Archive for the ‘Flying Buddy’ Category

Local flight for currency

July 27, 2017

As seemed to be a fairly common occurrence this year, I was coming near to the end of my 60 day currency. I’d had a few attempts at flying since my last flight, but sadly all were scuppered due to weather. It had been some time since I’d carried out an evening flight, so this seemed a good opportunity to get in a bit of flying on the long summer evenings, and reset my currency also. I’d made contact with Jamie a number of years ago while he was training for his PPL, and we had both read each others blogs in the meantime. He’s since gained his licence, but hasn’t been flying for some time. It seemed a good opportunity to get him some more flying, as well as reset my currency in one hit.

The weather forecast on the day was very changeable, and during the day the actual weather more than delivered on the unpredictable forecast. The skies alternated between near-perfect flying conditions, to full on rainstorms! This continued into the evening, but as I drove to Kemble the skies showed plenty of clear areas, so it looked like we should be able to get some flying done at least. I called the AIS Information Line while on the journey, and despite there being a number of airspace upgrades that day, they were all well away from our planned route along the South coast of Wales to Swansea and back via Brecon.

I arrived at Kemble a little before Jamie, so completed the pre-flight paperwork and carried out the A-check on the Arrow. I was just finishing off when Jamie arrived, so we headed back to the Club to complete the final paperwork, before grabbing our gear and getting on board. It was clear that Jamie hadn’t flown for a while, as he headed up on to the wing before me, obviously expecting to be in the left hand seat! I corrected him, and got myself settled while he climbed onboard after me.

We left the door open while I carried out the before starting checklist, making a call to the Kemble FISO for start, and as expected receiving no reply. The engine started easily, and we got the hatch closed before taxying along Alpha to Alpha 1 for the power checks. The wind was fairly strong as forecast, but was almost perfectly aligned with the runway so I wasn’t concerned. I gave the engine a few minutes to warm up, before working through the power checks. As ever, these passed without concern, and after the before departure checks were complete I made a last check of the circuit and Final approach, before taking to the runway.

Lined up, ready to depart

Lined up, ready to depart

The Arrow accelerated well, and the strong headwind meant we were soon airborne. Once no usable runway was available ahead of us, I dabbed the brakes and raised the gear, before setting course for the Severn Crossings, the first turning point on our planned route. Down low conditions were a little turbulent, but as we climbed the air became smoother and the flight more comfortable. I continued the climb towards 3000 feet, noting the excellent flying conditions immediately around us. The planned route was to fly South down the Welsh side of the Severn, around the coast through Cardiff’s airspace, before turning back to the North East near Swansea, to return via the Brecon VOR.

Near-perfect flying conditions

Near-perfect flying conditions

Once clear of Kemble, I tuned directly to Cardiff and listened in on their frequency as we continued West. Cardiff seemed pretty busy with inbound commercial flights, so the chances of gaining clearance for the Zone Transit seemed slight. I attempted to make contact with Cardiff, and received the surprising reply “Aircraft calling Cardiff Approach, almost unreadable, try again later”. Concerned that we may have a radio or headset issue, I double checked the settings and the cabling of my headset. While we waited for a gap in transmissions, I heard an aircraft asking for deviations from their assigned route in order to remain clear of weather, which started to ring further alarm bells.

Ominous looking weather towards Cardiff

Ominous looking weather towards Cardiff

Conditions towards Cardiff seemed less favourable that they were in our immediate vicinity, so I began to reconsider our planned route, and look for further options. The safety of the flight was never in question, as in the immediate vicinity conditions were still near-ideal, and behind us we had a perfectly clear route back to Kemble. Once there was another gap in the transmissions, I again made contact, requesting a radio check, and receiving a ‘readability 5’ response. I passed my message to Cardiff, asking for a Basic Service and Zone Transit, but ending the transmission with a request for their current weather. Their current conditions didn’t sound promising, with broken cloud at around 1600 feet, and CBs in the area.

I quickly made the decision that heading in that direction wasn’t a good idea, so informed the Controller we would instead route to the North, thanking him for his assistance. He seemed genuinely disappointed that we weren’t able to complete the flight as planned, even going as far as apologising for the Welsh weather!

This area was very familiar to me due to a number of similar flights over the years, so I quickly decided to head towards Shobdon, before returning via Gloucester to Kemble. I handed control to Jamie, while I dug out the chart and made a quick estimate of a heading to Shobdon, correcting for the strong South Westerly wind which was an almost 90 degree crosswind on our planned track. I gave Jamie the heading to steer, and after a few minutes and a quick check on SkyDemon, revised the heading 10 degrees to the left.

Jamie at the controls

Jamie at the controls

There were a couple of Danger Areas in the general direction of our route, one off to the left that rose to 10000 feet, and another on our direct track that only reached to 2300 feet. At our current altitude of 3000 feet, we were well above the top of the lower danger area, so ensured we kept the higher one well off to our left. We continued on towards Shobdon, discussing whether there was any chance of landing there this evening. Unsure of the arrangements as regards landing there when the airfield was closed, I decided against it, instead calculating our heading back towards Gloucester as we approached. On this leg we experimented a little with the autopilot, finding it useful to maintain our heading, leaving us free to plan the rest of the flight and monitor the aircraft and our surroundings.

As we spotted Shobdon ahead of us, I had Jamie fly the new heading back to Gloucester, using the NDB to confirm the estimated heading was appropriate. I made a quick call to Gloucester as we continued towards them, but received no response (it was now getting close to 8pm, so they were long closed). We took some photos of Gloucester and GCHQ as we passed, deciding to continue on to Chedworth before heading back to Kemble. Jamie was familiar with Chedworth also, and soon spotted it ahead of us. We then turned back towards Kemble, and I took control back from him for the approach and landing.

Passing GCHQ

Passing GCHQ

Overhead Gloucester

Overhead Gloucester

I briefly toyed with the idea of a Right Base join, but instead decided to make the most of the flying and carry out a full Overhead Join. We listened to Brize’s ATIS to confirm the wind direction hadn’t changed, and I set us up for the join, which required almost a full orbit in the overhead to orient ourselves correctly. As usual I dropped the gear to assist with the descent on the Deadside, before turning Crosswind to enter the circuit. I made the turn onto Downwind a little too early, meaning I had to adjust the Downwind leg to give us sufficient distance to make the Base and Final turns.

Joining Overhead at Kemble

Joining Overhead at Kemble

As we descended on Base, I began lowering the flap, noticing again that as we got lower the conditions became more turbulent. I considered landing with just two stages of flap, but the winds seemed relatively constant and still straight down the runway, so I didn’t feel the need to adopt the techniques I would usually use for a Crosswind or gusty approach. Turning Final I lowered the final stage of flap, carrying out the usual ‘Reds, Blues, Greens, Flaps’ check to ensure I hadn’t forgotten anything important.

Down low I was surprised not to experience the usual turbulence on passing the buildings off to the right of the runway, and despite having a relatively long break since my last flight brought us in for a very gentle landing, with the stall warner sounding just before the main gear touched. We backtracked the runway, before taxying along Alpha back to the Club’s parking area.

Jamie helped me refuel the aircraft, before we pushed it back into its parking space and put the cover back on. We headed into the Club to settle the post-flight paperwork, before saying our goodbyes and agreeing to try to go flying again in the near future.

Track flown

Track flown

Flight profile

Flight profile

Despite having to change our plans mid-flight, this had been a really enjoyable evening’s flying. Flying through otherwise deserted skies is always a pleasure, and it was good to have some knowledgeable company alongside me. Now my 60 day currency is reset, hopefully I can take advantage of some decent summer weather and get some real flights in soon.

Total flight time today: 1:15
Total flight time to date: 313:30

Advertisements

A mid-week day at the beach

July 6, 2016

After a good spell of flying, I’d managed to go almost 6 weeks without a flight due to one reason and another. Keen to put an end to this dry spell and avoid another currency check, I arranged with work to allow me to take a short notice day’s holiday, only confirming it the day before once weather and aircraft availability coincided. After a busy period with his own work, David managed to find time in his schedule to accompany me, and in the days leading up to the flight we discussed various options for destinations.

I initially discarded a possible trip to Redhill due to the RA(T) in place for the Farnborough air show. Also a visit to Booker (Wycombe Air Park) and some other local airfields was abandoned due to the NOTAM about a major gliding competition in progress at Booker. We’d discussed East Anglia as a possible destination in the past, but looking at the various airfields available showed that most of them were grass and (relatively) short.

After a bit more digging David suggested a visit to Skegness. This is a grass strip located within a caravan park, with 650m and 799m runways. These seemed ample to take an Arrow into (we’d been to Headcorn in the Arrow previously – admittedly much longer but we’d had ample room to spare there). Keen to reset all my currencies in one day, I also added Fenland as a second stop (600m and 670m runways) for fuel on the return leg.

The route was complicated slightly by the RA(T) in place for the Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford. Kemble lies within the RA(T), but has 4 pre-defined entry and exit lanes enabling flights to still be carried out. I spoke to a helpful chap at Kemble to clarify some of the finer details of the procedures during the early planning stages, and everything suggested we could expect the flight to go ahead as planned, with the only minor exception of possibly having to depart from Kemble to the North West initially, should the North East exit lane be unavailable.

As ever, the majority of the planning and route selection was carried out the night before, leading to a simple visual route of Kemble -> Northleach Roundabout -> Banbury -> Rushden -> Peterborough Conington -> Fenland -> Skegness. In order to avoid the Danger Area in The Wash, I planned to follow the North Western coast of The Wash up to Skegness, rather than routing direct from Fenland.

After getting Catrin off to school, I completed the final planning, NOTAM check, weather check and marked up the route on the chart. I managed to get hold of someone at Fenland before leaving the house to check for any last minute hitches (other than a Farmers’ Fly In, there was nothing unusual), but was unable to reach anyone at Skegness before leaving for Kemble. I left a message on one of the listed numbers, and a very helpful chap phoned back as I was driving to the airfield. After pulling over he gave me a very thorough brief on the use of the airfield, and also some tips as to what to do while we were there.

On arrival at Kemble, I checked through the aircraft’s paperwork before completing the relevant documentation required for our flight. David arrived in good time, and we headed out to the aircraft. Usually I would fill the Arrow with fuel before any flight just to give me further options, but as we were headed into relatively short grass runways, I opted this time to leave with the ‘standard’ fuel load (allowing for around 3 hours flying time). This would give me plenty to get to Skegness and then Fenland to refuel, with the further option of using Conington or perhaps Sywell should the need arise.

Once on board, I used David’s handheld to request our start and inform the FISO of our requested routing out of the RA(T), expecting that there may be some delay as he negotiated this with Brize. However, I was given immediate approval to start, and once started up we were clear to Alpha 1 for our checks. These were all completed normally (with another aircraft that was preparing to depart alongside us) and we moved up to the hold and announced that we were ready to depart.

We were given our departure clearance (not above 1500 feet on the Fairford QNH via the Green Route) and after reading back were immediately given ‘Take off at your discretion’. This is slightly unusual (typically Kemble will ask to ‘report lined up’ due to the undulations in the runway) and I queried with David that I had understood the FISO correctly.

Once on the runway we immediately began our takeoff roll as the aircraft behind us was given his clearance, taking to the air and turning right direct on track towards the Northleach Roundabout (the exit point of the route we were using).  Once clear of the ATZ I asked for a frequency change to Brize Zone (the RA(T)’s Controlling Authority), but was told to remain with Kemble until we were clear of the Restricted Airspace. It was definitely a little disconcerting to have to remain below 1500 feet (effectively about 1000 feet off the ground) while within the RA(T), usually on this portion of the flight I would be climbing up to 3000 or 4000 feet! Once clear, we contacted Brize Radar for a Basic Service, and climbed up to our cruising altitude of 3500 feet.

Departing Kemble not above 1500 feet

Departing Kemble not above 1500 feet

David thought there may have been an issue with the transponder, as he noticed that the ‘ident’ light wasn’t flickering as it normally would to show that we were being interrogated by a ground radar station. I asked the Controller for a Mode C check, and he gave us the Brize QNH and asked for our current altitude. I informed him of this, and after a brief pause he confirmed that the transponder was working correctly.

It was immediately clear how much quieter the skies were when flying on a weekday, and David and I chatted as we continued on the route. There were small amounts of scattered cloud around, some of which were up at our level so I just flew through. David’s PilotAware device was helpfully warning us of some of the traffic we passed, and as we approached Banbury the Brize Controller asked who we would be working next. I advised him it would be Sywell (which led to a brief discussion with David as to whether Coventry might perhaps be better), and on reaching Banbury we switched frequency and listened in to Sywell.

Some cloud enroute

Some cloud enroute

We passed well clear of their ATZ, turning at Rushden towards Conington. David had entered a more direct route into SkyDemon, and queried my routing on this leg. I advised him of the route I had planned, and we continued on towards Conington. As we were turning in their overhead, I gave them a quick call just to advise them of this (not strictly necessary as we were well above their ATZ at our current altitude) and we spotted Conington on time and turned towards Fenland.

We contacted Fenland as we approached their overhead, and asked them for a wind check to gauge which runway would be most appropriate to use at Skegness. The relatively calm wind seemed to favour the shorter runway 29, but I decided to live with the small crosswind and use the longer runway 03 instead. David agreed that this was probably the best decision, opting for runway length over the slight advantage of the small headwind that would have been present on runway 29.

As we flew overhead Fenland, David asked for a steep turn to the right to enable him to get some photos, and once this was complete I routed towards the North West coast of The Wash to keep clear of the Danger Area. As we made the turn, a loud flapping noise could be heard off to the right of the aircraft, and on investigation we realised that the strap from David’s camera case had gone through a gap in the door and was flapping against the aircraft outside. David realised he hadn’t fully latched the door (the top latch was closed, but the lower latch wasn’t fully made). Once the strap was retrieved the noise disappeared, and we continued on.

Passing Fenland

Passing Fenland

The town of Skegness was easy to spot in the distance, and I oriented myself using the chart to find the airfield. We spotted this quite easily as we approached, and I made traffic announcements on the Safetycom frequency in case anyone else was operating near the airfield.

Approaching Skegness

Approaching Skegness

From the overhead we could see that the windsock was pretty limp, and stuck with our decision to land on runway 03. I carried out a standard Overhead Join, descending on the deadside and continuing on a Left Downwind as per the Pooley’s plates. The airfield’s noise abatement calls for the Base Leg turn to be made before the town of Skegness, and this seemed very close in as we continued Downwind and completed the before landing checks.

Descending Deadside at Skegness. Hangars visible in front of the wing.

Descending Deadside at Skegness. Hangars visible in front of the wing.

I turned Base, and flew a slightly slower approach than normal so as to land in as little distance as possible. As I turned Final I failed to allow for the slight tailwind on Base leg, and ended up overshooting the centre line. Normally this would be easy to resolve, but given the fact the the Final leg was quite short and I was also a little slower than normal, I resisted the temptation to tighten the turn in order to get correctly lined up, and instead took an early decision to abandon the approach and Go Around (prompting a ‘Good decision’ from David alongside).

Realising my mistake, I flew a slightly wider Downwind leg on the next circuit in order to give myself more time on Base. This time the Base to Final turn was flown correctly, and I brought us in for a nice gentle touchdown on the excellently prepared runway at Skegness. With little or no braking we were easily slowed down, and I parked up on the left hand side near a rather dilapidated looking twin.

Parked up at Skegness

Parked up at Skegness

The advice given to me on the phone earlier was very useful. We walked the short distance from the airfield to the Leisure Park reception building to pay the (very reasonable) £7 landing fee, before walking to the on-site pub for lunch. They were only serving a carvery today, so David and I both had an excellent ‘small’ carvery, which was incredible value considering it also came with a free dessert! David took advantage of not doing any flying today by accompanying his lunch with a beer, while I made do with a lemonade.

A rather more substantial lunch than usual!

A rather more substantial lunch than usual!

Having had a more substantial lunch than I would usually do while flying, it seemed a good idea to go for a walk and try to find the beach. I had been given directions on the phone earlier, but I’m not sure the way we ended up walking to the beach was the most direct route. However, we arrived there in about 10 minutes or so, and were pleasantly surprised by the condition of the beach, and the various amenities around it.

