings were likely to coincide with the times we would be in the area. As such I removed Silverstone from the route, and instead planned to fly from Banbury direct to Gaydon and then Wellesbourne.

As usual the majority of the planning was carried out in the days leading up to the flight, just leaving me to mark up the chart, print out the plogs and do a last check of NOTAMs in the morning. The weather forecasts proved to be correct, so I let my passengers know that the flight was a go, before heading up to Kemble.

As we had three adults on board for a change, this meant I couldn’t fill the aircraft with fuel and still remain in the weight and balance envelope for the aircraft. However I was able to fill up one of the fuel tanks, leaving the other at tabs. This gave us a total of 41 US gallons on board, giving us sufficient fuel for a three hour flight with a good reserve (the planning showed the total duration was likely to be around an hour and a half).

My passengers Marc and Sam arrived just as I was finishing off the refuelling, and they helped me push the Arrow back into its parking place.

Pushing back to parking after refuelling

Pushing back to parking after refuelling

We then headed into the Club’s offices to complete all the necessary paperwork, and I made a quick call to Wellesbourne to check that all was Ok for our visit. They had nothing unusual to tell me about, but did mention that they were quite busy (which is definitely not unusual whenever I go there to visit!). The office was quite busy with other pilots preparing for a flight, so I gave them a safety briefing as we walked back to the aircraft. Once there, I carried out a thorough ‘A’ check while they waited patiently, and we then boarded the Arrow, with Marc sitting alongside me in the front, and Sam in the rear.

I gave them the final briefing regarding operation of the door, evacuation procedures and the like, before getting ready to start the engine. Luckily I checked the intercom out before starting the engine, as initially we had some problems where Sam couldn’t hear us in the rear. A bit of investigation soon showed the the intercom had been left in ‘Crew’ isolation mode (meaning the rear seats were disconnected from the front), and once rectified we could all hear each other successfully.

The engine took a couple of goes to get started, then we were cleared to taxy to A3 in readiness to cross to the South side of the airfield to get to the hold for runway 08. The frequency was quite busy, and I heard the FISO clear another aircraft into position on the runway as we crossed. I made sure to report that we were vacated, allowing him to clear the other aircraft to depart with minimum delay.

Taxying past a 747 parked at Kemble

Taxying past a 747 parked at Kemble

The power checks were all completed normally, and after a quick check that everyone was good to go, I announced that we were ready. The FISO cleared us to backtrack, and as we did I double checked that he had no known traffic to affect a left turn out direct onto our planned track.

The takeoff roll and climbout were all normal, but it was noticeable that we were heavier than normal with three adults on board. The rate of climb was noticeable lower than usual, but certainly nothing to be concerned about. We climbed up to 2500 feet, finding it a little difficult to sign off with Kemble as the frequency became busy again.

Climbing away from Kemble

Climbing away from Kemble

We signed on with Brize for a Basic Service, initially being asked to ‘Standby’ by the Controller. When he came back to us, I had to correct one letter of our callsign, but we were granted a Basic Service and assigned a squawk. I’d already given Marc a quick brief of the controls before we departed, so after checking everything was clear with him I handed control over to him.

Marc at the controls

Marc at the controls

I’d allowed us to drift slightly to the right of our planned track, and as I pointed out Little Rissington to them I realised that we were going to pass much closer to it than planned. I had Marc carry out a quick course correction, and we continued on towards Banbury, spotting it easily off in the distance. Marc made a good job of maintaining our course, even coping well with a few small pockets of turbulence that caused a relatively sharp bank to the left on one occasion.

Passing Little Rissington

Passing Little Rissington

As we approached Banbury, I reset the heading bug to point to the next leg, and asked Marc to carry out a left turn onto the appropriate course once we were overhead the town. I signed off with Brize in readiness to contact Wellesbourne, the Controller helpfully reminding me that Hinton were active with parachuting today. As Marc made the turn towards Gaydon I made contact with Wellesbourne to get their details, discovering that they were still operating on 36 with a left hand circuit, meaning we’d be approaching from the ‘wrong’ direction from Gaydon for an Overhead Join.

