Marky Wants To Fly

The Life Of Mark, From Pre-PPL To Beyond

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Summer is finally here !!!

Since our trip to the Isle of Wight earlier this month, the weather had been appalling considering that it was July, a supposedly summer month. But, with the promise of vast improvements and sunnier times, we planned a trip over to the East coast. Having not flown further than Breighton before, this would be a new experience for the both of us. Personally, I thought that it was a rather novel idea being able to see both the Irish Sea and the North Sea in the same afternoon. With an initial destination of Beverley in mind, followed by a brew stop at Sandtoft, the trip was planned for Saturday 28th July 2007.

Departing Barton’s RWY 27L just before lunch, we initiated a downwind departure and tracked around MCR Class D and proceeded to a reference point overhead Huddersfield Crossland Moor airstrip. I decided that I needed to practice my instrument skills, so for the flight, Jacqueline was the eyes of the operation, constantly looking out for other traffic. The Magnetic tracks and timings which I had drawn up before the flight all worked out well and very few of them did not match their predictions. Although we had been unable to gain PPR for Beverley due to a lack of telephone answering services on their end, we did manage to contact them on their A/G service. Unfortunately, the airfield was closed due to severe flood damage. Ok, a shock, but nothing too bad. After quickly switching frequencies to Humberside Radar, I decided that I still wanted to visit the sea, and chose North Coates as a diversion. North Coates airstrip is situated adjacent to Spurn head on the East Coast just near the mouth of the River Humber. With a RWY direction perpendicular to the sea, the approach and finals was very picturesque and beautiful with a Westerly wind. Coming in over the beach, was something which I had not done since my days at Woodvale, and to do it this low was spectacular. I found myself relying on the Altimeter a lot more than I do when I am over grass fields and roads, as it is a lot harder to judge vertical separation due to the constant.

Upon landing and paying our three pounds for a landing and two brews (wow), we decided to walk to the beach, a journey about half a mile in length and over dunes and dykes. We had brought a feast of a picnic with us. With the tide out, walking to the actual sea took a good hour, but it was worth it in the end. We even managed to get a bit of dancing and aeroplane manoeuvres in along the way! We ate our dinner lay in a field, before casually walking back to VA and departing to Sandtoft. We would defiantly be coming back to North Coates. Speaking to the lady at the desk, it became apparent that we could camp overnight at the airfield. We therefore earmarked Friday 24th August as an overnight flyaway, but that’s another story.

Departing North Coates with flaps set down to take off and a good headwind, we were airborne on the 650m RWY well before the half way mark. Switching quickly to Humberside APP, I notified them of our presence and also that we would like to transit the ILS via two marked VRP’s. With all the traffic on the frequency and an A330 inbound, I expected them to say no and therefore had a reserve plan drawn up. But, surprisingly they said yes and so we continued to fly at 1500ft perpendicular to the active RWY. We were also notified that their was a Spitfire and a Hurricane on route in the area, but we did not manage to gain an affirm on visual. The approach into Sandtoft was interesting to say the least, due to the fact that finals seemed to place you right over an industrial park, parallel to a road with some very high looking lampposts. In fact, the warnings to land past the numbers were well noted, and it soon made perfect sense, seeing as some of the closer lampposts clearly intruded well into any standard approach pattern. On short finals, we could have been driving down a road. I then decided that I would not be returning here. The quality of the RWY did not get many points either, as for a GA hub, I expected more. Anyway, after a free landing, a few cakes and a brew, we clambered back into VA and departed for Crossland Moor. Immediately after climbing to CCT height, we changed HDG and contacted Doncaster APP for an immediate transit through their ILS. Jackie was the nominated navigator for this leg of the trip, and she was very good at keeping us on our correct track over the ground. Within a short period of time, we were back on the ground and rolling to a stop in the pan at Crossland Moor. Surprisingly, we were the only visitors for the day, which is strange considering how it was a Saturday afternoon, and the first sunny day in short term memory. Perhaps it was the fact that it was slightly blustery which put people off.

After a pit stop, we were back in the air and heading home. Immediately after T/o, I handed over to Jackie, who piloted VA back to Barton. She was a natural, smooth and proficient. Not only did she do the flying, but also after a brief radio lesson, the R/T as well. Carrying out an overhead join, I merely took the controls about 300 ft above the ground on finals and executed a smooth touchdown and rolled back to the hanger via the fuel bay. Today had been amazing. A variety of places, one of which is now one of our favourite places to visit so far in my aviation memories.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

'Road Trip'

This flight was one that had been in the pipeline for a few months. The plan was to fly South from Barton over the Brecon Beacons down to Perranporth and Lands End. A round trip of over 450 nautical miles. But, with the weather unquestionably un-seasonal to say the least, the plan had to be modified. Instead of the usual weather experienced during the summer months, the sky treated was busy treating us to a severe dousing of showers, torrential downpours and frequent thunderstorms. Not the perfect weather for touring, but sitting in the café with a hot chocolate and with brighter days forecasted I decided to dodge the showers and go for it. VA was packed with all of our gear, the tent, sleeping bags and enough clothes and snacks for a few days. Boarding VA along with my passenger and co pilot for the trip Jacqueline, I was full of glee and joy. Leaving the moist grass of Barton’s RWY 27L at lunchtime on Sunday 1st July, the destination was Compton Abbas, a hill top airfield close to Yeovolton. Flying down past Oulton Park and Cosford, the weather was getting better with every mile flown. Although a few showers were met, I simply applied the carb heat, turned the pitot heat on and made sure that all the hatches were battened down. The scenery was beautiful, absolutely stunning, the rolling hills and flat fields off Shropshire were a joy to fly over.
Approaching Bristol, the airspace grew thick and fast. Although the military stations were all shut with it being a Sunday, we were passed like a hot potato in-between the approach frequencies of the likes of Birmingham, Gloucester, Bristol-Filton, Bristol, and Bournemouth. The experience gained from this was invaluable. Approaching the Severn estuary, the start to the Bristol Channel, the views were amazing. Perhaps one of the most spectacular parts of the trip, after the Bristol area, was overhead Bath. The city looked amazing from the air, as we were able to see everything in its full grandeur. The approach to Compton was interesting. Although the airfield was easy enough to find, due to the high intensity white strobe light, which they had employed, the fact that it was situated on top of a hill next to a forest led to a whole array of flying conditions. We had decided on Compton, due to the fact that Sandown IOW did not have fuel and did not expect to get any delivered until the end of the following week. The cct was elongated, due to the proximity of the local ‘quite spot’ hamlets and villages. Short finals was where it got interesting, and it was only when I was stood on the ground an hour later watching a Piper Warrior take two attempts to land, that I realised just how tricky it was. Although unreported upon contact with the field, it became clear that windshear conditions were prevalent. A full does of throttle quickly remedied this problem, followed by a smoothish landing giving the conditions. I was impressed with myself and patted myself on the back, as it was not a straightforward task, especially in the face of coach load of keen aviation photographers! After paying the landing fees and gaining a small round of applause from the staff for the landing efforts, we pitched the tent right under the wing of VA, which was a rather novel site. A six-mile hike to the local town later, and we were relaxing on the ground in front of VA, with a bbq full of sausages. That was the life!
We awoke on the next day, Monday the 2nd July, to reasonably clear skies and little wind. But, being in the UK, this did not last long. Soon, the Vis dropped and the rain came rolling in, it was honestly hard to believe that it was July! After a full English fry-up the weather had slightly improved and we decided to head off to Sandown in the Isle of Wight. A flight just under one hour, which would take us over the New Forest in Hampshire and the Solent. It turned out to be remarkable. Flying in between Bournemouth and Southampton’s Control Zones not above 2000ft, we had two disused airfields as VRP’s. It turned out to be very exciting and enthralling. Although we did actually fly through a few showers, we came out on the other side in blue skies and sunny skies of an apparent ‘new world’. Once again, the landing was eventful, but good. The wind was gusting 25+ Kts straight down the RWY, so coming over the trees at the threshold was a little blustery, but the touchdown was nice. The local flying school, who were all firmly stood to the ground, seemed to like it anyway lol. A ‘short’ walk into Sandown itself actually turned into an 8-mile coastal hike, taking us around the boundary of the neighbouring airfield Bembridge. The evening ended, with a mound of chicken on a bbq in the sunset and a night camping once again under the wind of VA on a deserted airfield…
The third day of our voyage was meant to see us return smoothly to Barton. But, following the trends of tradition, the weather since our departure had rendered the grass of Barton inoperable, and so we were forced to divert en-route. Although it may seem that this was a little problematic, the fact that I had the whole week off work and love flying, actually meant that the situation turned out to be great. An excuse to be with the plane for longer, woo hoo! The choice of destination was now Shobdon, an airfield in the heart of Hertfordshire, where I had not visited since I was a lad. The flight over to Shobdon was great; it consisted of a visual round the island tour of the Isle of Wight, including eye pleasing visuals of the famous Needle Rocks, and Henry VIII’s Hurst’s Castle. The flight North retraced our previous route, flying over both Beaulieu and Stoney Cross VRP’s. With it now being a weekday, Tuesday in fact, I decided to speak to Boscombe Down seeing as we were planning to fly across the end of their MATZ stub. Although it is not a legal requirement to talk to them, it made sense, due to the fact that during the week, the levels of military traffic at our planned altitude of 1500-2000ft is often high. The best example of this actually happened to us when flying over Bath to Bristol, when we were informed by Bristol App that we had rotary traffic of an Army Gazelle helicopter incoming at 1000ft. We were above him and did not see him and to be honest, with the high levels of camouflage adopted by these aircraft, we stood no chance. Instead, we relied on the Bristol controller to direct us both onto non-converging flight paths. Flying over Longleat House, allowed us to see the famous Red Bull Air Race venue from a pilots view. Around the Severn, the ATC went like clockwork. We were passed between a number of controllers representing different stations, each of which already held our details. A simple change of squawk meant that we were back on track. Opposite Gloucester, we changed direction to head over to Hereford and Shobdon. Before we knew it, we were overhead Shobdon and preparing to land. Short finals was called and we touched down on the Asphalt, the first non-grass landing of the trip. A quick sugar rush, gained by eating my fair share of 25 chocolate brownies, the rest eaten by a 'squirrel', looking quite remarkably like Jacqueline... Camping was once again on the airfield and although we did enquire about night flying, it was not to be… Instead we went on a countryside walk of the local area.

