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A solo flight

After a busy week and uncertainty about whether or what time I might be able to go flying, I took the TB20 for a landaway  on my own. I haven’t flown solo for a little while and it does focus the mind. My destination today was Sandtoft, a relatively small airfield with a hard runway tucked just inside the Doncaster zone at the north east corner. The phone call for PPR was answered by a very helpful and welcoming chap that explained exactly what I needed to do (and made it sound very straightforward).

Gloucester wasn’t very busy and the departure was pretty straightforward although I was slow to retract the gear. ATC had assumed I’d route north, keeping west of the Birmingham zone but I flew towards Daventry keeping Coventry and Birmingham on my left.

There’s often a need to make the choice between flying low below the cloud cover or climbing up to VFR on top. The latter is usually much smoother and I would say safer because of less traffic, although provides less interesting views and you risk being caught above an unbroken layer. We are fortunate in the UK to be allowed to choose between IFR and VFR at our own discretion outside controlled airspace, so can just pop through cloud if and whenever we want to. The downside is that it can be difficult to get ad-hoc IFR clearance to remain above the cloud if you need to enter airways without a prior flight plan.  In the event I did climb above it with cloud tops around 4000 feet and the layer thinned out to an almost clear sky before arrival.

Cloud cover
Variable cloud cover departing from Gloucester
Between the layers
Between the layers
Cloud thinning out
Cloud thinning out
Leaving the clouds behind

It was a fairly straightforward flight, with a basic service from Coventry, then Listening Squawk with East Midlands followed by a Basic Service from Doncaster who were fairly busy handling the GA traffic. I initially used my PilotAware box but the position signal dropped out a couple of times so I reverted to internal iPad GPS (hence the two separate track logs below).

Approaching Sandtoft from the east, I descended below 1500 feet underneath controlled airspace. The air/ground radio advised no other known traffic and that they were on runway 05. I positioned for an overhead join, but was slightly overloaded working out my descent path, so although I did fly the correct pattern I incorrectly announced my arrival for 23 (which the radio operator quickly corrected). Wanting to keep within the ATZ I flew quite a tight pattern, turning early on to final but stabilised in good time for a smooth landing and rollout.

Oubound route 1
Gloucester to Grantham
Outbound route 2
Grantham to Sandtoft

Sandtoft Airfield and Cafe

Parking for visitors is normally on the opposite side of the runway from the clubhouse. Needless to say, I went the wrong way but it was so quiet at this time of year that it didn’t matter.

A very friendly welcome awaited me. After paying the landing fee, the cafe staff were happy to provide tea and cafe despite being in their clearing up phase. The conservatory area was bright and fresh and they clearly have a lot of non-pilot visitors who come to see the activity. There’s even a playpen for the younger kids. We watched some training flights in the circuit and a fairly decent sized helicopter depart.

Sandtoft runway
View from the clubhouse to the visitors parking on the other side of the runway
Sandtoft Cafe (airfield office on the right out of view)
Sandtoft airport cafe
Inside the cafe conservatory

Quick VFR transit on departure

I discussed the departure with the air/ground operator before heading off. He suggested that I could take-off on either runway due to a 90 degree crosswind, but flying a left hand circuit from 05 would allow me to talk to East Midlands zone while downwind and probably get a VFR transit approved immediately. This is what I did. Keen to get the approval quickly, I omitted a few items from my “pass your message” response which were requested but was quickly given the VFR transit not above 3000 feet on track south west towards Wadworth that I asked for. This made the routing home a little quicker and provided the safety cover of flying in Class D airspace.

It was dusk when I approached Gloucester and I requested a straight in VFR for 27. Almost immediately another aircraft with an Oxford callsign requested a self position for the ILS for 27 with a similar distance to run. Foolishly I thought I might beat it and I probably would have if I had slowed down. With a strong tailwind my groundspeed was 165 knots so I ended up joining base leg a little too high and a little too fast so that I wouldn’t have been best placed for a stable approach. Rather than try anything silly, I went around, and had to orbit downwind for spacing to allow the ILS traffic through.

In retrospect I might have fared better by positioning myself to follow the ILS training aircraft which I could easily spot visually with its flashing strobes. Another lesson learnt to chalk up to experience.

Sandtoft to Gloucester
Return leg to Gloucester

PIC time today: 2:30
Total PIC: 446:30
Total Time: 584:55




    1. No, not really. I can’t recall the exact freezing level that day but it wasn’t too low. As you can see from the photos I wasn’t in cloud for more than a few seconds although would have been able to descend quickly through the cloud layer near the destination if I had needed to. That’s quite different from days with a cloudbase of 1000feet or less and a freezing level to match.

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