Archive for the ‘IMC Practice’ Category

Class Rating Revalidation

May 8, 2018

Having completed the required number of hours to revalidate my Class Rating by ‘experience’ in my last flight, I now needed to tick off the final box, which was to have flown for an hour with an Instructor. My recent currency check with Kev sadly didn’t fully meet the requirement being only a 45 minute flight, so I needed to either fly another 15 minutes with Kev, or a full hour with another Instructor.

With the announcement of the date for the Lyneham Flying Club AGM, I thought I could kill two birds with one stone by carrying out the Instructor flight during the day, then attending the AGM in the evening. After a bit of discussion with Kev, he agreed to carry out the flight that day, and with work onside too, the weather also played ball allowing the flight to go ahead.

My ideal plan was to fly a decent length trip, perhaps flying an Instrument Approach or two with Kev alongside to try to get some practice in readiness for renewing my IMC rating. Sadly Kev was unable to commit to a full day’s flying due to childcare constraints, so we settled for a trip to Wellesbourne, returning via Gloucester for fuel and to fly my first RNAV approach there.

I’d anticipated being a little late to Kemble due to having to get Catrin ready and off to school, but the planning was relatively straightforward, and I set off for Kemble after informing Kev I was slightly ahead of schedule. On the journey to the airfield it was obvious that conditions were still a little misty, but given the temperature and presence of a light wind I was confident that the mist would clear and allow us to carry out the flight.

Kev was already at the aircraft, checking out the landing gear after having heard some unusual noises on his last flight. All was well, and we headed into the Club to brief the days flying and wait for the poor visibility to improve. This took some time, and it was after 11am before we walked out to the aircraft to get ready for the flight. As usual, pre-flight checks were normal (with the exception of a missing fuel tester, so I borrowed one from one of the other aircraft!).

Another Club aircraft was parked near the pumps getting ready to go, and as we completed the checks he started up and taxyed out. My call for start seemed to catch the FISO unawares, and I had to repeat most of my message. The engine took a couple of goes to start (requiring a bit of extra priming with the fuel pump) and once cleared we began the taxy to A1 via Alpha in order to depart on 26. As we taxyed to the hold the other aircraft passed some weather information via the FISO, confirming that conditions were now much improved in the air.

We talked briefly about the NOTAM regarding parachuting at Little Rissington, including some discussion regarding the large ‘cone’ of airspace that was notified.  This didn’t come into effect until around lunchtime, but I was happy that our route would be OK given that we were planning to talk to Brize on the way. Power checks complete, on reporting ‘Ready’ we were immediately cleared to depart. Take off was normal, and after a dab of the brakes I raised the gear, vocalising the ‘after take off’ checklist as we climbed out (essentially, gear up, flaps up). We turned Crosswind and then Downwind, and I told Kev I planned to climb out on the Downwind leg. He suggested that we actually set course from overhead the airfield, as there was nobody else around. I informed the FISO of this, and set the correct heading once overhead.

We climbed to 3500 feed as planned, heading for the first turning point at Chedworth. Once clear of the ATZ, I signed off with Kemble and switched frequencies to Brize. My height keeping was a little poor, and as I looked out for Chedworth I allowed our height to creep up to 4000 feet. It took a little while to spot Chedworth, but once we did I set course for the next leg to the disused airfield at Moreton-in-Marsh, and made ready to contact Brize. The frequency became a little busy, meaning I couldn’t contact them for a few minutes. I signed on with them, receiving a Basic Service and setting their QNH (on leaving Kemble I’d set the Cotswold pressure after hearing the FISO pass it to another aircraft).

For some reason, we weren’t issued a squawk until we approached Moreton-in-Marsh, and I spotted this a mile or two off to our left and set course for Wellesbourne. Wellesbourne sits under a shelf of the Birmingham CTA, so I began a descent to 2500 feet to keep below this and be ready for the Overhead Join at Wellesbourne. I notified the Brize Controller of this, and then requested a frequency change to Wellesbourne.

Once on their frequency, we were passed the airfield information, finding out that they were using runway 18 with a right hand circuit. Using the DI and Heading Bug I tried to visualise the join, before telling Kev my plans. Wellesbourne were nice and quiet for a change (well, it was a Tuesday after all!) and we had the sky virtually to ourselves as we approached. I carried out a tight Deadside Descent, keeping inside the village of Wellesbourne to minimise any nuisance. The circuit was flown nicely, and I carried out the Before Landing checklist on the Downwind leg as usual.