A new day brought a new chapter in the journey, but no significant change of weather. The cloud was medium level, with high winds and moderate levels of precipitation. The plan was to scoot off to Welshpool, a short hop across the Welsh mountains. We took enough fuel for the journey and a little more, opting to brim her tanks in Welshpool, where we would qualify for a free landing if we took over 80 litres on board. But, like all good plans ours was changed. Upon getting airborne, the incoming weather front forced us to fly the low level route, a slightly longer but by all means safer route. Once we reached Welshpool, the weather opened up nicely into a fine day. The cct there is slightly ‘unconventional’ to say the least. It is flown at 1500ft to avoid high ground, height that can not really be lost until the second half of base and finals. This means that although the RWY consists of 1200ft of Asphalt, the final approach almost represents a short field landing due to the amount of height needing to be lost. Anyway… The landing was smooth, in fact one of my best ever. The numbers were hit perfectly. In fact, one of the first questions I was asked upon disembarking, was ‘are you commercial?’ Although we planned to depart to Barton later in the afternoon, further rain up North put an end to this, and we had no choice but to visit Sleap or stay put. After agreement from a very unwelcoming contact, we opted to stay put and once again camp under the wing of VA on a deserted airfield. We had a walk off the airport into the local area, a walk that saw us return many hours later lol…
Thursday saw the change of many items, mainly the weather. Although Barton was initially shut in the morning, it opened around 13.00 Local. Unfortunately, it finally looked as if we would have to go home. To be honest, the only factor, which made home seem appealing, was the fact that we had only packed clothes for three days, by now the trip was into its fifth day! Otherwise, we could and probably would have stayed out for longer lol! Even though we had to dash back to Barton, before another incoming weather front could potentially leave Barton inoperable, I had been itching to land at Rednal airfield. This is an old RAF base close to RAF Shawbury, which was now PPR only. One RWY was still used or light aircraft, whilst the other two were used for paint balling and a carnival fair. It was interesting, very interesting. Finals saw us fly over a set of pylons followed by some overgrown trees. The facilities, which consisted of a locked hanger and a windsock, were deserted. After a quick pork pie we were once again airborne. Before we knew it, we had Ashcroft airfield in site and we entering the Low Level Corridor. Changing to Barton AFIS, we received notification off a female operator, notifying us that Barton was once again shut. It was only after I declared that I was diverting to Crossland Moor, that she told us that she was only joking. Believe me, my response was not a textbook reply offered in the OAT manuals! After another nice landing, we were pushing VA back into her home, hanger number three. That was the first time that I had ever hit the RWY numbers at Barton, and it felt good!
After several landings on grass and by the looks of it, a few months of not being washed, VA needed a good clean. We spent over an hour scrubbing her down, finally to see whiteness again! A job well done! We had flown for almost eight hours, visited four new airfields and revisited an old favourite of ours. This was the first time since KSEE that I had flown continuously for five days in a row and it felt good. I believe that my skills had become homed in and defiantly improved on a considerable level in many respects. Being the first time we had toured for more than one day, this will surely be a trip, which we will remember for a long time. Many aspects, including the under wing camping and the scenery, were very memorable indeed. The time we spent together had been amazing and we had loved every minute of spending every moment together. We had enjoyed every minute of the holiday!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Robin... But no Batman...