Gaydon was a little difficult to spot, as we were approaching with the main runway at right angles to us. Also, there didn’t seem to be as many vehicles on the ground there as I remember from last time I was in the area. I took control back from Marc as we passed overhead, before turning us towards Wellesbourne and descending to 2000 feet for the Overhead Join.

Descending Deadside at Wellesbourne

Descending Deadside at Wellesbourne

The frequency was suprisingly quiet as we approached, with one aircraft in the circuit as we joined overhead. As we began the wide descent on the Deadside I spotted him on Short Final, and he touched down as we turned Crosswind. We had the circuit to ourselves after that, and I did my best to follow Wellesbourne’s requested noise abatement circuit. I had to wait a little to make my Downwind and Final calls due to other traffic on the frequency, and on Final I requested that we be allowed to taxy to the far end of the airfield rather than taking the first left part way down the runway.

Short Final at Wellesbourne

Short Final at Wellesbourne

This was approved by the FISO, and I brought us in for a deliberately long landing, touching down a little more firmly than I would have liked. The FISO she asked us if we were visiting a specific company on the airfield. I responded ‘Negative, we just wanted to get a look at the Vulcan’. She chuckled a little, and responded ‘Ok, feel free to pause there for a while if you like!’. We vacated at the far end, and I paused for the after landing checks in front of the Vulcan, allowing Marc to get some decent photos.

Vulcan XM655 at Wellesbourne

Vulcan XM655 at Wellesbourne

The FISO went off frequency for a short period, meaning we had to find our own space to park. I chose the first space I found, somewhat further North of the Tower than I had parked previously. After shutting down we all disembarked, before strolling down the taxyway in the thoroughly pleasant conditions. I headed up to the Tower to settle the landing fee, chatting for a while to the staff up there while Marc and Sam took in the scenery.

Vulcan XM655 at Wellesbourne

qVulcan XM655 at Wellesbourne

We retired to the Cafe for lunch, all of us choosing a combination of sausage and / or bacon sandwiches. We had quite a wait for the food to arrive, but we were in no rush and certainly weren’t upset as a result. We all had a good chat about the kinds of flying I tend to do, with Marc and Sam both expressing an interest to fly with me again in the future. Our food arrived as the queue to order grew ever longer, and was excellent as ever.

We talked while we ate, discussing various aspects of flying and the practicalities of flying in the UK. Once we had all finished, we headed back to the aircraft, and I carried out a quick walkaround check before we all boarded. It was Sam’s turn in the front, and once we were all settled I got the engine started easily and requested departure and taxy information from the FISO. We taxyed past a helicopter with rotors running, and I carried out the power checks near the hold for 36. While I did this, I noticed that the low volts light was illuminated again, and once the checks were complete I reset the master switch, which cleared the light.

On the ground at Wellesbourne - low volts light illuminated

On the ground at Wellesbourne – low volts light illuminated

As I became ready to depart, the helicopter was given his departure clearance, so I decided to wait until he had taken off before reporting ready myself. There was a slight delay before the helicopter became airborne, and when I reported ready the FISO reminded us of the required right turn after departure to avoid one of the noise sensitive areas on the climbout from runway 36. We took to the runway and began our takeoff roll, and as we rotated I noticed that the low volts light was on again. I put it out of my mind temporarily to concentrate on the takeoff and circuit, and we spotted another aircraft descending on the deadside as we completed the noise abatement turn and turned left into the circuit.

Climbing away from Wellesbourne after the noise abatement turn

Climbing away from Wellesbourne after the noise abatement turn

Normally I would continue onto the Downwind leg before climbing out of the circuit, but that would have put us in close proximity to the arriving aircraft. I decided to climb immediately, informing the FISO of this, and the fact that I was visual with the other aircraft. We climbed up to 3000 feet, and set course to the South for our return to Kemble. Marc spotted a glider off to our left as we departed, helpfully pointing it out and giving me good instructions as to where to find it. Sam also spotted an aircraft close by to our right, passing below us as we continued on course.

