Local round trip after Christmas

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A challenge just to get into Kemble airfield

Few pilots were flying today, despite it having the better weather forecast for the week. Rain seems to have featured strongly for some time, with parts of the country flooded including some peoples homes. Today was a late decision based on a combination of weather forecast and family commitments. It wasn’t a certainty that I’d even make a flight.

The road into the airport was itself flooded, and I wasn’t too sure how deep the ford was. Another car had stopped and after my initial attempt, I decided to reverse back and talk to them. A third car came along, drove through the water at what I thought was quite a fast pace, and suffered no trouble. So we both decided to take our chances, and made it through.

Kemble North Entrance Flooded
Braving the ford into Kemble North Entrance

Comfy Clubhouse

The clubhouse was already open, with a pilot taking a few brave souls up for a short local flight. He reported the cloudbase was down to 1500 or less in the area. Perhaps the search for a sickbag indicated how turbulent it was! (Fortunately not needed, with the onset of concern arising during the downwind leg). The forecast looked more promising, at least for the afternoon, and my initial plans for a landaway looked still to be possible. A phone call got me PPR, but also told me of 1200 foot cloud base and some rain. The METARs were similarly gloomy, so I decided to wait around for an hour or two and see if the forecast improvement came to pass. The clubhouse is quite comfortable now, having been improved with comfy sofas and a tidy kitchen area.

After the rain poured down, it brightened up. I decided to abandon plans for a landaway and instead make a local flight around the Bristol area – going anti-clockwise around the controlled airspace to Wells and back. It would take about an hour.

A lone departure

G-VICC has had a slight refit since I last flew it, with a new Airbox Foresight GPS installed. This is noticeably larger than the earlier 5 inch display, and the 7 inch screen was clear and bright. The switches have been moved around a bit, so I found myself turning off the avionics rather than the fan during the pre-flight checks, and it took a little while to identify the toggle switch to turn the GPS on. It shows your position and direction on a standard CAA chart format, and pops up warning alert boxes as you approach controlled airspace and other hazards. I was also running my SkyDemon GPS and frankly prefer the simplified graphic format and “virtual radar” feature – the latest release seems to be another good incremental improvement – although I haven’t quite figured out the “geo referenced plates” yet.

Apart from a helicopter, I was the only aircraft movement at lunchtime. After departure, I switched to Bristol radar to hear only a couple of commercial flights and the air ambulance helicopter. Their Basic service was straightforward, even if I did mumble the R/T a bit.

Variable weather

I could see quite different weather to the south/east compared to the north and west. It reconfirmed my decision was a better choice. The air was turbulent at times and I think might not have been suitable for new passengers (even if it was calmer than in the morning). I got a great view of another (short) airstrip near where I live (White Ox Mead) as well as the flooding from recent rain.

View to South East of Bath
View to South East from Bath – good visibility

Wells Mast marked the half way point

Wells mast was clearly visible from some distance away, but Bristol Radar did check I had it in sight as I approached – nice to know they were keeping an eye on me. The cloud base dropped directly above the ridge of the Mendip Hills, making me keep south of that to avoid going IMC, and also ensuring that I kept clear of controlled airspace.

View to the west
View to the west towards Weston-Super-Mare and Burnam Beeches

Transit up the Bristol Channel

I asked Bristol for a transit not above 2000 feet along the Severn estuary. Again, my R/T could have been better – I was awaiting the usual words “cleared to enter controlled airspace” and was slightly perplexed because they’d changed ATC staff meantime (now a bloke instead of a lady), who told me I had a Radar Controlled Service and could navigate pretty much where I wanted (or some words similar to that). I had forgotten than Basic, Traffic and Deconfliction services don’t apply inside controlled airspace – they use the original terms of Radar Information Service and Radar Controlled Service (as do other countries). I did repeat back the VFR not above 2000 feet and changed course. It was clearly a quiet time.

Tide out under Severn Bridges
Tide was out under the Severn Bridges

There were some dark clouds in the direction I was heading, but as I reached the Severn Bridges the visibility improved. Bristol told me at Thornbury that they had “nothing more for me” and I switched to Kemble. After a quick practice PFL (not down to anywhere near ground level), intended more to see if I could remember the drills, I called up Kemble and agreed a downwind join. There was nobody else in the air to worry about.

Light Gun display next year?

After refuelling at the pumps, I parked up in our recently much improved parking bays (with metal grid matting on top of the grass) and tidied up. I visited the office to deposit my 2013 indemnity form, and saw the AV8 cafe looking somewhat forlorn – it’s closed until the end of February for refurbishment. I asked if the tower ever use light guns (for situations of radio failure), and was told that they do. If it’s not busy and I ask in advance, I could arrange to see them in action – something I wished I’d thought of earlier in the day. Who knows when I might need to use them for real, such as during my recent radio failure in the US.

Light Gun
Light Gun in a tower (Picture courtesy Wikipedia)

I think that will close off my flying for 2013 – it was good to get another quick flight in and keep reasonably current. Anyway, I’m confident that the rest of my family spent at least as much money today in the “January” sales 😉

PIC Time Today: 1:20
Total PIC Time: 140:55
Total Time: 238:05

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