Cranfield and back for some IFR practice

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A short flight during  break in the weather

A break in the January bad weather provided an opportunity to share a short flight from Gloucester to Cranfield and back with John, one of the other co-owners of our TB20. It’s only about 30 minutes flight time each way. We took advantage of their £5 landing fee offer and hoped to practice some holds and make a practice instrument approach. On calling up for PPR, we heard that instrument approaches weren’t available because the runway lights were out of service.

John had pre-flighted the aircraft before I arrived at the hangar, and we were ready to make a relaxed but uneventful departure. I flew the outbound leg, routing via Daventry and practiced some VOR tracking. We spoke to Coventry Radar en-route before switching to Cranfield Tower. They don’t have a radar facility, so provided us with a Procedural Service when we took up the hold.

Holding on the autopilot using the OBS

John guided me through how to setup the OBS function on the GPS which provides a localiser indication as you intercept and track inbound towards the beacon. We continued round the hold on autopilot, twiddling the heading bug to make it perform Rate 1 turns and compensating for the wind. This is quite different to what’s generally taught in flight schools, where you manually fly holds using the ADF.

Straight in VFR along the ILS flight path

We then tracked outbound for the ILS procedure and were downrated to a Basic Service from Cranfield, who reminded us that the ILS instrument approach wasn’t (officially) available. However, they had no issues with us flying outside their ATZ to the north east and asking to rejoin for a VFR straight-in approach. We followed the ILS procedure track on both the GPS and ILS localiser, which did provide us with guidance, using the autopilot. We descended below the broken cloud layer above 2000 feet.

About 4 miles out, we requested a VFR straight in approach and this was granted. There was one other aircraft in the VFR circuit, but it would not conflict. Disabling the autopilot at around 400 feet, I added full flaps and setup for touch down. Whether because I was out of practice or just plain poor flying skill, I flared too late and made a 3 point landing. The runway wasn’t just wet – it had a large puddle in the middle section, and we splashed through that which slowed us down considerably. John was very keen that I didn’t touch the brakes, but I had no need to and was easily able to make the exit to parking.

Another good airfield cafe

The cafe offers a traditional English breakfast common at many airfields, and we enjoyed a relaxing lunch. It seemed much quieter mid-week than it was when it had two commercial flight training schools.

Passenger on the flight home

John flew the leg home, taking a more direct route and using the ILS approach at Gloucester. He also flew higher than I did, punching through the cloud layer to reach clear VFR on top. Somehwat unusually for him, he hand flew the final approach rather than using the autopilot, making a much smoother landing than mine earlier in the day. Being a passenger allowed me to take a few photos.

Shortly after take-off from Cranfield
Shortly after take-off from Cranfield
A few mintes later, about to enter cloud by Milton Keynes
A few mintes later, about to enter cloud by Milton Keynes
Another few minute later, clear of cloud on top
Another few minute later, clear of cloud on top
Clear skies once again overhead Cheltenham, approaching Gloucester
Clear skies once again overhead Cheltenham, approaching Gloucester

Cranfield are working hard to attract more GA visitors and have extended their low cost landing fee offer. Their instrument training pricing is very competitive and I hope others will show their support. It can be difficult and/or very expensive to practice approaches at some of the larger regional airports, so it’s good to have a more accessible alternative.

Route log
Gloucester to Cranfield
Route Log return leg
Cranfield to Gloucester

PIC time today: 1:05
Total PIC: 214:40
Total Time: 317:05

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