Once we were established in the cruise, my focus returned to the low volts light, which was still lit. I repeated the procedure of resetting the master switch (after powering down most of the avionics), and this time the light remained extinguished, even after powering up the avionics again. If it had remained lit, I would have had to take the decision to either return to Wellesbourne, or continue on to Kemble aiming to reduce the power drain, potentially arriving at Kemble non-radio should the battery power become depleted.

As we continued South, I gave Sam a quick brief on the controls, before handing control over to her. She immediately spotted another aircraft ahead of us and to the right, so I took back control to position us behind him. Once it was clear our flight paths weren’t converging, I handed back control to Sam and she flew us on towards Brize while I made contact on the Zone frequency to request our Zone Transit.

Sam's turn at the controls

Sam’s turn at the controls

My initial call was blocked by another aircraft on frequency, and I had to repeat the request. While negotiating the initial ‘pass your message’ response and setting the squawk, we approached to just a few miles away from the Northern boundary of Brize’s Class  airspace. I was about to contact the Controller to remind him of our position, when he cleared us into their airspace, not above 3000 feet. That was the level we were cruising at, so I helped Sam reduce our height by a couple of hundred feet, explaining the operation of the altimeter to her as we did so. As we entered Brize’s Zone, she handed control back to me, and I positioned the aircraft so that they would get a good view down the right hand side.

Passing overhead RAF Brize Norton

Passing overhead RAF Brize Norton

Unusually, the Controller did not announce as we entered and then left Controlled Airspace, but once clear to the South I pointed out Faringdon, and Marc identified the Defence Academy at Shrivenham off to our right. A new Controller queried our routing to Kemble (via Membury), and as we approached the Motorway Services I signed off with Brize. Helpfully the Controller reminded us that Redlands was active (I’d heard their parachuting aircraft on frequency as we made the initial contact), and we turned overhead Membury to head West towards Wroughton to remain South of the M4.

Wroughton is now another former airfield that is covered in solar panels, so was easy to spot. From there we identified various recognisable areas of Swindon, before heading towards the Link Centre and the old Renault building to spot the school and Sam’s house. They both quickly oriented themselves, pointing out various other areas of the town that they recognised from this new (to them!) vantage point.

Shaw Ridge Primary School

Shaw Ridge Primary School

After taking a few photos and completing the orbit, we headed West in order to approach Kemble from the South, hence avoiding getting too close to Oaksey Park. I contacted Kemble to inform them that we’d be approaching from Marlborough, and getting the arrival details we needed. I quickly realised my mistake, contacting him to correct myself and inform him we were in fact approaching from Malmesbury, receiving the response ‘Yes, I’d worked that out for myself!’

On the way to Malmesbury Marc spotted Lyneham off to the left, and we also flew near the WOMAD music festival that was taking place at Charlton Park. Marc spotted another airfield ahead and to our left, which I identified as Hullavington, and we turned North at Malmesbury to head into Kemble. They were still operating on runway 08, meaning we were nicely oriented for an Overhead Join. The circuit sounded quite busy as we approached, but we were able to slot in easily with the other traffic.

I carried out a nice tidy circuit, with another aircraft landing and backtracking as we turned onto the Downwind leg. The before landing checklist was completed normally, and the Base and Final turns got us nicely aligned with the runway. Knowing I would be taxying to the far end, I deliberately aimed for a point some way down the runway, and brought us in for a second landing that was again a little firmer than I would have liked!

We were cleared to taxy back to Lyneham’s parking area via Alpha, and as we approached the other aircraft I spotted Luned and Catrin waiting for us on the other side of the fence. We shut down near the pumps to refuel, and I went to get them so that Catrin could be my helpful assistant during the refuel and push back of the aircraft. She helped me tie the aircraft down and get the chocks in place, before we put the cover back on as Kev arrived back in one of the Club’s Warriors after having taken some people up for an experience flight.

PIlot, passengers and Dad's little helper after a very successful flight!

PIlot, passengers and Dad’s little helper after a very successful flight!

I bade farewell to Marc and Sam, and they expressed an interest in flying with me again. It’s always nice to have interested passengers to accompany me should I have seats spare, so I’ll definitely be in touch with them in future should the opportunity arrive. Luned, Catrin and I walked back to the Club so that I could complete all the post-flight paperwork, before we joined in the Club’s barbequeue, talking briefly to Kev’s wife and son while Catrin and Luned played some tennis!

