Archive for the ‘Touring’ Category

Returning to Lydd

April 22, 2019

Apologies for the brevity of this write-up, I hadn’t realised it was still pending, and now several months after the fact I can’t remember a lot about the flight!

A period of good weather meant I could book an aircraft, and with my latest currency check barely a month old I wanted to stretch my legs a bit. I decided to try to return to Lydd. Weather on the day was fairly typical for the UK during a prolonged period of high pressure, looking perfect from the ground but with fairly poor visibility in the air.

Routed from Kemble initially to Lyneham, then via Greenham Common, Goodwood and Eastbourne before joining at Lydd via Rye. There was a fair amount of traffic around, and I spotted two or three aircraft fairly close by on the journey down.

After a nice lunch, albeit slightly slow due to how busy they were, I reversed the route back, deviating slightly to head over Swindon and orbiting my house before returning to Kemble.

Near perfect looking conditions from the ground

Near perfect looking conditions from the ground

Decidedly hazy in the air

Decidedly hazy in the air

Passing Greenham Common

Passing Greenham Common

Parked up at Lydd

Parked up at Lydd

Overhead Swindon, Catrin's school clearly visible

Overhead Swindon, Catrin’s school clearly visible

Descending Deadside at Kemble

Descending Deadside at Kemble

All in all a good day’s flying, but sadly it turned out to be my last for almost 5 months!

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Outbound profile

Outbound profile

Return profile

Return profile

Total flight time today: 2:50
Total flight time to date: 340:10

Daddy daughter mini-flyout to deepest darkest Wales

October 7, 2018

It had been over a month since I last flew, and I was keen to take advantage of Catrin’s recent enthusiasm for flying, by taking her flying again. This time, we decided that it would be just me and her (for the first time) and leading up to the flight she was very enthusiastic about the whole thing.

On a recent flight, we’d abandoned a plan to fly to Haverfordwest and back via Cardiff due to a noisy gyro in G-BPAF, so we decided to try to actually complete that flight this time. Leading up to the flight, the weather forecast for the weekend was fairly mixed, but things seemed better for Sunday, the day of the flight. As it turned out, conditions on the day really couldn’t have been more perfect!

We had a few issues getting Catrin ready and out of the house, but once we arrived at Kemble she was definitely keen about the flight. She helped out with the pre-flight, and again I explained all the things I was checking as we walked around the aircraft. She had great fun ‘helping’ me test the stall warner, even giving it a second go later just to be sure! All the other Club aircraft were either flying already, or in the process of being prepared by other pilots taking advantage of the good weather conditions.

The Arrow started easily, and we had to briefly wait to allow a Robin to pass in front of us from the hangar near where the Lyneham aircraft are parked. He headed towards the pumps, and we continued on to A1 to carry out the power checks. As usual, there were no issues, and we headed out on to the runway to depart.

All smiles before departure

All smiles before departure

As we climbed out, it was immediately clear just how good the conditions were, as we could easily make out the Severn Bridges on climbout from Kemble! We climbed to 4500 feet, marvelling at the near perfect visibility and almost complete lack of cloud.

Approaching the River Severn

Approaching the River Severn

As we approached the River Severn, we signed on with Cardiff for a Basic Service. The frequency was very busy, and because of this the Controller was becoming understandably annoyed by a number of aircraft that were on frequency and receiving a Service, but weren’t responding to his transmissions in a timely fashion. There was a lot of other traffic in our area, but as we were up at over 4000 feet we tended to be above most of it.

After crossing the Severn, I passed the controls over to Catrin and she did the majority of the rest of the flying. I concentrated on keeping a good lookout for all the other traffic, while Catrin tended to focus on the instruments more due to not being able to see over the instrument panel properly. For future flights we should investigate some means of getting her sitting a little higher so that she can see out of the front of the aircraft better.

Catrin at the controls

Catrin at the controls

I’d planned to route via the BCN VOR, so we tracked that, with Catrin’s height and heading keeping generally very good. I’d entered the general gist of our route into the 430, and was also keeping an occasional eye on SkyDemon to ensure our track was good. For a short period I showed Catrin how the autopilot could fly the aircraft, but we both agreed it was much more fun to be in control, so she took over again after a short while!

We signed off with Cardiff around the Carmarthen area, and began to encouter cloud ahead of us. Initially I climbed to get above it, before realising that we were getting a bit close to Haverfordwest. As a result, we made quite a steep descent, finding a helpful gap in the clouds slightly off to our left to enable us to get down to the appropriate height for an Overhead Join. On calling up Haverfordwest we found they were relatively quiet, and the airfield was soon easily spotted off ahead of us.

The Overhead Join was carried out normally, and as we turned Downwind another aircraft also announced the he was Downwind at the same time. After a brief period of concern, we spotted him behind us, and he announced that he was visual with us and would follow us around the circuit.

The distraction of the other aircraft meant my Downwind track wasn’t very good. To try to avoid holding him up, I flew a tight Base leg, before bringing us in for a nice landing on Haverfordwest’s Runway 21. We vacated the runway as quickly as we could, before taxying into the parking area as two other aircraft were making ready to depart.

Parked up at Haverfordwest

Parked up at Haverfordwest

We headed in to the office to settle our landing fee, before heading into the cafe for lunch. Catrin headed out to run around the grass area outside to burn off a bit of energy while we waited, before returning to polish off her bacon sandwich with gusto! Conditions remained almost perfect, and it was good to see the cafe busy with customers who had not flown in also.

Lunch!

Lunch!

Once we were done, we headed back to the aircraft and gave it a quick ‘transit check’. There were no issues found, so we climbed onboard and set about getting ready to depart. The airfield was relatively quiet, and as I announced I was taxying to the active runway, the A/G operator asked if I was familiar with the airfield. I told him I was, and (hopefully!) headed off the correct way to the hold for the runway in use.

I backtracked to the threshold of the runway (the hold was a couple of hundred metres in) before departing and turning to the East to head initially towards Pembrey. We’d planned to ask Cardiff for a Zone Transit, so that we could follow the Wales coast around, up to the Severn Bridge. Of course, I had planned an alternative route to the North (via the BCN VOR again) should permission not be granted for this.

We climbed up to 3500 feet, and again Catrin took over at the controls. Pembrey was easy to spot, and as we approached I pointed out the race circuit to the South. I made a call to the A/G operator there just out of courtesy, and carried out an orbit overhead, but sadly the circuit wasn’t in use today so there was nothing to see.

Orbiting over Pembrey

Orbiting over Pembrey

The routing then took us over the City of Swansea, with Catrin back at the controls. We signed on with Cardiff, and requested the transit in our ‘pass your message’ response. The Controller chuckled a little, replying ‘I think I got all that!’ We continued to follow the coast towards Cardiff, hoping to get our clearance in due course.

We were getting very close to the Zone boundary without yet having received clearance to enter. I was making ready to turn away to prevent infringing Controlled Airspace, but luckily the Controller called us back, granting us clearance to fly along the coast at 3000 feet, VFR. We were also asked to notify him of any changes in height or heading should we need to make any adjustments to remain VFR. However, conditions were still such that there was very little in the way of cloud to require us to do this.

Passing Cardiff Airport

Passing Cardiff Airport

As we neared Cardiff, we spotted the circuit at Llandow, the airfield at St. Athan and finally Cardiff Airport itself. As we flew over the docks area, we also spotted the Norwegian Church that Roald Dahl attended in his youth, and luckily I was able to point this out sufficiently well enough for Catrin to spot it too. We spotted both Stadiums in Cardiff also, but at the time were unable to see the Castle. On returning home, Luned looked through the photos we had taken and realised why: it was almost completely hidden by one of the Stadiums as we passed.

The Norwegian Church in Cardiff

The Norwegian Church in Cardiff

As we turned North East to follow the coast, the Controller advised us of other traffic off to our left. Initially we couldn’t spot him, but he advised the Controller that he was visual with us, and we managed to see him a minute or so later. As we cleared the Zone the Controller asked when we were planning to change frequency. A good time seemed to be when we reached the Severn Bridges, so I informed him of this, and received a Basic Service until then.

I handed control back to Catrin again now that we were clear of Controlled Airspace, and she flew us back to Kemble. They were relatively quiet, but I still decided to join Overhead as usual. As we neared, the FISO offered us a Downwind Join, but by this point we were too high to be able to descend in time.  There was another aircraft operating in the circuit, and we slotted in nicely after descending on the Deadside.

Nearly home, Catrin at the controls again

Nearly home, Catrin at the controls again

On the Downwind leg I asked the FISO if I could carry out a couple of circuits (carrying out three takeoffs and landings today would reset my passenger carrying currency for another 90 days). This was approved, and the remainder of the circuit was flown well, culminating in a good landing. We accelerated down the runway to takeoff again, and I raised the gear for the second circuit. Again, this was flown well, leading to a third good landing of the day.

The frequency was now a little busy, and I had to wait a little while to request a backtrack back to our parking area. This was approved, and we held briefly after turning off the runway to allow another aircraft to pass on the Alpha taxyway, heading towards the hold at A1. We taxyed back to the Lyneham parking area, and Catrin helped me refuel the aircraft before pushing it back into the parking area. Then it was just a matter of getting all our gear out, putting the cover back on and heading back into the office to settle the post flight paperwork!

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Leg 1 profile

Leg 1 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 2 profile

This was possibly one of my most enjoyable flights to date. I was a little worried leading up to the flight given that this was my first ‘solo’ flight with Catrin, but in reality it really couldn’t have gone any better. She seems to have developed a real enthusiasm for flying, and seems keen to fly again with me. Conditions today meant the flight was relatively unchallenging, which also helped matters. Hopefully we can make many more flights like this together!

Total flight time today: 2:30
Total flight time to date: 335:25

Returning to Leicester solo

September 1, 2018

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

The weather also wasn’t really playing ball, with a rather mixed forecast showing rain coming in from the West. Originally I considered Haverfordwest again, but this seemed to be out due to the weather approaching from that direction. I also considered heading back to the Isle of Wight, before finally deciding on returning to Leicester. As usual, I completed the majority of the pre-flight planning on the evening before the flight, leaving me just the last minute actions to be completed in the morning.

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

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

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

Stunning flying conditions

Stunning flying conditions

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

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

Passing Bruntingthorpe

Passing Bruntingthorpe

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

Joining Overhead at Leicester

Joining Overhead at Leicester

Helicopter pleasure flights

Helicopter pleasure flights

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

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

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

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

Passing East of RAF Brize Norton

Passing East of RAF Brize Norton

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

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

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

Orbiting over our house, just off the wingtip

Orbiting over our house, just off the wingtip

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

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Leg 1 profile

Leg 1 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 2 profile

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

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

A weather and aircraft enforced local

August 27, 2018

A Bank Holiday weekend seemed like the perfect opportunity to fly, but sadly leaving it late to arrange meant that the Arrow was unavailable all weekend. Fortunately, Alpha Foxtrot (the Warrior in which I flew my first solo and carried out a lot of my PPL training) was available, so I booked it for the Monday and arranged for the family to fly with me.

