Kemble to Bembridge and Isle of Wight

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An old favourite

I’ve flown this route from Kemble to Bembridge a few times now (Oct 2012, Feb 2013) but it doesn’t lose its appeal. Today I flew with my daughter and one of her teenage friends (Tiobah) who had never been airborne before – neither commercially or privately. I gave the full safety brief of what to expect and we donned lifejackets for the short over water crossing. I was flying a rented PA28 Warrior (G-VICC) from Freedom Aviation at Kemble – it’s the aircraft I’ve flown most apart from our TB20, which is sadly still in pieces at the engineers having its engine and autopilot fixed.

G-VICC on Plymouth Apron

The routing is southwest towards Bath (almost over Tiobah’s house), south near Compton Abbas towards Poole Harbour, then across to the Needles and up the Solent, cutting across just south of Cowes to join downwind for Bembridge.

I’d emailed Bembridge airfield for PPR the day before and received a friendly call back encouraging me to visit. It’s unmanned during weekdays, so you just post the landing fee through a letterbox or can pay in the pub.

Dave, Freedom’s CFI, confirmed that full fuel and two lightweight passengers would be no problem taking off from the shorter grass runway at Kemble. The main hard runway would be back in use for our return, having been out of action for 3 weeks due to major works to fit runway lights.

Grass runway taking off
Grass runway after takeoff

After the grass runway takeoff, the flight itself was fairly routine. After about 30 minutes, Tiobah said she wasn’t feeling too well and I offered to land at Compton Abbas nearby, warning that there wasn’t really another convenient stop until our destination. She put on a pair of wrist bands and those helped immediately, and she decided that we should continue.

Solar panel field
Solar panel field enroute
Poole harbour
Poole harbour
South of Bournemouth
Looking northwest towards Bournemouth/Christchurch

Bournemouth was very busy and unable to discuss a transit with us – I remained outside and was half way down Poole harbour before being granted a clearance direct to the Needles, even apologising for the delay. Solent Radar seemed much less hassled and I heard several zone transits being granted. We left their frequency at Cowes and self announced for Bembridge, there being nobody else around (but probably traffic for Sandown nearby). Landing without drama in a 5-10 knot crosswind, we parked up alongside 3 or 4 others and paid our fee.

Looking east into the Solent
Short final at Bembridge – parked aircraft on the north side

It’s about a 10-15 minute walk to the beach where there are a couple of cafes (including free Wi-Fi, since no 3G reception). We walked along the beach and enjoyed the good weather – some brave people were even swimming.

One of two beachfront Cafes
Propeller Inn
Propeller Inn next the airfield

Shorter route home

I took a more direct route for the return leg. The views are less varied and interesting once north of Portsmouth, and you have to be careful to keep clear of the controlled airspace. To be on the safe side, I spoke with Solent and obtained a clearance even though just flying on the edge/below it, which cut a corner. I don’t really like the tight gap of uncontrolled airspace between Solent and Lasham, which is a honeypot for those who prefer to remain outside controlled airspace and may not be on frequency (or talking to someone else).

Solent Forts
One of the forts in the Solent south of Portsmouth
Spinnaker Tower
Spinnaker Tower Portsmouth and harbour entrance
Solar farm
Another huge solar farm field en-route

We landed on the nice newly repainted hard runway and noticed the new layout and markings. Sarah at Freedom Aviation welcomed us on our return and quickly sorted out the paperwork. We retired to the AV8 for a well deserved drink and debrief. Tiobah said she’d really enjoyed the day out which was quite an unusual experience from her point of view.

Total time today: 2:25
Total PIC: 250:40
Total Time: 379:50


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