Project Propeller is an annual gathering of remaining World War 2 aircrew (friend and foe), flown into an airport by current pilots. Often these passengers take an active role in the flight, either navigating and/or piloting. Mostly male, there are a few women pilots who were involved in tasks such as delivering aircraft from the factory during the war.
This year’s event was held at our home airport at Gloucester, with around 160 aircrew arriving in some 100 aircraft. The program included a flypast and a talk, with plenty of time to mix and meet. There was also the new Jet Age Museum to look around, which only recently formally opened. My co-owner John had volunteered to collect a passenger from Guernsey, and I offered to return him in the afternoon. I also arranged for Andy, my flying buddy, to come along since he’d not been in the TB20 yet and had not yet flown across the Channel.
Bristol Aero Club 20th Birthday Party at Kemble
It was a busy day with lots on. I dropped in at Kemble during Bristol Aero Club’s 20th year celebrations. The club seems to be thriving again after its move from Filton, with a chart showing flying hours doubling in the last year. The new CFI was offering aerobatic sessions in his own aircraft, while others were taking up the offer of trial lessons and flights in the regular club PA28s. The barbeque was fired up for some tasty bacon rolls and I have to say the Rocky Road cakes from the Fly2Help stand were particularly yummy. All proceeds from the day went to the Fly2Help charity, which gives disadvantaged children and their helpers a memorable “Air Smiles” day out. It also encourages young people to consider a career in aviation.
Jet Age Museum
I arrived at Gloucester half way through the program and missed lunch, the fly past and the talk. I did have a quick look around the Museum and savour the atmosphere, but didn’t have a chance to meet many of the other ferry pilots. Follow this link for some great photos of the event from one of the resident photographers.
I’d filed an IFR flight plan to depart at 4pm and Doug, my veteran, was quite happy to leave on that schedule. We drove round to our normal hangar, and I’d prepped everything just as Andy joined us. A fair number of aircraft were also aiming to depart at this time, and special procedures had been put in place to limit radio traffic. For me, on the south side of the airfield, normal procedures applied. I called for taxi as usual and at the hold, we saw a line of at least 10 aircraft on the other side, with just one ahead of us on our side. It was a hot summer afternoon (so getting hot under the canopy) and I was hoping not to have to wait too long. I was a little taken offguard but extremely thankful to be instructed to line up in turn and depart immediately.
Gloucester to Guernsey
The TB20 was a little reluctant to take to the air being fully laden in a slightly warmer day, but once up to speed we climbed away and there was no conflicting traffic to affect our southbound departure. I climbed up to FL50 and asked Bristol for a transit. They were extremely busy and I hoped I wouldn’t be turned down or delayed, but they came up with the goods and cleared us through at 6000 feet.
We climbed further to FL70 to align with the semi-circular rule once back in uncontrolled airspace. The autopilot had a bit of a wobbly just south of Bristol and started us into a turn for no apparent reason. I offered Doug a turn at the controls, but he was happy for me to continue – I think he’d had a play on the way there. He told me he made his last landing at age 86 which was so smooth the only reason you knew you had touched down was the sound of the wheels turning. I hope I can get up to that standard one day – I’ve got a few years to go.
He had been Chief Pilot at Aurigny (the Channel Island airline) and retired long before the days of GPS navigation. He must have been a real master of the difficult and highly skilled timed NDB approach, commenting that the new GPS LPV approach at Alderney had transformed access to the island.
We passed high overhead Glastonbury Festival, which was being prepared for the following week. We tried to speak to Plymouth Military as we crossed through the (closed) Danger Zones, but got no reply (being the weekend), so spoke with Bournemouth. It was fairly hazy and there was a period where we couldn’t see either coast – unusual for what was such a nice sunny day down below.
Sometime after coasting out just west of Weymouth, we switched to Jersey Zone who provided our clearance promptly. I had forgotten that the ATIS for Guernsey is transmitted on the VOR frequency – you listen using the NAV1 audio button and hear it alongside the morse identification tones. This is something that hasn’t changed for decades, and which Doug quickly confirmed. Guernsey Approach were busy with IFR arrivals and told us to orbit about 5 miles north of the island, then vectored us for a long final onto 09.
I’d loaded the approach into the GTN box and managed to get the autopilot to behave and direct us down the glidepath. There was a bit of turbulence on short final, which meant my landing wasn’t quite as smooth at Doug’s, but at least we have a nice trailing suspension to help with that.
Doug made a point of thanking me properly at the reception desk, where his wife would collect him. It was an honour and pleasure to be able to fly with him. ASG, the handlers, were efficient at parking and refuelling – they’d had a busy day with lots of flights in the good weather. We walked outside around to the other side of the airport to the bistro pub I’d been to last time – the DeerHound Inn – where we had an enjoyable dinner and chat outside. Andy is quite keen to make a cross channel trip as P1 himself this year, and we talked about fitting this in during the summer. Although he’s been flying for several more years than I have, today was his first trip abroad in a single engine aircraft.
Gloucester to Guernsey – the missing flight plan
It was about 7pm local when we got back to the aircraft. I listened to the ATIS and called for start. The tower hadn’t got a flight plan for us although I was sure I had filed one the previous evening with the GAR and outbound leg (checking later I realised had only filed the GAR and outbound flight plan, probably uncertain of the timing for our return). So I whipped out my iPhone and created/submitted one through SkyDemon in about 60 seconds flat. The tower called me back within a couple of minutes and start was approved. This SkyDemon phone stuff can be really useful at times!
We followed the second of two large twin prop passenger aircraft to the hold for 09, and completed power checks. As the second one took off, I was asked if I could accept immediate departure which I did. We launched a minute or so behind, with Andy commenting on whether wake turbulence would be a problem or not. I didn’t think so and we didn’t detect any. We flew out to the sea and turned north, remaining with the tower for some miles at not above 2000 feet for co-ordination with other traffic. On transfer back to Zone, I requested a climb to 5000 feet which was granted. It was hazy up there, but I prefer to have some altitude when over longer water stretches. After a while, we could see Portland and I descended back down to about 3000 feet and got a Basic service from Bournemouth.
I gave Andy control, and he gently pointed us in the right direction, putting in an orbit but not trying any major aerobatic movements. It’s a very stable aircraft when trimmed properly.
Bristol were expecting us – telling us that Bournemouth weren’t sure we had received their acknowledgement of our signing off with them. Although it wasn’t busy on the airwaves, that was a nice touch to co-ordinate between units. We didn’t need a transit on our direct routing back to Gloucester, flying directly overhead Colerne. A few balloons were out in the late evening sunshine over Bath to our west.
Self announcing at Gloucester on the radio, I let Andy continue the VFR join and took over to land with no fuss on 09. This was my first after hours landing at Gloucester – their normal opening hours extend much later than Kemble where it was a more frequent occurrence.
PIC time today: 3:00
Total time 367:30