It seemed like the fine Summer weather we’d been experiencing was coming to an end however, and as the day of the flight approached it became less and less likely that I’d be able to complete the flight I’d planned. Initially, we planned to head over to Haverfordwest for lunch, returning (if possible) via a transit of Cardiff’s Controlled Airspace so that Catrin could see some of her favourite places in Cardiff from the air.

Catrin seemed genuinely excited about this flight, and I spent quite a lot of time on the day before showing her how I go about planning a flight. She entered the route into Sky Demon, and I explained to her how I chose waypoints for the route rather than just flying direct. We planned two versions of the return route, the first following the Welsh Coast going via Cardiff’s Zone, and the second turning inland to the North, and routing back via the BCN VOR to avoid Controlled Airspace. Finally I showed her how the AIS web site is used to obtain a NOTAM brief, and we read through the various entries so that she could understand the kinds of things that might cause the route to have to be changed.

Unfortunately the long range forecasts proved to be correct, and the forecast of potential rain and low cloud out near the West Coast of Wales meant that the original plan had to be rethought. The forecast did suggest that we would be able to complete the short hop to Cardiff though, so I made a last minute change of destination and completed the flight planning on the morning of the flight as usual.

We arrived at Kemble in good time, and left Luned in the office completing temporary membership forms, while Catrin and I headed out to the aircraft to prepare it for the flight. Catrin helped me get the cover off, and then we moved the aircraft over to the bowser to put in some extra fuel (so that we could hopefully avoid having to refuel on our return). Once this was done, she helped me with the cockpit switches as I carried out the start of the ‘A’ check and then followed me around the aircraft as I showed her all the various checks that need to be carried out before the flight could be made.

Once we were happy, we collected Luned from the office, and moved all of our gear into the aircraft. Luned took the back seat for the outbound leg, and Catrin joined me up front. Once we were all ready, I set about getting the engine started, and sadly things started to go downhill from there.

I turned the Master switch on as usual, and as the gyros started to wind up, one of them (presumably the Turn Coordinator, as this is the only one that is electrically driven) started to give out a horrific high-pitched whining noise. Initially I was concerned how Catrin would cope with this, as she’s not a big fan of loud noises generally. However, apart from remarking how loud it was, she seemed unaffected. Sadly the same couldn’t be said for Luned in the back, as the whining seemed to be at just the right frequency to seriously irritate her.

I carried on with the preparations in the hope that the gyro would settle down. We taxyed to Alpha 1 and carried out the power checks, and once the engine was developing power the noise did indeed abate. I carried out the pre-takeoff checks, and double checked with Luned and Catrin that we were Ok to go. Sadly the gyro had given Luned a splitting headache, so I didn’t think it was fair to carry out the flight as planned (particularly as we were likely to go through the same process at Cardiff when we got ready to return from there).

Luned agreed that we would be Ok to carry on, but I had already pretty much decided that we wouldn’t be heading to Cardiff. We took to the runway, and once cleared we started the takeoff roll. I was mindful of the differences between the Warrior and the Arrow, taking care to remember that the Airspeed Indicator was marked in knots and not mph. We rotated and took off, and I set course for the first leg to the Severn Bridges. We climbed to 2500 feet, which kept us just below the cloudbase above us. Despite the low cloud, visibility was actually very good, and it was soon easy to spot the Severn Bridges in the distance.

I double checked that Luned was Ok, but it was clear that she was still suffering with the headache, so I told her we would just go to the Severn Bridges and back, and then informed Kemble’s FISO of the change in our plans. Catrin seemed a little disappointed, but also understood the reasons for having to change our plans. I pointed out Filton off to our left, before showing her the Severn Bridges ahead of us (which she had difficulty seeing because she’s still not quite tall enough to see over the coaming!).

I told her that we’d make sure we got into Wales, and had her look out of the window down and to her right to let me know when we crossed the Severn into Wales. As we crossed the river, she could see the Welsh side ahead of us, and when she told me we’d crossed the Severn I turned us around and started heading back to Kemble. I made contact with the FISO informing him that we were on our way back, and he asked whether we’d changed our plans due to the weather. I told him the actual reason, and as we headed back towards Kemble I double checked whether they were still planning to close for lunch as per the NOTAMs that had been posted.

He told me they were just waiting for one inbound aircraft to land, and then would be closing for lunch. The airfield was then closed to visiting aircraft, but was still available to based aircraft as long as they had completed the required indemnity forms (which I always do at the start of each year, as it allows me to make flights out of hours). As we joined Overhead, the FISO announced that they were now closing, issuing all aircraft on frequency with the current QFE and QNH, and providing a wind check.

I’d spoken to Catrin leading up to the flight to see if she wanted to carry out some more radio calls. She’d seemed a little reticent, but as we descended on the Deadside (after the appropriate call to Kemble Traffic) she seemed to have developed a little more courage, so I told her what she needed to say to make the ‘Crosswind’ call. She had a few practices, and once we’d completed the Deadside descent and were established on the Crosswind leg, I gave her the nod and she made a perfect ‘Kemble Traffic, G-AF Crosswind’ call!

Armed with a new-found confidence, she agreed to make the remainder of the calls for the circuit, and she managed the Downwind and Final calls without any problem. I got us nicely aligned for 26, and reminded myself of the slightly different technique needed when landing a Warrior. I brought us in for a nice gentle landing, and we backtracked and joined the Alpha taxyway to taxy back to the parking area.

Catrin helped me push the aircraft back and put the cover back on, and we all headed in to the office to complete the paperwork (including logging the noise gyro as a defect in the aircaft’s log!). Once this was done, I decided that it only fitting that we head to AV8 for my usual flying lunch of a sausage sandwich! On the way there we popped in to the Ops Office to see if I needed to notify them of the ‘out of hours’ movement, before getting permission to visit the Tower proper, where the FISO told Catrin that her radio calls had been better than mine!

The flight as flown

The flight as flown

Sadly today’s flying hadn’t gone to plan at all. We’d already made a last minute change of plans to fly to Cardiff, and sadly the issue with the aircraft had meant that we weren’t even able to manage the re-planned flight! Happily however, Catrin had been an absolute star, and seems to have (perhaps temporarily!) developed a new found enthusiasm for flying. Long may it continue!

Total flight time today: 0:55
Total flight time to date: 330:50

A charitable return to Bembridge

June 30, 2018

Around a year ago, I again offered a flight as a prize in a Charity Auction to raise money for Catrin’s school PTA. When the winner was announced, it turned out to be the same person who had won the previous flight I’d donated, so I obviously didn’t scare him too much!

It had taken some time to find a date that we could both manage, and we’d had one previous attempt abandoned due to some poor weather. Fortunately, as the date approached for this attempt, the UK seemed to be experiencing a prolonged period of fair weather, so we were greeted with near perfect flying conditions on the day of the flight.

We’d discussed possible destinations, and Marc had expressed a desire to head down to the South coast. I hadn’t been back to Bembridge for a while, so we decided to head down to the Isle of Wight for a spot of lunch, and return via a tour of the island from the air.

As per usual, I carried out the majority of the planning in the days leading up to the flight. There was a major gliding competition notified at Aston Down which concerned me a little, but on the morning of the flight their planned tasks showed them heading North West towards Wales, and North East towards Oxfordshire, so they shouldn’t affect us on this flight. I confirmed this with a phone call to the number given before leaving home.

I arranged to collect Marc on the way to Kemble, and on arrival we added some fuel to the Arrow to give us plenty to complete the whole trip. Bembridge doesn’t have fuel on site, and it seemed simpler than having to land at somewhere like Sandown purely to take on fuel. Once refuelled, I carried out the ‘A’ check (spotting a defective rear Nav light that wouldn’t affect our flight) before heading back into the office to complete the pre-flight paperwork. Once that was done we headed back to the aircraft, completed the checks with fuel drain samples (to allow plenty of time for any water to have settled after refuelling) and settled ourselves on board.

Kemble were operating on 08 today, and after getting the engine started we were cleared initially to Alpha 3. Usually we are cleared there in readiness for crossing the runway to the South side, but today when I reported holding at Alpha 3 I was immediately cleared to backtrack the runway and line up. I informed the FISO that we hadn’t carried out our checks yet, and he asked us to report again when ready to depart.

The checks were all normal, and a number of aircraft arrived and departed on both the hard and grass runways as we completed them. When ready, we were cleared to backtrack, and then departed without any issue. The route I’d planned initially took us over the former RAF Lyneham, and this was an easy landmark to spot as we departed. I’d been slightly concerned that in-flight visibility might not be very good due to the extended period of high pressure, but in reality conditions really couldn’t have been much better.

As we approached Lyneham I signed off with the FISO at Kemble, and switched to Farnborough West in readiness for requesting a Basic Service and MATZ penetration from them later. I set course towards the next turning point at Greenham Common, before handing control over to Marc for the majority of this leg.

Marc at the controls

Marc at the controls

As on our previous flight, he did a good job of maintaining height and heading, and even showed good lookout skills spotting an aircraft ahead of us and slightly to the left at a similar height. I took control back from him and turned right to overtake the other aircraft, passing them as we cut the corner to the leg from Greenham Common down to Petersfield.

Overtaking traffic between Lyneham and Greenham Common

Overtaking traffic between Lyneham and Greenham Common

I established us on the correct course, and again handed the controls back to Marc while I made contact with Farnborough. They didn’t seem as busy as I expected, and we were given a Basic Service and clearance through the Odiham MATZ, being instructed to remain clear of the ATZ as the field was active today with gliders. We passed Popham off to our right, spotting traffic much lower than us departing the field. Odiham and Lasham passed off to our left, and although we could see gliders on the ground we didn’t spot any in the air.

Gliders on the ground

Gliders on the ground

We approached Petersfield, and I dialled in the new course on the heading bug on the DI, and had Marc make the course change as we flew over the town. We headed towards the coast, spotting the distinctive Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth off to our right. As we neared the coast, we contacted Bembridge to find they were operating on runway 12 with a left hand circuit. Although they sounded fairly quiet, I decided to carry out an Overhead Join (now allowed due to the cessation of glider operations), and initiated a descent to get us down to the appropriate height as we coasted out.

Portsmouth and the Spinnaker Tower

Portsmouth and the Spinnaker Tower

I took back control from Marc, positioning us for the join. There wasn’t anything to affect us as we approached, and the join and Deadside Descent were both straightforward. I brought us in for a slightly floaty but gentle landing, before announcing that we were backtracking to vacate the runway. I later learned that this was a mistake, as there was a perfectly usable grass taxyway at the far end of the runway!

