My co-owner Rich and I had agreed to take our wives for a weekend away in our TB20 aircraft from Gloucester, intending somewhere in Northern France. The colder winter weather constrained our options – with freezing temperatures close to ground level and cloud/rain to the south, east and west, the only sensible route was north – and we decided on Liverpool. The relatively short flight was still long enough to justify one, and we could choose to fly both ways IFR with approach practice at both ends. Very strong northerly winds were the greatest concern.
There is mandatory handling required at Liverpool which must be booked in advance. A quick call sorted that out. Landing and handling fees make this one of the more pricey airports to visit in the UK.
Rich opted to fly the outbound leg and we took off into a very strong headwind (approx 20 knots, rising to 40 at altitude). At FL80, the outside temp was down to -14C. Progress was slow but our speed varied quite a bit due to mountain wave, which caused us to appear to climb and descend in order to remain at the same altitude. This affected our ground speed which fluctuated between about 85 and 120 knots, but we didn’t find it turbulent at all and the passengers didn’t even notice.
On first contact, Liverpool Radar advised us we were #3 in the approach sequence behind a couple of EasyJet airliners and sidelined us off to KEGUN to the south west of the field. I radioed the handling agents on their private frequency to advise them we were inbound, and they said they’d ensure a taxi was awaiting us on landing.
We were vectored around to delay for sequencing (I wouldn’t say it was a hold pattern), then north around the field to intercept the localiser for runway 27. It took the controller a few minutes to realise that the 40 knot northerly wind meant we needed quite a large drift angle to compensate. I think they must just be used to vectoring the faster heavy metal airliners.
Crosswind on final was strong (12 gusting 24) but Rich did an admirable job and made a remarkably clean touchdown. He later said that with one strong gust almost at touchdown he was close to going around, but with 2 miles of runway there was plenty of room to try again. We taxied around to the GA apron where our handler was awaiting to marshall us into parking. We were driven the 20 yards to the handling office, availed ourselves of the toilet facilities, were offered all sorts of freebie drinks/snacks, and quickly left in the taxi. Handling does have its advantages even if it seems greatly over-the-top and overpriced.
Liverpool City Centre
Liverpool city centre seems much like any other large UK city with shopping centres and Christmas market stalls busy with custom. We walked around both of the huge Cathedrals, each quite different, and around the Albert Dock but didn’t have time to take the ferry across the Mersey or visit the Beatles museums.
My leg home was to be much easier, with little wind to worry about and I opted for a VFR departure. There were some rain clouds in the distance but were far enough away not to be a threat. Ground gave me startup permission and then my VFR clearance – via Oulton Park not above 1500 feet. Once clear, I climbed through a hole in the cloud layer up to 5000 feet into glorious sunshine.
I debated whether to drop down and make a VFR approach into Gloucester, but with cloud at various levels decided to make the RNAV approach under autopilot. Gloucester ATC accommodated that without any need for PPR or slot booking alongside others making the same request as well as VFR circuit traffic. I’ve used the RNAV approach quite a few times now and it worked like clockwork.
PIC time: 1:05
Total PIC: 326:25
Total Time: 460:35