My search to transit from the high wing Cessna 172 onto a low wing model led me to the Robin HR200/100. Sitting in a hanger at the back of the airfield, it was clear that she didn’t get much flying, a closer inspection of the airframe further confirmed this theory. As a twin seat, partially aerobatic, low wing aircraft, the Robin seemed like an interesting choice of aircraft to progress onto. I was therefore apprehensively excited about the test flight. Apprehensive, due to the fact that this would be my first flight with a qualified instructor since I passed my PPL Skills Test last September. Excited, due to the pure adrenaline, which is created through flying. The big day was set for the 19th June. Although the day turned out to be a howler, with 24Kt winds, the flight still went ahead. Having not flown with a stick for over three years, it was interesting and fun to once again have the snappy response and pin point accuracy. The Robin handled like a dream, every touch and manoeuvre was made easily and willingly. Simply put, the aircraft went where you asked it to and did what you told it to. Steep turns were a doddle, and stalls were very interesting as well. With the bubble canopy, the visibility was perfect. 360-degree panoramic views were no problem at all. The only downside, was the lack of leg space, and after nearly an hour in the left hand seat, my right leg was falling to sleep. Clearly, although the Robin had so many plus points, the down side of the leg space meant that unfortunately, the share was not to be…

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Best Day Ever!!!

Looking out of the window, the weather was looking perfect, warm, sunny, cloudless and blue… Since being at KSEE last September, I had missed the sights of this! Arriving at Barton at 11.00 AM, the flight planning was finished with a quick calculation of the winds and the required HDG’s. Luckily for us, we didn’t need fuel or ‘roads where we were going’, as Barton was getting very busy. It looked like every man and his dog wanted to get up today. Departing at 12.00, we used RWY 20, one which up to date, I had not had the pleasure of using. Short, but well maintained, with lovely views of the Manchester Ship Canal on climb out.