As I turned us onto Final, it was clear that there was a fairly significant crosswind from the right, evidenced by the amount of crab I had to maintain to keep aligned with the runway. I completed the ‘Final’ checks (Reds, Blues, Greens, Flaps) and approaching the runway, I applied rudder correction to kick off the crab. As I started to roundout to arrest our descent, a gust of wind abruptly picked up the right wing, forcing us off to the left hand side of the runway. At this height and on a relatively short runway, I made the quick decision to Go Around, announcing to Kev that I wasn’t happy.

I applied full power, raising the nose to climb away and raised the landing gear. I then retracted the flaps in stages, checking at each stage that we were still established in the climb. Mindful of Wellesbourne’s noise abatement circuit, I proceed quite a long way Upwind before turning Crosswind and then Downwind (we later found a diagram indicating that we could in fact have made an early Crosswind turn during the Go Around). Again established on Downwind, I worked through the Before Landing checklist, and on reaching the ‘Gear’ item, noticed that the gear lights weren’t illuminated. I assumed that Kev had somehow failed one of the systems, and asked him if he wanted me to clear the circuit to troubleshoot the issue.

Kev said something along the lines of ‘Nothing to do with me!’ and I then quickly realised that the gear lights weren’t illuminated because I had in fact raised the gear during the Go Around! I moved the gear lever downwards (inexplicably just pushing the lever down for some reason, rather than pulling it out from the panel and then down as you should) and the gear lowered and all lights were illuminated as expected. This time I decided to make the approach with two stages of flaps due to the Crosswind, and again established us on Final with a fairly significant crab angle.

As we approached the runway, I again kicked off the crab, and this time there was no turbulence to throw off the landing. I brought us in for a slightly firm landing, with a small amount of crab just as we touched down. We vacated the runway onto the Crosswind runway, then carried out the After Landing checklist on the taxyway. We parked opposite the Tower on the grass, then headed in to pay the landing fee. Once done, we moved into the cafe for my usual sausage sandwich for lunch, eating outside in the pleasant weather.

Parked up at Wellesbourne

Parked up at Wellesbourne

Once we’d finished our lunch, I headed back out to the aircraft while Kev popped in to one of the local Flying Schools where he’d done some training in the past. Time was getting on sadly, which meant we would be unable to land at Gloucester. However, Kev did agree to talking me through an RNAV approach (my first ever!) and we re-briefed the basics of this in the aircraft before starting the engine.

We headed to the threshold of runway 18, carrying out our power checks opposite the Vulcan that is parked on the airfield. As we took to the runway to depart, another aircraft was turning in the overhead. The takeoff run was routine, and as we climbed out we both briefly lost sight of the other aircraft. Knowing that he was heading to the South East, I made a turn to the South West to keep well clear of him.

We signed off with Wellesbourne, then Kev helped me configure the 430 for the planned approach, loading it into our active flight plan. We were expecting to route via LAPKU (the weighpoint that starts the procedure to the North East of Gloucester), so loaded in this variant. We then listened to the ATIS to confirm the runway in use (at present Gloucester were using runway 22 due to the prevailing wind conditions). Mindful that the approach was to runway 27, I made the initial call to Gloucester, requesting a Basic Service and an RNAV approach to runway 27. We were quickly granted clearance to join the approach at LAPKU, and asked to report there.

We activated the approach in the 450, and it gave me an initial track to get to LAPKU. On this leg I began a slow descent to get us down to 2500 feet, the initial height for the approach. At this point I asked Kev if he was happy for me to go ‘eyes in’, and handle the lookout for me, which he agreed. I then concentrated on getting back into a good instrument scan, monitoring our progress on the leg towards LAPKU.

As we approached LAPKU, the 430 warned us in advance of the track for the next leg (175°) and then informed us when to begin the turn in order to intercept the appropriate track. I informed the Controller that we were at LAPKU, and he instructed us to continue, this time reporting at the next fix on the approach, NIRMO.

We continued towards NIRMO, and again the 430 warned us of the turn to the next track (265°). However, this time it didn’t seem to actually instruct me when to turn, which meant that I slightly overshot the correct track. After turning at NIRMO and informing the Controller, he then asked us to report at the Final Approach Fix (catchily named ‘BJ27F’!) and I concentrated on getting us back onto the correct track while descending to 2000 feet for this leg.

On reaching the FAF, I informed the Controller, and lowered the gear to initiate the descent. The Controller handed us over to the Tower frequency, and I concentrated on maintaining an appropriate rate of descent (approximately 750 feet per minute) and tracking the needle on the CDI. The Tower Controller informed us that we were number 2 to another aircraft landing on runway 22, and passed our Missed Approach instructions (climb straight ahead before a left turn back to Kemble) and we continued the approach. In general, I think I did a relatively decent job maintaining the appropriate track and rate of descent (not least because it’s not far of 18 months since I last flew on instruments!) and we levelled off at the Minimum Descent Altitude (600 feet).

