Time: 12:15 - 12:40
Aircraft: Ikarus C42 - G-CFHP
Ian gave me a call to say that he had an empty seat for his booking on Sunday morning - eventually I moved things around so that I could go. I also spoke to him the day before and said "at least I isn't going to freeze, so we won't have de-icing problems" - I regret that now.
The following morning there had been a heavy frost and everything was white. I decided to take the car to the airfield instead of the bike. Approaching junction 8 of the M3 where I turn off onto the A303, there is a huge queue. It seems the motorway is shut here and all traffic has to go onto the A303 - even so, it's very slow going. Then a fire engine and ambulance make their way through the traffic. When we get to opposite the airfield, one lane is coned off and there is a car on its side in the woods. How on earth did they manage that? Then I found out! I had let a lorry out in front of me and when we got past the obstruction, the lorry pulled into the left so I put my foot down a bit to overtake - even my gutless Rover started wheelspinning, despite doing about 40 in third. Wow it's icy.
When I get to the club, Ian has already gone to the aircraft, so I go along to help. It is entirely covered in a forest of ice crystals about a centimetre long - it gives the appearance of white fur. After warm-up Ian taxies round to the front and we block it up into the sun. However, we are in luck for once and it is coming off really easy - mostly just wiping off.
Soon we are ready for the off. The plan is to go to Membury - I didn't even realise that it was still an active airfield, but Ian has a free landing voucher, so we may as well take advantage of it and go and have a look. Apparently the normal landing fee is £15 which seems quite steep as we have been told that there is nothing there.
Ian takes off on 26 and we head off on a direct course to Membury. The air is generally still and smooth making the flying easy, but has the occasional pocket of mild turbulence. Looking down, a lot of the frost has now melted, but there are areas still white in the shadows of the low sun - I guess this is what is causing the disturbance.
Not a terribly long flight - we find the airfield easily as there is a huge radio mast just the other side of the motorway and also the Membury Services. Joining overhead for 23 we thread our way past local buildings and final approach is over a factory on the other side of the M4. As we get closer to the ground the air gets a lot more exciting. We touch down on the billiard-table smooth tarmac and then taxi to the end and then turn right along 34 towards the hanger as directed by someone with a broom.
We park by the hanger which is open. They were right - there isn't much here. No sign of any other people or even a big C sign for booking in. I guess we could hop over the fence to the services for a cuppa. After a while the bloke we saw before drives up to us and we have a chat. It seems he runs the airfield and the reason for the free landing vouchers was to temp local flyers to visit who might then base their aircraft at the airfield and use their brand new hanger. Not for us though.
We debate popping into Brimpton for a cuppa, but time is getting on and we have to be back for 1pm - not really enough time so we elect to go straight back. After the long taxi back to the threshold I takeoff on 23. The wind should have been straight down the runway, but actually has some side component. It (the air) is also as lumpy as when we landed. Once we get up though it all smooths out again, for a pleasant flight back. We join overhead for 26 for a reasonable landing. NOW we get to have our cup of tea and a bacon buttie.
A nice day and nice flight to an airfield we probably wouldn't otherwise have gone to.
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