Departing the CCT on downwind, me and my princess tracked around the MCR Class D zone, and up over the peaks of Derbyshire. Flying overhead Huddersfield Crossland Moor, the destination was Breighton, the home of the Real Aeroplane Company, an interesting and greatly anticipated collection. Approaching Knottingly, near Pontefract, we were treated to the real sights of the British power industry; the cooling towers of Southern Yorkshires power stations. With the steam slowly rising in the heat and little wind, they were very pretty.

Apparently, Breighton is a notoriously difficult airfield to spot from the air, but knowing that the old RAF base lay just to the North, it was a relatively easy spot. The only confusing part was the distinct lack of RWY definition and markings. Joining on the live side, due to the warning that aerobatics were taking place on the dead side, I joined downwind for RWY 11 grass. The CCT was straightforward enough, although short finals were a little hairy coming in over the hedges. I kept her a little high as I had never visited before, but watching from the ground, some of the locals were extremely close to the hedges and touched down a lot earlier than I managed to.

Only when we were on the ground did we realise that we had landed straight in the middle of the ‘Auster fly in day.’ Strangely enough, they had failed to mention this when calling for PPR and it was not advertised in any of the national press. Anyway, it turned out to be spectacular on more than one front. Just a word of note, landing at Breighton is like flying through a time warp, back to the 1940’s. For me it was amazing, the place has bags of character and was oozing with personality and charm. As soon as we stepped out of VA, we were treated with a very rare and emotional site, a full aerobatic display from a North American P-51D Mustang. This was totally unexpected, and was truly amazing. It was like a personal display, standing right on the RWY, no barriers and no rules about flying over the crowd. With no restrictions on the display, it was a moving performance from one of my personal favourites. I couldn’t have asked for more, it quite simply made the day…

The flight line and hanger displays added to the immense spectacle. Full of Chipmunks, Bucker Jungmeaister’s, Extra 300’s, Piper Super Cub’s and more, there was more then enough to keep the eyes entertained. Further displays from a range of aircraft, we made even more enjoyable by bacon, sausage and egg butties, yum. I must have spent about three hours just staring at the spectacle which was the Mustang, viewing its curves and offerings from within touching distance, but not daring to touch. Unfortunately, we had to leave just after half four, due to the fact that they would not accept card for fuel. Luckily, Sherburn-In-Elmet was only 11 miles away. A short hop later and we were on short finals for Sherburn. This is not one of my favourite GA airfields, due to the ‘factory like’ appearance and feel which it presents. Taking on a full loading of fuel, we departed for Crossland Moor just above Huddersfield. This is one of my favourites. It’s different in every sense. Not only is it located 630ft AMSL, but it is surrounded by quarries, which provide a mixture of varying sink levels… The ‘terminal’, which is actually a static caravan, is great. There’s nothing better than sitting on the terrace outside with a brew watching the planes land on the uphill slope!

After a chat with the locals, and also with the pilot of a Barton based C150, one which I had considered a share in last year, we ‘toured’ the farm strip and found a ‘secret’ hanger. The aircraft here were unreal for a strip of this location and size. Tucked away were a Pitts, a C182 and a wonderful Piper Arrow III. The evening flight back to Barton was pleasant, and I managed to fit in three full stalls and a PFL, these were things which I had been planning on carrying out for the past month and I am glad that I finally had the chance to do so. Unfortunately, the PFL only got down to 700ft AGL due to the presence of an RAF Sea King, which was operating in the local area. As I had visual with it, I thought best to call off the PFL and head back to base.

