As a relatively new PPL, I’ve enjoyed the “buddy flying” at the club over the last year, where I’ve shared flights with other pilots in the Lyneham club. With a view to increasing this and also putting something back into the club itself, I’ve been trying to start off a more regular club flyout program with the full support of the Lyneham club committee. With the club having no permanent base at the moment, and having temporarily moved to Kemble, some of the members find this less convenient than Lyneham. There seems to have been a drop off in activity (especially training), but all the aircraft still fly regularly and are kept in good shape.
I advertised a couple of proposed flyouts around the club of which this was the first. Originally, we planned to fly in to RAF Cosford and visit the museum there. After discussing the logistics (we’d need to land there very early and leave before 2pm), it was felt this wouldn’t work for those coming so we opted for the Airbase museum at Coventry instead.
Poor weather outlook
With an eye on the outlook for the weekend, it did look marginal with strong crosswinds forecast. We had originally planned to take two aircraft with a total of 5 people, one of whom would have a long drive early in the morning to get there. On Friday afternoon, we decided to limit ourselves to one aircraft and make a final go/nogo decision early on Saturday morning. I prepared the route on SkyDemon, looking up the details of Coventry airport and reading through the procedures.
Sean, a student pilot with the club would be coming as a passenger, and had helpfully pre-arranged with the local flying club to be hosted and use the parking area outside the museum itself. He also brought another of his friends along, Liam, who had only ever flown once before in a light aircraft.
With the TAF’s forecasting some 8-12 knot crosswind on Saturday morning, we decided to go. Dave W, another club pilot would fly there and I would fly back, with our two passengers in the back. We definitely needed a do a full Weight and Balance calculation – with fuel just above tabs we were right on the limit. Dave W showed me an iPhone App, called PilotWizz, which has a bunch of really useful features including the W&B calcs for any aircraft you choose to configure it for.
Looked like a nice day
Before leaving home, I used SkyDemon to create a plog and printed out a trip pack. Everyone turned up at Kemble around 9am, and the lads helped by taking the covers off. I ran through the A-check while Dave W completed his own plog and calculations.
We would be flying G-VICC today. It’s a PA28-161 Warrior and has become my preferred choice, mainly because of the slightly better navigation equipment installed. However, the DME wasn’t working and the onboard GPS was also playing up, so I was pleased to have my portable SkyDemon GPS with me – already loaded up with the route and latest NOTAMS.
Longer takeoff roll
With everyone onboard, Dave W started up and we took off from 08 with a noticeably longer ground roll than when solo. Turning north, we were soon on course and tracking towards Northleach roundabout. We had a fair amount of tailwind, but it wasn’t quite as strong as predicted so drifted slightly offtrack. The visibility was hazy at height but we could see quite a long distance. There was little other GA traffic around.
We overflow our visual waypoints, easily seeing Moreton-on-the-Marsh (which was slightly off to the left and required a course correction), Gaydon, and then the cement works. We called up Coventry approach and were told to report at the cement works VRP. Being this close to Birmingham airspace, we descended down to 1400 feet. The outer section has a ceiling of 3500 feet, with a closer in section at 1500 – so we would ensure we avoided busting the airspace.
Reporting at the cement works, and with the field in sight we were handed over to the tower. We were told to join left base for 23 and Dave did a greaser of a landing with a crosswind of perhaps some 10 knots. He kept the power on during short final to take account of the heavier passenger load and the crosswind.
The friendly ATC asked if we were familiar with the airfield, and provided progressive taxi instructions directly to the Airbase parking area. Our host from the flying club was already there, marshalling us into position next a Citation jet. Duncan, who runs the ClassicFlight flying school, then showed us around. The school has only recently opened, and there was almost the smell of fresh paint in the club rooms.
These are part of what seemed to be a new building, and very well appointed. Comfy armchairs, fresh coffee and great views through the bright windows made for a very relaxing atmosphere. Sean and Liam disappeared to meet up with some friends and look round the museum, while Duncan then showed us various exhibits. By prior arrangement, the landing fee had been waived because we were visiting the museum and we only had to pay the entrance fee instead.
There is a great selection of aircraft to look at. About half are parked outside, but many are still airworthy. Unusually, you are allowed to go on board and sit in the pilot’s seat under the careful eye of volunteers. They know all about the history and capabilities of these planes and are happy to share this with you. I found the Shackleton and Nimrod most worthwhile – hard to believe these were in use until relatively recently. The engines are often fired up to keep them in working condition, and aircraft taxied around even if they are not airworthy to fly. The Shackleton now requires new wing spars, an extremely expensive operation. Some years ago, the UK CAA wouldn’t allow it to fly due to their age and so it was flown in the US under an N registration for a while instead, but has returned to the UK now that it is considered unairworthy there too.
We saw various aircraft in flight during our few hours there, ranging from a Warrior doing circuits to other visiting aircraft and a couple of sightseeing/pleasure flights on the museum’s own aircraft. With the wind getting stronger, we decided to make our way back. A telephone call to ATC booked us out, and I prepared to fly us all back.
The Lost Checklist
Once all sat in the aircraft, I realised that I’d left my checklist in the luggage compartment with the rest of my kit. Instead, Dave W ran through his which was actually much more efficient. He quickly read them out and I checked them off. After startup (no need to call for start where we were parked, even though it’s a full ATC controlled airport), we called for taxi and did the power checks at the hold. A backtrack is required – Duncan had earlier suggested going back to the “E” marker – after which we were cleared for takeoff and a left turnout (back towards the cement works).
One of Sean’s friends took a video of our departure and posted it on YouTube – the bit to watch is the last 30 seconds or so.
The flight back was fairly uneventful, with the GPS helping confirm the ground features. We did a couple of steep turns overhead the Northleach Roundabout for a bit of fun, and completed a full overhead join for 08. Having been a bit apprehensive about the strong crosswind on the way back, in the end it wasn’t gusty and the landing was fairly smooth with no bounce which I was pleased about.
Parked up, filled in the paperwork and debriefed over a coffee in the café. With four to help, putting the covers on was much quicker. I think everyone enjoyed the day. It was also good to see how another pilot operates – Dave W was very good at using the checklist – as well as being able to share the workload (and cost). I’ll be sure to fly with Dave another time. I think the lads also enjoyed their day out too.
Adding up the hours (see below), I only need another couple of hours to reach the 60 hour PIC threshold. At that point, the club rules relax the minimum time between flights from 31 to 43 days before a currency check flight is required. With the winter weather coming up, that could prove useful to have.
PIC time this flight: 1:00
PIC time total 57:25
Total time 148:30