Date: 28/05/2011

Time: 16:50 - 17:10 (15:50 - 16:10 GMT)

Aircraft: Ikarus C42 - G-CDMS

That's the Last Time I Fly Into Chilbolton

Today we (Colin, Jac, Ian and I) had planned an all-day flight with both Eurotars to try to get to Darley Moor to see Shelley. The weather had other ideas - low cloud, high winds and a few bits of rain. We bin the 9am start and have another look at the situation at lunchtime. At lunchtime we decide to go down to the airfield to assess what we can manage today. I have some soup and then a fairly exuberant bike ride to Popham, despite the blustery wind.

Well it's not too good, but flyable - described by Roy as being 'sporting'. The cloudbase seems to be up to about 2000' but patchy. There is some rain about too. It is also quite windy/gusty so not such a good day for Eurostars. As some others have bloused out, Graeme kindly re-organises the planes so we can take two C-42's. We consider local runways that are best matched to the wind direction - possibly Brimpton, but we opt for Old Sarum.

Ian pilots Jac in G-HR and Colin takes me in G-MS - they get of the ground earlier than us. True enough, the air is a bit lively and once up there are a few areas rain around us and others where I'm not sure if it's low cloud or rain (or both). We head off south-west following the others at a distance - there is some light drizzle. According to the GPS, we are only making abut 45 knots over the ground, which suggests that we are fighting an 30 knot headwind. As we go past Chilbolton, Colin and I discuss dropping in there as is will officially be closing at the end of the month (3 days time). Then we see the others deviate course to the left - are they aborting or just going round a cloudbank? They fly on a bit and then the answer becomes clear as they turn around completely and we hear them call to Old Sarum that they are aborting and returning to Popham. We do the same, but it seems Jac is reading my mind and retransmits that if we are still on frequency they are going into Chilbolton. Colin orbits to give them chance to land and backtrack before we get down.

It starts to rain as we get down and we go into the little caravan for shelter. We don't even bother trying to make the kettle work and buy some canned drinks instead and have a chat as the rain passes over. Only a few aircraft remain and some of the buildings (mini hangers have been taken away. It's quite sad really. There is a Shadow without any wings being removed whilst we were there. I understand that some are moving to Popham and some to Brimpton. I'm still surprised that there is no notice about the closure in the caravan. The rain has stopped, but we can see some more on the way, so decide to run for home.

After a quick checkover, we are off in the same aircraft but swapped pilots. With the headwind straight down runway 24, we are off the ground in no time. Once clear, I turn round and we zoom off towards Popham. According to the GPS, we achieve 110 knots over the ground! Again, we are trailing the others and as we approach, Jac decides that 21 is a better runway than the advertised 26 - as I fly into wind, I believe that 26 is the right choice. I have to bimble around over the Black Woods before joining in case she needs to go-around, along with another aircraft taking off on 26. I join from the deadside and the downwind leg goes by really quickly. I have to pop a little power in on final to fight the wind, but the landing goes well.

Not the flight we wanted, but at least we got our feet off the ground.


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