Hurtling at almost 200 knots towards Halfpenny Green and Sleap

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The forecast was for a pretty windy day, 18 gusting 28 from the south, with up to 50 knots at altitude. I’d not been up in the air for quite some while, so it was about time to take at least a short flight but nothing too adventurous. A couple of friends had hired a Robin from Gloucester and were planning a landaway in the afternoon. We looked at various options with a southerly runway and decided on Halfpenny Green or Sleap. I decided to fly to both during the day and meet up at Sleap in the afternoon.

Gloucester to Halfpenny Green (aka Wolverhampton)

Departure was a little turbulent but the air was very smooth above the inversion layer, say 3000 feet. I cruised at 4000 and routed via Shobdon rather than going direct – practicing ADF tracking away from the beacon and height keeping without the autopilot. It was good to be above the haze. Turning back towards Halfpenny Green I started the descent in good time. I had a “double take” of the ground speed indication on the GPS which showed over 190 knots. Both onboard Garmin and iPad/SkyDemon agreed. This was a combination of 40-50 knots of tailwind plus 140 knots cruising speed. It was tempting to dive a bit faster and see if I could break 200 knots, but I wimped out.

At least the iPad snapshot recorded 187 knots for the record. Although only 4 minutes to the overhead, approaching from this direction meant it was best to arrive at 3,000 feet and descend from there.

187 knots heading towards Sleap
187 knots heading towards Sleap

Straigtforward overhead join and descent into Halfpenny Green, and clear instructions from the AFIS towards parking. Its a bit of a struggle to push back 1.4 tonnes but I just about managed it. The cafe there has been refurbished recently and has some nice new solid wooden tables. Lunch was a standard English cooked breakfast, card payments accepted. Pretty full inside with the option to sit outside when the warmer weather comes.

Halfpenny Green - the grey shed with blue framing is the Gents outside toilet
Halfpenny Green – the grey shed with blue framing is the Gents outside toilet
Hangars at Halfpenny Green
Flight school and hangars at Halfpenny Green

Halfpenny Green to Sleap

After departure, I again took a circuitous route to Sleap, flying via the area of Welshpool. There was a a little bit of turbulence off the hills which reduced as I climbed higher. I did see the airport but skirted well above and outside the zone before turning back towards Sleap. My landing there was reasonable and I could quickly backtrack and vacate onto the grass parking.

The haze cleared completely above the Inversion layer
The haze cleared completely above the Inversion layer

Phil landed about half an hour later, and we enjoyed cake and coffee while watching an aerobatic display by two biplanes. There seemed to be a fairly steady stream of activity despite the strong winds – we even saw a glider land. Walking around the extensive number of hangars there we saw everything from Jodells to a Cirrus. We helped the glider owner stow his aircraft sideways, pushing it along a rail deep inside the hangar. The wings are incredibly long when seen up close.

Sleap grass parking area
Sleap grass parking area
Phil took a photo of me before departure
Phil took a photo of me before departure

An Emergency Call enroute Sleap back to Gloucester

Phil departed first and I had to wait at the hold while a Thruster or similar microlight flew down finals. The strong wind affected them considerably – it was more like watching a Stannah stairlift – as they slowly dribbled down the glide path and gently touched down on the runway. Not sure if I’d like to fly such a light and slow aircraft on such a strong wind day – it must take quite some skill. It’s VNE (Velocity Never to Exceed) of 80 knots is the same as my take-off and final approach speed.

The faster speed of the TB20 showed in our return flights – mine took 30 minutes airborne time against 50 for the Robin.

During the return leg I did something I haven’t done since my PPL training course. I called up D&D (Distress and Diversion) on 121.5 and made a Practice Pan. This UK service is designed to help out pilots who are lost or in difficulties. My call took a few seconds to answer and then a few more seconds to determine that my radio signal could only be received by one station. After squawking a specific code, I was then told where I was (5 miles south of Shrewsbury, west of the A something or other road), and asked if I needed anything else. It is nice to know we have this facility should I need it, although with 3 GPS, 2 VORs and an ADF I had plenty of onboard options to use first.

On first call to Gloucester I was offered a straight in approach which made life very easy. I just had to report at 3 miles and from there was cleared to land. There was plenty of time to consider the descent profile from 20 miles out, so it was a fairly good landing and return to base.

Gloucester to Halfpenny Green via Shobdon
Gloucester to Halfpenny Green via Shobdon
Halfpenny Green to Sleap via Welshpool
Halfpenny Green to Sleap via Welshpool
Sleap to Gloucester
Sleap to Gloucester

PIC Time today: 2:25 (of which 1:30 airborne)
Total PIC: 217:05
Total Time: 321:10

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