Archive for the ‘Passenger’ Category

Farewell RAF Lyneham. Hopefully we’ll be back.

July 18, 2011

In the weeks and months leading up to the imminent closure of RAF Lyneham, several plans for relocating the Club to another airfield were suggested. We were obviously keen to remain at a military airfield (we are an RAF Flying Club after all!), but sadly the proposed new base fell through at the last minute.

A week or so ago, an email went round to all the Club that I’d been expecting for a while. The Club’s last action at RAF Lyneham was to be a formation flight for all of the Club’s aircraft (3 Warriors, an Arrow, a Robin and a Firefly). I’d mentioned to the aircraft owners my desire to be part of whatever the last flight turned out to be (even if it were a simple ferry flight from Lyneham to the new base) and this was the invitation I’d been waiting for.

I immediately fired off a reply expressing my interest to be part of the flight. The intention was to have two ‘qualified’ formation pilots in each aircraft, along with passengers depending on the number of seats available in the aircraft.

A few days before I was told that I’d been allocated a seat, so I had an eye on the weather in the days leading up to day. The weather didn’t look particularly great to me, but at 7:30 this morning I received a call from Roger informing me that the flight was likely to go ahead.

Headed over to Lyneham in good time for the proposed 16:00 (local) departure (aren’t I always early!) and sat in the Club as various Sky Gods arrived, and then attended the briefing with everyone else. As the briefing sheets were passed out, I was ‘nominated’ to listen to the briefing in lieu of the pilot of G-ELUE who hadn’t yet arrived. As I looked at the briefing sheet, I saw that there were to be only two people travelling in GLUE, with me in the right hand seat!

Briefing complete, Martin asked me to check the aircraft out while he went over a few last minute things with Roger. Once completed we all came together for some photographs, before mounting up and getting ready to go.

Getting ready for the off

Getting ready for the off

Roger was ‘lead’, so handled all of the radio calls to Lyneham. I tried to be as helpful as possible to Martin by taking down all the details given over the radio, allowing him to concentrate on the flying. Once the engine was running, we were all given taxy clearance and headed out towards the threshold of 24. 7 aircraft all turned into wind for power checks and pre-departure checks, before thumbs ups were passed along the line indicating to Roger that we were all ready.

Roger received our departure clearance (again, dutifully copied by me) and then we were all cleared for takeoff. We headed out onto the runway, with Roger in the lead and us slightly behind and to the right. I hadn’t fully realised that this was to be a full ‘stream’ takeoff, with all aircraft departing simultaneously. As we waited for the final aircraft (the extra Chipmunk that was to act as a camera ship) to announce that it was in position, Martin explained the signals that Roger would make to synchronise the departure of the first three aircraft.

All aircraft were soon in position, and the stream takeoff began. We all accelerated down the runway, waiting for Roger to reach flying speed. We all rotated together, and began the climbout towards Chippenham. My next surprise came almost immediately, when I realised that the formation would be maintaining this spacing for the flight. I think I’d expected it to be a pretty ‘loose’ formation, but in actual fact it looked like it would almost be possible to jump from one aircraft to the other!

Close formation with the leader

Close formation with the leader

Roger began a turn to the left, and again Martin explained the procedures for maintaining the formation in the turn. We headed down towards Calne to allow all the other aircraft to join the formation (the Robin for example is pretty underpowered in comparison to the others) and we then carried out a number of turns to allow the camera ship to get some good shots. At one point the camera ship got a little close to the formation, and the Archer had to drop out briefly before the Chipmunk cleared the position and allowed him to rejoin a few seconds later.

Camera ship in the distance

Camera ship in the distance

The weather for the day was far from ideal, and I remember thinking a few times that I probably would have chosen to abandon the flight if I were making it myself. The air was pretty turbulent, and it was clear that the pilots in the formation were having to work incredibly hard to maintain their positions. Despite my limited duties (making infrequent frequency changes was about it!) I felt like I was really working hard on this flight! Martin made a point of asking me a number of times if I was Ok (the answer was always an immediate ‘Yes’) and had me occasionally check the position of the aircraft off to our right (luckily a bright yellow Firefly, so not hard to spot!).

Firefly off to our right

Firefly off to our right

After these turns were complete, we then repositioned for the first of the low level passes over Lyneham, this one using runway 36. We dropped down to about 300 feet AGL to make the pass over the airfield. In some ways I almost wished I weren’t part of the flight at this point, so that I could enjoy the spectacle from the ground! I guess I’ll have to wait to see the photos taken from the ground to see how it looked from there.

Tower, this is Ghost Rider, requesting flyby

Tower, this is Ghost Rider, requesting flyby

Once clear of Lyneham we headed North, before turning to the East to pass close to Royal Wootton Bassett (a name most people should recognise due to the incredible turnout for the numerous repatriations of fallen service personnel). We passed close to the edge of the town, before positioning for another low pass over Lyneham, this time using runway 24.

Clear of Lyneham again, a few of the aircraft were cleared in turn to disperse, as they weren’t accompanying us to Kemble. They broke off in turn, and the remaining 4 aircraft began to position for the arrival at Kemble. Surprisingly Kemble Information announced that they were ending service for the day at 1700 local (the time we arrived in the overhead) – I’d have thought they would have wanted to see the relatively rare spectacle of a formation of spamcans!

