Although I’ve been spending a lot of time and effort on my IMC training, I also wanted to enjoy the benefits of my PPL through landaways and sharing these with passengers. I’d discussed taking a friend up for a trip some months back, and we had settled on a date – today was to be the day. Dave asked if his 14 year old daughter could come along too – perhaps she had been persuaded by my own family that it was fun.
Where to go?
I’d been looking closely at the weather and had seen a band of rain move across from the West overnight, with a further heavier band due to arrive on Sunday evening. In between, it looked like there should be good visibility and reasonable cloud ceiling although a little breezy. I’d been wanting to make another trip west, but on this forecast it looked like going south and/or west would be a better bet. I thought Goodwood/Chichester would be a good option – previously I had made it there but not landed because of very strong winds (30+ knots) – and I’d heard there are a few things to see there. I planned a route south over Bath (so my passengers could see their house), then towards Bournemouth turning south west to avoid controlled airspace, over Beaulieu and the Solent.
I called Goodwood early in the morning, with the weather brightening up in Bath. When I explained I wanted to visit, there was a somewhat quizzical reply – with a cloudbase of 800 feet they weren’t expecting any arrivals in the near future. Confident that the weather would improve, I called them back at 1pm prior to departure and confirmed that they were back in business. At Kemble, the aircraft had already flown so it was a simple all round check and we were ready to go. Just as well I checked the oil level – it needed another litre – and we taxied first to the pumps to fill up. I’d calculated slightly above tabs would be OK allowing for weight and balance of 3 passengers.
We met my very first flight instructor at the pumps – he only works on Sundays now and was taking another student up. He seemed pleased to learn that I had continued beyond the PPL and gained more experience and qualifications. I told him how good his first trial lesson must have been for me – I still remember it.
Departing over familiar territory
Departing to the south west, we changed to Bristol Radar and tracked down towards Bath. Dave works in the Nuclear Industry, so quickly spotted the two power stations on the Severn where he has worked as well as other recognised landmarks such as Filton Airport. The visibility and cloudbase was quite good although there was a fair breeze blowing in from the west. We flew over their house and I confess to a steep turn overhead which didn’t upset the passengers too much before continuing on south. Routing over Shaftesbury, I turned south west and headed for Stoney Cross. We saw an aircraft heading for Compton Abbas but were well clear. It helped having another two pairs of eyes for lookout – they spotted several aircraft and a couple of gliders en route.
Keep clear of controlled airspace
When I gave a position report at Stoney Cross, Bournemouth reminded me to keep under 2000 feet (I hadn’t asked to transit controlled airspace, so wasn’t entitled to) then handed me over to Solent Radar – they’d co-ordinated this and passed my details which made things easy. I maintained the same discrete squawk code that Bournemouth had provided earlier. While we listened to other traffic in the area, we flew over the Solent with good views of Cowes, Portsmouth and Southampton.
I tried to tune in the Goodwood VOR and DME but could not get either to work at all. Although I was marking up my printed PLOG at each waypoint, I was relying on the GPS to keep closely on track. We passed south of Lee-on-Solent and turned north east when I called up Goodwood. They confirmed runway 24R and QFE; I also asked for surface wind conditions – 15 knots straight down the runway, but with gusts. Time to get out the noise abatement chart I had printed out before, which had routes for each runway. Landing is less of a problem than takeoff for noise because the engine is normally idling, but its still a good idea to keep clear of built up areas where possible.
Wanting to make a full overhead join and give myself plenty of time to assess the wind and landing area, I approached the overhead from the north west and descended deadside with a long crosswind leg. The 15+ knot crosswind meant I had to allow for a fair bit of drift. With downwind checks complete, I was the only one in the circuit – another had taken off and one was inbound – so there was no pressure and I could take my time. With a strong headwind, I realised my groundspeed would be slower and so a faster approach airspeed would be OK. This helped with the gusts. Keeping a close eye on the airspeed and picture, I decided to use full flaps – I could probably have got away with 2 stages due to the headwind – because it seemed to me the gusts weren’t too variable. After the roundout, the stall warner just came on just as we touched down. Perhaps grass does flatter your landings, but the passengers seemed happy with it.
Where to pay?
After parking up, we went to the tower – It didn’t have a C mark on it – so I enquired where to pay. We walked around to the aeroclub where there is a café and office to pay dues. On the way, we could see an art deco building that wouldn’t have been misplaced at a 1950s motor race track. There were many marquees and tents in place for what looks like a major event later in the month, being blown around somewhat by the strong breeze. We had a drink in the café, wandered around and took some photos, then decided it was time to return back to Kemble.
An uneventful return
The trip back was fairly uneventful. I took an almost direct route, going overhead Popham (climbed to 3000 feet to keep out of everyone’s way), and receiving a good basic service from Farnborough Radar. Strangely enough, the Goodwood VOR worked – I tracked a radial for practice on the way to Popham – but I couldn’t get any luck out of the DME. Some dark clouds were appearing in the distance to the west, so my forecast had been correct – but we would be back well before the rain came in. Switching to Kemble frequency, I heard a couple of others – one in the circuit and one at the pumps preparing to depart. As I descended dead-side, I could see the other aircraft in the circuit (practicing on the grass landing strip), while a Chipmunk said he’d wait until I had passed crosswind before taking off. He also kindly relayed the QFE for me to use.
With no ATC present, the windsock revealed a slight crosswind. The overhead join also helped gain an impression of the wind strength and direction. After a slightly crosswind landing on the hard runway, we taxied back, parked up and put the covers on. With three helping, it didn’t take long before we were heading home. The total flight time on this landaway was 2:30 and means I’ve now reached the dizzy heights of 50 hours PIC. Club rules require 60 hours PIC which qualifies you for a longer currency period of 43 days rather than 30 (ie you can still fly without needing a check flight with an instructor after a gap of 6 weeks rather than 4), so that now looks within reach before the end of the year. I’ve still got a long way to go to the 100 hours PIC required for self-authorisation (ie when you don’t need to get prior approval from an instructor for every flight), partly because I’ve had so much instruction for IMCr instead of just gaining more VFR experience.
PIC Time today: 02:30
Total PIC time: 50:30
Total Time: 140:25