A sunny day
With the weather forecast for Sunday looking like it might be sunny, I had offered earlier in the week to take the family up for a trip across to the Isle of Wight. My normal base at Lyneham is now closed at weekends, and the club isn’t planning further weekend availability until at least after it moves. I booked a PA28 from Compton Abbas, where I’d had a couple of lessons before (it’s ideal to get used to grass strips) – it has a very friendly atmosphere.
But with strong winds forecast and not terribly great weather, we decided against risking a potentially fruitless car journey for the family because it might not be flyable or enjoyable weather. I’d instead use the time for more practice on my own. With only a 3 hour slot available, it wasn’t really feasible to go to Perranporth (my preferred destination). And with strong winds from the South West, I was looking for an airfield with a suitably aligned runway. After considering the options on SkyDemon, I decided to plump for Goodwood which would be about 45 minute flying time each way. My outbound route transitted the west side of Bournemouth zone, then East over Hurst Castle and up the Solent to Cowes, then just South of the Spinnaker Tower at Portsmouth and directly inbound to Goodwood. My return route cut through between the Solent and Bournemouth zones, turning northwest from Cowes and overhead the disused airfield at Stoney Cross.
I rang Goodwood for Prior Permission, which was given. They reported earlier strong winds of up to 40 knots which had subsided but were still between 15 and 25. They were using 24RH runway. Since it was less than 20 degrees off the runway, and they had three runways to choose from, I thought it reasonable to expect that conditions would be acceptable when I got there.
You can’t take our plane
They were very apologetic when I arrived at Compton Abbas. Someone had mislaid the keys for the aircraft and (because it was a new lock) there wasn’t a spare. After working out some alternative options, they keys magically reappeared and I was good to go at my alloted time.
With there being no hurry, I took my time to ensure everything was prepared and I had read up the approach procedures which include noise abatement. The circuit height is 1200 feet – slightly higher than the standard 1000 feet found elsewhere.
The aircraft was already fueled slight above tabs, so had almost 4 hours endurance. More than enough for my purposes.
So after the usual checks, off we went, taking off in the circuit direction and then departing to the South. Wind was around 10 knots from the South West.
Very quickly after the climb out, you get a great vista of Poole, Bournemouth and its environs spread out in front of you. I contacted Bournemouth Radar and was given a Basic Service, Squawk and transit approved down the West side of their zone to Sandbanks, not above 2000 feet. It’s a tremendous view, but I was concentrating on flying so apologise for the lack of pictures. There were few other aircraft about (at least on the radio), but I was told to lookout for one in my area.
Turning East over Sandbanks, there was a good view of Hurst Castle, The Needles and the Isle of Wight. Once in the Solent itself, and keeping below the 2000 feet limit of controlled airspace. Bournemouth asked me if I’d like to continue with Solent Radar, but instead I elected for a listening squawk only – setting 0011 on the transponder but not announcing myself to the controller, just listening on their frequency.
Turned overhead Cowes to pass just south of the Spinnaker Tower. The cloudbase was around 3000 feet, but visibility was good. I used the DME to confirm distance to run which matched what the SkyDemon GPS told me. The VOR also confirmed I was on track.
I switched to Goodwood (and squawked 7000), asking for airfield information. There were a few movements, with what sounded like locals coming and going with some friendly banter. I called overhead and heard the surface wind being announced at 30 knots. Although it was only 20 degrees off the runway direction, and so within the crosswind limits, it made me think. The view was very clear down below, the airfield looked pristine and enticing.
After a bit of thought, I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and not to attempt a landing. I’d like to think I could have done that without too much fuss – especially after my crosswind training – but I’m flying purely for pleasure. Goodwood radio acknowledged my departure and said they hoped to see me instead another day.
Talking to Solent
This time I spoke to Solent Radar and got a Basic Service. They assigned me a sqwawk and told me my location (which I realise I forgot to include in my “Pass Your Message” response). I’ve heard it said that in the past they haven’t been too co-operative to GA aircraft, but my experience has been they do give transits where possible and have been very helpful. Perhaps this may be because it wasn’t a particularly busy day and they aren’t swamped.
I was told of an unknown aircraft at an unknown height about a mile to my North, and responded that I could see a (bright red) helicopter (overhead Gosport), which turned away. There werent’ too many yachts still sailing in the Solent down below – perhaps it was a little late in the afternoon for them, or perhaps the wind had also put them off.
As I was about to report abeam Cowes, I was given a squawk code for Bournemouth and switched to them when I crossed back over the mainland. I overheard what sounded like a trainee pilot returning from Alderney to Shoreham. He had determined that the wind at Shoreham exceeded aircraft limits and asked to divert to Bournemouth, which was immediately granted. It made me feel better about my decision not to try a landing at Goodwood.
Dark Clouds Ahead
I did wonder about changing my routing when looking at the weather ahead. Rain clouds to the north of Southampton weren’t appealing and they were directly ahead. Turning almost west towards Compton at Stoney Cross, just north of the Bournemouth Zone, I skirted around the worst of them. There was a little rain, which cleaned the windscreen, and the air was a little turbulent at times, but nothing serious.
With a cloudbase around 3000 feet, it was still bright to the west.
Back home again
Switching back to Compton, I heard the surface wind was only 10 knots there. With only one other aircraft airborne, it was fairly straightforward to descend to circuit height and make position reports as I went through the usual prelanding procedure. Grass strips have quite a different feel to landing on tarmac – some say they can be a bit flattering. Parked up and did the paperwork, realising that I should have noted the Hobbs meter rather than the tacho which I’m used to.
1:45 solo flight time which despite not being a landaway was at least good practice. Talked to A/G, AFIS and ATC, got a zone transit, listening squawk and didn’t bust any airspace (or damage the plane). Plus I got some great views – I have to say that flights over the coast can be spectactular, especially if you are familiar with the area.