South Wales Tour

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After a period of prolonged bad weather and cancelled flying opportunities, both Andy and I were keen to find a way to get a good trip in. We both negotiated to be able to take a day off work at short notice and looked for a gap in the weather. Today looked the best day with good visibility and low winds, so the plan was put into effect. After a bit of debate, we decided on a route landing at several airports in South Wales.

Our route after departing Kemble would include Cardiff (with a practice ILS instrument approach), Aberporth/West Wales (where they test UAVs) and Shobdon. I would fly the first and third legs, Andy the other two. The flight times were expected to roughly balance out. We took the Arrow which meant we could both reset our currency. Andy added an extra circuit on our return to Kemble, which fully reset his 90 day passenger carrying currency.

Andy has written up a detailed blog of the day, so I won’t repeat that here.

The highlights of the day included:

– A vectored ILS into Cardiff, practicing the approach under the hood. This was really very straightforward, involving steering a couple of headings when instructed by ATC and following the glideslope/localiser needles down. Being rusty, there are a few things I should have done more accurately but Andy agreed that it was safe (well within limits) and would have allowed us to land in a real IMC situation.

Cardiff Airport Approach
Approaching Cardiff Airport from the North East

– Nice cafe at Cardiff, both inside and from the veranda outside. Shame that the apron outside was comparatively unkempt. The landing fee wasn’t cheap but did include the ILS approach and was not nearly as outrageous as Bristol.

Inside Roose Cafe
Inside Roose Cafe at Cardiff Airport South Side
Roose Cafe, Cardiff Airport
View from Roose Cafe at Cardiff Airport South Side, looking north
Cardiff Airport refuelling bowser
Refuelling bowser available at Cardiff if you need it; one of Aero’s PA28 trainers
Apron south side Cardiff Airport
Pre-flight prior to departing Cardiff; White Building in the background

– Landing at West Wales, where they test UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles). The danger area surrounding the area has full radar control, and they are very good about accomodating visitors. They said they’ve never had to turn anyone away, and only occasionally have to delay movements. It was really very straightforward to get clearance throught the Danger Area. Prior to departure, ATC had already prepared for us and were quickly ready with our clearance after starting up.

Final approach runway 26 Aberporth/West Wales
Final approach runway 26 Aberporth/West Wales
South Wales from the air
South Wales countryside from the air – beautiful
West Wales Airport clear signage
You can’t miss where to book in/pay landing fees at West Wales Airport
Arrow at West Wales/Aberporth Airport
The Arrow parked up at West Wales Airport

– Shobdon was busy on arrival and spotting other aircraft in the circuit wasn’t easy. They’ve instigated a PPR slot booking scheme since I last visited, both for arrival and departure, but it doesn’t seem to have put people off. The visitors parking area was busy when we parked up, so the photo below shows an unrepresentative almost empty grass field. Perhaps the Free Landing Voucher in Flyer magazine had drawn in the crowds.

South Wales from the air
Great views over South Wales between Aberporth and Shobdon
Shobdon Airfield visitors parking area
Shobdon airfield, after the visitors had mostly left

– Andy was trialling SkyDemon on a new Google Nexus 7 mini-tablet. It seemed to have very good battery life, is readable in the sunlight and powerful enough to quickly redraw the chart. The beta software version for the Android ran without problems but looked like it could do with a little more refinement (and the beta-software is actively being updated daily towards that), and is clearly very strong competition with more expensive iPad kit. While my older cheap Chinese Windows CE device continued to run SkyDemon flawlessly (if a little slower) while my iPad 1 struggled to keep up and crashed many times – it seems to be down to SkyDemon software struggling to cope with much more limited memory and processing capacity.

Flight track
SkyDemon flight log for the day’s four legs

– How much quieter the airspace is during the week. There hardly seemed to be anyone else on frequency despite the nice day, except around Shobdon.

It was very enjoyable sharing the trip with another PPL of similar experience and outlook, swapping P1 duties between legs and generally keeping an eye on each other. It was good to get another perspective on flying in practice, and we were able to fit in more in one day than either of us could by ourselves – effectively at half-price.

Let’s hope we can share another trip like this again before too long.

PIC Time Today: 1:30
Total PIC: 147:25
Total Time: 244:40

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