A short walk to the beach

A short walk to the beach

My attempts to shortcut the walk back only ended up in us having to retrace our steps a couple of times, but we were soon approaching the airfield again ready for the next leg to Fenland. As we walked to the aircraft we debated which runway to use, and the windsock this time seemed to be slightly favouring runway 21 (which was helpful as it meant a very short taxy, and also allowed us to depart almost directly on track). We examined the area of grass before the start of the runway, and decided that we could also use this to give ourselves another 50m or so of ground roll.

Checking out the undershoot for 21

Checking out the undershoot for 21

We were both geniunely impressed by how well maintained the strip was, particularly given that it seemed to be done by people on a completely voluntary basis. The clubhouse being closed that day was no real inconvenience to us, as the reception building was a very short walk away, and on the way to most of the other amenities anyway. Definitely a great place to bring the family for a flight!

After a quick check of the aircraft, the engine started easily and I carried out the power checks in our parking space. Using the area before the start of the runway allowed us to get airborne in probably 2/3 of the runway length, and once airborne I turned right to avoid Skegness, before setting course down the coast towards Fenland.

David spotted the airfield before me, as I was looking a lot further into the distance than I should have been! We tried to reach them on the radio, but received no response. We could hear other aircraft arriving and departing, and learned that they were operating off the longer, into wind runway. I set up for an Overhead Join for this runway, descending on the Deadside and continuing around the circuit. The Air Ground operator started responding again (it seemed he had been on the handheld and the batteries had gone flat!) and I made a much better job of the approach this time. We both spotted some wires on Short Final at around the same time, and I added a quick burst of power to ensure we were well clear of them.

Descending Deadside at Fenland

Descending Deadside at Fenland

Mindful of the shorter runway I kept a close eye on our airspeed, bringing us in for another smooth landing (grass runways certainly do flatter the landings!). We taxyed up towards the buildings, parking at the self-service pump to refuel the aircraft. David headed in to settle the landing fee, as I looked for somewhere to park. I hadn’t realised from my phone conversation earlier, but the the fly-in aircraft were all still here and the parking area was very busy. I had to squeeze past a Chipmunk on the end of a row, before parking next to an R44 right at the back of the parking area.

Busy parking area

Busy parking area

We were only stopping for a quick breather, but the club house looked well appointed and comfortable. Sadly neither of us took the time to check the food choices available, but they had a fully stocked bar which suggests that they were well organised. Their website does list the usual airfield fayre, at what seem to be reasonable prices. Maybe we need to come back again to sample them!

After a quick drink and a chat with the locals, we headed back to the aircraft and I performed another quick walkaround, before being sure to carry out a fuel drain check after having refuelled. The engine was still warm this time, and it took a couple of goes to get it started. We then taxyed towards the runway in use, carrying out our power checks behind another PA28 ahead of us. A Cessna carried out a touch and go, then the PA28 departed and we took our turn to backtrack. I had noticed that the ‘Low Volts’ light had remained on, a common occurrence in the Arrow, which usually corrects itself during the power checks, but hadn’t this time. I decided that if it hadn’t cleared when we were airborne, I would try resetting the Battery Master switch (something that generally clears it) and if that still didn’t resolve it we would land at Conington.

Again I used the full short field takeoff technique (2 stages of flap, increasing to full power on the brakes before releasing them). We’d seen the PA28 ahead of us become airborne around the intersection, and it took us a little longer than that. We still had plenty of runway left as I rotated, and I turned slightly left to avoid the small trees that were in the next field off the end of the runway. We climbed to altitude, and I reset the master as planned, which fortunately did clear the low volts light.

We cruised at 4500 feet, briefly contacting Conington as we passed to let them know we were Overhead. Sywell sounded relatively busy as we passed by, and later a quick peek at SkyDemon showed that I was potentially heading for an infringement of the Daventry CTA that started at 4500 feet (our current cruising altitude) off to our right. I corrected this, and we continued on, spotting Silverstone off in the distance to our left.

Great day for a flight!

Great day for a flight!

We spotted quite a few aircraft a lot lower than us on this leg, a number of them being picked up on the Pilot Aware device. As we approached Banbury, I made ready to contact Brize. David thought I would be better contacting Brize Radar for a LARS service before asking for entry to the RA(T), but I decided to go straight to Brize Zone. In my initial call, I asked for a ‘Basic Service and entry to Kemble via the Green Route’. After having to repeat our callsign due to our transmission being blocked (presumably the Controller was working two frequencies, as I hadn’t hear another aircraft), the Controller didn’t ask me to pass my full message, immediately granting me a Basic Service and clearance into the RA(T), as well as providing a squawk.

I began a gradual descent to ensure we were down at the required 2500 feet before reaching the Northleach Roundabout. We passed by Little Rissington, and then spotted Northleach ahead and to our left. Kemble became clearly visible in the distance, and I advised the Controller that we were visual, and asked for a frequency change so that we could at least get the active runway and QFE before Kemble closed (it was around 16:50). The Controller granted this request, and I queried whether we should retain the squawk (receiving an ‘affirm’ in response). Above us to our left we spotted an aircraft making its approach into Fairford (I think it was a C13) and we continued on, making contact with Kemble.

Escort into Kemble, look carefully!

Escort into Kemble, look carefully!

They gave us the active runway and QFE, and informed us that there was an aircraft operating in the circuit. As we approached we learned it was the Gryphon Air Cherokee, and I set us up for a standard Overhead Join for runway 26. The other aircraft was becoming airborne as we approached the overhead, and the FISO asked us to report Downwind. We heard one of Bristol Aero Club’s Instructors calling for taxy, and while we were descending on the Deadside the FISO gave all stations the current QNH, QFE, runway in use and Cotswold pressure setting, before closing down for the evening.

It took us a little while to spot the aircraft ahead of us on Downwind, but David spotted him on a wide Base leg as I carried out the before landing checks. We followed him around, catching him slightly as we turned Base and he turned Final. He was carrying out a Touch and Go however, so I was confident he would clear the runway in time. We also spotted the Bristol Aero Club aircraft at A1, waiting to depart.

After the aircraft ahead cleared the runway in good time, I deliberately landed long, deciding that this was much safer than trying to attempt a backtrack with no FISO on duty. The landing was again nice and gentle, but I neglected to brake sufficiently so was unable to make the first turn off the runway. Sensibly the Bristol Aero Club aircraft asked us to confirm when we had vacated the runway (there is a distinct elevation change on the runway at Kemble, that means you can’t see the opposite end of the runway). We made the second turn off, and I announced ‘Runway Vacated’ as we crossed the hold line.

We taxyed back to Lyneham’s parking area via Golf and Alpha, and as we approached we noticed that the Bulldog was parked on the taxyway at 90 degrees to the usual parking direction. As we got closer I realised we wouldn’t be able to safely taxy up to the bowser with the aircraft in its current position. I shut down before our parking area, and then ended up in the way of a couple of vehicles (including an HGV) that had to squeeze past us to use the gate out onto the airfield’s perimeter road.

David and I refuelled the aircraft and pushed it back into the parking area, putting the cover back on just as Roger came out to carry out a flight in the Bulldog with some new members. I headed in to the Club to complete the usual post-flight paperwork, before heading home.

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Leg 1 profile

Leg 1 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 3 profile

Leg 3 profile

It’s always good to fly with David, and he’d made an excellent choice of destination in Skegness today. The facilities there were top notch, despite it being run and maintained by volunteers. Its location inside the Caravan Park and near the beach mean it’s an ideal destination to take the family at some point in the future. Fenland also looked like a place it would be worth going back to, if only to sample their food!

It had been a really enjoyable day of flying, taking me to an area of the country I hadn’t previously visited, and providing a couple of challenging landings at two new airfields. Not only that, today’s flying has put me over the 300 hour mark, which while having no real meaning, is a milestone nonetheless. A successful flying year continues!

Total flight time today: 3:05
Total flight time to date: 300:45

At long last, some real flying!

September 19, 2015

For one reason and another, this year has been a really mixed one for flying. Despite a number of long breaks between flights, I was still on target to match my hours total for last year. Having finally regained all my currencies with my last two flights, I was keen to just get in an aircraft and be able to fly somewhere.

David and I had discussed the possibility of sharing a flight earlier this month, but this didn’t come to fruition, and as a result David was my first choice of company for this flight. He managed to arrange a ‘pass out’ for the day, so we spent the few days before the flight discussing options for destinations. Initially I was keen to visit Tibenham, and perhaps another airfield out towards the East of the country. However, on reflection, I decided that given my lack of recent currency, visiting Tibenham could turn out to me more challenging that I really wanted.

My next choice was to head down to Land’s End, an airfield we’d planned to visit earlier in the year, but had to change our route due to the Arrow being unavailable that day. Perranporth was pencilled in as a second destination, and in the days leading up to the flight I planned the route, and called to arrange PPR for both airfields.

Luned and Catrin were both away for the weekend, so this made it easier for me to make an early start on the Saturday morning, and I arrived at Kemble around 9am after completing the final planning and making a last minute call to Land’s End to get a feel for the weather down there. NOTAMs showed some Class D airspace being established at Kemble around 5pm local time, so after the experience with Charlie last time this was established, I was keen to be back before this came in to effect.

The weather on the drive to the airfield had shown that there were still patches of fog around, but outside of these the skies looked clear. On arrival at Kemble conditions seemed almost ideal, and the weather forecast suggested that conditions would only continue to improve during the day. David arrived shortly after me, and we headed in to the Club’s office to check the aircraft for logged defects and complete the necessary paperwork. We then headed out to the aircraft, and put some more fuel in to remove the need to refuel enroute. David had spent some time in the last week assembling a PilotAware unit, so while I carried out the ‘A’ check he set about getting this ready to try on the flight.

Our steed for the day!

Our steed for the day!

Once all checks were complete, we both climbed onboard and I prepared to start the engine. We received start clearance from the FISO (necessary because the Lyneham parking area is out of sight of the Tower) and the engine started fairly easily. Kemble were operating on runway 08 this morning, and this required a taxy along the grass to reach the Tower Apron for checks. We were initially asked to pause opposite the Tower to allow another aircraft to taxy from the runway to park in front of AV8, but he turned out to need fuel, so we were cleared to continue as he taxyed over to the pumps.

One of Freedom’s Warriors was already on the North Apron carrying out his power checks, so I was careful to allow him sufficient room to get out should he complete his checks before us. Our checks were all normal as usual, and the Warrior left the North Apron as I completed the before takeoff checklist. Once at the hold, we were cleared on to the runway without any delay, and I commenced the takeoff roll with virtually no wind to allow for. This made the takeoff easy, and once we were airborne I dabbed the brakes and retracted the gear, before climbing away to the South to set course for RAF Lyneham to start our navigation.

At around 1000 feet or so we passed through some fog, and as we continued the climb it became apparent that the fog was still evident almost all around us. Seeing the almost solid fog bank below us did give me pause to consider whether to continue the flight, but we knew that the base of the layer was above 1000 feet, so even should we have an engine failure we would still have time after breaking through the layer to select an appropriate landing site. David concurred with this (expressing pleasure that I’d at least considered the possible outcome should we have an engine failure).

Fog bank below us

Fog bank below us

We were passed information on the Freedom Warrior’s position as we continued South, which put him in the general area but well below us. We announced the we were looking, but Dave (Freedom’s CFI) responded on the radio that he had us in sight. Due to the layer of fog below us, we could no longer navigate visually, so were reliant on other means (primarily GPS backed up with the radio navigation equipment in the aircraft). We signed off with Kemble and switched to Bristol, receiving a service from them as we continued South West outside their airspace.

I had initially entered a ‘direct to’ route to Land’s End into the 430, but after we turned at Frome I amended this to insert a direct to leg to Newquay into the first part of the route. This enabled me to use the CDI coupled to the 430 to navigate, cross checking this with our two copies of SkyDemon (mine on my Nexus 7, and David’s on his iPad). David was also initially pleased with the operation of his PilotAware unit, which was showing him traffic symbols directly on the SkyDemon chart, together with an indication of their height relative to us. However, when it showed an aircraft at Bristol some 7000 feet below us (we were flying at 4500 feet!) he became a little less pleased, and this then led him to question the device’s usefulness as a traffic aid.

I was using the autopilot in ‘heading’ mode on this leg, adjusting track occasionally to keep the CDI on the 430 centred. I did try for a little while to get the autopilot to track the GPS course in Nav mode, but had no luck. I suspect the issue is related to an unlabeled switch towards the top of the instrument panel, that probably selects the source of Nav information for the autopilot when it’s in this mode. I must have a chat with Kev regarding this to see if I can work out how to use it correctly.

The layer below us continued to thin as we headed South West, and by the time we reached Taunton it had all but disappeared. Bristol arranged a handover to Exeter for us (negating the need for a long ‘pass your message’ response), but I made a bit of a mess of the initial call, passing information the new Controller didn’t need, and omitting information that he did. David brought his recently studied knowledge to good use, letting me know what information I needed to pass in the initial call (callsign, height and the service we required).

Exeter later helpfully handed us over direct to Newquay, making this possibly the most ‘joined up’ ATC experience I’d ever had while flying. On the leg to Newquay David and I discussed the route we should take from Newquay to Land’s End, as the direct route would have taken us overhead Perranporth, and they were likely to be parachuting today. I initially favoured heading South from Newquay, before turning right once clear of Perranporth. As we approached Newquay the Controller asked us to remain above 4500 feet to co-ordinate with inbound Instrument traffic. When I told him I planned to turn South he also asked us not to do this, and when I explained I was keen to avoid Perranporth, he informed us that the parachute jump was completed and all jumpers were now on the ground.

Stunning...

Stunning…

So we continued along the coast, passing to the West of Perranporth before contacting Land’s End. David and I discussed an appropriate distance to begin our descent for Land’s End, and once in contact with them we were asked to report passing the Pendeen Lighthouse VRP. We heard another aircraft being asked to join on a Right Base from there, so as we approached I did my best to find the airfield in readiness to carry out the same join. David spotted the airfield long before I did, and as we accepted the join I still had a little difficulty locating the airfield. Fortunately David steered me in the right direction, and I eventually spotted the field. Despite having new hard runways, the airfield is still quite difficult to spot from the air for some reason!

Short Final at Land's End

Short Final at Land’s End

I set us up nicely for the approach to runway 25 at Land’s End, and I brought us in for a very gentle touchdown on the somewhat undulating runway. There was some confusion initially when the Controller asked us to backtrack and take ‘first right’. We weren’t sure whether the Controller meant for us to turn onto the grass runway to our right, but after querying this she gave us more progressive instructions, telling us to turn onto the other hard runway before giving us directions to the grass parking area.

Glorious conditions

Glorious conditions

Once parked, we headed towards the terminal, having a little difficulty initially in getting someone to open the terminal door for us, it seems I didn’t press the bell hard enough! We paid the landing fee at one of the two check in desks, before heading into the cafe for lunch. The menu was relatively limited, but David chose a bacon roll, and I opted for a cheese and ham toastie. Both certainly hit the spot, and we enjoyed the view out on to the airfield watching Commercial traffic departing for the Scilly Isles as we ate. It was strange to consider that barely 90 minutes ago we had been 175nm and 5 counties away at Kemble! This is definitely the way to travel!

Land's End Tower

Land’s End Tower

Once we’d finished our lunch, I signed out at the check in desk, and someone unlocked the door for us to allow us to get back airside to the Arrow. After requesting start from the Controller, the Arrow again started fairly easily, and we were given taxy instructions via the grass taxyway, with the expectation of doing our power checks on the runway! The Controller was perhaps a little overly helpful in giving us taxy instructions (maybe she remembered our confusion on the way in!), and we lined up on the undulating runway to carry out the power checks. I opted to lower two stages of flap for the take off (the runway isn’t particularly long at Land’s End) and we requested a right turn out to follow the coast. The Controller asked us to initially turn left, as there was another aircraft inbound to use the cross runway, and a right turn would have put us across his Final track.