On looking out at this point, the runway was ahead and just off to our left, so we would easily have been able to land from this position. I got slightly distracted and allowed our altitude to reduce to more like 500 feet (which would have been a failure on an IMC rating test), and as we crossed the runway threshold (the Missed Approach Point) I applied full power and began to climb away, raising the gear once we were established in the climb.

I entered a ‘direct to’ into the 430 to take us back to Kemble, and then made a climbing left turn to put us on the appropriate track. Once on the correct heading, I realised that this would take us virtually directly over Aston Down, so we doglegged to the left to avoid it. Kev spotted some gliders on the ground, so we turned on the landing light to make ourselves more visible, and both kept a good lookout for any other gliders that may be operating in the area.

Kemble were still operating on runway 26, and I informed the FISO that we would join Overhead. This led to us effectively having to fly past the airfield, before turning back to overfly the threshold of runway 26 at 2000 feet QFE, before descending on the Deadside as normal. There was a Cirrus operating in the circuit (flown by another Club member apparently!) and we slotted into the circuit with good spacing between us and them.

The circuit was routine, with the other aircraft reporting Downwind as I turned Base. I told Kev I planned to land slightly long to avoid the turbulence that’s often generated near the threshold, and given that we had another aircraft behind us I would expect to roll out on the runway before using the taxyways to get back to our parking area. This time I made a much better job of the landing, bringing us to a nice gentle touchdown.

Surprisingly, the FISO cleared us to backtrack, and it seemed he’d misunderstood the position of the other aircraft as it reported it was turning Base as we headed back down the runway. I did my best to keep the speed up to avoid them having to Go Around, and we vacated onto Alpha in good time for them to continue their approach to land. We taxyed back to the parking area, noticing that another aircraft was making ready to start up as we approached.

I positioned the Arrow so that we could be easily pushed back out of the way, and Kev jumped out to push us back onto a taxyway to allow the other aircraft to pass. We then manhandled the Arrow up to the bowser, and refuelled before pushing it back to its parking spot.

Once we’d recovered all our gear, we headed back to the Club and Kev signed my logbook and Class Rating to revalidate my license for a further two years. He picked me up on a couple of minor things regarding my flying, but in general we were both happy with the way things had gone. He headed back home to collect his kids, giving me some homework to do while waiting for the AGM – completing a hypothetical flight plan to fly to Cherbourg!

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Leg 1 profile

Leg 1 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 2 profile

Approach overlaid on Approach Plate

Approach overlaid on Approach Plate

I was pleased to have completed virtually everything we’d planned during the flight, not least getting my first introduction to flying an RNAV approach using the 430. Kev had shown me a few useful features of the unit during the flying, so I think I need to dig out the manual and have a quick read over it to make sure I’m up to speed. The RNAV approach into Gloucester was relatively straightforward to fly, so I think I need to make my next goal getting my IMC rating renewed with Roger so that I can start putting these things into practice for real!

I was also pleased with my decision to Go Around at Wellesbourne. Although I probably could have rescued the situation, in general its often a better idea just to throw the whole thing away and have another go. Low level Go Arounds are always a useful thing to practice anyway!

Total flight time today: 1:30
Total flight time to date: 325:55


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.



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

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

Resetting and revalidating

April 22, 2014

I hadn’t flown since my flight to Sywell on 11th January, due to a combination of poor weather and badly-timed ill health (a month long cough that took out several bookings on perfect flying days), so as a result of this I was out of currency and also passenger recency (in the 90 days before any passenger carrying flight you have to make at 3 take offs and landings).

Additionally, my SEP Class Rating was due to expire at the end of May. I had completed all the requirements for having this revalidated with the exception of the required one hour flight with an Instructor.

I’d had a couple of goes at trying to arrange a check flight to get everything reset, before finally taking a day off work at the end of a holiday to try and go flying.

Roger had kindly agreed to accompany me to handle the Instruction, and we’d arranged to make it a ‘proper’ flight, heading somewhere for lunch and making a decent day of it. Sadly, the weather didn’t cooperate with this plan, but the forecast did show a break in the weather for a few hours early afternoon, so I arranged to meet up with Roger around lunchtime.

I arrived early and carried out the ‘A’ check on the aircraft before Roger arrived, and the forecast break in the weather appeared right on schedule. I chatted in the Club with Roger about what I wanted to cover on the flight. My IMC rating is also due for renewal this Summer, so if possible I wanted to try to include some IMC practice in this flight. Roger managed to negotiate a PAR into Brize Norton, meaning that we could also see just how rusty my IMC skills were!

After some initial difficulties in getting the engine on the Arrow started, we were soon taxying out to the hold in readiness for departure. My rustiness was clear as I forgot initially to carry out the taxy checks. I used the Alpha apron to weave and carry out the checks, with Roger later suggesting I use the natural layout of the taxyways to achieve the same thing. Useful tip.

