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Planning to sharpen up our skills

My TB20 co-ownerRich and I had scheduled a day for instrument practice, since we were both keen to make a few approaches and sharpen up our skills. Our shared TB20 had just gone away for its Annual service, but we were able to fly Rate One’s TB20 from Gloucester which needed to be dropped off at Coventry for servicing.

With the weather looking poor to the west, I researched destinations to the east and picked on Norwich which I’ve not visited before. It’s had a bad press in the forums, with a few bad experiences of those using the main passenger terminal and self-handling. On checking, I found that handling is mandatory but a quick call to SaxonAir determined that the cost was reasonable. I was able to book-in by phone a couple of hours before arrival and they passed our details to ATC.

VFR en-route with a vectored ILS on arrival

The flight time was just under an hour and mostly VFR. ATIS reported few clouds at 1200 feet. On first call with just our callsign and “inbound”, we were cleared VFR and told to report downwind. I accepted the clearance but requested a vectored ILS which was granted.

We were positioned about 10 miles to the east at 2500 feet and given headings to intercept. I don’t think we were ever told “cleared for the approach” but instead (as is more common in the UK) told to “expect vectors”, given headings, and once established then instructed to descend with the glideslope. This meant I couldn’t technically descend from my cleared 2500 feet to the platform altitude until then, still some 8 miles or so from the airport. The plate has platform altitude with an intercept of 2000 feet at 4.3 miles which gave us more than enough time to descend. I can’t recall if I asked for further descent prior to then or not, but it’s important to do so if you wanted to deviate from instructions in case ATC are deliberately keeping you clear of other traffic.

I was very pleased with my performance on the ILS, flown manually helped in no small amount by using the “little blue diamond” on the Aspen (a digital display that replaces the space taken up by the original attitude indicator and direction indicators, but also shows the full six-pack information including airspeed, altimeter, outside temperature, external winds and trends. The blue diamond displays your ground track (rather than heading or path through the air). If you can pin that on the CDI needle, it’s much easier to keep on track. Selecting the right power level and configuration (gear/flaps) ensures a steady descent on the glide path. This, and the greater stability from a little extra weight, makes it much easier to fly than (say) a PA28. Looking up at 200 ft minima revealed the runway dead ahead, with time for full flap and speed reduction to make a gentle touchdown.

Smart FBO service

Tower ATC were very helpful with clear taxi instructions to the apron, asking if this was our first visit. A marshaller was already in position to our parking spot on the concrete apron. The pilot lounge reminded me of an American FBO (Fixed Base Operator), definitely a bit more upmarket than some I’ve seen elsewhere. A proper coffee machine and free biscuits!

Saxonair Lounge

Norwich to Coventry

We chatted for half an hour before Rich took his turn to fly us to Coventry. The strong headwind meant it took a similar time as my flight. Norwich is the second busiest heliport in the country after Aberdeen, servicing North Sea platforms. Prior to departure, we had to wait while a large helicopter slowly took off vertically and crept away – almost certainly training. A full three minute delay for wake turbulence was imposed by ATC, who had cleared us for a VFR ontrack departure.

Landing helicopter on runway while we do power checks
Slow vertical take-off by helicopter ahead
Norwich on climb out
Norwich area is very flat – fabulous visibility all around

Coventry were busy with a lot of mostly training flights but happily accepted our request for a vectored ILS and slotted us into the sequence. Rich did a great job flying down to minima and parking up. He also appreciated the additional information available with the Aspen which he also thought had improved his performance.

Coventry to Gloucester

Jim, from Rate One, flew up in his turbo Arrow to pick us up and Rich enjoyed his first flight as P1 in a turbo aircraft for our last leg back to Gloucester.

Turbo Arrow
Rich learning avionics on the Turbo Arrow
Gloucester to Norwich flight log

PIC Today: 1:20
Total PIC: 436:50
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