We parked up in the fairly busy parking area, and headed in to pay the landing fee. We then walked the short distance to the Propeller Inn for lunch, where I’d booked us a table just in case they were busy! The pub has changed dramatically since our last visit (some 6 years ago it turns out!), and served us an excellent light lunch!

Parked up at Bembridge

Parked up at Bembridge

Once fed and watered, we headed back out to the aircraft via the Control Point, and I carried out a quick transit check. Several aircraft had arrived since we had, and a number were preparing to depart as we boarded the Arrow. Once the engine was started, I carried out the power checks in our parking spot, as there were no aircraft parked behind us. We joined a queue of 3 aircraft at the hold, waiting for our turn to depart in between the regular stream of arriving aircraft.

Queue for departure at Bembridge

Queue for departure at Bembridge

Once it was our turn to depart, we took to the runway and backtracked, before making a normal takeoff out over the water. We climbed to around 1500 feet and I headed off anti-clockwise around the coast of the Isle of Wight. Height keeping was fairly important, as this tour took us beneath the Solent CTA, which started at 2000 feet to the North West of the Island. Once we reached the far West coast of the Isle of Wight I carried out a clockwise orbit of the Needles to allow Marc to get some photos.

The Needles

The Needles

We continued around the coast, taking care not to get too close to Sandown as we completed the circuit, Once approaching Bembridge again, I initiated a climb up to 4500 feet for the return leg, reversing our inbound course out towards Petersfield again.

Passing Bembridge after a tour of the Isle of Wight

Passing Bembridge after a tour of the Isle of Wight

As we approached Petersfield, I again made contact with Farnborough for a Basic Service. SkyDemon’s profile view alarmed me somewhat, as it showed Class A airspace ahead of us starting at 3500 feet, so I began a descent to remain clear of this (despite being sure I’d planned our route correctly so as to remain clear of any airspace). Later I realised the the airspace being shown was on our current track, but after our planned turn to the North West at Petersfield, so in reality we were well clear at all times.

Marc was back at the controls again, and Lasham and Odiham both had gliders on the ground, but we didn’t see any in the air. We continued on towards Newbury, and at the point where I was preparing to sign off with Farnborough, the Controller started to have difficulty getting a message correctly read back by another aircraft. I was starting to become concerned that we might leave Farnborough’s coverage without being able to sign off, when the Controller eventually gave up, instructed the other aircraft to ‘Standby’ and instructed us to Squawk 7000 and change to our next frequency.

Marc made the turn near Greenham Common, and we then decided to modify our route slightly to overfly Swindon. I made sure Marc had the M4 in sight, and told him to keep to the South of it, and follow it up to Swindon (this would keep us well clear of Redlands and Sandhill Farm, both of which were likely to be busy today).

Passing Hungerford, we began a descent to about 2000 feet to overfly Swindon, and Marc used ground features to navigate us to the general area of where we lived, before I took control back to fly a gentle orbit over his house. For all of this leg I’d been listening in to Kemble, and there hadn’t been a single aircraft on frequency. As I contacted them when we left Swindon however, another 3 aircraft arrived on frequency on their way in to Kemble.

We positioned for an Overhead Join, trying to stay away from the immediate overhead of Oaksey as we passed by. We were the first of the arriving aircraft to reach the Overhead, and I carried out a standard Deadside Descent as normal. Once established on the Downwind leg, I decided to ask the FISO for permission to carry out a couple of circuits, enabling me to fully reset my passenger-carrying currency by completing 3 landings today.

Descending Deadside at Kemble

Descending Deadside at Kemble

This was approved, and the first landing back at Kemble was a little firmer than I would have liked. I applied full power and climbed away, spotting another aircraft descending on the Deadside off to our left. In order to maintain good separation from him, I made an early right turn to stay ahead. Established on Downwind, there was another aircraft ahead of us, which I had in sight. On late Downwind however, we were informed of a Seneca ‘on Final’ which I was unable to spot.

Mindful of the fact that it’s never a good idea to be in the same airspace as another aircraft when you can’t see him, I took the decision to leave the circuit, and rejoin for another attempt. As I did this, the FISO asked if I had the Seneca in sight, and I informed him again that we’d left the circuit and would recover later. It took me a little while to realise why we weren’t climbing away as well as I thought we should, before realising that I hadn’t raised the gear!

As we headed back towards Kemble another minute of two later, I finally got sight of the Seneca. He must have been on something like a 6nm Final when he had initially reported! If I’d known that I probably would have continued, but it’s frustrating that people will often carry out a straight in approach to a busy airfield without considering the other aircraft that might already be operating in the circuit.

I carried out another Deadside descent, this time spotting an aircraft just departing off to our right. I adjusted my track to the left to keep clear of him, but when I levelled the wings I was unable to see him (I could see his shadow, but not the aircraft itself). Again I decided it wouldn’t be a good idea to turn right towards an aircraft I couldn’t see, so I decided to depart the circuit to the North this time.

Marc spotted the other aircraft and pointed him out, and I reversed my course to position for a Crosswind join, notifying the FISO of this. As I turned Downwind, a microlight appeared on frequency announcing he was on Final, ‘over Tetbury’ (over 4nm away from the airfield!). This irked me somewhat again, so I made an early Base leg turn to ensure that we would land well ahead of him. Despite all the distractions, my final landing of the day was my best yet, and I did my best to keep my speed up to vacate the runway without causing any inconvenience to the other aircraft behind me.

We taxyed back to the parking area, and positioned the aircraft ready to refuel. After refuelling, we pushed the aircraft back to the parking area, and unloaded all our gear before putting the cover back on and heading in to the office to settle all the post-flight paperwork. After all that, I thought I’d earned a beer, so we retired to the Thames Head down the road for a well-earned debrief!

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Leg 1 profile

Leg 1 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 2 profile

Kemble arrival

Kemble arrival

This year’s flying continues to be rather sporadic. The only consolation is that I’ve been trying to make the most of what little flying I’ve been able to do. Today’s flight was no exception, and it was great to be able to show the real benefits of General Aviation to someone who isn’t within the relatively small community of pilots. We had a great day out today, and it was a real pleasure to be able to share the experience with someone with relatively little experience of flying in light aircraft. Hopefully I’ll be able to do this for others in the future too!

Total flight time today: 2:40
Total flight time to date: 328:35

 

Touring Wales

April 21, 2018

So far this year I had only managed a couple of short flights, predominately flying circuits in order to regain or retain currency. This certainly wasn’t what I’d had in mind when I spent a year training towards my PPL! The scarcity of my flying was made even more apparent when considering the fact that my Class Rating was due to expire in less than 6 weeks time, and I was still some 2 hours short of the required hours in order to be able to Revalidate by Experience.

In order to ‘automatically’ revalidate my license, every two years I need to satisfy the following in the 12 months prior to the rating expiring:

  • Fly 12 hours
  • Fly 1 hour with an Instructor
  • Carry out 12 takeoffs and landings
  • Fly 6 hours as Pilot in Command (PIC or P1)

Thus far I’d only managed around 10 hours, and only 0:45 with an Instructor. In order to avoid flying a License Proficiency Check with an Examiner, I really needed to get in the remaining two hours, and build up an hour with an Instructor. This was the first time since gaining my license that I was going to come even close to missing these requirements.

A spell of good weather coincided with Catrin being invited on a play-date on a Saturday afternoon, so this seemed an ideal opportunity to at least get to the 12 hour target. I came up with a plan for a fairly ambitious trip, flying around virtually the entire coast / border of Wales, stopping off at three airfields (Haverfordwest, Caernarfon and Hawarden) along the way. The initial plan was to travel clockwise, but after some contact with Rocky (who’s recently qualified as a Controller at Hawarden) led me to reverse the direction of the trip, calling in at Hawarden before his shift finished early on Saturday afternoon.

Route Plan

Route Plan

The days leading up to the flight provided ever encouraging forecasts, but on the night before the flight the forecast changed to include a small chance of some thunderstorms building up in the South during the afternoon. All the forecasts I saw suggested that there was only a fairly slight chance of these happening, and even if they did the generally good conditions meant that they should be easy to spot in plenty of time to avoid them.

As usual I completed the majority of the planning the night before the flight, meaning I only needed to do a final check on the weather and NOTAMS, print out the plogs and mark up the chart before leaving for Kemble. A slight detour en-route meant I was slightly delayed on arriving at Kemble, but I still thought I had plenty of time to achieve what I’d planned to do.

I filled the Arrow with fuel before carrying out the ‘A’ check, finding no problems with the aircraft. I returned to the office to complete the pre-flight paperwork, and on returning to the aircraft gave it a last look over, and took fuel samples to ensure there was no water or other contaminants in the fuel. Once this was done, I got on board and prepared the cockpit for the first leg up to Hawarden. I called the FISO to request engine start as we’re asked to do at Kemble, and the engine started without any problems.

I spent a little while setting up the avionics and GPS on-board, hearing the FISO calling me as I finally powered up the 430 to request taxy clearance. It seemed they’d been trying to get hold of me (they should have understood why I wasn’t answering, as it’s standard practice to turn off all avionics during engine start), as one of the other Lyneham aircraft had turned around and abandoned their planned trip to Hawarden, due to poor in-flight visibility.

This is a fairly common problem during a prolonged period of high pressure. High pressure tends to ‘put a lid’ on the atmosphere, preventing the contaminants in the air from dispersing as they normally would. The result is often a day that looks like perfect flying conditions from the ground, but with very poor visibility once you’re actually up in the air. I decided that I should at least make an attempt to carry out the flight, as I was confident in my ability to complete it even if the visibilty wasn’t ideal. I received my taxy clearance, initially to A4 to enable me to cross to the South of the airfield to reach the threshold of 08 which was the runway in use.

I had to hold briefly as one of Freedom’s Citabrias left the grass runway ahead of me, and as I stopped at A4 I was then cleared to cross the runway, being asked to report ready at C2. I taxyed around the South side of the airfield, carrying out my power checks on the approach to C2 as an Electricity helicopter practised landings off to my left. The power checks were normal, and I pulled up to C2, spotting an aircraft on late Downwind as I announced I was ready to depart.

The FISO checked I was ready to depart immediately, and once I confirmed I was, he cleared me onto the runway to depart. After a quick check of the engine guages, I applied full power and began my takeoff roll. There was virtually no wind, so the takeoff was routine, and as I climbed out I applied a quick dab of the brakes before raising the gear and turning left to head towards Gloucester. As I climbed out, the FISO was changed, and another aircraft announced on frequency arriving from the North about 5 miles away at around 2500 feet. I notified the FISO that I was climbing through 2000 feet up to my cruising altitude of 4500 feet, and he passed this information to the inbound traffic.

As expected the visibility was quite poor, and despite regular checks ahead of me (including lowering the nose periodically to reduce the blindspots immediately ahead) I didn’t see the other aircraft. However, I did climb rapidly through the level he had reported at, so there was only a very short period of time when we were operating at the same height.