Arriving OH for RWY 20, the CCT was relatively empty and the approach was well judged, with a nice smooth landing. All in all, it was a remarkable day. It had been a lot more than your average days flying, not that any flying trip is average, but this one had created a life long memory. An excellent, could not have been better time at Breighton, some very nice flying, three land away’s, 2.5 hours PIC, and I even got to practice some emergencies. It just goes to show that the best days come when they are least expected. Jacqueline, my passenger for the day said that 'she had just had the best day in her life', something which the smile on her little face seemed to mirror!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Follow the yellow brick road...

Departing Barton just before 11:00, the destination of Welshpool was firmly set in our minds. Despite a last minute report from another departing pilot that rain in the Low Level Route was hampering visibility, I decided to check it out for myself. It turned out that it was fine to proceed down the route, a transiting zone between MCR and LPL Class D airspace. Arriving overhead Oulton Park on the far side, we headed towards Oswestry, and then on towards Welshpool. The flight went without hitch; the only problem was the ever-wondering DI, which had to be realigned with the Magnetic grid ring compass on a frequent basis of not longer than five minutes. At least the FREDA checks were getting done on a regular basis!
Although initially quite a tricky place to spot, landing at Welshpool was straightforward enough, with long finals to RWY 22 established and short finals called adjacent to the town of Welshpool itself. I found myself singing along to the Wizard of Oz's 'follow the yellow brick road' whilst on finals, absolutely bizarre lol... After landing, I was amazed that the fuel was a self-service pump station, something which I had not yet seen in the UK with the high levels of CAA safety legislation. With the fuel now costing an alarming £1.41 per litre at Barton, I brimmed the tanks with a cost of only £1.32 per litre. This also guaranteed a free landing, as we had took on more than 50ltrs.
This was only the second time, which my little princess had ever been up in an aircraft, and I was amazed at how calm she remained, even when I decided to execute a few steep turns. She seems like a natural born flyer, and to be honest, it’s a real pleasure to take her up. A short two-mile walk later, and we were in the town itself for a spot of picnic style alfresco lunch at the canal side. We headed back after spending half an hour and experiencing a lengthy de-tour, searching high and low for the perfect ice-cream lol.

A walk around the hangers led to the discovery of a few remarkable aircraft. One of my favourites, an ‘N’ registered Piper Seneca V was looking stunning in her red and white livery. There was also a heap of commercial traffic, due to the fact that this is ‘apparently’ the mid Wales airport. We also saw one of the funniest signs i have seen in a while. It featured a man preforming illicit acts with a sheep, whilst warning people to take care due to lonely Shepard's. Seeing though we were in Wales, we found this very amusing! After watching a few of the locals do some 'touch and go' CCT’s, we boarded VA and headed to the skies. We saw some fantastic views of low level clouds forming over the peaks of Snowdonia. A short hop later and we were joining the downwind for RWY 27L back at Barton. A greaser of a landing is not the word, it was simply perfect… A mirror image of the day, which also had been perfect, due to the combination of great flying and fantastic company. The day had also allowed me to gain another two hours experience as PIC.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Princess Airlines

The day I had been eagerly awaiting, had finally arrived. I would finally get to take my Jacqueline flying. Although the original plan was to fly up to Kirkbride, a number of factors on the day, mainly the hazy conditions, meant that this was no longer feasible. A last minute change of destination to Caernarfon in North Wales, meant that the day was still feasible. Having never been flying before, it was understandable that Jacqueline may have been a little bit nervous. But her relaxed attitude the night before, suggested that she was not too scared. Arriving at Barton earlier than ever, left us plenty of time to do an extended set of external checks and a pre flight briefing. I felt that it would be a good idea to get her involved as much as possible, so I talked her through the walk around checks and explained them in great detail, had her check the fuel levels in the wings and the fuel condition at the drain points. I also felt that it would be beneficial to talk through all of the instruments and their in flight functions. It worked, she said that this helped her feel more relaxed.

