Pansghanger, North London

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A trip to North London

Andy and I had discussed flying again together this weekend, but this time he’d take his family in the Arrow while I would fly to the same destination in the Warrior – a sort of “mini-club-flyout” if you like. I was actually quite keen to fly both legs if possible, to continue to increase my hours towards the 100 PIC that I need to be self-authorising at the club. But it’s always nice to have some company, so I asked around for prospective passengers at a club evening in the pub and tentatively arranged for Mike, a lapsed PPL, to join me as a passenger. Unfortunately, on the day he was delayed and unable to come along but I’m sure will make it another time.

I had proposed Panshanger, which is just north of London near Stevenage, partly because I’d wanted to stretch further into the more difficult airspace around London and partly because the writeups made it sound like a popular, friendly flying club destination. Traffic in that area is compressed by the 2,500 feet limit of the London Class A TMA airspace, in addition to boundaries with Luton, Stansted and Heathrow – so it get’s pretty busy. I thought that by flying during the winter, it might be a bit quieter and there would be less traffic to see and avoid.

It was very foggy in the morning, as forecast. The aircraft I was due to fly was being returned from its annual radio check, but the owner had tried and was unable to land at 8:30 because he couldn’t see the runway. He turned up around 11 and it was all set to go. In the meantime, I helped Andy clear the ice off the Arrow and move it out into the sunshine. With the clubroom being quite busy, I was able to ask Roger for authorisation, call ahead to Panshanger for PPR and was ready to go.

Solo outbound

I hadn’t flown entirely by myself for a little while, and appreciated that although there is extra work, there are also fewer distractions. I was trying out my relatively new SkyDemon GPS – a larger model that I had being using before picked up quite cheaply on eBay. But G-SNUZ has the full set of IFR kit including a working DME, so I later used the VOR/DME to track Bovingdon which cross checked with the GPS. There is also a moving map GPS built into the aircraft, so I had little excuse for getting “unsure of my position”.

After departing Kemble, I talked to Brize and routed just south of Fairford which was closed. They gave me a Basic service and discrete squawk code. Tracking directly towards Benson, I checked with Brize that there was no need for MATZ crossing approval – Brize provide the radar cover for them and confirmed they would co-ordinate as required. The large chimneys of Didcot power station were easily seen, with Benson not far on the other side. Turning when overhead Benson, I waited until past their MATZ before descending quickly from 3,500 feet to around 2,000 to be sure of being under the Class A airspace.

North of London en-route to Panshanger

Tuning and identing the Bovingdon VOR, I was pleased to have remembered to set the DME to “remote” mode so that it slaved to the same frequency. Brize handed me off to Farnborough LARS West, who gave me a new squawk code then passed me onto Farnborough North where I retained it. They warned of “multiple contacts” around the Bovingdon VOR so I kept south of that track and spotted several other aircraft including a couple of microlights. Keeping the radar cover until I was at Hatfield, I then called up Panshanger to find that runway 11 was in use (it had changed since I rang for PPR) and pulled out my printed sheet with their noise abatement pattern.

Arrival at Panshanger

Climbing slightly up to 2000 feet above circuit height for a standard overhead join as instructed, I made sure I was still underneath controlled airspace. I was able to spot the “square wood” and “T shaped wood” on the chart which are good markers for the circuit pattern itself. Turning south, I descended deadside and saw the two other aircraft in the circuit that I had heard on the radio. I thought my circuit pattern was a bit on the wide side – going too far North – but a later check of the GPS log showed it was all inside the ATZ. On base, having completed all my checks, my seatbelt came undone – just had enough time to insert it back into the buckle before turning onto final and setting up for the approach. With virtually no wind and being at the right place, this was a very straightforward and consistent path down final for a gentle touchdown (they do say grass flatters your landings). Taxied off to the clearly marked visitors parking, and shutdown – just hearing Andy call up inbound as I did so.

Plenty of GA aircraft based there

It’s quite a busy and thriving flying club, with a good cafe and plenty of activity all around. They had a special offer on, half-price membership for £12.50 which entitled you to half price landing fees, discounts in the cafe and reduced fuel prices. After a very persuasive sales patter, I was convinced that as long as I return at least once this year it would be profitable, so I coughed up.

Then I walked back to visitors parking and met Andy and his family as they disembarked.

We then enjoyed good food in the cafe – the burger was excellent!

Tasted as good as it looks

Several of the old buildings have been nicely done up, with attractive signage all around the site.

Cafe from outside, with extra seating
History of the airfield

Not much wind today – but you can see the windsock tells a story of some stormy days in the past!

Really calm wind today

Local housing has encroached right up to the edge of the airfield – this picture taken from the visitors parking area, but the taxiway back to the end of the runway is close to the back gardens of many houses.

Local housing encroaches right up to the airfield boundary

Back to Kemble, you can see below the SkyDemon GPS earning its keep

My new 7 inch SkyDemon GPS from eBay in use

With the sun almost directly ahead and plenty of murk and cloud, you needed to keep a sharp lookout for other traffic. I gave a wide berth to one microlight heading towards me, and saw quite a few. I choose to fly higher up, over 4,000 feet at times, to keep away from some of the busier traffic. I had heard Andy on the radio to Brize giving his altitude of 3,500 feet and sure enough saw him cruise past below and to my right, overtaking me as he flew at 130 knots compared to my 95-100.

Setting sun and cloud make the view a bit murky on the return leg

On return to Kemble, there was one other aircraft approaching the overhead from the north east. I spotted him and followed him as we both descended deadside – he took a somewhat wider arc than I would have, meaning I was catching up with him. I slowed down when downwind and extended out, but still found myself on final when he had not yet vacated the runway. In the end I had just enough spacing for Kemble to let me “land at my discretion” on very short final. As I vacated, I could see a student ready to set off on his first solo in a Eurostar, patiently having waited for us both to clear the circuit.

In retrospect, I should have landed long and exitted from the far end of the runway, which would have made a shorter route back to our parking at “lynham corner”. Instead, I took the usual route via the fuel pumps, main apron and tower. Having previously agreed with Andy, I had called up when inbound to ask if the fuel bowser could be brought round to fill us both up after arrival. The driver was already in the cab when I passed, and he took the longer way round down the runway to meet me there. In the end we had three aircraft to fill up, which made it all worth his while and saved us some unnecessary taxi time.

Andy and I helped each other put the covers on and pack up. After the paperwork was completed, we adjourned to AV8 cafe for a coffee. Comparing notes, I found that my slower trip had taken longer than Andy and because there isn’t too much difference in hourly rates, his actually worked out cheaper.

Hours today: 2:15
Total Hours: 169:35 (PIC 78:30)

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