At A1 I turned into wind and waited to allow the engine to warm up before carrying out the power checks, carrying out the emergency brief while waiting (with Roger picking me up on a few minor details I’d neglected to mention). There was a little confusion at the hold when I was unable to hear the FISO, which turned out to be because I’d switched the comms over to box 1 without actually setting it to the correct frequency! This was soon rectified, and we lined up after another aircraft had landed.

Once the other aircraft cleared the runway, we began our takeoff roll and took to the air. After climbing out I dabbed the brakes and raised the undercarriage, before heading out to the South West for some initial General Handling practice.

Once clear of the circuit I began to carry out my usual procedure, leaning the mixture to 13, bringing the power and RPM back. Roger informed me that at this stage of flight it wasn’t actually necessary to back the power off before reducing RPM to 2600, as at those settings it’s not possible to ‘over-boost’ the engine.

We climbed away, signing off with Kemble and making contact with Brize. I caused some confusion with my initial contact, asking for ‘Basic Service followed by a PAR’. The Controller (naturally) assumed we wanted to start the procedure immediately, and I had to clarify that we would be carrying out some handling practice for 30 minutes or so before the procedure.

We headed out towards Lyneham, and there was again some confusion on the radio where I thought I heard our callsign. We listened carefully as the Controller made other transmissions, before we were called for a ‘radio check’. I’m not sure if we’d missed further transmissions from her, but she seemed happy with a ‘Reading you strength 5’, and Roger thought that maybe she had her own volume set too low to hear us perhaps!

We started out with some 45 degree turns, generally getting a feel for being in the air again. We then headed into some stalls, which generally went well aside from me forgetting what the individual elements of ‘HASELL’ were (Height, Airframe, Safety / Security, Engine, Location, Lookout).

The next item was to carry out some emergency drills on the undercarriage. Roger had me pretend to be on downwind (at 4000 feet or so!) and lower the gear, before telling me that the right hand undercarriage light hadn’t illuminated. My first statement was that I would initially leave the circuit and climb to a safe altitude before doing anything else. I then became a little confused when trying to read through the appropriate parts of the checklist, but Roger was pretty patient in walking me through the various parts (including having me switch bulbs on the undercarriage indicator, so that I’d know what’s involved should I ever need to). It’s clear I need to have a thorough read through that element of the checklist on the ground in readiness for flying again.

Roger then had me go ‘under the hood’, carrying out some basic changes in height and heading. Roger offered up the useful tip of calling out ‘500 to go’, ‘200’ and ‘100’ when changing levels in order to not overshoot. Once the initial drills were complete we contacted Brize in readiness for the Approach. We rather cheekily asked for an additional SRA after the PAR, which the Controller granted after checking with a Supervisor. Roger upgraded us to a Traffic Service, as we were now in intermittent IMC at our altitude.

Roger initially handled the radio as I got settled under the hood, but once we started the procedure I began to take over more of the duties. Mindful of my apparent lack of preparation on my initial IMC test with Roger, I had taken the time beforehand to write out the various minima, descent rates etc. on a sheet of paper, that I now brought to the top of my kneeboard for reference.

I’d discussed with Roger the various speeds etc. to fly the approach in the Arrow, and he’d suggested I carry out the majority of the pre-landing checks on the ‘Base’ leg, but not actually extend the gear until later in the Approach (allowing us to carry out the majority of the approach at close to ‘cruise’ speed).

The initial PAR went relatively well (although I did deviate from heading by 20 degrees or so when carrying out the checks at one point, causing the Controller to query my heading!). Later Roger made the valid point that checks like this should be broken up into much smaller steps, returning back to the scan between each item in order to catch any slips like this.

We used the GPS to read off our groundspeed at the descent point, enabling me to get a rough idea of the required descent rate (5 x groundspeed in knots). The descent generally went to plan, with the Controller prompting for a couple of minor adjustments as we continued towards the runway. Roger again suggested I call out ‘500 to go’ etc. when approaching minimums. As we reached our minimum Roger had me remove the hood and continue for a visual landing, which turned out to be a pretty good one given that I hadn’t flown in over three months!

While it was good to be back on the runway at Brize after so many years, sadly this was just a touch and go, so I retracted flaps, applied full power and took to the air again. The GPS plot shows that my outbound track was a little off to the right, and the Controller vectored us around for the SRA.

We were no longer alone in the sky, with 2 other aircraft following us on the Approach (nice  for a lowly PA-28 to be ‘number 1’ for a change!). Again, the SRA went pretty much to plan, with the descent always being within 50 feet or so of the expected height announced by the Controller. Once down to minimum I again acquired the runway visually, bringing us in for the second good landing of the day!

