From our holiday base in Guernsey, we made a day trip across to Jersey to visit some of my wife’s relatives. It’s only a short distance (23 miles) but technically a different jurisdiction – both are UK Crown Dependencies and each have their own Bailiwick. A full flight plan had to be filed but no GAR forms (there is a special mini-flight plan for inter-island flights between Guernsey and Alderney only because they are within the same jurisdiction). ASG had moved the aircraft back into the parking area and it was easy to preflight. The weather report didn’t look very enticing, with the ATIS for Guernsey stating broken clouds at 100 and 200 feet, winds of 20 knots. However, the actual weather continued to improve as forecast allowing us to take off VFR. We were told to turn left (from runway 27) on departure after noise abatement – this applies after just 500 feet, so you don’t have to cross the west coast. We were vectored south not above 2000 feet, told “own navigation” and handed over to Jersey Approach.
I could see some clouds in the distance over Jersey, so asked for the ILS. We were vectored a full 10 miles east of the airfield and into some clouds – later I found this was just to keep well clear of one commercial departure because I hadn’t heard much activity on the radio. Once turned on to intercept the ILS there was little problem capturing it and landing. We passed through a rain shower on final approach. Winds were also quite strong, around 20 knots at 30 degrees off the runway heading, but I made one of my better and shorter landings.
Jersey Aeroclub is located at the south east corner of the airport and so it was quick to taxi into. The grass had been cut and a parking place easily found. You then walk upstairs into the main aeroclub lounge to check-in and pay landing fees. Fuel is tax and duty free here so worthwhile filling up (they did this while we were out for the day).
The fresh and bright room includes a full bar/cafe with verandah offering great views of the airfield.
Jersey Tower Tour
I had arranged an ATC Tower Tour on arrival. One of our relatives used to work at the airport, managing some of the technical equipment such as weather radar and approach aids, but had not been there for over ten years. He quite enjoyed seeing some of his ex-colleagues again and learning how the systems have evolved. The airport has gone through some difficult times in the past decade, but now seems to be in good shape and well run. We saw the Zone and Approach control desks, which use electronic “strips” that can be moved around the almost horizontal screen and updated with a stylus. I suspect the controllers would actually still prefer paper strips, but can see the benefits of traceability and handoff to other controllers. A backup printer is available and strip holders are still in a cupboard in case of emergency.
Unlike many approach controllers, their room has a window so at least they can see outside. The supervisor showed us the CMFU flow control status display, where Eurocontrol handle slot times and IFR routes including longer distance flights making an early descent towards London through Channel Islands airspace. They could see the expected traffic load and deal with exceptions, re-routing etc. Changes are processed quickly by the central computer and these systems (for IFR) are thought to be efficient. With the airspace change to Class D, it’s now much easier for PPL (and IR(R)) pilots to visit the islands, taking advantage of the cheaper fuel prices and low cost landing fees. Approaching from the north, pilots should expect to talk to Jersey Control first for their clearance.
Upstairs, the tower controllers have a spectacular view often stretching all the way to Guernsey, France and Alderney. One piece of trivia is that the tower itself was built in just seven days using a “constant pour” concrete construction method. Controllers used to be perched on top of the white building in the middle of the photo immediately below.
We spent the day sightseeing around the island. Highlights included lunch at the Corbiere Phare (lighthouse) and a walk down into Devil’s Hole. The hand made glass jewelry craft shop absorbed the family for quite some time.
Quick return trip
The return flight VFR was very quick and painless. VFR with 15 to 20 knot winds. The tower ensured we waited the full 2 minutes for wake clearance after a turbo-prop commercial departure – better safe than sorry. VFR clearance was for not above 1000 feet and we were handed over directly from Jersey Tower to Guernsey Approach. Own navigation for left base 27 with no delay meant a flight time of around 10 minutes. All in all, our private flight was much more convenient, flexible and cheaper than either a boat or scheduled flights.