Wet weather all week
The weather has really been playing up the last few weeks. Bank holiday Monday had been my plan for a good day out with the family, but heavy downpours were forecast. Other commitments meant I was late in booking an aircraft for the previous day (Sunday) afternoon instead. With two aircraft out for maintenance, I took the only 2 hour slot available in the afternoon. A quick call to the instructor on the day allowed me to extend it by a further 30 minutes or so.
I’d been in touch with Andy, who had planned a short family landaway to Compton Abbas. I had been concerned about the weather forecast, which was promising rain showers at Kemble during the afternoon. In the end, this was very pessimistic and I didn’t come across any rain.
Andy and his family had arrived at lunch time and had a picnic at the airfield. I’d had a nice Sunday roast at home – not a difficult choice to be honest.
I did the paperwork in the club office, and one of the club’s newest instructors (who I’d known from earlier days at Lyneham) kindly agreed to authorise my flight. I saw the aircraft return, and was ready at the gate after the pilots disembarked. Mike, the instructor, explained that the fuel primer pump wasn’t working, so instead you had to pump the throttle with the fuel pump on. I’d seen this done before, so didn’t think it would be a problem. There weren’t any other defects to worry about, and plenty of fuel onboard. I sorted out my flight bag, GPS and maps etc, ready to set off.
A Spitfire in the way
As we were finishing off pre-flighting and Andy was getting his passengers ready to board, a Spitfire taxied towards us and stopped almost in front, blocking the entire taxiway. The pilot was apologetic, explaining that there was a problem with the tailwheel brake. He and some friends helped us manually push both our aircraft onto the grass and around behind it, ready to go.
Without passengers, I was ready to startup a little earlier than Andyr, and double checked that I had all my nav aids working and information at my fingertips. There wasn’t really a problem starting without a fuel primer pump because the engine was so warm. I followed SNUZ along the taxiways to the North Apron for power checks. Andy seemed to be taking his time, so I called ready for departure just before he did. The tower suggested we both backtrack and line up, after which we took off in turn.
My route was through the Bath Gap, from M4 J18 directly south to Frome, just west of Colerne. Andy departed after me and routed to Lyneham, then to Melksham and Frome. There wasn’t much in it, with us both converging on Frome at about the same time.
I managed to get a couple of snaps of the countryside. Visibility was remarkably good, even though some of the clouds looked a bit threatening at times.
With both clearly having each other in sight, Andy ducked behind and below me so that he could follow me in. I was thinking I’d let him go first, but when contacting Compton Radio he said he would follow – perhaps thinking that my local knowledge of the airfield would help show him the way.
Busy bees on arrival
Several aircraft all announced that they were inbound within a few minutes, all seeming to be about the same distance out. It was going to be busy, so with eyes on stalks, I joined the overhead visual with another aircraft also decending deadside. His track seemed pretty unusual to me, and I perhaps foolishly followed it and kept it in sight. Instead, I think I should have taken the standard wider circuit route. I was probably keener to keep him in sight out of safety concerns. He turned late on to final and there was also someone on the runway ahead.
Having done the downwind checks earlier, I realised I was still a little too high and too fast and lowered full flaps and minimum throttle to get this under control. Rounding out over the numbers, I was still perhaps 10 knots too fast and so floated down the runway somewhat before touching down gently on the centreline. I didn’t need to use the brakes, and turned off the vacate as quickly as I could.
Taxied back to the fuel pumps and refuelled, so that by the time I had finished and parked up, Andy and his family were already settled in the cafe with some large cakes and drinks. The coffee cafe did look tempting, so I went for that too.
The airfield was really busy today, perhaps because of contrast with the recent poor weather, and it was great to see lots of activity. The £10 landing fee is quite reasonable for such a nice place.
I felt under a lot of time pressure, because i had already extended the booking by 30 minutes and it started to look like it might be an hour if I didn’t get a move on. At least there would be no delays due to refueling when I returned. I set off ahead of Andy and his family, departing to the north west and back to Frome. Although I remembered to use two stages of flaps for the short field takeoff technique, I didn’t remember to put them away until I was climbing out. I thought the aircraft was behaving a bit strangely and quickly spotted my error.
Calling ahead for information
Bristol Radar gave me a basic service on my return leg, and this time allocated a squawk code. They called traffic when I was near the Park gliding club, and I spotted a single engine plane above me in the opposite direction. Thinking that Kemble would be closed by the time I got there, I asked Bristol to find out the airfield information which they did by phoning Kemble on a landline. It was good to know the QFE and runway in use.
As it happened, I talked to Kemble Tower about five minutes before they closed but they shutdown before I reached the circuit. It was a straightforward overhead arrival and landing with a slight crosswind. Out of hours, it’s recommended you land further down the runway because the road at the threshold is opened at that time. Taxied back to parking and found the instructor and student patiently waiting at the gate to take over. Without needing to put the covers on, it was just a case of finishing off the paperwork and a short chat with Andy and his family before heading home.
Total Time Today : 1:35 (PIC)
Total PIC: 99:30
Total Time: 192:35