Leaving Land's End

Leaving Land’s End

We were cleared to take off, an as requested I turned left after takeoff, climbing to around 1500 feet. We then turned right to travel along the coast to find Perranporth. As we passed Pendeen Lighthouse again, we signed off with Land’s End and contacted Newquay, requesting a Basic Service for the short flight up to Perranporth. They helpfully provided us details of the parachuting that was in progress, with an estimate of when the drop was to take place.

As we passed St. Ives, we signed off with Newquay and contacted Perranport for airfield information. The radio quality was quite poor, but we managed to ascertain that they were using runway 27, so I continued tracking over the sea, aiming to join on a Downwind leg. Initially I had a little difficulty in spotting the runway orientation, but thought I’d got myself sorted and announced ‘Downwind’. David questioned my positioning, and looking at the GPS track does show that my Downwind leg was far from parallel to the Westerly runway! I was also confused a little by trying to follow the parachuting aircraft along ‘Final’, but it soon became clear he was flying an approach that was actually offset to the South.

Arriving at Perranporth

Arriving at Perranporth

He landed and cleared the runway in good time, and I again brought us in for another gentle landing, despite being slightly confused by the ‘picture’ due to the lower ground on the approach to the runway. As a result I think I was a little low and flat, but the actual landing was handled pretty well. We backtracked a short way to pick up the grass taxyway, before parking up alongside the other aircraft on the grass. We walked in to pay the landing fee in the cafe, signing in while we did so. The A/G operator met us as we left the Cafe and we chatted for a little while before wandering around the airfield, looking at the aircraft parked in the hangar. After a short stop we walked back to the aircraft to head back to Kemble.

We discussed the route back, and I decided to try for a ‘direct’ route to Kemble, which was likely to take us through both Cardiff and Bristol’s airspace. Should any clearances not be available, we also had the backup route planned, which was a reverse of our flight down. We spotted the parachute aircraft loading up ready to depart, and the Arrow started easily once we were on board. We taxyed to the hold for the runway, carrying out our power checks behind another aircraft. As we completed the checks, we heard the parachute aircraft announcing 5 minutes before the drop, so we took to the runway immediately after the other aircraft, and departed as he climbed away.

It takes all sorts!

It takes all sorts!

I asked David to keep a good eye on him during our climbout, but he actually turned left which meant he was well away from our planned track. As we climbed away, I entered a ‘direct to’ route for Kemble into the 430, and after signing off with Perranporth we called up Newquay, initially requesting a Basic Service. In the days leading up to the flight I’d considered getting in some IMC practice, and as luck would have it there were some cloud formations directly ahead on our route. I decided to head straight into them, requesting a Traffic Service from Newquay as we neared the cloud. We were given information on some opposite direction traffic 2000 feet below us, and further traffic reports just received the response ‘Roger, currently IMC’ as we had little chance of spotting any other aircraft.

The first ‘cloud bank’ actually turned out to be a very small piece of cloud which we flew through in seconds, but there were further cloud formations ahead of us meaning I could legitimately claim this flying time as IFR. Newquay again gave us good service, handing us over to Exeter at the appropriate time. David and I further discussed our route, and decided to turn slightly right to avoid having to contact Cardiff, aiming for Bridgewater initially. We hoped that Exeter would hand us over to Bristol around this point, but in fact we were just instructed to ‘squawk 7000 and freecall enroute’.

The reason for this soon became clear as we signed on with Bristol, asking for a Traffic Service and Zone Transit. This received the unexpected response ‘Remain outside Controlled Airspace, Traffic Service not available due to staff shortages’. This slightly scuppered our plan, so after a brief discussion we decided to descend so as to allow ourselves to pass under the Bristol airspace near Bath. Unfortunately, this put us down in some very hazy conditions, as well as meaning we were now down with most of the other aircraft that might be flying in the area.

We flew at this height for 10 minutes or so, before I took the decision to climb and head around the Bristol airspace rather than under it. I could tell that the skies above us were clear of cloud, and on climbing we discovered not only much better visibility, but also we were now less likely to encounter any other traffic. I headed initially towards Lyneham, before turning North once we were clear of Colerne to head direct to Kemble.

Kemble sounded fairly busy, and we initially had some trouble signing on with them due to being stepped on continuously on the radio (including one chap who seemed to be testing his handheld in his car!). Eventually we learned that they were still using runway 08, and there were two aircraft operating in the circuit. We spotted the traffic easily as we approached from the South, and I descended Deadside before following one of them on his Crosswind leg to join the circuit. I was a little close to him, so I dropped two stages of flap earlier than normal, allowing us to slow down and build a bit of a gap between us and him.

He flew quite a wide Base leg, and I announced to the FISO that I was extending my Downwind leg to follow the aircraft in front. We did our best to avoid any areas of population below us (we were wider than we normally would be, so this made it more difficult to keep clear of noise sensitive areas), and established on Final as the other aircraft touched down and cleared the runway in good time. I brought is in for the third good landing of the day, landing long to hopefully prevent us from causing the aircraft behind us to go around.

I kept the speed up on the runway, and announced ‘Vacated’ as soon as we turned off, enabling the FISO to immediately ‘clear’ the following aircraft to land. We taxyed back to the parking area, and after refuelling the aircraft we pushed it back into its parking space, removed all our gear and put the covers back on before heading into the Club office to complete the paperwork and pay for the flight.

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Leg 1 profile

Leg 1 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 3 profile

Leg 3 profile

 

Nearly 4 months after my last landaway, I was finally fully current and had managed to get some decent flying in. As ever, David had been a helpful and knowledgeable flying companion, diplomatically picking me up on my errors as he spotted them during the flight. We’d had a really good flight, with some great views, good service from ATC and some challenging conditions throughout the day. With luck, next weekend I’ll make it three weekends in a row that I’ve been flying, as I visit a Student Pilot fly-in at Halfpenny Green near Wolverhampton. In late September, it seems my 2015 flying is finally getting going!

Total flight time today: 3:50
Total flight time to date: 279:55

Dad’s taxi, and a race!

May 23, 2015

After a busy month of flying in April, I was keen to keep up the momentum and get some more flying in. May turned out to be a fairly busy month, but when Luned decided to take Catrin up to North Wales over the school holidays, a plan was hatched for me to fly Catrin up there while Luned drove. Mindful that I’d never flown by myself with Catrin, I started to look around for another pilot to accompany me on the flight.

David was the obvious choice, as we have shared flights in the past with Catrin, including a couple where we took two aircraft to the same destination. He already had commitments for the weekend however, so I then asked Charlie if he was interested in coming along. Due to a recent addition to his own family, Charlie hadn’t been flying for a while, and was keen to accompany me. Lyneham’s Arrow was the obvious choice for the flight due to its increased cruising speed, and this meant moving Luned’s planned departure a day forward due to an existing booking.

As the day of the flight approached, it became clear that this enforced rescheduling had actually worked in our favour, as the weather for the new date proved to be much more suitable for flying than our first choice. The flight was in some doubt for Catrin in the days leading up to it, as she developed a bit of a cough and a cold. However, she was definitely improving on the morning of the flight, and I reasoned that she wasn’t so ill that I would stop her flying on a Commercial flight, so there was little reason to prevent her flying with me.

RAF Mona is an RAF airfield on Anglesey that is used as a ‘relief’ airfield for RAF Valley, and is available as a civilian airfield at weekends and during the evenings. This seemed a perfect choice to drop Catrin off, as it was much more convenient for Luned’s family to collect her from than Caernarfon, which involves something like a 45 minute drive from where they live. There aren’t many facilities at Mona however, so that would mean we’d need a further stop for lunch. Initially I looked into Hawarden, an airfield I’d been interested in visiting for a while. However, there was an airshow at Llandudno on the day of the flight, and a number of the show aircraft were also being based at Hawarden, so it would have been pretty busy flying in that direction.

The next obvious choice was Caernarfon, an airfield I’ve visited before and one that we know we can get a good lunch at. A further option was Llanbedr, an airfield I visited just after it reopened to GA. Since then they’ve done a lot of work to get a Cafe up and running, and Charlie expressed an interested in visiting so we decided to make that our main stop. I enquired as to whether they had fuel available, and received a positive response, so that clinched the decision.

The weather on the day turned out to be almost perfect, with very little cloud in the sky, little wind and the recent rain meant for excellent visibility. As usual, I completed the final planning at home, before Luned and I both left the house in separate cars, Luned to begin the long drive up to Anglesey and myself and Catrin to head to the airfield. Charlie was already at Kemble when we arrived, and after introducing Catrin to Charlie we all headed in to the office to complete the paperwork.

Our steed for the day

Our steed for the day

The aircraft was fuelled to tabs, so I decided to fill the tank on one side just to give us further options, and after a final comfort break for Catrin we all got settled in the aircraft and made ready to depart. The engine started easily, and I entered our route into the 430 before we taxyed to the North Apron for the power checks. While checking the intercom, we realised that Catrin couldn’t hear us, and we couldn’t hear her. I fiddled with her headset and volume controls on the intercom before Charlie realised that the ‘Crew’ isolation button was selected! Once we turned this off, all was well. Two other aircraft joined us on the apron as I completed the checks, and then we took to the runway and departed. The first leg to Gloucester was straightfoward as always, as I climbed up to our cruising level of 4500 feet while signing on with Gloucester.

One feature of the Arrow’s intercom is that it has an input that allows audio to be fed in, enabling everyone in the aircraft to hear it. I’d experimented with this in the past without success, but now I had another pilot alongside I decided to give it a go. Once we were established on the leg from Gloucester to Welshpool, I had Charlie take control while I set our MP3 player playing some of Catrin’s current favourite music. I then handed the player back to Charlie and took control of the aircraft, while he plugged the player into the intercom. After some messing with the volume on the MP3 player we could then all hear the music, and this made Catrin even happier in the back. We also had to do some volume adjustments to Charlie’s headset and the intercom to enable him to comfortably hear us without being deafened by the radio.

Happy passenger

Happy passenger

I experimented a little with the autopilot, trying (unsuccessfully) to get it to automatically follow the GPS for track. Not having any luck with this, I fell back to using it in heading mode, adjusting the heading bug as appropriate to maintain the required course. We listened in to Shobdon as we passed well to the East of them, and then to Welshpool as we went through their overhead at 4500 feet. I meandered a little in order to show Catrin where Taid (her grandfather) had grown up (in Bala) and Charlie and I discussed which of the peaks ahead of us was Snowdon.

Approaching Snowdonia

Approaching Snowdonia

I thought I’d entered it as a waypoint for our route, but it turns out I had actually misread the highest spot height on the chart. We changed course slightly to pass close by it, and as we approached I was initially a little concerned that there appeared to be more cloud on the other side of the mountains. As we cleared the range though these concerns proved unfounded, as although there was some cloud around it was very broken and as such not a factor.

As we crossed the mountains, a voice from the back announced, ‘Dad, I need the toilet’, a phrase which at the best of times focuses the mind of any parent on a journey. When you’re at 4500 feet in a light aircraft, the phrase is a bit more ominous! We had initially planned to orbit over Luned’s Mum’s place, and then try to find her Dad’s house too, but under the circumstances this didn’t seem wise! We spotted Llanfair (where Luned’s Dad lives) and managed to fly over her Mum’s house too, before signing on with Mona and making our approach.

Waving to Nain and Harri

Waving to Nain and Harri

Despite its size, initially Mona was a little difficult to spot due to the orientation of its runway. However Charlie managed to pick it out, and I set us up for a Right Base join to their runway 04. We spotted Heledd’s car parked up as we turned Final, and sadly Charlie’s first experience of a landing in the Arrow wasn’t a particularly good one, as I treated him to a fairly firm landing. The A/G operator directed us to the parking area, and we quickly dispatched Catrin to the toilet once we were parked up and shut down!

Short Final into Mona

Short Final into Mona

Once we’d provided all the required paperwork (as a military field, RAF Mona requires proof that the aircraft’s insurance meets the requirements for landing there) I chatted with the A/G operator about the possibility of basing an aircraft at Mona for a few days on a future trip. He seemed to think that this would be possible, even arriving and departing during a time that the RAF were operating, as long as we received permission from the RAF first. This would certainly be an attractive base for a future flying trip, so this is an option I’ll definitely investigate further.

Our intrepid explorers

Our intrepid explorers

I tried to raise the people at Llanbedr to double check they had fuel available, but initially received no reply. I phoned their CFI on his mobile and he tried to find out if the land-owner was available to provide fuel. He phoned back a short while later with the news that he’d been unable to reach the land-owner, and as such there was no fuel available. I discussed with Charlie whether we should just go to Caernarfon for lunch and fuel, or make a quick fuel stop at Caernarfon before heading on to Llanbedr for lunch as planned. As the second option involved more flying and visiting another airfield, it was obviously the one we chose!

Departing Mona

Departing Mona

I phoned Caernarfon for PPR, and quickly entered the (very short!) route into SkyDemon. We reversed our taxy route to the runway to avoid the arrestor gear, and carried out the power checks just short of the main runway. After backtracking, we departed and turned right, doing our best to avoid local villages so as not to cause a nuisance. We headed back to the Menai Straits, before heading South down the coast and contacting Caernarfon.

Descending Deadside at Caernarfon

Descending Deadside at Caernarfon

They had a couple of other aircraft also joining, and we spotted them as we approached, slotting in behind those ahead of us to continue around the circuit. The second landing of the day was even worse than the first, as I had barely begun the roundout when we touched down firmly with a bit of a bump. We were given very detailed taxy instructions after I requested fuel (despite knowing where we were going!) and as we pulled up for fuel someone arrived to fill the aircraft. We pushed it over to a nearby parking space once refuelling was complete, and walked in to pay.

As we walked back to the aircraft, the Bristow Coastguard Helicopter was making ready to start, but they were obviously not heading out to a real emergency as they were still there after we had started our engine and taxyed to the hold. We stopped behind a Cirrus to carry out the power checks, and took to the runway after he departed to make our own takeoff run. He easily outclimbed us as we followed him South over the sea, and disappeared into the distance.

Coastguard helicopter making ready to depart.

Coastguard helicopter making ready to depart.

This was another short hop, and rather than flying a direct course I turned slightly East to stay closer to the shore. As we approached I made an initial call to Llanbedr Radio, receiving no response as expected. Further calls were then made to Llanbedr Traffic, and I set us up on a Downwind join for runway 33. This time the landing was slightly better, although a little firm. We taxyed to the Northern end of the airfield, and were met by a marshaller indicating where we should park. Once shut down, we pushed the aircraft back, and walked through the gates (unlocked and re-locked by the marshaller) and into Fly Llanbedr’s building.

Joining Downwind at Llanbedr

Joining Downwind at Llanbedr

Upstairs had been outfitted as a relatively smart cafe, and we both opted for a sausage sandwich and a cold drink. We chatted with some of the people there, and they told us that recently the airfield had been used for testing of a remotely piloted helicopter. Sounds like there’s some interesting stuff going on there, and this explains why security is a little tighter there than at most airfields.

Mindful that the extra stop had us running slightly later than planned, I called the pilot who had the Arrow booked immediately after us to let him know we might be a little late. He was appreciative of the warning, as it actually was more convenient for him to fly a little later. We headed back to the aircraft (again being escorted so as to unlock and relock the gate) before getting ready to fly the final leg back to Kemble.

I entered a simplified version of our route into the 430, from Llanbedr direct to Shobdon and then Gloucester before heading in to Kemble (the actual plan being to fly down the coast to Aberystwyth before heading inland to Shobdon). We debated which runway to use to depart, as the windsock showed that there was very little wind. We decided to depart on runway 15, making for a much shorter taxy and only requiring a slight right turn to put us on track to Aber.

Once we were heading South, I used the OBS feature of the 430 to set the required inbound course to Shobdon. This adjusted the track displayed on it to more closely match our planned route. I then offered Charlie control, which he obviously didn’t refuse! We continued South until Aber, before turning inland towards Shobdon. We both enjoyed the scenery, picking out the few towns on our route as we passed them. We were slightly South of track, but this worked to our advantage a little as it meant we passed a few miles South of Shobdon. They sounded fairly busy on the radio, so rather than call them up it seemed simple to just avoid them.

