This is the third club flyout of 2012 which I’ve organised. I’m learning to expect the crew list to change during the week beforehand, and the value of getting early commitment from a few “core” pilots to ensure the event will run regardless. As a minimum, I had two pilots (myself and one other) who both agreed to fly both ways. The day before, another pilot regained currency and was able to fly one leg. There were plenty of passengers (we only ask them to share the landing fees and buy lunch) including a student pilot and club members who were out of currency and looking to get back into it during the year.
Duxford were hosting a “Bonus Day”, this time for Vans RV homebuilt aircraft. There is a reduced landing fee and guided tour of the exhibition. I telephoned a week ahead and booked a slot for both aircraft to arrive at 11am.
Early start, almost cancelled
Aiming to arrive at Kemble before 9am, I left the house before 8 and picked up Ray on the way there. My wife phoned about 8:30 to say her car wouldn’t start and I headed back home to see if I could fix it. Fortunately one of our neighbours helped out. Although the car wouldn’t start, he lent her his car for the day (an extremely generous gesture), and I was able to turn around and head back to Kemble. Everyone turned up on time, and helped pre-flight the aircraft.
VICC has just had a new engine fitted and so required to be flown at full power for several hours – no circuit training. SNUZ, which I would be flying, was all in order. Each would be flying with 3 people, so I had asked in advance for them to be left on tabs fuel. We decided that both aircraft needed fuel and if I had thought ahead, I would have suggested calling for the fuel bowser to be driven round. Instead, in turn we both taxied around to the fuel pumps and refuelled before departure.
Routing around congested airspace
Since the direct route involved a lot of controlled airspace and the alternative was only a few minutes longer, we routed north east, over Moreton-in-the-Marsh, Banbury, Towcester and then through a gap south east to Royston where we reported inbound.
I had to make the initial radio call several times – they only want your callsign and position – before getting a response. It was quite busy with several aircraft approaching from different angles. With runway 09 in use, I had to fly east and turn back onto the downwind leg – they don’t do overhead joins at Duxford. We elected to use the hard runway rather than the grass. It’s quite long and (unlike the grass runway) you can only exit at the end, so you need to ensure plenty of spacing from the aircraft ahead. We heard VICC on the radio ahead of us as they joined downwind and we followed a couple of aircraft later. After landing, we held on the taxiway while more aircraft landed on the grass and were then expertly guided by marshallers to our parking spot.
A positive welcome
Strangely, we didn’t have to book in or out on a written log – I guess this is done beforehand by calling for prior permission and a landing slot and/or by the marshallers. We were given tea/coffee and biscuits then joined a guided tour by a very knowledgable volunteer around various hangars. Later, we walked around the US hangar where we could see an astonishing range of famous aircraft including a B52 bomber (the story of the emergency landing due to an engine failure was quite amusing – the dreaded “7 engine” landing!). The SR41 blackbird, flying fortress and many other iconic aircraft were all in pristine condition and very accessible.
Lunch was a bit of a letdown (food wise). Due to a separate function which needed several of the ovens, the kitchen ran out of hot food shortly before we reached the front of the queue. The menu was pretty minimal anyway and we were left with beans/chips or pasta – all charged at pretty eyewatering prices. Definitely one of the less attractive aspects of the museum. However, we were able to sit outside in the sunshine and have a good chat.
To much to see
After some further walking around – there is so much to see here, you could easily spend several days viewing the exibits – we all assembled for departure. After checking with the marshalls about the procedure, we started up and simply called for taxi instructions. Power checks were completed at the hold, and we flew a half circuit departing on the downwind leg back towards Royston. I flew the same route back as before, catching up with VICC overhead Banbury. We followed in loose formation, a mile or so behind and to the right – they didn’t see us during the flight.
After talking to Farnborough North for the first part of our route, they suggested we contact Coventry for a service through to Banbury, where we switched to Brize. It was a pretty routine flight, but I was grateful for the added reassurance of the handheld GPS when we were closer to Duxford. There were several landmarks which one of my passengers mistook and misplaced our position.
Refuelling, but then a starter problem
On return, we again headed for the fuel pumps. I had planned to do this, but understood that VICC wasn’t going to. Another opportunity to have the fuel bowser come across to our parking spot (for free) missed. Everything was going to plan until the engine starter failed to engage when starting up for the last time to return to parking.
I was under pressure to get home for a family commitment that evening, so wasn’t in the in best of moods. We tried to call the owners to ask what they wanted done. Couldn’t get through, so then asked for assistance from the tower. An engineer came out from one of the maintanence outfits (Vintage Flyers) to have a quick look. He kindly offered to move the aircraft and store it overnight in the hangar free of charge – looking at it in the morning if we wanted him to. This was much appreciated and I thought they were very helpful and responsive to our problem.
In the end, we got through to the owners, and Dave came over to look at it (and fixed the problem) an hour later. It was very helpful that my passenger and one of the other crew were able to stay behind and resolve the issue. I quickly walked back to the office, finished off the paperwork and left them to it. All in all, a good flight – nice to have the club atmosphere with a small party making the trip and socialising at our destination. I think it also encouraged members to get current and make more flights for themselves.
I was also very pleased to have crossed the 100 hours PIC threshold, which means I can now be self-authorising and won’t need to ring round instructors seeking permission for every flight. I hope I can use this privilege sensibly – I still have the option to ask any instructor for advice or opinions if I’m unsure or unfamiliar with the territory or weather outlook.
Time this flight: 2:40
Total PIC: 102:10
Total Time: 195:15