My shared TB20 was back from its Annual, and I took a day out from my FI course to enjoy a solo flight. Apart from one trip to Liverpool in October, I hadn’t flown it since August. The Annual hadn’t found anything particularly unusual but a small part for the magneto took some weeks to source and fit. Combined with poor winter weather, that meant a downtime of over 2 months.
I decided on Beccles partly just because I hadn’t been there and partly because of a review I’d read (or heard) some years ago. It’s 12 miles south of Norwich, half way between Norwich and Lowestoft, in East Anglia. This licensed airfield supports helicopter, microlight and fixed wing operations with an Air/Ground radio service. The runway is a little unusual, with 500 metres of hard runway extended by 200 feet of grass.
The weather that day was quite windy and put a lot of people off. But this helped reduce my landing distance required, and when combined with flying solo and less fuel meant I was comfortable with the runway length. There had been a lot of rain and I knew the grass would be wet.
Departing Gloucester required a short take-off roll and I was quickly heading east with up to 170 knot groundspeed. Having not flown CORB for some time, I was a little surprised at how loud it seemed. Changing the batteries in my noise-cancelling headset fixed that! The TB20 is a great aircraft to fly, comparatively easy and more stable than the PA28 I had been training on recently.
The choice of who to stay in contact with for a radar (or even Basic) service isn’t always straightforward in the UK. I spoke to Brize, Cranfield, Cambridge, Mildenhall, then Beccles (Air/Ground).
I had PPR’d so they were expecting me and I was their only visitor that day. I chose to join direct downwind just touching down marginally before the hard runway. The headwind was about 17 knots but not too gusty.
Tea/coffee is included in the landing fee in the clubhouse. The cafe wasn’t open that day (very few people around), but the staff were friendly and welcoming. The flying club had changed their business name by one word a year ago due to some technical change of ownership, and their Registered Facility Training status had been rescinded by the CAA. It has taken a year to gain full ATO approval which they’ve just completed and proudly displayed their new certificate on the wall.
Stuart Smith, the founder of CATS groundschool lives locally, and after being appointed as their CFI has helped them a lot with the ATO application. I’m sure it helped persuade the CAA to approve it. I spoke with one of their instructors as well as the radio operator who were both optimistic for the season ahead – they’ve effectively been restricted to club self-hire with no ab-initio training for the past year. Regulations should get easier very soon with the introduction of the so-called DTO (Designated Training Organisation), but they felt they couldn’t wait that long.
With Norwich Airport now only providing commercial flight training, Beccles would appear to be a good option for anyone looking to learn to fly privately in that area.
Stuck in the mud
With a front approaching from the North, I left in just enough time to keep clear of it. RainAlarm was my friend.
I was warned that the grass taxiway was muddy and had parked on the hardstanding, but thought I’d try to backtrack a few yards. Bad mistake. Although the runway itself was fairly clear, I got a bit bogged down and had to ask for some help to push me out. Thanks to both the staff who helped. Once clear, I took off straightaway without much problem and returned on the same route but at a lower level of 3000 feet to reduce the headwind. Mildenhall gave me a MATZ transit without me even asking.
Towards the end of the flight where Gloucester had little or no other traffic, I was able to negotiate an RNAV approach via NIRMO which was pretty much a straight in from en-route.
Cleared off the small bit of mud under the wings and put her to bed. Very satisfying to be back in the air with such a nice aircraft.
PIC today: 2:40
Total PIC: 521:50
Total Time: 691:25