Poor in-flight visibility

Poor in-flight visibility

Once well clear of Kemble,  I signed off with them to contact Gloucester. They seemed fairly busy, with a number of aircraft joining, and one ‘Exam’ callsign being cleared into the hold before carrying out an ILS Approach. A further aircraft request a transit of the overhead at around 2000 feet, but this was denied due to the hold being occupied. Up at 4500 feet I was well above all the other traffic, so routed via the Gloucester overhead, reporting overhead the airfield as I passed. My next turning point was Kidderminster, and when I informed the Controller of this he queried whether I wanted to stay with him, or perhaps contact Birmingham. I’d never even considered talking to Birmingham, so decided to stay on frequency with Gloucester until I reached Kidderminster.

While the forward visibility wasn’t great, visibility down to the ground was fine. This gave me the confidence to continue, knowing that I would always have a good view of the ground below me, and not get stuck above a layer of cloud. I continued on to Kidderminster, signing off with the Controller at Gloucester on reaching the town, and switching to Shawbury to see if I received any response from them (although fully expecting to hear nothing due to them generally being closed at the weekend). As expected I received no answer, so I headed on to Sleap, listening in on their frequency until I got a bit closer.

Mindful of my lack of real flying (the last time I’d landed anywhere other than Kemble was back in October of last year!) I was making sure to monitor my progress  to each waypoint, noting down ETAs and ATAs on my plog. I was also keeping a close eye on my fuel burn, keeping track of how long I was operating on each tank, and trying to switch tanks every 15 minutes or so. Sleap seemed fairly busy also, and as I approached I heard an aircraft departing to head back to Hawarden. I gave them a quick call just to let them know I would be passing overhead at 4500 feet, and getting a good view of Shawbury off to the right as I approached.

Approaching Shawbury and Sleap

Approaching Shawbury and Sleap

Passing Shawbury

Passing Shawbury

On my route from Sleap to Hawarden, a Class A airway drops down to 3000 feet, meaning I needed to fly lower than this to avoid infringing Controlled Airspace. On passing Sleap I began a slow descent down to 2000 feet to ensure I was well clear of this. I signed off with Sleap and made contact with Hawarden Radar (forgetting to retrieve the ATIS first as I should have done!). I was given details of the runway in use (22), along with their QFE and a squawk to set on the transponder. The Controller told me to position for a Left Base join, and after a brief period to orient myself, I turned right to get myself into the correct position.

As I approached, I was handed over to Hawarden Tower, who informed me that they had a Cessna inbound on a long Final approach, and that I was number two. I spotted the other aircraft quite easily, and after reporting that I had him in sight, the Tower Controller told me to position behind him. I tried to give myself plenty of space, and as I turned Final the other aircraft was just touching down. He slowed easily to make the right turn, and I was given a ‘Land After’ clearance as he turned off the runway. The rest of my approach was routine, and I made a relatively gentle landing, although it was a little flatter than I would have preferred.

I also got slowed down in good time to make the turnoff to the right, and received my taxy instructions to the GA apron, ending with a ‘Welcome back to Hawarden Andy!‘. It was clearly Rocky in the Tower, and he’d done a good job of getting us both on the ground safely. While taxying to the November apron via Golf, Juliet and November, I heard an aircraft on the apron being told to hold position to allow the Cessna onto the apron. I was then instructed to hold at the end of Juliet to allow the departing aircraft to taxy in front of me on November to make ready to depart.

On reaching the apron a marshaller was waiting for me, and he indicated where he wanted me to park. I pulled into the designated spot, closed down and began to secure the cockpit. The helpful marshaller took me into the office, where he took my landing fee and arranged a security pass to enable me to get through the security gates that led to the diner. I headed in, finding that they’d helpfully reserved me a table! I ordered my usual sausage sandwich, which certainly filled a hole when it arrived a short while later.

Nice of them to reserve a table for me!

Nice of them to reserve a table for me!

I made sure to be finished before 1pm when the ‘other’ Andy had the table reserved, and headed out to take a few photos and call Caernarfon before walking back to the November apron (having a bit of a battle with the turnstile on the way!). I headed back in to the office to book out, finding that the phone line to the Tower was busy for a few minutes. I sent Rocky a tweet to tell him to get off the phone (the guy in the office thought the Controllers were probably ordering a takeaway!) and he sent me a message back when the line was clear. I booked out (speaking to Rocky again!) and headed back to the aircraft to give it a quick check over before getting ready to leave for Caernarfon.

Parked up at Hawarden

Parked up at Hawarden

Once onboard, I remembered to check the ATIS this time, before calling the Tower for start and departure information. I was cleared to start, and again the engine started easily. Another aircraft had started off to my left, and taxyed away as I got back in contact with the Tower. I was cleared to taxy to N1 for runway 22 via the November taxyway. Approaching N1 the other aircraft was just completing their checks, and was cleared onto the runway. They departed as I completed my own checks, before pulling up to the hold and reporting ready. Unlike my last visit, I was ready to copy the departure clearance I was given, which this time was ‘Runway 22, right turn out. Not above 1500 feet, squawk 0430’.

I read this back and had it acknowledged as ‘correct’, then was cleared onto the runway to depart. There were no problems departing from the 2km long runway, and I had plenty of height before having no usable runway ahead and raising the gear. Rocky bade me farewell, instructing me to contact Radar. On initial contact, they removed the height restriction (cautioning me to remain clear of Controlled Airspace), and I continued on towards the ridge ahead of me.

The ridge seemed higher than I had initially expected, so I took a quick look at the chart to see how low the Class A airspace descended (3000 feet) so I increased power again to climb to 2500, doglegging right initially to gain more height before crossing the ridge. The Controller had warned that he may lose radar and radio contact with me when I crossed it, and given me suggestions of who to contact should that happen. In actuality the extra height kept me in contact with him, and I stayed with him until I reached the coast near Rhyl.

I signed off with Hawarden Radar, deciding to listen in to London Information on the relatively short leg to Caernarfon. Once clear of the Class A airspace I climbed up to around 4500 feet. I generally followed the North Wales coast around to Bangor, spotting another aircraft travelling in the opposite direction well below me at one point. As I drew level with Anglesey, I started to monitor Caernarfon to build up a picture of the aircraft in the local area. As I approached Bangor I began a descent to 2000 feet ready for an overhead join at Caernarfon, and made contact with them to confirm they were still using runway 22.

Approaching Bangor, Anglesey off to the right

Approaching Bangor, Anglesey off to the right

There was one other aircraft in the circuit as I approached, and as I descended on the Deadside he was already on the Downwind leg. I carried out a nice circuit, although I had to fly a wider Base leg than I normally would have preferred due to the positioning of the aircraft ahead of me. By the time I turned onto Final, the other aircraft had landed and cleared the runway, and my second landing of the day was much better than the first. I rolled out and vacated the runway, informing the A/G operator that I wanted fuel.

As I approached the fuel bay I noticed that the parking area immediately opposite was empty, so I asked if I could push the aircraft into it when I’d finished refuelling. He asked that I contact them instead, so that they could have me park closer to the Tower (which would mean I would have to re-start the engine, something I was trying to avoid!). I had the aircraft filled with fuel ready for the final legs of the day, before pushing it back slightly to ensure I had sufficient clearance to turn past the pump. The A/G operator gave me a bay to park in, and I taxyed down there before securing the aircraft.

I headed in via the Cafe door, then headed to the desk to settle my landing fee, only to find the area around the desk deserted. I headed back in to the Cafe to see if landing fees were now settled there, only to spot the big ‘C’ on the new Control Tower near the gate I’d used to leave airside! I headed over to settle the landing fee and fuel bill, before walking back over to the Cafe to get a cold drink. While there the Coastguard helicopter departed, attracting quite a bit of attention from virtually everyone!

Coastguard helicopter departing

Coastguard helicopter departing

Parked up at Caernarfon

Parked up at Caernarfon

I was running perhaps 30 minutes or an hour behind my original schedule, and given the prospect for worsening weather I decided to fly the planned route back to Kemble, but abandon my plan to land at Haverfordwest. I walked back out to the Arrow and carried out a quick transit check (including taking fuel samples to be safe). The engine started easily and after getting the airfield information I taxyed to the hold ready to depart. Power checks were normal, and after waiting for an arriving flexwing microlight to land, I entered the runway. Once the runway was clear I applied power, and took off heading directly out over the sea.

Departing Caernarfon

Departing Caernarfon

I set course for Llanbedr, climbing to 3500 feet to be sure of clearing the high ground and mast on the first leg. I switched to the Llanbedr frequency, hearing a number of aircraft departing as I approached. Once clear to the South, I switched to the London Info frequency, this time signing on with them for a Basic Service. Once the initial details were passed, I waited for a break on the frequency and asked them to confirm that the Danger Areas around Aberporth were not active (they are only activated by NOTAM). The FISO confirmed this, meaning I could continue on my planned route down the coast.

Passing Aberystwyth

Passing Aberystwyth

I passed Aberystwyth, and dialled in the Strumble VOR to aid in confirming my position. I listened in initially to Aberporth Radar, and then West Wales Information to ensure nobody was operating there, hearing nothing as expected. I passed by the airfield, and continued on towards the VOR, turning slightly before reaching it to head to Haverfordwest. I contacted them as they seemed busy, telling them I would be passing overhead at around 4500 feet.

Turning at Haverfordwest

Turning at Haverfordwest

I turned in their overhead, now heading for Pembrey. I’d been in contact with Tony and Oliver the day before, finding out that Oli was competing in his first race weekend there today. On this leg I descended to 2500 feet, and made contact with Pembrey, hearing a helicopter departing to the East. Again I informed them I would be passing overhead, and as I approached Pembrey I positioned myself to get a good view of the track to the South of the airfield. I carried out an orbit overhead, getting some photos as I did so. Once this was complete, I continued my route towards the City of Swansea, signing off with Pembrey in readiness for contacting Cardiff to request the Zone Transit.

On-track action at Pembrey

On-track action at Pembrey

I monitored the Swansea frequency initially, ensuring there was no traffic operating there that might affect me. I then contacted Cardiff Radar to request a Basic Service and Zone Transit, routing around the South Wales coast, then up the Welsh side of the River Severn. Initially the Controller advised me to continue, reporting when passing Porthcawl. I was still several miles from there when he came back on frequency, clearing me for a Zone Transit as requested, not above 2500 feet.

Passing the lighthouse at Nash Point

Passing the lighthouse at Nash Point

The Cardiff frequency was quite busy with light aircraft arriving and departing. I spotted Llandow off to my left, followed by St. Athan and then Cardiff Airport itself. I passed the airport and followed the coast as it turned North, passing the City of Cardiff itself and the docks. The Controller confused me a little as I left Controlled Airspace, asking what my ‘maximum operating altitude’ was. Initially I wasn’t entirely sure what he was asking, so responded ‘currently 2500 feet’. A few minutes later I realised that he was actually trying to find out how high I would be climbing now I was clear of the Controlled Airspace.

Light aircraft departing Cardiff

Light aircraft departing Cardiff

I continued up the coast, and on reaching the Old Severn Bridge I signed off with Cardiff, and set course for Kemble. It was now around 16:30, so I contacted them earlier than I would have normally in order to get the airfield information before they closed at 17:00. They were still operating on 08, and the frequency seemed very quiet as I approached. There was still nobody on frequency as I got closer, so I asked for a Left Base join to see if I could get down on the ground before they closed. As I was positioning for this and beginning my descent, another aircraft reported they were joining from the South, and would join Downwind.

As I joined on Base, I spotted the other aircraft at the start of his Downwind leg. The wind was now picking up, and there was a significant crosswind from the right (140 degrees at 13 knots). I correct for this on Final, but as I got close to the ground the conditions became much more turbulent, and I was having a hard time maintaining the correct track across the ground while trying to kick off the crab to the right. My control inputs weren’t quite enough to maintain the runway centreline, and I found myself landing much more firmly than I would have liked. A shame to round off a good day’s flying with such a poor landing!

I was cleared to taxy to ‘Lyneham Corner’, and reported clear of the runway once I was on the Alpha taxyway. I taxyed back to the parking area, closing down in front of the fuel bowser in readiness to refuel. Having filled up the aircraft before leaving Caernarfon, I only needed about 30 litres to bring it back up to tabs. I pushed the aircraft back into its parking space, and removed all my gear before putting the cover on. I headed in to the office to settle the post-flight paperwork, before heading home for a well earned beer!

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Leg 1 profile

Leg 1 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 3 profile (part 1)

Leg 3 profile (part 1)

Leg 3 profile (part 2)

Leg 3 profile (part 2)

It was great to be finally back in the air doing some ‘real’ flying. I’d made quite an ambitious plan, and managed to execute most of it despite the fairly challenging conditions. It was good to revisit some airfields that I’d been to in the past, and nice also to be able to carry out the Zone Transit around Cardiff again. It was a shame that some of the landings weren’t quite up to scratch, but at least the flying had all gone without any dramas. Now I need to complete the last part of the requirements for my revalidation (finishing the hour with an Instructor) and see if I can maintain the momentum for the remainder of the year!

Total flight time today: 4:10
Total flight time to date: 324:25

 

Wales and back via the scenic route

October 8, 2017

As seemed par for the course this year, 6 weeks had passed since my last flight. A pass to go flying from my darling wife had me weather watching all week as per usual. Sadly the forecasts were very inconsistent in the last couple of days before the flight, and the evening before’s TAFs didn’t provide a forecast good enough to plan the more lengthy trip I wanted to fly.

Instead, I opted for a quick hop over to Cardiff, then planned to see how the weather looked to decide whether to return directly to Kemble, or venture further West for a more scenic route home. The planning was relatively straightforward, but I did take the time to thoroughly read through the Cardiff VFR guide to ensure I was aware of the various entry and exit routes to Cardiff.

I saw that JP had the newly returned G-BPAF booked, so I contacted him to see if he still intended to fly. There was a potential technical issue that he was hoping would be ironed out, so I offered him the option of coming with me in the Arrow should his plans not come to fruition.

On the morning of the flight, the forecasts were still for ‘mixed’ VFR conditions. While all of the cloud in the forecasts was ‘few’ or ‘scattered’, the levels it was at meant that a trip over the higher ground between England and Wales may not be possible. As such I made two plans for the return from Cardiff, one a direct flight between Cardiff and Kemble, and the other heading West as far as Pembrey before returning overhead the BCN VOR.

I sent JP a message confirming I was going to attempt to fly, and set off for Kemble. The weather while driving looked much better than the forecast suggested; although there was plenty of cloud around, as promised it was well scattered and as such should make it easy to find routes around it. On arrival at Kemble I saw that G-BPAF wasn’t on the ground, so I took this as a good sign that JP had managed to fly.

I headed into the office to double check the defect log for the Arrow, then went out to carry out the ‘A’ check. Just as I finished, JP arrived back in the Warrior, and we spent a short while discussing whether he was going to attempt further flights. In the end, he opted to fly G-BPAF to Cardiff as well, so I fully fuelled the Arrow and completed the remainder of the pre-flight.

JP set off a few minutes before me, and I got myself nicely settled in the Arrow. For some reason the engine was particularly difficult to start today, and I was a little concerned that I might actually flatten the battery before getting it successfully started. Luckily it started on the 4th or 5th attempt, and I was cleared to taxy to A1 via Alpha. As I arrived near the hold I saw another aircraft ahead carrying out his power checks, so I positioned myself well clear of him so that I could do my own checks.

These checks were predictably routine, and as I positioned myself at the hold the aircraft ahead took to the runway. Soon it was my turn, and I lined up as a helicopter took off from the grass runway ahead of me and to the right. The FISO pointed him out to me, and cleared me to depart. I waited a short while to check which direction the helicopter was headed, before beginning my own take-off roll. My departure track was pretty much straight ahead, but I jinked left slightly to avoid a noise sensitive area directly ahead, before resuming the required track once clear.

Conditions were very much as forecast, with some cloud up around 2500-3000 feet. I climbed initially to 2000 feet, before later climbing to 2500 as conditions allowed. The Severn crossings were easily visible ahead of me, and as I approached Thornbury I listened in to the Cardiff ATIS before making contact with the Controller.

Passing Filton

Passing Filton

Initially I made contact on the wrong frequency (Approach rather than Radar), but once on the correct frequency I heard JP signing off to switch to the Tower frequency. Once the frequency was quiet, I requested a Basic Service and Cardiff Docks Arrival. I was assigned a squawk of 3614, and cleared on the published arrival, not above 1500 feet on the Cardiff QNH. As I turned over the Severn crossings, I began a gradual descent to get down to 1500 feet, stopping at around 1350 feet as I passed over Newport. In hindsight, I probably achieved the required level much earlier than I needed to, as the airspace only started at 4000 feet where I was, before dropping to 3000 feet around the area of the docks.

As I approached the docks, I was given a further squawk, and instructed to contact the Tower. Once on the Tower frequency, I was cleared for a Left Base join, behind some other traffic ahead of me that was established on Downwind. I initially had trouble spotting the other traffic, but as I approached the ATZ the Controller prompted me again, giving me a useful pointer as to where he was. I was then easily able to spot him, and as instructed positioned behind him on the Downwind leg to follow him.

Positioning Downwind at Cardiff

Positioning Downwind at Cardiff

I was unsure how far Downwind to go to allow sufficient spacing between myself and the traffic ahead, and probably went further than I really needed to. This did however give me plenty of time to establish a stable approach, and I brought the Arrow in for a nice gentle touchdown on Cardiff’s runway 30. I was instructed to vacate left off the runway (as expected) and positioned just behind G-BPAF in the parking area, as two of the airport’s fire appliances waited on the taxyway off to my right. It was nice of them to roll the equipment for me, but I didn’t think my landing had been that bad!

Fire trucks in attendance as a Commercial flight takes off

Fire trucks in attendance as a Commercial flight takes off

Once I’d secured the aircraft I headed towards Aeros (the booking in point for GA aircraft), and after a bit of a wait for someone to let me in, paid the landing fee before heading up to the cafe for some lunch. Unfortunately I hadn’t thought to check with the cafe, and today they were only serving carveries. JP and his other half had run into the same issue, so both had opted to make do with a slice of cake. My lunch that day consisted of a packet of crisps and a rather nice slice of cheesecake!

G-AZWS and G-BPAF parked up at Cardiff

G-AZWS and G-BPAF parked up at Cardiff

We sat outside on the balcony and chatted while we ate, before JP had to leave due to another booking on the aircraft after him. I took my time eating, and given the weather conditions I could see from my viewpoint, decided that continuing the flight to the West was perfectly possible. Once I’d finished eating I headed down to Aeros to book out, making sure I requested a ‘St. Hillary’ departure that would allow me to leave the Cardiff airspace to the West.

JP was just taxying out in G-BPAF as I carried out a quick transit check, and after getting myself settled I fortunately managed to get the engine started much easier than it had at Kemble. After carrying out my power checks I positioned myself at the hold behind another aircraft departing ahead of me, just as he was cleared onto the runway to depart.

JP departing in G-BPAF, I followed the Tomahawk in the foreground

JP departing in G-BPAF, I followed the Tomahawk in the foreground

Once he’d taken off, I was also cleared onto the runway, and kept a good eye on the aircraft ahead as I began my takeoff roll and oriented myself to fly to the St. Hillary mast initially. The other aircraft seemed to be following the same departure route, so I was careful to keep him in sight, mindful of the fact that he would probably be travelling slower than I was once we completed our climb up to the cleared altitude within Cardiff’s airspace.

He seemed to be flying around 100 feet lower than me (which helped me keep him in sight to my left), and I switched over to the Radar frequency to continue. Initially the Radar controller seemed to assume I was on a departure directly back to Kemble, but I advised him that I was requesting a St. Hillary departure. His response was ‘ah, taking the scenic route’, which was to become somewhat of a fixture in later R/T conversations on this flight!

On reaching the St. Hillary mast, I turned left to head towards the services at M4 J36 (the departure point from Controlled Airspace on this route). As I reached this I requested a climb from the Controller, climbing initially to around 2000 feet. I informed him of my planned route (to the West as far as Pembrey, before returning via the BCN VOR) and asked if I could remain with him for the remainder of the flight. He suggested I contact Swansea initially, as they were operating today and I was planning to pass a few miles North of them.

Dodging clouds

Dodging clouds

I signed off with Cardiff, and made contact with Swansea. After my response to his ‘pass your message’ request, his response was ‘say again route, Cardiff to Kemble via where?’. I confirmed that I was heading out to the West as far as Pembrey, making the point of informing him I was taking the ‘scenic route’!

I was having great fun adjusting my track and height to remain clear of cloud, and as I cleared to the West of Swansea I signed off with them before contacting Pembrey. Again my explanation of my route seemed to generate some amusement, but the A/G operator helpfully informed me of other traffic operating to the North of Pembrey. As I continued towards Pembrey I heard the other aircraft making regular position reports, helpfully including his height.

Turning at Pembrey

Turning at Pembrey

Pembrey appeared in the distance, and as I turned overhead I was able to get some good photographs of the airfield with the race circuit to the South. There didn’t seem to be anyone using the track today sadly. I set course to the North to route in the general direction of Carmarthen, climbing up to around 5000 feet on this leg in order to be at a good height to cross the higher ground around Brecon.

On my last flight with Kev to Sandhill Farm I’d had a chat with him about the ‘Nav’ feature of the autopilot, learning that the autopilot is only connected up to the CDI that is couple with Nav 2, and not to the one coupled to the GPS. Armed with this new information I tuned Nav 2 to the BCN VOR frequency, and set the CDI up to the appropriate inbound track to the VOR. On engaging the autopilot in Nav mode, it made a fairly abrupt left turn to intercept the appropriate radial, before doing a passable job of tracking it for a minute or two.

