Date: 25/7/2009

Time: 16:30 - 17:55

Aircraft: Ikarus C42 - G-CDRO

Nearly International

Colin, Jac, Ian and I are off on another adventure again - this time to Eastbach Spence Airfield, near Monmouth in Wales - only it is slightly still in England, 2/3 mile away from the Welsh border. We have planned to go here a few times before, but the weather hasn't been kind - today we have been lucky enough to have a good day, nestling between many cloudy, wet and windy days.

Once we have got the aircraft sorted out, fuelled and checked over, we are off on 26. Colin is my pilot in G-CDVI and we take off behind Ian flying G-CDRO with Jac. We head north towards the Uffington Horse as our first major waypoint - it's a little lumpy, but not too bad. Once past this, we go round Sandhill Gliding site and then through the gap between Fairford and Lyneham zone. Then Colin's route deviates from the one I had planned and heads north between South Cerney and Fairford and to the north of Cirencester. Then west towards the big bend in the River Severn and on to our destination.

Spence has two runways for landing on - 19 (470m) and 06 (340m) which both have a pronounced upslope. Their reverse directions 01 & 24 can only be used for taking off and would be impossible to land on, whatever the wind direction. The wind is from the west, so we will land on 19.

We find the airfield reasonably easily and descend on the deadside. Turning north on the downwind leg (which isn't exactly downwind), which actually takes us over the River Wye and therefore into Wales. Turning round (with no real base leg), the final approach is over the deep ravine and the steep incline on the other side. Over the clump of trees and onto the uphill runway 19. The upslope gives a false impression that you are approaching too high and the website warns of sink on the approach if the wind is from the west. Once over the 50' trees, a bit of pull on the stick is required - not just to round-out, but end up pointing up the hill. Once down, the plane decelerates quite quickly and we turn-off along 06.

At the top, a man on a tractor, who is cutting the grass, points towards the hangers at the bottom of the hill, near the threshold of 19. Getting over the rise and downhill (on the brakes), another man is waving his arms indicating where to park. We stop and get out and are greeted with introductions and the choice of tea or coffee. Ian lands very shortly after and joins us.

We are introduced to the others and sit down for tea and biscuits and a good chat - I find them very welcoming. We are shown in their hanger where a 1942 Piper L3 Cub and a yellow Taylorcraft BC-12 reside, along with an Eurostar. There are also other hangers. The grass of the entire airfield is considerably better than my lawn at home.

After a good chat and several cups of tea, it is eventually time to go. Jac and Colin had planned to go back way we came, in G-VI, but they are tempted to fly down south with us, to have a look at the Old Severn Bridge first. Ian and I intend to go to the bridge, then down the gap between Bath and Lyneham and along the north of Salisbury Plain, back to Popham, with me in the left seat of G-RO.

The slope up to the threshold of 24 is quite steep and takes more than 3500rpm just to crawl up the hill. After Jac departs, we line up - it's a bit unnerving that you can only see the initial part of the runway before it drops away downhill. A bit of faith and a (precautionary) short field takeoff and we're away. A quick loop around the airfield, before heading south.

Unfortunately, once we are up the weather to the south doesn't look so good, so Colin decides to go straight back. We decide to go and have a look. The views down the valley are really pretty on the way down to Chepstow. There is a little light rain as we cross river next to the old bridge, but we are high enough to go over the power station if we need to divert north. We don't have to, but the weather is really poor in the direction of Bath, so we abandon that route and head east to pass to the north of Lyneham, to follow a similar route back as we came.

We have a minor detour around Charlton Park as we see a few thousand people gathered there and need to keep 1000m away from them. It later transpires that it was a WOMAD festival. On past Lyneham an on to the Uffington horse and we decide to go have look at Jellyfish crop-circle - this has turned brown since I last saw it.

A lovely day and a lovely flight. A great (and challenging) destination and exceptionally friendly natives. I think we will be going back there.

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