To fly or not to fly, that is the question
What a wet and dreich (<– Scottish word for damp weather) day. The forecast really didn’t look that good, and we were drenched in the morning. I’d pretty much given up any chance of a flight after seeing the previous night’s weather forecast. However a closer look at the TAFs and rain radar, together with airfield webcams, held some promise. After talking it over with one of the instructors, I decided it would be worth a trip to Kemble where the club aircraft had been moved for the weekend.
I had already booked for the afternoon and had hoped to be able to make a landaway. Instead, if the weather looked OK there, I’d plan to fly a short local flight down to the Severn Bridges, across to Bath and then back. I’d keep a close eye on the weather and return if it looked at all doubtful.
When we turned up, Kemble was pretty deserted. There didn’t appear to be any aircraft movements. Had I got it completely wrong? After checking at the office who printed out the latest TAFs, and seeing one school planning a flight, I decided to give it a go. I’d warned my passengers that it might well be a very short flight, but they were keen to go on that basis.
My kids found the whole idea of private aviation very amusing. With experience of many commercial flights for holidays, they’ve become used to the drudgery of checkin queues, security checks, long waiting times and delays. They found it great not to be patted down, or have to remove the bottle of water from their bags. A quick briefing to make sure they’d turned any mobile phones off, what to do in an emergency, where we planned to go and that was it.
After all the usual pre-flight checks, I started up and taxied across for the power checks. The grass was certainly wet and I wouldn’t have fancied operating from a grass runway today. In comparison, the newly resurfaced long runway at Kemble looked quite enticing. As the school aircraft taxied across for fuel, we noted that it had the same abbreviated callsign (CC) as ours, so kept that in mind to avoid confusion later (which wasn’t actually a problem).
Wet, Wet, Wet
There was no delay after power checks, and no other traffic reported. As we lined up, the runway condition was “wet wet wet” but did not noticably affect the takeoff roll. We climbed and turned in the circuit direction, departing to the West and continuing to climb out up to about 2000 feet. The visibility was better than expected, but we could see some darker weather on the horizon.
My passengers were amazed at how small everything looked, even from 2000 feet, and enjoyed pointing out what they saw. We could easily see both towns and large houses, main roads etc. We saw a train weaving its way along the tracks and could see which houses had swimming pools. As we flew across towards the Severn bridges, we were able to see both but the visibility was reducing and rain starting. I could see a patch of better weather over to the South West, but as we turned around it looked gloomier over Kemble.
I thought it best to curtain the flight and return back to base before conditions worsened. We detoured to fly over Highgrove, Prince Charles residence (above the height of the restricted zone around it, although this doesn’t apply to aircraft like ours) and spotted a few more landmarks, including Badminton. As we approached Kemble, the visibility wasn’t a problem – I could see it easily from 10 miles away or more – but the cloud looked threatening to the South West.
A long final from 2000 feet
I called up and on being told there was no other traffic around, cheekily asked for a direct final approach. This was accepted, subject to avoiding the villages by detouring to the North. With a gentle cruise descent from 2000 feet, I slowed the aircraft down and put in the flaps. My passengers were finding their ears popping, but otherwise happy – I asked them to be quiet during final approach as I ran through my checks.
ATC announced I could “Land at my discretion” and with the light wind was able to do a greaser with the stall warner just starting to go off as we dropped lightly onto the runway, stopping in time to make the first turnoff.
Compared with our earlier family flight from a grass runway, I think there is a preference for the luxury of tarmac. I didn’t disagree but it might be that I’ve had 50 hours more flying experience since I last took the family up, so perhaps am a bit more proficient. Taxied back, parked up, put everything away and filled in the dreaded paperwork.
The main thing was that everyone was happy, thought it had been a safe and enjoyable flight and would come again. Where some might have not liked the rain, it wasn’t bumpy or hot as it can be with thermals on a summers day, and wasn’t busy with other aircraft to contend with. So in many ways, a good introduction that leaves them wanting to come back for more.
This flight: 0:40
Total Time: 112:00
Total PIC: 36:55