During the planning for the flight, I’d seen the NOTAM for some temporary airways and Class D airspace around Kemble during the afternoon (presumably for some sort of Royal Flight). We descended to 3000 feet to remain well below the airway, and intercepted the track to Gloucester. We listened in for a few minutes, and Gloucester seemed to be fairly busy. However as we reached the point where I had decided to call them, they became a lot quieter, so I signed on with them to request a Basic Service for the leg to their overhead.

GCHQ

GCHQ

We heard them warning about lots of glider activity around Aston Down and Nympsfield, so planned to approach Kemble from the North to remain clear of them (again using the OBS on the 430 to do this). After signing off with Gloucester, I changed frequency to Kemble to request entry into the notified airspace (they were listed as one of the controlling frequencies so I assumed I could receive permission direct from them). We were directed to contact Brize Norton for permission, so I switched to their frequency and it soon became clear that we weren’t the only aircraft wanting similar permission!

I had Charlie turn East to avoid accidentally infringing the Zone, and waited my turn to contact Brize. As with everyone else, we were instructed to remain outside the Zone, and instructed to orbit at our current position. The initial orbit showed that we were close to the disused airfield at Chedworth, so I used this as a ground reference for further orbits, slowing us down as we waited. Charlie spotted a number of other aircraft in the area, but as we were up at 3000 feet the majority of these were below us.

After three or four orbits, Brize made an ‘all stations’ broadcast advising aircraft that the Zone had now been removed, giving them permission to head towards Kemble. As we had been allocated a squawk and given a Basic Service, I didn’t want to just leave the frequency, so waited for a chance to get in requesting the frequency change. As we had heard several other aircraft waiting for entry, I decided to carry out a further orbit before heading towards Kemble, in the hope that we would arrive after the initial rush.

When we did turn South and contacted Kemble, we were one of about 5 other aircraft all joining. Charlie did a good job picking out other aircraft ahead of us, and we slotted in third place behind two other aircraft descending. We followed the other aircraft Downwind, and had to extend our Downwind leg due to the aircraft immediately ahead flying a slightly wider circuit than normal. At this point we spotted a further aircraft appear off to our left, joining on a direct Right Base join, despite the FISOs warnings to all aircraft that there were so many others joining.

The first aircraft landed, and we watched the second proceed down Final with the new aircraft following behind him and requesting the grass runway. We had left enough spacing ahead of us to be able to land behind the aircraft who had carried out the ‘correct’ join, so obviously the aircraft who had cut ahead of us didn’t have enough space to follow him to the hard runway. The FISO however denied his request for the grass runway, as Kemble aren’t allowed to carry out true ‘parallel runway’ operations (something which I previously hadn’t been aware of).

The other aircraft dithered somewhat, meaning we were continuing down Final waiting for him to decide what to do ahead of us. Eventually he announced he was going around, and we continued our own approach, seeing the aircraft that had just landed turning off the runway in good time for us to make our own landing. I finally made a decent landing today, deliberately landing slightly long and asking the FISO for taxy to Hotel where the Lyneham aircraft park.

He told me to ‘take next left’, which confused me a little as I assumed he meant the left that would take us to the North Apron. We had just passed this turn, so I informed him of this and he clarified that he actually meant the turn at the far end of the runway onto the Alpha taxyway. In the past we have generally been given instructions something like ‘continue, turn left onto Alpha and then taxy Hotel’, which was why I was a little confused initially.

As we taxyed on Alpha we heard the Club’s Bulldog being given permission to taxy from Hotel, so we pulled off the taxyway to the right to allow him to pass. Then we continued and positioned the Arrow ready to push back into parking, watched by the next pilot who turned out to be Charlie’s Instructor for much of his PPL!

While carrying out the engine shutdown checklist, one of the items is to individually turn off each of the mags in order to check that they are being disabled correctly. This should produce a small drop in engine RPM as each of the mags is disabled. However, I noticed that one of these wasn’t producing an RPM drop, which surprised me a little. I increased the engine RPM up to the level we would carry out power checks and repeated the check, with similar results. I shut the engine down, and informed the next pilot of this. He joined me in the cockpit and I restarted the engine, then he carried out the check, ending up by turning off both mags, which in normal circumstances should cause the engine to stop. This time however, the engine continued to run, which indicated that both mags were operating, but one of them wasn’t being turned off by the ignition key. This is a potentially dangerous situation for ground handling, as it means if the prop is rotated by hand, there is a chance that the engine might fire, potentially causing injury to someone.

The next pilot decided to take one of the other aircraft, so Charlie and I pushed the Arrow back into parking and put the cover back on, leaving a note near the prop to indicate the live mag to anyone else that tried to fly the aircraft. We walked back into the office, and while I completed the post flight paperwork Charlie chatted to his Instructor. We then bade our farewells, agreeing that I could contact Charlie in future should I have a spare seat on any of my flights.

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Leg 1 profile

Leg 1 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 3 profile

Leg 3 profile

Leg 4 profile

Leg 4 profile

Today had been a very enjoyable day’s flying. Not only had conditions been near perfect, but I’d finally used a light aircraft as a mode of transport rather than just going flying for the hell of it. Catrin had been an absolute star, and we had delivered her to Auntie Heledd a good 2 hours or so before Luned arrived on Anglesey after driving up. Hopefully in the future we can use Mona as a base for the aircraft on a holiday up to Anglesey. It was also good to see the progress made at Llanbedr, and if they continue to progress as they have, it’ll definitely be an airfield worth visiting again.

Total flight time today: 3:40
Total flight time to date: 272:55

Multi-leg tour, and a tech aircraft

April 30, 2015

After what seemed a lot of flying in the month of April, another opportunity presented itself when work insisted I take some leave to attend the Lyneham AGM. Rather than just take a half-day, I decided to book a full day’s leave, and try to arrange a flying trip. Some negotiation with David occurred, and after discounting a trip East due to poor weather forecasts, the plan was hatched for me to fly the Arrow to Cardiff (possibly carrying out an ILS approach), then Dunkeswell and Land’s End, with David flying the return leg to Kemble.

The morning of the flight dawned with excellent weather prospects, and I completed the last minute planning at home, calling Land’s End before leaving home to receive PPR to visit. When I arrived, David was already at the Club, but had some bad news to share. It seemed that the Arrow had developed a problem with the baggage door (the lock was in the ‘locked’ position, but the door was open). As such, it couldn’t be flown and we tried to come up with a backup plan.

One of the Club’s Warriors was available, but that meant David wouldn’t be able to fly a leg. After some quick re-planning, we ended up with much the same plan of going to Cardiff and then Dunkeswell, with an option to visit somewhere else (perhaps Compton Abbas) on the way back. As it happens, the Warrior that was available was none other than the aircraft I flew my first solo in back in October 2007 at RAF Brize Norton, that I had last flown on my first licensed landaway on 12th July 2008!

We headed out and checked out the aircraft. It was fuelled to tabs, and rather than fill up now we decided we would fill up at Dunkeswell for the return. We both settled ourselves onboard, the engine starting relatively easily after a couple of attempts. We had received notification via email that the Tower at Kemble would be unmannned today, so I made a ‘Traffic’ call to taxy to the Delta Apron for our checks. As we carried out the checks, another aircraft came on frequency and received a reply from ‘Kemble Radio’. We notified the A/G operator of our intentions, before taxying to the hold and taking to the runway.

The takeoff was normal, and we turned 90 degrees left to clear noise sensitive areas before turning on track towards Cardiff. We signed on with Bristol, receiving a Basic Service. I discussed with David whether it was worth asking Bristol to coordinate the ILS into Cardiff, but we decided against doing that, and to just ask for it on initial contact with Cardiff.

I was having a little trouble understanding the Bristol Controller, and it soon dawned on me why. It appeared that I had neglected to turn on the noise cancelling features of my headset! I pressed the appropriate button, and the world became a much quieter place again. As we approached the River Severn, I donned David’s foggles, and made the call to Bristol asking to change frequency to Cardiff.

Approaching the River Severn

Approaching the River Severn

The Controller had obviously already arranged a handover for us, and gave us a different frequency to use. We contacted Cardiff on this frequency, and made the request for vectors to the ILS. This was granted, with the Controller asking if we were VFR or IFR. I responded ‘IFR’, which in hindsight probably wasn’t the correct thing to do. By insisting on being IFR, this increased the workload on the Controller in having to keep us separated from other IFR aircraft.

It's what everyone's wearing this Summer...

It’s what everyone’s wearing this Summer…

We were given a number of heading changes, with our height increased initially before being gradually stepped down to an appropriate height. Another training aircraft with an ‘Ascot’ call sign appeared on frequency, and it appeared that we were holding him up from beginning his training detail. I offered to drop down to VFR if it would help the Controller with spacing, but he checked whether we would still want an ILS approach, and on replying ‘Affirm’ he just told us to continue.

After a couple of turns to intercept the localiser, we were cleared to intercept and asked to report when we had done so. I had tuned both Nav radios to the ILS frequency, and the localiser needles on them both started to move. I reported that I had captured the localiser, also noticing that the glideslope needle was still centred (normally the ILS glideslope would be intercepted from below, which would mean the needle should be significantly above centre). We were then cleared to descend with the glideslope, and instructed to switch to the Tower frequency.

David also pointed the lack of glideslope indication to me, as well as spotting that the ‘GS’ flag was active in both of the CDI indicators. Normally this would suggest that it was the ILS itself that was at fault, but David’s greater knowledge of the systems told him that if that were the case the Controller would know about it, and would have informed us. David talked me through setting an appropriate rate of descent (he could see the runway perfectly well remember!) and at about 800 feet he suggested I remove the foggles and continue visually.

At this point my headset cut out again, but the passive noise reduction was still adequate for me to continue to hear the Controller. A Thomson Commercial flight announced he was ‘fully ready’ as we approached Short Final, and was told to hold position. I brought us in for a slightly untidy landing (not quite fully aligned with the runway) and as we rolled out the Thomson aircraft was cleared onto the runway. We were asked to expedite vacating the runway, and did our best to make the first left without holding up the aircraft behind.

Thomson waiting patiently

Thomson waiting patiently

We taxyed up to a parking space, and David pushed us back a few feet so that we were parked tidily. As we walked in to settle the landing fee, we were met by a group of young children wearing Hi Viz jackets, escorted by an Aeros employee and two other adults. It appeared to be some kind of school trip, and we were asked to head up for a cuppa before coming back to pay our landing fee.

As we headed upstairs, a military C17 carried out a low Go Around. This was obviously the training flight that we had slightly held up on our approach, and perhaps explains why the Controller wasn’t too concerned about getting us out of his way! We had a quick drink, and I phoned Land’s End to inform them we wouldn’t be arriving today after all. Once finished we headed back down to the office and paid the landing fee (a very reasonable £20.14), booked out with ATC before dodging small children drawing lines on charts as we walked back out to the aircraft!

After a quick walk around we got settled and started up the engine. I listened to the ATIS, and made my initial call. The Controller informed us that he had our ATC clearance when we were ready, which I copied down and read back. Then expecting taxy instructions, I was simply told to ‘Report fully ready at Hotel’. After a quick check of the airfield diagram in my kneeboard, we taxyed close to the hold to carry out the power checks, before positioning at the hold and reporting ready.

After checking we were happy to accept an early turn out (due to St. Athan being active), we were cleared onto the runway and then cleared to depart with an early turn out before the chimneys. Cardiff make a point of noting that this hold also includes a stop bar (a row of lights in the tarmac, that light up red if you’re not cleared to cross). Even if the Controller clears you onto the runway, you’re not supposed to cross this row of lights if they’re illuminated. I pointed them out to David as we approached, and almost forgot to check them after the Controller had cleared us onto the runway.

After takeoff, we turned left to leave the Zone at Minehead as per the standard VFR departure, climbing initially to 1500 feet. Around this point my headset dropped out again, and this was the final clue that made me realise that the batteries were probably at the end of their life! I made a mental note to swap them when we reached Dunkeswell, and kept turning the headset on again for the remainder of the flight.

Heading out over the Severn Estuary

Heading out over the Severn Estuary

After being transferred to the Approach frequency, we were given clearance to climb to 3000 feet (a much more comfortable height to cross the Severn Estuary), and continued on towards Minehead. As we reached Minehead, I set course direct to Dunkeswell, and signed off with Cardiff.

We listened in to Dunkeswell for a while, not hearing much on the radio there. With about 10nm to run I announced myself on frequency, receiving the runway in use and QFE setting. I set us up for a Right Base join for 22, initially joining perhaps a little wider than I should have. The remainder of the approach went well, but the landing left a lot to be desired. Although a fairly smooth touchdown, there was no real roundout at all, and we just kind of ‘arrived’ at the runway!

Short Final at Dunkeswell

Short Final at Dunkeswell

We backtracked slightly, and took to the shorter runway to taxy towards the fuel area. A helicopter had landed on the grass off to our right, and I stopped and carried out the after landing checklist before moving off. Once we had cleared the path of the helicopter he then departed behind us, I hadn’t realised he was waiting for us to pass.

I informed the A/G operator we needed fuel, and parked up in front of the pump. Someone came out to refuel us, then David pushed the aircraft back a few feet to give me sufficient clearance to turn round and taxy onto the grass to park. Once parked up I even remembered to change the dying batteries in my headset!

After settling the bill for fuel and landing we headed in to the excellent restaurant for some lunch. It was good to see it relatively busy even mid-week, and we watched a few aircraft come and go as we ate. The Skydive aircaft filled will people before taking off, and we saw them later landing under canopy.

We finished lunch by around 1:30, and it seemed we had plenty of time to fit in a third stop on the way home. A quick check of the Pooleys plate for Compton Abbas using SkyDemon showed that Compton required PPR, so after a bit of a battle getting a working mobile phone signal I gave them a quick call to let them know we were coming.

We walked back out to the aircraft, and after another walkaround (including taking fuel samples) we boarded up and got started. Power checks were carried out in the undershoot, and we took to the runway and departed. We turned left on track, David being a little surprised at how close the glider field at North Hill was. We signed off with Dunkeswell, and received a Basic Service from Yeovilton for the majority of the leg to Compton Abbas.

Departing Dunkeswell

Departing Dunkeswell

The Controller seemed to be working two frequencies, as we could often only hear one side of his conversation. He also lost contact with another aircraft for a while, informing the pilot as such once he came back on frequency to change. At one point he queried whether we were following the A30, and looking back at the track this was probably because we came quite close to the ATZ at Yeovil Westland. I dog-legged around it, then signed off to contact Compton Abbas.

Overhead Compton Abbas

Overhead Compton Abbas

SkyDemon’s Pooleys plates handily had a chart showing the noise abatement circuit at Compton, which is pretty wide. While joining Overhead I glanced at this occasionally to orient myself, getting a little confused as to how far out we actually should have been. On Final we initially thought the runway was occupied, but this turned out to be an aircraft using the grass taxyway to the side. There was a brisk crosswind blowing almost straight across the runway, but the grass surface flattered my landing somewhat I think! We parked up at the end of the line of aircraft, heading in for another cuppa and a millionaire slice each!

Again Compton’s restaurant area seemed fairly busy (although it is well renowned so that shouldn’t really have been much of a surprise). We watched a Tiger Moth arrive and depart a few times, and it was soon our turn to make ready to leave and head back to Kemble.

February 18th, 2008

February 18th, 2008

April 30th, 2015 - Not much has changed!

April 30th, 2015 – Not much has changed!

Final walkaround of the day revealed no problems, and again the engine started quite easily. I taxyed down towards the threshold for 26, carrying out the power checks before taking to the runway and departing, mindful of the 45 degree right turn required after takeoff to avoid a noise sensitive area.

The Nav from Compton was fairly straightforward, so David and I spent a fair amount of time chatting and spotting the large number of solar farms that seem to have sprung up recently. On reaching Frome I signed on with Bristol for a Basic Service, turning towards RAF Lyneham for the next turning point. We were assigned a squawk, which I wrote down and David entered into the transponder. A few minutes later the Controller asked us to reset the squawk, and we realised that David had transposed two of the digits while entering it (I’d written it down correctly!).

As we approached Lyneham it was obvious that one of the changes since the RAF had left Lyneham was the erection of a huge solar farm on the airfield too. The good news at least was that the runways still seemed to be intact.