We asked for a visual departure via Burford after this approach, and were granted this not above 1300 feet. This should have been very familiar to me (it was the departure I almost always used from Brize when training there), but I had a little difficulty spotting Burford this time (I remember the Garden Centre being much more obvious in the past!).

As we left the Zone, we remained with a Basic Service for the remainder of the flight. We climbed back up to altitude before carrying out some ‘upset’ drills on instruments. Roger placed the aircraft in some ‘unusual attitudes’ (generally a descending turn or a steep climb) to ensure I could correctly recover from this using the instruments alone.

As the instrument work had generally gone Ok, Roger asked if I was happy to carry out some ‘partial panel’ drills. He covered the AI and DI, removing the two main instruments for setting the aircraft’s attitude and maintaining headings.

I carried out some climbs and descents that went well, then some ‘timed turns’ which went less well (and indeed had always been a bit of a weakness of mine). Roger gave me the useful tip of setting the OBS on one of the CDIs to my current heading, then reading off 10 seconds for every 30 degree marking to my desired heading. This helped in calculating the required turn time, but either my turns weren’t at the correct rate or I can’t tell time properly!

Roger then asked me to take him back to Kemble, announcing that my flaps had now failed. I quipped that I wouldn’t be flying with him any more, as everything seemed to go wrong when I did! My first thought should have been to use the NDB and track this (which I think is what he really wanted me to do) but instead I entered a ‘direct to’ on the 430 and followed the magenta line. Roger had me do a further turn, then asked me to track towards Kemble using the NDB, which I managed to do fairly successfully.

We signed off with Brize, thanking them for their service, and contacted Kemble to recover. They were still on 26, and I advised them I would carry out a standard Overhead join. I meandered slightly to slot between a couple of clouds in our path, while trying to descend to the correct height for the Overhead join.

Another aircraft came on frequency also rejoining, and Roger spotted them low and to our left (a somewhat unusual position) and they continued on a ‘deadside join’. We carried out a full circle of the Overhead, before descending on the deadside, dropping the gear on the descent to help descend and slow the aircraft down.

We reported Crosswind as requested, and then were requested to ‘report Final’. Generally if solo I would also report Downwind and Base (even given this request to only report Final) to allow other traffic to get a better idea of my position. However, on this flight I didn’t, and Roger pointed out that it might have been a good idea to call Downwind anyway!

The aircraft ahead touched down as we neared the end of the Downwind leg, and I turned Base as usual, dropping the flaps. It was at this point that Roger reminded me that the flaps had failed, so I retracted them and continued the approach. I was fairly high on Final (which Roger picked me up on), but given how draggy the Arrow is with the gear down it was relatively easy to lose the required height.

I again brought us in for another good landing, getting slightly confused as to the location of the Southerly taxyway and sailing straight past it! I ended up turning right onto Bravo, before turning round again and waiting to be cleared to backtrack.

We taxyed back to the Club’s parking area, refuelling the aircraft and then having to rebuild its parking space due to the metal parking panels having come adrift (something that showed just how unfit I was!). We headed back in to the Club so that Roger could sign off my license and complete all the necessary paperwork. I’m now current to fly again, and my Class Rating is renewed for a further two years.

Route flown

Route flown

Flight profile

Flight profile

On the whole, this was a really successful and enjoyable flight. Despite the gap between flights (shown by a number of small omissions in procedures) I managed to handle all the drills pretty well. I was particularly pleased that my IMC skills weren’t as rusty as they could have been given their recent lack of use.

Roger gave me some useful tips for future flights, I’ll try to incorporate these into my general flying so that they become second nature. I think I need to sit down with the Checklists for the various aircraft for some ‘study’ and also (now that the 430 has the correct CDI fitted) start reading up on what’s involved in setting it up to carry out Approaches. Finally, I need to make sure I fly more regularly!

Total flight time today: 1:40
Total flight time to date: 234:35

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

Under the hood to somewhere new

January 2, 2012

David and I had discussed a number of times recently trying to fly together again, both to share costs and also to provide a Safety Pilot allowing one of us to practice our IMC skills again. He’d booked a Warrior for today, and invited me along. Various destinations were discussed, and we ended up opting to aim for some Instrument practice with a trip to Coventry.

I phoned Coventry in the morning to check what we were hoping to do was possible, and was given the Ok. The only slight fly in the ointment was the fact that there was no food available at Coventry (an important consideration when choosing a destination!) so we decided to drop in to Wellesbourne on the way for lunch.

David arrived at Kemble before me and had already carried out an ‘A’ check on the aircraft. The airfield was officially closed, but based aircraft were allowed to operate on an indemnity basis. As a result I think we were pretty much the only people there as we prepared ourselves for the off. David had some difficulty in gaining authorisation for his flight, but eventually got hold of an Instructor and we were good to go.

