The family were keen to see our new share-o-plane and take a trip in it. With it being very hot and sunny weather, the beach was a top request. Caernarfon seemed like a good choice, with the airport so close to a big shoreline, good cafe and the rugged mountainous terrain to look at on the way there from Gloucester.
The forecast was for few clouds at 2,000 to 3,000 feet and winds calm. I’d been to Caernarfon once before with Andy, so knew the route and destination – something that should help make a good impression with my passengers. My wife reminded me that it’s been over a year since our last full family flying day out when we all went to Alderney.
Pre-flighting and fuelling the aircraft took longer than I hoped (about 45 minutes), so my family read books and puzzles quietly in the departure lounge but this avoided any delays refuelling on our return.
A smooth departure
Taking off to the North East, the flight was quite uneventful. London Information provided a basic service, but with the autopilot engaged, there was little to do except look out at the scenery and for other aircraft. The rugged and sometimes bleak landscape below reminded us how remote some of these parts of Wales are. Bala and other lakes were easily identified. We switched to Valley for a Basic Service.
As we tracked towards Snowdon, the cloud layer thickened and I had to maneouvre around them to remain VFR. We clearly saw Crib Goch, which we had scrambled along many years ago (BC = before kids!) and I flew down the valleys to the north of Snowden and then descended quickly on our routing towards Caernarfon.
A go-around seemed the sensible option
The runway changed just as I called up to the longer 25 (which slightly confused me because my year old AFE guide has 26 – the runway designation had changed because of compass variation). Planning an overhead join, I visualised this the wrong way round and had to make an extra semi-circle in the overhead before descending on the correct dead-side. My overhead join then worked reasonably well, but I was “too high and too hot” on final and decided a go-around would be best. My second attempt was much better – with calm winds there was little excuse not to make this a gentle landing. I’m still getting used to the faster speed in the circuit, and the rapid deceleration when you put the second stage of flaps in.
A busy scene outside the cafe
After vacating the runway, I immediately held short while an army helicopter took off and parked up on the grass. It seemed quite busy outside the cafe, perhaps visitors had come to see the two army helicopters which made low passes on their departure. As always, the food is extremely good value and plentiful at the restaurant there – one of the best airport cafes around. I refrained from the full All-English breakfast while my daughter tucked into some chips.
Expansive beach and museum
It’s a short walk to the beach which is mostly stony but quite wide and expansive (and not at all busy). There was an ice-cream van doing a steady trade, and we contributed to the local economy by buying some. Leaving the family to enjoy the beach, I walked back and around the Air World Museum there. The mountain rescue service was founded here during WW2, initially to rescue airmen who had crashed nearby. This has now evolved to a full helicopter service with ground support serving anyone in trouble on the mountains. The museum is quite extensive and there’s a lot to see inside, easily taking me an hour.
Routing home by the coast, not above FL100
After collecting the family and drinking another tea at the cafe, we hopped back in and departed to the south. I flew down the coast to Aberystwyth before turning east, which meant we could avoid flying over the higher ground. Unusually, Valley asked me if I could comply with a request not to climb above FL100 (10,000 feet). Since I was only at 2,000 feet and didn’t have oxygen, this wasn’t going to be a problem, but the controller explained it allowed them to “stay legal” for separation with a faster aircraft overtaking me above.
We enjoyed some great views along the coast and my wife found the chart useful to track where we were, while I relied on SkyDemon running on the iPad strapped to my knee.
Visual circuit return into Gloucester
Returning to base, the circuit traffic was fairly busy with multiple aircraft planning to join overhead. I slotted in and flew the circuit without too much trouble. The radio was busy, and I was about to call downwind, when another aircraft also did (and asked for a glide approach). My eyes were immediately on stalks looking out for him but the tower were on the ball and told him to orbit for spacing, and we immediately reported late downwind.
One aircraft ahead landed and another took off before we drifted in for a gentle touchdown. It was helpful to have some extra eyes and ears looking out while I used the tug to push back the aircraft away in the hangar, and it was relatively quick to tidy up, lock up and be on our way home.
A fairly successful day all-in-all, shame about the go-around, but I think they all like the new aircraft and will be happy to come again soon.
Time today: 2:40
Total PIC time: 167:30
Total Time: 269:55