RAF Lyneham Solar Farm!

RAF Lyneham Solar Farm!

Signing off with Bristol, we switch to Kemble, unsure whether to expect a response or not. Again, we received a reply from Kemble Radio with runway in use and QFE. I reported our position and that we would join overhead, but the A/G operator asked that we join Left Base as there was an aircraft waiting to depart for a display practice.

We of course agreed, and I positioned us for the join. I reported Base and then Final, and we saw the other aircraft lining up on the grass. The final landing of the day wasn’t too bad, and we backtracked and cleared the runway as the other aircraft took off from the grass. A helicopter was just making ready to start as we taxyed back to parking, and I lined us up with the fuel bowser in case we needed fuel.

 

 

Skyvan after its display practice

Skyvan after its display practice

David checked the tanks and found them around tabs (which is where they were when we left), so we just pushed the aircraft back to the parking area and covered it up. We walked back into the Club to settle the paperwork. We were just about to leave for a well earned beer when I realised I couldn’t find the aircraft keys.

I knew they weren’t in the aircraft as we had locked the door, and I was pretty sure they were attached to my kneeboard as I walked back to the Club. We headed outside for a look, and fortunately found them on the grass area between my car and the Club offices. That was lucky!

 

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Leg 1 profile

Leg 1 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 3 profile

Leg 3 profile

Leg 4 profile

Leg 4 profile

David and I chatted about the flight in the pub down the road, both agreeing that we’d had a great day. It was a shame we couldn’t complete the flight down to Land’s End as planned, but even so we’d visited three airfields and completed an ILS approach during the day. The weather had been near perfect all day, and the Club’s Warrior had performed almost faultlessly. Hopefully our next flight together will be my much discussed first trip across the Channel!

Total flight time today: 3:05
Total flight time to date: 269:15

Back to Sywell

February 8, 2015

After being checked out and cleared to fly ‘solo’ again, I was all set to head off to Sywell with Charlie. We’d discussed this trip in readiness for attempting it last weekend, but a strong crosswind (right on the limits of the aircraft) and my cold prevented us from making the trip then.

As previously agreed, I’d planned a slightly circuitous route to enable us to carry out another Zone Transit, this time the Class D around RAF Brize Norton. I’ve transitted their airspace a number of times in the past, and they’ve always been helpful and able to approve any requested routing, so I thought this would be a good option for Charlie to attempt his first Zone Transit on the return flight.

As with the previous flight of the day, it was a little difficult to get the engine started, but once going we again headed off to the North Apron to carry out the power checks. The engine was still warm from the previous flight, so there was no need to wait for long before carrying them out. Once complete, we were cleared to the hold, and then asked if we were ready for an immediate departure without a backtrack. Another aircraft was established on Base leg, and the FISO cleared us on to the runway and I began the takeoff roll without stopping, making a quick check of the engine parameters while doing so.

Climbing out from Kemble

Climbing out from Kemble

Takeoff was normal, and we headed off to the South East towards Membury to set up for the transit of Brize’s airspace. This took us directly over Swindon, and Charlie and I chatted about how this used to be RAF Lyneham’s Zone not too many years ago. I pointed out the local landmarks to Charlie, including the area around our house. Charlie managed to get some good photos of Catrin’s school as we passed overhead.

Renault building (bottom left) and Catrin's school (circular building in the centre)

Renault building (bottom left) and Catrin’s school (circular building in the centre)

The visibility was still slightly hazy, and the mast at Membury was a little difficult to pick out from a distance. The M4 was easy to spot though, and right on time the mast and service area appeared below us. As there is an airfield just to the South of the services, I turned to the North before arriving overhead the mast, and made ready to contact Brize for the Zone Transit.

Following the M4 to Membury in the haze

Following the M4 to Membury in the haze

The Zone frequency was relatively quiet, and our request for transit was granted immediately, the Controller giving us a squawk code and minimum altitude (which I had to ask him to repeat due to not hearing correctly first time) of 800 feet! The hazy conditions again meant that Brize took a while to become visible, but there were lots of landmarks on this leg to ensure we were heading in the right direction.

The Controller announced that we were entering Controlled airspace, and as we passed RAF Brize Norton itself Charlie got some good photos of the various aircraft on the ground. We exited the Zone at Burford, and I set course for our next turning point at Shipston on Stour.

Passing overhead Brize's nice long runway!

Passing overhead Brize’s nice long runway!

The Nav went a little awry on this leg, because although the plog I’d printed from SkyDemon that morning correctly had Shipston on Stour as the turning point, the route programmed into SkyDemon on the Nexus 7 in my lap had the disused airfield at Moreton in Marsh as the turning point! As such the route tended to meander between the two, as I maintained the heading on my plog while occasionally checking my progress along the leg on SkyDemon! Once I’d worked out what was going on, I made the required adjustments to the route in the GPS, and the rest of the navigation was relatively straighfoward again!

As we approached Daventry, we passed over a relatively continuous bank of cloud at around 1000 feet above the ground (we were flying at 2500 feet). There were small broken patches within it, and I started to wonder if they would be big enough to descend through should the cloud continue all the way to Northampton. Charlie was understandably a little nervous about continuing (he’s only relatively recently gained his licence, and as such perhaps doesn’t have as much exposure to less than ideal conditions) but as there were clear skies just a few miles to our right, and the route back to Kemble was still free of cloud I continued without being too concerned about the cloud we were flying over.

Another factor in continuing was that Sywell’s radio traffic showed that they were still operating normally, so there was a good chance that this cloud bank would in fact come to an end before we got there. This proved to be the case, and as we passed over Daventry we again had an unobstructed view down to the ground.

Approaching Sywell I signed on with them, receiving the required information to plan my arrival. They seemed relatively quiet, but despite considering asking for a Left Base join I carried out a Standard Overhead join in order to maintain practice. As we turned Final, I could see that there was a vehicle on the runway, and the FISO advised me that the runway was occupied, before asking the Fire Vehicle to vacate the runway. I continued the approach, watching the vehicle turn off at the far end before announcing that it was clear.

The FISO then gave me the customary ‘Land at your discretion’ and the wind direction and speed, and I brought us in for a slightly flat landing, but still nice and gentle and under control. The FISO advised us to backtrack, asking us to keep to the left as other aircraft were waiting at the hold to use the runway (the grass areas were currently unavailable due to the condition of the ground). There was some juggling as I kept out of the way while one aircraft departed, then the other took to the runway, clearing the way for us to taxy to parking. We had to squeeze slightly on to the grass to pass another aircraft taxying towards us, and then parked up on the apron next to a twin before heading in for a rather late lunch!

The Cafe we would usually have used was closed for the Winter, so we headed in to the bar at the hotel. Their menu was somewhat limited (1 item!) but the Turkey Baguette with gravy and roast potatoes went down a treat! Charlie and I chatted about the route back as we ate, and I was a little surprised he had decided not to reverse my route and attempt a transit over Brize. A little gentle persuasion soon changed his mind, and he re-planned his route to go through Brize Controlled Airspace.

We headed back to the aircraft, Charlie carried out a brief walkaround and we mounted up ready for the off. Again the engine was a little reluctant to start, but Charlie got it going on the 2nd or 3rd try. Taxy route was basically the reverse of our route from the runway, and again there was some juggling of aircraft as Charlie moved out of the way to allow another aircraft off the runway.

The departure was normal, and we turned West to leave the circuit. Another aircraft announced that he was transitting through the overhead from the West at 2500, so we stayed at 2000 until he passed above us. Once clear of the traffic, Charlie climbed initially to 2500 feet, and then further up to 3500 to get out of the hazy conditions lower down.

Climbing out from Sywell

Climbing out from Sywell

The flight towards Banbury was relatively routine. Charlie doglegged around the Daventry VOR to avoid any other traffic using it for navigation, and we listened in to Brize until it was time to call them. We discussed what height we should be at, and it seemed sensible to get down to a height that would actually take us through Brize’s airspace (rather than over it!) before asking to transit!

Charlie began a descent to 2500 feet before we reached Banbury, and then called Brize to ask for a Basic Service and Zone Transit. Somewhat unusually, we were immediately cleared through their airspace, with no height or routing restriction! This meant that all Charlie had to do for the next 10 minutes or so was to successfully navigate towards Brize, and listen out on the radio should they need to contact us.

While we were chatting, a radio call did come in, and neither of us were sure whether it had been for us. Charlie asked the Controller to repeat the message, and we were given traffic information on another aircraft at a similar level to us, off to our right. We spotted him quickly on my side, and I kept an eye on him as he passed behind us at almost the same height.

Once inside the Zone, the Controller contacted us to inform us we were now under Radar Control, and we considered asking for a more direct routing back to Kemble. Charlie requested this, and was again granted permission. Charlie had been having a little difficulty understanding the Controller, but I could hear him clearly. I remember thinking while I was flying that the radio was a little ‘fuzzy’, so perhaps there’s a slight issue with the pilot’s headset connections in this aircraft?

Aircraft on the ground at Brize

Aircraft on the ground at Brize

We turned to the West, passing directly overhead Fairford a couple of hundred feet over the top of their ATZ. Once back out of Brize’s airspace, Charlie signed off with the Controller, thanking him for his assistance with our requests. We then signed on with Kemble, Charlie (incorrectly) informing the FISO that we were approaching from the West. As he released the transmit button I simply said ‘East’, and Charlie corrected himself, receiving ‘Ah, the other West’ from the FISO!

 Passing South Cerney

Passing South Cerney

Kemble sounded quite busy as we approached, and we changed our mind from making a direct Base join (they were now operating on 26) and instead opted for a more standard Overhead Join. Another aircraft transitted the ATZ at a couple of hundred feet above join height (not particularly smart in my view, particularly given that there was no cloud to speak of) and I kept a good eye on him, allowing Charlie to concentrate on the join and descent.

Traffic passing above us

Traffic passing above us

The circuit was uneventful, but Charlie had a little difficulty getting in on the busy frequency at times to announce his position as required. He eventually managed to get the call in (I later advised him that sometimes you have to be ready to just jump in immediately someone else has finished transmitting when the radio is this busy), and we continued around to turn Base and Final.

As we turned Final, a flex-wing microlight took to the runway in front of us. Initially it looked like this may prevent us from continuing with the landing, but I suggested Charlie continue and make his ‘Final’ call (if nothing else it might persuade the pilot on the runway to make a swift departure knowing that we were bearing down on him). As expected, the FISO announced ‘runway occupied’, and we continued down Final to see if the microlight would depart in time.

It lifted from the runway after a very short takeoff roll, the FISO passed us the wind information and we continued to land. Charlie brought us in for a nice landing quite near the threshold, and in hindsight I should perhaps have suggested he land a little longer than normal to avoid a lengthy taxy (Kemble’s runway is plenty long enough not to worry about landing part way down).

We taxyed back towards the hangar, and parked the aircraft on the grass opposite. Dave came out to meet us, and started loading things into the aircraft as we unloaded our gear (he was taking it straight over to Oaksey as it was going in to maintenance). We headed in to the office, completed all the paperwork and paid for the flight, before heading off home.

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Outbound profile

Outbound profile

Return profile

Return profile

So, 2015’s flying has finally begun. The checkout this morning was a good reminder of how easy it is to forget things after a relatively long lay-off, but the flight with Charlie had gone very smoothly. It was particularly interesting to see the difference between the forecast weather (awful) and the actually conditions on the day (almost perfect for flying). This was another good demonstration as to why I generally don’t make a decision on weather until the morning of a flight, as forecasts can so often turn out to be incorrect.

We’d had another good trip, and Charlie had hopefully banished any concerns he my have had about flying through Controlled Airspace. Let’s hope this is the start of a good year’s flying.

Total flight time today: 1:25
Total flight time to date: 259:40

Back to Dunkeswell with a new flying buddy

November 30, 2014

Charlie had commented on an earlier blog entry, and we’d struck up an email conversation as a result of it. He was training at Gloucester at the time, but was considering switching to a Club at Kemble. He ended up joining Lyneham Flying Club and completing his PPL with them. He contacted me again just after gaining his licence, and we tried to arrange a flight together. The first attempt had to be cancelled due to bad weather, but we decided to have another go this weekend, taking one of Freedom’s Warriors.

We planned a trip to Dunkeswell, with Charlie flying the outbound leg, and me flying the return. Charlie was keen to fly a transit of Bristol’s Controlled Airspace at my suggestion, and I agreed to do this on my leg so he could get a feel for what was involved.

Leading up to the flight, Saturday’s weather forecast appeared better, and typically Saturday’s weather was almost perfect for flying (but we had booked the aircraft for the Sunday!). The forecasts for Sunday were a little inconsistent, making it difficult to make the final go / no-go decision. The forecasts on Sunday morning weren’t particularly optimistic, but we decided to head to Kemble and see how things looked. On my drive up there I was passing through patches of fog (including one which held a particularly optimistic idiot overtaking in the opposite direction, which led to a slight ‘brown trousers’ moment before I’d even reached the airfield). However, while driving I could see that when the fog cleared the sky looked perfect for flying.

We both arrived at Kemble in good time, and helped get the aircraft out of the hangars. Another pilot was preparing to take a group of young children flying, and their excitement and enthusiasm was good to see. The fog seemed to be clearing nicely, and we decided to leave as early as possible in order to try to avoid some of the forecast poorer weather in the afternoon.

Kemble were on 26 at the time, and the FISO directed us to the North Apron for power checks. Once complete, we were then given clearance to backtrack in readiness for departure. I carried out the pre-takeoff checks for Charlie as we backtracked, and once at the far end we lined up and took off. The takeoff was straightforward, and Charlie turned Crosswind and then Downwind to climb out from the airfield before setting course for the first turning point at Lyneham. Personally I’d have just turned Crosswind and just left the circuit, but I didn’t mention this to Charlie at the time as I didn’t want to seem too nit-picky on our first flight together!

Departing Kemble

Departing Kemble

Climbing on the Downwind leg brought us quite close to a bank of cloud, so Charlie turned to the South for Lyneham and continued the climb up to 2000 feet. We turned towards the South West just before reaching Lyneham as the cloud to the South was almost solid. We set course appropriately, maintaining just below 2000 feet in order to ensure we remained clear of Bristol’s airspace on our way to the Radstock VRP.

Conditions on this leg were very strange, with almost solid cloud off to our left, and clear blue skies (aside from some fog patches on the lower ground) off to our right! We were both initially a little concerned at the thick cloud, but it soon became clear that it was well to the left of our planned track, and the forecast had it moving even further to the South East throughout the day.

Thick cloud to our left

Thick cloud to our left

Almost clear skies to our right

Almost clear skies to our right

We spotted the Wells mast ahead of us, looking worryingly large at our current height (the mast rises to to an altitude of around 2000 feet, putting it at the same height as us!). However, once we were clear of the 2000 feet portion of Bristol’s airspace, we climbed to 4000 feet for the remainder of the flight to Dunkeswell.

We passed by the Wells mast at a much more acceptable altitude, and spotted a number of commercial aircraft on their approach into Bristol off to our right. As we turned South for Dunkeswell the visibility into sun was fairly poor. We’d talked on this leg about the join at Dunkeswell, Charlie correctly recalling that when parachuting was in operation Overhead Joins were not allowed. We signed off with Bristol (getting a helpful warning from the Controller that parachuting was taking place) and contacted Dunkeswell.

Passing the Wells mast

Passing the Wells mast

I had pre-warned Charlie to expect a true ‘Radio’ service from the Air Ground operator on duty, and was pleased that my advice turned out to be correct. We received a response to our initial call giving us the runway in use, and then heard nothing from them from then on. It was initially quite difficult to spot Dunkeswell itself as we approached (I thought I’d spotted it but that soon turned out to be just a road!). Charlie’s turn towards my incorrect target put the runway into a much more recognisable aspect, and made it easy to spot the airfield and set up for a Downwind join for runway 04.

A glider was taking off from North Hill off in the distance as we turned Base, and I kept an eye on it for Charlie to ensure it wasn’t going to be a factor. Charlie flew a nice approach and landing, touching down very gently on Dunkeswell’s long runway. We received no response from the A/G operator to our request for parking instructions, and I initially suggested we just park on the grass beyond the skydiving aircraft we could see. As we got close though we saw that there were no other aircraft on the grass, so parked up on the paved area beyond the end of runway 04, behind another light aircraft.