Sitting at the end of RWY 27L, the full EFATO brief was given. The ‘go’ or ‘no go’ moment. The take off was obviously going to be the crucial moment. Would she like it or wouldn’t she? It was smooth, very smooth. Leaving it until it was perfectly ready to leave the ground seemed like the best idea. The intercom was filled with a yelp of happiness, a clear sight that she was not scared. Expecting to do a few CCT’s first, I was pleasantly surprised when I she said ‘I love it’ whilst we still in the upwind. Departing immediately, we headed over to Wigan, and the Point of Ayr via Woodvale and Birkenhead. The haze was bad, but the confidence which I had in the compass after the last flight, meant that the conditions were not too much of a problem. Jacqueline took the controls for a ten minute session, managing to execute a number of turns. Arriving at Caernarfon, an overhead join brought us down to CCT height. A smooth landing on the tarmac further helped to settle any remaining nerves. We walked to the beach for a picnic and a sit looking at the sea rushing up and down the shore. Surprisingly, the calls for departure came not from me, but from Jacqueline. It seemed that she could not wait to get back into the air. After an hours delay for fuel, we departed Caernarfon for Mona.

With a fire in a storage factory immediately under the downwind leg, I decided to do a tighter then normal CCT at Mona. With over 2000m of perfectly groomed RAF RWY, I opted to keep the flaps up and carry out a flapless landing, something which I had not done since the days of landing at Brown Airfield in Californai. The approach was fast, but I brought it back and greased the landing. After a quick brew, we departed for Crossland Moor, retracing our initial route, we crossed the coast at Woodvale and tracked inland. For a bit of fun, I climbed to almost 5,000ft and executed a steep descending turn to the right. Thinking this might have been a little bit too extreme, I was amazed when she said ‘wow!’. With Jacqueline on the controls, we flew over Conway and Llandudno. Landing at Crossland was as always, interesting to say the least. Being a warm week, there was a lot of sink directly over the quarry. With it being such a lovely evening, it was very pleasant to sit outside in the sun with a cool drink.
Landing back at Barton was uneventful, apart from the large volumes of traffic in the CCT. Taxiing back to the hanger and shutting the engine down, brought a perfect close to a perfect day. This has been one factor in what became a truly amazing weekend, which left us feeling very very close. If I wasn't sure before hand, then I was now, this girl is perfect and I love her so much. For me, it had been a fabulous day, I had gained some more invaluable hours, completed another four flights and passed the 50 hours PIC point. Jacqueline said she had an amazing day and is looking forward to our next flight. Excellent...

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Mighty Duxford...

Having had glorious weather and CAVOK conditions for the past three weeks, It was obvious that the conditions could not last forever. This theory was based on the fact that after all it as only mid April in the UK! With conditions reported to be truing for the worst, remarkably the weather stayed as it had been. Game on…

The plan for today, Saturday 21st April, was to achieve two main aims. Firstly to attend the Cessna fly in day at the mighty Duxford, and secondly to fly enough nautical miles to allow the flight to count for my Commercial Pilots Licence qualifying flight. Although I am sure that there will be other flights which could subsequently count, it is hard to get 300nm in one day of flying, simply due to availability and the shear cost of flying! The CPL qualifying would also mean that another full stop landing would need to be made. Northampton Sywell was the choice in mind. With Vis reported at 5km, Haze was obviously going to be an issue. PAX wise, I had two, my dad and my uncle Dave. Careful not to over weigh VA for Barton’s shorter than standard RWY’s, I filled the tanks to just over two thirds, which I predicted would provide me with enough for the flight to Sywell, and then, regarding on the amount of holding necessary, even to Duxford, with still enough for almost an hour reserve. Crucially it would keep the weight of VA down to a safe 2100lbs. Having requested Barton’s longer RWY 27L/09R, I had 621M of grass to play with.