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Leg 1 profile

Leg 1 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 2 profile

I was pleased to have completed another Charity flight, being able to introduce first-time flyers to light aircraft is a great feeling, particularly when they seem to enjoy the flight as much as Marc and Sam had done. I’ll definitely be offering further flights to raise funds, and hope that my future passengers get as much enjoyment out of the experience as Marc and Sam had.

Total flight time today: 2:00
Total flight time to date: 302:45

All in the name of charity…

May 25, 2015

One of the things I’d wanted to do this year was to offer a flight as a prize in a raffle to raise funds for the PTA at Catrin’s school. There’s an AIC that details all the requirements to carry out a charity flight, as well as a blanket permission for all flights which meet all of the criteria in the AIC. One of the requirements is for the pilot to have 200 hours as PIC. At the time the raffle was to take place, I only had around 185 hours, which meant I had to apply for specific permission to carry out the flight.

After exchanging a few emails with the GA unit at the CAA, I submitted the application for permission and awaited a response. A few weeks later I’d been granted the required permission, allowing the flight to be advertised as a prize in the raffle. I created a couple of single page flyers for the school to use (one to advertise the flight as a prize, and a second containing contact details to be given to the winner). The day after the raffle I received a letter from Olga, the mother of a couple of children that attend Catrin’s school.

We exchanged a number emails over the coming weeks, and met up at a local pub to discuss the flight in detail. We eventually came up with a plan to try to carry out the flight on the Bank Holiday at the end of May. Accompanying me would be Olga and her two daughters. I was initially concerned about carrying two young passengers (the prize notification had stipulated that only one of the passengers could be a ‘non-adult’). My concern was unfounded, when it turned out that second daughter was actually attending University, so could quite reasonably be considered a ‘responsible adult’!

Olga had no firm idea as to where she’d like to fly, so I drew up a plan that initially took us over Swindon, before heading West over Lyneham towards Filton, and then returning to Kemble. One of the stipulations for the flight is that it must be a ‘local’ flight only (i.e. starting and ending at the same airfield) and not extend more than 25nm from that airfield.

The weather forecast for the day seemed almost ideal, with little wind, slightly cooler temperatures than recently and the lowest cloud being around 3000 to 3500 feet. I had suggested that we fly fairly late in the day, so as not to be subject to too much turbulence caused by heating of the ground, and around lunchtime the weather looked distinctly worse than forecast, with low cloud seeming to be present around Swindon. I contacted Sarah at Kemble, and she had a chat with Glen regarding the actual conditions. He had been flying that day, and said that the cloudbase was up at above 3000 feet, and even that layer was broken. As a result I decided to head to Kemble to attempt the flight, and informed Olga as such.

Olga arrived with her husband and the rest of the family just as I was parking up at a very busy Kemble. I suggested they head in to AV8 for a drink while I went out to prepare the aircraft. I carried out a full check, and readied the headsets for all the passengers. Once I was happy, I headed over to AV8 myself to give them a thorough brief regarding the flight. I did my best to reduce Olga’s obvious nervousness, before we all walked out to the aircraft. I got Olga and Yeva settled in the back, before getting in myself and allowing Polina to board last.

We got the door closed, and mindful of the fact that things were warming up now with 4 of us on board, I got the engine going quickly to try to get some air flowing through the aircraft. The engine started very easily, and we received taxy instructions that luckily involved passing AV8 on the way to runway 26, enabling the passengers to wave to Mark and Ethan as we passed.

I carried out the power checks near A1, and after a quick check that everyone was ready, we took to the runway. Before I had chance to announce ‘lined up’ as requested, the FISO gave me the wind and I announced we were taking off. There was little wind, which made it easy for me to make a straightforward take off, and we took to the air without any drama. I followed the circuit around to the Downwind leg, climbing up to 2000 feet and setting course for Swindon. As we levelled off at 2000 feet, the clouds were a good 1000 feet above us, which proved that the decision to make the flight was the correct one.

