Time: 15:30 - 16:00 (GMT)
Aircraft: Eurostar EV-97 - G-CEDV
Lee on Solent (in a gyro!)
Clive has kindly organised a midweek flyout to Lee on Solent. This airfield used to be military/Police run and you could only really visit by invitation It is now run by Brittan Norman who used to run Bembridge (before they had a tiff with the owners) and they also now run Sandown. Now we can visit and even get some tea! The original date was last week, but the weather was rubbish - it's not much better today, but at least looks possible.
I am really lucky and have managed to bag the rear seat of the clubs autogyro (behind Clive) for the outbound trip (or as I put it; a leg in Clive's rear). Ian is going to take G-DV down and we will then swap over and he gets the gyro ride back to Popham. Colin is also taking a C-42 down with Kel - so we have one of each aircraft type.
The mist appears to be burning off - but I have seen this before where from the ground looking up it doesn't look too bad, but once in the air it proves to be otherwise. Eventually we are ready in our romper suits and helmets and are trundling along the taxiway for 08. We line-up at the threshold and have the lull-before-the-storm of excitement during pre-rotation - where the engine power is engaged via a clutch to wind the rotor blades up to about 200rpm. Clive has prewarned me that the joystick would be pulled fully back and I have to keep my "chaps" out of the way. Then he hits the throttle and we move off down the runway, gaining linear speed and rotor speed until we lift off. The stick goes forward to gain more speed whilst only at a low height and then we pull up and ascend round the circuit path. Hmmm, I was right - the vis isn't brilliant. Once you get over the 'shudder' vibration from the rotor blades, the ride isn't as weird as I thought.
We head down my usual route between Solent zone and Boscombe MATZ - grateful that we know the visuals along here. Then at the point where the river Test meets the train line we head for Stoney Cross (where I would normally head for the end of M27). During the flight, the subject of PFL's come up, so Clive demonstrates one into a little field. The gyro has a much smaller glide ratio (of about 4:1 instead of the planes 10:1) so you can't go so far to find a field, but the slow approach allows you the choice of smaller fields. We slow right up and then just before touching down, Clive hits the throttle and we are off on our way again. We pass overhead Stoney Cross disused airfield; if it wasn't for the gloom, the view would be fantastic with the ability to look over the side and straight down - great! I get a brief go on the joystick whilst Clive plays with transponder codes.
There is a well defined inversion layer and possibly it's a lot clearer above it - sadly not an option for us, due to Southampton's airspace. We pass by Beaulieu and out to the coast by Calshot - possibly a bit clearer here. We spot the airfield whilst over the Solent and call for a straight-in approach. Travelling at normal pace over to the displaced landing threshold, then I experience the strangest thing with the gyro as it feels like the brakes are applied just above the ground and then we float down the last little bit. We then backtrack and park-up next to the others (who came via the quick route to the east).
We have a cup of tea, a chat and some photos. The welcome from the airfield is warm, but I don't think they have got used to it yet. Colin says "we'll be back" and the girl says "please do" so I guess they want more visitors. Eventually we decide to head back - I give my (Clive's spare) romper suit to Ian and check-out the Eurostar. After warm-up, I take-off behind Kel in the C-42 and followed by the gyro. I turn to avoid going over the towns and gain some height but not too much as I'm coming into a 2500' altitude restriction. I slow it right down to allow the gyro to catch-up, but then decide this is pointless as the would easily go right past me without me knowing - photos would probably have been crap anyway, so I regain speed and head home. It's really murky and not a good time for my GPS to go a bit dodgy. Once I get to Ropley I try ascending to 4000' to see what it's like above the inversion layer - not really much better as you still need to be able to see the ground. It's almost a glide from here back to Popham for an overhead join for 08 and a nice landing
Fun (and some more points).
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