We settled ourselves in the aircraft, with David rummaging around getting his new video camera set up while I went through the pre-start checks. The engine started easily, but only ran for a minute or so before spluttering and dying. I’d heard that noise before, so was pretty sure I knew the reason for it, and I was proved correct. I’d managed to forget to turn the fuel on, so the engine started and ran for a while until it exhausted the fuel in the lines between the tanks and the engine.

Took a couple of tries to get the engine going again, but once it was running reliably we prepared to go. This was where we hit snag number 2! I gradually increased the throttle well beyond the point at which you could reasonably expect the aircraft to move, but it just wasn’t budging. My first thought was that we were still tied down or chocked, but a quick check proved that the 3 wheels had actually sunk into the ground a little due to the recent wet weather and the fact that the aircraft was full of fuel.

I went off in search for a tow bar, but couldn’t find one. With a bit of exertion between the two of us we managed to rock the aircraft forwards and backwards to get the wheels out of the depressions, before mounting up again and preparing to go. I moved us off the grass as quickly as possible to prevent us sinking in again, before pausing on the hard taxyway and completing the checks prior to moving off.

I’d planned a route out from Kemble, tracking the NDB up to the Chedworth disused before intercepting a radial from the DTY VOR. The plan was to continue on this radial until we identified Wellesbourne, before breaking off and heading up to the field. All the pre-departure checks were normal, and we were soon lined up on the runway ready for the off. As we rolled David reminded me to apply some into-wind aileron, and it was noticeably harder to lift the Warrior off the ground compared the Arrow that I had flown exclusively recently.

After the noise abatement turn and allowing sufficient distance from Kemble to avoid the local villages, I turned to the right, ready to intercept the required outbound radio from the KMB NDB. David took over while I got myself comfortable under the hood, and I then took control back before intercepting the outbound track.

I had the correct radial set on the OBS, with DTY tuned and identified. As the needle came in indicating we were approaching the correct radial I turned to intercept. We changed to Brize for a Basic service and continued on. We were benefitting from a significant tailwind at our cruising altitude, so it wasn’t long before we had got close to Wellesbourne, and I removed the hood.

I acquired Wellesbourne visually, confirming its location with the GPS. My initial call to them was somewhat clumsy, with me failing to give the FISO all of the required information in my initial call. As a result he had to prompt me a couple of times for the information I’d missed. I neglected to check the DI before setting course direct to the field, assuming that I was South of Wellesbourne (when in fact I was more to the South East. This led to some confusion in identifying the active runway, which was soon cleared up with a bit of help from David and a check of the DI. Once oriented, I set myself up for an overhead join for their runway 18 with a right hand circuit.

As is usual whenever I visit Wellesbourne, there were aircraft in the circuit and others joining. Between us we picked out the aircraft in the circuit, and I set us up for an Overhead Join with a wide Deadside descent keeping clear of Wellesbourne village. There were a couple of aircraft ahead of me as we turned Downwind, but separation was good and we were well set up to follow them in to land.

I ended up slightly high as we turned Final, but soon got the height off. Due to how busy the circuit was, it was difficult to get my Final call in, but I managed on very Short Final. We later had a discussion between us as to whether I could have landed without getting this call in. I think we would have been within our rights to (a FISO cannot issue clearances or instructions to aircraft in the air or on the ground past the runway hold lines) but it’s always best to make sure everyone knows what is happening.

As we were on Final it was clear that there was a fairly stiff crosswind that was also gusting somewhat, so the last moments of the Approach were quite busy. I thought I was handling it well, and achieved a nice gentle touchdown on the main wheels with the stall warner sounding gently. However the wind must have gusted at that point, as we were soon drifting off to the left of the centreline and several feet in the air. As I’d been slightly high I’d landed slightly long, and I took the decision to abandon the landing attempt and just go around. As I became established in the climb I got a ‘Good Decision’ from David on my right!

So, around the circuit we went again. On Downwind I became aware of an aircraft ahead of us and to the right, tracking right to left to the North of the field. He continued on this track before then turning right to establish himself on a very late Downwind leg. Both David and I were very confused by this, as it was a very strange way to join the circuit! I slowed us down a little to allow him to get ahead of us, and extended Downwind to increase the separation.

Back on Final, I decided to stick with two stages of flap and keep the speed up a little. The wind was a little more predictable as I began the roundout, and we touched down slightly firmly but without any dramas like on the last attempt. I’d missed the first turnoff (which is quite short anyway at Wellesbourne) but was undecided as to whether I should take the turning for the cross runway (the FISO was again on the radio so I couldn’t ask his advice). Just as I was passing it he asked me to take the turn, before realising I was already past. I tried to keep the speed up to reach the end of the runway and exit, and we taxyed towards the Tower to park next to a rather nice looking TB10.

