Date: 04/06/2011

Time: 13:40 - 14:40 (12:40 - 13:40 GMT) & 15:40 - 16:15 (14:40 - 15:15 GMT) & 17:05 - 17:55 (16:05 - 16:55 GMT)

Aircraft: Eurostar EV-97 - G-CERE

Hinton in the Hedges

I'm on my own today - it seems like ages since I have flown alone, but in reality it is only a month - probably seems that way, because of the number of canceled group flights. However, the forecast is a bit windy and given I have a Eurostar, I need an into-wind runway. I have wanted to visit Hinton in the Hedges airfield for a long time to visit my friends Dave and Helen Adams who live nearby. They have a 06 main runway that fits the bill. I give Dave a call and I'm in luck - they are available.

I checkout the aircraft and brim the tank. I gave the skydive centre a call to see if there was any special considerations for today. They confirm that it is runway 06 (obvious) but don't seem to be able to tell me if it's a left or right circuit pattern. The pooley plate states the direction is variable. However, I'm told they have gliding and skydiving continuously through the day and I should call 5 miles out to find out the jump status - I knew this already. I hoped that this radio call would give the circuit direction. I also fill out the PPR form on the Hinton website.

I'm finally off on 03 and once up I immediately aware that it's bumpy - described as "a bit sporting". As I head north towards Hannington I consider going back, but decide I haven't given it a fair chance. I go round the Benson zone; the visibility is a bit hazy and the radio is silent. From the tip of Aylesbury I find the power distribution point near Winslow easily. I decide to deviate from my plan by going the other side of Buckingham and Turweston and past Silverstone, where I can see the little cars wizzing round. I call Hinton Radio and get the parachuting information and it's OK to head in, but they too refuse to be drawn to an indication of left or right hand circuit. Oh well, I choose the left hand as that's what the plate says it normally is and keep my eyes peeled. I join downwind (no overhead joins allowed) and there is a small village on final approach so I go round it and dogleg onto final - there is a glider slightly intruding onto the runway, but they move it before I get there. An absolute greaser of a landing, despite the wind - I really wish someone had seen it! A tiny backtrack required to get to the taxiway.

I find a place to park and wander around to find out where to sign in - at the Skydive centre they say there isn't any signing in or landing fee - just donations to the charity box. I give Dave a call and they make there way over. The airfield is really busy, particularly with the skydiving. I watch another plane land and go over to talk to them - it seems that things really are that informal - seems a bit worrying to me, with gliders and their tugs, parachutists and their aircraft and general aviation having to integrate together - they should at least decide on a circuit direction. D+H arrive and we wander off for a chat and to see the plane. Helen tries the passenger seat, but elects to wait for a calmer day before coming up with me. Dave is up for it though!

We wait for a suitable gap in the parachuting activities and make our preparations to depart. Helen sees us off and then goes back to their car. Checks complete and engine warmed, we head to the runway - no need to do the short backtrack to the threshold, so we take-off from the intersection. With the wind, the ascent is quite steep. We turn left and do an orbit near their home; can't hang around housed areas for too long as people get upset - mind you, we weren't too low due to the turbulence. We then head east. I carefully give Dave a go with the joystick, but despite the conditions he is really quite good! Maybe it's due to his sailing experience? We go towards Northampton and then turn towards Silverstone - well in reality we plot the course of a demented bee. However we have fun. When we hear a suitable gap in the parachuting, we head back to the airfield and join downwind. Everything going OK, then just before touchdown a gust blows the starboard wing up, but is easily controlled out.

We then go and find Helen and have some tea and further chat and catch up - it's really great to see them again. That's two of my college mates that I have taken up. All too soon, it's time to head home. We return to the plane and see the jump aircraft being put away, so at least I don't have to worry about them. After warmup I'm of again. Again, I have decided to deviate from the planned route, as I turn left from the climbout I go over to the M40 to go round the Croughton aerials HIRTA and then follow this down to Bicester and then follow the railway to Thame, then rejoin my original route. It is generally calmer than the journey up, but still has the occasional burst of turbulence. Overhead join for 03.

The Lasham weather website shows that it has been 15 knots, gusting up to 25 on the surface, but obviously it is more higher up. The GPS log showed that on the return journey I achieved over 120 knots (140mph).

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