Happy passengers in the back

Happy passengers in the back

Swindon soon came into view, and I set about finding a recognisable landmark to orient myself. The old Renault distribution centre (now a children’s play area!) is easy to spot, and this was the first thing that caught my eye. From there it was easy to spot Catrin’s school, and the Link Centre (ice rink and swimming pool) behind. From there I did my best to head in the general direction of Olga’s house, and she announced from the back that she had spotted it. I carried out a left hand turn to enable Yena to see it from her side, and we then headed out of Swindon towards Lyneham.

Olga was surprised at how large Royal Wootton Bassett looked from the air as we passed by, and I then pointed out Lyneham to them, in particular the large solar panels that are now easily visible from above. We continued West towards Bristol, passing close by Hullavington and Castle Combe, where there were single seater cars racing on the circuit. From there we continued on until I could point out the now disused Filton, including the Concorde that can be clearly seen on the ground. All the while I was doing my best to give my passengers a bit of a commentary on what they could see, hoping that this would reassure them that the flight was proceeding normally without any cause for concern.

Bristol and the M4 / M5 interchange

Bristol and the M4 / M5 interchange

We’d used up almost half of the planned 1 hour flight, so I pointed the aircraft back in the general direction of Kemble, and began to listen out on frequency to get a picture of the traffic at the airfield. I spotted a small aircraft passing about 500 feet below us, and pointed it out to the others as it appeared on the right hand side. As it passed below it changed direction to parallel our track, so I asked them to keep an eye on it, changing heading as it passed under the wing in order to keep it in sight.

We flew by Tetbury as we neared Kemble, and as they were still operating on runway 26 with a left-hand circuit I positioned the aircraft to approach with the airfield on our left. Mindful of Olga’s nervousness whenever the aircraft turned I made sure she was aware that I’d have to make a relatively steep turning descent in order to position ourselves for landing. One of Lyneham’s Warriors was just touching down for a touch and go as we reached the Overhead, and after the Deadside descent we slotted in nicely behind him on the Downwind leg.

He seemed to be going a little slower than us, so I reduced speed slightly to ensure we didn’t catch him up. We turned Base and Final behind him, and I began to worry that if this was actually a full-stop landing rather than a touch and go, I might not have left enough space for him to backtrack to Lyneham’s parking area. Luckily he was carrying out a further touch and go, and was just taking off again as I reported Final.

I told my passengers that I’d have to go quiet now to concentrate on the landing, and explained that I was deliberately landing further down the runway than the aircraft ahead of us had done (in order to be able to vacate at the far end without requiring a lengthy slow taxy). I allowed the airspeed to decay a little more than it should, meaning that as I began to round out the stall warner started to sound. Luckily I’d already warned them that this was likely to happen during landing, and if it sounded just before we touched down it meant that I’d landed correctly!

I applied a little power to prevent a high rate of descent, and maintained a a small amount of power in order to cushion our touchdown. As a result, the landing was nice and gentle, and we rolled out to the far end of the runway before vacating to taxy back to Freedom’s hangar at Woodside. I parked the aircraft at a slight angle to avoid blasting debris into the hangar, and then carried out the final checks before shutting down the engine. We all disembarked, then after a few photos I walked Olga and family back towards AV8, where Mark was waiting with Ethan.

All smiles after the flight

All smiles after the flight

After checking that they’d all enjoyed the flight, I said goodbye and headed back to the hangar to push the aircraft back in and complete the post flight paperwork. I chatted to Sarah for a while to see if she had any further information about the proposed development of Kemble, before heading back to the car to set off for home.

Track flown

Track flown

Flight profile

Flight profile

On the whole this had been a very enjoyable flight. Despite having a couple of fairly nervous passengers, I’d done my best to keep talking them through what was happening in the flight, hopefully setting their mind at rest as the flight progressed. As a slight coincidence, this flight had also seen me pass the 200 hour PIC mark, meaning that from now on I am able to offer further Charity Flights without having to receive explicit permission from the CAA. If they can all go as well as this one did, then I’ll definitely be offering further such flights!

Total flight time today: 1:00
Total flight time to date: 273:55