Parked up at Wellesbourne

Parked up at Wellesbourne

As usual, by the time I’d reached the Tower to pay the landing fee, there were no aircraft in the sky! Thank you Wellesbourne, you always seem to make things interesting for me! I joined David in the very busy cafe (despite it still being before noon) and we ordered our lunch. I opted for my usual sausage sandwich, while David went for the more substantial ‘large breakfast’. When it arrived, he certainly had no cause for complaint about the description!

A busy Wellesbourne Cafe

A busy Wellesbourne Cafe

Once we’d eaten I phoned Coventry, and was told they could accommodate me on the ILS from 1330 onwards. We took our time getting ready, before heading out to the aircraft. I’d planned a route from Wellesbourne to track towards the DTY VOR, and from there a Direct Daventry approach to the ILS at Coventry.

We headed out to the aircraft and I gave it a quick check over. Once I was happy, we climbed in and I began preparations for departure. We were behind another aircraft at the hold carrying out our power checks, and there were a number in the circuit and landing meaning there was a short delay before we could take off. The aircraft ahead took to the runway, and I followed him a few moments later.

He seemed to be taking a long time to climb out and clear the departure path, so I gave him a bit more time than I normally would before beginning my takeoff roll. The wind conditions were calmer as we took off, and we climbed out keeping a good eye on the other aircraft. I ensured we were well past him before putting the hood on, and then turned back to intercept the 270 radial towards DTY.

I could tell that my tracking of the VOR was improving (it has been a long time since I flew in ‘real’ Instrument conditions), although I did have one little ‘wobble’ as I was trying to arrange the charts and ensure all the nav aids were tuned, setup and identified. We were now in contact with Coventry, and I was given approval for the approach, and asked to report when I was established on the 348 radial from DTY.

In order to avoid the potential ‘honeypot’ of the VOR, I turned a few miles early to intercept, and made a good job of getting established and maintaining the appropriate track. I made a slight mistake in switching the DME away from DTY to the Coventry ILS, but soon realised when the Controller asked me to report at a certain distance. A quick check of the plate showed that this was based on the DTY DME and not Coventry, so I switched back and continued.

I left the pre-landing checks a little late, but had them out of the way before needing to turn to intercept the localiser. Coventry were warning us of other traffic in the vicinity, and at one point David was concerned that he had spotted some traffic and would have to take over. However he convinced himself he was mistaken, and we continued.

I made a good job of intercepting the localiser, and my progress down the ILS went really well. In hindsight it may have been more beneficial if there had been more drift to take account of (the wind was almost straight down the runway at Coventry) as this made it pretty easy for me to stay on the localiser. Soon the glideslope became active and again I think I made a pretty good job of setting an appropriate descent rate.

Coventry had other aircraft in the visual circuit, one was cleared to turn ahead of us, with another told to extend Downwind to position behind us. David spotted the runway several miles out, and as we approached about 600 feet AAL I looked up to see the runway right where it was supposed to be. It’s very satisfying to fly a procedure like that and have it all go to plan!

I removed the hood, and was told by the Controller to expect a late landing clearance due to the traffic ahead of us. As we got close to landing the other aircraft was still on the runway (but right down the other end of the 2km of tarmac!) and we were given a ‘land after’ clearance. The wind conditions were much less tricky now (as well as there being almost no crosswind) so I made a decent landing, although again it was a little firmer than I would prefer.

We were asked to keep our speed up and told where to vacate the runway. David had the ground plan out and directed me to the appropriate turnoff, and I took the Controller’s offer of a Marshaller due to my being unfamiliar with Coventry. There was a little confusion as the Marshaller (a member of the airfield fire crew) hadn’t been told our registration, so we were both a little unsure as to whether we should be working together! I was marshalled across a fairly busy apron to a parking space, and David helped him push us back to park tidily while I steered from inside the cockpit.

Due to the airfield being largely closed, there was some difficulty in finding someone to pay landing fees too. In the end David settled these while I stayed with the aircraft as it was refuelled, settling up with the refueller. Fuel was very reasonably priced, and I think we only paid something like £24 for our landing and two ILS approaches (David was to fly one to a Missed Approach as we left). Very reasonable indeed given the size of the airfield and the facilities available.

Now it was David’s turn. He’d booked out with Air Traffic while paying the landing fees, and arranged for him to do an ILS to a Missed Approach before we departed. We had no real plan for the return leg, so I quickly plotted a route using the DTY and HON VORs, before intercepting a track using the KMB NDB to get back to Kemble. I quickly programmed this into the GPS as David prepared himself to get going.