Little and Large!

Little and Large!

We headed in to settle the landing fee (a very reasonable £10), then went in to order a couple of sausage sandwiches for lunch, Charlie taking advantage of not having to fly back and enjoying a cool beer. The weather here was still glorious so we sat outside, watching both skydiving aircraft make regular flights as we enjoyed our lunch and talked about our flight down.

A different class of airspace user!

A different class of airspace user!

Mindful of the deteriorating weather forecast (and in an attempt to earn some brownie points by getting home in time for a birthday party Catrin was attending later!) we returned to the aircraft soon after finishing. I performed a quick walk around, checking fuel and oil levels (and Charlie’s fuel management on the way down!) before we got settled back in the cockpit.

The engine started easily, and after confirming runway in use and pressure setting we taxyed to the hold, setting up the avionics along the way. Power checks were all completed normally, and we backtracked to the threshold of 04 before commencing the takeoff run. The wind had picked up a bit since we arrived, but the takeoff was normal and I set course for Bridgewater (almost a straight out departure). After signing off with Dunkeswell we switched to Bristol, and listened in for a little while as we approached Taunton.

Departing Dunkeswell

Departing Dunkeswell

Announcing myself on frequency, I made the request for a Basic Service and Zone Transit, outlining my requested route through the Zone. As is fairly normal, I was initially told to ‘remain outside Controlled Airspace’, and given the QNH and assigned a squawk. We continued on towards Bristol, discussing at what point I would call them back for an update on the request for Transit. As we got within 5 or 6 miles, the Controller again reiterated the ‘remain outside’ instruction, before advising us to contact the Tower for the Transit, giving us the appropriate frequency (which I initially read back incorrectly).

‘Contact’ has a specific meaning on the radio, indicating that the next Controller will be expecting our call and have all of our details. As such, the initial call was just ‘Bristol Tower, G-EHAZ with you’. The Controller first cleared us to a point 1nm South of the runway, not above 3000 feet, to expect a crossing to the East of the field. We continued into Controlled airspace, getting some good photos of the Cheddar Reservoir and the airport itself as we passed.

Cheddar Reservoir

Cheddar Reservoir

I was a little unsure whether the next clearance I heard (clearing us to pass 1nm East of the airport) was for us, so asked the Controller to ‘say again’, before reading back his instructions and adjusting our course. We spotted an Easyjet flight departing to the West, and a number of others taxying on the ground. It was slightly unfortunate that they weren’t using the Easterly runway today, allowing us to pass to the West and get some better photos from Charlie’s side of the aircraft.

Passing Bristol Airport

Passing Bristol Airport

I reported passing abeam the airfield, and was passed back to the Radar frequency for the remainder of the Transit. We passed just to the West of Bristol itself, getting some photos of the Clifton Suspension Bridge as we passed. As we neared the edge of the Zone, Filton became easy to spot, and I set course for it while discussing its closure with Charlie. At least I’d managed to land there in the months leading up to its ultimate closure.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

Clifton Suspension Bridge

The Concorde is still visible on the ground, and the airfield makes an obvious navigation point in the area. It will be a shame for it all to be replaced with housing at some point in the future. Recently there have been a number of airfield closures (Filton, Panshanger, Blackpool) that seem to suggest a downward trend. We can only hope that the re-opening of Llanbedr at least gives some cause for optimism.

Filton (disused) airfield

Filton (disused) airfield

From Filton we set course direct for Kemble, and the visibility was such that it was easy to spot even at this distance. With 15nm to run we requested a frequency change from the Bristol Controller, thanking him for his service as we changed frequency. Kemble were relatively quiet, with one aircraft currently operating in the circuit. We received the appropriate runway details (they were now operating on 08 with a right-hand circuit), and I set us up for an Overhead Join, descending to 2000 feet as we approached. Charlie spotted an aircraft performing some aeros off to our right, before it passed down our left hand side to continue with a further loop some distance behind us.

As we approached Kemble, another couple of aircraft announced that they were approaching from the same direction as us, and elected to do a Right Base join. The FISO clarified our proposed join with us, and asked us to report on the dead side. We were unable to do this due to the frequency becoming busy with traffic on the ground, and ended up reporting Crosswind. The FISO gave us traffic information on the aircraft that were joining, who had recently reported Right Base. Initially we were unable to spot them on our Downwind leg, and on telling the FISO ‘traffic not sighted’ he responded with a ‘no, me either’! The other joining aircraft did announce that he was visual with us however.

Joining Overhead at Kemble

Joining Overhead at Kemble

Charlie spotted them some distance ahead of us, on a much wider track than I was expecting. I took the quick decision to turn Base at the normal point, informing the FISO that I now had the traffic in sight, and that we were turning inside them. He reported this to the other aircraft as ‘Traffic already established in the circuit turning tight Right Base inside you’ (suggesting to me that he felt I had right of way). The response from the other pilot seemed to suggest that he wasn’t exactly pleased about this, but I actually thought I was on the correct Base leg position (and the GPS track seems to suggest this, if I’d gone much further Downwind I’d have ended up outside the ATZ).

I did my best to keep my speed up on the Approach to enable the aircraft behind to continue with his landing. As we approached the runway and I began the roundout, I was distracted slightly by a bird flying at a similar height to us crossing our path, but it soon cleared out of the way. This combined with my attempt to allow the pilot behind to land led to a slightly rushed landing. The stall warner was sounding nicely as we touched down, but the sink rate was a little higher than I would perhaps have liked, leading to a firm touchdown.

Trying to clear the runway as quickly as possible, I tried to cut the corner onto the Bravo taxyway. The FISO quickly spotted this, and asked me to follow the leadout line, otherwise I’d end up on an area of the hard standing that now contained part of the new runway lighting system! I followed the line, and we cleared the runway just in time to see the other aircraft flying over the threshold at low level, giving him just enough time to land behind us without having to go around.

We taxyed back to the Woodside Apron, Dave pointing from the hangar to indicate that we should park up on the grass opposite. We shut down and tidied up the aircraft, before heading in to settle up the paperwork and payment.

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Outbound profile

Outbound profile

Return profile

Return profile

All in all, this flight really couldn’t have gone much better. Despite the slightly worrying weather forecasts in the morning, the actual weather had turned out to be near perfect once the early morning fog had lifted. Charlie had done a great job on what was his first landaway on his own licence, and being granted the Transit straight over the top of Bristol Airport was just the icing on the cake. Hopefully Charlie and I will be able to make many similar flights in the future. And to cap it all, I was back home in Swindon (after a round trip to Devon) by 3pm!

Total flight time today: 1:05
Total flight time to date: 257:20

Free landing, then heading somewhere new

October 25, 2014

Now that I had successfully completed the check flight, I was able to hire the aircraft and head off somewhere. I’d already arranged with David to meet up, and he was happy for me to do all the flying rather than us share the flying today. A quick check of the free landing vouchers I had suggested that Leicester would be a good choice for lunch, and I looked in the general area of Leicester to choose a suitable second destination. Ideally I wanted to visit a new airfield, so between myself and David we opted to pop in to Tatenhill after having lunch at Leicester.

After we were settled in G-EHAZ, the engine started fairly easily and we had no difficulties this time in making successful contact with the FISO to gain our taxy clearance. Again we taxyed along the grass taxyway up to the hold for 26, carrying out the power checks as normal. We waited a short time for another aircraft to land before taking to the runway and beginning out takeoff roll once the runway was clear.

David was nice enough to comment ‘smooth takeoff’ as we became airborne, and I reminded him that it was my 4th of the day, so I had plenty of practice already! We continued around the circuit, announcing that I was climbing out on the Downwind leg before turning to the North East to join our route up to Leicester via the DTY VOR, turning at the Chedworth disused airfield as usual when departing Kemble in this direction.

Climbing out from Kemble

Climbing out from Kemble

I tried initially to use the OBS facility of the GPS to intercept the correct course to DTY (I hadn’t entered Chedworth as a waypoint) but it didn’t seem to be doing what I wanted it to. So I dialled in the VOR frequency and switched the GPS CDI indicator over to VLOC (causing the indicator to display indications based on the NAV radio rather than the programmed GPS route). This elicited a comment from David as he hadn’t realised what I was doing, so I explained why and we continued.

Things were relatively quiet on this leg. Although we received a Basic Service from Brize, they were quite busy handling other traffic and we heard little from them until it was time to change frequencies. David spotted another aircraft passing in the opposite direction, and a number of times I was forced to descend in order to remain clear of cloud. My IMC rating expired towards the end of August, so sadly I was no longer licensed to fly in cloud. This was to become a particular annoyance today, as the cloud base varied throughout the flights.

Skirting the clouds

Skirting the clouds

As I usually do, I turned early to avoid flying directly over the VOR (and come into close proximity with others using it for navigational purposes) and was forced to deviate from course and level significantly to remain clear of the clouds on this leg. Bruntinghorpe was an easy waypoint to spot for the final leg into Leicester, and we made contact with our destination as we passed Bruntinghorpe.

Unsurprisingly they were fairly busy, and were currently operating off their short runway 22. The circuit was busy with 2 or 3 other aircraft as we joined overhead, and another aircraft completed a Touch and Go as we turned Crosswind. I initially considered following him around the circuit, but David suggested that continuing Crosswind to stay ahead of him in the circuit was the better option.

We had good visibility of the other aircraft in the circuit as we continued, which was why it came as a distinct surprise when David spotted another aircraft directly below us as we turned Final. Instinctively I stopped our descent while I decided what to do, but there really was no option and I announced a Go Around. We repositioned ourselves in the circuit, trying even harder to spot any other aircraft in order to avoid a similar conflict. This time the circuit was uneventful, and I brought us in for a nice gentle landing at Leicester. We taxyed in and parked up, David pushing us back as I steered from within the cockpit for a rather unusual bit of reverse parking!

Short Final for Leicester runway 22

Short Final for Leicester runway 22

After signing in and handing over the free landing voucher, we headed upstairs for some lunch. The obvious topic of conversation was the other aircraft we’d been close to on Final. Neither of us could work out where he’d come from, as we’d both been paying close attention to the radio and keeping a good lookout. Our only conclusion was that he was operating without a radio (a perfectly valid thing to do) and neither of the aircraft had spotted each other as he joined the circuit.

We chatted briefly with David’s ‘neighbour’ from the next hangar at Gloucester where his shareoplane is kept, before heading back to the aircraft to depart for Tatenhill. I’d tried to raise them on the phone and received no answer, but we elected to head over there and see if we could raise anyone on the radio as we approached.

Again the aircraft started easily, and as we taxyed to carry out power checks it appeared that the wind had changed to favour the longer runway. However, by the time the checks were complete aircraft were using 22 again, so we taxyed to the hold there and waited for other aircraft to land and depart before taking our turn to line up. This runway is relatively short, so I opted to select flaps for a short field takeoff.

This proved unnecessary, as the strong headwind had us airborne quickly and climbing like an express elevator! I set about retracting the flaps and settling into the climb, and the runway heading meant we were already on almost the correct track towards Hinckley, which allowed us to slot nicely between East Midlands and Birmingham controlled airspace on the way to Tatenhill. I had another attempt at setting up the 650 to intercept the appropriate track to Tatenhill, but again didn’t seem to be able to do it correctly.

David again spotted another aircraft passing to our right on a reciprocal heading, and commented that we were in a fairly narrow corridor of uncontrolled airspace so we were likely to see a higher density of traffic. We both resolved to focus more on lookout for the remainder of the flight as a result of this.

The remainder of the flight to Tatenhill was fairly routine, and David spotted it in the distance as we approached. We made contact with them over the radio and determined the runway in use, and helpfully we were approaching in almost the ideal direction to carry out a standard overhead join. We followed another aircraft around the circuit, causing me to fly a wider circuit than I normally would (the track log actually shows us outside of Tatenhill’s ATZ as a result). I queried the condition of the grass taxyways on the Downwind leg (the AFE flight guide mentions that they can sometimes be unusable in Winter) and was told that other aircraft had been using them that day.

The aircraft ahead cleared the runway in good time, enabling me to continue my approach. On Short Final the wind conditions changed drastically, causing a significant loss of airspeed that initially caught me unawares. As a result the last part of the approach was a little unstable, and I considered going around. Tatenhill has a long runway though, and I persevered and brought us in for a slightly untidy landing with a small amount of crab still present as we touched down.

Final approach into Tatenhill

Final approach into Tatenhill

I steered us on to the grass to the North of the runway, and remarked to David how it felt like we were travelling on 3 flat tyres! After David’s quip about my slightly crabbed landing possibly causing this, we both spotted a neatly mowed strip of grass to our left. Once on this the ride was a lot smoother, and we made easier progress to the parking area and parked up. We walked in to settle the landing fee, and headed to the busy cafe for a cuppa. They seemed to be busy both with local visitors and people arriving for trial lessons, and it was good to see an airfield keeping busy.

Suitably refreshed we headed back out to the aircraft again, getting the engine going easily and preparing for the trip home. As we taxyed towards the hold for the active runway it wasn’t clear if there was enough room near the hold to carry out the power checks, so I elected to do them on the grass taxyway. As we neared the hold though it was clear the hard standing area there was much larger than it initially appeared. We took to the runway and took off, initially avoiding the gliding site at Cross Hayes before setting heading for Cosford.

We were travelling beneath a thick layer of cloud, but conditions just a few miles to the North West seemed a lot better. I took the decision to head in this direction for a couple of minutes to see if we could emerge from the cloud, and after a short while the cloud layer above us became much less dense, even allowing the sun to shine through on occasions. We continued parallel to our intended track for the remainder of the leg to Cosford, keeping a good eye out for gliders as we passed by.

Blue skies for a change!

Blue skies for a change!

Heading South, the cloud base initially lifted significantly, enabling me to climb as we passed by the airfield at Halfpenny Green. The cloudy conditions then became fairly frustrating for the remainder of the leg down to Gloucester, as I had to repeatedly descend or alter course to avoid flying through them. I must get my IMC rating renewed soon so that I can legally fly through clouds such as these without having to continually alter course or level!

We contacted Gloucester as we passed Worcester, initially having to wait quite a while due to how busy the frequency was. I initially planned to transit their Overhead, but the Controller suggested I might be better avoiding them due to how busy they were. As we got closer this seemed like the best idea, so we passed by to the West of the airport. I was notified that the police helicopter was operating just to the South of the airfield at relatively low level, and there was a brief moment of confusion as the Controller asked the pilot of the police helicopter whether ‘Birdlip’ was closed. I can only assume the A417 up Birdlip Hill is on her way home!

Once clear of Gloucester, we signed off and contacted Kemble. They were still operating on runway 26, and the FISO notified us that they currently had 4 aircraft operating in the circuit! I had a slight moment of confusion as I mistook Aston Down for Kemble, and David spotted a glider on a winch launch as we approached so I made sure to keep well clear. The radio at Kemble was very busy as we approached the Overhead, and we both tried to spot the other aircraft in the circuit so as to slot in nicely.

Another aircraft was taking off as I descended Deadside, and I initially wondered whether I should follow this aircraft around the circuit. However, David correctly suggested that I continue my Crosswind leg and join the circuit in front of him, as otherwise we’d be extending the circuit unnecessarily. I continued around the circuit, making regular position calls and keeping an eye on the aircraft ahead of us. I was initially unsure as to whether taking the grass runway would be a better choice, but we resolved to make this decision as we turned Final.

There was another aircraft ahead of us for a touch and go, but there seemed plenty of room for us to follow him and land on the hard runway. However, he seemed to take a long time completing the ‘Go’ part of the touch and go due to him being a fair way from the centre line when he touched down and having to reposition. This made me think I may need to carry out another Go Around, but I slowed us down as much as I dared on Final, and he soon got himself repositioned and airborne again.

The buildings near the threshold of 26 again caused some turbulence, but I got things back under control easily and brought us in for a near-perfect landing, with a very smooth touchdown just as the stall warner started to sound. We taxyed back to Freedom’s hangar, initially wondering if we’d have to stop due to another aircraft approaching from that direction before turning in to the fuel pump and making the way clear for us. Once parked up and shut down, we were helped by Sarah and Glen in getting the aircraft back into the tight confines of the hangar.

All that was left was to complete the paperwork and pay for the flight. After over 4 hours of flight time today, I certainly felt I deserved a beer on the way home!

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Leg 1 profile

Leg 1 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 3 profile

Leg 3 profile

Despite the long break between flights necessitating a currency check, I felt that I’d flown pretty well today. With the exception of the first PFL attempt on the currency check, I’d completed all the required manoeuvres without any problems, and the flight up to Leicester and Tatenhill had gone well also. It’s always nice to have David alongside (despite his regular ‘input’ on what I’m doing wrong!), and I’m sure there will be many such flights in the future. A really enjoyable day all told, an experience I’ll definitely aiming to repeat without such a huge gap between flights!

Total flight time today: 3:10
Total flight time to date: 254:45

A new destination in North Wales

May 17, 2014

After a poor start to the year, having finally got going I was determined to try to get back to flying on a more regular basis. After negotiating another flying day with Luned, I started looking out for willing passengers.

David expressed an interest in coming along, but due to other commitments couldn’t give a definite answer until Friday evening. I was more than happy to wait for David to decide rather than look for a firmer acceptance from someone else, as it’s always good to have an experienced pilot along as a passenger helping to manage the cockpit should things become busy.

David had found details of Llanbedr’s recent availability to GA, an airfield that we’d passed over on the way back from our last trip to Caernarfon together. Initially it looked unlikely that this airfield would become truly active again due to local objections, but things had obviously changed and the airfield was on the verge of becoming fully active.

I filled out the PPR form on their website mid-week, and received a very swift email response indicating that someone would call me. Soon after I was contacted by Ed, who gave me some more information on procedures at the field (they have a frequency but no radio operator, so ‘Traffic’ calls for example), and asked me to call back on the morning of the flight for a last-minute brief.

There are currently no catering facilities at Llanbedr, so we still had to find somewhere for lunch. Initially I considered Hawarden, after reading a favourable review in one of the flying magazines. However, when I checked on Friday evening during my initial planning I realised that they had a 24 hour PPR requirement. As such, I’d left it too late. I did consider Sleap, but a quick check of the NOTAMs showed that they had an aerobatic competition on at the weekend, so that probably wasn’t a good idea.

As a result, I opted for a return to Caernarfon, after a first trip with David and a return there with the family, this would be my third visit there. Regrettably there had been a fatal accident there this week, but a quick check showed that the airfield was back up and running despite a closure on the Friday.

As usual, most of the planning was completed on Friday evening, leaving just a last minute check of weather and call to the two airfields to confirm that all was well. Armed with all the necessary PLOGs and with the chart marked up, I headed out to Kemble, remembering to pack my shiny new headset (a Lightspeed Zulu 2) for its first use.

While filling out the pre-flight paperwork in the Club, David arrived and we chatted briefly before heading out to the aircraft. We stopped at our cars to collect all our gear (me making a bit of a slip which would become obvious later!) and we started to prepare the aircraft, removing the cover and carrying out a transit check (including taking fuel samples). I hadn’t realised that the aircraft was due to fly before us that morning, if I had I would have asked the previous pilot to put more fuel in, and also asked him not to bother putting the cover back on! Once all our gear was in and we were comfortable, I made ready to get the engine started.

Pre-flight checks

Pre-flight checks

For some reason (possibly because it had already been started that morning) the engine was a little reluctant to start, but I managed to get it running on the 2nd or 3rd attempt. David and I had discussed his role in the flight, and I’d asked him (due to my recent lack of flying) to point out any mistakes I made. It didn’t take him long to jump in, reminding me to test my brakes as we taxyed out of the parking space. In my defense, I always turn 90 degrees so that we’re pointing along the taxyway proper before testing the brakes, so as not to do this while point at the aircraft that is parked opposite.

David continued as we taxyed, calling out the taxy checks (compass and DI increasing, horizon level, wings right, ball left, NDB tracking) as I completed them silently (not sure if he believed that I was actually checking these things when I mentioned it!). We lined up for power checks behind another aircraft, with a 3rd aircraft appearing behind us in the queue. I completed my checks, moving up to the hold for the pre-departure checks as the aircraft in front took to the runway.

Just as I completed the checks and was about to call ready, the aircraft behind us jumped in on the radio announcing that he was ready, and was given the ‘report lined up’ instruction. I immediately transmitted that we were ‘holding Alpha 1, ready departure’ to remind the FISO that we were there, causing him to prompt the other aircraft that we were in front of him (but given that he was only a few feet behind us I’m sure he could see that we were there!).

We took to the runway and began our take off roll, all systems performing normally as we took to the air on a glorious day for flying. After a check above and all around I continued the climb on the Downwind leg, before turning towards Gloucester, mindful of Aston Down and the likelihood of gliders operating on this sunny day. Once clear of Kemble’s ATZ, I announced a frequency change and called Gloucester for the trip through their overhead.

Approaching Gloucester, overhead Cheltenham and GCHQ

Approaching Gloucester, overhead Cheltenham and GCHQ

Gloucester were helpful as ever, asking us to report at 3 miles and again once we were overhead. Now at 4500 feet, we set course for Shobdon, aided by the CDI on the 430 and a quick glance at the Nexus 7 in my lap running SkyDemon. Gloucester asked us to report at Ledbury, so I added this as a waypoint in SkyDemon and set about trying to sort out my height-keeping which (as normal) was pretty poor!

The conditions weren’t helping, as it seemed that no sooner had I got the trim set we entered an area of more or less lift meaning I had to repeat the process all over again. The Arrow’s natural tendency to turn to the right was also making things a little difficult, but I eventually managed to get things sorted out such that we could fly ‘hands off’ without too much divergence from our route and altitude.

As we passed Ledbury I signed off with Gloucester, and began listening in to Shobdon. David had retuned the ADF to Shobdon’s NDB frequency, but as this was in the second band on the ADF it didn’t appear to work correctly (despite picking up a pretty strong ident – I’d had a similar issue when trying to tune it to the Bristol NDB on previous flights). We were in an area with a number of easy landmarks to aid with navigation though, and the three GPSs in the cockpit (430 and two copies of SkyDemon) meant that we were unlikely to get lost!

Due to our height, I decided not to bother contacting Shobdon, instead keeping a keen eye out for gliders in the area. We passed through without incident, setting course for Welshpool and again tuning in the navaids there (this time an NDB and DME). The DME was (as usual) being a bit temperamental and not providing a useful reading.

Chatting with David on the leg from Shobdon to Welshpool, I mentioned that I had never spoken to the D&D folks on 121.5. David suggested that now was as good a time as any, so we switched frequencies and listened out for a while to ensure there was nothing going on. Once things had been quiet for a while, I made ‘practice pan’ call, and received excellent service from the Controller manning the frequency.

After ascertaining what kind of ‘PAN’ we wanted to practice, I asked for a position fix, and she told me ‘based on two bearings, overhead the Bishop’s Castle monument’. This wasn’t on the chart, but we were right over Bishop’s Castle, so this was probably spot on! Useful to know in the future that they are available should I ever manage to get myself hopelessly lost. Perhaps I’ll attempt to simulate a more pressing emergency in the future to get a feel for the response I can expect to receive should I ever need it for real.

As we approached Welshpool I contacted them briefly to double check our pressure setting, before changing course towards Barmouth for the last part of the journey to Llanbedr. I realised later that I neglected to ‘sign off’ with Welshpool, but wondered whether this was strictly necessary as we had never requested any ongoing service from them. Even so, it would have been better if I had remembered to do it.

We were now a few miles from the last turning point at Barmouth, and could see a large mountain ahead of us. The spot height on the chart at that point is 2930 feet, and we were cruising at 4500 or so, but it still looked like we would be worryingly close to the peak as we approached (an illusion probably not helped by the lack of a true horizon due to the inversion).

As we approached, the only cloud in the sky had positioned itself between us and the mountain. Deciding that discretion was the better part of valour, I deliberately aimed right of track before entering the cloud (I could see it was very small so wasn’t concerned about getting stuck in IMC) to ensure that we were no longer pointing directly towards the peak. We passed through the cloud in a matter of a few seconds, and this new track helpfully put us over Dolgellau and with an ideal route through a valley to descend down towards the sea.

Once clear of the mountain, I began a gradual descent down to a more appropriate height to join overhead at Llanbedr. After a brief discussion with David as to whether I should call ‘Llanbedr Radio’ (not expecting a reply), or just jump straight in with ‘Traffic’ calls. We opted for the latter, and announced our position overhead Barmouth while heading up the coast and soon spotting the airfield very clearly ahead of us.

Turning at Barmouth

Turning at Barmouth

On all of the approaches today, we were approaching from the ‘wrong’ direction for an Overhead Join, requiring almost a full circuit of the airfield before we could begin descending on the Deadside. This gave us a good opportunity to get an idea of the layout, and ensure there were no other aircraft operating in the vicinity. We spotted the promised Silver Audi driving along the runway we were heading for, and David kept an eye on it so that we would know where to look for it after landing.

Overhead Llanbedr

Overhead Llanbedr

The join and descent all went normal, and I did my best to stay within the airfield boundary on the circuit. As a result of this, I was tighter in than I would normally be (certainly closer than at Kemble which has a relatively wide circuit for noise abatement reasons) and ended up significantly higher than I should have been on Final. The Arrow does tend to drop like a stone though (particularly with the gear down) so it was easy to lose the required height to get back on a more appropriate profile.

We were on Llanbedr’s ‘mid-length’ runway (a mere 1412 metres!) so even a bit of excess height wouldn’t have caused too much of a problem. However, I brought us in for a slightly long landing, with the stall warner sounding just as we touched down a little heavier than I would have liked. I headed towards the last position of the Audi, and we soon saw it heading towards us, before it turned round after flashing its headlights (we assumed indicating that we should follow it). We followed him to an open area, where we were directed to park.

We introduced ourselves briefly to Ed, before he had to disappear off to meet another pilot who had parked on another area of the airfield. I started to look for my mobile phone to let Luned know we had arrived safely, but was unable to find it. This led to a bit of a panic (I got it less than a week ago!), but I hoped that I had at least left it somewhere ‘safe’ like in my car or in the Club’s office. We chatted while waiting for Ed to return, before he gave us all (David, myself and Huw who had flown in from Old Park) a lift to one of the airfield buildings to collect our landing fee. He then had to disappear off again to meet two other aircraft, which we watched arriving.

Another aircraft arriving at Llanbedr

Another aircraft arriving at Llanbedr

In the meantime another vehicle came landside, and we walked over to the building they headed towards. We soon learned that these were representatives from the Police and Border Force that were also visiting the airfield, so we were all on our best behaviour! In reality they were all pleasant enough, and we chatted for a while before my stomach started to insist on having some lunch soon.

We began to walk back to the gate leading to airside, hoping to meet Ed on the way. Fortunately he was at the other building collecting landing fees from the recently arrived pilots, and told us that the gate was unlocked. We bade farewell, and walked back to the aircraft to get ready for the short hop up to Caernarfon for some lunch.

Saturday's visitors to Llanbedr

Saturday’s visitors to Llanbedr

After a brief walk around, we got settled and again I had a little difficulty in getting the engine to start. We had a brief debate as to whether the taxyway ahead of us leading left offered another way to the runway in use, but we decided to reverse our previous route (fortunately, because the taxyway only led to another apron). Once the power checks were complete, a quick scan of the sky showed nobody else in the vicinity, and we backtracked to the start of the runway.

The departure was all normal, and we climbed out over the beach before heading North towards Caernarfon.

Climbing out over the beach

Climbing out over the beach

My initial plan had been to follow the coast around, but my stomach’s complaints led me to take a more direct route so that we could get some lunch sooner! We threaded our way between a couple of mountains, heading directly for a 2000 foot high tower (while cruising at 3000 feet or so) that was initially quite difficult to spot.

2000 foot mast playing 'hide and seek'

2000 foot mast playing ‘hide and seek’

We eventually spotted it, and I began to turn slightly left to give it a bit of lateral clearance when David spotted some traffic approaching us on a reciprocal heading slightly to our left and above us. I reversed my course change at the same time as we heard the other pilot report passing us to Caernarfon’s radio operator. I’m not sure why, but he then felt the need to provide further information as to our type and level (we were a little close but never in danger of collision) to the radio operator.

We signed on with Caernarfon, and began planning the approach to the field (again from the wrong direction for an ‘easy’ Overhead Join). As we approached we heard the air ambulance on frequency and I began trying to recall what the procedures were if the air ambulance called to depart while we were approaching. Fortunately for us it transpired that he was also approaching to land, and was still some distance away.

The circuit was clear as we joined overhead, and again we descended and approached the runway a little higher than I normally would. Losing the height was easy, and I brought us in for a smoother landing this time (despite a strong crosswind), although it was a little flatter than I would have preferred. Might be worth having a session of circuits sometime to see if I can get back to more ‘correct’ profile on the Base and Final legs. However, in the past I’ve always had a tendency to ‘drag it in’, so it would appear that efforts to stop that have perhaps gone a bit too far in the other direction!

Joining Overhead at Caernarfon

Joining Overhead at Caernarfon

We taxyed to the fuel pump to fill the aircraft, before again having a minor issue getting the engine started for the short taxy to a parking space. We walked in and settled up the fuel bill and landing fee, before heading into the cafe for a well-earned and somewhat late lunch!

It had been a while since I’d last met up with David, so we caught up on each others news over a very pleasant lunch. There was no time pressure to get home, so we both took our time and enjoyed the company and surroundings. Eventually we had to decide that it was time to book out at the desk and start the relatively long walk back to the aircraft.

On the way we saw the fire crew suiting up, and when they arrived at the fuel pumps opposite our parking space I guessed that there may be a helicopter coming in for a ‘rotors running’ refuel. As we got the engine started and prepared to taxy, we heard a rescue helicopter inbound, 5 or 10 minutes away. I tried to take my time so that we could see him arrive, heading out along the taxyway to carry out the power checks after entering an approximation of our return route into the 430 (Caernarfon to Welshpool, Shobdon, Gloucester and Kemble) despite planning to route around the coast to the North on the way back.

As I positioned the aircraft into the wind, I was a little concerned that I might have put us a little too close to the taxyway edge. Once the checks were complete, my fears proved unfounded as I easily turned the aircraft back around and headed to the hold, just as the inbound rescue helicopter reported ‘Short Final’.

Another aircraft began to taxy around this time, and the Air Ground operator suggested he taxy to the ‘wrong’ end of the runway and expect to backtrack before departing. David suggested I make it clear that we were ready to go, to prevent the other aircraft taking to the runway in front of us once the helicopter had landed. I did this, and we watched the helicopter arrive  over the trees and hover-taxy over to the fuel pumps.

Search and Rescue helicopter arriving for fuel

Search and Rescue helicopter arriving for fuel

After a short debate about how long to leave to allow the helicopter’s wake to dissipate (the strong crosswind leading us to expect it to be blown away relatively quickly) we took to the runway and began our takeoff roll for the trip back to Kemble. Climbout at Caernarfon is directly over the beach, and after raising the gear we turned Northwards to head up the Menai Straits at 1000 feet.

 

Departing Caernarfon

Departing Caernarfon

I used my (limited) local knowledge to point out various places to David as we passed, and attempted to help him get some photos of Luned’s Mother’s house (I spotted it as we passed, but it was difficult to point out to David exactly which house it was). Once clear of the Straits, I climbed up to a more comfortable height (Valley request that people transit down the Straits below 1500 feet, but over the weekend this probably isn’t necessary) and we continued around the coast.

We turned inland at Colwyn Bay, heading for the next turning point at Corwen. After turning away from the coast, the surroundings became a lot more remote, and David remarked on how pretty the countryside was around here. Continuing on this leg, we soon approached Corwen, and I used my new-found knowledge of the 430 (courtesy of a YouTube video sent to me by Kev, the aircraft’s owner) to adjust the OBS meaning that the 430 now guided us on the correct inbound course to Welshpool (rather than trying to guide us to the ‘direct’ track from Caernarfon to Welshpool).