Up at around 5000 feet there was still a fair amount of cloud, and I amused myself by altering heading and height to remain VMC. There were still plenty of breaks in the cloud, giving me confidence that when the time came I would be able to get back down below the cloud for my arrival into Kemble. I signed in with Cardiff again, the Controller seemingly remembering my details so not asking me to ‘pass your message’. He did assign me a squawk, enabling him to immediately see where I was.

Traffic passing much lower than me!

Traffic passing much lower than me!

Approaching the BCN VOR, I decided to use a large break in the cloud to descend below the worst of it, levelling off at around 3500 feet after passing the VOR. I dialled in a new course onto the VOR CDI to track outbound from BCN to get me over the Severn Bridges, and not long after the Cardiff Controller informed me he had nothing further for me, and suggested I freecall Bristol.

Approaching the Severn, there appeared to be a bank of cloud ahead at the level I was currently at, so now I was clear of the higher ground I descended down to around 2500 feet in readiness for arriving at Kemble. I dialled in Bristol’s listening squawk and tuned into their frequency, deciding that it wasn’t worth contacting them for just a few minutes before having to switch to Kemble to rejoin.

Crossing the Severn back into England

Crossing the Severn back into England

I made contact with Kemble in good time, being given the runway in use and QFE. As it seemed relatively quiet I asked if I could fly a couple of circuits in order to reset my passenger currency for another 90 days. This was approved, and as I approached at Overhead Join height there was a brief discussion between the FISO and a pilot planning to transit the overhead at around 2500 feet QNH, which is only around 100 feet or so above the Overhead Join height. The pilot climbed to 3000 feet to give a little more separation, and I positioned myself appropriately for the Overhead Join.

I descended on the Deadside, lowering the gear as I did so. Another aircraft announced ‘Overhead’ just as I was turning Crosswind, giving plenty of spacing behind me. I continued on around the circuit, completing the before landing checklist on the Downwind leg. Base and Final were all routine, and I managed another gentle landing, before retracting the flaps and applying full power to head round the circuit one more time.

Again the circuit was relatively straightforward, the traffic that had joined behind me landing long before I completed the Downwind leg. My final landing of the day was again good, and the FISO approved a backtrack to our parking area. Completing the after landing checks just after clearing the runway, I taxyed back and positioned the aircraft nose in to one of the parking areas, as a pilot was making ready to leave in G-BPAF.

He seemed to take an age getting ready, and I was on the verge of going to ask how much longer he was going to be. Rather than pulling past where he was parked, I probably could have had the Arrow refuelled and back in its parking space before the Warrior was ready to start! Fortunately he started up as I was considering going to speak to him, so I waited while he completed his checklist and began to taxy away.

One of Monarch's now defunct fleet

One of Monarch’s now defunct fleet

I pulled the Arrow over to the pumps, and was about to refuel when another pilot approached, asking if I was done for the day. He wanted to take the Arrow for a short flight, and confirmed that the amount of fuel remaining (tabs on one side and just below tabs on the other) was plenty for the flight I had planned. We pushed the aircraft back to its parking space, and I headed in to the office to complete the post-flight paperwork.

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Leg 1 profile

Leg 1 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 2 profile

Despite being unable to complete a longer flight due to the uncertain weather conditions, I’d had an excellent days flying. Cardiff was as welcoming as ever, it was just a shame that I’d arrived at a time when they were only serving large meals, so was unable to take advantage of the cafe there (I generally try to avoid eating too much when flying, to reduce the chance of anything disagreeing with me!). The protracted route back from Cardiff had been great fun to fly, and my route did at least seem to provide some amusement to some of the people I spoke to on the radio!

Total flight time today: 2:10
Total flight time to date: 318:35

 

Family trip to the seaside

August 28, 2017

It seemed longer than a month since my last flight, but I was itching to get back in the air again. A family holiday in France had us returning to England on a Bank Holiday weekend, so it seemed a good opportunity to try to get some flying in before going back to work. The weather forecast for the weekend was (surprisingly!) pretty good, so a plan was hatched to go flying with the family on the Bank Holiday Monday.

I considered a number of destinations (including returns to Haverfordwest and Llanbedr) before finally deciding to return to Shoreham for only my second visit there. The Shoreham landing fee is one of the highest that I’m aware of for a more ‘GA’ oriented field, but I felt that given how little I’d flown this year I could afford to splash out every now and again!

While planning the flight, Kev contacted me to ask if I could drop the Arrow off at Sandhill Farm, rather than returning it to Kemble. Initially I was quite keen to do this, but the more I thought about it, the more the prospect of flying into an unfamiliar gliding field with the family alongside seemed not to be such a good idea. After a bit of negotiation, we agreed that I would drop the family off at Kemble, before picking up Kev and then flying him and the Arrow to Sandhill Farm. Meanwhile, Luned and Catrin would drive over to Sandhill Farm to pick us up and return us all to Swindon.

As usual I completed the majority of the planning the evening before the flight, pleased to see that the longer range weather forecasts seemed to be being borne out in the TAFs for the following day. Final planning was completed in the morning, together with a call to Shoreham for PPR and to double check all was well there. Once ready, we loaded all the gear into Luned’s car before heading off to Kemble.

Pre-flight paperwork and checks were all normal, helped a little by the fact that Kev had (deliberately) left the aircraft uncovered the previous evening due to the forecast good weather. Once we were all ready, we loaded Catrin in the back before Luned and I settled ourselves in the front. The engine started easily, and power checks were completed without any surprises.

I loaded an abbreviated route into the 430 (Kemble -> Goodwood -> Shoreham) with a view to using the OBS feature of the 430 to follow an appropriate track between Newbury and Goodwood. I also remembered to copy this to one of the ‘permanent’ flight plan locations to enable us to use the same route on the return leg. There were a couple of aircraft operating in the circuit, and after a brief wait we took to the runway and departed.

Takeoff was routine, and I raised the gear before turning Crosswind. The route I had planned initially took us over the former RAF Lynham, so I continued the climb, departing to the South. We climbed to around 3000 feet, finding that the visibility in the air was (as is often the case) a lot poorer than it looked on the ground. While not ideal, it was perfectly acceptable for the flight, so we continued on to Lyneham before setting course to our next turning point at Newbury.

As we approached Newbury, I attempted to make contact with Farnborough LARS for a Basic Service and to request a MATZ penetration (our route took us through the Western stub of the Odiham MATZ). Unsurprisingly, Farnborough were very busy, and it took some time before we could find a break in the transmissions to enable us to make our initial call. The Controller was managing so many aircraft that on a number of occasions they actually ran out of squawks, and had to request aircraft wait for one to become available!

It took me a couple of goes to correctly set up the 430 to use the OBS (the CDI was set to ‘VLOC’ rather than ‘GPS’), but once correctly configured it provided a useful magenta line (and indeed CDI indication) to follow on the leg down to Goodwood. Farnborough continued to be busy, and as we approached Petersfield I signed off with them in order to contact Goodwood.

The Goodwood frequency seemed relatively quiet, but once I’d passed our details to the FISO she informed me that there were 7 or 8 other aircraft operating in the local area. I didn’t expect many of them to be operating up at our altitude, but we kept a good look out for them as we approached Goodwood. I positioned the aircraft so that Luned and Catrin could get a good view of the airfield off to the right hand side, and they both spotted cars operating on the racetrack that surrounded the airfield.

Passing Goodwood

Passing Goodwood

From Goodwood it was a relatively short leg to Shoreham, so I changed frequency once we were about 5nm to the East of Goodwood, making contact with Shoreham for our joining instructions after listening in to the ATIS. I was given a Crosswind join to runway 20 with a left hand circuit, and asked to report North abeam Worthing Pier. As we approached this, I realised that I hadn’t even begun my descent, so had to make a much steeper descent than normal, dropping the gear to increase the descent rate and silence the gear warning horn.

As we approached Crosswind at circuit height, we were asked to slot in behind a Cessna that was directly ahead of us approaching from the opposite direction. As we slotted in behind him, we spotted another aircraft higher and also approaching from that direction, so we were initially a little unsure as to whether we had indentified the correct aircraft.

I followed the Cessna around the circuit, trying my best to build a sufficient gap between us so that there wouldn’t be an issue on landing. We turned Base and then Final just as the Cessna touched down, and it appeared that he would be unlikely to clear the runway before we needed to make our landing.

Fortunately, the Controller was on the ball, and for the first time ever I was given a ‘land after’ clearance, allowing me to land on the runway even though the Cessna hadn’t vacated it yet. This clearance is only available at airfields with full ATC, and in this instance was definitely a safe option, as the Cessna was right at the far end of Shoreham’s 1000m long runway before we touched down.

We were given instructions to parking, which I had to decline and ask for fuel. The Controller gave us new instructions, and I pulled the Shoreham plate out of my kneedboard and handed it to Luned so that she could help direct me on the ground. She quickly located the fuel pumps and our current location, before directing me to the correct location.

We all disembarked at the pump, with Luned and Catrin heading towards the booking in point while I remained to refuel the aircraft. Unsure initially whether it was self-service, I hooked up the ground bonding line to the Arrow’s exhaust, before a member of the airfield fire service came out to handle the refuelling. I had him fill the Arrow’s tanks (fuel at Shoreham is slightly cheaper than at Kemble, so it made sense to try and save the Club a bit of money), before I jumped back onboard to taxy to parking.

I initially made contact on the Approach frequency to request start and taxy (we hadn’t been switched to Tower during our arrival) and the Controller approved my start, asking me to contact the Tower frequency when I was ready to taxy. Fortunately the engine started easily (it can occasionally be difficult to start when still hot) and I taxyed the Arrow to the parking area, parking next to a very nice looking twin.

Parked up at a busy Shoreham

Parked up at a busy Shoreham

We all headed in to the booking in point to pay the landing fee and settle the fuel bill, before walking in to the restaurant for some well earned lunch. Catrin busied herself looking at displays of aircraft models while we waited for our food, and I only remembered about the aircraft arrivals board in the terminal building after we had been there for some time. Sadly, by then our flight had disappeared off the top, so I was unable to get the required photo!

We all enjoyed our lunch in the busy restaurant, with Catrin and Luned sharing one of the tasty looking desserts once we had finished our food. We headed back to the booking in point to book out, then walked back to the Arrow to get ready for the return journey. I carried out a walkaround (including taking fuel samples), before we all got back into the aircraft and made ready to leave.