We taxyed to around the midpoint of  the runway, carrying out our power checks at the hold. Another aircraft carried out the power checks behind us, and we were both cleared to backtrack. For some reason the other aircraft was cleared to take off before us (perhaps we had held him up a little) and we backtracked further down the runway. I quickly tried to familiarise myself with the Missed Approach procedure before we took off.

There was some confusion in the heights required, and I tried to clarify this with David. I think we probably exceeded the heights a couple of times as we sorted out where we should be, an indication that we hadn’t adequately planned and briefed this part of the flight. I took control briefly from David so that he could put the hood on and fly the rest of the flight in simulated IMC.

David was asked whether he wanted vectors to the ILS or to fly the procedure, and told the Controller that we would fly the procedure. The Controller then cleared us back to the hold, but David had intended to fly the same ‘Direct Daventry’ approach to the ILS as I had earlier. He informed the Controller of this, and we were cleared for that approach.

David tracked nicely to the VOR, but overshot a little as we turned onto the outbound track. The rest of the approach went fairly well though, but I had a little difficulty spotting the airfield in the low sun. Despite these being definite VFR conditions, I was happy that we were actually on an Instrument Approach! The airfield soon appeared, and David descended down to Decision Height before executing the Missed Approach.

Again, there was a little confusion between us as to what height we should be at, but we resolved this and continued tracking towards the VOR until well clear of Birmingham’s airspace. I asked David to fly a heading of 200, and to intercept the appropriate radial from the DTY VOR. Once established on this radial I realised that the track I’d planned would take us through the overhead of the glider field at Edge Hill, so I changed the radial by 10 degrees or so to keep us well clear. On this leg we also climbed to the appropriate Quadrantal Level of 4000 feet.

David tracked the VOR radial nicely, and a quick peek at the GPS showed that we were only managing a ground speed of about 60 knots with an indicated airspeed of 90. As we were in good VMC, we elected to descend to see if we could get a less severe headwind, and dropping down to 3000 feet gained us another 10 knots or so of groundspeed.

The GPS track shows a bit of a deviation from track as we intercepted the appropriate radial from the HON VOR, but David got us back on track and we started talking to Brize. I reminded David that we would be intercepting the correct radial on the KMB NDB to track towards Kemble, and we talked to Brize for a Basic Service. The frequency was pretty quiet with not many other aircraft in the skies.

I noticed that David had missed the turn towards Kemble, and (slightly sneakily) allowed him to continue. We were now heading direct for the Brize Class D airspace, so I decided to allow him to continue for another mile or so to see if he’d notice. This was somewhat foiled by the Controller at Brize (obviously concerned that we were heading for an infringement) checking that our intentions were to remain clear of Brize Airspace.

It turned out that David had forgotten that we had planned to track the NDB (another indication that we should have spent more time planning this leg) so I had him turn to the West so that we could intercept the correct radial. The Controller asked us to remain below 3000 feet to enable a departure to climb above us without any conflict, and we continued on towards Cirencester.

David removed the hood so that we could fly the approach to Kemble visually, and we both acquired it directly ahead of us as we passed Cirencester. We were flying through a small shower and there were threatening clouds ahead of us, which made David consider whether we should just join on a Right Base rather than flying a full circuit. The downside of doing this was that we would not be able to check out the windsock, but it would help ensure we were down before the rain arrived.

He elected to join Crosswind, and we saw that the wind was perhaps 45 degrees off the runway, but appeared to be relatively calm at 5 or 10 knots or so. David completed the pre-landing checks in the circuit, and brought us back to Kemble for a nice touchdown. David commented that he felt he had perhaps flared a little too high, but to be honest there wasn’t much wrong with the landing!

Rather than taxy on the wet grass, David backtracked the runway and we taxyed back to the Club’s parking area. Mindful of the issues we’d had getting moving, David parked the aircraft a foot or two back from where it usually would be parked (to avoid parking in the same ruts) and we began the task of getting all of our gear out and covering the aircraft as the rain began to arrive.

My tracks

My tracks

Leg 1 Profile

Leg 1 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 2 profile

David's track

David's track

Leg 3 profile

Leg 3 profile

This was a very satisfying start to the New Year. Just days after the year began I’d gained some valuable IMC practice, flown an Approach and visited a new airfield! Coupled with returning to Wellesbourne (always one of my favourite destinations), a good lunch and some excellent company, this flight was very enjoyable indeed. There were a number of things that we could have done better (spending more time before the flight deciding exactly what we would do being the main one), but it’s been a good way of getting back into flying together. Our plan is to try to do more similar flights in the near future, perhaps using Brize and Benson to practice Approaches if that can be arranged.

Total flight time today: 1:35
Total flight time to date: 176:55