The Sun has got its Hat On
After heavy rain over the Christmas and New Year period, the sun promised to come out. I arranged at short notice to share a flight in a PA28 Warrior, buddy flying from Kemble with Dave. We agreed on Elstree and Denham in North London, benefitting from a free landing voucher at our first stop.
The sky looked clear and inviting when we arrived at Kemble.
Kemble to Elstree
Dave flew the first leg to Elstree. There were few other aircraft on frequency that day. We routed south of Fairford and the Brize Zone and overhead Benson who were closed for the holidays. It was somewhat hazy but generally good visibility to the east. Brize and Farnborough North gave us a Basic Service. A strong tailwind sped us there in double quick time.
Careful Visual Navigation Required
Elstree is just north of the London TMA, which is Class A airspace. Infringements aren’t appreciated! I’d viewed a video of VFR flights around London and read the procedures beforehand. Circuits are variable (i.e. it could be either left hand or right hand for either runway. You are informed of which it is when first calling up on the radio). We approached from the north west and learnt there were left hand circuits for Runway 26. The major roads are fairly easy to pick out. The huge number of white headstones in the large cemetery to the west of the field and electricity substation are very visible landmarks.
Dave made a standard overhead join, descending deadside (on the north). There was a fairly strong wind which he handled well.
The tower indicated we could park up in the “Custom’s Square”, a designated spot directly outside the tower and restaurant normally used to segregate foreign arrivals.
We enjoyed a pilot’s breakfast in the Cafe and then wandered around the Pooley’s store onsite. My impression was of a compact but busy airfield. Parking space seems at a premium and we saw plenty of arrivals and departures during our time there.
Elstree to Denham
My turn to fly next and we made the short hop to Denham, about 10 minutes flying time. This lies within the London TMA and has specific traffic routes that must be adhered to closely. It’s helpful to have a buddy pilot who can help with the navigation and confirm we had picked up the right visual reporting points.
I’d watched an excellent video of the visual approach into Denham on their website, so it seemed vaguely familiar to see the lakes to the east of the field as we flew in from the north east. We were able to turn onto final for a good approach and landing on the grass strip.
Denham has separate north and south sides, each with their own parking areas and various businesses. Before arriving, we had been advised that we should expect to exit the runway at its mid-point. There had been flooding at both ends of the field and the ground was boggy in places. We had also expected the cafe on the south side to be open, which it wasn’t, so we parked up on the north side. The flying club there took our landing fee and provided coffee. We met a Cessna pilot who had just flown back from Kemble and reported good weather all the way.
Denham to Kemble
I also flew the return leg back to Kemble, paying close attention to the noise abatement route. This was a longer flight than outbound due to a strong headwind. I missed the extra speed of the Arrow or TB20 in these conditions, at times we were down to a groundspeed of 70 knots.
Kemble was fairly busy as we approached, and I had to orbit to avoid a directly oncoming aircraft leaving at the same height. After a standard overhead join, we fitted into the pattern. Blustery crosswind conditions made this more challenging but I pulled off a reasonable landing.
There followed a relaxed debrief with a coffee in the AV8 cafe, ending another enjoyable and succesful day out.
PIC time today: 1:20
PIC total time: 213:35
Total Time: 316:00