Happy passengers ready for the return leg

Happy passengers ready for the return leg

I listened to the ATIS, this time learning that my initial call should again be to Tower rather than Approach. After start clearance was received (and forgetting to mention that I had the ATIS!) the engine started easily again, and we were given taxi instructions around the Eastern side of the airfield to the hold for runway 20. Again, Luned was in charge of the plate (and hence directions on the ground!) and also double checked the noise abatement procedure for departure from 20 (a slight right turn once over the railway).

Power checks were carried out just before the hold, and I completed the before takeoff checks after pulling up to the hold. We were cleared on to the runway, and then given takeoff clearance, and unsurprisingly the takeoff roll and rotation were all normal. I raised the gear after a quick dab on the brakes to stop the wheels spinning, and made the required right turn just after passing the railway line, learning that this is to avoid a collection of houses on the climbout.

We set course to the West, switching over to the Approach frequency as we climbed out. We were given traffic details of an aircraft joining from the West, and just after receiving a response to our request for his height, we spotted him passing some distance away, off to our right hand side. I continued the climb up to around 3500 feet for the leg to Goodwood.

Flying Family selfie!

Flying Family selfie!

I again kept Goodwood to our right as we passed overhead, to allow Catrin and Luned to get a good view. The leg to the North West from Goodwood was again flown using the OBS feature on the 430, with a cross check using the VOR on Nav 2. Once clear of a small of a small portion of the London TMA that came down to 4500 feet, we climbed up to 4500 for the remainder of the journey back to Kemble. Visibility heading out of sun was much better than on the outbound leg.

Once clear of Goodwood, we switched to Farnborough for a Basic Service. They now seemed a lot quieter, and after the initial exchange of information we were given a squawk, and information regarding gliders operating in the vicinity of Lasham. As we passed Lasham a short while later we could see a number of gliders operating in the distance to our right, some of them thermalling to gain height.

Passing Lasham

Passing Lasham

On this leg I used the autopilot to maintain heading, finding that it had a tendency to oscillate slightly from left to right, instead of maintaining a constant track. Kev later mentioned this when I told him that I’d been using the autopilot, so it’s obviously a ‘feature’ that he’s aware of! We spotted the site of Carfest South off to our left as we continued, and managed to get a few photos.

Carfest South site

Carfest South site

Newbury soon appeared ahead, and I signed off with Farnborough as we were leaving their area. Greenham Common was an obvious landmark, and we chatted with Catrin about the fact that this had been used as a filming location for the recent Star Wars film. She was aware that the location was somewhere near where I worked, but this was the first time she’d seen it for herself. From Newbury we headed again towards Lyneham, spotting the munitions depot at Welford to the North of the M4.

Greeham Common

Greeham Common

Welford

Welford

As we approached Lyneham, Luned spotted another aircraft relatively close by to our right on an opposite track. We’d spotted it a little late, but there was a good distance between us. Approaching Lyneham I made contact with Kemble, learning that they were still operating on runway 26. I initially announced an Overhead Join, but things seemed quiet as I approached, so I asked for a Left Base join to speed up our arrival. In an attempt to ensure I also reset my 90 day currency, I asked for some circuits also.

Turning at Lyneham

Turning at Lyneham

As we approached Kemble, I set about losing height, and heard another aircraft joining Crosswind from the North. We spotted him as he travelled Downwind, and slotted in behind him to follow him around the circuit. Before landing checks completed, we joined on Base leg and tuned on to Final, realising that I’d allowed myself to get a bit close to the aircraft that was just landing ahead. Sadly he seemed a little slow to vacate the runway, so I was forced to go around.

This was my first ‘real’ go around in a while, and to be honest I made a bit of a pigs ear of it. The decision was made relatively early (at around 300 feet AAL), and I increased power and raised the nose, turning right slightly to offset myself from the runway. It took a few seconds for me to realise why the aircraft wasn’t climbing as I expected, primarily because I still had full flap deployed!

I raised these in stages, also raising the landing gear. Another aircraft was descending on the Deadside, and I kept a close eye on him as we continued, turning Crosswind and Downwind ahead of him. After reporting that we were Downwind, the FISO informed us that we were number 3 to land, but I could only see one aircraft ahead of us. I queried the position of the other aircraft, and was told he was ‘very low, over the 747’.

This would have put him on a very strange circuit path, as the 747 is just to the South of the main runway, well inside the usual circuit flown at Kemble. We were at correct circuit height, and I simply couldn’t see the third aircraft. Mindful that he may be somewhere behind us and a potential collision risk, I made the quick decision to vacate the circuit, and come back to join again. I announced I was clearing to the South, and departed the ATZ while climbing up to 2000 feet AAL to rejoin.

On a more conventional join now, I was well positioned to get a good feel of where the other traffic in the circuit was, and we slotted in this time without any conflicts. On the Downwind leg I changed my mind about the circuit request (knowing that Kev was waiting and not wanting to delay him too much) so informed the FISO that this circuit would be to land. We continued around the circuit, and on Final I requested a backtrack to let the FISO know what I was hoping to do once we were on the ground.

Soon after this request, we heard another aircraft turning Base behind us. After bringing us down for another good landing, I informed the FISO we were happy to continue to the far end of the runway if it helped with spacing. He took us up on our offer, giving us instructions to vacate next right, before returning on the grass taxyway back to our parking area. We arrived back at parking and I positioned the aircraft beyond the fuel bowser, knowing that we had plenty of fuel for the short hop to Sandhill Farm.

We all disembarked, and Catrin helped me push the aircraft back towards a parking space as Kev arrived from the Club. We chatted for a short while about the plan for the flight to Sandhill Farm, before returning to the office to complete the tech logs for the 2 legs flown so far, and enter the third flight in. Luned and Catrin got in the car as we walked back to the aircraft, and left to travel to Sandhill Farm by road to pick us up once we arrived.

Kev and I boarded the Arrow, with me in the P1 seat planning to do the flying, while Kev offered to handle the radios. Engine start was again simple, and we taxyed to A1 for power checks. Once the pre-takeoff checks were complete, I gave a departure briefing (Kev picking me up on a minor point about lowering the gear to land back on the runway in case of an engine failure – if there was sufficient runway I wouldn’t have raised the gear yet!), and we were cleared by the FISO to line up and wait.

Kev and I debated how long was the correct time to wait for the FISO’s ‘Take off’ instruction, and after hearing nothing for 20 or 30 seconds Kev announced we were in position, and we were given the ‘Take off at your discretion’ instruction. Takeoff was normal, and we departed directly from the Downwind leg, which simply involved a 20 degree turn to the right to head towards Sandhill Farm.

We kept well clear of South Cerney (I had seen parachutists operating from there on my drive to Kemble that morning) and spotted Fairford ahead and to our left as we continued. Kev pointed out Shrivenham to me, and as we continued I queried this, as if it had been Shrivenham we should actually have been heading to the North of it! We both debated and decided that this was in fact Highworth, and then spotted the ‘real’ Shrivenham ahead and to the right.

Kev made contact on the Sandhill frequency, and we heard that they had two gliders in the air. Kev spotted one thermalling off to our right, and I set us up for landing. On the Downwind leg we were still at around 2000 feet, so I lowered the gear and descended. We debated the correct landing direction in the field (and changed our minds a couple of times as can be seen from the track log!) before I eventually got us set up on a stable approach.

The field is around 900m end to end, so I needed to ensure we landed as early as possible. There was also a pronounced hump and downhill section from around 1/2 way into the field, so it was important to be on the ground and slowing well before this. We passed over a road just before the field at what felt like a very low height, and I brought us in for a nice landing just over the hedge. Once down and stable I raised the flaps to increase braking effort, and gently braked us to a safe taxying speed.

We could spot someone off to our left marshalling us, so I followed his instructions to get the aircraft to an appropriate parking space, before shutting down and heading over to chat. Just as we did this, Luned arrived in the car, and parked just behind us. Good timing!

Parked up at Sandhill Farm at the end of the day's flying

Parked up at Sandhill Farm at the end of the day’s flying

We chatted for a while, Catrin amusing herself by joining some children playing near the hangars with three dogs. Once ready, we all climbed in to Luned’s car, and drove back to Swindon. After dropping Kev off, we then had to return in order to hand over his keys, which had fallen out of his pocket onto the front passenger seat.

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Leg 1 profile

Leg 1 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 3 profile

Leg 3 profile

Messy Kemble arrival!

Messy Kemble arrival!

All in all this had been an excellent day’s flying. Shoreham is a really nice destination down near the coast, it’s just a shame that the landing fees are on the high side, so it’s probably not a place I will visit on a regular basis. The visibility on the outbound leg hadn’t been ideal, but returning with the sun behind us was a lot more pleasant. I was a little disappointed at my poor execution of the go around, but was happy with the decisions I’d made during the rather messy arrival back at Kemble.

Also, I’d flown into another new airfield, this time a grass strip used primarily for gliding. Sandhill Farm had been a really nice place to visit, and it was good to have added it to my logbook.

Total flight time today: 2:55
Total flight time to date: 316:25

Local flight for currency

July 27, 2017

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

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

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

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

Lined up, ready to depart

Lined up, ready to depart

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

Near-perfect flying conditions

Near-perfect flying conditions

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

Ominous looking weather towards Cardiff

Ominous looking weather towards Cardiff

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

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

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

Jamie at the controls

Jamie at the controls

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

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

Passing GCHQ

Passing GCHQ

Overhead Gloucester

Overhead Gloucester

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

Joining Overhead at Kemble

Joining Overhead at Kemble

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

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

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

Track flown

Track flown

Flight profile

Flight profile

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

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

A solo visit to Leicester

June 4, 2017

After a week visiting relatives with the rest of the family, we returned home on a Friday flight, giving us the remainder of the weekend to recover and get ready to go back to work on the Monday. It seemed a good chance to attempt to get some flying in on the Sunday, so after some negotiation I arranged that I would go flying by myself, leaving Luned and Catrin to spend the day relaxing at home. This coincided with a joint BBQ at Kemble for members of the Grython and Lyneham Clubs, but given the relative lack of flying so far this year I decided that taking the chance to go flying was more desirable than a Club social!

Graham had booked the Arrow for a short flight to reset his currency, which prevented me from making my usual ‘full day’ booking. He was due to return around noon, so I started looking for destinations that were within around an hour or so flying time from Kemble. I settled on Leicester, and carried out the majority of the planning the evening before as usual. The weather forecast was mixed, with most places forecasting infrequent showers throughout the day. However, I decided that I would attempt the flight, on the basis that all the forecast periods of showers were only around a 30% chance of actually occurring. This suggested I should be able to avoid any adverse weather without too much difficulty.

I completed the final planning on the morning of the flight, being able to take advantage of a slightly later start than usual by having an extra hour or so in bed! The weather forecasts remained the same so I decided to continue with the flight, leaving for Kemble around 10:30 or so. As I arrived at Kemble, Graham was just taxying out for his flight, so I completed the pre-flight paperwork in the Club, while listening out for his return on the airband receiver in the Club. I also (somewhat belatedly!) contacted JP to see if he was interested in joining me on the flight, but he was planning to attend the BBQ so decided not to accompany me.