Positioning for a run and break at Kemble

Positioning for a run and break at Kemble

We joined left downwind for Kemble’s runway 26, and headed in for a ‘run and break’ manouevre, that allows a formation of aircraft to get adequate spacing in readiness for landing. Roger broke off, and then Martin counted to 8 before we broke off at 500 feet into a 45 degree banked turn to position ourselves behind Roger. The rest of the flight seemed strangely ‘normal’ after the adrenaline rush of the preceding 35 minutes or so, as Martin brought us in for a landing as Roger cleared to the right hand side of the runway (landing with one on had been approved by Kemble in the lead up to the flight).

Short Final for 26 at Kemble

Short Final for 26 at Kemble

My limited knowledge of Kemble (been there once as a pilot, and a number of times as a planespotter with Catrin!) then helped as Martin tried to spot the grass taxyway. We followed Roger, and parked alongside him. As we passed the Tower area I spotted Luned and Catrin waiting so gave them a wave (they were my lift back to Lyneham so I thought I should be pleasant!), I later found out that most of the occupants had also waved!

My lift!

My lift!

We parked up, covered and chocked the aircraft, and then headed over for a quick debrief with Roger.

The formation's track

The formation's track

So, this chapter of flying from RAF Lyneham is now over. It’s been announced today that Lyneham will remain a military facility, so we can only hope that the next user will also be in the field of Aviation, and there will be the possibility of us returning there one day.

Since gaining my PPL back in June 2008, the vast majority of my flying has been from Lyneham. The Club has a fantastic atmosphere and excellent facilities. Hopefully a more permanent base can be found soon, and eventually we might be back to Lyneham one day. I’ve had some good times there, it really is a shame to leave.

The dreaded local, but at least I wasn’t flying this time!

January 30, 2011

After flying with David a few weeks ago, I managed to persuade him to join the Club. Successfully Inducted and Checked Out he arranged to fly this weekend and invited me along. Family commitments meant he could only fly in the afternoon, so the aircraft was booked 2-5pm. Leading up to the day I was again suffering from a cough and a cold, so the flight was (for me) still in some doubt right up to Sunday morning. However, I decided to give it a go and we arranged to meet at Lyneham.

Provisionally the route was to head down to the Isle of Wight to check out Sandown, before returning via Popham with the possibility of landing there. The full route was Lyneham -> Marlborough -> Popham -> Goodwood -> Sandown and back via the same route.

Lyneham were on 06 today, but we were offered an intersection departure from the disused runway. David was understandably a little hesitant at the departure procedures (this being his first flight from Lyneham without an Instructor, and him being more used to the environment at places like Kemble and Compton Abbas). That was part of the reason for my being alonside him, to offer him help and advice until he managed to find his feet.

A student was heading off to do circuits, and we followed her through the taxy route and power checks. She was cleared for takeoff, and once David was ready we were cleared to take off in turn. Initially we were going to just depart from the intersection, but we were full of fuel so decided a backtrack might be in order. The other aircraft was calling ‘Downwind’ as we began our takeoff roll, and we turned to the South East at 500 feet.

Understandably David was still getting used to things, and I prompted him to switch to the Approach frequency as he’d climbed to 1300 feet before doing so (usually we would do this at or around the 500 ft turn). We headed out of the Zone, climbing up to 2000 feet as we went.

It was obvious as we climbed to altitude that visibility today was far from great. Into sun it was quite tricky, but nowhere near as bad as our last flight back from Sywell together. We flew close by Popham, and neared Goodwood as our turning point before heading over to the Isle of Wight. Both fields are definitely ones to add to the wish list for future destinations!

Recently Bembridge has closed due to disagreements between the land owner and the airfield operator, so it was sad to pass close by without seeing any aircraft movements. Hopefully things will be resolved soon, and I can add this airfield back onto my list of favourite destinations. It would be a real shame if it were not to open again soon.

We then headed over to Sandown, a grass field also on the Isle of Wight. We found this easily, and it also looked like a good place to visit in future. This was becoming a flight of purely spotting future landing sites! Our tour of the Isle of Wight continued, and we spotted Lee on Solent over the other side of the Solent. Recently this has become available to visiting aircraft, so hopefully we can get in there as well!

Heading back, we retraced the route. Visibility was now much better as we were no longer heading directly into the Sun. At one point David thought he spotted a glider heading straight towards us, but after taking avoiding action was unable to spot it again. I always have trouble spotting gliders, particularly when they’re not side-on or thermalling!

Visiting Popham would have been a close thing in terms of returning in time for sunset. David has recently completed his Night Qualification, but hasn’t yet received his updated license, meaning he cannot legally make use of it yet.

Approaching Lyneham from the South always makes finding the field difficult for me, and today was no exception! Luckily David was on the ball and didn’t follow my ‘bum steer’ to some non-existing field off to our left! We were offered a straight in join to runway 36, and David brought us in for a nice landing. As we closed down I was greeted by the welcome site of Luned and Catrin waiting for us, waving from the other side of the fence. Always nice!

On the whole a pretty good flight, not least because I gained some time to play with the Sky Demon GPS software on my PDA. Maybe I’ll give this a go using their one month trial facility sometime soon.