Solo Navex to beat the snow

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Almost snowed off

I’d arranged to fly in one of the club Warriors from Kemble with Andy today, with the intention of practicing some IMC approaches. Looking at the forecast, it didn’t look like we could make a full day of it – snow was expected to arrive after lunchtime – so the best that we thought we could do was a short “local” flight around the area. Andy wasn’t keen to do this, so I decided to take the opportunity and fit in a morning navex (Navigation Exercise).

Having decided to do this, I carefully plotted the route on SkyDemon and checked the weather and NOTAMs before printing it out. The route would be to the south west, overhead Badminton, then intercept the ILS and fly the localiser towards Filton (not under the hood because I didn’t have a safety pilot), then south west across Bath south of Colerne. I’d route back via Lyneham to Kemble, but was particularly keen to spot Wadworth Farm strip from overhead – I’d not been able to pick it out before.

Remarkably rapid departure

It was relatively easy to get things organised when I arrived. A couple of phone calls got me  authorisation from an instructor and there were no calls to landaway airfields to make. After taking the covers off, most of the frost could easily be wiped off with gloved hands, so that after 15 minutes I was ready to go. After completing the A check, I was pleased to find the engine started pretty much first time. Leaving it to warm up, I ensured my GPS was all setup with the flight plan and the radios were all tuned in.

But delayed while the engine warmed up

Although I’d taken several minutes before taxing, I still found I needed to wait several more minutes at the hold for the oil temperature to rise before I could conduct the power checks. There was a helicopter practising at the end of the runway, and after it departed I was the only traffic in the zone.

Flying toward Filton

Departing to the south west, I quickly identified the usual landmarks of Tetbury and the Fosse Way. I had time to clearly identify the runway at Badminton with a view to landing there sometime. Bristol radar gave me a discrete squawk code “for conspicuity purposes only” and I was pleased that there weren’t any problems with the transponder today. Flying south to the M4, I was able to identify the Filton ILS and flew towards it checking that I wasn’t about to bust Bristol airspace. Filton is closed at weekends (apart from emergency  lifts by the air ambulance) and their ILS path is outside controlled airspace anyway, so I wasn’t conflicting with anyone.

Badminton House with airfield on the right hand side

Without any pressure to track the ILS closely under the hood, I was able to keep a good lookout while watching the needles converge. I broke off the approach at the edge of the Filton ATZ – although it isn’t active at weekends, I suspect there is no reason why I couldn’t continue down to a lower level, but I had done enough. The view of that extremely long and wide runway on approach is quite something.

I kept marking up my Plog as I routed back towards Pucklechuch, and kept below 2000 feet to ensure I didn’t enfringe Bristol airspace. Once overhead Bath Racecourse, the limit rises to 3500 feet and bearing in mind the glide clear rule, I climbed a little higher. Bristol reminded me that Colerne was active today and I confirmed my routing would be to the south.

I got a great view of the city of Bath and was able to pick out many of the landmarks.

Bath Centre
Bath City Centre, Avon river and railway station

Wadworth Farm Strip is just outside the south edge of Colerne ATZ, a few miles east of Bath, and I managed to pick it out this time as I passed to the south of it.

Wadworth Farm Strip
Wadworth Farm Strip – Just below the lower orange field, left to right with buildings below

The Grob Tutors from Colerne were active today in the airspace around Lyneham, and were getting a traffic service from Bristol. It seemed that we were the only three aircraft in the area and well covered by the radar service. Visibility was starting to reduce now, so I thought it sensible to return to Kemble as planned.

Making a standard overhead join for 26, I underestimated the southerly wind (it was reported at 7-10 knots on the surface) and overshot the turn onto final, but managed to recover and was lined up by short final leading to a reasonable touchdown.

Deadside descent into Kemble from the north
Deadside descent into Kemble from the north

Back to the pumps for refuelling and then to parking. By the time I’d finished the paperwork less than half an hour later, there were snowflakes falling outside the club room. I think I had just about timed it right. With the snow forecast to be heavy in the coming week, Heathrow cancelling 1/3 of all flights the following day, this would likely be the last private flight for a few weeks.

Hours today: 1:05
Total Hours: 174:25 (PIC 83:20)

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