On hearing Graham landing, I headed back to the car to gather up the rest of my gear, before walking out to meet the aircraft. I helped Graham refuel before pushing the aircraft back to its parking place, requiring some negotiating with the pilot of the Lyneham Bulldog who had just returned to refuel. I was confident that he had enough time to refuel the Bulldog (blocking the exit from the parking area) while I carried out the pre-flight, and not cause me any issues when I was ready to depart.

Despite the aircraft already having flown, I took my time on the walk around, as I needed to give the newly added fuel sufficient time to settle before checking the fuel drains for any signs of water or other contaminants. I left this check until the absolute last moment, and had to take samples from the right hand tank twice due to there being a small amount of water in the initial sample from this side. Other than this minor issue, everything was normal and I was soon ready to depart.

Once on board, I used my new handheld to call the FISO for start and airfield information, receiving a slightly surprising readability of ‘4’ (5 being the maximum). At some point when I’m next flying with another pilot, I’ll make an attempt to use it in the air to see how well it performs. The engine seemed a little reluctant to start, taking three or four tries to catch. Once it was running I set up the remainder of the avionics before calling for taxy instructions.

I was cleared to taxy via Alpha to Alpha 1, and as I approached the D-Site apron I was asked to hold position briefly to allow one of Freedom’s Warriors to taxy across in front of me after emerging from the Golf grass taxyway. I followed him down to the hold, and we completed our power checks side by side. He was ready before me, and departed as I moved up to the hold to complete the before takeoff checklist. Another aircraft was joining overhead as I took to the runway, and I saw him descending on the Deadside as I announced that I was in position.

The FISO issued the ‘take off at your discretion’ message, but I felt that taking off now would put me in potential conflict with the joining aircraft as he turned Crosswind. I let the FISO know I would wait a little, and as the aircraft joined the Crosswind leg and crossed over the runway ahead of me, I announced I was taking off and began the takeoff roll. It had just started to rain slightly,  the aircraft accelerated normally, and as I rotated I took care to feed in some right rudder to counter the swing. Once there was no usable runway ahead of me I dabbed the brakes and retracted the gear, before turning Crosswind to follow the other aircraft around the circuit.

He was well ahead of me by now, so I announced I was climbing out on the Downwind leg, before setting course to the North East to my usual first turning point at the Chedworth disused airfield. As I cleared the ATZ to the North East, a look over my shoulder showed the airfield now appeared to be experiencing a fairly heavy shower, but the skies ahead of me were relatively clear.

Shower over Kemble after departure

Shower over Kemble after departure

I signed off with Kemble’s FISO, and on reaching Chedworth I set course for my next turning point at Banbury, and contacted Brize for a Basic Service. The frequency was fairly quiet, and I was issued with the appropriate squawk and granted the Basic Service. A short while later the FISO warned me that they had been notified of winch-launched gliders operating from Little Rissington that day, so I dog-legged to the left to give Little Rissington some more clearance. I spotted a few gliders on the ground as I passed, but didn’t see any in the air.

Passing Little Rissington

Passing Little Rissington

I had planned to sign off with Brize as I approached Banbury, but the Controller had me change frequency a few minutes before this. I switched to Coventry, and once established on the leg from Banbury contacted them for a Basic Service also. I had to descend to remain clear of a bank of cloud ahead of me, descending to around 2500 feet to keep below the cloud.

Descending to remain clear of cloud

Descending to remain clear of cloud

The Coventry Controller asked me to report abeam Draycote Water, and as I continued I heard a further aircraft getting permission for a direct arrival onto the ILS from the DTY VOR. A quick check of the chart showed that his track would also potentially intersect mine. I contacted the Controller to double check what altitudes he’d be operating at, and learned that his profile would intersect mine. Rather than risk being an issue for him, I elected to climb to 4000 feet (I was now well clear of any cloud) to keep well above him and allow him to fly the ILS without me interfering.

I continued onwards, reporting at Draycote Water, turning at Rugby and then reporting again passing the Bitteswell Industrial Estate VRP. I signed off with the Coventry Controller, and made contact with Leicester as I approached Bruntingthorpe. Leicester were still operating on runway 28 with a Right Hand Circuit, so I planned my approach, keeping the airfield to my right in order to correctly join overhead. I initially misidentified a cluster of similarly oriented roads as the airfield, before soon spotting the actually airfield slightly further ahead.

Passing Bruntingthorpe

Passing Bruntingthorpe

I orientated myself for the appropriate runway, descending on the Deadside and turning Downwind. As I continued Downwind, I dithered slightly over whether to pass inside or outside the village that was at the point I would normally turn Base. I decided to pass inside, leading to a slightly odd-shaped circuit. I lined up nicely on Final, gave a last ‘Reds, Blues, Greens’ check before coming in for a nice gentle landing. Another aircraft was waiting to join the runway to depart, so I cleared as quickly as I could, announcing over the radio that I was clear, before taxying in and parking up in the relatively empty parking area.

As I pushed the aircraft back into its parking space, predictably the heavens opened as a shower crossed the airfield. I walked in to settle the landing fee, in time to spot a lovely looking Twin landing and taxying in. This was later identified as a Beech 18, which had been brought in from Jersey after being bought by one of the members at Leicester. Very nice!

Beech 18 arriving at Leicester

Beech 18 arriving at Leicester

I headed upstairs for some lunch, deciding not to take too much time due to the relatively unpredictable weather forecast. While I ate, there were a few other movements around the airfield, but compared to how it had been on previous visits it was very quiet. Once I’d finished eating, I headed back down to the aircraft and carried out a quick walk around before getting back on board.

Arrow parked up at Leicester

Arrow parked up at Leicester

This time the engine started much more easily, and after getting departure details from the A/G operator I taxyed to the hold for runway 24. Another aircraft was just vacating the runway as I left the parking area, and on approaching the hold I turned into wind to carry out the power checks. These were satisfactory, and I pulled up to the hold to check the approaches for other aircraft. There was nothing to be seen, so I announced that I was taking to the runway, then began the takeoff roll.

Mindful of the requested noise abatement procedures, I did my best to avoid flying over noise sensitive areas on climbout and departure. Once clear of the areas concerned, I set course to the South towards Rugby, climbing up to around 3000 feet. Although the weather was still far from ideal, the cloud formations were all well spread out and easy to avoid. After signing off with Leicester, I contacted Coventry when near Bruntingthorpe, receiving a Basic Service on the leg down to Banbury. There were a few other aircraft on frequency, but most people seemed to have decided to avoid flying in the weather conditions.

I made the decision to stray from my planned route, and fly over Swindon to see if Luned and Catrin could catch sight of me as I flew over. The simplest way to achieve this was to fly over Brize, so I descended back to around 3000 feet (I hadn’t been paying much attention to my height, so had climbed a couple of hundred feet) to fly at a level that would allow me to request a Zone Transit, rather than risk having to descend into the airspace due to any cloud I might encounter. On approaching Banbury I signed off with Coventry, and listened to Brize’s ATIS to get a feel for their weather and get the correct pressure setting.

On selecting the Brize Zone frequency, I initially had to wait as another pilot approaching from the South negotiated his own Zone Transit. This was granted, and once all the details had been completed, I made my request. This also was quickly granted, and somewhat unusually I was cleared through the Class D at 3000 feet (generally I’ve found that VFR transits are given a ‘not above’ or ‘not below’ altitude restriction). As I continued on towards Brize, I heard the other pilot being notified when he was entering and leaving Brize’s airspace, so I was somewhat surprised not to receive the same messages myself. In fact, the Controller only came back to me a mile or two after I had left Brize’s airspace, and when he did I requested the frequency change over to Kemble.

Passing RAF Brize Norton

Passing RAF Brize Norton

Swindon was now clearly visible in the distance, so I set about working out exactly where I was, and then trying to find our house. Fortunately a number of landmarks are easily recognisable from the air, so I used the Asda Walmart, old Renault distribution centre and Catrin’s school to locate our house, before carrying out a couple of orbits and snapping off a few photos. On landing I learned that Luned had indeed seen me, and managed to get a few photos of me while I was flying over.

Our house, former Renault distribution centre clearly visible just in front of the wing

Our house, former Renault distribution centre clearly visible just in front of the wing

Me flying over our house (click on the photo for a larger version!)

Me flying over our house (click on the photo for a larger version!)

Once the photo mission was over, I oriented myself to head towards Kemble, giving them a call on the radio to learn that they were still operating on runway 26. I descended to the appropriate height for an Overhead Join, and kept Oaksey Park well off to my left in case anyone was operating from there. The frequency was quiet as I approached Kemble, so I asked the FISO whether he knew of anything to affect a Left Base join. As expected there was no other known traffic, so I descended further and positioned to join on Kemble’s slightly strange Base Leg for 26.

More showers in the vicinity of Kemble

More showers in the vicinity of Kemble

After carrying out the before landing checks, I kept inside Kemble village as usual, establishing myself on Final. Another aircraft had joined the frequency approaching from the West, and the FISO warned him of showers off in that direction. As I continued down Final, the low level winds proved to be quite challenging, generating significant turbulence as I got closer to the ground.

Mindful of the approaching rain, I concentrated on making a good approach, having to work hard on the controls to maintain the correct alignment with the runway and vertical profile. As I got down towards the runway and began the roundout, there was a sudden loss of lift, which I countered by adding a significant amount of power, expecting to have to continue to full power and execute a go around. The aircraft stabilised itself a few feet above the runway though, so I continued the approach and began to reduce power again to complete the landing.

When a couple of feet above the runway, again there was a sharp reduction in lift, which I was unable to correct quickly enough by adding power. Fortunately I had stabilised the aircraft close enough to the runway so this just caused a rather firm touchdown. The extra workload close to the ground had also meant I’d landed longer than I had initially intended, so once I had reduced to a walking pace I requested a backtrack from the FISO, leaving the runway at A3 as usual.

I taxyed back to parking and shut down, before adding a small amount of fuel to bring the aircraft back up to ‘tabs’. Predictably it had started raining again, so after pushing the aircraft back into its parking space I tried to quickly get the cover back on, before heading back into the Club to complete the post-flight paperwork. Kev was still there after the afternoon’s BBQ, and asked me to give him a lift home, to which I readily agreed.

Tracks flown

Tracks flown

Leg 1 profile

Leg 1 profile

Leg 2 profile

Leg 2 profile

Today had been one of the most challenging days flying that I’d experienced in a while. Despite the far from ideal forecast, in fact the flying conditions had been well within my capabilities, and despite having to occasionally change course or level to avoid cloud, I was never in a situation where I had to question whether the flight could be completed safely. I’d learned a useful lesson not to become complacent on an approach, and managed to handle the tricky conditions close to the ground without too much difficulty.

Total flight time today: 1:55
Total flight time to date: 312:15