Turning inland at Colwyn Bay

Turning inland at Colwyn Bay

Again we spoke briefly to Welshpool to get their pressure setting, remembering to sign off with them as we cleared to the South this time. The next leg was direct to Shobdon, and as we approached it was clear that they were now fairly busy. I decided this time to speak to them as we approached, receiving a warning about gliders operating to the North (the direction we were approaching from) and being given a Basic Service (despite not actually requesting one!).

Due to the increased traffic, I turned left slightly to keep clear of Shobdon, intercepting the required track to Gloucester with a bit of help from the 430 and the NDB. We were now into pretty familiar territory, and the various landmarks became much easier to follow and build up a picture of our location. I signed off with Shobdon and started to listen in to Gloucester, before calling them again as we passed Ledbury.

We were again asked to report 3nm from the field and in the Overhead, before being asked to report leaving the frequency and any changes in level (presumably so that the Controller could ensure we didn’t conflict with any other inbound traffic). As we cleared the lateral dimensions of their ATZ to the South, I attempted to leave the frequency, but the initial call was blocked by another transmission. The Controller was on the ball though, and asked if one of the two blocked transmissions was us attempting to change frequency. We announced the change, and the fact that I was starting a descent to an appropriate height to join Overhead at Kemble.

Listening in to Kemble it was clear they were also relatively busy (unsurprising given the excellent conditions), and I announced our approach from the North and intention to join Overhead. As we approached, we spotted a glider orbiting near the field, right in our ideal path to join. It was initially difficult to determine exactly which direction he was heading (he was spiralling, presumably attempting to gain height), and I was torn between turning right or left (right to me appeared to be the best direction to avoid him, with the downside that this would also put us closer to Aston Down).

My transmission was possibly a little unclear, I was trying to say we were approaching the Overhead, and were having to turn to avoid the glider. However, the FISO received this as meaning we were in the overhead, and passed this message on to another aircraft that was joining. I clarified this, and the glider eventually came out of the spiral, heading off to our right, so we headed left to keep clear of him. Once he was no longer a factor, I again set course for Kemble, and we set about spotting the other joining aircraft.

He had started his deadside descent off to our left as we approached the Overhead, and I had David keep an eye on him as he passed underneath us, appearing on the right hand side of the aircraft. The other aircraft followed a somewhat strange route, crossing Kemble at the mid-point of the runway, before continuing South and becoming established on quite a wide Downwind leg. Meanwhile, I was positioning us so that we could also descend on the Deadside, with David ensuring that we had plenty of gap between us and the aircraft ahead of us.

Turning Final at Kemble

Turning Final at Kemble

We joined the circuit ourselves, this time being asked to report Crosswind, Downwind and then Final. Yet again I was quite high on Final, but easily lost the excess height, and announced to David that I would try to land on the numbers as we would be backtracking to parking (negotiated with the FISO on Base leg). Sadly I didn’t quite manage this, floating past the numbers somewhat before touching down nicely and backtracking the runway.

We vacated at A2, and spotted an aircraft leaving the Golf taxyway ahead of us, heading to the Alpha holds to depart. In the past, when this has happened the FISO has had the other aircraft stop to allow us to pass to our parking area at Hotel. This time however, the other aircraft left the taxyway and turned to his left (perhaps assuming we were going to taxy on Golf?) so we also turned left and followed a somewhat strange route to our parking area.

As we arrived, John (an Examiner who had carried out some of my early PPL training back at Brize) was putting one of the other aircraft to bed. I positioned us to be pushed back into our parking space, and went over to say hello and chat for a little while. David and I pushed the aircraft back into its parking space, before beginning the process of getting all our gear out and covering the aircraft.

A quick trip to the car showed that I’d put my phone down in the boot while retrieving my flying gear, and I then headed in to the Club to settle the paperwork, before David and I headed off to a local pub for a quick beer to discuss the day.

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Flight profile (Kemble to Llanbedr)

Flight profile (Kemble to Llanbedr)

Flight profile (Llanbedr to Caernarfon)

Flight profile (Llanbedr to Caernarfon)

Flight profile (Caernarfon to Kemble)

Flight profile (Caernarfon to Kemble)

Yet again, I’d packed an awful lot of flying into a single day’s trip with David. We’d been to a new airfield for both of us, travelling over some incredibly picturesque countryside during the flight. The weather conditions really couldn’t have been much better, and I drove home with a real sense of enjoyment looking back on the day. Hopefully Llanbedr can continue it’s course to becoming fully operational, bringing a ‘new’ GA destination available at a time when all too many airfields appear to be under threat of closure.

Total flight time today: 3:10
Total flight time to date: 239:55

Cranfield with my eyes closed (sort of!)

August 31, 2013

Not having flown with David for a while, nor used my IMC rating we planned a flight to share some flying and get some practice under the hood at the same time. David was gracious enough to allow Luned and Catrin to accompany us, so we set about planning a flight in one of the Club’s Warriors to Cranfield, enabling some en-route IMC practice and an Approach for both of us.

The aircraft owners made a late change of aircraft due to the one we were now scheduled to fly having had some engine work done, meaning it wasn’t usable for any training. This was to have a significant bearing on the flight!

I called Cranfield the day before to enquire as to the possibility of carrying out an ILS (to their runway 21) if they were operating on 03. Sadly they couldn’t guarantee that this would be possible (understandable enough) so I ensured I was prepared for either the ILS or an NDB approach onto 03 depending on their traffic situation when we arrived.

As usual, the majority of the pre-flight planning was carried out the night before (with Brize’s TAFs initially giving a bit of a concern), and the morning of the flight dawned to blue, near cloudless skies and TAFs that promised this would continue for the majority of the day.

After completing the planning and calling Cranfield, we were booked in for some Approach time, and we headed off to Kemble. David had already arrived and checked out the aircraft, and due to Cranfield offering us a slightly later Approach slot that we’d initially planned, we hung around in the office for a while chatting and catching up.

We headed out to the aircraft in good time, and got the ladies settled in the back before David and I mounted up. It had been quite a while since I last flew a Warrior, so the cockpit seemed a little unfamiliar at first. I soon reacquainted myself with all the minor differences, and set about starting the engine.

Getting settled for the first time!

Getting settled for the first time!

The engine started easily, but while going through the ‘after start’ checklist I spotted a glitch in that the alternator gauge wasn’t showing a charge, and the low volts light was on. I tried flicking the pitot heat on and off (usually a good test to show that the alternator gauge is reading correctly) and increasing the RPM, but neither action had any useful effect. Turning the alternator switch off and on also had no effect.

After a bit of fiddling, I eventually flicked over to the ’emergencies’ section of the checklist to see if there was anything I had missed. Following the checklist through still didn’t improve matters, so after a bit of discussion with David (I was considering taxying for power checks to see if running the engine at higher RPM might coax something into life) we shut down and called the aircraft owners.

Sadly there was little else to do than switch aircraft. The Arrow was available, so we all disembarked, and I walked back into the Club with Luned and Catrin to retrieve the keys and update the paperwork. I also made a quick call to Cranfield to let them know what was happening, and explain that we may not be able to carry out the Approaches (the DME and ADF in the Arrow aren’t reliable enough to be able to count on them should the need arise).

In the meantime David got the Arrow ready, completing his second ‘A’ check of the day! As I left the Club I noticed he had finished, so told Luned to follow me after 5 minutes or so, and I headed out to transfer all our gear into the other aircraft.

We got ourselves settled in again (Catrin not as comfortable as she was due to the limited legroom in the rear of the Arrow – another reason why we had wanted to fly the Warrior) and then realised that I didn’t have my Arrow checklist with me (I had removed it from my kneeboard as we weren’t anticipating flying it today). To compound this, the copy that is supposed to be left in the aircraft wasn’t there, so David jumped out and went back to the Club to retrieve a copy I’d noticed with the tech log. Hopefully this was to be our last glitch of the day!

Finally settled and ready to go, the Arrow started up nicely and we received our taxy clearance. I did my best to try to throw off all the prior issues and concentrate on the flight, and we taxyed to the D site apron for power checks as usual. These were all normal, and the frequency was fairly quiet as we announced ready and were cleared to taxy to the hold.

With no delay we were soon taking to the runway, and I backtracked slightly to give us as much runway as possible (never a bad idea, but today we were 4 up). Before I could announce that I was ready, the FISO gave me the ‘Take off at your discretion’ call and I smoothly applied full power, checking the engine gauges as we began to accelerate down the runway. A normal takeoff followed, and I raised the gear and got us settled into the climb before turning Crosswind, doing my best to avoid the local villages.

On the Downwind leg, David spotted that I had selected the wrong frequency for Brize (my planned first call after leaving Kemble) but this was quickly rectified, and I used SkyDemon to intercept the planned South Easterly track to keep us well clear of South Cerney.

Power checks - incorrect frequency for Brize Radar in Box 1 standby field

Power checks – incorrect frequency for Brize Radar in Box 1 standby field

Once clear of Kemble, I had David take control briefly while I put the hood on, and tuned in Brize’s NDB for the next leg. I had toyed with the idea of requesting a Zone Transit, but given the CAVOK conditions there was no reason not to continue to climb to 4000 feet to fly over the top of their Zone.

Once established on the track direct to Brize, I gave them a call to request a Basic Service, being given an appropriate squawk. Around this time I picked up on my usual mistake and realised that I hadn’t switched the fuel pump off!

My performance under the hood was generally good, but David had to warn me at one point when I looked down at the plog and ended up turning right. One thing I’ve found with the Arrow is that it always has a tendency to bank left, and I suspect I was over-correcting for this when not focussing on the instruments. My height and track both meandered a little (probably slightly outside of IMC test standards) but given that I was out of practice, in general the instrument part of the flight went pretty well.

Under the hood

Under the hood

While trying to point out Brize to Catrin, I managed to confuse it with Fairford (for some reason I thought Fairford’s runway was oriented more North – South) and embarrassingly Luned had to correct me (‘This inspires confidence for the rest of the flight!’).

Contented passengers

Contented passengers

I passed slightly to the South of Brize (pointing it out correctly to Catrin this time!) and set course for the Westcott NDB. This was to be the planned starting point for the Approach (there is a direct join to the NDB Approach to 03 from there, or I would have routed direct to the CIT NDB to commence the ILS to 21), but the DME in the Arrow wasn’t working reliably, so trying an Approach didn’t seem like a good idea.

As we passed over Westcott I signed off with Brize and contacted Cranfield Approach. They asked if we planned to continue with the IFR arrival we had booked, but we declined, and I was given a visual join via the Woburn Town VRP.

After a bit of hunting on the chart we found this (showing poor preparation on my part, I should have been aware of the locations of the VRPs for the airfield we were landing at) and I added this to the route planned in SkyDemon after removing the hood. We descended initially to about 2000 feet, and got a good view of Woburn and the Abbey as we passed.

Sadly, I failed to spot the airfield in good time, David having to point it out to me. As a result, my descent and speed management weren’t great, requiring a descent with the gear horn blaring initially before I dropped the gear to assist with the descent rate. Another aircraft was joining ahead of us for a Touch and Go, and we spotted him on Base as we approached.

He was well established on Final as we reported Base, and a third aircraft was on the Downwind leg at the same time. I flew a nice last part of the approach (the aircraft ahead now having taken off again), before bringing us in for a slightly untidy landing (bringing forth comments from Catrin about the ‘big bump’!).

Approaching touchdown at Cranfield

Approaching touchdown at Cranfield

We were directed to park in the same place as on our last visit, and once shut down we headed up to their Operations Office to settle the landing fee (Catrin sitting in their ‘observation room’ watching other aircraft as we settled the bill), before heading in to the Cafe for lunch.

There had been some fairly scathing reviews of this recently, but to be honest we found it was perfectly fine. The staff were friendly enough, and there was no cause to complain about the food when it arrived. Yes, the decor and furnishings were perhaps a bit tired, but the food was well priced and certainly filled a hole!

I had considered a beer with my lunch (I’m not even sure if the Cafe is licensed to be honest!) but decided against it as I was to be operating as Safety Pilot for David on our return to Kemble. We took our time over lunch, and I gave the pilot who had booked the Arrow that afternoon a call to see how much fuel he would like in the tanks after our flight.

It was soon time for us to make ready to depart, and we walked along the grass at the side of the taxyway back to the aircraft, Catrin waving happily at the couple of aircraft that passed us by. We all boarded and got settled, and David set about getting us going for the return to Kemble.

Walking back to the aircraft after lunch

Walking back to the aircraft after lunch

David’s planned return route mirrored mine, and we briefly discussed how to handle the departure from runway 03. We agreed that completing the Downwind leg before climbing away on the run down to Woburn was the best plan.

As we turned Crosswind and Downwind, another aircraft was approaching from Woburn for a Right Base join as we had. After a bit of hunting we spotted him and ensured there was no conflict, before climbing away and heading for Woburn ourselves.

Passing Woburn Abbey

Passing Woburn Abbey

Once there, David tuned the NDB and donned the hood for the majority of the rest of the flight. The first leg to Westcott went well, but on the leg to Brize the NDB needle seemed to not to be working reliably. As I had a good view of Brize from a long way away I gave David some headings to steer, and as we got closer the NDB seemed to settle down again.

There was a lot of traffic on this leg, and Luned did a good job of poking me in the back whenever she spotted anything (for a fair portion of the flight we had the intercom switched to ‘crew’ mode to isolate her and Catrin from the chatter in the front)! We spotted a number of powered aircraft, and several gliders operating in the area around Bicester.

As we approached Brize, they asked us to stay above 4000 feet due to the imminent departure of a C-130. Once overhead Brize, I again gave David a heading to steer for the leg towards Fairford, and we kept a lookout for the departing Hercules. Luned spotted it in the distance over her right shoulder, and it crossed behind us before overtaking us to the left.

Hercules escort

Hercules escort

The Hercules eventually shadowed us most of the way to Kemble before operating in the area for a while, leading us to suspect it might well be piloted by Seb, the Club’s OIC! Further investigation revealed that it was Brize’s ‘Families Day’, so that might explain the rather unusual route they took.

Catrin's turn under the hood!

Catrin’s turn under the hood!

Once we were clear of Brize’s Zone David removed the hood in readiness for the descent and arrival at Kemble. As we approached Kemble from the South East, another aircraft reported descending Deadside ahead, while a third was approaching from a similar direction to us. We spotted the aircraft descending as David joined Overhead, and a wide descent gave us plenty of clearance from him as we turned Crosswind. The aircraft ahead seemed to be flying a very wide circuit (I suspect he must have been close to flying over Oaksey Park!) so David dropped a stage of flap to slow down and fly a more correct circuit without catching him up.

As we turned Base and Final the aircraft ahead touched down and then took off again after his Touch and Go, and David’s ‘Final’ call prompted a ‘Check Gear’ request from the FISO (something I’m also a little inconsistent with – the ‘Final’ call in a retractable aircraft is supposed to include ‘Gear Down’).

As usual, as we got down low near Kemble’s runway 26 the hangars etc. caused a bit of turbulence, and David later said that he should probably have deliberately landed long to avoid this (plus we were taxying to the far end of the runway for fuel). However, the eventual touchdown was acceptable enough given the conditions, and we continued along the runway to the far end.

Catrin amused herself while we refuelled the aircraft, and sat on my knee in the front as we taxyed back to the Club’s parking area.

Catrin getting a good view from the front seat!

Catrin getting a good view from the front seat!

The next pilot was ready and waiting as we arrived, and waited patiently as we unloaded all our gear before heading back to the Club. Once all the paperwork was completed, a quick call to AV8 confirmed that they had both beer and ice cream, so we all decamped there!

Track flown

Track flown

Flight profile

Flight profile

It was a shame this flight didn’t go totally as planned, but one positive about it is that by correctly following the checklist, I identified the alternator issue on the ground rather than taking to the air with it and risking an electrical failure mid-flight. Although we hadn’t been able to complete the planned approaches, we both got a good period of IMC practice time, and if nothing else it highlighted that despite being out of practice, I could still safely carry out a flight in IMC should the need arise.

Total flight time today: 0:50
Total flight time to date: 225:55