Date: 21/6/2009

Time: N/A

Aircraft: Ikarus C42 - G-CDRO

Stonehenge Solstice

OK, this wasn't really my flight as I was just a passenger, so no times given, but I will write it up anyway.

This is a club arranged annual event that I have so far missed. The idea is to fly over Stonehenge to watch the sunrise on the summer solstice morning. This year, Ian has booked an aircraft and kindly invited me to come along as passenger.

Due to another temporal cock-up, I arrive later than planned (but still damn early for me). There is a host of planes in front of the clubhouse, being warmed up. Unfortunately, we can't quite see the water in the reservoir, so we have to take the cowling off to top it up. Then when reassembling, it seems one of the fixing points has fallen out - no chance of finding it in the grass, even if we didn't have to use torchlight. We borrowed a replacement and get it prepared just in time.

We are not legally allowed to take off until half an hour before official sunrise; we all then take off. It still seems quite dark which is not helped buy the near complete cloud cover. During climbout and the initial part of the journey, we have to use a torch to see the instruments, as none of the gauges have backlights. It seems strange flying so early and when its still darkish, but quite exciting. Andover shows up quite clearly with all its streetlights.

We take a direct route into the (non-active) Boscombe CMATZ. The light improves rapidly as we go, and soon we don't need the torch. In the distance we can see some bright lights in the right area, which at first I think may be a traffic queue on the A303 - as we get closer, it proves to be the temporary car park which is a huge farm field with massive floodlights. As we get closer, we can see the smaller visitors centre and the sparkling area which is a miriad of camera flashguns going off, around the stones. Closer (and lighter) still and we see the glittering grey circular smudge, which is 36,000 people and can just make out the stones themselves - quite small near the centre, but offset as more people are to the west, presumably wanting to see the sunrise over the stones.

We all remain on Popham's radio frequency and make frequent reports of our location and altitude - very important when we know we are all in a relatively close proximity, but not visual. There is also a NOTAM restriction forcing us to remain above 3000'. We fly a few lazy circles and I attempt to do some photography. Jo has my still camera this weekend, so I use Ian's and also use my video camera - which sadly isn't so good in low light conditions. At least it has a good zoom, though it can be difficult keeping the subject in view when zoomed in.

I announce the official sunrise time on the radio. Sadly the clouds are near complete, but we do see a large red crack in them and just see the outline of a red orb through it - that's good enough for me! So it's time to wave goodbye to the crowds and head back to Popham - with a bit of a smile, knowing that they all have a 3 hour wait to get out of the car park. We on the other hand have a short flight and then a lovely cooked English breakfast back at the airfield, where Dick has kindly come in to open up the cafe at such an early hour. Fantastic!

Eventually I have to go home and grab a couple of hours sleep, as I have another flight to do in the afternoon.

As already mentioned, the video isn't too great, but I uploaded it to YouTube anyway - click below to watch it:

Stonehenge Summer Solstice Sunrise Flight 2009


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