Choosing a suitable destination
At short notice, I took advantage of the better weather today (Friday) and flew instead of my planned Saturday when the forecast was poor. This was a solo flight in G-CORB, our TB20, VFR from Gloucester. Our autopilot controller is away for a warranty fix, so it would be all hand flying today. With lots of recent rain, a hard runway was essential, and I like at least 600 metres. I’d wanted to visit more airfields in Norfolk, so chose Great Massingdon. It’s an ex-RAF base, now privately owned by an aviator. PPR is essential, but the phone call was very friendly, straightforward and helpful. While I had read the details in Pooleys, local knowledge is important. The site is wedged in between the Royal Estate at Sandringham, with a NOTAMed exclusion zone to protect the royal family, and RAF Marham (which provides LARS radio information service). I was asked to telephone them in advance, and they advised there were no planned movements that afternoon. (Their Tornados sometimes use Great Massingdon as a navigation point.)
Very low pressure also lowers airways altitudes
After various delays, I got airborne around 2pm and it only took an hour to fly there. Although the route was pretty much direct, I first tried to fly VFR on top of the cloud and found myself climbing to over 6000 feet to remain VFR. On this low pressure (994)/cold day, this would have put me into airways controlled airspace – 6000 feet = FL66. While descending and turning south to remain outside controlled airspace, I called Coventry for a Basic Service and was prompted about the issue.
Once down below cloud level, the issue was then avoiding traffic. Many contacts were reported near the Daventry VOR and although I passed a few miles to the south there was one aircraft approaching from my left slightly higher which may have turned to avoid me (it was no factor when I saw it). At 2000 feet or less, you also have to route around ATZs and airfields rather than just cruise clear well above.
Marham weren’t busy, and quickly gave me a basic service. They also provided their local weather on request – wind was 130 at 3knots, so would be fine for landing on the longer 800m runway 20. I kept on their frequency while making a standard overhead join, a planned low pass (where I was a bit high, due to being on regional pressure setting rather than local QNH) and a circuit to land. A runner stopped while I taxied past to the parking area. The surface is concrete and appears to be swept – I didn’t come across loose stones or chippings.
After filling in the movements log in the “control hut”, I walked into the village – it’s not far. Great Massingdon is one of those archetypal British villages that wouldn’t be far out of place on Midsomer Murders (except it’s not in Wiltshire or Somerset). It has all the important elements – village green, duck pond, church, post office/shop. village hall and a thriving pub. The village website is a mine of information and hosts the monthly village newsletter. There’s even a beauty parlour in a converted chapel. I expect it’s a popular place for locals to come at weekends.
After walking around the village and soaking up the atmosphere, I returned, made a few quick checks and departed. I tried to raise Marham on the radio while still on the ground, without success. I backtracked the main runway, quickly completed power checks and departed according to the noise abatement procedure. Marham quickly responded to my next call and there was little to say until departing their zone.
The cloud tops on the return leg were below 3000 feet and it was straightforward to remain VFR and follow the magenta line back to base. Indicated airspeed of 140knots was assisted by a tailwind, giving around 155 knots groundspeed. There was very little activity on the radio, and I took a Basic service from London Information. At this quiet time (around 5pm), Gloucester gave me a direct join downwind for runway 09, and the flight time back was just 50 minutes.
Sometimes flying seems almost like a using Tardis, transporting you back from another world in such a short time. This would be a great destination for Sunday lunch or a walking weekend in the summer. Just don’t forget PPR and be considerate for noise abatement and possible infringements.
PIC time today: 2:20
Total PIC: 338:25
Total Time: 475:35