With these facts set in stone, we departed RWY 27L at Barton for Sywell at 09:30. An upwind departure and levelling off at 1000ft on the MCR ONH, put us straight on course for Warrington, the entry point for the low level corridor between MCR and LPL class D airspace. Emerging at Ashcroft, I turned eastwards, routing over Crewe and Stone. I had chosen a dam on Blithfield Reservoir as a VRP; little did I know just how amazing this looked from the air! Switching from MCR APP to East Midlands APP, the transition past EMA and BHX was made hassle free.

Although Sywell was not the easiest place in the world to find, the non-standard whiter centre line markings made it an interesting and quite simple approach. Joining overhead, I was amazed to see two micro lights already in the CCT with little regard to my 172. In the end, I gave them space and joined downwind very late, turning immediately onto base and long finals. I felt that this was the best option rather then orbit in the overhead, a position where more a/c were rapidly approaching, or block the CCT. I had the faster of the two machines and thought from, a safety issue that it would be better off on the ground in a crowded CCT of people without Radio facilities. A greaser of a landing was met with a rather rough ground surface. The micro light rally at Sywell was clearly under full swing due to the apparent sea of colours taxing across the ground.
After a quick brew, we re-boarded VA for a departure to Duxford for lunchtime. Only one problem, she wouldn’t start, not even a flicker on starter. With the battery f
ully charged, there was obviously another problem… Phoning the engineers at Barton, I found out that a sticking solenoid was the problem, so armed with an aluminium pole, I hit the solenoid. A turn of the key showed that the engine was now willing to play. Sweet. Thirty minutes later, we were on the downwind at Duxford. From the air, this place looks mighty, an awe-inspiring sight, visible for miles around. The RWY was also the longest which I had up to date had the pleasure of landing upon. Taxing to the GA park was interesting, especially crossing the end of the active grass RWY, which was being simultaneously used by a number of De Havilland Rapide’s and Tiger Moths. Taxing past the American hanger was awe-inspiring, simply due to the architectural wonder of the complex curvature building. After a picnic under the wing of VA, we toured the museum.

For those who have not had the pleasure of visiting Duxford, it is the home of the Imperial War Museum and what a home it is. There are seven hangers full of delights, a few
of which house fully flying war birds, including the resident B-17 ‘Sally B’. The other hangers include a mixture of old and new, from the likes of the Stearman, all the way up to the mighty B-52 Stratofortress. My personnel favourite as always, was the impressive English Electric Lightning. The only interceptor ever to have been capable of achieving and maintaining vertical flight for an indefinite period of time. Spectacular. A missile with wings! The ground warfare museum is also of particular interest, to show the contrast between what its like to fight on the ground flying through the air at Mach 2.

With the afternoon quickly coming to a close, Barton was calling… Refuelling was novel; due to the fact hat it was achieved via a hoser truck and the fact that at £1.37 per litre, brimming VA was expensive to say the least! The radio was very unorganised on the part of Duxford, and holding times of twenty minutes were experienced by some departures. The flight back was uneventful and spot on in every way imaginable. Transiting Sywell through the overhead at 2500ft QNH, it was obvious that they were still extremely busy! Returning back to Barton via the route which took me to Duxford, I approached on long finals for RWY 09R. Orbiting 5nm off the airfield in order to let a late downwind joiner land first, the strong crosswind meant that a crab approach was very necessary, being almost 30 degrees to the RWY at one particular point, swinging her around and touching down fast, but securely.

The day been great, with no problems experienced apart from the solenoid issue. With the length of the legs and the overall flight being longer than usual, I had decided pre-flight, that the ‘word’ of the day would be compass. I therefore used primarily the grid ring magnetic compass, and visual references as a secondary method, merely in order to check that the wind vectors were correct. Pre-flight planning had shown that the wind, from the South West was 20kts at 1000ft, rising to 25kts at 2000ft. Clearly, this would greatly affect the original of our generally East-West and West-East HDG’s! Using the compass in this flight greatly increased the trust exists between me and this piece of kit.