Time: 03:20 - 04:20 (GMT)
Aircraft: Eurostar EV-97 - G-CERE
Solstice flight 2010
It's time for the annual early morning group flight on Midsummer Solstice morning. The plan is to take off at exactly half an hour before sunrise (legal limit) and fly over Stonehenge to watch the sunrise.
Most people know that I'm not renowned for early mornings. I got up at 2am after only a few hours sleep and sleepily made some porridge. After this and ablutions I'm on my bike and on the way to the airfield - on the way I see one cat, two foxes and a deer. I'm really annoyed when I eventually realise how stupid I've been having breakfast, when we have a full English to look forward to after the flight - rats.
Well at least I'm not late. When I booked the plane I said that I was on my own and therefore had a spare seat, but it seems no-one took it up. I prepped the plane as the sky began to get lighter. As soon as it was legal, we lined up on 03 and took off.
We turned (unconventionally) to the right to keep away from the local houses, to the south of the A303 and headed west. It's a bit misty and gloomy. As we approach Andover there is a huge bank of (strangely localised) fog, which actually turned out (once we got closer) to be a factory on fire. Soon we can see the lights and cameras flashing at Stonehenge. I quite surprised that I haven't heard anything on the radio, so I investigate and find the power lead is not properly seated and it is actually off. I plug it in and give a quick position report.
When I arrived at the stones, I fly past very slightly to the north, right on the edge of the Salisbury Plain danger area. Sadly, being on my own and the proximity of so many other aircraft I don't think that taking photos is a good idea. Fortunately I manage to get some from some friends in the other aircraft. I do a slow turn for another pass and then continue west towards Deptford Down, so that I can then turn to see the sunrise over Stonehenge at official sunrise time. There is still some cloud in the way, but better than last year. One more pass (to the south this time) and then I head back to Popham. The landscape has a really weird ghostly appearance with the low-level early morning mist.
John Wilson is the first to land at Popham on 03 and warns that there seems to be a bit of a tailwind making landing long. Gerry reports the same. I make a fairly long final approach over the Black Wood - mindful that the low-wing EV-97 tends to float a lot, I knew that I needed to concentrate and come in precise. As it happens, I manage to get it down and vacated to the taxiway before Gerry comes past, although my braking is a little wobbly - must get some more practice with these toe-brakes.
We all have a really welcome full English breakfast in the clubhouse where Dick has very kindly come in to open the cafe. Eventually, after the washing-up and putting the aircraft away, I leave to go to work. I'm fairly knackered and even have a bit of a lie down at lunchtime - still, at least I got in earlier than I normally do!
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