Exeter LPV approach in strong weather

Posted by

A good start to the year

Rich and I agreed to share a flight in our TB20 from Gloucester, ideally with some instrument approaches for practice. We invited Steve along, another PPL/IR member currently working towards his IR(R) at Gloucester. We’d picked a day with poor weather. I’d originally planned to visit Humberside and make a couple of approaches there, but the temperature enroute was too low and gave a high risk of icing. So instead we decided to head south west and visit Gloucester and Bristol – the only two United Kingdom airports with LPV approaches (Alderney in the Channel Islands also has one).

We PPR’d via Aviation South West  for Exeter (which results in a reduced landing fee) and I spoke to Bristol and Wessex Aeroplane Club who handle GA for Bristol Airport and booked in for their off-peak deal (land 2pm-4pm) on Sat/Sundays.

After spending quite a lot of time chatting while waiting for the weather to improve, Rich finally took the plunge and decided to fly to Exeter with me flying back via Bristol. I sat in the back with Steve in the right hand seat.

Straight into the soup

After filling up, Rich took off and we entered the mirk at around 600 feet. It was quiet – there was almost no other traffic around. We had been cleared to FL40 but Rich asked for FL50 which got us above the clouds. Bristol was very busy with holding commercial traffic due to fog/very low cloudbase. Initially they offered us only a routing via Colerne but after a couple of minutes revised that with a route vectored through their overhead at 5000 feet. We saw a couple of commercial jets crossing our path in the distance and at different levels, but there was hardly any other GA traffic on frequency.

In cloud
In cloud under autopilot enroute Exeter
Above the clouds
Above the cloud layer at Bridgewater outbound

Bristol also co-ordinated our transfer to Exeter, who granted our request for the LPV procedural approach positioned as number 2 after an inbound Airbus. The Airbus captain warned us of turbulence at about 100 feet – not unsurprising with winds of 20 gusting 30 (straight down the runway). It was quite a bumpy ride, and the autopilot was working hard to keep us on track. After breaking out at 1200 feet AAL, Rich elected to keep the speed up and use only one stage of flaps – with a 2000m runway and 20+ knots we weren’t going to overrun. He made a good approach and landing, with slight difficulty taxying in the strong wind. We parked up on the GA apron, pointing into wind with the control locks and chocks on. Then walked through the security checkpoint to Aviation South West who handle all GA traffic.

Final approach Exeter
Final approach Exeter 26

Direct return to Gloucester

My turn to fly home, and after checking the METARs it was clear we wouldn’t be landing at Bristol en-route – there was a 100-200 feet cloudbase. Our IFR departure clearance was to turn right and climb to FL50.

Exeter commercial traffic
Commercial traffic taking off needed little runway  in the strong winds

Again we were co-ordinated with Bristol who granted my request for a transit, routing slightly to the east of the runway. They seem to like North/South transiting traffic being on the downwind side of the runway in case of a go-around. The controller picked up my error in not setting QNH for the transit – their transition level in controlled airspace is 6000 feet but outside is 3000 feet. FL50 equated to 5200 feet, so I was given the option of climbing to 5500 feet, which I think also helped spacing for an inbound commercial flight that we didn’t see.

Between layers just south of Bristol at FL50
Sunshine above the clouds at 5,500 feet

Bristol also co-ordinated with Gloucester and we were granted the procedural ILS I asked for. Some 10 miles out, Gloucester cleared me for the procedure and asked me to report beacon outbound. They were on Runway 27 with about 5 knots of wind from the north at ground level. Unlike Rich, I flew by hand rather than the autopilot. I entered the hold with a relatively poor join, not allowing quite enough time to pass over the beacon before turning – as you can see from the log this meant I drifted too far south on the inbound leg. The second time around was better but not ideal – I thought I’d overcooked it and stopped the inbound turn briefly with 60 degrees to go, but that north wind blew me through.

Bumpy ILS approach

I reported beacon outbound and attempted to track the NDB on the 097 radial. I actually thought I had done this reasonably well, but from the GPS log it’s clear that although I was consistently tracking this was some 8-10 degrees out. At 8 DME I turned to intercept which I managed after some slight overshoot caused by overcompensating for the north crosswind. There was quite a bit of lift and sink, which meant we were suddenly climbing and dropping at rates of up to 2000 feet per minute (according to the VSI). I think this was particularly related to crossing the ridge. Rich kept a close eye on the altimeter and prompted me when I drifted low. I believe I did manage to keep within tolerances of half-scale deflection.

I was also a little low on the early visual approach when perhaps I should have stayed on instruments but recovered before short final. With an early landing clearance, I made the final checks, deployed full flaps and made an adequate landing. A bit of tidying up after parking (e.g. downloading the JPI data, updating the Garmin navdata etc.), followed by a debrief in the clubhouse was a good ending to an eventful day.

Track logs with zoom in for the final instrument approach below.

Route outbound
Route Gloucester to Exeter
Inbound log
Route log Exeter to Gloucester
ILS27 at Gloucester
Hold entry, hold and ILS procedure at Gloucester

PIC Today: 1:15
Total PIC: 265:15
Total Time: 397:00

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *